Although the matter has been handled mainly by
the department's consular area, in view of the amount of correspondence you've sent
my way in recent months I am informing you that our travel advice for India was
re-issued on Friday with a reference that brings it somewhat into line with the US State
Department's one on the issue of concern to you. Although this will not be quite what
you were after, it does alert Australians embarking on the guru trail in India to
investigate further before committing themselves to individuals. The precise wording of
the reference was chosen very carefully with this in mind.
With best wishes
In the realm of the frugal, a small step
is better than none. Therefore, I thank you and Consular for the revised Travel Advisory
on India, as posted last Friday 21, 2003.
If in writing the DFAT update you
had heeded but half my harpings - you would, I am sure, have found a neat device
for saying, e.g., although much of the conflict has been focused in northern
states of India, it is by no means certain that troubles will not extend
to other parts of the subcontinent.
Is your best advice altogether different to
this? Mine isn't. Does not my rough draft of a possible form of words state a
very reasonable apprehension? Please be frank to tell me, since I shall pursue the matter
with both our Government and Opposition, until I am satisfied. Of course, one can
draw some such inference from your update - BUT it is the conceptualisation
issue that I refer to. Like a decent brandy, it needs to be stiff enough to open the eyes.
You need, I think, to include a device that jolts the common mindset out of thinking,
above all: Jammu and Kashmir.
Perhaps an innovation in your Travel Advisory
writing may be a section, still expert, but futurological - maybe up to a year or two
ahead. It won't undermine the rest, and can stretch the intending traveller's awareness
just that bit, and recommend itself on its own merits.
What do you say to this, so far?
In general, I wonder at the quality
of advice coming to the Australian government on the terrorist potentials of Andhra
Pradesh, the state in south India where Sai Baba lives. All along, western historians
profoundly have tended to ignore South India, and I think that this mindset continues,
albeit in some new settings.
A terrorism expert the Australian
government takes a lot of notice of obliged me by testing some Indian
counterparts on my notion. He said they were "dismissive of it."
However, I keep asking around, and can tell you plainly that I find a few scholarly
Indians who are considered exceptionally well updated on these matters, and (for
better reasons than being polite to me) think that my developing thesis about Andhra
Pradesh, and perhaps Puttaparthi itself, may not be off-track at all. The evidence -
even though it is partially reliant on declared jehad-ic aims rather than, at
least at the moment, on greater numbers of incidents - very significantly relates
to states of south India, most notably Andhra Pradesh. If these forces keep
pushing for their two Caliphates, India Desk may get busier for your staff. (Nothing new
about Islamic jehad in India; it's been a theme for centuries. Was the
time ever so ripe as now!?).
Let me ask you, Phillip - from an
Executive Desk of South Asian, do you see any of our experts taking a
keen interest in Andhra Pradesh? If so, who? I shall even pay you a fortune to tell
I shall grant that your Travel Advisory udate
makes sense in terms of immediate harms-way situations in Jammu and Kashmir. At
the same time, I shall be sad to be in the position of 'I told you so,' if your
advisors think that powerful Pakistan-controlled interests have
no active business in the south of India, and are not closely involved in
recruiting, funding and training, with jehad ramifications, and with an emphasis
on Andhra Pradesh, where Sathya Sai Baba lives.
If you think that, especially around
Christmas time, several thousand westerners, the largest number coming from the
United States, and many hundreds from Australia, the UK, and other
countries, (and a few hundred from Israel, just by the way) is not an attraction to
those who would love to see them blown away, I now ask you to be frank enough to tell
me so, and I'll take no offence.
Relating to my references to the State
Department Travel Advisory India - Consular Information Sheet, November 23, 2001 -
clearly pointing to Sai Baba's ashram at Puttaparthi, I have no DFAT response, other than
a receipt - not untypical of some of my (and the rest of Australia's) more
melancholy dealings with DFAT.
Since I've waited so long (in some
instances, over two years) for some coherent answers to my various queries, you,
suddenly arriving on the scene and a bit of an old India
hand, are perhaps close to answering my unanswered ones,
Phillip. Or - now that Brett is off in heavenly Pakistan - shall I save you
from some terrible trawling of my voluminous representations and summarise them
on single side A4 for you?