More Correspondence: New Australian Travel Advisory, India 


Topic: More Correspondance: New Australian Travel Advisory, India 

Author: Barry Pittard


Posted:, Sunday 30, 2003


Dated Monday, March 24, 2003 1:48 PM, the first letter below is addressed to me and from Phillip Stonehouse, an Executive Director in the South Asia section of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra.

Dear Barry

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


Dear Phillip,

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 me!

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?



See also Barry Pittard on the Australian Travel Advisory