Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called him the brightest jewel of his court.
But for us columnists, Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar's greatest value is that he regularly provides us fodder for our copy.
And so it is with his latest that demonetisation has led to a reduction of stone pelting in Jammu & Kashmir. There are two problems with this.
First, it is not factually correct. J&K government figures show that stone pelting incidents had been declining month on month since their height of 820 incidents in July; in August they came down to 747, in September to 119, 157 in October; and this month till November 14 there were 49 incidents, with 15 of them taking place between November 8 when demonetisation was announced.
Flaws in theory
The second is the flawed effort to put "stone pelting" and "terrorism" in the same box.
By doing so, the government of India mixes apples and oranges and this has consequences for its policy, or the lack of it, in J&K.
If Parrikar and the government think that the youngsters who come out to throw stones because they are paid in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, they are deluding themselves.
Consigning all protest and militancy in J&K to someone paying people to do something just does not fit with the facts on ground.
The same problem arises with militant attacks and terrorism. There have been several incidents after the Uri attack, but none of them were such that would have required some huge outlay of money to execute.
|Defence minister Manohar Parrikar. (Photo credit: PTI)|
For example, the al Qaeda raised hundreds of thousands of dollars because they had to send the 20-odd terrorists to live and train in the US to carry out the infamous 9/11 attack.
There is already an existing infrastructure of militants in the Valley, they are now not too many in numbers, but they are there and armed.
In the main, their strikes are against unarmed or poorly armed J&K police personnel.
The attacks are so few that correlating them with demonetisation would be a tricky exercise.
There is one set of "anti-nationals" who will be affected by the demonetisation. But Parrikar & co are not so bothered about them since attacking them will not give then the electoral dividends they seek by attacking Kashmiri militants and Pakistan.
These are the Maoists of Central India, who have a core of 10,000 fighters with some 15,000-20,000 full-time supporters and a larger number of overground workers.
These people have depended on money derived from extorting traders and mining companies to function.
For obvious reasons, they hold their money in cash and they are the people who will now find it difficult to function. They operate over a large area; have to buy food, medicine, weapons and equipment.
Besides, their overground workers have to be regularly paid.
Almost in all such movements, be it the Chinese Communists in the 1920s and 1930s, or the Taliban of today, money has been a deciding factor in their success.
In the case of the Taliban, a great deal of it has been gathered through the drug trade, though Arab and ISI donations have been important.
In the case of the CPC, without the support of the Soviet Union's money, often provided through Comintern agents, it is doubtful that they could have escaped Chiang Kai Shek's encirclement campaigns and made their famous Long March.
Coming back to Kashmir, it is true that hawala money has played a role in the Kashmir uprising, but in the past. Today that movement is a shadow of its past self.
This was in the main in relation to the active militant groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Pakistani groups.
When they operated in significant numbers in the Valley, they needed money to move around, as well as for living expenses for themselves and their families.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba even now regularly pays stipends to its militants and their families, especially if they die in action.
Kashmiri political parties also need money, just like other parties in India. But many of them have built properties and markets and probably have enough "legitimate" assets to keep them afloat.
However, to extrapolate this to the so-called stone pelters would be an error.
Most of these are kids who live with their families and they throw stones because they are frustrated by the circumstances they are living in and are easily manipulated by their more savvy leaders.
It is important to, therefore, analyse the declining trend of stone pelting in an accurate fashion.
Introducing red herrings like demonetisation will only serve to prevent the government from formulating policies that could help restore normality in the state.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)