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Saturday, September 5, 2009

EDITORIAL 05.09.09

September 05, 2009

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EDITORIAL

Month September 05, Edition 000290, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


Editorial is syndication of all daily-published newspapers editorial at one place.

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THE PIONEER

  1. ALL IN THE FAMILY
  2. N KOREA THUMBS ITS NOSE
  3. IN SRI LANKA, A VICTORY’S WORRIES-ASHOK MALIK
  4. TREAD THE PATH OF EQUANIMITY-ACHARYA MAHAPRAJNA
  5. SHORTEST HONEYMOON EVER-S RAJAGOPALAN
  6. REVISITING OBAMAMANIA-CHINTAMANI MAHAPATRA
  7. AFGHANISTAN THE NEXT VIETNAM?

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. BLISTERING BARNACLES TINTIN IN TROUBLE
  2. THERE'S SPACE FOR ALL AT THE PARTY-
  3. ART NEEDS TO EVOLVE
  4. SOMETIMES, LIFE IS BLACK AND WHITE-
  5. GLOBAL EYE: A JAPANESE INSTRUCTION-

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. STRIKE HARD, TREAD SOFTLY
  2. ON HIS OWN TERMS-BARKHA DUTT
  3. BEWARE OF THY NEIGHBOUR-PRATIK KANJILAL

 

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. APPOINT OR ANOINT
  2. DARK CHOCOLATE
  3. MELTDOWN TIME
  4. THE TRAGEDY AND THE TREND-SHEKHAR GUPTA
  5. THE VALLEY, UNVEILED-RIYAZ WANI
  6. END OF AN ERA-CHRISTOPHE JAFFRELOT
  7. COURTING TROUBLE-YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  8. GHOST OF A GENERAL PAST-RUCHIKA TALWAR
  9. COURTING TROUBLE-YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  10. MINORITY REPORT-BURMA'S JUNTA IS TARGETTING ITS ETHNIC GROUPS

 

THE FINENCIAL EXPRESS

  1. QUICK GUN POLITICAL ECONOMY
  2. TOO EARLY TO EXIT
  3. WHO SAYS INDIA DOESN’T FREE TRADE-P RAGHAVAN
  4. GIVE AUTONOMY TO SET SALARIES-JYOTSNA BHATNAGAR
  5. YSR LESSON: DEVOLVE TO PROSPER-MEGHNAD DESAI

 

THE HINDU

  1. POLITICAL FEUDALISM
  2. MISPLACED VACCINE SAFETY FEARS
  3. THE HURRIYAT’S MOMENT OF DECISION -PRAVEEN SWAMI
  4. IRAQI KURDS LONG FOR HOME -SAM DAGHER
  5. GLOBAL WARMING IS DELAYING ICE AGE, SAYS STUDY -ANDREW C. REVKIN

 

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. PAK ACTIONS NEED GREATER SCRUTINY
  2. CHINESE CHECKERS IN J&K-ANIL BHAT
  3. BOBBY TO CHINTUJI-KISHWAR DESAI
  4. MUGHAL LESSONS IN POLITICS, MORALITY-FARRUKH DHONDY

 

THE TRIBUNE

POWER AND GRIEF

  1. A STEP FORWARD
  2. SCUTTLING JUSTICE
  3. JINNAH SUPPORTED KHILAFAT-BY ANIL NAURIYA
  4. TWILIGHT ZONE-BY G G DWIVEDI
  5. PANGS OF HUNGER-BY KULDIP NAYAR
  6. KENNEDY MEMOIRS REVEALS R-EMORSE-BY RUPERT CORNWELL
  7. ‘SAVE MUSHARRAF MISSION’-BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. UNFORESEEN TRAGEDY
  2. NEHRU CUP WIN
  3. A NODAL DOCUMENT-ARUP KUMAR DUTTA
  4. THE DESTINY MAKERS-DR JYOTSNA BHATTACHARJEE

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. CESS ON CAIRN OIL JUSTIFIED
  2. NO UPFRONT COMMISSION TO AGENTS
  3. TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'
  4. 'INDIA CAN CREATE $100 BN TELECOM OPPORTUNITY'-PANKAJ MISHRA
  5. FACING THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. PAK ACTIONS NEED GREATER SCRUTINY - BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
  2. MUGHAL LESSONS IN POLITICS, MORALITY -BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. FORGET INCREMENTAL, LET’S GET FUNDAMENTAL -BY DAVID BROOKS
  4. CHINESE CHECKERS IN J&K -BY ANIL BHAT
  5. BOBBY TO CHINTUJI -BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. CAN AMERICA LEAD AFGHANS? -BY MARK MOYAR

 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. THEY ARE NOT AMUSED
  2. SYLVAN JOY DIMINISHED -SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
  3. DECIDEDLY UN-REAL -AVEEK SEN
  4. TWO DIFFERENT ACTS ALTOGETHER -ANANDA LAL
  5. A MIND IN MUSIC -SREYASHI DASTIDAR
  6. PLEASING STRINGS

 

THE STATESMAN

  1. STALLED SURGERIES ~ THE CALLOUSNESS IS ALMOST CRIMINAL
  2. ‘PARK-WEDDING’ BAN ~ MUST INSPIRE A LARGER CAMPAIGN
  3. BIG THIGHS COULD BE KEY TO BEATING HEART DISEASE -STEVE CONNOR
  4. PARITY OR PARTITION? ~ THE CONTINUING DISCOURSE ON JINNAH’S OBJECTIVES -ANIL NAURIYA
  5. FAMILY SWEETENER? ~ AND RECOVERY OF THE ‘HOARDED POTATO’

 

DECCAN HERALD

  1. TED KENNEDY, A CHAMPION OF JUSTICE-BY KERRY KENNEDY
  2. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER-BY MADHUMITA GUPTA

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. WHERE THE JOBS AREN’T
  2. RESPECT YOUR CHILDREN
  3. FOR NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
  4. AN END OF SUMMER QUIZ -BY GAIL COLLINS
  5. THE PRINCE OF DISPASSION -BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  6. RELIVING THE PAST -BY BOB HERBERT
  7. LITTLE HOUSE IN THE WAR ZONE -BY ZAINAB SALBI

 

I.THE NEWS

  1. MASS TRANSIT FOR KARACHI
  2. SHOOT-OUT IN SWAT
  3. NO RESPITE
  4. THE MUCH-AWAITED NFC AWARD-SHAHID KARDAR
  5. THE GREAT CAPITULATION-PRAFUL BIDWAI
  6. REMEMBERING NIAZ NAIK-JAVED JABBAR
  7. FARCE OF INDIA'S SECULARISM-IMTIAZ GUL
  8. PERFIDIOUS MINDSETS-BABAR SATTAR
  9. OBAMA'S GLASNOST-ANJUM NIAZ

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GILANI’S FALSE CLAIMS ON FOREX RESERVES
  2. INJURED MINISTER’S UNIFOCAL STANCE ON TERRORISM
  3. THESE UNRULY MPS
  4. SPLENDID VICTORY OF PAK SECURITY FORCES-LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  5. POLITICS OF POPULISM AND POPULARITY -HASHIM ABRO
  6. NEW INTERNAL AUTONOMY FOR NAS -WAQAR MEHDI
  7. EXEMPLARY RELATIONSHIP-MALIK M ASHRAF
  8. THANK GOD WE ARE VEGETARIANS..!-ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. EXPORT POLICY
  2. HELPING THE BLIND
  3. BANGLADESH BANS SUITS...!-ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. DEMOGRAPHY OF DRINK
  2. TRIUMPH IN TIMOR

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. DEVELOPMENT NEEDS DOLLARS AND SENSE

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. GORDON BROWN AND AFGHANISTAN: THE FUTILITY OF BEING EARNEST
  2. BANKING CRISIS: LESSONS FROM A MAN-MADE TRAGEDY
  3. FROME THE ARCHIVE: EDITORIAL: CRIME AND SIN

 

JAPAN TIMES

  1. JUSTICE IN SCOTLAND
  2. MOVING FROM FINANCIAL CRISIS TO DEBT CRISIS?-BY KENNETH ROGOFF

 

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. CABINET RESHUFFLE
  2. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK
  3. INNOVATION AND SCIENCE PHILOSOPHY -SANTIAGO MONTENEGRO

 

CHINA DAILY

  1. BOOST TO IMF REFORM
  2. SOES IMAGE & REALITY
  3. CHINA, INDIA CAN CHANGE POLITICAL CLIMATE
  4. YES, EAST ASIAN ECONOMY CAN

 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

ALL IN THE FAMILY

SR CRONIES PLOT SUCCESSION


There is no denying the fact that YS Rajasekhara Reddy was a hugely popular leader who proved his administrative skills as Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. It was his ability to balance populism by way of welfare schemes aimed at the rural and urban poor with ambitious infrastructure development programmes meant to attract industrial investment that made him stand apart from other politicians of the State. In death as in life, Rajasekhara Reddy commands equal adulation and admiration; this has been on display for the past 48 hours. What, however, is astonishing is that at least 100 people should have either committed suicide or simply died of shock on hearing of Rajasekhara Reddy’s tragic end in a helicopter crash. Is this exaggerated grief? Or have the people of Andhra Pradesh decided to emulate the theatrical display of political loyalty that is usually witnessed in Tamil Nadu? It could be either or both. Cynics, of course, would suggest that it is neither. After all, as a scrutiny of statistics reveals, the crude death rate of Andhra Pradesh is 7.4 per 1,000 and cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of mortality, responsible for 33 per cent of all deaths. Given the State’s population base, this means every day more than 500 people die due to cardiovascular diseases alone in Andhra Pradesh. It is entirely possible that in its desperation to generate stories the media is playing up what is essentially a non-story. But it could also mean that an effort is being made by interested quarters in the State Congress to project a tidal ‘sympathy wave’ that will subside only after Rajasekhara Reddy’s son, Mr YS Jaganmohan Reddy, is nominated Chief Minister. If this is true, then the move has not been without success: Mr M Veerappa Moily, who is Congress in-charge of the State, has said “any political party will have to respond to the will of the people”. Meanwhile, the Congress’s chief whip in the State Assembly has let it be known that Mr Jaganmohan Reddy enjoys the support of 148 of the party’s 154 MLAs; some of them are believed to have met Ms Sonia Gandhi and handed over a letter backing his candidature.


There is something unseemly about the haste with which Rajasekhara Reddy’s cronies in the party are pushing for his son’s installation as the next Chief Minister. That such pressure should be mounted on the day of Rajasekhara Reddy’s funeral suggests unabashed political cynicism that could reflect poorly on the Congress in the coming days. It is also indicative of a new age mansabdari system emerging in the Congress with provincial dynasties serving as caretakers of the party’s affairs in the States while the ruling dynasty presides over the party at the national level. It could be argued that if Rajiv Gandhi could be sworn in as Prime Minister after Mrs Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, there is no reason why Mr Jaganmohan Reddy can’t take over from his late father. After all, to quote the supporters of this move, he is the “inheritor of his father’s political legacy”. True, such transfer of power from father (or mother) to son (or daughter) has not happened beyond the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty till now. But the absence of precedence is not necessarily an obstacle. It’s another matter whether the ‘high command’ would want to share a privilege restricted to the party’s first family. More importantly, it would be worthwhile to ponder over the impact of such transition on our democracy.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

N KOREA THUMBS ITS NOSE

WORLD PAYS FOR AMERICAN DUPLICITY


North Korea’s declaration that it has entered the final stages of its uranium enrichment programme has taken everyone by surprise. If the claim is true it means that Pyongyang is quite close to perfecting a second route to make a nuclear bomb. The two nuclear tests that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have conducted so far — first in 2006 and again in May this year — were known to have been plutonium-based nuclear detonations. The Stalinist state’s earlier admission to having an active nuclear weapons programme had also made apparent Pyongyang’s mastery over reprocessing technology to produce weapon-grade plutonium. Nonetheless, hitherto the North Korean regime had denied having any uranium enrichment facilities. It is in this context that Friday’s surprise declaration has made the international community sit up and take note. Uranium enrichment is also something that can be far easily hidden than a plutonium enrichment facility, making it difficult for external inspectors to detect should North Korea decide to take yet another U-turn in its nuclear policy. In the meantime, Pyongyang is not mincing any words in announcing its nuclear prowess to the world. The declaration could also be interpreted as one that is directed towards the United States with whom it appeared there was a thaw in relations, especially after former US President Bill Clinton’s visit to secure the release of two American journalists. By making its uranium enrichment technology known, perhaps Pyongyang wants to remind Washington, DC, that its position on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation remains unchanged.


Be that as it may, the fact that North Korea defiantly marches along its nuclear weaponisation path is proof that the global non-proliferation regime led by the US is a complete failure. And it is not just Pyongyang’s nuclear activities that say so. Iran couldn’t give a hoot about what the US thinks about its nuclear programme. Neither is the world fooled by the double standards that the US chooses to maintain when it comes to its own nuclear weapons stockpile or that of its client states. Pakistan, for example, faces no restrictions in expanding its nuclear arsenal. A recent report suggests that Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile has jumped to 70-90 warheads from the previous estimated figure of 60. This, despite the fact that the US claims to have leverage over Pakistan. It is amply clear that the US’s selective approach has made a mockery of all efforts towards genuine non-proliferation. It is high time that the international community questions the efficacy of the US-UN non-proliferation regime and perhaps evolves a new one. For, Washington, DC, cannot be preaching to Pyongyang to roll back its nuclear programme and at the same time turn a blind eye towards Islamabad.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

IN SRI LANKA, A VICTORY’S WORRIES

ASHOK MALIK


In 1983, when the Tamil insurgency began, Sri Lanka had a token Army of about 10,000 soldiers. Today, having triumphed in the so-called Fourth Eelam War — the fourth round of hostilities between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — the country’s Army is 200,000 strong. In the coming months, Colombo plans to ramp up this number sharply, and eventually have an army of 300,000.

What does all this add up to? Is Sri Lanka developing new ambitions? Given its growing military-strategic relations with China and Pakistan, does India have reason to worry? With the euphoria in the Sri Lankan establishment and the personality cult developing around President Mahinda Rajapaksa, should Tamil civilians expect an honourable peace?


It would be unfair to seek answers in instant, ‘yes/no’ terms. The complexity of a post-conflict situation and the mopping up operations that a 27-year insurgency necessitates are best brought out in the debate over the 10 camps for Tamil IDPs or Internally Displaced Persons from the killing fields of north Sri Lanka.

At the United Nations, in Western capitals and among civil rights groups, Mr Rajapaksa and his Government are being blamed for inhuman conditions in the camps, which now house 280,000 people. On their part, the Sri Lankan authorities insist it is simply not possible to send thousands of people back home to villages that are devastated and infested with LTTE landmines.


From a security angle as well, Colombo is uncertain as to how many LTTE soldiers and organisers are hiding amid ordinary refugees. Some 8,000 LTTE cadre have surrendered so far in the camps. There is suspicion that about 10,000 more are still unidentified. Of these, 1,000 are truly dangerous, part of the motivated core of the Tamil Tigers.


About two months ago, some 10,000 senior citizens (above 60 years) were released from among the IDPs. Only after they left did the Army realise that a senior LTTE official, a key database manager, had walked out too. Aged 74, this person is believed to have left for Singapore, carrying with him an extensive database — in CDs and pen drives — of the LTTE’s network.


Two elements of that network are still a concern and Colombo is worried about what it may not know, the “unknown unknowns” to borrow an expression from Mr Donald Rumsfeld, the former American Defence Secretary. While the LTTE regiments have been decimated and it is unlikely the Tigers will ever be able to mobilise a standing army and occupy vast territory, the overseas matrix that financed the LTTE remains, as do sleeper cells in Colombo.


To some degree, the global network was dealt a blow with the arrest of Kumaram Pathmanathan or ‘KP’. Taken into custody in Kuala Lumpur and brought back to Colombo, KP was announced as the LTTE’s new chief after Velupillai Prabhakaran’s death. To his interrogators, KP confessed to holding 14 forged passports, including an Indian one, and running 40 odd front companies.


At its height, a variety of businesses — shipping lines, trading in chemicals, selling phone cards to Tamil expatriates — contributed an estimated US$ 100-125 million a year to the LTTE coffers and proved a convenient cover for weaponry procurement. In addition to seemingly legitimate businesses, money laundering, drug smuggling, gun running and extortion rackets were also lucrative.


With KP behind bars, the leadership of the rump LTTE has devolved on Nediyavan, aka Castro, a Tamil Tiger based in Norway. Only he knows — if even he does — the extent of the transcontinental LTTE-linked commerce that is still under wraps.


The abiding apprehension is that even relatively small sums of money would be enough to activate individual sleeper cells in Colombo and afflict the Sri Lankan capital with high-profile terrorism. Further, the degree of LTTE infiltration into the Sri Lankan security forces is not massive but is not minor either.


Four months ago, a Tamil youth living in Colombo was identified as an undercover LTTE agent. He had enrolled as a student and stayed with others who were described as his family. In reality, this was a sleeper cell. When the Army broke in, the young man jumped to death from his high-rise apartment. A false ceiling in his bedroom revealed a substantial cache of arms, as well as names and concealed identities.

The trail eventually led to a colonel in the Sri Lankan Army. He had a weakness for gambling and the LTTE had exploited this to compromise him.


Earlier, in 2006, a suicide bomber blew herself up and succeeded in injuring General Sarath Fonseka, the Army chief. The attack took place in the heavily-guarded Army HQ complex. The suicide bomber — disguised as a pregnant woman — had entered with the help of General Foneska’s Army cook, a Jaffna Muslim called Siddique.


LTTE members had conducted four reconnaissance visits, allegedly to meet Siddique. Using a mobile phone camera, they had photographed security passes and got these duplicated.


Citing such evidence, the Sri Lankan Army refuses to let the IDPs out of the camps till they have been registered and fingerprints and other markers of identity secured. To date, only a little over 50 per cent of the camp dwellers have been registered.


Busting sleeper cells and investigating global businesses that fund terrorism is a job for a determined police force, not quite an Army. Why then is Sri Lanka increasing its military strength by 50 per cent?


The counter-argument is that a country with a population of 20 million cannot possibly afford both a muscular internal security mechanism and an Army that is, in any case, unlikely to fight an external enemy. Further, de-mining and infrastructure building in the war-ravaged north are going to become the Army’s mandate. Sri Lankan officials say it is the only national institution with the resources to achieve this.

To an extent that may be true, but it raises two questions. First, how does Colombo plan a political settlement with the civilian Tamil leadership if its interface with the community is going to be the Army? Second, after the last of the Tigers has been neutralised, does Mr Rajapaksa see Sri Lanka, with a robust military, as a sort of swing state between India and China as they compete for influence in the Indian Ocean? It’s a thought for the long term.


(malikashok@gmail.com)

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

TREAD THE PATH OF EQUANIMITY

ACHARYA MAHAPRAJNA


The complete definition of this world lies in these two words: Like and dislike. Our entire behaviour is regulated by our likes and dislikes. Either we see with liking or with dislike. Hence, the necessity for a third eye. The third eye should be open. The third eye is the eye of equanimity.


Preksha means the development of the sense of equanimity — to open the eye of equanimity. When this eye is opened, we will truly see. We will try to comprehend reality and know truth. Neither the feeling of like nor dislike will be linked to this. This is the balanced management of our sensory perception.

The purpose of Preksha meditation is that we bring out this form of sensory perception wherein we only see. Neither should the feeling of like nor dislike arise along with this perception. We should understand the motive of the word only. This is a great power, which can be developed only through balanced management of our senses. Our mind remains entangled in the five senses. The mind is by nature restless. We should not treat it otherwise because this is its very nature. Since the mind is creative and a sum total of many thoughts, restlessness or unsteadiness is its intrinsic nature. We should learn to balance it completely. Many thoughts come to us at a time. One thought is followed by another. Thoughts are born according to the circumstances and also come from the stream of feelings within. The two streams of the mind’s instability are from within as well as from outside.


Meditation means to control the wavering nature of mind and to decrease its instability. The two words are ‘restlessness’ and ‘one-pointlessness’. The mind cannot remain stable at one point. Its preferences keep on changing. This is the restless state of mind. When it stabilises at an object or at a point, it attains the steady state. The primary definition of meditation is the practice of concentration of the mind at one point or base. As our mind is able to remain steady for a longer and longer time on a preferred point (which we choose), our concentration increases and restlessness reduces.


It is necessary to decrease restlessness. All the problems that are being created owe their cause largely to restlessness. If there is a small problem and the mind is restless, even a tiny problem can magnify into one that is the size of a mountain. On the contrary, if our restlessness has abated, then the problem is also small, while high restlessness augments the magnitude of the problem.

 

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THE PIONEER

OP-ED

SHORTEST HONEYMOON EVER

WHILE GRIEVING FOR TEDDY KENNEDY AND ‘END OF CAMELOT’, AMERICANS THIS WEEK ARE WONDERING WHETHER BARACK OBAMA, THE LATEST EMBODIMENT OF THAT MYSTIQUE, IS ALREADY A FADING HOPE

S RAJAGOPALAN


What goes up must come down. Barack Obama may well be pondering over that old maxim as he vacations on the picturesque Martha’s Vineyard Island in Massachusetts. Till not long ago, the first American Black President’s job approval ratings were at stratospheric levels. It is unclear if the customary political honeymoon is dissipating a trifle too soon, but the fact is his ratings have been plummeting over the past month or two.


RealClearPolitics, the popular American website that keeps tabs on polls and politicos on a daily basis, tells you that Obama’s ratings at the end of his first seven months in office are now down to 51.8 per cent — from a peak of 63.3 per cent when he assumed office in January. This is on the basis of an average of five different opinion polls, conducted by Gallup, Washington Post/ABC News, NBC News, Pew Research and Rasmussen Reports.


Obama took over in the midst of a deepening recession with Wall Street bleeding, the housing crisis far from over, financial institutions struggling, companies laying off workers in thousands and small businesses collapsing across the country. Yet, he managed to hold his own in the first five months, during which there was just a 4 per cent drop in his approval ratings. In contrast, the past two months have seen an erosion of nearly 8 percentage points, giving rise to palpable disquiet in the Democratic circles.


Much to the chagrin of Democrats, Republican George W Bush was better placed after his first seven months in the White House. At this point in 2001, Bush enjoyed a 56 per cent approval rating. But then, he did not have to contend with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The only problem at the start of his eight-year tenure was the controversy surrounding his own election, thanks to the questionable electoral procedures in Florida and the legal challenge in its wake. It is another matter that Bush left office this January as one of the most unpopular presidents in history with a final approval rating of just 22 per cent in a CBS/New York Times poll.


For the administration, the first bearer of bad tidings was last week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll. Its conclusion: "Public confidence in President Obama’s leadership has declined sharply over the summer, amid intensifying opposition to healthcare reform that threatens to undercut his attempt to enact major changes to the system." It found that the number of Americans confident about Obama making the right decisions is down to 49 per cent from 60 per cent at the 100-day mark in his presidency. "As challenges to Obama’s initiatives have mounted over the summer, pessimism in the nation’s direction has risen: Fifty-five per cent see things as pretty seriously on the wrong track, up from 48 per cent in April.”


Curiously enough, what is doing Obama in even more than the economic situation is his determined push for healthcare reforms. The wave of protests at town hall meetings by Democratic lawmakers on this issue over the past month have pitted those with satisfactory health insurance cover against those who don’t have it. Several senators and Congressmen have been heckled, prompting lawmakers to assure the protesters that they would take back to Washington their strong feelings on the issue.


As the Post survey brought out, Obama faces an increasingly polarised environment as he campaigns for his healthcare initiative. Fifty per cent of those surveyed have voiced their opposition to the set of proposals being pursued by the President and Congressional Democrats, with only 45 per cent supporting them. All that puts a question mark on the final shape that Obama’s pet project would take. For now, the White House appears firm on giving the people a public option plan, instead of subjecting them to the whims of the powerful health insurance companies, who have become a law unto themselves.


Though the spotlight right now is on healthcare, the hard economic issues are very much on the front burner. Official reports may be sanguine that recession is gradually on the wane, but they all admit that the unemployment situation may worsen before it gets better. From the current 9.4 per cent, unemployment is projected to climb to 10 per cent by year-end. Then, there is the revised White House projection of the federal deficit of $9 trillion over the next 10 years, up by as much as $2 trillion estimated in May. The deficit for this year alone is pegged at $1.58 trillion — the highest since World War II.


On the face of it, Obama himself is not unduly bothered about the declining poll numbers. Last week, he told volunteers of “Organising for America”, a grassroots organisation committed to his agenda of change: “Just remember we’ve been through this before. Some of you were involved when we were in Iowa, 30 points down, and all of Washington said, oh, it’s over.” Obama saw the same story play out last August, when Republican John McCain put up Sarah Palin as his running mate and the talk was “Obama’s lost his mojo. As he put it, “There’s something about August going into September — where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.”


But political guru Charlie Cook is emphatic that Obama’s approval slide to about 51 per cent is evidence that “the situation this summer has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and Congressional Democrats”. His Cook Political Report Congressional model indicates Democrats will lose a net six to 12 seats in 2010, but his own sense is that this is far too low if macro-political dynamics was factored in. “That all of this is happening against a backdrop of an economy that appears to be rebounding and a resurgent stock market underscores how much the President’s and his party’s legislative agenda have contributed to these poor poll numbers,” Cook says.


Republican consultant Joseph Pounder regards the turn of events as both surprising and rejuvenating for Obama’s political opponents. “It’s been a real bad summer for a White House that was supposed to rock everyone’s world,” Pounder told the Washington Times . But Obama’s Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton says the administration has long recognised that it could see dents in the President’s support on such a potentially divisive initiative as healthcare reform. If this had been an easy matter, it would have gotten done long ago, Burton says, employing a pet Obama line.


While the approval ratings of both President Obama and his Democratic Party have gone down, the Republicans have neither gained nor lost. They remain at a steady 40 per cent, even as the favourability of Democrats has slipped from 62 per cent in January to 59 per cent in April to 49 per cent now. What does this mean? According to Eugene Robinson, the Washington Post columnist, it simply means that the Republican efforts to “obstruct, delay, confuse, stall, distort and otherwise impede the reform agenda that Americans voted for last November have had measurable success”. It also means that having secured a comprehensive mandate, the Democrats “don’t really know how to use it”.


The writer is The Pioneer’s Washington correspondent

 

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THE PIONEER

         OP-ED

REVISITING OBAMAMANIA

IN JANUARY, SATURDAY SPECIAL NOTED AT PRESIDENT OBAMA’S INAUGURATION THAT HE’D DO WELL TO AVOID BEING A VICTIM OF HIS OWN HYPE — WE HAVE BEEN VINDICATED

CHINTAMANI MAHAPATRA


Barack Hussein Obama of the US created history by winning the 2008 American Presidential election. His election victory inspired the underdog in the US and various parts of the globe. His promise of change in domestic and foreign policy of world's most powerful nation raised new hopes for people everywhere, particularly Iraqis, Iranians, North Koreans, Syrians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Palestinians, Israelis —the list is endless and includes Americans and their Anglo-Saxon cousins across the Atlantic.


But few at the time realised that Obama had inherited a poisoned chalice. From the moment he entered the Oval office, a ravaging financial crisis came to haunt his nascent administration. Memories of the Great Depression of the 1930s overwhelmed the national outlook. The Great Depression fell in the inter-war period. The current financial crisis has coincided with US involvement in two wars — one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq. In terms of scale, intensity and devastation, the economic crisis and wars of the present day cannot be fairly compared with the Great Depression and World War II. But historical circumstances encouraged some commentators to compare Obama with Franklin D Roosevelt.


But, undeniably unfairly, Obama has lost out in the scales. Barely eight months into his administration people are already saying "Obama is no FDR.” Some Americans have come to see in him a second Lyndon B Johnson. At the peak of the Vietnam War, President Johnson launched a “Great Society” programme to fight poverty at home. While his domestic agenda was commendable, the cost of the war in distant Vietnam — which he was responsible for — created difficulties at home.


President Obama came to power promising withdrawal from Iraq. But pursuing the Afghanistan campaign was high on his agenda. So he intensified the military operations in Afghanistan while simultaneously pushing an ambitious healthcare reform programme at home. He came to power riding huge popular disaffection towards the US healthcare system which is reputedly one of the worst among the advanced industrial democracies in the West. Obama was the first to articulate the fact that millions of Americans don't even have a health insurance policy. So now he wants to overhaul the healthcare system to provide insurance to all US citizens. The goal is certainly laudable, but the method of doing so has yet again sparked off debate and fierce opposition from the Republican side.


Obama’s intention to involve the government in providing healthcare, particularly affordable insurance to the poorer sections of society, has been welcomed by many Americans. But the Republican Party has been traditionally opposed to the concept of big government and vehemently opposes any government role in healthcare. The ‘Blue Dog Democrats’ within Obama’s Democratic Party are with the Republicans. Corporate America is opposed to the President’s plan for obvious reasons.


The Obama administration’s approach to these challenges is responsible for growing disappointment in the US over the inability of the White House to come up with credible and acceptable solutions. Less than 50 per cent of the people now feel that Obama is doing a good job in office. Popular displeasure with President Obama’s performances are varied and many.

 

  To start with, many Americans have not approved of the administration’s policy of bailing out the corrupt financial companies, some of which have already started issuing huge bonuses.

  Though Obama repeatedly declared a ‘forward looking’ policy, his intention to start a criminal probe of abuse cases involving the CIA’s mistreatment of terror suspects is interpreted as returning to the national security legacy, George W Bush.

 

  Senior citizens in the country are worried that Obama’s $1 trillion healthcare proposal in the midst of a recession would mean reduction of medicare benefits.

 

  President Obama’s abilities as a sound administrator and visionary reformer are being questioned in view of the delay in filling up top, policy making positions. The US Senate, with a Democratic majority, has so far confirmed only 43 per cent of more than 500 senior positions.


According to a New York Times commentator, “Mr Obama does not have his own people enacting programmes central to his mission. He is trying to fix the financial markets but does not have an assistant treasury secretary. He is fighting two wars but does not have an Army secretary. He sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Africa to talk about international development but does not have anyone running the Agency for International Development. He has invited major powers to a summit on nuclear nonproliferation but does not have an assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation."


Many Americans are of the opinion that the President is spending huge amount of money on family vacations when the country is undergoing an economic crisis. The farm that the Obamas recently rented in Martha’s Vineyard for a week’s vacation cost $35, 000 to the taxpayer. Actually Obama is spending more money on transportation than any President since Dwight D Eisenhower. The ‘Progressives’, another solid political base of Barrack Obama, are increasingly upset with the administration’s priorities and approaches on a broad range of issues, including his ‘public option’ for health insurance proposal.


The President’s job rating and unpopularity are not confined to domestic issues alone. Many Americans have begun to compare the Afghanistan war with the Vietnam experience. Certainly there are several differences between the two, but the fact remains that more than half of the country’s population now think that the Afghanistan war is going badly for the country. There are suggestions from certain quarters that the President should give a timeline for withdrawing troops. But Obama is arguing that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity". He also sought to raise classical fears about another al-Qaeda attack on the US.


Moreover, Obama would have to bear some responsibility for the instability in Iraq that may follow after US troop withdrawal. Undoubtedly Iraq would be a more divided nation than it was before 2003. On Iran and North Korea, Obama’s lack of enthusiasm for finding a resolution through either negotiation or adoption of tough postures is reducing his image.


Last, but not least, Darfur activists have expressed their disappointment at the President’s perceived reneging on his promises. He had declared Sudan as a 'priority' for his administration during the campaign, but has not moved since the inauguration to act on it. Will Obama succeed in his mission to profoundly redefine American governance? Polls are nothing compared to real electoral feedback. Next year's Congressional elections may be the touchstone. As of now, the future does not seem very bright for America's first 21st century superhero.


The writer is Professor of American Studies at JNU

 

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THE PIONEER

OP-ED

AFGHANISTAN THE NEXT VIETNAM?

BARACK OBAMA CAMPAIGNED LIKE AN ANTI-WAR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, BUT ON ASSUMING POWER WAS CONFRONTED WITH THE REALITY THAT THE WEST’S POSITION IN AFGHANISTAN HAD BECOME INTRACTABLE — SAME THAT NIXON FACED IN VIETNAM?


Afghanistan is proving to be one of Barack Obama’s toughest foreign policy challenges. Eight years after the US, along with its NATO allies, intervened in Afghanistan, the situation there only seems to have got grimmer and parallels are being drawn between Afghanistan and America’s war in Vietnam. “Could Afghanistan become Obama’s Vietnam?” wrote Peter Baker in a New York Times article last week. Though he agrees that historical analogies are “overly simplistic and fatally flawed,” he has set in motion a major debate on the subject.


Just a few months back, at the time of his inauguration, Obama was being hailed as a Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D Roosevelt rolled into one, who would usher in a ‘new deal’ that would see the resurgence of the US after eight years of what many saw as the flawed policies of George W Bush. The moment was projected as one of those once-in-a generation occurrences and perhaps expectations from Obama were unrealistically high.


Obama acquired the image of an anti-war candidate in the election campaign. However, Presidents, after taking the oath, often confront situations that they do not always either anticipate, or discover, as perhaps Obama did once he assumed office, that there is not much room for maneuverability in foreign affairs. This perhaps accounts for his opting for the “status quo” on the foreign policy front. He gave support for continued NATO expansion as well as maintaining American garrisons around the globe.


“But his escalation in Afghanistan most obviously demonstrates that he is a man of the interventionist left,” says Doug Bandow of the Washington DC-based CATO Institute. Obama’s second 100 days in office have also seen his popularity decline below the 50 per cent mark in July mainly on account of two factors, dissatisfaction with his handling of the economy, especially healthcare and the environment issues, and the manner in which the war in Afghanistan is being conducted.


According to Peter Baker, “In this summer of discontent for Mr Obama, as the heady early days give way to the grinding battle for elusive goals, he looks ahead to an uncertain future not only for his legislative agenda but for what has indisputably become his war.”


There was general optimism when the Obama administration declared its Af-Pak policy on March 27, 2009. The core strategic goal to “disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qaeda and to eliminate the safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan” seemed attainable given the popular support that the new administration enjoyed at that time. All that seems to have changed. According to the Stanford University historian, David Kennedy, as quoted in the NYT, President Obama is concerned that Afghanistan could yet ‘hijack’ his presidency, even though he still refers to the war in Afghanistan as “not a war of choice but a war of necessity.”


The policy of escalating the war in Afghanistan with increased troop presence presents its own challenges. While the generals feel they are over-stretched on the ground, Obama finds that even his own party men in Congress have begun to question the wisdom of sending more troops. There appears to be a growing consensus within the United States to deploy more drones that are seen to be doing a great job in Pakistan and are credited with having decimated the top Taliban leadership in Pakistan territory, including dreaded Baitullah Mehsud.

According to a recent Rasmussen Report, 41 per cent of the voters who participated in the poll are less hopeful in August, as compared to a similar poll in June, of the situation improving in Afghanistan. A similar poll conducted in July by the NYT and CBS News showed that 57 per cent of Americans felt that things were not going right for them in Afghanistan.


July 2009 also saw the heaviest casualties among the western forces in the eight-year-war. The toll stood at 43 US soldiers and 31 from among the western allies. Mid-July also witnessed emotional scenes in the small town of Wootton Bassett in England when the bodies of eight British soldiers killed in one day’s fighting in Afghanistan arrived home. According to a report, an aircraft carrying the coffins landed at an air base in the western Wiltshire County, where a flyover of military jets took place, followed by a ceremony for the families of the dead.


Britain has 9,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, stationed in the seething southern Helmand Province which has witnessed pitched guerrilla warfare between the Taliban fighters and British soldiers. Britain is not used to such high casualties in Afghanistan, and the average Briton is beginning to question the value of fighting a long-drawn battle in a faraway land over the long term, especially when the real fight against the Taliban seems to have just begun.


While British Prime Minister Gordon Brown might emphasise the need to persist in Afghanistan, the overall public support for his government is dwindling. In his address to the House of Commons recently he declared: "It has been a very difficult summer and it is not over yet, but if we are to deny Helmand to the Taliban in the long term, if we are to defeat this vicious insurgency and by doing so make Britain and the world a safer place, then we must persist with our operations in Afghanistan”. Brown is also under sustained attack from the Conservative opposition for allegedly neglecting the safety of British troops by not equipping them properly for the war in Afghanistan.


While Britain is committed to “building a better and more stable world”, there is no denying the fact that the trans-Atlantic alliance is under tremendous pressure as the western allies try to look for solutions that would create conditions for a quiet withdrawal. For the moment this seems to be wishful thinking.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDITORIAL

BLISTERING BARNACLES TINTIN IN TROUBLE

 

Tintin had successfully dealt with all sorts of threats from wild-eyed fakirs armed with poison darts to the trigger-happy Chicago mob during his adventures in various parts of the world. But now even he might have met his match. A Congolese accountant has sued the Belgian boy-reporter for 'racism'. At the centre of the controversy is the 1930 story, Tintin in Congo, which the complainant claims is racist and xenophobic.

The litigant is right. The Africans in Tintin in Congo are indeed crude caricatures who are shown as an inferior race and are clearly in awe of Tintin and even his dog Snowy. Tintin's creator, Herge, himself has admitted that he was at times guilty of stereotyping. But do we ban the book or demand to alter it? That would be silly. Far better to accept it as a document of a time when racism was a part and parcel of life and European nations were masters of the better part of the globe.


Revisionism is, of course, not limited to Tintin. There have been concerted attempts to sanitise fairy tales and nursery rhymes and make them more politically correct. Children's authors such as Enid Blyton, whose books have sold by the millions, have also faced the wrath of PC zealots. The golliwogs in her best-selling Noddy series were changed to goblins in the 1980s. And no prizes for guessing why Fanny and Dick from Blyton's Faraway Stories were renamed Franny and Rick. There was even a move to change the name of Noddy's best friend, Big Ears, to the more politically correct White Beard. That was mercifully aborted. Once the process of revisionism begins, there is no knowing where it can end. Many Bollywood films would fail the exacting standards of PC. How many times have we seen Tamil (or Madrasi as they are usually called) and Bengali characters represented as caricatures in films made in the 1960s and 70s?


So it's best to let these creative works be and enjoy them for what they are. Of course, there's bound to be critical examination of creative works and their authors. We now know that Herge during World War II had worked for a Belgian newspaper, which was a propaganda organ for the Nazis. And that Blyton probably was an irascible lady who did not get along very well with children. We even have a postmodernist deconstruction of Tintin, which interprets his adventures as being all about 'mimesis'. There is speculation that there was more to Noddy's relationship with Big Ears than meets the eye. But let's not get into a lather about such matters. We needn't let them spoil the pleasure of reading a Tintin adventure or an Enid Blyton book.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDITORIAL

THERE'S SPACE FOR ALL AT THE PARTY

 

During my student days at Boston University, i recall being introduced to the writings of Aime Cesaire, the great African essayist, playwright, poet and politician whose stirring prose was often a manifestation of his rage against the colonial enterprise. "It is not true that the work of man is finished", declared Cesaire, "...the work of man is only just beginning...and no race holds the monopoly of beauty, intelligence and strength and there is place for all at the rendezvous of victory.'' I'd like to think that message still resonates with marginalised communities wherever they exist, including those in the spotlight of the Delhi high court's landmark judgement on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.


Decriminalising homosexuality marks a critical point of departure in the lives of many across the nation; young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor. And while full emancipation may yet be an unfulfilled desire, it is an important first step in a legitimate struggle along that long arc of justice. To be sure, there will always be a blinkered few who will opt for an over-simplistic "us versus them" dualism but this is where rational argument and nuanced analysis can and should take centre stage in mainstream Indian politics. Moral prescriptions aside, the issue here is less an examination of sexual peccadilloes than about ensuring a vulnerable minority's unfettered access to fundamental human rights enshrined in our Constitution and guaranteed to every Indian citizen.


AIDS continues to be a global health crisis and India is teetering on the brink of that abyss. It is time to accept that reality, erase the stigma and create a safe space for a free and frank discussion of sexual behaviour to enable access to quality health care for all. Legal barriers and criminalisation have for too long effectively blocked the empowerment of groups at high risk of HIV infection by denying or obstructing their right to live healthy and safe lives. It is unconscionable that in a country with one of the world's largest populations of people with AIDS, Section 377 has been used by officials to obstruct the work of legitimate HIV-prevention groups, leaving high-risk communities defenceless against infection. AIDS and the new wave of activism it engendered around the world may have fully awakened many to gay people all around them, but a tardy and still embryonic national awareness will not save the lives of those whose abridged rights make them even more vulnerable during a rampaging plague.


Legislation here can be a powerful tool in shaping a policy response to the AIDS crisis. When based on universally accepted human rights standards, and appropriately implemented and enforced, the law can support positive public health outcomes and enable individuals and communities to realise their rights without fear or favour.


Self-appointed custodians of Indian culture and the extreme right will always harbour archaic prejudices about anyone not like them but they never did merit serious attention in a free-thinking democracy like ours. Let us recognise that there are sections of Hindu, Muslim and Christian groups that have misgivings about homosexuality but also agree that it should not be criminalised. They would be the first to acknowledge that laws governing religious doctrine cannot be equated with the law of the land in a secular democracy. I find it disingenuous on the part of those who use selective text and inference to condemn someone's sexual preference while ignoring some of the proscriptions in their own teachings. Rather than pontificate on virtue and vice, we really ought to leave all value judgements to a higher power.

In the final analysis, policy and perception feed off each other and a paradigm shift in both is needed for real progress to take place. If my campaign experience across the socio-economic divide has taught me anything, it is that young India is not just a barometer of social change but a determining factor in shaping it. Indians of my generation are not afraid to speak the truth to power. That gives me hope. More so about the poor and less privileged sections of the gay community in both urban and rural India who have neither the financial nor political clout to counter the persecution, blackmail and incarceration they are constantly subjected to. For them, decriminalisation and its proper implementation could be life-altering.


So the next time you see your gay friend, relative or neighbour, think about the rights you were born into and the rights of others for which you've fought. Ask yourself if you can step out of your comfort zone to advocate for the rights of all, regardless of gender, caste, sexuality, ability, or religion, to pursue your freedom and happiness. After all, our convictions mean the most when they include those beyond ourselves. And when push comes to shove, we may still find there is place for us all in Cesaire's rendezvous of victory.


The writer is a member of Parliament.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

ART NEEDS TO EVOLVE

 

The evergreen hero of Indian cinema is set to revisit one of the highlights of his career. Hum Dono, originally released in black and white in 1961 starring Dev Anand, Sadhana and Nanda, is now being re-released in colour. It will be the third film to be updated and given a theatrical release in this manner; Mughal-e-Azam in 2004 and Naya Daur in 2007 were the others. And as with them, there are bound to be debates about the nature of art and the merits of revisiting it in this fashion. But for one person at least perhaps the most important one in this context the answer is plain. Dev Anand has stated that he is in favour of the colourisation and has no truck with nostalgia. He makes a valid point.


Art does not exist in a vacuum. It is inextricably linked to its social, cultural and aesthetic norms. As those norms change, so too do perceptions. And that is why it may become necessary to revisit a work of art in a manner that makes it relevant to an audience operating in a different context and with different norms. The alternative is to let them fade from public consciousness, their value degraded by a squeamish refusal to consider that art is not static but may need to evolve.


There is another point to consider here. It may, in fact, be that a work of art took shape in the manner it did because of constraints of various manners such as technology or money. Revisiting art, in that case, would be in keeping with its creator's intentions. Mughal-e-Azam is a case in point. Its producer and director, K Asif, wanted to make the film in Technicolor. But logistical problems meant that he had to settle for shooting 85 per cent of it in black and white. It is only when the colourised version was released in 2004 that his artistic vision was fully realised.


Ultimately, the audience's aesthetic sense will decide the success or failure of such a project. Mughal-e-Azam was a success upon re-release, the colourised version of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was not. Hum Dono will stand or fall on its merits. But to shrink from the experiment for fear of violating some abstract sacrosanct principle would be to deprive new generations of enjoying a work of art on their terms.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

SOMETIMES, LIFE IS BLACK AND WHITE

 

Imagine Mona Lisa with a broad grin instead of the enigmatic smile. Would she be as intriguing and famous if she were portrayed with her pearlies on display? Or imagine a robed David in Florence. Would crowds throng to see him if he were standing there with drapes hiding his perfectly sculpted body? Not quite, one would imagine.


Because, the form of these works of art is as important as the creations themselves. Mona Lisa's charm lies in the fact that we don't know what's on her mind. Michelangelo's David is a masterpiece because of the proportions and form the master sculptor lent him. No replica can equal the attractiveness of the original.

Which is why news that Hum Dono, the 1961 classic starring Dev Anand in a double role, will be re-released in a colour version is horrific. Some things in life are meant to be in black and white, and not suffused with a riot of colours. Remember the disaster that resulted when the legendary Mughal-e-Azam was made over with a colour palette? Classics from this era were defined by their form, which included being shot in black and white. Film-makers conceived a certain cinematic language based on the canvas they were working on. To mindlessly fill that canvas with colour, decades later, is to mutilate the aesthetics of a work of art and betray the vision of the creator.


The "we have to make classics accessible to the youth" excuse is an insult to the intelligence of younger generations. Ever heard the many youngsters who hum old numbers or are art aficionados? It is argued that we must keep up with the times. Well, sure, there's nothing wrong with that. Go ahead, let your imagination riot and make new movies with the latest technology available. Be imaginative and adapt Shakespeare's works to modern lingo by all means, as long as you don't call it the Bard's work. Or as some of our home-grown Bollywood musicians do, be 'inspired' and lift tunes from classical compositions to fashion your own tune. Just don't go around ravaging classics be they movies, literature, art or music.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

GLOBAL EYE: A JAPANESE INSTRUCTION

 

The country known for its frequent earthquakes just experienced its first political tremor in over half a century. The sweeping victory of Japan's opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), ending the long reign of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has sent shock waves across the world. Washington is mildly anxious while Japan's immediate neighbours are intrigued. Indian observers nervous about the future may be trying to read the green tea leaves. The document most scrutinised in order to divine Japan's future course under DPJ rule is an essay that Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the victorious DPJ, wrote before the elections. The key phrase in that article is his assessment that "The era of US-led globalism is coming to an end."


Any suggestion of declining American influence, that too coming from a country long considered a "floating American aircraft carrier", will cause concern in a New Delhi worried about rising China. But it is important to see things in their context. Hatoyama's passing remark, taken out of a larger essay written for a domestic audience on the eve of an election, is hardly the basis for a drastic change in direction. Some contentious issues in the US-Japan relationship will surely be addressed, and perhaps more vigorously than they were by the erstwhile LDP administration. But with Japanese budget and fiscal deficits soaring to stratospheric levels, it is hardly surprising that questions will arise about, for instance, why Japan should pay nearly 90 per cent of the cost of stationing US troops on its soil.


There is also no doubt that the style and tone of Japan's relations with China will change, if only for compelling economic reasons. China remains Japan's largest trading partner, far outpacing the US, and has emerged as a key component of Japan's future prosperity. Already Hatoyama, the putative prime minister, has announced his intention not to visit the controversial Yasukuni shrine of the World War II dead, which long irritated regional neighbours and valuable partners. (A note to Indian exporters: seven of Japan's top 10 trading partners are Asian; India is not one of them.)


In the interests of bettering ties with Beijing, Tokyo can also be expected to quietly shelve the US-sponsored fledgling "alliance of democracies" involving India and Australia. Far from reflecting fundamental priority shifts, however, such adjustments should be seen as pragmatic moves. They do not alter the geopolitical realities nor lessen the weight of history that exercises a more powerful pull on questions of national security. Despite the Obama-esque electoral rhetoric of 'change', Japan remains a deeply conservative nation, worried about Chinese power and ambition, which regularly manifests itself in military rivalry and prickly territorial disputes.


Speculation about Japan's future policy remains just that. A concrete lesson from Japan's elections involves the problem of ageing, which underlies Japan's looming economic and social crisis, and which the LDP failed miserably to address. One of the most popular of DPJ's policy platforms an allowance of $276 a month per child and the challenge it seeks to address hold important lessons for India.


The proposed child subsidy is the DPJ's attempt to avert Japan's looming demographic crisis, in which a shrinking working age population would be charged with paying for the pension and health care of the burgeoning number of elderly. Scant economic incentives and tough immigration policies have stunted population growth which is now exacting a demographic toll precisely the opposite of India, which is famously set to reap its 'demographic dividend'.


Japan's belated effort to foster a baby boom is unlikely to reverse the trend although it might give the population a temporary boost. Japan's estimated population in 2050 is 95 million, falling to 89 million just five years later. By contrast, India's population is projected to overtake China's by 2030, when it reaches 1.485 billion.


Unfortunately, bigger is not better. The economic growth and declining birth rates that produced India's current abundance of young workers gives the country a relatively small window to get richer before greying. Only investments in health, education and youth employment training can ensure that this felicitous bulge produces an economic dividend. Failing that, hundreds of millions of unemployed youth will exact a demographic toll different from Japan's and more dangerous.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

STRIKE HARD, TREAD SOFTLY

 

At a time when the US is mulling increasing the boots on the ground by sending additional troops to Afghanistan — and Gordon Brown is urging a restive Britain to stay the course — despite plummeting support back home, a Nato air strike in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province has killed scores of civilians.

 

This latest episode of non-combatants being caught in the crossfire is definitely not going to win the allied troops any friends in the embattled country. The strike, aimed at the Taliban who had hijacked two fuel tankers, from which fuel was being siphoned off by villagers, is another example of how this war is slipping away.

 

President Barack Obama’s team has been trying to undo some of the damage caused by the Bush administration’s trigger-happy ways, but the US seems to be losing the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanistan. In the past, top officials in the US administration have been less than sympathetic to the plight of people in countries where Washington was committed to bringing about democratic change.

 

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once dismissed the enormous casualties of children in war as ‘collateral damage.’ Later, a mouthpiece for the often offensive former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld famously chose to describe casualties, in areas where the US had seen it fit to stomp in, as ‘stuff happens.’

 

Now this may make for a Jerry Seinfeld-like comic show, but it hardly does anything to make people embrace American-style democracy. President Barack Obama had come to power on a platform of change, which included a review of American engagement with countries like Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

It was ten years ago that a successful Nato offensive in Kosovo marked a turning point in the way wars were fought. Over the years, precision air strikes have helped countries like the US and Israel take out targets such as Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

 

Surgical strikes, though highly controversial, are possible at minimal cost to innocent civilians. But the US and Nato need to realise that given the socio-political and strategic complexities of war in difficult terrains like Afghanistan and Iraq, it is necessary to fight the battle not just militarily but also by engaging the civilian population. While the intolerance for bodybags returning to the US is understandable, technological prowess cannot be an excuse for using excessive force.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ON HIS OWN TERMS

BARKHA DUTT

 

Despite his huge popularity and iron grip over Andhra Pradesh, Y S R Reddy was probably not known that well beyond the confines of his own state. But the man, who defied skeptics and the dares of anti-incumbency to deliver 33 Lok Sabha seats in this election, may have ironically preferred it that way. It’s this that made YSR an unusual politician for his times. Though sudden, violent death almost always gives birth to treacly and over-sympathetic obituaries, he was important for what he represented.

 

Like the Congress chief ministers of yore, he was among a handful of current regional politicians in the party (Sheila Dikshit and Ashok Gehlot to a much more limited extent are the only other names to cross my mind) who derived his authority directly from the people of his state, and not necessarily from New Delhi.

 

And yet, as you could tell from listening to an emotional Sonia Gandhi, he had both her ear and her trust as well. It was possibly because — as she said herself — he always delivered what he promised and returned the Congress to power after a gap of ten long years. In the next couple of days you will hear a lot of the clich√©, ‘powerful satrap’, in the media. But it’s accurate. Because he was a doer. YSR, often authoritarian, sometimes ruthless, always stubborn and determined was able to live politics largely on his own terms.

 

If you look at some of the other big daddies of Andhra Politics — Narasimha Rao was possibly shrewder; Chandrababu Naidu definitely had better branding and N T Rama Rao had loads more charisma. So, why is it that Y S R Reddy, a doctor-turned-politician, became the formidable force that he did? In that answer may lie a clue to the economic philosophy the Congress could increasingly seek to define itself by across India.

 

YSR took Chandrababu Naidu’s emphasis on industrialisation and modernisation and married it with mass contact programmes that always kept him in direct contact with his voters. In 2003, it was his 1,500-kilometre padyatra through the poorest districts of Andhra Pradesh that set the stage for dislodging the seemingly invincible Naidu. The state was so used to seeing its chief minister hotfooting his way through remote corners that when his chopper went down in the forests of Nallamalla, party leaders argued that if there was anyone who had the gumption to be able to make it out of a dense jungle, it was him.

 

So, while Naidu may have caught Bill Clinton and the world’s eye, YSR adroitly walked the space between policy-making and populism. He swiftly understood that economic growth had to be used as an engine to deliver on welfare. So, if his government passionately advocated information technology, it gave as much attention to agriculture. Healthcare insurance, rice for two rupees a kilo, housing for the poor — these schemes were often launched personally by the man who came to be known as the Flying Chief Minister because of the number of hours he spent criss-crossing the state.

 

No surprise then, that in this election, the centerpiece of Chandrababu Naidu’s own campaign was the issue of farmer suicides. But even that didn’t work. YSR held his own against the heavyweight combine of the TRS-TDP and the Left. It’s no coincidence that the NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme), now widely acknowledged as a game-changer in Indian politics, was launched from the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. The state remained one of the best executors of the NREGS. And it’s this focus on the rural poor, while still trying to push economic growth that makes the YSR legacy significant.

On a national scale, Manmohan Singh may have been the architect of liberalisation. But the Congress, especially one that will be defined by Rahul Gandhi in the future, seems increasingly determined to use the benefits of that engine to power the villages. Whether you term that centrist or socialist, election results, both nationally and in Andhra Pradesh, underline the strategic smartness of such a philosophy as well.

 

It’s probably the security that he derived from his voters that helped YSR ride the storm of the many controversies that engulfed his tenure. Though politeness often forbids complex evaluations of those who die tragically, there are enough people in Andhra Pradesh who will tell you that YSR was not necessarily a very nice man. There were serious corruption allegations (Satyam), complaints about intolerance of criticism in the media, unseemly outbursts against the opposition in the state Assembly and even chilling stories of combativeness.

 

But, every time, YSR was able to fend off his opponents precisely because of his direct relationship with his voters. There’s a lesson for all politicians in that. Parallels could be drawn between his sometimes dictatorial style with, let’s say, a Narendra Modi who has also tried to give a masculine, unbending face to his administration. But there’s one important difference: YSR managed to be tough without ever playing divisive politics. He managed to hold the factional, caste-driven state together without once shaking the communal faultlines.

 

YSR Reddy may not have been the most charismatic politician. But both in his complexity and his philosophy for governance lie important lessons for what voters love, hate and forgive in their leaders.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

BEWARE OF THY NEIGHBOUR

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

The neighbourhood watch is bringing in strange news. The Army reports that in July, the Chinese carpet-bombed Indian soil with tinned food. A mistake, apparently — no one really knows where the border is supposed to be. And meanwhile, on our other border, the Pakistanis are in the throes of a change of guard that’s as quaintly archaic as the one at Buckingham Palace.

 

General Pervez Musharraf, who had entrenched himself in Britain, left for Saudi Arabia this week. He will live there until the end of the year, a guest of the royal family, on what our ancients might have termed mauna agyatvas — soundproofed, depersonalised exile. As part of a deal cut with the Zardari government, he will live overseas for a decade with his mouth shut tight.

 

Exile is the hallmark of primitive feudal politics. India saw it last during the British era — Wajid Ali Shah and the dead Tipu Sultan’s family were packed off to Kolkata, while Bahadurshah Zafar was banished to a lonely death in Rangoon. These days, the top destination for exiles is Saudi Arabia. Musharraf himself had sent Nawaz Sharif there after a bloodless coup.

 

A posh neighbourhood of Jeddah is believed to crawl with exiles from Muslim-majority failed states. Its most illustrious resident was Idi Amin. It’s a mistake for Pakistan to keep up the tradition, though, when it’s rather eager to project itself as a modern state.

 

The Chinese food-bombing, however, was not a mistake. The Chinese do nothing by mistake. We’re outraged because they intruded on Indian territory, which they do quite frequently. However, the paranoid conspiracy theorist in me is convinced that this was no mere intrusion but a calculated insult — they were throwing food at us during a drought. Consider the security implications, too. How did the Chinese know we were in a drought in July, when even Sharad Pawar had no idea?

 

Talking of security, the Chinese are now suspected of planting backdoors in telecom equipment they sell us, through which they can enter our networks. The Department of Telecom has advised BSNL to stop procuring from the Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE in border areas contiguous with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Intelligence Bureau apparently wants them out of the South as well.

 

Just how smart is this? Huawei is based in the People’s Republic of China, but it is an enormously successful globalised company with partners and clients ranging from Grameen Phone of Bangladesh to Vodafone UK. One suspects they’re in it for the money, not to tap Sharad Pawar’s phone. But with neighbours like ours…

 

Back when BlackBerry entered India, the Indian government gave it the traditional welcome that it offers all telecom operators: citing security concerns, it demanded their server passwords. A wave of derisive laughter travelled around the world at the speed of sound. No matter where it’s from, secure BlackBerry traffic runs through Research in Motion’s servers in Scandinavia, and Delhi cannot possibly police them. We looked like boors, operating under a communications law as old as the telegraph itself.

 

Until last year, when it was discovered that all the terrorists who hit Mumbai had been toting BlackBerries. Not just to make a style statement, surely. Of course, with neighbours like ours, anything is possible.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

APPOINT OR ANOINT

 

Arranging for a democratic succession amid an outpouring of grief is something Indians have had to do tragically often. It does not get any easier, though, nor is it ever likely to. For the Andhra Pradesh Congress, the problem is even worse: as is well-known, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy over the past half-decade managed to dominate the AP Congress completely, earning an unusual amount of independence when it came to how party affairs — and ticket-distribution — were managed in his state. So how does one go about finding someone else for the job?

 

There appears to be a groundswell of support for the notion of immediately swearing in Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, Rajasekhara Reddy’s son, currently the MP from Kadapa. This is not, in itself, surprising, and not just because of the emotional stress that the bereaved partymen are under; the younger Reddy has assiduously cultivated his father’s base, and a by-product of YSR’s free hand in choosing MLA aspirants is that Andhra’s Congress Legislative Party (CLP) is more likely to think of the party’s future in terms of loyalty to their late leader and to his vision. And, when it meets early next week, it might make that official. Is that best for the Congress in AP? Perhaps it’s too early to be sure; but, nevertheless, the Congress’s central leadership will have to decide now how it stands. And, given that they have the privilege of more emotional distance from the tragedy, their take on what’s best for the AP Congress might well be different from the CLP’s take.

 

If so, they are faced with the most difficult of balancing acts. On the one hand, taking the long, dispassionate view is sometimes what leadership is supposed to mean. On the other, Congress success in AP came on the back of allowing its state unit to feel that Delhi wasn’t looking over its shoulders all the time. Trying to interfere, even appearing to interfere in the selection of the CLP head, might undo the good work of years. When faced with dilemmas such as this, it is usually best to take refuge in transparency and sensible structures. The Congress’s leadership — or the All India Congress Committee’s observer, Veerappa Moily — might want to state the case for perspective, and perhaps for an orderly, months-long transition, clearly. And then the CLP should be allowed to decide — to ensure that neither are factions encouraged to form in the united party, nor is there resentment at an imposition from outside. Five years of governance depends on handling this transition well.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DARK CHOCOLATE

 

Ever since black money siphoned off into foreign vaults — the owner protected by a numbered account and a number of secrecy laws — was turned into a campaign issue in India, the clamour was only likely to grow. But if the recent deal between UBS AG and the US government, under which the Swiss banking major will hand over the details of 4,450 bank accounts to Washington, gave India hope, that hope was short-lived. Last month, the Swiss Banking Association declined to cooperate with an Indian attempt to get information, saying it was a “fishing expedition” trawling through names. Now the Swiss vice-president, Doris Leuthard, has said that a deal could be reached permitting the Indian government to access the accounts of Indian tax evaders. Of course, the Indian government must provide “concrete information” and follow “a set procedure”. Are the Swiss finally serious?

 

Not necessarily. Phrases like “concrete information” and “set procedure” don’t really set the terms for real cooperation. It cannot be the case that, in order to accuse a person of tax evasion, you must first discover every detail of the evaded money; that would put the cart before the horse. You cannot ask first for clinching proof of perfidy, and only then open vaults to sunlight. The UBS-US deal, too, was more in the nature of a one-off compromise rather than a set of lasting commitments. But at no point should we in India get the sense that our government is using Swiss recalcitrance as a crutch. The case that Indian citizens are breaching OECD-style regulations should be effectively and unrelentingly made to the Swiss. Laziness in doing that is unforgivable.

 

Given that Swiss secrecy laws provide the competitive advantage that runs its mammoth banking industry, the Swiss are unlikely to relent easily (they even threatened UBS if it complied with the US courts). India must learn from the United States tactics that resulted in UBS capitulating, but cannot confine itself to that outcome alone. Keep the larger picture in mind: what we need is not just names, but an end to the culture of money protected by dark vaults and darker laws.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MELTDOWN TIME

 

The 20th century is the first century for which how much energy we’re getting from the sun is no longer the most important thing governing the temperature of the Arctic.” That’s from a new study in the journal Science of how cyclical changes in the North Pole’s orientation towards the sun enabled 2000 years of cooling in the region. However, this long-term trend suddenly reversed through sustained warming that first began in the ’50s and peaked in the last 10 years — apparently responding to increased levels of greenhouse-gas emissions. Naturally, the worry is the pace at which this warming has affected polar ice caps. The rising temperature will invariably affect the Arctic ecosystem, may result in accelerated loss of land ice — and, crucially, push sea levels even higher.

 

Accompanying this report are worrying projections by WWF that, in parts, the seas may rise by more than a metre by 2100. (The 2007 IPCC report’s estimates are now universally thought low; most recent estimates have an average upper limit around 82 cm.) This forecast follows a study undertaken by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in April that posed a bleak scenario: Arctic sea ice disappearing entirely, for the first time in history, within the next 30 years. This couples with the fear a melting Arctic would result in “billions of tonnes of methane” being released from frozen soils, pushing temperatures even higher, feeding a vicious cycle. Cumulatively these factors will affect conditions beyond the planetary poles.

 

At the third World Climate Conference in Geneva last week, scientists presented this bleak picture — and the point was made that it is now finally understood “changes in the Arctic are accelerating global climate change.” Ban

 

Ki-Moon asserted: “scientists have been accused for years of scaremongering. But the real scaremongers are those who say we cannot afford climate action.” As the countdown to Copenhagen begins, the science is now unanswerable.

 

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 INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE TRAGEDY AND THE TREND

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

You have probably seen bigger outpourings of popular grief, and partymen’s sycophancy, following the deaths of many other regional or state leaders. I was once caught for hours on Christmas Eve 1987, at the peak of the IPKF’s Op Pawan, in the middle of a minefield of sorts, just a mile short of what is called Elephant Pass, connecting the Jaffna Peninsula with the rest of Sri Lanka. Across the Palk Straits, MGR had passed away and there was no way the mourning Sri Lankan Tamils would let anybody move on the road. Meanwhile, many were committing suicide in Tamil Nadu.

 

The deaths of N.T. Rama Rao, even Sheikh Abdullah in the rather distant past, had led to similar twin reactions: grief, and demands for the anointment of family heirs.

 

But when was the last time you saw that on the death of a regional Congress leader? Most of them died more or less unsung, their funerals consisting almost entirely of their family and relatives, besides some token presence from the local party and the high command.

 

This should put Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a proper perspective, in life and death. Normally, such an unexpected departure of a Congress chief minister would have resulted in routine utterances of sympathy — and then the usual jockeying to grab the space he would have vacated. But the entire Congress party, and the Telugu street, turned out to mourn as if he wasn’t just another Congress chief minister but some Southern celluloid cult-figure. Almost the entire legislature party demanded that his still wet-behind-the-ears son be made chief minister. The entire cabinet passed a resolution endorsing that. You can of course say that YSR, in his decade-long leadership of the party, had squashed all dissidence. But normally, it is precisely for that reason that you would have seen many former dissidents rise just as he died. What are they afraid of, now that the man is gone? Yet, all of them, including 77-year-old caretaker chief minister Rosaiah, are saying they would have no objection if YSR’s son steps in. This is not the way you treat a departed state leader or his family in the Congress party.

 

So, just what is it that made YSR so different? That he was one of the most fascinating and powerful political figures to arrive in the past decade, we all know by now. Millions of words have been written on him the past few days, and lots spoken on TV by friend and foe. But the special power — and appeal — of YSR did not just reside in the fact that he had his high command’s total trust or in his ability to defy anti-incumbency. Maybe one quarter of his power did, as did another quarter come from his own personality, his ability to slog 20 hours a day, his take-no-prisoners politics and a remarkably open mind when it came to constructing his politics.

 

A very good example of that is the way he completely tossed the idea, made fashionable by the entire pink intellectual class in the summer of 2004, that his victory over Naidu was an agrarian revolt against pro-rich reform. If he had fallen for that very tempting formulation, he would have junked all reform and wealth-creation, and focused, instead, entirely on populism, like NTR. But YSR was smarter. He figured Naidu lost because he had become arrogant and smug, did not even imagine he could be defeated and, thereby, had completely ignored the poor. So what did YSR do? He picked up all of NTR’s populist ideas, multiplied them several times over in scale, created some of his own, named most of them after a Nehru-Gandhi, and accelerated reform and wealth-creation because that was the only way to finance these. Besides, he saw the value in being, looking and getting acknowledged as a modernising, urbanising leader.

 

But all this would account for only 50 per cent of the YSR phenomenon. Where did the rest come from?

 

Could it be that it did indeed come as a confirmation of a shift we saw beginning to happen a few years ago (see ‘Yes, Chief Minister’, National Interest, September 3, 2005, www.indianexpress.com/oldStory/ 77490/). I had then argued that a fundamental shift was taking place in our politics and governance whereby real power was shifting from the Centre to the states, making the chief minister the most powerful functionary in the new system.

 

It was partly because of the rise of coalition politics, and partly because of the strengthening of ground-level democracy caused, in turn, by a rising tide of expectation. People were impatient for change, progress, development, better quality of life and because “Dilli” was always so “door”, had begun to look at their chief minister in an entirely new light. Certainly, the first beneficiaries of this change were regional party leaders. But this shift was too powerful, widespread and even virtuous for the big national parties to resist. The BJP accepted it first. Modi and Vasundhara Raje emerged as the party’s first empowered chief ministers who did not particularly see the need to go to the “high command” for most of their decisions. They were to be left entirely unharmed as long as they kept on delivering electorally. Now even the relatively meek ones, like Yeddyurappa, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan are getting there.

 

The Congress, as you would expect, was the last centrist, “high-command-ist” bastion. If you see how its central satraps still manage to treat its chief ministers in Maharashtra like a chaprassi you would know that this bastion has not yet fallen. But YSR breached it, and did so very gainfully, for himself as well as his party. He became the Congress party’s first chief minister since 1969, that is, in four decades, to be able to seek votes in his own name, and win. That he managed to acquire that stature without getting his leadership suspicious — in fact, as you would have seen from Sonia Gandhi’s emotional tributes, having them dote on him — is what made up for that remaining 50 per cent of a political phenomenon that was one of a kind.

 

Postscript: I can’t just mention that frightful Christmas Eve on way to war-torn Jaffna without telling you the rest of that story. Finding it impossible to move on, to preferably reach Jaffna by sunset — intense fighting was on in the entire region and most approaches were mined — I back-tracked to the outskirts of Vavunia and found refuge for the night at the headquarters of the 72 Infantry Brigade, which had just suffered heavy casualties in the capture of Jaffna. I had forgotten all about that evening until last year, when a tough-looking former soldier-type came smilingly and stuck his hand out to shake mine while I was having lunch with a friend at Mumbai’s ITC Grand Central. “Remember Jaffna, December 1987?” he asked. And the penny dropped. Here was Lt Col (now retired) K.C. Menon, head of HR at the hotel (now moving to ITC’s new Royal Gardenia in Bangalore), who, as a very young captain in Mahar Regiment had so readily shared his very modest tent with me at Vavunia that evening. So even in his death, MGR found me a friendship that endures.

 

sg@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE VALLEY, UNVEILED

RIYAZ WANI

 

The recent threat telling a Sopore college principal to enforce an “Islamic” dress code on his 3,000 girl students has brought the purdah debate back in focus. Especially after the threat led to the number of veil-wearing students in the college rise from a modest 29 to around 300.

 

Now, does this mean that purdah will soon become a Valley-wide reality? That other colleges and schools will follow the Sopore example? The answer cannot but be an emphatic No. Even in the Sopore college, 300 students are a small percentage of the 3,000 girl students who’re enrolled with 4,000 boys.

 

It has more or less been like this in the Valley over the past two decades. That may have been an exceptionally turbulent period but Kashmir’s social orientation has by and large emerged unscathed. Truth is, the Valley doesn’t easily fit the newfangled stereotype of an Islamic conflict zone.

 

Even so, talking about purdah in Kashmir requires a certain degree of caution. Appreciating the tendency of Muslim women to discard the hijab could run afoul of religious sentiment — that might well, ironically, be shared by women who wouldn’t normally wear the veil. So, it is essential that we have an antiseptically neutral approach in our engagement with the issue.

 

Neutrally, the dominant impression is that while there may not be a study on the purdah in Kashmir, it is rare to come across a burqa-clad woman in the markets. This is in spite of the fact that the place has intermittently been witness to some determined moral policing campaigns.

 

Kashmir defies the stereotype in another sense too. Unlike in the rest of India, moral policing here has been the preserve of the hardline separatist women’s organisation Dukhtaran-i-Millat, a very small group. Its vitriolic chief, Asiya Andrabi, has earned much of her political reputation from such drives. Her fiery burqa-clad forays into busy bazaars through the ’90s — and even, occasionally, over the past decade — to enforce purdah and religious discipline are now a part of the Valley’s troubled story.

 

But while we say this, Andrabi’s morality missions have for the most part been politically-motivated forays, limited to Lal Chowk around the press enclave. She has hardly ventured outside the immediate media limits of Srinagar. Most of the time her morality brigade has been let loose over the half-kilometre of distance from Residency Road to Lal Chowk, where it could receive maximum attention. And as happens with all such coercive campaigns, their effects are momentary or at best seasonal. Kashmiri women face little dictation as to the conduct of their daily lives beyond what is the common lot of women in South Asia.

 

Regular militant organisations and even hawkish separatists haven’t generally been interested in the morality debates, seeing them as unnecessary distraction from the larger Azadi goal. Except, of course, in the early days of militancy — when “Allah Tigers” attacked cinemas and liquor shops. And in its later years, one unprecedented example: a militant organisation enforcing an absolute ban on cigarette smoking and nearly getting away with it. And, of course, the sporadic attempt to get at cable TV, now rendered unenforceable by DTH penetration.

 

But through all this, the Valley has maintained its sanity. Society may have changed profoundly from within — what with a two-decade cycle of murder and mayhem becoming an indelible part of collective memory — but externally, life in the Valley has exhibited a remarkable continuity. Shrines continue to be the destinations of a large population of the faithful; belief remains suffused with Sufism; beards are not endemic despite the proliferation of madrassas; and, of course, the burqa not readily associated with an ordinary Kashmiri woman.

 

In fact, purdah here is not an issue which could cause polarising political or intellectual debates. Purdah continues to be an un-self-conscious practice, worn or withdrawn as a matter of course. Morality drives or threats might temporarily force a change — generally a specific response to a specific situation, like at the Sopore college — but the Valley collectively has successfully resisted efforts at a radical overhaul of its traditionally tolerant cultural and religious moorings.

 

One such example: the principal of the Sopore college, Muhammad Ashraf Shah — an expert on Sayyid Qutb, the leading political Islamist of the 20th century, the ideological muse of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. Despite being an Islamic scholar, Ashraf has refused to do the bidding of his abductors. The purdah decision, he says, should be left to the wisdom of his students; he will not listen to anyone’s dictates on the issue.

 

And as for the gunmen who issued the threat to him, even the Kashmir police are not keen to brand them militants. Sometimes what crawls out of the Valley’s woodwork is not exactly what it professes to be.

 

riyaz.wani@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

END OF AN ERA

CHRISTOPHE JAFFRELOT

 

The present crisis within the BJP is multidimensional. It is firstly a succession crisis. For half a century, A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani presided over the destiny of the Jana Sangh and then the BJP. Their leadership relied on the (almost constant) RSS backing — both of them were trained in the Sangh — and some personal qualities: Vajpayee and Advani were mass leaders because of their organisational skills and a certain charisma. Vajpayee was a famous orator in Hindi and Advani’s rath yatra made him a mass leader, rightly or wrongly. But these are probably not the reasons why they seem to be irreplaceable today. Their unique quality lay elsewhere, in the fact that they benefited from an unmatched historical legitimacy. In the 1950s, Vajpayee was a close aide to Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Jana Sangh. In fact, he and Advani are today the only survivors of the first generation of RSS activists-turned-politicians. Vajpayee has already left the scene; Advani is about to do the same. It is a huge challenge for a party which lives more in history than most of the other Indian parties.

 

The leadership crisis, therefore, reflects a generational transition that can turn out to be an identity crisis: what additional source of legitimacy will Advani’s successor mobilise to put up with his inevitable deficiency — his belonging to a post-Jana Sangh generation? Interestingly, this succession problem is not to be found in the RSS where half a dozen sarsanghchalaks have already become heads of the sangh through a very smooth process. That is because in the RSS, men do not count as much as the organisation in which they are supposed to merge, whereas in politics personality matters a great deal.

 

The succession-cum-generational crisis that the BJP is going through is not the only one, though — and possibly not the more important one. After all, nothing of that kind would have happened, had the party performed well during the last general elections. It is not that it has failed miserably — it is back to its scores of 1991, not to that of 1984 when it got only 2 seats — but it was a clear defeat anyway and in contrast to what happened in 2004, the BJP lagged behind the Congress among all sections of the electorate, except the upper castes, according to the CSDS exit poll. The urban middle class has also shifted from the BJP to the Congress. The main problem for the party, therefore, is to reinvent itself and not only find a leader, but a leader with the winning formula.

 

This alchemy, in the 1990s, resulted from the combination of factors which are not likely to reappear any time soon. On the one hand, in the late 1980s-early 1990s, an increasing number of Hindus felt that their community needed to be protected against minorities (be they Sikhs fighting for Khalistan or Muslim fundamentalists) and the Congress which played vote-bank politics with them (like in the Shah Bano affair). Among them, those of the upper and intermediate castes resented the rise of the OBCs after Mandal and that of Dalits under the aegis of the BSP. For these people, the ramjanmabhoomi and the BJP were the right answers to the Congress and to low caste parties. Their hero was Advani, the Hindutva man par excellence whose rath yatra had been an effective device for uniting the Hindus beyond castes and against the minorities.

 

On the other hand, there was Vajpayee, the moderate face that the party projected when it realised that it would not be able to win power on its own. Vajpayee was not only able to attract in the party non-Jana Sangh people like Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh on a purely rightist (slightly neo-liberal) agenda, but he was also acceptable to other anti-Congress parties which became part of the NDA, the first coalition to rule India for five years.

 

Things have changed. The so-called anxiety about the minorities is not as wide spread as it used to be in spite of the Islamist attacks. The BJP could not cash in on the Mumbai episode in November last and in its election manifesto, it had to acknowledge that Indian Muslims were getting marginalised — even if it rejected the remedies suggested by the Sachar Committee report. Hindus are now more assertive than ever before: they are building an emerging world power, they do not feel insecure any more. And the party behind this modernisation process is none other than the Congress which, on the face of it, appears to be in a better position than the BJP to defuse the Dalit phenomenon by co-opting Scheduled Caste leaders. In fact, the BJP lost the middle class to the Congress this time partly because the party of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh looked cleaner and more effective in economic terms — two of the assets Vajpayee had capitalised on before when the BJP was “a party with a difference”.

 

In this new context, the post Vajpayee/Advani BJP is back to its old dilemma: should it return to its core identity, based on Hindutva, by projecting a Modi as its leader and then take the risk of alienating NDA partners like the JD(U) and non-RSS members? It would make its life simpler since the BJP leaders with an RSS background know how to sort out their differences in camera — interestingly most of the dissidents of yesterday and today, Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Khanduri — have no RSS background. Or should it select a leader acceptable to non-Hindu nationalist partners, at the cost of discipline?

 

The RSS may be convinced that this is the only way to avoid further electoral decline, but may support a man close to its heart anyway.

 

The BJP’s succession crisis needs to be seen in an even larger perspective for two reasons. First, the party is well entrenched in several Indian states and to focus on the top leaders’ quarrels may make us miss this important reality at the grass-root level (from where Advani’s successor may well emerge). Second, party politics is only the top of the sangh parivar’s iceberg and it would be a mistake to conclude from the BJP’s tamasha that Hindutva politics is on its way out: the VHP, the BMS, the Bajrang Dal, the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, the Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Seva Bharti etc. are continuing their daily work in slums, villages and cities and there is no indication that their aggressive cultural policing or reconversions are on the wane.

 

The writer is at CERI, Science Po, Paris and is Alliance visiting professor, Columbia University, New York

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

COURTING TROUBLE

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

 “We are being isolated”, top Maoist leaders yelled, and announced the formation of their own government. They also began a boycott-cum-obstruction campaign of the president and prime minister socially and politically, accusing them of not honouring the principle of civilian supremacy. And from their previous position that ‘we are committed’ to the peace and the constitution-making process’, the former rebels are now warning that they should not be held responsible if the constitution cannot be written within the stipulated 2010 May time frame. Maoists also announced the formation of what looks like a parallel government, not a shadow cabinet , ‘in exercise of government power’ — which does not belong to them as the party is in the opposition now. All this was done after the party’s candidate Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ lost the race for the chief of the constitution committee to Nilambar Acharya, a liberal democrat.

 

Last week, the constituent assembly committee on the judiciary, headed by a Maoist leader and with most members from the party, recommended that a future Nepali judiciary should not be an independent entity. Rather, it should be controlled and influenced by the legislature. This is not something that was unanticipated. Top Maoist leaders, despite signing the 12-point agreement committing themselves to peace and democracy, have made it clear all along that their joining the peace and democratic process ‘for now’ was merely tactical in nature. Creating a political and constitutional vacuum has been the method that Maoists have been pursuing in the past three years. The parties that probably could not see through the game were the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML). The two major pro-democracy parties have now begun accusing the Maoists of trying to derail peace and democracy.

 

After the ouster of the monarchy for which both parties extended support to the Maoists unreservedly, the former rebels moved equally systematically to bring both the Nepal army and the judiciary under political control. While the Maoists are insisting that their combatants be integrated into the Nepal army, they are also pursuing a policy of making the judiciary ‘pro-people’. In fact, Maoist Chief Prachanda’s speech to party leaders, made in January 2008, clearly stated that no matter what the party might say publicly, ‘our aim is to politicise the Nepal army’. He also said that the entry of a mere 4,000 Maoist combatants should be enough to achieve that goal. In fact, the special committee (of parliament) on supervision, monitoring and integration of Maoist combatants, has been reconstituted and had its first sitting on September 1. But there are no signs that Maoists will budge an inch from their position that their combatants must have group entry into the Nepal army.

 

Besides taking a hard-line on the constitution by advocating a ‘people’s republic’, a people’s army and people’s judiciary are the most attractive components of the Maoist campaign for ‘civilian supremacy’, something some left groups in India, especially the CPI(M) — as well as their equivalent in Nepal besides a section of the civil society and donors here — have all along been supporting. But there is now some quiet political review and rethinking at home. G.P. Koirala, the former prime minister who has patronised and endorsed each and every major political initiative of the Maoists so far, said recently: “the Maoists move on [the] judiciary is a reflection of its dictatorial design. We have to take a drastic decision if they do not withdraw it”. And Maoists are as clear and assertive: there is no move to withdraw it. Koirala , still a big influence on the pro-democracy front, has not divulged what that drastic decision could be.

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

GHOST OF A GENERAL PAST

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

Every crest concludes in a trough, and if there is anyone who can validate this fact today in Pakistan, it is former military dictator-turned President, Pervez Musharraf. His recent trip to Saudi Arabia has prompted Pakistan’s papers to report conflicting news regarding his prosecution on charges of high treason.

 

Daily Times reported on September 1: “Pervez Musharraf arrived in Riyadh on Monday, where he will meet Saudi King Abdullah. He had reached Saudi Arabia on a special plane sent by the Saudi king and would be staying in the kingdom as a special guest of the Saudi royal family. King Abdullah would host an Iftar dinner for him. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has left Saudi Arabia for Pakistan. He said he had not met Musharraf there.”

 

Upon his return, Malik was quoted by Dawn as saying: “‘There will be no trial of Musharraf unless Parliament adopts a resolution seeking his trial.’ There were reports Malik had met him there.”

 

The Saudis, are coming to the General’s rescue, as reports Daily Times on September 2. “The Saudi authorities have formally sent a message to the Pakistani leadership that they want stability in Pakistan, with King Abdullah urging all stakeholders to abide by an agreement that rules out any action against former President Pervez Musharraf... The Saudi king played the role of a guarantor at the time of Musharraf’s resignation and assured the former president that no action would be taken against him. The king said that if a party or an individual backed out of the agreement reached, Pak-Saudi relations would be affected. Nawaz Sharif travels to Saudi Arabia next week to hold meetings with officials who would “force him to abide by the agreement...”

 

Musharraf’s one-time blue-eyed boy, PMLQ leader Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, had perhaps predicted the above news. Daily Times reported the same day: “Everyone will stop talking of Musharraf’s trial after receiving one phone call from Saudi Arabia... Mushahid said he was against the trial, adding that the trial was not possible.”The News, however, wrote in its September 3 edition. “Musharraf’s visit to Saudi Arabia has turned out to be a fiasco since he failed to persuade the Saudi authorities to secure clemency from his detractors in Pakistan, particularly the Sharif family. Instead, the Saudi authorities have advised him to seek pardon and tender an unconditional apology for his unconstitutional acts from the people who had to suffer... Musharraf has left Saudi Arabia empty-handed and it is expected that some other ‘international friends’ of the former president could intervene to save his neck. Musharraf who arrived in Saudi Arabia by a royal plane departed from the Kingdom by a commercial flight.”

 

The News, in its September 3 editorial appeared in no mood to exonerate Musharraf. “The fact is President Pervez Musharraf has broken the law of the land. It would be hard to find anyone with legal knowledge who would dispute this fact. Indeed he made a mockery of the constitution by violating multiple provisions within it. Like any citizen, he should surely be brought to book. There is no logical reason why he should be let off.” Daily Times, however, said: “It is known to the world that wisdom has fled Pakistan. The country seeks revenge when it should be bothered about the Taliban threat which has hardly disappeared. What is going on is politics of revenge all over again. The adding of Musharraf to the primitive fires burning in the hearts of our leaders will do Pakistan the kind of damage that can’t be grasped at this stage. This is the wisdom that is easily understood if you are abroad and not a Pakistani.”

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

COURTING TROUBLE

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

 “We are being isolated”, top Maoist leaders yelled, and announced the formation of their own government. They also began a boycott-cum-obstruction campaign of the president and prime minister socially and politically, accusing them of not honouring the principle of civilian supremacy. And from their previous position that ‘we are committed’ to the peace and the constitution-making process’, the former rebels are now warning that they should not be held responsible if the constitution cannot be written within the stipulated 2010 May time frame. Maoists also announced the formation of what looks like a parallel government, not a shadow cabinet , ‘in exercise of government power’ — which does not belong to them as the party is in the opposition now. All this was done after the party’s candidate Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ lost the race for the chief of the constitution committee to Nilambar Acharya, a liberal democrat.

 

Last week, the constituent assembly committee on the judiciary, headed by a Maoist leader and with most members from the party, recommended that a future Nepali judiciary should not be an independent entity. Rather, it should be controlled and influenced by the legislature. This is not something that was unanticipated. Top Maoist leaders, despite signing the 12-point agreement committing themselves to peace and democracy, have made it clear all along that their joining the peace and democratic process ‘for now’ was merely tactical in nature. Creating a political and constitutional vacuum has been the method that Maoists have been pursuing in the past three years. The parties that probably could not see through the game were the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML). The two major pro-democracy parties have now begun accusing the Maoists of trying to derail peace and democracy.

 

After the ouster of the monarchy for which both parties extended support to the Maoists unreservedly, the former rebels moved equally systematically to bring both the Nepal army and the judiciary under political control. While the Maoists are insisting that their combatants be integrated into the Nepal army, they are also pursuing a policy of making the judiciary ‘pro-people’. In fact, Maoist Chief Prachanda’s speech to party leaders, made in January 2008, clearly stated that no matter what the party might say publicly, ‘our aim is to politicise the Nepal army’. He also said that the entry of a mere 4,000 Maoist combatants should be enough to achieve that goal. In fact, the special committee (of parliament) on supervision, monitoring and integration of Maoist combatants, has been reconstituted and had its first sitting on September 1. But there are no signs that Maoists will budge an inch from their position that their combatants must have group entry into the Nepal army.

 

Besides taking a hard-line on the constitution by advocating a ‘people’s republic’, a people’s army and people’s judiciary are the most attractive components of the Maoist campaign for ‘civilian supremacy’, something some left groups in India, especially the CPI(M) — as well as their equivalent in Nepal besides a section of the civil society and donors here — have all along been supporting. But there is now some quiet political review and rethinking at home. G.P. Koirala, the former prime minister who has patronised and endorsed each and every major political initiative of the Maoists so far, said recently: “the Maoists move on [the] judiciary is a reflection of its dictatorial design. We have to take a drastic decision if they do not withdraw it”. And Maoists are as clear and assertive: there is no move to withdraw it. Koirala , still a big influence on the pro-democracy front, has not divulged what that drastic decision could be.

 

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MINORITY REPORT

BURMA'S JUNTA IS TARGETTING ITS ETHNIC GROUPS

 

HRIS BEYRER AND RICHARD SOLLOM IT has been a good few weeks for Burma's dictator, Senior General Than Shwe, even though US Senator Jim Webb secured the release of an imprisoned American during his recent visit and even though the sentencing of Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, after this summer's sham trial was roundly condemned. With all the media attention, Than Shwe got a dose of what he appears to crave most: international legitimacy. And he is assured that Suu Kyi, who won Burma's last free elections in 1990, will remain under house arrest during the 2010 elections. Last month Burma's state-run media even hailed the regime for its humanitarian nature and called for targeted economic sanctions to be lifted.

 

But is there, in fact, a more humanitarian regime in Burma?


Distinctly negative answers come from Ho Lom village in Burma's Shan State, where junta soldiers burned 62 houses on July 29. Or from Tard Mawk, in the same district, where soldiers burned more than 100 homes. Or from the 38 other Shan villages from which villagers have been forcibly displaced in July and August, part of a systematic and brutal campaign documented by the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's Action Network and reported by Human Rights Watch last month. Eric Schwartz, assistant secretary of the US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, noted on August 19: "We've been deeply concerned by very recent reports of large-scale displacement, perhaps as many or more than 10,000 civilians ... as a result of increased military activity in northeastern Burma."

 

Schwartz said this even before the latest round of attacks -- against the people of Kokang, an ethnic enclave of Chinese speakers in northeastern Shan State, close to the Chinese border. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the fighting has driven 10,000 to 30,000 Kokang into China -- prompting a rare rebuke from the People's Republic, a longtime trade and investment partner of the junta.

Other ethnic groups, including the Karen in eastern Burma, have faced intensified fighting and egregious rights violations this summer. Some 5,000 Karen have fled into Thailand, according to Human Rights Watch. In Karen State, large numbers of land-mine injuries are being reported as untrained new conscripts, including children, are forced to fight their own people in some of the world's most heavily mined jungles.

 

These systematic campaigns in Burma's eastern ethnic regions have been marked by allegations of torture, extrajudicial executions and rapes of ethnic minority women and girls. The current assaults appear to be part of the junta's strategy for the 2010 elections. The generals are attempting to force their ethnic opponents to become border patrol forces and to participate in their showcase elections.
Most of the larger ethnic groups and political parties have rejected these offers, as did the leaders of Kokang.


Most, along with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, have also rejected the junta's constitution, which was drafted without their input and approved in the discredited referendum of May 2008.

 

Burma's ethnic peoples know they are not living under a new, more humanitarian regime. Quite the opposite: The junta is creating humanitarian emergencies in its quest for control.


Shan, Karen, Kokang and other civilians are losing their homes, livelihoods and lives. Their suffering is directly linked to the detention of Suu Kyi and to the crackdown against Burma's democratic forces: student leaders, journalists, independent humanitarian relief workers and courageous clergy of all faiths. Indeed, essentially all the progressive forces opposing the generals are under attack.

 

Strikingly little international attention has been paid to this murderous turn of events. Yet these ethnic peoples must play a role if Burma is to have any sort of decent future. Suu Kyi knows this; in the only statement her people have had from her in years, given to U.N. Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari in late 2007, she highlighted the need for ethnic participation for true national reconciliation. The Obama administration, which is reviewing its Burma policy, would do well to heed Suu Kyi's advice: Don't forget Burma's ethnic groups. Whatever the administration does about sanctions, it must do much more to press the junta, Burma's neighbours and the junta's supporters to stop the campaign of bloodshed against Burma's ethnic peoples. China has a special role to play, first in providing humanitarian relief to those seeking refuge across its borders and in pressuring the junta to end its brutal campaign. Ethnic warfare and its resultant instability are in no one's interest, except perhaps Than Shwe's. He must not be allowed to continue killing with impunity.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

QUICK GUN POLITICAL ECONOMY

 

A film like Quick Gun Murugan, the protagonist being a Tamil cowboy and the plot being a take-off on hundreds of Tamil superhero movies, would have created a stir in Tamil Nadu 20 years ago. The super-sensitive south Indian would have deeply resented the north Indian (anything from Mumbai and beyond was and still is north) laughing at him. Today, people either think the film is a good laugh or dismiss it as repetitious and tedious. The south has become self-confident and no longer cares about what the rest of the country thinks about it. For example, the DMK chief could demand and get almost all the Cabinet posts he wanted from his alliance partner. His politics was all wrong. But his action was indicative of something good: self-confidence comes when you are economically and politically strong. When the Indian economy opened up, the south quietly used it to its advantage. The concept of regional parties and the power they can wield had its origins in the south. One can almost sense the moment when things started turning around for the south. Karnataka was a sleepy state with predominantly public sector units (HMT, BEL, HAL and so on) and a few plantation companies. Some time in the 1980s, many Kolkata-based multinationals shifted to Bangalore because of the deteriorating industrial climate in West Bengal. The next breakthrough came when the first major US IT company set up shop in Bangalore. Among those early birds were Motorola and Texas Instruments. Almost every big name is in Bangalore, which emerged as the Silicon Valley of India with home-grown MNCs like Infosys and Wipro.

 

Tamil Nadu, which was seen as arch-conservative and losing out to aggressive predators from the north, changed gears when Ford chose to set up shop in Chennai. Then followed Hyundai and other auto companies. The state’s private engineering colleges and computer training centres were providing trained personnel to manufacturing units that were coming up. Chennai also emerged as a major back-office centre when the World Bank chose to shift its back-office operations to the city. Today, there is a BPO in almost all streets of Chennai. Andhra Pradesh became Cyberabad after its chief minister reinvented himself as the CEO of the state. Thanks to Chandrababu Naidu, the state leads in many systemic changes in administration. Its next chief minister, YSR Reddy, paid attention to agriculture and welfare schemes, but didn’t overturn Naidu’s policies, and his terribly untimely demise has generated great concern about the choice of a new leader. Everybody understands that a chief minister has to be committed to growth. Kerala is the sad exception. The ruling CPM there is split between ideologues and apparently pro-industry groups. With growth, there have been many problems as well in the south. Neglected infrastructure is becoming a constraint. The freebie culture is draining government coffers. But the south today seems better poised to get its act together than many other states north of the Vindhyas.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TOO EARLY TO EXIT

 

Finance ministers of G-20 countries are meeting in London over the weekend as a precursor to the heads of government meeting to be held in Pittsburgh later this month. Both meetings will be set against the backdrop of the first signs of recovery in the major economies. The OECD, in its latest forecast, suggests that recovery may be taking place faster than expected and it revised its growth forecast for the G-7 countries from minus 4.1 to minus 3.7, largely on the back of the performance of continental Europe and Japan—the US and UK still continue to struggle, though statistics from the US do show that the worst of the slowdown may be over. That very divide will probably end up being reflected in discussions on exit strategy. While continental Europe, led by France and Germany, are likely to push for an early withdrawal of stimuli, the US and UK will likely press for stimulus to continue. This divide is not dramatically different from the divide at the time that stimulus packages were introduced in the first place. It is quite clear, though, that fiscal stimulus has helped in preventing major economies from going into a tailspin. And, given the current state of only partial recovery, it would seem that continuing stimulus, through both fiscal and monetary policy, is the wise option, at least for now.

 

Any withdrawal of stimulus at this stage could weaken the recovery process and, in fact, send crucial economies back to an unnecessary dip. This would hurt everyone, including the relatively fast-growing economies of China and India. Even while the dilemma of an exit strategy is discussed in London and Pittsburgh, the road ahead should be absolutely clear for policymakers in New Delhi and Mumbai. We hardly have the fiscal room for any additional stimulus, but none of the measures introduced over the last eight to nine months should be withdrawn in a hurry. Monetary policy, as we have argued repeatedly in these columns, is still not loose enough. There is headroom for a cut in policy rates, which should bring borrowing costs down to a single digit. Inflation is, of course, a matter of concern for policymakers, but as long as it is a supply-side problem like it is at the moment, tightening monetary policy will simply not help. Put plainly, if we need to lift growth up beyond 6%, we need to revive private investment that has fallen sharply in this slowdown. As long as borrowing costs remain high, this won’t happen. Exports are unlikely to recover anytime soon and government stimulus can’t make up for the entire fall in consumption and investment. We should still be thinking about stimulating, not exiting.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHO SAYS INDIA DOESN’T FREE TRADE

P RAGHAVAN


The ongoing debate on the precise role multilateral and bilateral trade pacts play in boosting global trade seems to have in no way curbed the enthusiasm of nations in signing free-trade agreements (FTA). This is particularly true of most Asian countries where the number of FTAs signed has shot up from just 17 in 2000 to 123 in 2009. And surprisingly, it is now India, which has been a slow convert to the use of FTA as an instrument of trade policy, which is leading the way, setting in motion a flurry of bilateral and plurilateral FTA negotiations.

 

Most recent statistics compiled by the Asian Development Bank show that apart from the 9 FTAs India has concluded so far, the country is already negotiating 12 more and has also proposed an additional 10 by initiating consultations and setting up joint study groups to detail out their feasibility. Once the current initiatives fructify, India will have as many as 31 FTAs. This will not only increase India’s share of total FTAs in Asia from the current level of 7% to as high as 12%, but also make it the leading FTA hub in Asia outpacing even Singapore which was at the forefront of FTA activities till now.

 

For India, the sharp increase in FTAs is a radical change from the relatively conservative FTA stance India had taken earlier. India’s progress on the FTA is not only impressive in terms of numbers but also in terms of the size of the economies with which these trade pacts are being negotiated. While the early Indian FTAs were restricted to small neighbours like Nepal and Sri Lanka, the later ones have opted to link up with comparatively larger economies like the Mercosur countries and Singapore. And the biggest achievement so far has been the Asean FTA which has opened up India merchandise trade to serious competition for the first time.

 

Still, the biggest may be yet to come. The FTAs, on which the negotiations are currently in progress, are even more ambitious and will open up substantially larger markets. These include the People’s Republic of China-India Regional Trading Arrangement, India-Egypt Preferential Trade Agreement, India-European Free Trade Agreement, India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement, Japan-India Economic Partnership Agreement and the Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

 

Equally impressive are the new FTAs proposed by India that include India-Australia Free Trade Agreement, India-Colombia Preferential Trading Arrangement, India-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Arrangement, India-Israel Preferential Trade Agreement and the India-Russia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement

 

The evolution of India’s FTA agreements shows that the country has largely followed the classical pattern in Asia where the initial forays were dominated by the hub and spoke arrangement with India as the hub and the neighbouring smaller economies as the spokes. But the FTA treaty with Asean pushed the concept into a different orbit as it enabled India to extend the trade linkage to a new regional hub with vastly larger markets. Such cross regional FTAs have been particularly important in Asia which has shown a definite preference for opening trading relations with the rest of the world rather than the inward-looking pacts favoured in most other regions.

 

Asian economies which currently have a high level of FTAs with cross regional orientation include China, India, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. These economies also stand out as the share of their trade with the FTA partners in their total trade is much lower than that of the small economies. While Japan’s trade share with its FTA partners in 2008 was only 11%, India’s was 23% and China’s was 25%. In contrast, in the case of smaller countries it was much higher as in the case of Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar, where the share exceeded 50%.

 

India’s ongoing and proposed FTA negotiations that will open up new markets in the EU, China, Canada, Australia, Russia and Egypt are not only a further acceleration of the moves towards cross regional FTA but also radically different from the earlier agreements where the agreements were rather limited with the focus largely restricted to merchandise trade.

 

This is because India’s more recent FTA efforts have followed what is now known as the WTO plus approach, where the FTA includes issues that go beyond the WTO framework. The India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement was one of India’s first experiments with WTO plus approach.

 

Moreover, India has also made efforts to expand some existing FTAs to include WTO plus provisions, the most visible example being the negotiations for an India-Sri Lanka CEPA. Overall, India now seems all set to squeeze the maximum of the full FTA potential.

 

p.raghavan@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

GIVE AUTONOMY TO SET SALARIES

JYOTSNA BHATNAGAR

 

The ongoing protests by the faculties of the country’s premier management and engineering institutes, namely the IITs and IIMs, against the meagre pay hikes recommended for them by the Sixth Pay Commission are worrying. This is not the kind of thing that should occupy the time of the faculties at these premier institutions. These institutes of excellence are not new to controversy related to their handling by the government. From the NDA government’s Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi’s crusade of “affordability” wherein he sought to slash fees, to Arjun Singh’s reservations drive, successive governments over the past decade cutting across party lines have had one common agenda—that of clamping down on the autonomy enjoyed by these institutions.

 

In giving short shrift to the genuine concerns expressed by the IITs and IIMs over the dangerous exodus of quality faculty from these institutes to greener pastures in the private sector, the government has shown remarkable indifference to preserving a major asset of IITs and IIMs—their superior academic talent. Undoubtedly, there’s merit in the demands being made by the faculties of these top-notch institutions. For one, if we as a country want the IITs and IIMs to retain their identities as world-class destinations of higher education, its imperative that they attract the best talent for faculty positions to teach the cream of our student population.

 

And in the absence of any motivation for attracting the best faculty for these premier institutes, even the government’s latest move to set up more IIMs and IITs may turn out to be futile. That’s simply because, in the absence of good teachers, they may well become like any other run-of-the mill mediocre institutes. Therefore, in order to preserve their excellence, it has become crucial, now more than ever before, to ensure that these institutions are capable of attracting top notch faculty. The best option would, of course, be to let these institutions set their own salaries for faculty rather than be dictated by the Pay Commission for all central government employees.

 

jyotsna.bhatnagar@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

YSR LESSON: DEVOLVE TO PROSPER

MEGHNAD DESAI


A week is a long time in politics. What a tumultuous time it has been in Indian politics. On August 17, Jaswant Singh’s book was launched and the ten days following saw the BJP fall apart at the top. Now the shock is for the Congress; not perhaps about its top echelon but still pretty serious.

 

The YSR story is one that is not even now well known. He was a Christian and this aspect of YSR has been kept hidden. Yet it also illustrates that things are possible at the state level which are impossible at the national level. No Muslim or Christian is likely to be Prime Minister. A Hindu label is vital (Brahmin even better), Dr Manmohan Singh being a Sikh notwithstanding since Sikhs are honorary Hindus. Even Rajiv hid his Parsee lineage completely.

 

The Hindu majoritarian compulsion arises for the same reason that the Jinnah controversy is still live. This is the fragility of the Indian nationhood even after 60 years of independence. The fear of balkanisation, the idea that if India is not run as a tight ship from the top down it will fall apart is very strong with the Congress and BJP, which are national parties.

 

This is in my view not only a fallacy but also that the 60-plus years of independence should have destroyed that theory. In purely economic terms this top down central obsession has cost India a large amount of lost income growth. The Congress pursued the creation of a military industrial complex as its number one priority and called it socialism. It forced India into a slow growth lane while countries like Malaysia and South Korea which were behind India in terms of development in the fifties surpassed India.

 

But the balkanisation fear is overdone. Though the centralist bias persists, India has strong provinces which show a fascinating variety of growth achievements. Andhra Pradesh was one such example and Tamil Nadu is another. The Centralist approach worried about some regions going ahead of others and taxed the better states and subsidised the poor performers. But the compulsions of politics have now led to the better off states acquiring enough clout to develop at the pace they like. Thus Gujarat, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh Tamil Nadu get ahead while the states of West Bengal and Bihar and UP lag behind. Bihar is recovering from fifty years of stagnation but West Bengal is sliding down fast.

 

Robert Putnam, who is a distinguished historian, wrote a book ‘Making Democracy Work’ which analysed the persistent inequality between North and South Italy. He found that the roots go back at least seven hundred years. India has yet to have someone do such research but the centralist bias will never support such research. The diversity of performance is a strength and not a weakness of the economy. It is a consequence of different tenure systems, divergent pace at which modernisation happened faster in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras and slower in the upcountry areas and the quality of the local politics in different regions.

 

Thus the anti-Brahmin movement in the South which began in the 19th century raised the standards of literacy and social welfare there way above the North. Thus Mandal may cause ructions in the North but in the South there has been positive discrimination for the entire 20th century thanks to the anti-Brahmin movement. In Gujarat, the OBCs especially Patels became prominent in the first half of the 20th century and the Brahmins took a back seat. Maharashtra had also a similar battle between the Marathas and the Brahmins.

 

In the Bimaru states there never was an anti-Brahmin movement, illiteracy and upper caste oppression. Thus India struggles with the low human development in the most populous areas while the South marches ahead. The remarkable thing is that the Congress, which has effectively been in power through most of the 62 years, contains within it the progressive South and the backward North except that the North almost monopolises prime ministerships. There would never be a Congress leader who would be a non-Brahmin and indeed non-Hindu plus a trained medical doctor in the Bimaru states.

 

The example of YSR and many other state level leaders tell us that the real strength of India is in the provinces and perhaps even further down. The Centre has all the money so there has to be a fiscal transfer from the Centre to the states. But perhaps there should be much greater devolution of power . The creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and other smaller states in the last 20 years has been a help in bringing development to the grassroots. Maybe we should have Bundelkhand and a Vidarbha and a Saurashtra and many more smaller states.

 

Divide and Prosper is the lesson we should draw from YSR’s life.

 

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

POLITICAL FEUDALISM

 

At a time of irreparable loss, the family of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy needs sympathy and support from the Congress party and the people of Andhra Pradesh. But what middle-level State leaders of the party have put on display in the hours following confirmation of the death of YSR is not emotional support but political feudalism, an unseemly display of calculated and self-serving fealty to the First Family of the State. Even before YSR got his hero’s burial, pre-emptive efforts were on to have his son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy accepted as the next Chief Minister, with more than 120 of the party’s 154 MLAs pressed into service as signatories to a petition backing this demand. India is no stranger to dynastic politics at the Centre and in several States, with the top jobs and privileges in certain parties reserved for family members, however inexperienced or unqualified they might be. YSR worked his way up the political ladder, first as an intrepid factional politician and then as a mass leader and strategist. His 36-year-old son, who until recently insisted that he was a businessman and not a politician, is a political novice with only the experience of managing a media organisation to back his case for heading the government. His formal entry into politics came during the 2009 Lok Sabha election, when he was elected from the Kadapa constituency. That however is of no concern to a support base that has prospered solely on the basis of allegiance to YSR and suddenly finds itself without its benefactor.

 

However, the campaign to anoint Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy as Chief Minister is not all about the feudal spirit. In the five years of YSR rule, some big business interests benefited hugely from concessions handed out in a corruption-ridden environment; these have figured in the documented allegations levelled by Opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu against the Congress government. What is clear is that vested interests that have wielded enormous influence in the State administration and have much to lose would like to see continuity in the ways of governance. In their eyes, Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy is the best bet to preserve the status quo; anyone else in the Chief Minister’s chair would mean taking a chance. The Congress high command cannot be oblivious to these facts on the ground. Ironically, a party that has long been criticised for imposing Chief Ministers from above, ignoring the views of the legislature party and undermining the democratic process, may need to do so once more — in the democratic and development interests of South India’s largest State and to set a no-nonsense example. The question is: will it do it?

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MISPLACED VACCINE SAFETY FEARS

 

Since its outbreak in April, the influenza A(H1N1) virus has spread to many countries and become the dominant influenza strain round the world. According to the World Health Organisation, the pandemic virus is expected to persist in the coming months. Over 200,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection and above 2,200 deaths have been reported from across the globe. It is to halt this spread that pharmaceutical companies have embarked on a mission to find a preventive vac cine. The first of several vaccines for H1N1 is expected to be available by October. Although fast-tracking human clinical trials is appropriate in a pandemic situation, there is growing concern about the safety of the vaccines among the medical fraternity, which has been identified as an at-risk group eligible to receive the vaccine as a priority. A survey conducted recently in Hong Kong found that over half of the 8,500 healthcare workers were unwilling to be vaccinated against influenza A(H1N1) owing to fear of the vaccine’s side-effects and doubts about its effectiveness. A poll of nurses in the United Kingdom found that a third of them refused to be vaccinated for the same reasons. While Germany is awaiting the clinical trial results before deciding on its course of action, France is looking up to the European Medicines Agency for advice.

 

A complete clinical evaluation is the best option but it becomes difficult in the case of influenza because the virus keeps changing continuously. While the effectiveness of H1N1 vaccines is not fully known, there is some evidence of its safety from initial testing on a small scale in the United States and Britain. Reassurance comes from the European Commission, which has approved four mock-up vaccines for H5N1 (avian flu) based on safety and immune response data from trials on 8,000 people. According to the European Medicines Agency, decades of experience with seasonal influenza vaccines indicate that insertion of a new strain in a vaccine, as will apply with the change from H5N1 to H1N1 should not substantially affect the safety or level of protection offered. The U.S. regulatory authority essentially shares this view. The lessons learnt during the SARS outbreak ought not to be forgotten. At one point during the outbreak, 41 per cent of those affected in Singapore and 22 per cent in Hong Kong were healthcare workers. Apart from protecting themselves, vaccinated physicians are less likely to infect others patients. A healthcare breakdown during an epidemic owing to absentee doctors and healthcare workers is a horrifying prospect that should be averted at all costs.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE HURRIYAT’S MOMENT OF DECISION

WILL NEW DELHI’S LATEST ATTEMPT AT AN ENGAGEMENT WITH KASHMIR’S SECESSIONISTS PROVE MORE FORTUNATE THAN ITS FOUR EARLIER ATTEMPTS?

PRAVEEN SWAMI

 

Speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he saw "no place for separatist thought in Jammu and Kashmir."

 

From much of this summer, though, envoys from New Delhi have held a series of secret meetings with the leadership of the secessionist coalition which constitutes the principal voice of that sentiment: the All Parties Hurriyat Conference. New Delhi hopes to revive the negotiations which collapsed in 2005.

 

Each time in the past, talks with the Hurriyat have led to what has become depressingly familiar: impasse. Will this fifth attempt prove more fortunate than the four ill-fated rounds? New Delhi's renewed pursuit of peace isn't difficult to understand. Levels of jihadist violence have diminished steadily since 2002, and a record number of voters defied secessionists to participate in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections last year. But Islamist-led hardliners have succeeded in generating urban protests which, though limited in scale, have repeatedly brought the State government to its knees.

 

Policymakers are hoping that the foundations for a successful dialogue can soon be put in place. Kashmiri secessionists are being encouraged to articulate a political vision that acknowledges India's concerns over sovereignty. Rejectionists such as the hardline Islamist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his jihadist allies are also being addressed. Perhaps most important, Pakistan is being asked to endorse the talks - no small ask at a time when its relationship with India is fraught.

 

Hopes that the Hurriyat can be persuaded to operate within the structures of democratic politics are founded on the realisation that many secessionists want a negotiated end to a battle they cannot win.

 

Back in 1997, the former Jamaat -e-Islami chief, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, called for "a political dialogue." In 1999, Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Butt broke ranks with his organisation, and called for talks between secessionists and mainstream groups like the National Conference and the Congress to build consensus on the State's future.

 

During the summer of 2002, the Hurriyat's Abdul Gani Lone emerged as the principal voice of pro-dialogue realists. He travelled to Sharjah for discussions with the powerful Pakistan-administered Kashmir leader Sardar Abdul Qayoom Khan and the then- Inter Services Intelligence chief, Lieutenant-General Ehsan-ul-Haq. Lone is believed to have told both men that the Hurriyat Conference had no choice but to initiate a direct dialogue with New Delhi. Not long after the meeting, though, Lone was assassinated by a Lashkar-e-Taiba hit squad - a blunt message to all those contemplating making a deal with New Delhi.

 

In an effort to move the dialogue process along, the then Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani met with the Hurriyat leadership for the first time in January 2004. This was followed up with a second meeting that March. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held two more rounds of talks, in May and September 2005.

 

But fearful of the jihadist wrath, the Hurriyat never brought an agenda to the table. In March 2006, APHC leaders promised the mediators that they would attend Dr. Singh's second Roundtable Conference on Jammu and Kashmir, but backed off after threats from the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.

 

New Delhi now focussed its energies on Pakistan. In secret meetings which began in 2005, Dr. Singh's envoy, S.K. Lambah, and his Pakistani counterpart, Tariq Aziz, arrived at five points of convergence. First, the two men agreed, there would be no redrawing of the Line of Control. Second, they accepted that there would have to be greater political autonomy on both sides of Jammu and Kashmir. Mr. Lambah and Mr. Aziz also agreed that India would move troops, co-operatively manage some resources, and, finally, open the LoC for travel and trade.

 

Emboldened by this progress, Mirwaiz Farooq began to prepare his constituency for the future. During a

January 20, 2006 dinner hosted by Pakistan-administered Kashmir Prime Minister Sardar Attique Khan on January 20, 2006, the Srinagar cleric candidly admitted that the secessionist movement had failed. "We have already seen the results of our fight on the political, diplomatic and military fronts, which have not achieved anything other than creating more graveyards,." he said.

 

"I think the agenda is pretty much set," the Mirwaiz told an interviewer in April 2007. "It is September 2007," he went on, "that India and Pakistan are looking at, in terms of announcing something on Kashmir."

 

The Hurriyat leaders hoped that that the deal would hand them power - but by the time Mr. Lambah and Mr. Aziz arrived at their five-point formula, President Pervez Musharraf was in the midst of a storm that would sweep him out of power.

 

Desperate, the Hurriyat leadership reached out again to New Delhi. "Let us come out of our delusions," Mirwaiz Farooq said at a May 19, 2008 seminar in Srinagar. Mr. Butt, in turn, called on the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party to work with the secessionist formation to "mutually work out a joint settlement." For his part, the People's Conference chief Sajjad Lone called on the secessionists to focus on the "achievable."

 

Mr. Geelani hit back, using ethnic-communal issues to mobilise people people against what he described as a sell-out. Speaking at a religious conference in Baramulla on May 26 last year, he warned his audience that India was seeking to change "the Muslim majority into a minority by settling down troops along with their families." Then, "they will either massacre Muslims as they did in Jammu in 1947, or carry out a genocide as was done in Gujarat.".

 

By June, helped on by the communal storms unleashed by the grant of land- use rights to the trust which manages the Amarnath shrine in south Kashmir, Mr. Geelani was able to turn the tables on the Hurriyat's realists. In a June 19 declaration, authored in the midst of the Shrine Board violence, the Mirwaiz dropped the option of direct talks with the Indian government. "Both sides," the document states, "after considerable argument and discussion, reached the conclusion that the Hurriyat Conference will continue its political struggle for self-determination, which can be achieved through tri-partite talks [involving Pakistan] against the backdrop of the historic struggle of the Kashmiris."

 

Last year, though, the wheel began to turn again. Kashmir's people rejected Mr. Geelani's calls to oppose the elections. Islamist mobilisations this summer remained confined to urban centres, a sign of their diminishing credibility.

 

In June, on his way home from Yekaterinburg in Russia, the Prime Minister announced that he had "not given up hope on Jammu and Kashmir." "I have always said that we would be happy to engage in a dialogue with any groups, and I mean any groups," he said. Asked specifically about the Hurriyat, the Prime Minister said, "Iif they have any views, we are quite willing to discuss them."

Mirwaiz Farooq has said he wants New Delhi to first implement a five-point agenda to "prepare the ground for negotiations." These are: the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act as well as other special terrorism-related legislation, graduated demilitarisation of the State, the initiation of a process to narrow the differences between the parties to the dispute, the promotion of free trade across the LoC and, finally, India committing itself to a strategy "free of all political gimmicks and purely based on far-sightedness, wisdom and realism."

 

New Delhi is unlikely to meet these demands. As things stand, its negotiators are even resisting a meeting between the Mirwaiz and the Prime Minister until preliminary negotiations have been conducted to prepare an agenda.

 

Behind his resistance to this line of action lies one stark fact: the realists have never been in a weaker political position. Even in his old-city Srinagar heartland, Mirwaiz Farooq's repeated calls to pro-Islamist youth to end their now-routine clashes with the police have been ignored. Sajjad Lone's historic decision to fight the Baramulla Lok Sabha elections ended in an ignominious defeat.

 

Key elements of the Lambah-Aziz formula, on which the realists had pinned their hopes, have meanwhile been appropriated by mainstream parties. Last month, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti laid out her vision for an "azaad riyasat"- a term she translated for The Hindu as a "free state," but could also mean an "independent state." Based on the PDP's Self-Rule Document, she called for a free movement across Jammu and Kashmir's international frontiers, demilitarisation and the creation of cross-LoC political institutions.

 

For its part, the National Conference has been campaigning for the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and a dialogue between New Delhi and the Hizb - issues on which the Hurriyat once spoke alone. Little space has thus been left for the Hurriyat to claim a victory - but the cost of rejecting New Delhi's new engagement could mean complete marginalisation. Either way, Mirwaiz Farooq's decision will be fateful.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

IRAQI KURDS LONG FOR HOME

THOSE UPROOTED IN IRAQ’S PRE-2003 CONFLICTS APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN FORGOTTEN OR HAVE SIMPLY FALLEN THROUGH THE CRACKS.

SAM DAGHER

 

Even at first glance, the neglect is obvious.

 

A swimming pool and a basketball court loom at the edge of the ramshackle and dusty town of Halabja Taza in Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region.

 

But the pool is empty, stripped of its tiles and serving partly as a trash receptacle. The basketball hoops were looted a while back. Both the pool and the court were part of a beautification project dating from the 2005 parliamentary elections, a brief bit of attention that seemed to pass as quickly as the voting.

 

It happened again this year, when the authorities tried to curry more favour with residents by paving some roads ahead of the Kurdish parliamentary and presidential elections in July.

 

But the gestures are hardly what most people here are looking for. They just want to go back home to their villages, which were destroyed in Iraq’s long war with Iran in the 1980s or gassed and razed during Saddam Hussein’s infamous Anfal campaign against the rebellious Kurds.

 

Villagers were resettled in places like this one, called mujama’at, or collective towns, to prevent them from supporting Kurdish guerrillas fighting the central government at the time.

 

While the world’s focus has long been on the millions of Iraqis who have been displaced internally and in neighbouring countries since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, those uprooted in Iraq’s previous conflicts appear to have been forgotten or simply fallen through the cracks.

 

Many survive on the margin, seething with anger at the region’s two governing parties. They say the parties pay lip service to their plight and help only those who back them or have wasta, meaning connections and pull.

 

In a measure of how deep the dissatisfaction runs here, hardly anyone seemed at all gratified last month when a special tribunal in Baghdad looking into the crimes of the former regime handed down sentences in connection with the displacement of Kurds.

 

“Things would have been fine if there were more justice,” said Abdullah Mohammed, 60.

 

Mohammed has been living like a gypsy since his village was razed in 1989. He and his wife and 12 children abandoned another collective town three years ago because it was not getting enough water, and came here to Halabja Taza. They survive on his monthly pension of $135 and what two of his sons make as police officers.

 

Halabja Taza, or New Halabja, was initially set up in 1989 as a collection of sheds with tarp roofs. Most of the people brought here in trucks at the time were from villages around Halabja, where about 5,000 died in a poison gas attack in 1988 by the Iraqi regime. Located between Halabja itself and the city of Sulaimaniya,

 

Halabja Taza was at first christened Saddam’s Halabja in a not too subtle act of cruelty. The name changed after the Kurds gained some autonomy with the protection of the United States and the international community at the end of the gulf war in 1991.

 

Since then, it has grown into a town of about 9,000 homes, mainly mud huts or unfinished brick structures that lack some of the most basic amenities. Residents say they are lucky if they get running water every 10 days or so.

 

Many of the families living in Halabja Taza come from Tawila, a village on the Iranian border that was destroyed during Iranian bombardment in 1981 early on in the Iran-Iraq war.

 

Although some people have since returned to Tawila and rebuilt their homes with compensation from the government, priority was given to those beholden to the two governing Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

 

“In general the two parties have not done much, but you do get something if you have wasta,” said Fadhil Hama-Salim, 41, one of the few people to go back to Tawila. He was in Halabja Taza visiting relatives.

 

Standing nearby, against the door of her tiny home, Gulzar Abdul-Khaliq, 50, remembered the day she fled Tawila in July 1981. She had just given birth that day. “Iranian bombs were raining down on us,” she said.

 

Initially, her family settled in Halabja, west of Tawila. They fled again northward to Sirwan when Halabja was gassed in 1988. Later that year, Iraqi government forces bombarded Sirwan, forcing the family to escape yet again, to Sulaimaniya.

 

In 1989, the Iraqi government rounded up many of the refugees in Sulaimaniya and resettled them in places like Halabja Taza.

 

Abdul-Khaliq and her 11 children have been living here ever since. With her husband dead, the family subsists on the odd jobs her sons are able to get in Sulaimaniya, and by selling handmade traditional Kurdish shoes known as klash.

 

In the backyard, Kiwan Faraj, one of her sons, was crouched in a corner making a klash. Blood dripped nearby from a row of bull penises that had been hung to dry. Strips of the foreskin are used to make the tips of the shoes.

 

The soles are fashioned out of animal hide, which is then stitched over with red and blue strips of canvas. The shoe’s cream-coloured top is made of knitted fabric. The shoes are custom-made, and it takes about a week to complete one pair. They sell for about $50.

 

Farhad Faraj, another son and an expert klash maker, smiled as he recalled how a man nicknamed Karim Klash made a little fortune in the 1980s by selling the shoes to Iraqi soldiers who were responsible for driving out the Kurds from their villages.

 

Ali Ali, 67, remembers how he and his fellow guerrilla fighters, known as pesh merga, used to wear the klash in the summer as they hid in the mountains. “For days we survived on the bread crumbs stuffed in our pockets,” he said.

 

 

Ali, who has been languishing with his wife and 11 children in a two-room house in Halabja Taza, is bitter and says he has gotten very little for his sacrifices.

 

He sold his land in Tawila more than 10 years ago when he was in dire need. His eyes well up when he begins to describe the natural beauty of his village.

 

“It is our heaven, our homeland,” he said. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

GLOBAL WARMING IS DELAYING ICE AGE, SAYS STUDY

ANDREW C. REVKIN

 

The human-driven buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere appears to have ended a slide, many millenniums in the making, toward cooler summer temperatures in the Arctic, the authors of a new study report.

 

Scientists familiar with the work, published on Friday in the journal Science, said it provided fresh evidence that human activity is not only warming the globe, particularly the Arctic, but could also even fend off what had been presumed to be an inevitable descent into a new ice age over the next few dozen millenniums.

 

The reversal of the slow cooling trend in the Arctic, recorded in samples of layered lakebed mud, glacial ice and tree rings from Alaska to Siberia, has been swift and pronounced, the team writes.

 

Earlier studies have also shown that the Arctic, more than the planet as a whole, has seen unusual warming in recent decades. But the new analysis provides decade-by-decade detail on temperature trends going back 2,000 years — five times further than previous work at that detailed a scale.

 

Several climate scientists said the new study was most significant for showing just how powerfully the Arctic climate appears to be responding to a greenhouse-gas buildup that is having more complex and subtle mix of effects elsewhere around the globe.

 

Darrell S. Kaufman, the lead author and a climate specialist at Northern Arizona University, said the biggest surprise was the strength of the shift from cooling to warming, which started in 1900 and intensified after 1950.

 

“The slow cooling trend is trivial compared to the warming that’s been happening and that’s in the pipeline,” Kaufman said.

 

According to the study, after a slow cooling of less than half a degree Fahrenheit per millennium, driven by a cyclical change in the orientation of the North Pole and the Sun, the region warmed 2.2 degrees just since 1900, with the decade from 1998 to 2008 the warmest in 2,000 years.

 

In theory, summer temperatures in the Arctic region would be expected to cool for at least 4,000 more years, given the growing distance between the Sun and the North Pole during the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the study says.

 

But Jonathan T. Overpeck, a study author and climate specialist at the University of Arizona, said the rising concentration of long-lived greenhouse gases guaranteed warming at a pace that could stress ecosystems and cause rapid melting of Greenland’s great ice sheet. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PAK ACTIONS NEED GREATER SCRUTINY

 

When credible reports surfaced in the American media that Pakistan had illegally modified US-supplied ship-based Harpoon missiles to target India, Washington said in an official reaction that it was taking the disclosure "very seriously". After first denying the suspicion wholesale, Islamabad has agreed to a joint inspection with America of its Harpoon missile inventory. We don’t know what will come of this exercise. But the time has come for international opinion to take a comprehensive view of Pakistan’s conduct as a nation state, no matter who has been at the helm in that country, military or civilian rulers. The illegal conversion of foreign-supplied armaments to target India is serious enough. This has to be seen in tandem with the unabated running of a covert war against India and Afghanistan, with the aid of Islamist terrorist outfits nurtured specifically for the purpose by Islamabad. On the formal plane, Pakistan professes friendship with its neighbours while continuing to engage in duplicitous acts. Instead of going the "extra mile" to alleviate India’s concerns after the Mumbai outrage of last November, the infrastructure of terrorism is being kept in good shape, as national security adviser M.K. Narayanan has recently said in an interview. Topping all this is fresh information emanating from two American scientists that Islamabad has ramped up its nuclear weapons department, which is specifically aimed against this country and has no other target.

 

In recent years Pakistan’s atomic weapons pile has been raised by a third from about 60 to about 90 bombs of increasingly refined design. In a paper written for the Bulletin of American Scientists, Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen maintain that Pakistan is "busily enhancing its (nuclear) capabilities across the board", with new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles being readied for deployment, and two nuclear-capable cruise missiles under development. Two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility are also said to be under fabrication. The upgrade of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons establishment essentially involves a shift from using uranium as base to plutonium. This has made possible the miniaturisation of nuclear warheads, enabling Pakistan to foresee the preparation of nuclear-capable missiles. In a sense, "they are turning a chapter", the scientists surmise. The genesis of the setting up of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure is anchored in pilferage, and in active sub rosa assistance from China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council committed to nuclear non-proliferation. It is not unlikely that the recent upgrades that are causing anxiety are not unconnected with Islamabad’s nexus with Beijing. Especially after the busting of the A.Q. Khan nuclear network and the scrutiny that Pakistan’s nukes have purportedly been subjected to in recent years, it appears wholly shocking that Washington has been unaware of these disturbing developments.

 

Financially, Pakistan has been gasping for breath for over a decade and a half, and has been kept going by financial infusions from Western quarters, notably the United States. It is extraordinary that in this time it has found the money to go in for an across-the-board upgrade of its nuclear weapons programme. It has also fought a mini-war with India in Kargil in this period, maintained a terrorist infrastructure of no subtlety but immense variety and lethality, and disturbed the shaky regional equilibrium through its unceasing meddling in Afghanistan. So where has the money come from for these extravagances? Clearly, development assistance too is being diverted — into streams that have little to do with people’s welfare. It is time the world took stock of these dangerous goings-on.

 

*************************************


THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

CHINESE CHECKERS IN J&K

ANIL BHAT

 

Twenty-six violations of Indian air space in Jammu and Kashmir by Chinese helicopters in recent months, including two air-droppings of canned food on barren land at Chumar, near the picturesque Pangong Tso (lake) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers entering and filching fuel meant for troops guarding border posts have been reported and confirmed by the Indian Army. That these happened in August 2009, a month packed with negotiations in New Delhi, followed by the Indian Army’s GOC-in-C (General Officer Commanding-in-Chief) Eastern Command, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, visiting Beijing, is not surprising. But the fact that they were all in J&K is a new development which raises some worrisome questions.

 

Helicopters are ideal for observing an adversary’s deployment, patrols and to detect movements of larger bodies of troops/heavy weapons/equipment, which Google maps or satellite images cannot capture. In this case, the disappearance of our fuel containers and Chinese helicopters dropping supplies may well mean that PLA troops have already infiltrated. And this may be in response to India finally waking up to Chinese border build-ups over the years by reactivating our old airfields like Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul in this sector.

 

An interesting development in 2006 was the Chinese ambassador to India publicly declaring in November that Arunachal Pradesh was Chinese territory and, in December, conducting joint military wargames west of J&K, codenamed "Friendship 2006", to mark the 55th anniversary of Sino-Pakistan diplomatic relations that have always been based on India being their common enemy.

 

Incursions are typical of China punctuating its diplomatic dialogue — "in an atmosphere of warmth et cetera…" — with India by some aggressive cross-border action. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing coincided with a Chinese patrol coming at least 16 km inside India and intimidating an Indian detachment.

 

In 2000, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi accused China of violating the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and crossing into Indian territory. Mr Mithi said Chinese-made mule tracks had been discovered by Indian soldiers near Kayela Pass, in the state’s Dibang Valley district, bordering Tibet. "They come in the guise of hunters, cross the LAC and at times even claim that parts of Arunachal belong to them", he had said.

 

In May 2007, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kiren Rijiju, also from Arunachal Pradesh, made a startling claim that China had moved 20 kms into the Indian territory, amounting to covering an area of 9,000 sq kms. "It has been continuing for a long time… I have written to Government of India and raised the issue in Parliament. The Government of India is not accepting the incursion openly. But defence personnel do acknowledge that this is happening and that the Chinese are occupying our land", said Mr Kiren and claimed that the ministry of external affairs had admitted to Chinese occupation of Arunachal Pradesh. About 140 incursions reportedly occurred in 2007.

 

In the early 1950s, the Chinese build-up and incursions with release of maps were brought to the notice of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by the Indian Army’s top brass. These was trashed by Pandit Nehru based on his belief in Panchsheel and "Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai" which ironically amounted to "bye-bye" with the 1962 Chinese aggression — the Indian Army lost 1,860 personnel, everything from potatoes to postage became dearer, Pandit Nehru was a broken man and defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon was at long last given marching orders.

 

During his tenure as external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee said in Parliament that there is no clearly defined boundary that separates China from India. Mr Mukherjee then stated, "China illegally claims approximately 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and about 2,000 sq km in the middle of the India-China boundary". China also controls 38,000 sq km of territory India claims in J&K.

 

Post-1962, there were a large number of incursions and violent attacks by PLA at Nathu La and Chola in Sikkim in September and October 1967 and at Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh in 1984 and 1987 — in all cases the Indian Army retaliated aggressively and broke the 1962 jinx. Thereafter, the first major step forward was Rajiv Gandhi’s pathbreaking visit to China in 1988. This was followed by other high-level visits on both sides. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao took the process forward by signing the Treaty of Peace and Tranquility between the two countries in September 1993, which also signified India quietly accepting the loss of 90,000 sq km of its territory. But this ended the "eyeball to eyeball" confrontation and soon Gen. B.C. Joshi became the first Indian Army Chief to visit China. While his visit was a success, it did not stop the Chinese from continuing to enter Indian territory "looking for herbs" — a favourite excuse — or deploying surveillance stations all around India as part of its "string of pearls" strategy, or targeting it with their nuclear warheads, supplied "by private arrangement" to Pakistan.

 

Increased political contact and agreements followed over the next few years and by November 2000, after decades of dithering to put their positions on paper, remarkable progress was made by India and China — they exchanged maps, marking out a 545-km section of the international border between Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand), known as the "middle sector" which had relatively few disputes compared to the western and eastern sectors. This agreement was considered significant because it moved the talks from broad principle to the practical details of physical features and measurements, settlement of which would create confidence for forward movement on settling the eastern and western sectors of the almost 2,500-km-long LAC.

 

In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, calling it "India’s land of the rising sun" and announcing a long-overdue development package, preceded and followed again by defence minister A.K. Antony’s visit to Tawang, provoked a prolonged reaction from China.

 

In view of the above and China’s hegemonic mindset, its voracious appetite for territory, sustained modernisation and enhancement of offensive capability and now stepping into J&K, where its old friend Pakistan has been busy for over six decades, India needs to take some serious and urgent steps to be able to at least give calibrated responses to both these not-so-friendly neighbours.

 

Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

BOBBY TO CHINTUJI

KISHWAR DESAI

 

Recently, watching a preview of Bobby Bedi’s latest production, Chintuji, in Delhi, attended by the cheery Rishi Kapoor himself, I realised that with more than 100 films behind him, he may yet become the most prolific and enduring actor from the Kapoor khandaan, following his grandfather Prithviraj, and his uncle, Shashi.

 

From the plump, awkward adolescent in Mera Naam Joker (1970), Rishi Kapoor changed dramatically within three years and captured the teenage imagination with his heroic lovelorn avatar in Bobby (1973). Raj Kapoor’s paean to troubled romance was a perfect and convincing launching pad — setting many tremulous hearts on fire. But Chintu, as he is popularly known, is an unlikely chocolate-box hero — he is not good looking in the traditional fashion, certainly not in the mould of Randhir Kapoor who inherited the famous twinkling blue eyes and RK mantle with ease, nor does he have the rippling muscles of the Khan biradari. But he has a certain honest, impish charm and his hard work has always paid off. So whilst Randhir decided to call it quits, in despair over the cinema which was being produced — Rishi has plodded on determinedly, and now, almost like a "reel-life" incarnation borrowed from the blockbuster Karz, keeps coming back. (Memorably, Karz was another landmark film which was showcased by Farah Khan in her celebration of Indian cinema Om Shanti Om.) Or, perhaps, he never really went away.

 

So has Rishi been the luckiest among the Kapoor khandaan? Of course he was fortunate that he was groomed by the "greatest showman" Raj Kapoor — but Rishi has been both fortunate and sensible. His latest foray into cinema demonstrates that: he plays his age, and does not pretend to be a college student, or a young stud. This has been the greatest problem with Indian heroes in the past — no matter how old they were, they had to be paired with heroines half their age and this, therefore, meant that they were (despite their balding pates or spreading waistlines) doomed to be college students forever. It is still a problem that the Khans are grappling with, right now. Therefore we have had Shah Rukh Khan (well into his 40s) still playing a 30-year-old in OSO, and of course, now recently Saif Ali Khan in Love Aaj Kal (LAK), attempting a 20-something commitment-phobe. Their efforts are simply not as "genuine" as is Rishi Kapoor’s portrayal of an ageing sardar in LAK or now as a 55-year-old filmstar in Chintuji.

 

Chintuji is in many ways a brave film. In other ways, it seems almost like an anachronism amongst today’s slick, urban and urbane cinema. It offers black and white values — and, perhaps, like another similar film released last year Welcome to Sajjanpur by Shyam Benegal, it can be viewed as a refreshing change. It has been a very long time since small town values have been pitted against the corruption of the city — a popular theme in the cinema of the 50s and 60s, and most successfully achieved in Shree 420.

 

But at that time the cinematic theme was representative of the actual migration which was taking place from the villages and small towns to the "shaher" for employment. In the fictional small town of Hadbehedi, however, where Chintuji is set, there is no "emigration", as none of the happy inhabitants, living in a utopian daze without electricity or mobile phones, ever want to leave. It is this relentless contentment of the denizens of Hadbehedi which is inexplicable — but it is an integral part of the film. Fifty-four years after Shree 420, are we to believe that the old problems are over and that the Raju of Shree 420 is now transformed into Chintu, and is ready to go home?

 

Chintuji does not deal with the problems of land or employment — but of the impact of modernity, and political cynicism in an idealistic manner. Just as Welcome to Sajjanpur focused not on the problems of an individual as do most films today (i.e. Ghajini, LAK, Kaminey) but of that of the community, Chintuji is a reflection of all that is good and evil in a representative social microcosm of Hadbahedi.

 

Because it is written and directed by Ranjit Kapoor and produced by Bobby Bedi, we expect Chintuji to be different, and there it does not disappoint. It is the story of an ageing filmstar (played by Rishi Kapoor) who goes back to the small town of Hadbahedi to relaunch himself as a politician. However Chintuji, as Rishi is called in the film, retains his bad old ways as a spoilt filmstar and it takes him a while to appreciate the simplicity and love which the people of Hadbahedi offer him. Several misdemeanours, misunderstandings and melodramatic moments later Chintuji is a reformed character.

 

Shot somewhat in the style of a theatrical production — with people speaking directly into the camera etc — the most successful part of the film is Rishi Kapoor himself who has generously given his name to the film, and not hesitated to play a caricature of many of his Bollywood buddies. The film becomes interesting because it bucks the trend, and because it is shot in a good natured, unpretentious fashion it offers some moments of real humour.

 

My favourite scene is a nonsensical film shoot in which a Mumbai film director comes down to Hadbahedi to complete a film with Chintuji. In the film within the film, Rishi plays a tribal chief who is adamant on boiling a Frenchman alive whilst a raunchy number is being danced to. It is the lyrics of the song in this sequence which I found truly brilliant: they comprise a list of names of famous directors and are a tongue-in-cheek reference to the great international maestros, as well as a "fun" tribute to them.

 

I really think that International Film Festival of India should adopt this as its opening number — with perhaps a few more references to Indian directors thrown in as well. The "lyrics" written by Ranjit Kapoor are:

 

Tarantino Wyler Capra

Ozu Bertolucci Peckinpa

Fellini Visconti Oshima

Coppola Coppola

Wyler Hitchcock Waida

Mizoguchi de Palma

Wyler Hitchcok Waida

Brian de Palma...

Chorus: Akira Kurosawa Vittorio Desica (4)

Bertolucci Bertolucci

Ohh! Ohh! Ohh! Ohh! Ohh!

 

That unquestionably was a brilliant touch! And Rishi looked like he enjoyed every minute of it!

n Kishwar Desai’s novel

 

Witness the Night, to be published in January 2010, is on the longlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2009. She can be contacted at

 

kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

MUGHAL LESSONS IN POLITICS, MORALITY

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

"A diet of flatteryEnsures spiritual anorexia".

From The Proverbs of Bachchoo

 

Ian MacAskill, the Scottish minister of justice, explained to the nation why he had set Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the convicted killer of 270 people in the bombing of the Pan Am flight over the town of Lockerbie, free to go home to Libya.

 

Megrahi, a convicted bomber, had been sentenced to die in a Scottish jail but was now suffering from virulent prostate cancer and was a man condemned, as Mr MacAskill said, by a "higher power". The prison doctors gave him weeks if not days.

 

He said he was tempering the demands of justice with compassion and allowing Megrahi to be repatriated to Libya to die with his family around him. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, no less, had been on the phone to Mr MacAskill expressing American disapproval. Most of Megrahi’s victims had been Americans.

 

There was something strange about Mr MacAskill’s protestations of extending mercy. Though he didn’t use the words, Mr MacAskill was reproducing the arguments of Portia in the courtroom scene of The Merchant of Venice. The quality of mercy is not strained, he seemed to be saying; it blesses the Scottish nation as well as Megrahi; it becomes a politician better than the powers vested in him which include showing mercy to sick prisoners and releasing them if conscience dictates.

 

It was an unusual stance, an unusual intrusion of a purely moral consideration into politics, I thought, and went to bed thinking it.

 

The next day we saw pictures of Megrahi being greeted in Libya by crowds of people as though he were Wellington returning to London from Waterloo. Colonel Gaddafi’s son was there officially to greet him. People were waving the flag of the Scottish Parliament.

 

Political analysts began to state the obvious. US President Barack Obama had condemned the decision. Scotland was part of the United Kingdom and could not have acted without the consent of the British government. Was the Scottish administration, run by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), opposed to the New Labour government, asserting its independence from Westminster?

 

Megrahi has always maintained his innocence and there is some doubt about the safeness of his conviction. On the day he was released his lawyers agreed to drop the appeal they were preparing. A successful appeal would have meant that the case had to be reopened and the Scottish courts which convicted Megrahi would suffer some disrepute. Better, perhaps, to let the guilty verdict stand and demonstrate the capability for compassion of Scottish justice.

 

So far, so moralistic! Then considerations beyond the moral come into play. Enter Britain’s roving representative and resident Machiavelli, Peter Mandelson. Mandy had a meeting with Colonel Gaddafi’s son a few months ago to discuss oil deals between Britain and Libya and to attract Libyan investment in the UK. Was there a link?

 

I normally disdain all conspiracy theories about Jews staying away from the Twin Towers on 9/11, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) killing Kashmiri Sikhs to impress Bill Clinton or that a French policewoman is the direct descendant of Jesus. I make an exception. When Mandy is involved and things behave as though there is a conspiracy, there is no need of a conspiracy.

 

Back to realpolitik and oil-cum-investment-deals in a trade-off for what can be represented as compassion?

 

Let me tell you a story: Some years ago I was in India shooting a film with an Indo-British film crew. I had with me a friend called Darcus Howe, a Trinidadian journalist, broadcaster, Left-wing agitator, pamphleteer, TV personality and general man-about-town with whom I have consorted, so to speak, since we courted arrest on London’s streets for one or other forgotten cause.

 

Our film crew had several Brits and the Indian producer decided to give them a break and take them to see the Taj and Fatehpur Sikri. We went off in a coach party.

 

Looking around the pavilions (why Indians call it a "city" has always been a mystery) at Fatehpur, Darcus asked me to explain who built it and why, and with my schoolbook knowledge of history I told the story of Salim Chishti, the blessing and the birth of the young prince named after him. I spoke of Akbar’s religious eclecticism.

 

"So no tragedy, then?" Darcus asks.

 

"Ah, there was", I said, getting into my story-telling stride. The team had gathered round to listen and I told, as best I could, the story of Anarkali and Prince Salim’s wish to marry her for love.

 

In my telling of it, when Salim asks Akbar for permission to marry the courtesan, Akbar replies that he is negotiating for Salim to marry a Persian princess and bring honour and alliances to the Mughal throne. I elaborated what I remembered of Mughal-e-Azam and ended with the tragedy of Anarkali who refuses Akbar’s command to take a bribe and disappear from his son’s life. I said she defies the Emperor (I even sang a line from "Jab pyaar kiyaa tho darna kya?") and reasserts her love for Salim. Akbar, infuriated, orders her execution by entombment in the pillars of the palace. It is done.

 

By the time I wind up my tale, the young women of the crew, moved by this sacrifice for love and my immaculate telling of it, are wiping their eyes (at least that’s how I choose to remember it). The story becomes a subject of discussion. Darcus says nothing.

 

That night, returning on the coach, he pipes up, addressing all.

 

"But wait! The boy come to me and say he want to bring a whore in the house. I say, ‘You can’t do that. Do what you like with her but she can’t be Empress of India’. The boy say he love her. I say, ‘These are not matters of love, these are matters of social and political arrangement!’ I send the boy off to war but he comes back and says he still in love so I throw him in jail and call the woman and say, ‘Take some money and go’. She say, ‘No’, she love him. You know what I say? I say, ‘Wall the bitch!’"

 

Darcus, typically, logically, was saying that at a particular level of political engagement, the personal morality which applies between individuals takes second place.

 

Britain could, and perhaps did, ask itself: which is better, a piece of Libyan dead meat in a jail in Scotland or a lucrative oil and investment deal with a bit of British mercy thrown in as window dressing?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POWER AND GRIEF

UNSEEMLY HASTE IN LOBBYING FOR SUCCESSOR

 

The manner in which crass power politics invaded the political scene in Hyderabad even before the body of former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was brought to the state capital from the dense jungles near Kurnool where he was killed in a helicopter crash, is deeply regrettable.

 

That over 120 Congress legislators out of a total of 155 lent their signatures to a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi hours after the terrible tragedy urging her to appoint the late leader’s son Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy as his successor betrayed unseemly haste and clear lack of dignity. 

 

Not to be left behind, the state cabinet too passed a resolution urging the Congress party’s central leadership to make Jaganmohan Reddy the next chief minister Evidently, these ministers, legislators and some members of Parliament from the state were angling to be on the right side of the ‘rising son’ in the hope of being rewarded appropriately.

 

A veritable greenhorn in politics being a first-time MP with only 10 months experience in politics, Jaganmohan Reddy has been the target of attack by Opposition parties for the speed with which he has built up a formidable business empire that spans infrastructure, power, cement and media. It remains to be seen whether the Congress High Command would heed the clamour for his anointment or would look for a person with greater experience and public appeal to manage the state vital for it.

 

The late Rajasekhar Reddy was a shrewd political strategist who kept the Opposition at bay. His successor would be severely tested now that the overpowering presence of the leader is no longer there. If the mantle does not fall on young Jaganmohan Reddy, other contenders will have a hard time winning general approval. 

 

Caretaker Chief Minister A. Rosaiah, though able, lacks a mass base and his not being a ‘Reddy’ would work against him. Mr Jaipal Reddy is erudite and experienced as a Central minister but lacks grassroots support. Purandeswari Devi, who is a junior minister at the Centre has still some way to go. For the Congress, Andhra has been a virtual citadel. 

 

It would have to tread with caution if it is to move forward without major dissensions in the party and loss of public support. A testing time lies ahead of the ensuing dispensation, but much will depend on who the Congress High Command opts for.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

                   EDITORIAL

A STEP FORWARD

POLICE ATTITUDE TO THE PEOPLE MUST CHANGE

 

Police reforms moved a small step forward on Wednesday with the announcement of the setting up of a state security commission at the central level and police establishment boards in Union Territories. The belated official announcement comes three years after the Supreme Court issued a slew of directions to the government, only a part of which is now sought to be implemented.

 

While the Union Home Ministry has been pleading helplessness in persuading the states to implement the apex court’s orders, on the somewhat specious plea that law and order is a state subject, it had little or no excuse for delaying the implementation in UTs administered directly by it. But despite this week’s belated development , though in the right direction, the prospect of an independent and professional police force serving people rather than the rulers and the rich remains a distant dream. 

 

This is mainly because the entire culture which police across the country believes in requires a big transformation for which men in Khaki are not prepared for.

 

But on the face of it nothing appears to have changed in the states with the police force still subservient to the politicians and bureaucrats. A fixed tenure for the police chiefs, protecting them from political whims and greater transparency in postings and transfers are indeed important but more needs to be done to inspire confidence among the people who still do not approach the uniformed men and women for help with much hope and confidence.

 

The UPA government must show the same resoluteness for police reforms that it has shown for education reforms and food security. The rule of the law must prevail for the Aam Aadmi to believe that when in difficulty, he or she can freely approach the police for immediate help.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SCUTTLING JUSTICE

ANSALS DESERVE EXEMPLARY PUNISHMENT

 

The Delhi High Court has rightly allowed the criminal prosecution of Gopal Ansal and Sushil Ansal for allegedly tampering with crucial evidence in the Uphaar tragedy case in which 59 cine goers were killed and several others injured in New Delhi 12 years ago. As the offence is very serious, Justice S. Murlidhar has justifiably fined both brothers Rs 25,000 each and dismissed their plea challenging the trial court order which had summoned them to appear before it in the case.

 

In January 2003, Additional Sessions Judge Mamta Sehgal had ordered an inquiry after some important documents related to the case were found missing from the courtroom. According to the prosecution, the Ansals had entered into a conspiracy with some court officials for destroying vital evidence.

 

The Ansal brothers are well known for their clout and powerful connections. All these years, they have been playing every stratagem to hoodwink the court and scuttle justice. The Association of the Victims of the Uphaar Tragedy (AVUT) has been fighting for exemplary punishment for the brothers for their culpability in the fire tragedy.

 

However, it failed to secure stringent punishment for them when the Delhi High Court modified the trial court order and reduced their sentence from two years to one-year jail term in December last year. The ruling came under strong criticism from the media and the public for being lenient towards the Ansals.

 

Clearly, if culprits like the Ansal brothers can get away so easily with minor punishment, there will be no fear of the law which will also cease to be a deterrent. Now that the High Court has allowed their criminal prosecution for tampering with the evidence, there is a need to expedite the trial and bring the Ansal brothers and others to book.

 

Though the Supreme Court had given them bail in this case as they were convicted under Section 304A, a bailable offence, it maintained that “the allegation of tampering with evidence is worse than charges of theft and dacoity”. The rule of law can be upheld only if the Ansal brothers are given maximum punishment for their unpardonable offences. It should not look that the rich can get away.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

            COLUMN

JINNAH SUPPORTED KHILAFAT

PUTTING HISTORY IN CORRECT PERSPECTIVE

BY ANIL NAURIYA

 

The Khilafat demand, which arose in and after World War I, pre-dated non-cooperation and was not, as such, initiated by Gandhi. The non-cooperation movement of the 1920s, led by the Congress, was based on three issues: The Punjab wrongs, that is the military violence in Punjab in 1919, the demand for Swaraj and support for the Muslim grievances related to Khilafat. The last involved not simply the question of the Caliphate but the impropriety of Indian troops being used against countries with which India had no animosity.

 

Although the RSS, in its current narratives, has been critical of the Khilafat cause, some leading Hindutva figures were part of or supported non-cooperation. These included Dr B.S. Moonje of the Hindu Mahasabha, a signatory to the October 1921 manifesto calling for non-cooperation, Dr Hedgewar who was arrested in the 1920s for his participation in the movement and Bhai Parmanand.

 

Incidentally, Subhas Bose also approved of the Khilafat issue being raised as part of the movement. His only objection, by hindsight, was an organisational one. In the 1930s, while reiterating the validity of the Congress stand on the Khilafat issue, he wrote that the Khilafat committees should not have been allowed to function separately from the Congress organisation.

 

A former RSS chief, Mr Sudarshan, has now argued that the question of the Caliph of Turkey was of little import to the Indian people and that issue was unnecessarily raised by Gandhi in disregard of Jinnah’s wishes.

 

The fact, however, is that Jinnah supported the Khilafat cause. On August 27, 1919, Jinnah and three others sent to Lloyd George, the then British Prime Minister, a representation on behalf of the All-India Muslim League on the Khilafat question. The representation was concerned with the position of the Sultan of Turkey as the Khalifa. The penultimate paragraph of the representation is:

 

“We need not add that if Great Britain becomes a party in reducing H.I.M. the Sultan of Turkey and the Khalifa of the Muslim world to the status of a petty sovereign, the reaction in India will be colossal and abiding.”

 

The representation was signed by M.A. Jinnah, Hasan Imam, Bhurgari and Yaqub Hasan. (Sharifuddin Pirzada, (ed.) Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s Correspondence, pp 71-73)

 

In his presidential speech at the Muslim League’s Calcutta session in September 1920, Jinnah described the Khilafat demand as one “which we consider, from a purely Musalman point of view, a matter of life and death”. (italics added) (Sharifuddin Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan: All India Muslim League Documents: 1906-1947, Vol 1, p. 544)

 

What Jinnah, who originated essentially in the liberal school, was opposed to was not the Khilafat cause but mass action. It is the statements expressing that reluctance which are generally cited by some scholars under the mistaken belief that he was opposed to the Khilafat demand itself.

 

The Khilafat demands were fortified by promises made by the British government in the course of the war and many of those who supported the demands did so because they saw that the government was reneging on assurances given.

 

Seervai described the Khilafat movement as “the agitation led by two brothers, Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali, against the abolition of the Khalifate in Turkey after World War I for the Khalif (sic) was the spiritual head of Muslims”. (Seervai, Constitutional Law of India, Vol 1, 1991, p.6).

 

This description of the Khilafat issue, which is both inadequate and inaccurate, conforms to a pattern adopted by some writers, especially during the last 25 years. Mr Sudarshan has given vent to a similar idea which reduces the movement to the question of the Caliphate. But if the Indian uprising of 1857 were to be summed up merely as a move to reinstate Bahadur Shah Zafar as Emperor, this may tell us something about the symbolic expression of the uprising, but not necessarily much about its causes or objectives.

 

The origin of the Khilafat agitation in India has to be understood in the context of the utilisation of Indian, including Muslim, soldiers “for the purpose of crushing the national spirit of the Egyptians, the Turks, the Arabs and other nations”. (Congress Working Committee Statement, October 1921, quoted in M.R. Jayakar, The Story of My Life, Vol. 1, p. 448).

 

The use of Indian soldiers against countries towards which they had no feelings of hostility and in a fight in respect of which some of them had a legitimate conscientious objection lay at the core of the so-called Khilafat issue.

 

As Srinivas Sastri reminded the Imperial Conference in June 1921 in the Great War of 1914-1918, as many as 1,2,74,000 men or “over half the total overseas forces employed in the war” came from India. (Indian Annual Register, 1922-1923 Vol. II). And as Montagu admitted after resigning as Secretary of State in March 1922, “Turkey was beaten in the main by Indian soldiers”.

 

To secure such participation by Indians, the British administration had made definite promises throughout the land. Maulana Azad referred to these on February 28, 1920 at the Bengal Provincial Khilafat Conference. Azad noted that in November 1914 the government proclaimed that “no operations will be conducted against the sacred seat of the Muslim Khilafat”.

 

Azad observed that the proclamation was widely circulated: “So much so that in every division, every district, every seat of government and in every town, the Moslems were called to assemble and copies of this declaration were read to and distributed among them by local officers”. Azad added: “No Muslim home in British India was left in ignorance of this declaration.” (Khilafat address, pp. 287-288).

 

It is vital to remember, therefore, that the first mobilisation stressingKhilafat and its sanctity was done by the Government of British India itself so as to secure troops for the war. A year after Lloyd George’s own assurances, offered in 1918 in the British Parliament, came the Rowlatt Bills in India and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The public feting of Gen. Dyer in England followed thereafter.

 

The Treaty of Sevres was signed in August 1920 though its terms had become known in May of that year. The treaty reduced Turkey virtually to a landlocked country; French, Italian, Greek and other states were to be established on mainland Turkey. An already prevailing sense of betrayal in India, and a sense of having been used, was understandable. The rest is history.

 

There had been widespread display of Hindu-Muslim unity in the course of the Khilafat movement. But the petering out of the movement had a less pleasant aftermath with a renewal of inter-communal tensions. In due course, these communal tensions began to be attributed to the movement itself. Some like the former RSS chief have gone so far as to relate Partition itself to these post-Khilafat communal tensions.

 

However, this narrative requires to be treated with some caution. First, attributing subsequent communal tensions to the Khilafat movement could be a classic case of the fallacy of “after this, therefore because of this”. Secondly, there is an aspect of this question that needs attention.

 

In post-Independence India, inter-communal tensions and even riots have invariably invited an enquiry into the role of the state. Why is the role of the colonial state not a subject of enquiry in the context of the riots that occurred in the wake of the Khilafat movement?

 

According to the late President Rajendra Prasad, the first indications at the time of the “seeds of disruption” in (north) India came from the incidents in Multan in 1922, about six months after Gandhi’s arrest. Prasad recorded that the British Deputy Commissioner in Multan at the time was believed to be at the “root of the trouble”. (Rajendra Prasad, At the Feet of Mahatma Gandhi, 1961, pp. 135-136). Scholarship requires that such leads on the post-Khilafat scenario be followed up as well.

 

The writer is advocate, Supreme Court

 

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THE TRIBUNE

            COLUMN

TWILIGHT ZONE

BY G G DWIVEDI

 

It had been a long day,the six-periods ordeal followed by lunch break, familiarisation round and prep session. The long bell sounded the end of the day and beginning of a five and half years boarding school stint.

 

Attired in fresh whites, the mild pinch of new derby shoes, amidst fresh painted classrooms and linseed soaked furniture, I was totally out of place. The rosy picture I had painted withered away in few hours.

 

I was down with deep depression, cursing repeatedly at the crazy decision of traversing the whole length of the subcontinent, to choose a school some 3000 km away, nestled in the lap of Blue Mountains.

 

Instead of heading for the dining hall, discreetly I broke away from the marching squad. Using the tall hedge as a cover, I slowly made my way to the school guestroom, hoping against hope, that my dad might have stayed on for another day. Alas! Only if wishes were horses. The guestroom was locked. Still, I climbed up the window and peeped into the room which was empty.

 

In bewilderment, I began to hot-foot towards the mess and join the other housemates, hoping that my brief absence would go unnoticed. I had to halt in tracks as there was a “devil” ahead — Gurkha watchman Bahadur, with baton in hand and Khukri dangling from his side. His prime duty was to round up the lost freshers.

 

To avoid Bahadur, I bet a hasty retreat, walking backwards. Suddenly, I found someone’s hand on my shoulders. With a shriek I turned around. To my horror, it was our class teacher Ms Murphy. The earth seemed to slip beneath my feet. “What are you doing here, Govind!” enquired Ms Murphy. I had no answer and burst into tears, pleading “Mam, I want to go back home. I don’t want to stay on. Please help me.”

 

Fearing the worst, I was somewhat surprised when she walked me to a nearby culvert, with her tender hand still clutching my shoulder. Sitting beside me she empathised assuring that these moments of twilight will soon transform into a new dawn. The pang of separation will give way to moments of joy and elation.

 

She also shared her own childhood memories with me. It was getting dark and the sun had vanished behind the mountains. By the time we reached the dining hall, it was almost empty as everyone had left. She sat through the dinner and dropped me at the dorm.

 

Next morning when I got up, it was a bright day. As a 10-year-old, I felt a sudden transformation within me. I was fired with new energy and a sense of purpose. Each day as we took moved on taking small baby steps, Ms Murphy was always around to help discover ourselves. Five and half years flew by soon and many of us headed for the NDA, to start a career in the Armed Forces.

 

Some 16 years later, when I was attending Staff Course, I got an opportunity to visit the school with my wife and our two-month-old son. Ms Murphy by then had married our Physics teacher and was now Mrs Cherian. She at once declared herself a lucky grandmother holding our son in her lap. An elaborate English dinner was laid in our honour, specially the assorted cutlets and cheese macrony, which were my favourite.

 

Next morning Mr Cherian had turned up in his NCC uniform. As “First Officer” he was sporting three stars to bid us farewell. He smartly saluted me and in a heavy voice said “This is the most defining moment of my life when I am saluting a Major — my ex-student.”

 

It was two years back that Mr Cherian passed away due to liver disorder, leaving Ms Murphy alone, as they had no issue. When I called up to share my sentiments, Ms Murphy’s voice had not lost its old composure and a tone of assurance, even after four and a half decades. While she relieved so many of us of our loneliness and pain, she stands by herself to continue the last lap, choosing to settle down in the vicinity of the school.

 

Every day when the sun descends behind the Nilgiris, an elderly figure walks the desolate road, pausing at the culverts, ever-ready to lend a frail hand, to transcend the Twilight zone.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

            OPED

PANGS OF HUNGER

IT’S POLICIES THAT MAKE FOOD PRICES RISE

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

No doubt, India’s drought is nature-made. It is due to the failure of monsoon in more than half of India that has made the country fall short by 10 million tonnes in rice and an equal quantity of sugar. But the nation could have avoided the man-made misery, the food crisis, which is because of globalisation. Massive land grabbing, displacing farmers and abnormal growth of the landless have led to a situation where those who depend on the land have been further marginalised.

 

Our growth rate has been hitting nearly 10 per cent for the past two decades. Even this year it is 6.1 per cent. Yet the number of the poor, roughly 70 per cent of the population, has not shown any appreciable dent. There is no paradox except that the extra earned money has gone to the pockets of the rich. The growing luxury crops for exports have told upon the cultivation of rice and wheat.

 

Rice has also been exported on a large scale when India needs every grain of it. The globalisation had put India under an obligation to export. But this could have been avoided if some ministers and top bureaucrats had not fallen prey to the temptation of making money under the table. The Centre has shown a lot of concern, but there is no word about an inquiry into the scandal.

 

India has not yet realised that the growth rate does not reduce poverty and hunger. It aggravates both. The Manmohan Singh government has not yet woken up to the fact that the model of industrial agriculture and globalised trade on food are responsible for the creation of hunger. Farmers have inevitably depended on debt for help, not realising that a debt trap is also a hunger trap. Many suicides have taken place and many more would.

 

The poor in India are in dire straits because the avenue of their livelihood has been destroyed, thanks to globalisation. The middle classes are even worse because they are eating inferior, not better food. Junk and processed food is forced on them through globalisation. The country is now the epicentre of the malnutrition of the poor who do not get enough. The malnutrition of the rich is because their diets have been degraded with the Americanised food culture.

 

President Bush made a fallacious argument when he was in office. He said the food crisis in India was because the Indian middle class has expanded more than America’s total population and is consuming more food grains. But what he does not know is that India on the whole still eats less. 

 

A report on the Causes and Cures for Food Security which has come out in the last few days says: “President Bush’s bio-fuel policies and his protection of the grain cartel are the real reason for the price rise.” Food has been transformed into a commodity controlled by joint corporations.

 

The uncontrollable rise in food prices is clearly an outcome of the economic policies which have been framed to fit into the neo-liberal paradigm enunciated by the West. The government has intervened at every step to create corporate monopolies in the food system—from steel to domestic production, trade to food process, to liberalised imports to export oriented agriculture. Though the government intervention has unleashed a forced driving up food prices, it is now throwing up its hand and saying it can do nothing to control prices.

 

At the Global Agro-Industrial Forum meeting on April 11 last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a steep rise in food prices would make inflation control more difficult and might hurt macro-economic stability. He, however, ruled out the return to an era of blind control to check prices. “We cannot react to such a situation by returning to an era of blind controls and by depressing agriculture terms of trade,” said the Prime Minister.

 

After having shaped an economy which is leading to high cost food for the poor, he has said he believes in running a “hands off economy.” This is putting the economy on autopilot for corporate control of food systems.

 

Imports are no longer affordable, and a model based on import dependency might be in the interest of the US government which has always used food as a weapon. It is definitely not in the interest of India’s food sovereignty, nor in the interest of the 70 per cent of India’s population, already denied access to adequate food.

 

A decade and more of corporate globalisation has devastated agriculture worldwide with the promise of cheap food. Yet the very forces and processes that have launched the globalisation are taking food beyond people’s reach. Prices of food are rising worldwide. 

 

More than 33 countries have witnessed riots. India has had very high increase in prices of essential commodities. All kinds of reasons are being thrown around, including population growth. These are outrages explanations because prices have doubled over the past year, but not the population.

 

When India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru found that after pumping in thousands of crores in the economy through the First Five Year Plan, there was no improvement, he immediately appointed a top economic expert to find out where the money had gone. 

 

The report showed that the extra money was pocketed by the rich. Nehru was not surprised but felt hurt that Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to the industrialists and businessmen to act as trustees had made no difference. In fact, whatever Mahatma Gandhi preached on village economy and self-reliance has not been followed at all. He is not to blame but those who run the government are.

 

The main reason why more hunger is increasing when India is growing financially is because the globalisation which the trio—Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia—has pushed is detrimental to the country. Economically competent, they have got lost in the theories they have themselves adumbrated for development.

 

What surprises me is that the Prime Minister has not set up a committee—he appoints one at the drop of a hat—to find out where the income generated through nearly the trebling of the GDP has vanished. The rich and middle classes have no doubt lined up their pockets. Still this is only a partial answer. The nation needs to know the full story.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

            OPED

KENNEDY MEMOIRS REVEALS REMORSE

BY RUPERT CORNWELL

 

In a posthumous memoir to be published this month, Edward Kennedy frankly acknowledges the personal failings that probably kept him from the presidency – above all his “inexcusable” behaviour over the July 1969 accident at Chappaquiddick which, he says, may have hastened the death of his father, Joe Senior, the patriarch of the family dynasty, later that year.

 

For the first time, the long-time senator and youngest of Joseph’s four sons recounts how he made “terrible decisions” in the hours after Mary Jo Kopechne, a young worker on his brother Robert’s 1968 presidential campaign, was trapped and drowned when the car he was driving went off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts.

 

Frightened and confused, Mr Kennedy made the fateful decision not to go to the police until Ms Kopechne’s body was found the next day. Ultimately, he received a suspended sentence for failing to report an accident. Most important, however, the affair added to the doubts about his character, making it impossible for him to seek the White House in either 1972 or 1976.

 

It also helped doom his candidacy when he finally did run for the Democratic nomination – against the sitting president Jimmy Carter, who would go on to lose heavily to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

 

True Compass had originally been intended to appear in 2010, to mark the 50th anniversary of his brother Jack’s election to the White House, but was moved up to this autumn after Mr Kennedy was stricken with fatal brain cancer in early 2008. A copy was obtained by The New York Times, which published the first extracts 
yesterday.

 

More perhaps than its discussion of the senator’s drinking and carousing, the 532-page book is striking for its insights into the complicated personal relationships within a fiercely competitive family: how he was tormented by a feeling of inadequacy when compared to his three brothers, all of them dead by the time Ted Kennedy reached his late thirties. “As I think back about what they had accomplished before I was even out of my childhood,” he writes, “it sometimes has occurred to me that my entire life has been a constant state of catching up.”

 

The brothers, he says, were close, but at the same time curiously distant. Ted, for instance, “had no idea how serious Jack’s health problems were,” for the simple reason that “it would never have occurred to us to discuss such private things with each other”.

 

If anything, the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968 was even more traumatic for the youngest Kennedy than that of the 35th president five years before. The loss led to more “self-destructive” drinking, and made it impossible for Ted to return to the Senate. Instead, he went for long sailing trips, brooding about what had happened.

 

He admits his conduct drove his wife, Joan, who would have drinking problems of her own, “deeper into her anguish”. The couple divorced in 1982. Mr Kennedy himself “tried to stay ahead of the darkness” by driving himself and his senate staff especially hard. But the assassinations left their mark on his daily life. He writes of how he would flinch at sudden sharp noises, and even fling himself to the ground when a car backfired.

 

 

True Compass, written with a collaborator, Ron Powers, is largely based on contemporaneous notes taken by Mr Kennedy over five decades, and recordings for an oral history project. Alongside his failings, it also displays his resilience, even when confronted by cancer when doctors gave him mere months to live. In the event, he survived a year and a half. “Approaching adversity with a positive attitude at least gives you a chance for success,” Mr Kennedy writes. “A defeatist’s attitude is just not in my DNA.”

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

            OPED

‘SAVE MUSHARRAF MISSION’

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

Like errant schoolboys who need the wise counsel of an elder to settle their disputes, our (Pakistani) politicians seem unable to resolve domestic disagreements without the help of foreign interlocutors.” This is how a Dawn editorial lamented at the spectacle presented by squabbling PPP and PML (N) leaders over how to deal with the situation arising out of the Pakistan Supreme Court’s recent verdict declaring the November 2007 emergency imposed by the then President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, as an unconstitutional measure.

 

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants the retired General to be tried for treason by the Pakistan National Assembly, as the apex court order says. His supporters are of the view that the former military dictator must be punished for tampering with the country’s constitution, as this may work as a deterrent for any future Army adventurer.

 

PPP leaders, including President Asif Zardari, however, have been in favour of forgetting about the Musharraf issue as it may ultimately derail the nascent democracy in Pakistan. Even Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who headed the apex court bench that delivered the verdict against Musharraf’s emergency rule, avoided pronouncing any punishment for the former President. He left it to parliament, perhaps with the belief that the PPP government might bail him out.

 

The PPP is doing exactly that, but it is not alone. The Saudis have emerged as the major players in the “save Musharraf mission”. Musharraf is nowadays in Saudi Arabia as a guest of the King and will remain there for a few months. Pakistan’s Interior Minister visited Riyadh this week to discuss the Musharraf issue with the Saudis. Nawaz Sharif may fly to Saudi Arabia any time now.

 

SAUDI INTERVENTION

The Saudis are talking of an agreement reached with Musharraf before he stepped out of power. The Saudi intermediaries want the Pakistani politicians to respect the accord and spare the former military ruler.

 

Daily Times, however, says, “No one knows for sure if there was an ‘agreement’ not to prosecute General Musharraf. If there was, who were the parties involved? Yet no one in Pakistan will doubt that the Saudis have stepped in again to prevent Pakistan’s politicians from committing hara-kiri. The King is supposed to have even said that ‘if a party or an individual backed out of the agreement reached, Pak-Saudi relations would be affected’.”

 

As Musharraf enjoys very close relationship with King Abdullah, most Pakistani commentators are of the view that Sharif will ultimately fall in line and stop insisting on the former President’s trial for treason.

 

PUBLIC OPINION

As Daily Times says, “A special relationship has always existed between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but more recently Saudi ‘intervention’ has taken place to prevent Pakistani politics from breaking rational barriers and descending into violence. The Saudis rescued Sharif from rotting in jail because of their leverage with General Musharraf. They tried to bind Sharif to the ‘agreement’ on restrictive movement, with mixed success. They finally weighed in on his side when General Musharraf made a deal with the Americans to let the PPP leader, Ms Benazir Bhutto, make a comeback.” The paper also comments: “It is known to the world that wisdom has fled Pakistan. The country seeks revenge when it should be bothered about the Taliban threat which has hardly disappeared.”

 

In the opinion of Business Recorder, “Things have drastically changed over the last two years or so.... Since peace can be brought about among the three—the PPP, the PML (N) and Musharraf—only by compromising some important legal and constitutional mandated obligations, the Saudi efforts may not receive the kind of public approval and acceptability they have had in the past.”

 

In the process of all that has been happening over the Musharraf issue, Pakistani politicians have exposed their immaturity to run the affairs of their country. The failure to settle their disputes internally must have belittled the position of the entire political class in the eyes of the public.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

UNFORESEEN TRAGEDY

 

The death in a helicopter crash of the charismatic Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, has come as a bolt out of the blue. A dynamic leader who in his three decades of public life had never lost an election, the 60-year-old Reddy had been elected five times to the state assembly and four times to the Lok Sabha. His popularity among the common people can be gauged by the fact that a great number of his supporters have either committed suicide after learning of his death or died due to cardiac arrests. This popularity was earned by implementation of a number of public welfare schemes in the spheres of housing, health and foodgrains for the poor, agricultural irrigation for farmers etc. Authentic and unbiased implementation of these measures had been one of the prime factors for the landslide Congress win during the last assembly and Lok Sabha elections, 156 out of 294 in the former and 33 out of 42 in the latter. Reddy was also responsible for having stymied the efforts to revive the Telengana issue and keeping the Maoist movement in the state in check. The political equilibrium of the Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh has been sorely upset, with characteristic infighting already taking place. Clearly, the party would be hard put to replace Reddy with an individual of equal popularity, stature and capability.

This unforeseen tragedy also brings back to the limelight safety concerns regarding helicopter flights, maintenance of these machines as well as qualification and experience of their pilots. Especially during election campaigning, helicopters have proved of great use, saving time and energy and enabling candidates to fly quickly from one campaign venue to another even in the remotest regions. As the use of helicopters increased, so have accidents related to them. Reddy himself had had a miraculous escape three years earlier, the helicopter he had been using being forced to make an emergency landing on a school playground. Among those killed in helicopter crashes in the past had been the then Lok Sabha Speaker GMC Balayogi in 2002 and Haryana Agriculture Minister Surendra Singh in 2005, while scores of others, including leaders of the stature of Rajnath Singh, Vasundhara Raje, Ahmed Patel, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Prithiviraj Chauhan etc. have had narrow escapes. Aviation experts also attribute the growing tendency of potential accidents with flights having politician VIPs to the fact that the latter tend to exert pressure on the pilots to follow difficult itineraries. Since the pilots mostly cannot overrule the political bigwigs, they often tend to take risks while following unsafe orders. Unfortunately, while authorities such as the Directorate of Civil Aviation have laid down safety procedures for pilots, political parties have not done the same for their stalwarts, a lacunae that needs to be rectified sooner rather than later.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

NEHRU CUP WIN

 

The Indian football team has brought glory to the country by retaining the Nehru Cup title, defeating Syria via penalty shootout in a sensational final earlier this week. No praise is high enough for goalkeeper Subrata Paul, who was undoubtedly the man behind this hard-earned triumph as he saved three penalties in the final, after the scoreline had read 1-1 at the end of the stipulated time. The steely resolve and cool temperament that Paul displayed in front of a packed Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi was exemplary. Apart from his alacrity under the bar, Paul also attempted to psyche out the opposition and that certainly worked in India’s favour. All this made Paul the right choice for the final award. The leadership of Bhaichung Bhutia was also a reassuring factor for the team throughout the tournament. The evergreen striker once again belied his age to emerge as the Player of the Tournament, a year after having been named the Most Valuable Player of the AFC Challenge Cup. After India had suffered a humiliating loss in the opening match against Lebanon, Bhutia, playing his 100th match for India, scored against Krygyzstan to relieve his team of the pressure. With this coveted trophy, India also completed a hat-trick of titles under coach Bob Houghton, and credit must also go to this man who has been showing rare gusto and sincerity to take Indian football forward.


The Nehru Cup triumph looks all the more commendable if one looks at the mental stress the very players who fashioned this win had been under in the run-up to the tournament. Bhutia himself admitted that his tussle with Mohun Bagan, which resulted in his suspension, had become a huge distraction. It is admirable that Bhutia could still shrug it all off and rise to the occasion when it mattered. Like Bhutia, Subrata Paul too had to face a lot of hurdles. Not only was he accused by the Bagan coach of taking bribe three years ago, he was also thrown out of East Bengal this season on account of poor performance. But the man who noticed the enormous potential in Paul was Houghton, who thought he was the right man for the job. However, much beyond the problems faced on individual basis is the biggest stumbling block that Indian football has been facing the poor infrastructure. In fact, Houghton was unable to find a decent ground to train his team ahead of the Nehru Cup. He hit the bull’s eye when he spoke out against the Sports Ministry for not doing anything to raise the quality of infrastructure. No doubt, India has now moved up seven places in the FIFA rankings to take the 149th spot. But that is hardly enough if one looks at the bigger picture. India is still too weak a team at the highest level of international soccer. Instead of sitting on laurels, therefore, what the Sports Ministry should really concentrate on is building world-class infrastructure to give Indian soccer the place it ought to have in the country.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

A NODAL DOCUMENT

ARUP KUMAR DUTTA

 

Snehalaya, the social service institution of the Don Bosco Society, must be congratulated for having brought out an invaluable document on Child Rights in collaboration with UNICEF. Titled Rights Reality: The Way forward, it is the outcome of a state level consultation on Child Rights in Assam organised by the institution on December 12-13, 2008, and contains inputs from scores of child welfare activists and organisations.


The document is important on two counts. First, it has been brought out by a non-government organisation and therefore contains more home truths than any bureaucratic endeavour to portray the Child Rights situation in Assam. Second, it is primarily the handiwork of individuals intimately associated with promoting Child Rights, who are aware of the ground realities and can offer practical ways to rectify existing lacunae.


The comprehensive nature of the document testifies to the sincerity and commitment of those responsible for bringing it out. Almost every aspect of Child Rights as also aspects of child welfare and education has been covered. These include rights of survival, development, protection and participation, as also issues intrinsic to the above broader rights such as child labour, rights of children with disabilities and child trafficking.

Additional inputs of resource persons on subjects such as the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, Child Rights and Indian Constitutional and Legal Provisions, challenges of child survival in rural Assam, child labour in urban Assam, role of the police, drug abuse among children, adoption rights, role of media et al enhances the value of the document. It also covers many aspects of Child Education, including those relating to the Government’s initiative, Assam Sarba Shiksha Abhijan Mission.


The two most relevant sections are outcomes of group discussions among participating experts and the recommendations that emerged from these. The discussions focused on three aspects, the existing situation as far as the broader rights are concerned, the objectives that should be aimed at and suggested interventions. The existing situation is realistically presented, without any attempt at white wash, and makes sorry reading.


For example, on the issue of availability of proper health care, the reports cite lack of “easy accessibility to immunization services”, “immunisation”, “newborn care units”, “trained manpower in rural and distant areas” etc., which have led to “inadequate health care services to mother and child.” The objectives to tackle these lacunae should be, according to the document, “full immunisation to mother and child” and “proper health care services in the health centres” in order to reduce mother and child mortality rates. One of the many suggested interventions is “capacity building of Anganwadi workers, Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and other community health workers.


Other issues discussed under survival rights are lack of awareness of health facilities, malnutrition of children and inaccessibility to nutritious food, lack of safe environment, water and sanitation etc. Among the suggested interventions is to “bring awareness among the beneficiaries about the implementation of the National Rural Health Mission, School Health Scheme for both plan and- non-plan sector... importance of availing Integrated Management of Childhood Illness facilities.”


As far as developmental rights are concerned, the report points out to the fact that the Sarba Shiksha Abhijan does not cover many areas, especially children in refugee camps and disturbed areas and explains the high dropouts from government schools as resulting from poor quality of education, unfriendly school environment and the lack of opportunities for higher education and vocational training. Among the suggested interventions are emphasis on teacher training, flexible curriculum, vocationalisation of education, widening of the National Open School system and creation of a State Open School System, etc.

Childhood being supposedly the golden phase and the new generation having been reduced to being beasts of burden in more senses then one, the right to leisure, rest and cultural activities is an equally important aspect. The existing situation in this sphere is “heavy burden of studies and hence lack of leisure time,” engagement of children in household work, thereby depriving them of leisure, the mindset of the middle class that study is the sole way in which one can progress in life etc. A few of the remedial measures suggested are schools opening for five days a week, reduction of homework, enhancing the educational infrastructure as well as curriculum to incorporate sports and extracurricular activities.


The issue of inaccessibility of education to a large section of children as also the lack of physical infrastructure and human resources for education form a part of the group discussion, as does the three extremely important issues of prevalence of child labour, the “existence of child abuse, physical, verbal, emotional, “ and rampant child trafficking in the State of Assam. Some of the remedial measures suggested were to establish village vigilance committees and youth task forces, to impose stringent punishment on people employing children etc.


Those responsible for preparing Rights Reality: The Way Forward have acknowledged that, due to the paucity of time, the recommendations which finally emerged from the two- day deliberations are of a generic rather than specific nature. This in no way detracts from their relevance, covering as they do the widest spectrum of issues relevant to the children of this State to have been compiled so far. For instance, the lack of awareness in rural areas as well as amongst the urban poor for a simple act to help a child’s future through acquiring a birth certificate has been pointed out, as has been the need to develop a policy for women labourers who are lactating to enable them to feed their children.


As every essay into such a subject tends to be, the vision that is finally conveyed by the document is utopian, and the contrast between the envisaged world and the real one is all too obvious. But that in no way means that our society does not work towards such an idealistic vision and goal. Moreover, the document by its very nature will remain an academic exercise unless an endeavour is made to translate its contents into action. For this political, executive, judicial and societal support is a sine qua non.


In fact, Rights Reality: The Way Forward can act as a nodal document for a new initiative not only to protect rights of children of this State, but also to ensure a far brighter future for them than has been their lot so far. The road is long and obstacles are many, but the individuals who brought out this volume have shown our society the general direction that we can pursue.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAl

THE DESTINY MAKERS

DR JYOTSNA BHATTACHARJEE

 

Dr S Radhakrishnan was born on September 5, 1888 at a small place called Tiruttani, 40 miles to the north west of Madras. His early life was spent in Tiruttani and Tirupati, both places of pilgrimage. Because of that possibly he was attracted to religion from early life. He had his education in Christian missionary institutions. Gradually he became well-versed in both the religion and philosophy of Hinduism and Christianity. Afterwards he tried to reconcile the thoughts of the eastern and western thinkers and he was aptly called a bridge-builder between the east and the west.


Radhakrishnan was a great philosopher, a writer of repute and a man of deep insight. His first book, Ethics of Vedanta was published in 1908, when he was only 20. His life can be cited as a grand success story. In 1909 he was appointed a teacher of Philosophy in Madras Presidency College. In 1918 he was appointed professor of Philosophy in the new University of Mysore. In 1921 he was offered the most important chair of Philosophy in India, the King George V chair of mental and moral philosophy in the University of Calcutta. In 1926 he was invited to Oxford to deliver lectures on Hindu view of life. After that, many teaching and lecture assignments abroad came to him one after the other. He was given Spaulding chair of the Oxford University and because of his power of oration, his reputation spread far and wide. All kinds of honour were showered on him in quick succession. He took over the responsibilities of various jobs one after the other – the responsibilities of a Professor, a Vice-Chancellor, an Ambassador, the Vice-President of India and lastly the responsibilities of the highest office that India could offer, that of the President of the Indian Union.


Radhakrishnan was one of the greatest teachers India has ever produced and it is only right that his birthday should be celebrated as 'Teacher”s Day'. So on September 5 each year, a grateful nation pays homage to the builders of the nation. But unfortunately, the gratitude lasts for a day only and for the rest of the year they remain a forgotten species. They are more used to brickbats than bouquets. No wonder they feel a little dazed on 'Teacher’s Day' when suddenly they find themselves on centrestage. In the various educational institutions they are felicitated by the students and flowers as well as gifts are showered on them. The bonhomie of course lasts for only that day and then they are back to square one.

In fact the teachers are a controversial lot. They are eulogised as builders of the nation and also condemned as a bunch of opportunists, grabbing money at the cost of innocent students. Society is full of contradictions when it comes to the role teachers play in the educational scenario. They are glorified as noble people who have keys to the windows of the mind and at the same time are looked down with contempt and dismissed as yet another breed of merchants who sell their knowledge (not often good quality) at an enormous price and who play havoc with the lives of the students. They are respected, feared, loved and also hated.


Broadly speaking, the teachers are the builders of the nation. They shape the character of the future citizens. Hence the teachers may be called the destiny-makers. They help a great deal in bringing out the potential of children by giving them a nudge here and there. A good teacher relates to the student and helps him to achieve his goal through thick and thin. His role is not confined to the class room, but spreads beyond school hours. A teacher is born and not made. So he remains a teacher throughout his life even after his retirement. The teacher’s profession is one of the best. Without his guidance the children would forever live in darkness.


Society recognises the importance and nobility of the teaching profession, yet few want their children to grow up and take the teaching profession. To be fair, even the teachers do not want their own children to take up their profession. On 'Teacher’s Day' society eulogises the teachers, get lyrical about their wonderful performance, but at the same time do not have the least interest in them.


Once in India, the teachers or ‘Gurus’ as they were called, were venerated by all sections of people. They were regarded as fountains of wisdom, kindness and spirituality. They had simple lifestyle, dedicated to the welfare of humanity. After sometime the venerated teachers fell down from the pedestal, and being bogged down by poverty, it was only natural that they became demoralized. They were treated with veiled contempt and tolerance by society. No wonder the teachers became frustrated and disillusioned. Of course, the situation has changed for the better, though in this age of inflation their salary is not enough to keep them in comfort. They have realised that it is money that rules society and consequently they are trying to supplement their income by private tuition, which has been regarded as indispensable for the success of the students by most of the parents. Most people frown upon this money-grabbing instinct of the teachers and castigate them.


The teachers have tasted poverty and have realised that society measures you by the yardstick of your bank balance. They have also realised that it does not really help to “keep high aspirations, moderate expectations and small needs”. They have to make hay while the sun shines, as all other people are doing.


With the motto of “simple living and high thinking”, they carry on with their pride, desperation and hope. They try to maintain their dignity against all odds. It is nice and refreshing to think that one takes up teaching for the nobility of the profession and you feel quite proud of the fact that there are still people who want to do the noble work in a world obsessed with social status and natural gains. But many of those who are already in the profession regard the choice as a kind of anachronic decision. That is why they never encourage or want their children to go for the profession, as they know that society only lends lip service in eulogizing the teachers. In practice they have very little opinion of a teacher. Hence most of the teachers regard the job as entirely thankless. Very brilliant students never want to take up teaching as a profession; even mediocre students opt for it as a last resort and keep their options open.


A teacher’s job, contrary to popular belief, is not an easy one. A good teacher is expected to put lots of hard work into study. Teaching in overpopulated classrooms is an unhappy and hard task. Woeful lack of educational facilities has pushed the teachers closer to the brink. Naturally, teachers who want to give their best to the students feel frustrated. In some schools the management refuse to give even a globe or an atlas to supplement geography lessons. The science teacher has to give theoretical lessons without any scientific equipment to make the students understand the facts. Very few schools have got a well-stocked library. Hence there is no way by which a teacher can go beyond the textbook. Hence even the dedicated teachers cannot do justice to their job. Therefore, to get good results the school managements should give due attention to the genuine grievances of the teachers, which would be beneficial to the students in the long run.


(The writer is former Head of Philosophy, Cotton College)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CESS ON CAIRN OIL JUSTIFIED

 

The report that Cairn India, which has recently begun production in India’s biggest oil find in over two decades, has finally agreed to bear the cess on its crude output is welcome. It is true that in Cairn’s find at Barmer, Rajasthan, exploration and production (E&P) activity was begun before the New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp) was in place.


In the pre-Nelp bidding rounds there was no provision for 100% investment by potential operators. They necessarily had to tie-up with a licensee like state-owned ONGC to foray into E&P in the domestic sedimentary basins. And in several small and medium sized discovered oil fields, ONGC has continued to pay cess on output; but thanks to enhanced crude recovery all JV partners have benefited.


However, by no stretch of imagination can Barmer be deemed enhanced recovery. The records suggest that it was the biggest oil find globally, in 2003. Hence it is only valid that the operator, Cairn, meets the levies, cess and other fees due on E&P activity. It is unfortunate that the specific production sharing contract (PSC) pertaining to Barmer is not clear, unlike other PSCs, on the cess payment obligation of the operator. It is, however, only proper that Cairn does pay its rightful dues on account of E&P activity.


The cess is really an excise duty on indigenous crude oil and natural gas output, and levied as per the Oil Industry (Development) Act, 1974. The funds were supposed to accrue to the Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB), but actually go to the Consolidated Fund of India. The OIDB website mentions the current rate of cess on crude at Rs 2,500 per tonne wef 1 March, 2006. But the fineprint says the Centre ‘in the public interest’ has since reduced the levy to Rs 900 per tonne, for 26 producing fields.


It is not clear what the rate for Barmer would be. But a more reasonable cess is certainly advisable given that indirect taxes and levies tend to be regressive. Anyway, we do need transparency in norms when it comes to tax and attendant obligations of oil and gas producers. Otherwise, it’s bound to dampen investor comfort, give rise to quite needless litigation and result in endless delays in production of hydrocarbons.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO UPFRONT COMMISSION TO AGENTS

 

A Govt committee constituted to look into the issue of investor awareness and protection has rightly suggested that upfront commission paid to agents selling financial products be eliminated by April 2011. This should help stop the rampant misselling of financial products, insurance in particular. Sebi has already put in place such a regime for mutual funds, which will no longer attract any entry load, a part of which went to the agent/adviser facilitating the investment.


Agents will now have to negotiate the commission with the investor. Indeed, that is how the product ought to be sold, as opposed to a part of the investment going to the agent, often without the knowledge of the investor. Such an incentive structure has encouraged agents to push products where the commission would be high. This is largely the reason why most Indians are under-insured, and lapse rates of insurance policies are high.


The agent or adviser is providing a service to the investor and the fee for the same should be decided mutually by them, not by the seller of the product. Sure, this would drive many advisers out of business, but quality rather than quantity should be the concern. The report rightly stress on the need for adequate education and certification of advisers and has mooted a new institution, Financial Well-Being Board of India (FINWEB), to put in place an appropriate structure.


There is also a need to improve the disclosure standards of financial products, in respect of returns, for one. For instance, some insurance products such as money-back policies provide periodic returns, but ordinary investor is in no position to calculate the return and could end up buying a poor investment. Debt products should indicate the return investor would get, and should also be able to provide simple answers such as what would be the tax adjusted return if the investment is eligible for tax incentives, or what would be the net yield to investors in different tax slabs.


Similarly, the risky investments such as mutual funds or ULIPs should give some indication of the risk involved while giving an indicative yield. Such disclosures would, together with the fee-based incentive structure for advisers, encourage financial literacy.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN'

 

Things seem to have come full circle with the state government in Rajasthan calling on officials to be civil when the people’s representatives come avisiting. Not so very long ago, the situation on the ground appears to have been at the other extreme. An incident from the early years of Independence would suffice. Economist K N Raj recalled some years ago in Delhi that as advisor to the Planning Commission he was often asked by Nehru to visit the states and find out about their financial needs.


Prof Raj was barely 28 when he was appointed VC of Delhi University. So imagine the good Prof’s surprise when the elderly finance secretary of a large, former princely state he was touring fell fully prostrate at his feet! Apparently, then, issues of protocol were in a state of flux! There are other instances of royalty and service.


In pre-Independence Hyderabad, the Kotwal used to invariably report to the Nizam at eight in the morning and then again at five in the evening, every single day all year round. The records have it that Kotwal Reddy actually wrote a letter to the minister of police saying that he’s not had a single day’s leave for 38 years, and could he please take a day off as his wife was not feeling well!


At times, though, the eagerness of officials to perform and please meant patchy workmanship. Now it so happened that Lady Willingdon, whose husband was Viceroy between 1931-36, was particularly fond of the colour purple. It was natural, then, that mauve flowers mostly were presented to her, and visiting royals often wore indigo achkans and turbans to make the right impression. When the Willingdons visited Baroda, the state saloon was decorated in shades of mauve and purple.


The only hitch was the lack of lavender toilet paper in the carriage. So the officials concerned had the brainwave to dye white toilet roll indigo! Later, Lady Willingdon noted that the saloon was “marvellous,” but that something was wrong with the tissues as she was “purple all over”! What an idea Sirji!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'INDIA CAN CREATE $100 BN TELECOM OPPORTUNITY'

PANKAJ MISHRA

 

Gururaj 'Desh' Deshpande, one of the best-known silicon valley entrepreneurs and founder of technology start-ups, including Sycamore Net works, believes India's home-grown companies can address the nearly $100-billion opportunity for telecom equipment and product market in the country, provided a conducive ecosystem is created and the government adopts a more integrated approach through focused policies. Excerpts:


What is the state of product companies and innovation in India?


The last time around, we had Indian product firms trying to develop products for the US market. Now, with India itself becoming such a huge market, there is an opportunity to have engineers being present in the market and developing products for local consumption. For entrepreneurs, picking the right market and the right starting point is very critical. Product is a big gamble, you just can't blink.


Tejas is a good example of how to cease the right opportunity. We need another thousand Tejas who will address this opportunity. Innovations are required to reach rural population at high bandwidth, and do it at different cost points. We need entrepreneurs who are more market savvy and break through the barrier very quickly.


What changes are needed at the policy level?


If you look at this huge opportunity for creating telecom products and equipment, we need the government to say that we can do all this here, and then offer a lending hand to companies trying to build products and solutions. For instance, the US is very focused on becoming independent of the Middle East oil — in 30 years the country wants to be totally independent of the Middle East import.


Can we build another Huawei or ZTE in India?


There surely is an opportunity. However, Huawei and ZTE were built differently. There was some super financing of around $10 billion, and Huawei did not need to make money. Nothing to take away from these companies, because you still need to be good enough to achieve the kind of business success they have. India can get ahead of the wave and create around $100-billion opportunity here for local companies, or import the same from elsewhere.


China, for many years ago, saw that opportunity and created Huawei and ZTE, which together are doing almost $30 billion now. We need to move beyond R&D labs and create opportunities for local companies.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FACING THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES

 

Rickey Gervais’ new film, The Invention of Lying imagines a world where no one lies. Since everybody tells nothing but the truth, the motto — Truth alone triumphs — loses some of its shine. Hollywood here is not a place for actors but for readers who tell completely factual stories. Gervais, who works in the narratives of the Middle Age, is therefore having a hard time. Imagine producing a block-buster with a script based on the statistics of Black Death fatalities.


Everything changes when Gervais discovers “lying” in his Garden of Innocence. Suddenly, he is rich and famous, courting the girl of his dreams; as he goes on to live a life that’s a complete farce. We won’t say whether he gets his comeuppance or not. But then anything becomes possible with the birth or invention of lying. Does that diminish the value of Truth as an ideal? Not really.


Who wants to be caught lying in the real world? Everybody, including the world’s most wicked liar, wants to be liked and respected. People often lie for seemingly right reasons — to win other people’s respect or affection; to make themselves seem smarter and savvier, to escape blame or punishment or to make gains by not-so-honest means.


The banality of that evil is subtly caught by Duryodhana’s character in the Mahabharata: when questioned about his deceits, the Kaurava Prince replies: “I know Dharma. But by nature I do not lean towards it. I know adharma or evil as well but not how to curb it. So I do as guided by the vagaries of my private daemon or spirit.”


Robert Feldman makes a similar point in his book, The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships: “The juxtaposition of venerated truth and notorious deceit is not just a matter of storage (in National Archives). It is a contradiction that plays out in our lives every day. While we talk a great deal about respecting the truth, while most of us regard the truth with genuine respect, the fact is that lies are common.”

The issue we need to confront is not whether people lie to us — they do — but how much and why, adds the psychologist regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on deception. “Just as importantly, we need to consider why we’re so prone to believing and even embracing the deception we hear from others, as well as the lies we tell ourselves. We need to explore why we view certain lies as harmless, while rejecting others as manipulative and shameful.”

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PAK ACTIONS NEED GREATER SCRUTINY

BY BY OUR CORRESPONDENT

 

When credible reports surfaced in the American media that Pakistan had illegally modified US-supplied ship-based Harpoon missiles to target India, Washington said in an official reaction that it was taking the disclosure “very seriously”. After first denying the suspicion wholesale, Islamabad has agreed to a joint inspection with America of its Harpoon missile inventory. We don’t know what will come of this exercise. But the time has come for international opinion to take a comprehensive view of Pakistan’s conduct as a nation state, no matter who has been at the helm in that country, military or civilian rulers. The illegal conversion of foreign-supplied armaments to target India is serious enough. This has to be seen in tandem with the unabated running of a covert war against India and Afghanistan, with the aid of Islamist terrorist outfits nurtured specifically for the purpose by Islamabad. On the formal plane, Pakistan professes friendship with its neighbours while continuing to engage in duplicitous acts. Instead of going the “extra mile” to alleviate India’s concerns after the Mumbai outrage of last November, the infrastructure of terrorism is being kept in good shape, as national security adviser M.K. Narayanan has recently said in an interview. Topping all this is fresh information emanating from two American scientists that Islamabad has ramped up its nuclear weapons department, which is specifically aimed against this country and has no other target.


In recent years Pakistan’s atomic weapons pile has been raised by a third from about 60 to about 90 bombs of increasingly refined design. In a paper written for the Bulletin of American Scientists, Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen maintain that Pakistan is “busily enhancing its (nuclear) capabilities across the board”, with new nuclear-capable ballistic missiles being readied for deployment, and two nuclear-capable cruise missiles under development. Two new plutonium production reactors and a second chemical separation facility are also said to be under fabrication. The upgrade of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons establishment essentially involves a shift from using uranium as base to plutonium. This has made possible the miniaturisation of nuclear warheads, enabling Pakistan to foresee the preparation of nuclear-capable missiles. In a sense, “they are turning a chapter”, the scientists surmise. The genesis of the setting up of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure is anchored in pilferage, and in active sub rosa assistance from China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council committed to nuclear non-proliferation. It is not unlikely that the recent upgrades that are causing anxiety are not unconnected with Islamabad’s nexus with Beijing. Especially after the busting of the A.Q. Khan nuclear network and the scrutiny that Pakistan’s nukes have purportedly been subjected to in recent years, it appears wholly shocking that Washington has been unaware of these disturbing developments. Financially, Pakistan has been gasping for breath for over a decade and a half, and has been kept going by financial infusions from Western quarters, notably the United States. It is extraordinary that in this time it has found the money to go in for an across-the-board upgrade of its nuclear weapons programme. It has also fought a mini-war with India in Kargil in this period, maintained a terrorist infrastructure of no subtlety but immense variety and lethality, and disturbed the shaky regional equilibrium through its unceasing meddling in Afghanistan. So where has the money come from for these extravagances? Clearly, development assistance too is being diverted — into streams that have little to do with people’s welfare. It is time the world took stock of these dangerous goings-on.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MUGHAL LESSONS IN POLITICS, MORALITY

BY BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

“A diet of flattery

Ensures spiritual anorexia”.

From The Proverbs

of Bachchoo

 

Ian MacAskill, the Scottish minister of justice, explained to the nation why he had set Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the convicted killer of 270 people in the bombing of the Pan Am flight over the town of Lockerbie, free to go home to Libya.

 

Megrahi, a convicted bomber, had been sentenced to die in a Scottish jail but was now suffering from virulent prostate cancer and was a man condemned, as Mr MacAskill said, by a “higher power”. The prison doctors gave him weeks if not days.


He said he was tempering the demands of justice with compassion and allowing Megrahi to be repatriated to Libya to die with his family around him. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, no less, had been on the phone to Mr MacAskill expressing American disapproval. Most of Megrahi’s victims had been Americans.


There was something strange about Mr MacAskill’s protestations of extending mercy. Though he didn’t use the words, Mr MacAskill was reproducing the arguments of Portia in the courtroom scene of The Merchant of Venice. The quality of mercy is not strained, he seemed to be saying; it blesses the Scottish nation as well as Megrahi; it becomes a politician better than the powers vested in him which include showing mercy to sick prisoners and releasing them if conscience dictates.


It was an unusual stance, an unusual intrusion of a purely moral consideration into politics, I thought, and went to bed thinking it.


The next day we saw pictures of Megrahi being greeted in Libya by crowds of people as though he were Wellington returning to London from Waterloo. Colonel Gaddafi’s son was there officially to greet him. People were waving the flag of the Scottish Parliament.


Political analysts began to state the obvious. US President Barack Obama had condemned the decision. Scotland was part of the United Kingdom and could not have acted without the consent of the British government. Was the Scottish administration, run by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), opposed to the New Labour government, asserting its independence from Westminster?


Megrahi has always maintained his innocence and there is some doubt about the safeness of his conviction. On the day he was released his lawyers agreed to drop the appeal they were preparing. A successful appeal would have meant that the case had to be reopened and the Scottish courts which convicted Megrahi would suffer some disrepute. Better, perhaps, to let the guilty verdict stand and demonstrate the capability for compassion of Scottish justice.


So far, so moralistic! Then considerations beyond the moral come into play. Enter Britain’s roving representative and resident Machiavelli, Peter Mandelson. Mandy had a meeting with Colonel Gaddafi’s son a few months ago to discuss oil deals between Britain and Libya and to attract Libyan investment in the UK. Was there a link?


I normally disdain all conspiracy theories about Jews staying away from the Twin Towers on 9/11, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) killing Kashmiri Sikhs to impress Bill Clinton or that a French policewoman is the direct descendant of Jesus. I make an exception. When Mandy is involved and things behave as though there is a conspiracy, there is no need of a conspiracy.


Back to realpolitik and oil-cum-investment-deals in a trade-off for what can be represented as compassion?


Let me tell you a story: Some years ago I was in India shooting a film with an Indo-British film crew. I had with me a friend called Darcus Howe, a Trinidadian journalist, broadcaster, Left-wing agitator, pamphleteer, TV personality and general man-about-town with whom I have consorted, so to speak, since we courted arrest on London’s streets for one or other forgotten cause.


Our film crew had several Brits and the Indian producer decided to give them a break and take them to see the Taj and Fatehpur Sikri. We went off in a coach party.


Looking around the pavilions (why Indians call it a “city” has always been a mystery) at Fatehpur, Darcus asked me to explain who built it and why, and with my schoolbook knowledge of history I told the story of Salim Chisti, the blessing and the birth of the young prince named after him. I spoke of Akbar’s religious eclecticism.


“So no tragedy, then?” Darcus asks.


“Ah, there was”, I said, getting into my story-telling stride. The team had gathered round to listen and I told, as best I could, the story of Anarkali and Prince Salim’s wish to marry her for love.


In my telling of it, when Salim asks Akbar for permission to marry the courtesan, Akbar replies that he is negotiating for Salim to marry a Persian princess and bring honour and alliances to the Mughal throne. I elaborated what I remembered of Mughal-e-Azam and ended with the tragedy of Anarkali who refuses Akbar’s command to take a bribe and disappear from his son’s life. I said she defies the Emperor (I even sang a line from “Jab pyaar kiyaa tho darna kya?”) and reasserts her love for Salim. Akbar, infuriated, orders her execution by entombment in the pillars of the palace. It is done.


By the time I wind up my tale, the young women of the crew, moved by this sacrifice for love and my immaculate telling of it, are wiping their eyes (at least that’s how I choose to remember it). The story becomes a subject of discussion. Darcus says nothing.


That night, returning on the coach, he pipes up, addressing all.


“But wait! The boy come to me and say he want to bring a board in the house. I say, ‘You can’t do that. Do what you like with her but she can’t be Empress of India’. The boy say he love her. I say, ‘These are not matters of love, these are matters of social and political arrangement!’ I send the boy off to war but he comes back and says he still in love so I throw him in jail and call the woman and say, ‘Take some money and go’. She say, ‘No’, she love him. You know what I say? I say, ‘Wall the bxxxx!’”


Darcus, typically, logically, was saying that at a particular level of political engagement, the personal morality which applies between individuals takes second place.

Britain could, and perhaps did, ask itself: which is better, a piece of Libyan dead meat in a jail in Scotland or a lucrative oil and investment deal with a bit of British mercy thrown in as window dressing?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FORGET INCREMENTAL, LET’S GET FUNDAMENTAL

BY BY DAVID BROOKS

 

If I were magically given an hour to help Barack Obama prepare for his healthcare speech next week, the first thing I’d do is ask him to read David Goldhill’s essay, How American Healthcare Killed My Father, in the current issue of the Atlantic. That essay would lift Obama out of the distracting sideshows about this public plan or that cooperative option. It would remind him why he got into this issue in the first place.

 

Goldhill’s main message is that the American healthcare system is dysfunctional at the core. He vividly describes how the system hides information, muddies choices, encourages more treatment instead of better care, neglects cheap innovation, inflates costs and unintentionally increases suffering.

 

The essay is about the real problem: the insane incentives. Goldhill is especially good on the way the voracious healthcare system soaks up money that could go to education, the environment, economic development and a thousand other priorities. Healthcare, he writes, “simply keeps gobbling up national resources, seemingly without regard to other societal needs”.

 

Then I’d ask Obama to go to the Brookings Institution website and read a report called Bending the Curve: Effective Steps to Address Long-Term Healthcare Spending Growth. This report was written by a bipartisan group of battle-tested experts, including Mark McClellan, David Cutler, Elizabeth McGlynn, Joseph Antos and John Bertko.

 

This report also focuses on the key issue: perverse incentives. It’s got a series of proposals on how to restructure insurance markets, reorganise provider payments, change the way effectiveness-research findings are implemented and cap the employee tax deduction.

 

These aren’t pie-in-the-sky ideas. The authors have combed through the bills that are already out there. They’ve taken good ideas that are now in embryonic or neutered form. They show how the ideas would work if fully implemented. We’re not going to revolutionise 18 per cent of the American economy overnight, but these proposals would put us on the path toward real reform.

 

We’re not on that path right now. Several months ago, President Obama made a promise: People with health insurance would be able to keep exactly what they have.

 

We all understand why he made that promise. He wanted to reassure people who are happy with what they’ve got. He wanted to mollify the industries that have a vested interest in the status quo.

 

But Obama’s promise sent the reform effort off the rails. It meant that efforts to expand coverage marched ahead, but efforts to fundamentally reform the system got watered down.

 

Instead of true reform we got a series of bills that essentially cement the present system in place. The proposals do not fundamentally challenge the fee-for-service system. They don’t make Americans more accountable for their own healthcare spending. They don’t reduce costs. They just add more people into the mess we’ve got.

 

The President made this promise to ease passage. But it ended up hollowing out the substance of the reform. And the political benefits didn’t even materialise. Voters are still spooked by the costs, the centralisation and the cuts they are sure will come. If I had a magic hour with the President, I’d tell him this is his ninth-inning chance. He can stay on the current path. He might be able to pass some incremental bill that extends coverage. But he won’t have tackled the fundamental problems that first drove him to this issue. He won’t have cut healthcare inflation. He won’t have prevented a voracious system from bankrupting the nation, defunding the schools, pushing down wages and impoverishing the young.

 

On the other hand, he can shift back to the core issue: the perverse incentives that make this system such a mess. He can embrace proposals — like the Brookings proposals or, more comprehensively, the Wyden-Bennett bill — that address the structural problems instead of simply papering over them.

 

This remains a politically risky strategy. There are many industries that have an interest in making sure healthcare spending rises to 20 per cent of GDP, and then 22 and then 24. But the President’s in political hot water already. He got there trying to dodge the hard issues. He might as well be there because he’s fighting for something real.

 

There are many people telling him to go incremental. They’re telling him to just enlarge the current system a bit and pay for it by pounding down a few Medicare fees. But did Barack Obama really get elected so he could pass the Status Quo Sanctification and Extension Act?

 

This is not the time to get incremental. It’s the time to get fundamental. Reform the incentives. Make consumers accountable for spending. Make price information transparent. Reward healthcare, not health services. Do what you set out to do. Bring change.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OP-ED

CHINESE CHECKERS IN J&K

BY BY ANIL BHAT

 

Twenty-six violations of Indian air space in Jammu and Kashmir by Chinese helicopters in recent months, including two air-droppings of canned food on barren land at Chumar, near the picturesque Pangong Tso (lake) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers entering and filching fuel meant for troops guarding border posts have been reported and confirmed by the Indian Army.

 

That these happened in August 2009, a month packed with negotiations in New Delhi, followed by the Indian Army’s GOC-in-C (General Officer Commanding-in-Chief) Eastern Command, Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, visiting Beijing, is not surprising. But the fact that they were all in J&K is a new development which raises some worrisome questions.

 

Helicopters are ideal for observing an adversary’s deployment, patrols and to detect movements of larger bodies of troops/heavy weapons/equipment, which Google maps or satellite images cannot capture. In this case, the disappearance of our fuel containers and Chinese helicopters dropping supplies may well mean that PLA troops have already infiltrated. And this may be in response to India finally waking up to Chinese border build-ups over the years by reactivating our old airfields like Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul in this sector.

 

An interesting development in 2006 was the Chinese ambassador to India publicly declaring in November that Arunachal Pradesh was Chinese territory and, in December, conducting joint military wargames west of J&K, codenamed “Friendship 2006”, to mark the 55th anniversary of Sino-Pakistan diplomatic relations that have always been based on India being their common enemy.

 

Incursions are typical of China punctuating its diplomatic dialogue — “in an atmosphere of warmth et cetera…” — with India by some aggressive cross-border action. Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing coincided with a Chinese patrol coming at least 16 km inside India and intimidating an Indian detachment.

 

In 2000, Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi accused China of violating the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and crossing into Indian territory. Mr Mithi said Chinese-made mule tracks had been discovered by Indian soldiers near Kayela Pass, in the state’s Dibang Valley district, bordering Tibet. “They come in the guise of hunters, cross the LAC and at times even claim that parts of Arunachal belong to them”, he had said.

 

In May 2007, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Kiren Rijiju, also from Arunachal Pradesh, made a startling claim that China had moved 20 kms into the Indian territory, amounting to covering an area of 9,000 sq kms.

 

“It has been continuing for a long time… I have written to Government of India and raised the issue in Parliament. The Government of India is not accepting the incursion openly. But defence personnel do acknowledge that this is happening and that the Chinese are occupying our land”, said Mr Kiren and claimed that the ministry of external affairs had admitted to Chinese occupation of Arunachal Pradesh. About 140 incursions reportedly occurred in 2007.

 

In the early 1950s, the Chinese build-up and incursions with release of maps were brought to the notice of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru by the Indian Army’s top brass. These was trashed by Pandit Nehru based on his belief in Panchsheel and “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” which ironically amounted to “bye-bye” with the 1962 Chinese aggression — the Indian Army lost 1,860 personnel, everything from potatoes to postage became dearer, Pandit Nehru was a broken man and defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon was at long last given marching orders.

 

During his tenure as external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee said in Parliament that there is no clearly defined boundary that separates China from India. Mr Mukherjee then stated, “China illegally claims approximately 90,000 sq km of Indian territory in Arunachal Pradesh and about 2,000 sq km in the middle of the India-China boundary”. China also controls 38,000 sq km of territory India claims in J&K.

 

Post-1962, there were a large number of incursions and violent attacks by PLA at Nathu La and Chola in Sikkim in September and October 1967 and at Sumdorong Chu Valley in Arunachal Pradesh in 1984 and 1987 — in all cases the Indian Army retaliated aggressively and broke the 1962 jinx. Thereafter, the first major step forward was Rajiv Gandhi’s pathbreaking visit to China in 1988. This was followed by other high-level visits on both sides. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao took the process forward by signing the Treaty of Peace and Tranquility between the two countries in September 1993, which also signified India quietly accepting the loss of 90,000 sq km of its territory.

 

But this ended the “eyeball to eyeball” confrontation and soon Gen. B.C. Joshi became the first Indian Army Chief to visit China. While his visit was a success, it did not stop the Chinese from continuing to enter Indian territory “looking for herbs” — a favourite excuse — or deploying surveillance stations all around India as part of its “string of pearls” strategy, or targeting it with their nuclear warheads, supplied “by private arrangement” to Pakistan.

 

Increased political contact and agreements followed over the next few years and by November 2000, after decades of dithering to put their positions on paper, remarkable progress was made by India and China — they exchanged maps, marking out a 545-km section of the international border between Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal (now Uttarakhand), known as the “middle sector” which had relatively few disputes compared to the western and eastern sectors. This agreement was considered significant because it moved the talks from broad principle to the practical details of physical features and measurements, settlement of which would create confidence for forward movement on settling the eastern and western sectors of the almost 2,500-km-long LAC.

 

In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, calling it “India’s land of the rising sun” and announcing a long-overdue development package, preceded and followed again by defence minister A.K. Antony’s visit to Tawang, provoked a prolonged reaction from China.

 

In view of the above and China’s hegemonic mindset, its voracious appetite for territory, sustained modernisation and enhancement of offensive capability and now stepping into J&K, where its old friend Pakistan has been busy for over six decades, India needs to take some serious and urgent steps to be able to at least give calibrated responses to both these not-so-friendly neighbours.

 

Anil Bhat, a retired Army officer, is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OP-ED

BOBBY TO CHINTUJI

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

Recently, watching a preview of Bobby Bedi’s latest production, Chintuji, in Delhi, attended by the cheery Rishi Kapoor himself, I realised that with more than 100 films behind him, he may yet become the most prolific and enduring actor from the Kapoor khandaan, following his grandfather Prithviraj, and his uncle, Shashi.

 

From the plump, awkward adolescent in Mera Naam Joker (1970), Rishi Kapoor changed dramatically within three years and captured the teenage imagination with his heroic lovelorn avatar in Bobby (1973). Raj Kapoor’s paean to troubled romance was a perfect and convincing launching pad — setting many tremulous hearts on fire. But Chintu, as he is popularly known, is an unlikely chocolate-box hero — he is not good looking in the traditional fashion, certainly not in the mould of Randhir Kapoor who inherited the famous twinkling blue eyes and RK mantle with ease, nor does he have the rippling muscles of the Khan biradari. But he has a certain honest, impish charm and his hard work has always paid off. So whilst Randhir decided to call it quits, in despair over the cinema which was being produced — Rishi has plodded on determinedly, and now, almost like a “reel-life” incarnation borrowed from the blockbuster Karz, keeps coming back. (Memorably, Karz was another landmark film which was showcased by Farah Khan in her celebration of Indian cinema Om Shanti Om.) Or, perhaps, he never really went away.

 

So has Rishi been the luckiest among the Kapoor khandaan? Of course he was fortunate that he was groomed by the “greatest showman” Raj Kapoor — but Rishi has been both fortunate and sensible. His latest foray into cinema demonstrates that: he plays his age, and does not pretend to be a college student, or a young stud. This has been the greatest problem with Indian heroes in the past — no matter how old they were, they had to be paired with heroines half their age and this, therefore, meant that they were (despite their balding pates or spreading waistlines) doomed to be college students forever. It is still a problem that the Khans are grappling with, right now. Therefore we have had Shah Rukh Khan (well into his 40s) still playing a 30-year-old in OSO, and of course, now recently Saif Ali Khan in Love Aaj Kal (LAK), attempting a 20-something commitment-phobe. Their efforts are simply not as “genuine” as is Rishi Kapoor’s portrayal of an ageing sardar in LAK or now as a 55-year-old filmstar in Chintuji.

 

Chintuji is in many ways a brave film. In other ways, it seems almost like an anachronism amongst today’s slick, urban and urbane cinema. It offers black and white values — and, perhaps, like another similar film released last year Welcome to Sajjanpur by Shyam Benegal, it can be viewed as a refreshing change. It has been a very long time since small town values have been pitted against the corruption of the city — a popular theme in the cinema of the 50s and 60s, and most successfully achieved in Shree 420.

 

But at that time the cinematic theme was representative of the actual migration which was taking place from the villages and small towns to the “shaher” for employment. In the fictional small town of Hadbehedi, however, where Chintuji is set, there is no “emigration”, as none of the happy inhabitants, living in a utopian daze without electricity or mobile phones, ever want to leave. It is this relentless contentment of the denizens of Hadbehedi which is inexplicable — but it is an integral part of the film. Fifty-four years after Shree 420, are we to believe that the old problems are over and that the Raju of Shree 420 is now transformed into Chintu, and is ready to go home?

 

Chintuji does not deal with the problems of land or employment — but of the impact of modernity, and political cynicism in an idealistic manner. Just as Welcome to Sajjanpur focused not on the problems of an individual as do most films today (i.e. Ghajini, LAK, Kaminey) but of that of the community, Chintuji is a reflection of all that is good and evil in a representative social microcosm of Hadbahedi.

 

Because it is written and directed by Ranjit Kapoor and produced by Bobby Bedi, we expect Chintuji to be different, and there it does not disappoint. It is the story of an ageing filmstar (played by Rishi Kapoor) who goes back to the small town of Hadbahedi to relaunch himself as a politician. However Chintuji, as Rishi is called in the film, retains his bad old ways as a spoilt filmstar and it takes him a while to appreciate the simplicity and love which the people of Hadbahedi offer him. Several misdemeanours, misunderstandings and melodramatic moments later Chintuji is a reformed character.

 

Shot somewhat in the style of a theatrical production — with people speaking directly into the camera etc — the most successful part of the film is Rishi Kapoor himself who has generously given his name to the film, and not hesitated to play a caricature of many of his Bollywood buddies. The film becomes interesting because it bucks the trend, and because it is shot in a good natured, unpretentious fashion it offers some moments of real humour.

 

My favourite scene is a nonsensical film shoot in which a Mumbai film director comes down to Hadbahedi to complete a film with Chintuji. In the film within the film, Rishi plays a tribal chief who is adamant on boiling a Frenchman alive whilst a raunchy number is being danced to. It is the lyrics of the song in this sequence which I found truly brilliant: they comprise a list of names of famous directors and are a tongue-in-cheek reference to the great international maestros, as well as a “fun” tribute to them.

 

I really think that International Film Festival of India should adopt this as its opening number — with perhaps a few more references to Indian directors thrown in as well. The “lyrics” written by Ranjit Kapoor are:

 

Tarantino Wyler Capra

Ozu Bertolucci Peckinpa

Fellini Visconti Oshima

Coppola Coppola

Wyler Hitchcock Waida

Mizoguchi de Palma

Wyler Hitchcok Waida

Brian de Palma...

Chorus: Akira Kurosawa Vittorio Desica (4)

Bertolucci Bertolucci

Ohh! Ohh! Ohh! Ohh! Ohh!

 

That unquestionably was a brilliant touch! And Rishi looked like he enjoyed every minute of it!

 

 Kishwar Desai’s novelWitness the Night, to be published in January 2010, is on the longlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize, 2009. She can be contacted atkishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OP-ED

CAN AMERICA LEAD AFGHANS?

BY MARK MOYAR

 

The Afghanistan debate is increasingly focused on two words: troop numbers.


Those numbers certainly deserve serious attention as US President Obama decides whether to raise them even further this year. But in Afghanistan, as in past counter-insurgencies, it is important to remember that all troop numbers are not created equal. When it comes to indigenous forces, quality often matters more than quantity, and quality often declines when quantity increases.

 

Current recommendations of American and Afghan troop strengths are, for the most part, based on the size of the Afghan population. Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, has produced figures using a ratio of 25 troops for every 1,000 Afghans. His methodology assumes that increasing American troop strength by, say, 20 per cent will increase counter-insurgency capacity by roughly the same amount. That assumption is correct, because the quality of the additional American units will be broadly similar to that of the others.


Where the methodology fails is in its assumption that doubling Afghan troop strength, as many now advocate, will double counter-insurgency capacity. In reality, such an increase is likely to cause quality to fall. With Afghan security forces already two-and-a-half times as large as the American forces, and America lacking the political will to reduce that ratio, the counter-insurgency cannot afford such a drop.
Why would a rapid expansion of Afghan forces result in their deterioration? Because the Afghan Army and police simply have too few good officers to lead the forces already in existence, let alone new forces. Past counter-insurgents who tried to expand under similar conditions, like the British in Malaya (1948 to 1960) and the Salvadorans (1980 to 1992) discovered that too many inexperienced officers took command and the experienced officers were spread too thinly. In addition to fighting poorly, badly led troops usually alienate the population by misbehaving and they often desert or defect.

 

Historically, counter-insurgents have needed at least 10 years to turn raw soldiers into officers suitable for essential commands. They also need solid government training programmes, something Afghanistan did not have until recently.

 

Clearly, big improvements in Afghan officer quality are several years away. At the same time, a growing number of Americans, including many in Congress, are demanding progress in 12 to 18 months. So what can be done?

 

There are some simple first steps. First, the United States must pressure senior Afghan leaders to weed out bad commanders. Second, we must assign more and better officers to advise Afghan units. Third, American units should work more closely with Afghan units.

 

Given what is at stake, however, the United States should also consider more drastic techniques. One is direct control over selecting commanders, a model that the United States used to excellent effect in Vietnam with the Provincial Reconnaissance Units, paramilitary forces that proved successful against the Vietcong. By appointing the units’ indigenous commanders, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) eliminated the political and other non-merit considerations that plagued other South Vietnamese forces. That arrangement would benefit Afghanistan, as cronyism and nepotism run rampant there.

Regrettably, these measures may not suffice. We therefore should consider the most drastic method, which is also the method most likely to increase quantity and quality simultaneously — foreign command of indigenous units.

 

In the Philippine insurrection of 1899 to 1902 and in the Malayan revolt, indigenous soldiers worked well under the command of able American and British officers.

 

Effective indigenous units were thereby deployed at much lower financial and political costs than foreign units.


Some will object that those colonial wars are not relevant to our postcolonial world. Yet in postcolonial Vietnam, foreigners commanded indigenous troops through the combined-action programme, an initiative long heralded as a paragon of enlightened counter-insurgency. The programme succeeded by placing South Vietnamese militias and United States Marines under the leadership of American commanders.

 

Foreign intrusion into the leadership sphere will elicit accusations of neocolonialism and will slow the development of indigenous leaders. But the short-term benefits may justify the long-term costs if the indigenous leaders are grossly incapable, as they too often have been in Afghanistan, and if political realities demand rapid improvement. It could be better to protect the weak fledgling from its predators and teach it to fly later, than to insist on self-reliance and take the chance that it will be eaten on the ground.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THEY ARE NOT AMUSED

 

It is amazingly difficult to define fun. The concept is rich and confusing, culture-specific yet universal, innocent yet incalculably sophisticated, apparently accessible yet disturbingly elusive. Especially nowadays, as mounting numbers of books that children inherited, thumbed through, gazed at bewitched and finally read over and over again are becoming suspect. Their ‘fun’ deconstructed, their charm unpacked, stories such as “Cinderella” and “Snow White” have begun to expose assumptions deeply embarrassing to the politically correct. The equation of cruelty with ugliness, wicked stepmothers and dwarfs with hearts of gold — when the word, ‘dwarf’, should be erased from the dictionary — and so on are bad enough. They get worse when slim, golden-haired mothers bake cakes and girls help them while tall, handsome fathers spout wisdom and boys do the tough jobs. Whether this happens in Laura Lee Hope’s “Bobbsey Twins” mysteries or Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” series, these books are no longer welcome. They might have been fun for generations of less enlightened children, but some of them, now adults, consider such fun mistaken, and such tales damaging, for the children of the new age.

 

Things deteriorate further when the fun springs from racial stereotypes. Enid Blyton’s Noddy has long lost his golliwog, maybe for the sake of a healthier outlook. But one of the worst sufferers in this area is, of course, Tintin. With the recent threat that the Belgian publisher of Tintin in the Congo — for which George Remi had apologized and which has long been off the shelves of British and American booksellers — may be taken to the European Court of Human Rights if the book is not totally withdrawn, the question of what cannot be fun has grown sharper. Racial stereotyping cannot be supported, but it is also true that the past was a different place. The children of the new age should be alerted to the glorious differences with past attitudes, which had some grounding in the realities of the times. Without incorrectness, incongruity, and imperfect sympathies, there would be no fun in the world; no joy ever came of taking every syllable and every half-stroke with deadly seriousness. Laughter is not born of kindness.

 

It would be a breed of very stupid children that would remain mired in the assumptions of their picture-books. But are children the real concern here? Rather, the flak drawn by political incorrectness seems to spring from distinctly political roots, as though in indirect compensation for imperial and colonial cruelties. Taking it out on writers and artists in the name of children is the easiest way. Such concern for sensitivities is more ironic in an era in which hostilities have sharpened. Fun is difficult to hold on to in a world both hypersensitive and violent.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

COLUMN

SYLVAN JOY DIMINISHED

POLITICIANS AND PEASANTS ARE A DEADLY COMBINATION IN WEST BENGAL

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

As Mamata Banerjee’s silence over the resort that is neither vedic nor a village reaches a deafening crescendo, I am reminded of an episode in Dhaka with Bhutan’s long-serving foreign minister, the late Dawa Tsering. Dawa had never heard of smoked hilsa, so we went to the dining room of the Sonargaon hotel, then the city’s smartest, to sample the Anglo-Bengali delicacy. The Bangladeshi chef stared at me scornfully. “We don’t serve local fish, sir,” he said. “We have smoked salmon.”

 

Vedic Village is not pretentious in that way. It leans in the other direction, ostentatiously affecting kinship with “the poetry of Rabindranath and Jibanananda, the music of the Bauls and the Santhal dances”. Perhaps that is even more pretentious, if pretentiousness is delusion and boasting. The mud and tiles it flaunts while the brochure rambles lyrically about sylvan joy (“The concept to attain Nirvana in the lap of luxury” reads a crass advertising slogan), mask a hard commercial purpose. It’s the contrast, not the profit motive, that jarred.

 

The combination of faked rustic simplicity, elegant comfort, and a high-powered clientele made the resort the cynosure of surrounding villagers. Admiration begets envy. Envy goes hand in hand with greed. But the cultivators who sold the land at between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 a cottah have absolutely no reason to feel aggrieved because the current price is Rs 3 lakh or more. It wouldn’t have soared if they had been left in peaceful possession of their fields, huts and arrack shops. It’s only because of the intrusion of profit-driven enterprises like Vedic Village in the wake of the Rajarhat township mega-project that land prices have spiralled so recklessly. They are still going up and will continue to do so.

 

The innocent buyers whose investment went up in flames deserve more sympathy than the supposedly dispossessed peasants. That might have included me for at one time my wife and I seriously considered Vedic Village as a retirement retreat. Had we taken the plunge, a lifetime’s savings might have disappeared. Authority cannot evade responsibility since, clearly, Raj Kishore Modi enjoyed full official and ministerial patronage. The state government should also be concerned about the message that the crisis has sent out. Will any non-resident Indian feel safe about risking his money in a state that is periodically overrun by mobs whose rampaging exposes collusion and conspiracies at many levels? Non-resident Indians and private buyers don’t excite public sympathy. There are not enough of them to constitute a vote bank. Qualitatively, they do not lend themselves to mass hysteria. But peasants and politicians make a deadly partnership as West Bengal knows to its bitter cost from Nandigram and Singur.

 

No development plan can afford to overlook the consequences of this volatile combination. It should be built into all programmes for construction so that one institution after another (realized or visualized) is not sacrificed at the altar of artificially whipped up populist emotion. That means proper husbanding of land on the basis of adequate information, an acceptable acquisition process, mobilizing opinion and punishment for crooked officials and politicians. Ratan Tata was luckier in Sanand because, thanks to Narendra Modi’s foresight, the Gujarat Agricultural University was sitting on 1,100 acres it did not need. Modi knew that land, like foodgrain during a famine, is a scarce resource that must be hoarded as India marches ahead. Land may be essential for economic development but is even more useful as an instrument of political leverage.

 

But just as another scarce resource — water — is squandered, land, too, is wasted. Studies indicate that a factory needs an acre to produce 1,000 cars. Hindustan Motors was allotted 750 acres in 1952 but was using only 300 acres by 2002. The Tatas could have been obliged to be content with the remaining 400 acres instead of being given 997 acres at Singur of which they needed less than half to manufacture 350,000 Nanos. In another case, about 75 per cent of the land acquired for the HAL-MIG factory in Orissa’s Koraput district reportedly lies unused though 16,000 tribals displaced in 1966 have still not been resettled.

 

Mishandling creates opportunities for the “land sharks” of whom one hears so much in connection with Vedic Village. Real estate is a cash industry bringing quick profits that escape the tax net. It encourages speculation. Of course, there are many sound promoters with a global reach in India, including the Singapore government which seeks to enlarge its stake. But the construction industry has also spawned a breed of fly-by-night criminal operators who employ toughs such as the absent Gaffar Mollah — a latter-day Gopal Pantha — is said to be. They cut corners, foist shoddy buildings on home-seekers and go scot-free because they are hand in glove with political parties. I receive plaintive appeals for help from people who have paid the price but not received the accommodation they thought they had bought. The Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s financial dealings may have earned it the sobriquet of CPI(Marwari) but it’s the main culprit only because it enjoys sanctioning power. The other parties are just as guilty.

 

One shudders to think of the manipulation, extortion, bribery and bullying that must engulf the hundreds of proposed special economic zones, each covering up to 5,000 hectares. Tourist resorts, hotels, townships and other lucrative commercial ventures will be permitted on half the land. No wonder businessmen with no manufacturing or exporting experience but with an eye on the main chance are clamouring for a stake. They expect to reap a fortune from “development”, which used to conjure up a congestion of poky rooms in brick monsters that were ugly as well as unsafe. Now, it evokes glittering shopping malls, theme parks, multi-storey car parks, amusement arcades, spas, resorts and other fancy edifices.

 

It’s neither possible nor desirable to impose a moratorium on these additions to the landscape. They reflect the accretion of wealth in a large section of society that yearns for world- class living and leisure facilities. “Money is flying around,” as Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee rightly says. But he is wrong to conclude that “wrongdoing and sin” automatically flow from wealth. That happens only when governments lose their sense of purpose and justice, and when venal ministers and officials are in league with corrupt businessmen. Vedic Village may be an innovation in deprived West Bengal but gated housing estates providing American-style amenities are dotted around Mumbai and Delhi. They will continue to proliferate: Marxist ministers no less than NRIs and desi tycoons crave luxury and therapeutic relaxation.

 

But it is absurd to label Vedic Village’s attractions as “ethnic” just because two Delhi showpieces, Hauz Khas Village and Dilli Haat, set the trend in linguistic make-believe. If a shop in Paris or Madrid sells Tanjore glass paintings or Rajasthani carvings, it would be called ethnic, specifying which particular ethnicity it represents. Shops in India with similar wares are just Indian. Though the visiting foreigner might call them ethnic, it is demeaning for Indians in India merrily to use the word to describe things Indian. Would a Bengali say he had an ethnic meal after feasting on machher jhol and bhaat? Would a Punjabi claim to have an ethnic wife because she is also from Punjab? Surely it is not an inevitable concomitant of growth that the rich should to be able pretend to be foreign at home.

 

Though Partha Chatterjee, Trinamul’s leader in the assembly, snaps at the ankles of the Rajarhat township, Mamata Banerjee has confined herself to only demanding an inquiry into the arms cache found at Vedic Village. Not a squeak from the rampaging tigress of Nandigram and Singur about the suspected land fraud. Why?

 

Meanwhile, Vedic Village is licking its wounds instead of the promised delicacies — smoked salmon? — at its much-advertised Dhakai Fish Festival which was scheduled to continue till September 14.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

COLUMN

DECIDEDLY UN-REAL

AVEEK SEN

 

In her notes for a talk on the problems of writing poetry, made in the Sixties, the American poet, Elizabeth Bishop, remembers that her maternal grandmother had a glass eye. Quite often, it “looked heavenward, or off at an angle, while the real eye looked at you”. It struck Bishop that this was rather like the situation of the poet: “the difficulty of combining the real with the decidedly un-real; the natural with the unnatural; the curious effect a poem produces of being as normal as sight and yet as synthetic, as artificial, as a glass eye” (her italics).

 

I was reminded many times of Bishop’s precise, but rather uncanny, image while viewing Bikash Bhattacharjee’s retrospective exhibition of paintings (Emami Chisel, until September 9). From the late Sixties and into the early Seventies, when Bhattacharjee’s work was at its most startlingly new, the paintings have sparked off endless, and largely futile and unreadable, terminological speculation. Is he a Naturalist, a Photo-realist or a Surrealist? As is usually the case, the painter’s own clarifications have been equivocal and sometimes misleading.

 

In spite of occasional attempts at abstraction, Bhattacharjee had always been fascinated by human and animal bodies, especially the face, and equally, by the world ‘out there’, be it defined through ominous cloud-forms, receding tramlines, or the inside of an office or aquarium. But these are the physical contents of the paintings — what the grandmother looks at with her real eye. At the same time, the glass eye takes off at an angle from this world of bodies, faces and things — rendered with a terrible precision, as if in the end-of-the-world light of a solar eclipse — towards an effect that is profoundly defamiliarizing. What this stirs up in the unguarded viewer are memories of sight and touch, obscure attractions and revulsions, fear and desire. There are implied, but withheld, narratives, with their own characters and settings. Even when the paintings have literary and allusive titles, as they often do, their plots and meanings elude paraphrase.

 

So, the more skilful his realism, the more disorienting its relationship with reality and effect on the viewer. The sharper the real eye, the more compelling the power of the glass eye. This is at once a question of technique and of vision. The painter’s eye and hand have to remain vitally connected to the inscrutability of his inner life and resources. And these draw from an irreducible variety of worlds and histories that dovetail in each painting in a different way. In the 60x36 inches oil on board, Visitation (1968), one is faced with a world that is powerfully psychological. Yet, every preternaturally sharp detail in it is part of a history that is both inward and cultural in a larger sense. It is a world imbued with fictional, poetic and cinematic resonances, invoking local traditions of religion and mysticism, and using the language of emotions, expressions and gestures, of the light changing even as one looks, of the doors, windows, floors and curtains of old houses, of the widow’s thhaan and of homely slippers.

 

It is a virtuosic depiction of the real, but everything thus depicted is part of a fiction that is more than the sum of its skilfully painted visual elements. Out of the door-frames within the picture-frame, and opening up those uncertain realms between ghar and bahir, young and old, weightless and weighed down, sexual and celibate, living and dead, the woman’s hands reach out towards the viewer in a mysteriously horrific, yet bravura, display of tromp l’œil.

 

In painting after painting from the Sixties and Seventies, the human body, together with the familiar worlds in which it exists, is transformed by an enigmatic convergence of sexuality, horror and mortal decay that becomes the hallmark of Bhattacharjee’s art. It is a convergence that is nourished by multiple histories. In Bengal, the literary worlds of Jibanananda Das, Manik Bandopadhyay and Samaresh Basu; the cinema of Satyajit Ray (think of the Calcutta trilogy, especially Pratidwandi, 1970, and its macabre, sexually charged x-ray vision of the body); the theatre of Shambhu Mitra and of Utpal Dutta; and the corpse-strewn history of famines, Partition, refugees, riots, Independence, wars, assassinations and killings of the Forties and Fifties. In European art, the painterly line from Bosch and Breughel, through Egon Schiele, Otto Dix and Georg Grosz, to some of the Surrealists.

 

With Bhattacharjee’s Doll series of the Seventies, North Calcutta’s interiors, terraces and lanes merge with another terrain of horror that takes the paintings beyond the ‘art of Bengal’. This is the Unheimliche or ‘un-homely-ness’ of Rilke’s essay on dolls and Freud’s on the Uncanny. The obscurely sexual fear of the violence that could be done to the eyes is central to Freud’s essay, where it is inseparable from the older story of a doll. Such fears are part of some of Bhattacharjee’s most disquieting portraits of women, with blurs and shadows where their eyes should have been. We are back again, in yet another loop, to the story of the real eye and the glass eye.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

TWO DIFFERENT ACTS ALTOGETHER

ANANDA LAL

 

The most moving theatrical experience at the Rabindra Utsav (organized by Happenings), quite unexpectedly, came in the newly-introduced category of children’s theatre, titled Chhelebela. School students paying homage to Tagore in itself is commonplace, and the quality ordinarily ranges from disastrous to competent — the latter in evidence in Birla High’s E Jami Laiba Kine, dramatized from the poem, Dui Bigha Jami, and in Garden High’s Amritasyaputra, a presentation of Tagore’s philosophical sermon, Amriter Putra, with a nod to Mamata Shankar’s choreography of the five elements.

 

Much more impressively though, Modern High’s rendition of the Briksharopan ceremony (picture) stirred us with its collective impact. Around 50 girls of all ages participated in different capacities, and were marshalled with unusual discipline. Every time we thought it was coming to a close, a new line of performers entered, surprising us with successive waves of celebration. By the end, it seemed we had seen all the colours of the rainbow: little kids as forest trees, a chorus of singers in green and white saris, dancers in saffron, peasants in white, votaries of nature in multihued silks. In the overwhelming positive energy for planetary ecology that they generated, one easily forgave the tiny glitches that occurred.

 

On the other hand, the Patton-Padatik School One-act Play Competition did not distinguish itself for organization. Once again, its obsession with dignitaries to “grace the occasion” upset the schedule, their delayed arrival causing uncalled-for breaks: an inauguration held after performances had already begun on the first day, and an enforced interval (due to the rapid completion of plays) in order to await the chief guest on the second day. Ironically, the guests on both days graciously admitted that drama not being their forte, they had no idea why they had been invited, but were happy nonetheless.

 

In fact, having just watched a rather provocative piece on this year’s theme, “Terrorism and Life”, the mayor rightly observed that no school should identify terrorism with a particular religion. Short and undeveloped plays created a generally low standard. Upon enquiry, I discovered that Padatik had not earmarked enough time for the acting and technical workshops, compared to those conducted by the British Council at its festivals.

 

I appreciated the sustained script and sense of theatricality in La Martiniere for Boys’ The Vanishing Act, using the auditorium and lots of special effects. Aditya Vikram Doshi (St James’) deservedly won the best actor’s prize for the complexity of his title role in Sadhu Mahato.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

A MIND IN MUSIC

SREYASHI DASTIDAR

 

The blurring of the distinction between the loved one and the worshipped one in some of Tagore’s songs and the consequent problems of their classification under the Puja or Prem sections have engaged Tagorephiles for long. On September 1, at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre auditorium (ICCR), Kamalini Mukherjee, in her debut solo performance, gave a glimpse of her list of such double-edged songs. Mukherjee’s style of singing emphasizes clean diction, steers clear of emoting, and evinces a preference for gamak and sparsha over meend. But the most remarkable element of her gayaki is the precise and powerful scansion — never an inadvertent splitting of a word, or a breather in the wrong place —- that puts her in the tiny club of cerebral Rabindrasangeet singers.

 

In some songs, one felt that she would have benefited from lowering her scale by half a note. As a result, Mukherjee uniformly excelled in the sancharis. Prabhu amaro, priyo amaro demanded the kind of meends employed in Tumi kon bhangoner pathey ele. In the free rhythm songs, she was able to leave a stamp of individuality. Unlike Aha tomar shonge praner khela, Boro bedonar moto bejechho naturally lends itself to rhythm and thus could have been sung to the accompaniment of the tabla. Anjan Basu’s esraj interlude in the latter proved again that while the keyboard sounds good with songs like Amar nishitho-raatero badaldhara, it is a crime to make the esraj play second fiddle to the keyboard in accompanying Rabindrasangeet.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

PLEASING STRINGS

 

Santoor Ashram presented three young singers and musicians at the Birla Academy on July 28. The first artist, Amrita, was poor advertisement for the new crop of Rabindrasangeet singers. Even if one were to overlook her disregard of notations, it would still be difficult to come to terms with the strange vibrato in Jagate anandojogge or the breakneck tempo of Amar praaner manush ache praane, not to mention her penchant for veering off-key every now and then. Sarmishtha Chakraborty sang dadra, kajri, ghazal, jhula and a ragpradhan song. She began with promise, touching some praiseworthy shrutis in Kari karoon kit jaoon balamwa mora, but was soon found struggling to hit the sam correctly. She also needs to work on her Urdu diction.The feeling of discontent was more than compensated by the final performer, Saptarshi Hazra, on the sitar. For one, with the dwindling exponents of the school, one rarely gets an opportunity these days to hear sitar playing in the Jaipur Senia gharana, with its predominance of meends and nuances of the stroke-hand on a 17-fret instrument. Hazra chose the simple Behag, and in spite of the constraints of time, decided not to compromise with the alap, following it up with a short masitkhani gat and an even shorter razakhani gat. True to his gharana, the artist developed the raga in phrasal variations [ga-ma-pa-ga-ma-ga in particular] that stressed the Bilawal ang more than the Kalyan ang. On two occasions, Hazra conducted interesting conversations with the tabla. One would be happy to hear more of him in the days to come.

S.D.

 

CLASSIC TOUCH

Rabindranath Tagore Centre (ICCR, Calcutta) presented A jugalbandi of Odissi enchantment as part of its Horizon series, featuring Rajib Bhattacharya and Kakoli Bose at the Satyajit Ray auditorium on August 26. Bhattacharya impressed with his fluid movement, while Bose’s presentation, kirwani pallavi, displayed a great sense of rhythm. Since the programme attempted to focus on jugalbandi, many more duets should have been included in the recital.

 

Ardhanarishwar, a presentation that is almost synonymous with Sanjukta Panigrahi, failed to strike a chord. Brojo kuchoro, an abhinaya comprising an Oriya song, however, was enjoyable. Bose as Yashoda was particularly lively with her vivid expressions and graceful poise. The evening concluded with a moksha that was performed by both the dancers. The ICCR must be thanked for its efforts to promote classical dance and encourage its exponents in Calcutta.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

STALLED SURGERIES ~ THE CALLOUSNESS IS ALMOST CRIMINAL

 

IF 25 surgical interventions are carried out each day at the once iconic Calcutta Medical College and Hospital (CMCH), simple arithmetic would indicate that no fewer than 300 surgeries have not been performed over the past 12 days. This is horrendous, a miracle that there have been no casualties yet. Only a remarkably insensitive health administration can yet have its withers unwrung. The callousness is almost criminal, with the authorities having dragged their feet for close to a fortnight in trying to get the out-of-order “central autoclave machine” replaced. This is essential equipment used to sterilise medical instruments and gowns. After suffering for as long as they have, it brings cold comfort to the sick and the dying to be informed that the health department had issued orders for replacement within two days. A surgical intervention comes in the category of emergency treatment, which alas has turned out to be a victim of bureaucratese. As it turned out, the replacement of a vital equipment used for sterilisation had to await the decision of a meeting and the movement of files between CMCH and Writers’.


Clearly, the reality of surgical cases mounting by the day with operations held up ranked rather low in the order of priorities. It is doubtful too whether the hospital authorities are empowered to take emergency decisions without a nod from the health department, paradoxically headed by a doctor-minister. Almost incurable damage may already have been caused. And the hospital authorities as much as the health department are culpable for this short shrift to emergencies. In any civilised set-up, the human factor precedes laboratory exercises. And it is of lesser moment that medical students have not been able to carry out dissections over the past 12 days. As important as an institution of learning, CMCH is also a hospital, though lamentably notional. Arguably, it is time to give up that pretence. Calcutta Medical College and Hospital cries out for a surgical intervention, with or without sterilised equipment. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

‘PARK-WEDDING’ BAN ~ MUST INSPIRE A LARGER CAMPAIGN

 

PROTECTING the Capital’s parks was the limited objective of the Delhi High Court’s order, with which the civic body has formally announced compliance, prohibiting wedding celebrations and other social functions from being held in those open spaces. And while there was some judicial appreciation of the plans to build more community-centres there was also a warning that parks must not be “converted” for the purpose. Obviously the non-availability of parks will be lamented by those unable to afford hosting celebrations in farm-houses, luxury hotels and banquet halls but who will be upset at the limited accommodation of municipal community centres. Yet, that constraint could be the platform upon which social-welfare organisations could build a movement against marriage-induced ostentation. Over the last couple of decades the opulence exuded has assumed obscene proportions: the “palaces” constructed resemble the work on movie-sets, fountains etc flourish, elaborate menus are on offer, huge air-coolers are installed, even amusement corners for children. And all talk of the hardships caused by the economic recession is silenced by the powerful music systems used by the DJs to complete the ugly picture. Crores are squandered, essentially to boost the family “image”. If smaller venues necessitate shorter guest-lists, and that is exploited positively, not only will a disgraceful dimension of the city (and this is true of other cities too) be contained, the appalling gap in financial status may not be so starkly exhibited. Perhaps there could be a slowdown in the spread of a culture of competitive crassness. What takes place now makes old-timers recall the late 1960s when the Guest Control Order limited the number of invitees, and the items on the menu. Why the income-tax authorities remain blind to the present blatant flashing of back-money is inexplicable, unless they get a “sweetener” too.


There is likely to be much resistance to the order on parks, and pressure will be mounted to circumvent it. That will come from not just those who believe that their socio-economic status is boosted by flaunting their wealth, but also by the “tent-house wallahs” whose money-minting opportunities could diminish. And both the local political players, the Congress and the BJP, have tent-house majors in their fold.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BIG THIGHS COULD BE KEY TO BEATING HEART DISEASE

STEVE CONNOR

 

LONDON, 4 Sept: Big thighs might confer a health benefit according to a study showing that people with small thighs run a higher-than-average risk of developing heart disease and an early demise.
Scientists have found that men and women whose thighs are less than 60cm (23.6ins) in circumference are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, and die prematurely, compared to people with thicker thighs. They also found, however, that the apparent advantage of bigger thighs did not continue beyond the 60cm threshold. People with thighs much wider than 60cm did not fair any better than those whose thighs hovered just above the threshold.


The study, published in the British Medical Journal, is the first to link the size of the upper thigh to the risk of heart disease and premature death. The finding could lead to a medical test based on thigh size as an indicator of a person’s risk of developing heart problems in later life, in much the same way that body mass index is seen as an indicator of cardiovascular risk. Professor Berit Heitmann of Copenhagen University Hospital, who led the study, said that smaller thighs may be linked with heart disease because they indicate a lower-than-normal muscle mass in that region, which could be a factor in triggering the development of type-2 diabetes, when the hormone insulin does not work properly in controlling levels of sugar in the blood.


The study, based on monitoring 1,436 men and 1,380 women over a period of 12.5 years, found that thigh size as an indicator of heart disease risk was independent of other known risk factors, such as smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This is one of the reasons why it might be useful in doctors’ surgeries, the scientists suggest.


“We found that having smaller thighs was associated with development of cardiovascular morbidity (illness) and early mortality-General practitioners could use thigh circumference as an early marker to identify patients at later risk of cardiovascular disease and early mortality,” they say.


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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PARITY OR PARTITION? ~ THE CONTINUING DISCOURSE ON JINNAH’S OBJECTIVES

ANIL NAURIYA


THE Bhulabhai-Liaquat Pact of 1945 is now a mere episode in the various negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League before 1947. However, it acquires some importance in relation to the ‘parity theory’ advanced by contemporary writers, notably Ayesha Jalal and HM Seervai, and borrowed in substance by Jaswant Singh. 


The ‘parity theory’ maintains that Jinnah’s intention was not Partition but ‘parity’. In certain books of history, the term ‘parity’ has been often been interpreted as meaning parity between the Congress and the League; at other times to imply parity between Muslims and the so-called ‘caste Hindus’.
Though this is usually argued in relation to the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 and the 1940s, the implications of the events of 1945 are often overlooked in this context.


More than a decade ago I had argued that if the Jalal-Seervai thesis was correct, Jinnah should, in 1945, not have rejected some possibilities for parity which had then emerged. I am in fact referring to my piece in the book, Some Portrayals of Jinnah: A Critique, edited by DL Sheth and Gurpreet Mahajan, 1999, pp. 73-112. One of these possibilities was the Bhulabhai-Liaquat Pact of 1945. There were also others, such as the conference called by the Viceroy Wavell at Shimla in June 1945 and the Sapru Committee Report which entered the public discourse at about the same time (the interim report became available in May 1945 and the final report in December 1945).


INTERIM GOVERNMENT

If Jinnah wanted parity rather than Partition, why did he reject the Bhulabhai Desai-Liaquat Pact of 1945 and the Sapru Committee proposals which were based on parity? The question does not appear to have occurred to Jalal or Seervai. Let us examine the background to the Bhulabhai-Liaquat Pact. In early 1945, when most Congressmen were still in jail, negotiations took place between Bhulabhai Desai, leader of the Congress in the Central Assembly and Liaquat Ali Khan, his League counterpart, leading to an agreement between the two. The agreement envisaged the Congress and the League joining hands in parliamentary work and parity between them. An interim government was to have been formed at the Centre, subject to the Governor-General agreeing to this arrangement. In the interim government, there was to be an equal number of persons nominated by the Congress and the League. There would also be representatives of other categories. The government would function within the framework of the Government of India Act, 1935, and the Working Committee would be released from prison.


The agreement was signed on January 11, 1945. On January 22, 1945, Jinnah stated in a press interview in Bombay: “My attention has been drawn to reports in a section of the Press that an agreement has been arrived at between Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan on behalf of the Muslim League and Mr Bhulabhai Desai on behalf of the Congress with the consent of Mr Gandhi and myself. I know nothing about this. There is absolutely no foundation for connecting my name with the talks which may have taken place between Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and Mr Bhulabhai Desai”. (Indian Annual Register, 1945, Vol 1, p. 33).


On February 4, 1945, Liaquat Ali Khan also made the supporting statement: “There is no truth in the report appearing in a certain section of the Press that an agreement or a settlement has been reached between me and Mr Bhulabhai Desai”. (Indian Annual Register, 1945, Vol 1, p. 38). Thus the Desai-Liaquat pact was stillborn.

If Jinnah’s objective was parity rather than Partition, why did he and Liaquat disown this pact? The matter is not dealt with by Jalal who in recent years has expounded the parity theory in her work, The Sole Spokesman (1985); neither does Seervai deal with it correctly as he presents an inaccurate account of the Desai-Liaquat pact. (See Seervai, Constitutional Law of India, Vol 1, 4th edn, 1991, p. 20).
Seervai does not mention that Jinnah disowned this pact within 11 days of it being entered into and that Liaquat also similarly did so within 25 days. Instead Seervai refers to an account by MC Setalvad of a Congress Working Committee meeting held in the summer of 1945, long after the Bhulabhai-Liaquat pact had already been disowned by Jinnah and Liaquat. Setalvad, in his account, had said that at the meeting Gandhi did not speak in support of Bhulabhai. The Working Committee meeting was not concerned with the implementation of the already-dead pact, but some members had wanted to know why Bhulabhai had entered into the pact. Seervai used this account by Setalvad of the Working Committee meeting held long after the pact was dead, to suggest by erroneous implication that Gandhi was responsible for the repudiation of the pact, ignoring the fact that the pact had already been disowned by Jinnah. 


JASWANT SINGH’S BOOK

Incidentally, Jaswant Singh in his recent book on Jinnah repeats in tenor and substance Seervai’s account of the Bhulabhai-Liaquat Pact, not being aware that the pact was actually disowned within days by Jinnah and Liaquat. 


A second possibility for parity arose with the Shimla conference called by Wavell in June 1945. In his broadcast announcing the conference, Wavell declared at the very outset that there would be parity between the Congress and the League. The Congress accepted this situation. But the conference failed because Jinnah wanted more than parity. He wanted a veto on the Muslims who might be nominated by the Congress to the Executive Council even with its own quota. This demand was repeated by Jinnah a year later even in the context of the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946. This was not just parity but parity plus.
VP Menon recalled that in his speech at the 1945 conference, Jinnah declared that the League “could not in any circumstances agree to a constitution on any basis other than that of Pakistan”. (Menon, Transfer of Power, 1957, pp. 197-8)


A third ‘parity’ discourse arose with the (non-official) Sapru Committee which considered the Constitutional possibilities with its interim and final reports in May and December 1945. Gandhi had written to Sapru on May 14, 1945 approving the committee’s approach on the communal question. (CWMG, Suppl. Vol IV, p. 202). The Sapru Committee’s final report, which became available in December 1945, envisaged parity between Muslims and the non-scheduled caste Hindus in the constitution-making body.


Seervai admitted that the report was not accepted by the League because of its rejection of Pakistan; but he did not notice that this was inconsistent with the “parity-rather-than-partition” theory. (Seervai, op. cit., p. 21)


In conclusion, therefore, the ‘parity’ theorists appear to have no adequate explanation of why, if Jinnah wanted ‘parity’ rather than Partition, he rejected all the three ideas, possibilities and arrangements for parity which presented themselves in 1945.

 

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FAMILY SWEETENER? ~ AND RECOVERY OF THE ‘HOARDED POTATO’

 

IT is the tragedy of agricultural India that despite a sugar lobby heavyweight as the minister, the country now has to contend with the worst of both worlds ~ a shortfall in the output of sugar as well as wheat despite the shift in the farming pattern. Having exported five million tons of sugar last year, the country has now emerged as a “net importer” with an increasing number of farmers switching over to the more profitable wheat cultivation. In the net, the government has to contend with an eight million ton deficit between the demand and supply of sugar. The crisis has deepened in West Bengal on account of the government’s presumptuous and incredibly breathless planning. In an effort to supply sugar at cheaper rates, ration dealers have been directed to allot a kilogram of sugar at Rs 27.50 a kg every month to each family Above the Poverty Line. Does the government or the dealers have an exact idea of the number of such families? Far from it. However saccharine the move on the face of it, the number remains indeterminate. Which makes it impossible to work out the cost factor and the quantity necessary for such supplies at controlled prices. No such survey was ever conducted by the food department to ascertain the number of beneficiaries of a segment that scarcely depends on the Public Distribution System. Small wonder why the food department’s directive has virtually been trashed by the ration dealers, who manipulate supplies to the open market even when conditions are normal. The food department officials have been pretty much helpless in the face of the dealers’ queries on the delivery mechanism in the total absence of a database. The risk of a disparity in allotment is substantial with a five-member family and one with two members being entitled to the same quota. The government ought to have carried out the fundamental legwork on a seemingly populist scheme, announced at a critical juncture. The scheme appears to have floundered at the threshold, a testament to the state food department’s half-baked endeavours in the hour of a national crisis.


Rather late in the day has the bluff in potato supplies been called. And significantly enough, by the finance minister, Asim Dasgupta, who has attributed the price rise, fair and square, on the cold storage owners. The home-truth comes a day after the agriculture minister, Mortazza Hussein, had rather wimpishly pleaded that “we cannot raid the cold storages to procure the commodity for sale.” Yes, they can. And so they will as the government has now decided to raid the cold storages and recover what it admits is the “hoarded potato”. The racket as much as the spurious price hike are for real.

 

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DECCON HERALD

EDITORIAL

TED KENNEDY, A CHAMPION OF JUSTICE

HE WAS THE HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT’S STRONGEST ALLY AND ITS’ SOUL ON CAPITOL HILL.

BY KERRY KENNEDY

 

 It was deeply moving to see crowds lining the streets from Hyannis Port to Boston, from the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help  to Hanscom Field, and from Andrews Air Force Base to Arlington Cemetery, -often ten deep- holding placards, waving American flags, saluting; each with her or his own story of being touched by Senator Edward Kennedy’s vision, spirit and love.


People came because they appreciated his courageous stances on international human rights, civil rights, health care, minimum wage, support in multiple forms for the oppressed and dispossessed. And mostly because they knew he loved people -- not the people, but actual, living, breathing human beings.    

Uncle Teddy called every one of my cousins, each of their spouses, and their kids, 119 of us in all, on every birthday and anniversary. He regularly rented a bus and took us on trips to visit battlefields with the greatest historians in the country. He took us skiing, rafting and sailing. Every time he won a race and received a trophy, he had a replica of the trophy made and sent to every member of his crew.
Teddy took our family to Poland in 1986. Lech Walesa had been organising strikes in the Gdansk shipyards, martial law had been declared, and tension was high.


We were to present the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award to Solidarity leaders Adam Michnik and Zbigniew Bujak. The night we arrived, Teddy hosted a dinner, and it was the first time the Solidarity activists were able to communicate openly and in person.


That, in and of itself, was a major victory. Formal greetings lead to intense discussions, and those in turn gave way to stories, laughter and a rousing exchange of Polish and Irish folk songs.
The next morning came far too early, and I sat in awe at a conference table as Teddy dueled with General Wojciech Jaruzelski, pressing him on basic rights to form a union, free expression, democratic elections.
Watching Teddy assert moral authority with such a depth of emotion and intellectual might was a breathtaking experience. I learned a lot from him on that trip about advancing the cause of human rights and loving democracy.


 When asylum seekers were denied legal standing, Teddy authored and engineered the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, helping to create a legal right to asylum.


 When the United States government turned a blind eye to South Africa’s state of emergency and torture of young children, Teddy led the fight to pass the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985, bringing American policy into alignment with the country’s values.


 Wherever freedom’s sons and daughters have been on the march for liberty – from the Soviet Gulag to the streets of Central America, from Marcos’ Philippines to the killing fields of Cambodia, Uganda, and now Darfur, Teddy was their drum major for justice.


Throughout my life, strangers have told me how Teddy was there when a child was diagnosed with cancer, when a father lost a job or had a blow to his reputation, when a wedding was to be celebrated.

 Heraldo Munoz told me how, as a young dissident in Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet, one night visiting his mother’s house he heard sirens. He looked out the window and saw a military battalion blocking the street. There was no escape.

 

He saw his two best friends having already been captured, in the back of a pick up, blind folded and manacled. He turned to his wife and said, “They are coming to take me. Just be sure to call Teddy Kennedy in Washington. He will save my life.”


 Today, Heraldo Munoz is the Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations.


I was not expecting such a dramatic response when I asked a couple what brought them to a fundraising event for President Obama at my family’s home.


They said they’d met in Washington, DC as college students. At the time, militants went on a rampage in Ethiopia and slaughtered every member of both of their families.


The Immigration Service denied their asylum claims, saying there was no evidence that this young couple was at risk should they attempt to return home.

 

 Desperate, they went to the Senate, found Teddy’s office, told him their story, and he went to work. They received asylum, started a business, and raised a son.


Their son became the field organiser for Obama in northern Virginia, and they came that night to Hickory Hill, to express their gratitude to Teddy Kennedy. I love Teddy, and I will miss him with all my heart.

IPS


(The author is President of the Robert F Kennedy Foundation of Europe)

 

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DECCON HERALD

EDITORIAL

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER

IF FORCE IS USED TO STYMIE DISSENT IT VITIATES THE DEMOCRATIC FABRIC OF A NATION

BY MADHUMITA GUPTA

 

He arrived at the house next door a few months back. I remember being struck by his extreme good looks and perfect gentlemanly behaviour.


Unlike others of his ilk he was quiet, dignified and mild.  My husband also appeared to be quite impressed with him and we were glad that he was going to be our immediate neighbour.


However, nothing could’ve prepared me for what happened next. Though my heart skipped a beat when saw him the first time, I put it down to his movie-star good looks. He was the spitting image of a model seen very frequently on TV.


Though it was all limited to random exchanges of pleasantries over the boundary wall, he made no secret of the fact that he liked me a lot. It would have been foolish of me to expect him to get me chocolates or flowers, but even a glance from him could bring a smile on my face. I did try to hold myself back. We couldn’t, after all, have any future together, he belonged to somebody else. But then, a few days ago it happened, just the way I'd dreamt of all along.


Hanging out clothes on our roof, I stole a look at the adjoining balcony of our neighbours’. And yes, like every afternoon, he was there. He was alone and appeared to be lost in thoughts.


“Hey! Listen!” the words were out of my mouth before I knew it. At first it appeared he didn’t hear, but then he turned towards me. He didn't smile back, he just looked surprised to see me there. Embarrassed and wondering if one had overstepped the limits of decency, I was about to turn away when he suddenly reciprocated and walked towards me. I stopped. We were inches away from each other and my heart was in my mouth. What if somebody from his family suddenly came out?

 

But then I happened to look into his dark, melting eyes and knew with certainty that there was nothing wrong with our love for each other.


I bent down to reach him and he leapt up, covering my hands with enthusiastic licks, wagging his tail nineteen to a dozen and whining with pleasure.


Mr Bean the Labrador puppy next door, had stolen my heart!

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHERE THE JOBS AREN’T

 

As is the case with so many economic indicators these days, the only good thing to say about the August jobs report is that it could have been worse. Employers shed another 216,000 jobs last month, a smaller loss than expected and the lowest monthly loss total in a year.

 

The losses would have been worse had it not been for federal stimulus spending — proof that the government is indeed helping to ease the downturn in its role as the spender of last resort.

 

Still, the damage to the work force caused by the recession is deep, wide and ongoing. The economy is now coming up short by 9.4 million jobs, including 6.9 million positions that employers have eliminated and 2.5 million jobs that were needed to absorb new workers but were never created.

 

And unemployment is on the rise, jumping from 9.4 percent in July to 9.7 percent in August. For several demographic groups, the unemployment rate is already in double digits, including men (10.1 percent), Hispanics (13 percent), African-Americans (15.1 percent) and teenagers (25.5 percent). In all, 14.9 million workers are now jobless, of which fully one-third have been out of work for more than six months, the highest level of long-term unemployment by far in any post World War II recession. There are now nearly six workers available for every job opening, up from 1.7 workers per opening when the recession began in December 2007.

 

Worse, hiring is not expected to rebound anytime soon, even if overall economic growth resumes this year. Employers are likely to fill any additional workloads by adding hours to truncated workweeks and ending worker furloughs. Wage gains, which are always repressed when jobs are scarce and unemployment is high, will be an even longer time coming as employers restore pay cuts put in place during the recession before giving raises.

 

Without job growth and pay raises, consumer spending will not revive substantially because alternative sources of spending power — home equity and credit cards — are largely tapped out. And without an upsurge in spending, businesses will not add workers, and so on, in a decidedly unvirtuous cycle.

 

It has become commonplace to explain each dismal job report by saying that a resurgence in employment always lags general economic recovery. But with the job market severely wounded, and with consumer spending expected to be weak for a very long time, it could easily take until 2014 for employment to recover. It’s safe to say that five years or more of subpar job growth is not what most people have in mind when they think of a “lag.”

 

The question, then, is how bad does it have to get before the Obama administration and Congress make job creation a priority.

 

Will administration officials and lawmakers fight for new laws to make it easier to form unions, which are especially important in elevating and protecting the jobs of low-income workers? How will professed support for green jobs be translated into a manufacturing policy that promotes good jobs? Will efforts to improve the educational system also include serious efforts to train and retrain people for new jobs?

 

Help is wanted for out of work Americans.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

RESPECT YOUR CHILDREN

 

The American right has directed many silly and offensive attacks at President Obama. But so far nothing compares with the news that right-wing demagogues on talk radio and the Web, along with Republican Party officials, are trying to stop children from hearing the president urge them to stay in school — because, they say, that is socialist propaganda.

 

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise after a summer in which town hall meetings on health care have been turned into mindless shouting matches, where protesters parade guns and are cheered on by elected officials. Not only Sarah Palin, but people who know better — like Senator Charles Grassley — have been tossing around the fiction that Mr. Obama is planning to institute “death panels” to speed the infirm elderly to their ends.

 

Still, it was startling to read in Friday’s Times about the overheated and bizarre response to Mr. Obama’s plan to give a speech in a Virginia school next week that schools around the country also can show.

 

The White House says Mr. Obama will talk about the importance of education — hardly, we hope, a controversial topic. But the article said that in a growing number of school districts, especially in Texas, parents, talk-show hosts and some Republican officials are demanding that schools either refuse to show it or allow parents to keep their children home. The common refrain is that Mr. Obama will offer a socialist message — although nobody said what they meant by that.

 

There is, of course, nothing socialist in any of Mr. Obama’s policies, as anyone with a passing knowledge of socialism and its evil history knows. But in this country, unlike actual socialist countries, nobody can be compelled to listen to the president. What is most disturbing about all this is what it says about the parents — and the fact that they have such little regard for their children’s intelligence and ability to think.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FOR NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL

 

It’s said that every vote counts. This is particularly true of a number of City Council races in New York City on Sept. 15, when a few hundred votes could determine who will occupy a front-row seat in city government. Here are our endorsements for several of the most competitive districts where winning the Democratic primary usually means capturing the seat:

 

District 1, Lower Manhattan: This vibrant area from the Lower East Side to Wall Street and TriBeCa deserves a vibrant councilmember. Newcomer Jin “P.J.” Kim is a South Korean immigrant with degrees from Princeton and Harvard Business School. He has worked in business and more recently used his skills to manage and coordinate antipoverty programs. Other candidates include the incumbent Alan Gerson, an honorable public servant who has moved too uncertainly on vital issues; Margaret Chin, a community activist; and Pete Gleason, an anticrime candidate with few other credentials. We endorse Mr. Kim.

 

District 11, Northwest Bronx: Councilman Oliver Koppell has represented this district well for eight years and offered a voice on environmental and reform issues. Though his opponent, Tony Perez Cassino, has strong credentials as a pro bono lawyer and a community board leader, we endorse Mr. Koppell.

 

District 20, Central Queens: Three promising candidates seek to replace John Liu, who is running for city comptroller. John Choe has Mr. Liu’s endorsement as his former chief of staff. S.J. Jung, a businessman, is a strong independent and an advocate for immigrants. James Wu is an inventive thinker and community activist. We endorse Mr. Jung as having the most potential.

 

District 25, Queens (Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona): This is now one of the city’s most diverse districts. Though Councilwoman Helen Sears has made efforts to expand her services, the district deserves more energetic representation. Daniel Dromm, a public schoolteacher and activist, is ready to take on the area’s needs — mainly too few schools and health facilities. We endorse Mr. Dromm.

 

District 26, Queens (Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth): Two candidates dominate the contest to fill the seat being vacated by Eric Gioia. Deirdre Feerick’s energetic community service is overshadowed by her excessive loyalty to the Queens Democratic machine. James Van Bramer has done good work for the borough’s enviable library system and has the independence and energy the Council needs. We endorse Mr. Van Bramer.

 

District 29, Queens (Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens): There are two top contenders to replace Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who’s running for comptroller. They are Karen Koslowitz, the councilwoman before Ms. Katz, and Lynn Schulman, a hospital executive and Democratic Party activist. Ms. Schulman argues more powerfully for better access to schools and more affordable housing and health care. We endorse Ms. Schulman.

 

District 33, Brooklyn (Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights): There are several excellent candidates vying to replace Councilman David Yassky, who’s also running for comptroller. Stephen Levin would be a prime candidate except for his entanglement in the Brooklyn Democratic Party machine. Evan Thies, an aide to Mr. Yassky, has been active on reform and clean-air issues. Jo Anne Simon has an impressive legal background and has been a strong community organizer who has done important work for the disabled. We endorse Ms. Simon.

 

 

District 34, Brooklyn (Bushwick, Williamsburg): Party bosses sometimes try to intimidate a rebellious politician by threatening to support a challenger in the next election. That is what has happened to Councilwoman Diana Reyna, who dared to oppose a housing development backed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the leader of Brooklyn’s Democrats. Mr. Lopez now supports Maritza Davila, a community activist who has worked with Mr. Lopez on development issues. Ms. Reyna’s show of independence should be enough to re-elect her. But she has also grown into a strong advocate for small businesses and struggling families in her area. We endorse Ms. Reyna in this race.

 

District 39, Brooklyn (Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Borough Park): The top three candidates to replace Councilman Bill de Blasio, who is running for public advocate, are a remarkable group. Josh Skaller, a former Harvard composer of computer music, has made a name fighting big development in the area. Bob Zuckerman, a former director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, is an activist for environmental issues and gay rights. But it is Brad Lander who has the stronger history of working with the diverse issues the Council addresses. As the former director of the Pratt Center for Community Development and longtime director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, Mr. Lander has worked for affordable housing and for more jobs, parks, mass transit and other community needs. We endorse Mr. Lander.

 

District 45, Brooklyn (Flatbush and East Flatbush): After two of his aides were indicted this summer on embezzlement charges, Councilman Kendall Stewart finally has real competition. Dr. Stewart, a podiatrist, has not been implicated directly in this scandal. But as his challenger Jumaane Williams makes clear, this is a chance to elect someone who will do a better job of guarding taxpayer dollars. Mr. Williams is a compelling advocate for affordable housing and immigrant rights, and he would pursue these issues energetically in the Council. We endorse Mr. Williams.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

AN END OF SUMMER QUIZ

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

As the summer of ’09 slinks off into the sunset, let’s take a minute to reminisce. Who would have thought, when it began, that we’d spend two whole months burying Michael Jackson? Or arguing about whether or not Barack Obama wanted to pull the plug on grandma?

 

I think we have a theme, people. “Ghoulish” is not a word you normally attach to “vacation season” except in certain teen-slasher movies. Yet here we are.

 

Passions about health care ran so high! Just this week, we heard about a clash of demonstrators and counter-demonstrators in which one man got a piece of his finger chomped off. Without taking sides on who started the fight, I am going to come right out and say that this is a bad plan. You cannot achieve universal health coverage by biting off somebody’s pinkie.

 

Anyway, let’s see how much attention you’ve been paying:

 

I. Match the locale and the protester:

A) Man with loaded handgun strapped to his thigh shows up for an Obama town hall meeting.

B) Man carrying assault rifle shows up at Obama speech to veterans.

C) Congressman holding town hall meeting is greeted by a raucous crowd including at least one participant packing heat.

D) Congresswoman holding a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a local supermarket is greeted by demonstrators, one of whom has a pistol holstered under his armpit which falls and bounces to the floor.

1) Phoenix

2) Douglas, Ariz.

3) Memphis

4) Portsmouth, N.H.

 

II. How my state spent the summer:

A) The governor is being sued by a cocktail waitress, who claims he assaulted her outside a nightclub; the lieutenant governor is facing felony charges for misusing state funds; the junior U.S. senator admits he had an affair with his campaign bookkeeper.

B) After the governor was impeached for trying to sell a Senate seat, his wife tried to help support the family by competing on a TV reality show, where she ate a tarantula. When last seen, her husband seemed to have embarked on a new career as a professional Elvis impersonator.

C) A hot race for governor was interrupted when prosecutors indicted three mayors, two state assemblymen, five rabbis and a guy who was allegedly running an organ-trafficking business.

D) Two Democratic state senators switched parties, throwing control to the Republicans, then switched back again. One of them is under indictment for attacking his girlfriend with a broken glass. The other one was named majority leader and promptly tried to give his son a $120,000 Senate job.

1) New Jersey

2) Nevada

3) Illinois

4) New York

 

 

III. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota or Sarah Palin?

A) “Right now we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom in this country.”

B) “The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’. ...”

C) Refuses to fill out her census form.

D) Urged people to be “armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax.”

E) Going to China to address an investors forum sponsored by a Hong Kong brokerage firm.

F) “Only dead fish go with the flow.”

 

IV. Affairs to remember (Match the admitted adulterers and their quotes)

A) “I made a very difficult decision to tell the truth. ...”

B) “Let’s not make decisions based on hyperbole.”

C) “I haven’t done anything legally wrong.”

D) “There was a gentle shyness ... that I found endearing.”

1) Senator John Ensign

2) Basketball coach Rick Pitino

3) Sheryl Weinstein, mistress of Bernie Madoff

4) Gov. Mark Sanford

 

V. Match the reality TV stars:

A) “I had no idea how fuzzy it was ... and how all-encompassing that richness of flavor was going to be.”

B) “She’ll call me like, almost like a lame fish.”

C) “The photo shoot was so much fun. It was like going to Disneyland.”

D) “I was jumping up and down going, ‘Thank You, Lord.’ ”

1) Jon Gosselin, of “Jon & Kate Plus 8”

2) Michelle Duggar, mother in “18 and Counting,” who is expecting her 19th child.

3) Tom DeLay, after his invitation to compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”

4) Actor Lou Diamond Phillips after beating the ex-governor’s wife in tarantula eating.

 

ANSWERS: I. A-4, B-1, C-3, D-2; II. A-2, B-3, C-1, D-4; III. Bachmann: A, C, D, and Palin: B, E, F; IV. A-2, B-4, C-1, D-3; V. A-4, B-1, C-3, D-2

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE PRINCE OF DISPASSION

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

The president is huddled with his harried team, prepping for his big health care speech on Wednesday.

 

Let’s hope someone among these Ivy League oracles will convince the president to come down from his cloud and speak to the Costco constituency. As we witnessed during his presidential campaign, he can have a hard time speaking to everyday people in everyday language.

 

His opponents don’t have that problem. Death panels. Death books. Taxpayer dollars for abortion. Kill Grandma. Take away choice. Is some of this rhetoric blatantly silly? Yes. But, also brilliantly simple.

 

Conservatives speak in bumper stickers. Obama speaks in thesis statements. In fact, he sometimes seems constitutionally incapable of concision.

 

He also seems to display a disdain for irrational excitability and confronts it with either princely dispassion, mocking disbelief or stirring oratory that speaks more to posterity than to the people in front of him.

 

So, with little coherent opposition, conservatives have feted the public with a campaign of confusion and fear composed of simple sound bites. And, it has worked.

 

According to a CBS News poll released on Tuesday, 67 percent of respondents said that they didn’t have an understanding of health care reform ideas because they found them too confusing.

 

Furthermore, the president’s lack of leadership and passion for his plan has translated into a lack of passion among his base.

 

Epic fail, Team Obama.

 

In American debates, and particularly in this debate, facts are not sufficient, no matter how eloquently spoken. We want to be moved by passion and conviction and determination and faith. We coalesce around simple ideas like right and wrong, and for many, yes, good and evil.

 

Some may dislike this simplicity and wish it were different (I am among them), but in politics you have to play on the field where the game is.

 

Now the president is rolling up his sleeves in a last-ditch effort to fight for the plan instead of leaving it up to a Congress that no one likes. As the Pew Center reported on Wednesday, Congressional favorability has hit a 24-year low.

 

But, it may be too late. According to a CNN poll released on Wednesday, nearly 3 in 4 Americans want to make major changes to current health care bills, to abandon those bills and start over or to scrap all attempts at reform.

 

Let’s hope the president doesn’t deliver yet another speech for the history books — soaring, but ultimately unsatisfying.

 

Then again, it may not really matter what he says since he appears to be taking a tattered page from an old political playbook: when you’re losing, simply change the definition of winning. The public option has gone from imperative to, well, optional.

 

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at chblow@nytimes.com.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

RELIVING THE PAST

THE PRESIDENT SHOULD LISTEN TO JOE BIDEN.

BY BOB HERBERT

 

Mr. Biden has been a voice of reason, warning the administration of the dangers of increasing our military involvement in Afghanistan. President Obama has not been inclined to heed his advice, which is worse than a shame. It’s tragic.

 

Watching the American escalation of the war in Afghanistan is like watching helplessly as someone you love climbs into a car while intoxicated and drives off toward a busy highway. No good can come of it.

 

The war, hopelessly botched by the Bush crowd, has now lasted nearly eight long years, longer than our involvement in World Wars I and II combined. There is nothing even remotely resembling a light at the end of the tunnel. The war is going badly and becoming deadlier. July and August were the two deadliest months for U.S. troops since the American invasion in October 2001.

 

Nevertheless, with public support for the war dwindling, and with the military exhausted and stretched to the breaking point physically and psychologically after so many years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, the president is ratcheting the war up instead of winding it down.

 

He has already ordered an increase of 21,000 troops, which will bring the American total to 68,000, and will be considering a request for more troops that is about to come from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

 

These will be troops heading into the flames of a no-win situation. We’re fighting on behalf of an incompetent and hopelessly corrupt government in Afghanistan. If our ultimate goal, as the administration tells us, is a government that can effectively run the country, protect its own population and defeat the Taliban, our troops will be fighting and dying in Afghanistan for many, many years to come.

 

And they will be fighting and dying in a particularly unforgiving environment. Afghanistan is a mountainous, mostly rural country with notoriously difficult, lonely and dangerous roads — a pitch-perfect environment for terrorists and guerrillas. Linda Bilmes, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, has been working with the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz to document the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She told me:

 

“The cost per troop of keeping the troops in Afghanistan is higher than the cost in Iraq because of the really difficult overland supply route and the heavy dependence on airlifting all kinds of supplies. There has been such a lot of trouble with the security of the supplies, and that, of course, becomes even more complicated the more troops you put in. So we’re estimating that, on average, the cost per troop in Afghanistan is at least 30 percent higher than it is in Iraq.”

 

The thought of escalating our involvement in Afghanistan reminded me of an exchange that David Halberstam described in “The Best and the Brightest.” It occurred as plans were being developed for the expansion of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. McGeorge Bundy, who served as national security adviser to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, showed some of the elaborate and sophisticated plans to one of his aides. The aide was impressed, but also concerned.

 

“The thing that bothers me,” he told Bundy, “is that no matter what we do to them, they live there and we don’t, and they know that someday we’ll go away and thus they know they can outlast us.”

 

Bundy replied, “That’s a good point.”

 

We’ve already lost more than 5,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and spent a trillion or so dollars. The longer we stay in Afghanistan, the more resentful the local population will become about our presence, and the more resentful the American public will become about our involvement in a war that seems to have no end and no upside.

 

President Obama is being told (as Lyndon Johnson was told about Vietnam) that more resources will do the trick in Afghanistan — more troops, more materiel, more money. Even if it were true (I certainly don’t believe it), we don’t have those resources to give. It’s obscene what we’re doing to the men and women who have volunteered for the armed forces, sending them into the war zones for three, four and five tours.

 

The Army, in an effort to improve combat performance under these dreadful conditions, is planning intensive training for all of its soldiers in how to be more emotionally resilient. And, of course, a country that is going through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and that counts its budget deficits by the trillions, has no choice but to lay the costs of current wars on the unborn backs of future generations.

 

Lyndon Johnson made the mistake of not listening to the Joe Bidens of his day. There’s a lesson in that for President Obama.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE WAR ZONE

BY ZAINAB SALBI

 

THE house I grew up in was nestled in a grove of eucalyptus trees at the end of a Baghdad cul-de-sac. Built by my parents in 1969, the year I was born, it is a simple, two-story, middle-class home. I spent a lot of my childhood in my second-floor bedroom, watching the trees and the street outside. In my earliest memories, the cul-de-sac is teeming with water. While my parents bemoaned the lack of proper drainage in the city, I welcomed the floods. My brothers and I would splash through the rainwater, surrounded by enormous boats that my father lovingly constructed out of newspaper.

 

It was in this cul-de-sac, long after I went to bed, that Saddam Hussein used to park his car. At the time, Mr. Hussein, then vice president, was courting Baghdad society, and my parents were considered part of the “hip” crowd. My father had studied in Scotland and traveled the world as a commercial pilot, accumulating a collection of record albums; my mother was a fashionable, intelligent teacher who loved parties and dancing. Most important, they weren’t interested in politics. So Mr. Hussein never viewed them as a threat to his power, and this made it safe for them to entertain him, though they never let on how hard it was to refuse any of Saddam Hussein’s wishes, even then.

 

After he became president, Mr. Hussein made my father his personal pilot. The president’s visits to our house became official affairs. One car in the cul-de-sac morphed into an entourage of black Mercedes, and armed security guards patrolled the neighborhood. (This was during the war with Iran.) Watching from my window, I wondered about the white car hidden amidst the eucalyptus trees day and night.

 

The president showered us with gifts, but also monitored our every move. We knew that our house was bugged, and we knew many family friends who had been executed for saying the “wrong thing” about his policies or his mistress. Looking back, I think of Mr. Hussein’s presence in our life as a poisonous gas that leaked into our home. We inhaled it gradually.

 

In the summer of 1990, I left Iraq for an arranged marriage in the United States. (My mother was adamant that I leave at any cost, and marriage was the safest way to do that with the president’s approval.) I convinced myself that it wouldn’t be long before I could return to my family’s house.

 

But that August, Iraq invaded Kuwait and the country plunged into war yet again. It took me nine years to return.

 

The occasion was my mother’s funeral. In the intervening years, my mother had left my father and fled to Jordan, Mr. Hussein had fired my father (thankfully, a rather lenient punishment for my mother’s departure) and our house had fallen into disrepair. Its decay reflected not only our family’s pain but also the suffering of a country which had endured widespread sanctions. After the funeral, I left as quickly as I could.

 

The second time I visited Iraq was in January 2003, on the eve of the American invasion. After the regime fell, possibility infused the air. My younger brother decided to marry and live in the house. In preparation for the wedding, he repainted the walls and reupholstered the furniture. On the day of the celebration, friends and family, dressed in colorful clothes, danced in our cul-de-sac.

 

But the security situation deteriorated and my brother faced kidnapping threats. In 2005, he, his wife and our father moved to Jordan, hoping, as I had, that they would someday return. Soon, our neighborhood, Al Mansour, was taken over by the Mahdi army — insurgents loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Shiite families were allowed to stay, while Sunnis were driven out or killed. In the middle of the night, Sadrists barged into our house, and transformed it, according to our neighbors, into an execution center.

 

It is impossible to describe the sense of bewilderment I felt. All I could think to tell my father was, “Let us just thank God that it is the house and not our family that is witnessing these atrocities.”

 

By last summer, Iraqi and American troops had driven the militias out. In the increasing stability, a group of prostitutes moved into the house. At first I was relieved — and then I became sickened, thinking of the men using the room I’d grown up in to take advantage of women forced by circumstance into prostitution.

 

Just last fall, my father went back to Iraq, wanting to see for himself what had become of his country. He found that our home was no longer an execution center nor a brothel; it was being used by the Iraqi Army.

 

Corrupt soldiers demanded $30,000 from my father before they’d leave the house. He contemplated selling, giving up hope for good, but he is now waiting them out. In this respect, he is like many Iraqis — aware of the progress made, pleased that American troops have withdrawn, but worried about renewed violence and unsure of the future.

 

The only constant, it seems, is the house, which has witnessed the best and worst of Iraq’s recent history. A place that was once filled with the happiness of my childhood, the fear of Saddam Hussein, the loss of my mother, the joy of my brother’s wedding, the horror of the execution center, the pain of the prostituted women and the weapons of the army, still holds my family’s hopes and dreams.

 

Zainab Salbi, the co-author of “Between Two Worlds: Escaping Tyranny, Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam,” is the founder and chief executive of Women for Women International.

 

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I. THE NEWS

 EDITORIAL

MASS TRANSIT FOR KARACHI

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council has approved a revival of a circular rail to run around Karachi, along with 20 other projects which include dams, a plan for railway improvements and a development package for Azad Kashmir. The Rs128.5 billion project will link points in Karachi through what is envisaged as a modern rail system with high standards, and aims to carry about 700,000 commuters daily in the country's largest city. We can anticipate some controversy over the project given its scale and possible dispute over how tenders are floated. There is also the fact that the last circular rail to run through Karachi, set up in the mid-1960s, was closed in 1997. Big losses were reported and the project had only limited success in solving the massive commuting problems of Karachi.


Over a decade on, these problems have increased. The traffic snarls that grip the city are more frequent than ever. Commuters struggle each day to get to work or to schools and colleges. Those dependent on limited public transport suffer most. In such circumstances there is an acute need for a good transport system. The question is how it can be made to succeed. The key to this lies in offering a service that is efficient, and it is perfectly possible to set one up. The underground service that runs through Calcutta is one example. The light rail that flies above the streets in Kuala Lumpur is another. The successes of these projects need to be studied so an attempt can be made to replicate them. The increase we are seeing in the number of vehicles on the road is simply unsustainable. Its impact on air quality and the life is disastrous. We need action. The approval for the new railway in Karachi is therefore welcome. But the challenges will lie in how well the project can be implemented and how far it serves the requirements of people. The location and quality of stations set up along the route, the punctuality of trains and the cost of the service will all determine this. We must hope it works so we can move towards a new age of commutation.

 

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I. THE NEWS

 EDITORIAL

SHOOT-OUT IN SWAT

 

A lashkar shot dead three militants after an hour-long gun battle in the Kabal tehsil of Swat. The area had been among those where militants had the strongest hold. Elsewhere in Swat too we are hearing of people identifying militants and in several cases handing them over to authorities. The fear that the militants had exerted has clearly begun to fade. For months local people had been unable to defy the Taliban. They speak now of the kind of terror they suffered under for months, often with great bitterness. We were also informed that support for the extremists was widespread. Indeed even the ANP government had contributed to this misperception by enforcing the Nizam-e-Adl regulation in Swat. It was said people wanted Shariah law and that there was support for those who advocated it.


The actions we are seeing now in the area suggest this is simply not accurate. People are ready to act against militants and to take matters into their own hands to do so. Most seem to hold little sympathy for them. They are indeed ready to challenge them at some risk to themselves, as the actions of the lashkar demonstrated. But there is also the fact that the militants possessed sufficient gun power to hold out for a prolonged battle. They also seemed sufficiently motivated to do so. These are somewhat ominous signs and suggest there is a need to drive home the victory that is being claimed. For the moment top militant leaders, including Maulana Fazalullah, remain free; their whereabouts are unknown and until they are apprehended the risk of some attempt at reorganization in the future will remain. The authorities need to lay out their strategy in this respect. Troops, who still man check posts and pickets across Swat and remain posted in cities, cannot be kept deployed forever. It may be necessary to think about a local force to defend Swat and perhaps the lashkars that have come up spontaneously in some places can be used for this purpose. But this should not form the lone pillar of official strategy. Events in Swat in the past have shown that, more than anything else, people seek access to equitable justice. They also seek opportunity and development. It is offering them this that will prove the hardest blow to militancy.

 

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I. THE NEWS

 EDITORIAL

NO RESPITE

 

The World Council of Churches, which speaks on behalf of churches in 110 countries, has raised the issue of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. It is concerned that all minorities in Pakistan live in fear of persecution, discrimination, murder and, above all, prosecution on trumped-up charges of blasphemy under the 1986 blasphemy laws. The WCC has called on our legislators to change the law which among other things prescribes the death penalty for blaspheming Islam. This piece of legislation has been used time and time again to harass and intimidate members of the minorities – and cases where Muslims have been prosecuted for blaspheming against other faiths, defiling their holy books or desecrating their places of worship appear nowhere in the legal record. The blasphemy laws, it seems, work only in one direction.

Intolerance is spreading wide and deep across our society. There is no sign of the so-called 'moderate majority' either finding a voice or the political strength and influence to counter it, and we sleepwalk towards a time when extremism is the underpinning of the normative values that shape our lives. Politicians are fond of invoking this invisible 'moderate majority' from time to time, and there is an assumption which appears entirely without foundation that this group actually exists within our society. There is certainly a moderate minority, and we see and hear them in the media daily but we should not extrapolate from that a presumption that they are in any way representative. The extremists have a hand on the media as well, and have little difficulty in speaking to their constituency – one which is far more easily mobilized, has political clout and any number of mouthpieces. The WCC call for changes to the blasphemy laws will be heard by the moderate minority and ignored by everybody else; the minorities will continue to live in fear and extremism will once again have tightened its grip on the national throat.

 

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I. THE NEWS

COLUMN

THE MUCH-AWAITED NFC AWARD

SHAHID KARDAR


The much-maligned and presently operational NFC Award on the distribution arrangements of the national pool of resources between the provincial and federal governments is finally up for negotiations by a new commission. Although late by seven years this is a welcome development.


The positive early sign is that Punjab--considering the significantly changed political environment and the sympathetic manner in which the grievances of the smaller provinces, particularly the NWFP and Balochistan, are being viewed generally--is willing to modify its historical stance that population should be the sole criterion for the distribution of resources amongst the provinces. And it is prepared to accept multiple criteria for this horizontal distribution. The worrying feature is the heightened expectations of the NWFP and Balochistan, way beyond the size of the pool of national resources; it is difficult for this writer to assess how much of it is merely public posturing to get a better deal. This article examines the issues and tables proposals for the Award.


The Constitution of Pakistan, along with the modern systems of taxation adopted nationally at the insistence of the IMF, gives the federal government the power to levy the most productive taxes under present conditions--taxes on non-agricultural incomes, taxes on import, production or excise duties and sales taxes on goods. For reasons of efficiency, as well as economy, taxation powers relating to import duties, income tax, excise duties and sales tax on the principles of GST (or VAT) have to be centralised. Decentralised administration of customs related duties, sales tax and excise duties, while feasible, would impede the free flow of goods and services. Once collected, these taxes are then shared between the federal government and the provinces according to the formula decided upon by the NFC.


The main advantage of tax devolution on the basis of a formula is that it provides for a predictable source of revenue and the provinces can benefit automatically from an increase in the size of the divisible pool. Another advantage of the fixed principle of distribution is that of certainty, whereby situations of conflict and continuous bargaining can be avoided. The 1996 NFC Award, although it was announced by a caretaker, non-elected government and with all its weaknesses in terms of the inequity of the shares between the federation and the provinces, represented a major departure from the past, in that all taxes (except revenues from the Petroleum Development Levy) now form part of the divisible pool. The implication is obvious--any formula that keeps some taxes outside the pool provides an incentive to the federal government to place heavier dependence on taxes that do not form part of the pool.


The experience of recent years demonstrates just that, the Centre increased its reliance on oil surcharges to generate revenues, as a result of which the share of the provinces in the national pool of tax and non-tax revenues, despite the supposed increase in their shares built into the NFC formula, remained static at 35 per cent in the last eight-nine years. However, at least now that the PDL, which was earlier categorised as a non-tax revenue, has been classified as a tax, largely to meet the IMF conditionality on the tax to GDP ratio, Islamabad will, when it comes to the new Award, have to include this levy as a part of the divisible pool.

Historically, the federal government has had more resources at its disposal. There has, therefore, been a mismatch between the assigned responsibilities of the provinces and the wherewithal available to them to discharge these obligations. There has been a lack of symmetry in the fiscal powers and expenditure responsibilities. The fiscal transfers from the federal government are supposed to correct this imbalance.

From the national divisible pool of revenues the federal government first takes five per cent as its charge for collecting these revenues. Under the arrangement for the balance, 55 per cent presently goes to Islamabad, while the provinces with their 160 million people, are supposed to share the rest, essentially on the basis of their respective populations. The federal government takes a disproportionate share because its main role is that of a collection agent for the military and for Pakistan's lenders, generating resources for defence and debt-servicing. Whatever is left after the fulfilment of debt-related obligations it spends on the large civil bureaucracy--mainly because of its unwillingness to give up subjects on the concurrent list and the continued maintenance of close to 500 agencies, most of which need to be disbanded since they should either never have been established or have outlived their utility. And now on a bloated Public Sector Development Programme, way above the country's resource generating potential and including projects and schemes, like roads connecting two provincial cities and local water-supply schemes, which should be executed by lower formations of government.


Therefore, the first step that needs to be taken is to reduce the share of the federal government immediately to 45 per cent with the aim of cutting it further over time, by whittling down the workforce paid by the federal government. The size of the share should be trimmed substantially, by forcing the federal government to give up many of the subjects that, under the Constitution, lie within the functional domain of the provinces. Over the next five years it must be pruned to 40 per cent of its present size and the host of authorities, agencies and departments with exotic names must be wound up permanently. Moreover, all the development schemes that should be implemented by the lower levels of government should be transferred to them for completion if they regard them as of a high enough priority. This they should be able to do from their increased share of resources following the reduction in Islamabad's share.


As explained above, the divisible pool is divided between the provinces on the basis of population. It is obviously too simplistic an approach. It goes without saying that development has to be perceived in terms of people, and population is thus a representative measure of needs. It also has the advantage of objectivity and stability. There are, however, disadvantages in using population as the sole criterion for the allocation of resources.


The per-capita basis does not, for example, provide a good index because there is a minimum threshold of administrative overheads required for service delivery--the case of Balochistan. This is important, because the cost and quality of public services varies considerably between provinces. At the same time, distribution on the basis of population alone tends to disregard factors such as the additional burden of expenditure on administration and law and order, which is considerably higher in some areas than others--the NWFP and even Balochistan now being cases in point.


Income differentials between the provinces are also ignored when all provinces are treated equally. Giving more weight to the population criterion tends to assist those who make no special effort to mobilise additional internal sources and, as such, unduly benefits those who have not managed their fiscal resources with care and prudence. It also works against the critical national objective of population control, as it rewards areas where the prevalent attitude towards population planning is somewhat lax. To neutralise these negative features partially, some weightage should also be awarded to the relative backwardness of a province as well as to resource generation or extra tax collection efforts.


(To be continued)The writer is a former finance minister of Punjab. Email: kardar@ systemsltd.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

COLUMN

THE GREAT CAPITULATION

PRAFUL BIDWAI


Many Pakistani liberals are exulting over former Indian minister Jaswant Singh's book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah in the belief that it is a sign of rethinking within the conservative Hindu-communal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the founder of Pakistan, and that it will provoke a larger debate on the causes of partition and who was responsible for it.


I hope the debate happens. Indians and Pakistanis have to develop a common, rational understanding of the partition story that is free of nationalist prejudice -- although Jaswant Singh makes little contribution to this. But the first thing isn't happening at all. In fact, the BJP is regressing further into Hindutva and sinking deeper into the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) lap.


The blood-letting in the BJP has turned out far more prolonged and self-destructive than the party's most inveterate critics, including me, had expected. Not a day passes without senior leaders calling their colleagues names which would embarrass street-level thugs.


The BJP cannot comprehend the causes of its second consecutive election defeat in structural terms linked to changes in the balance of social forces, Hindutva's receding appeal and the attraction of inclusive agendas in a society as badly divided and in need of healing as India. The Congress understood this and won. The BJP remained stuck in Hindutva, too-clever-by-half leadership projection, caste arithmetic and image management. It is now blaming individuals for its losses.


The person who has been most ruthlessly attacked and suffered the greatest loss of stature is none other than the BJP's tallest leader after the now-incapacitated Atal Behari Vajpayee --perennial prime ministerial-aspirant L K Advani. Singh has pilloried him for his "consuming ambition" which prevented him from defending him against his summary expulsion from the BJP.


He was told by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat that he mustn't pretend to be the shadow prime minister and quit as leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. The RSS also wants BJP President Rajnath Singh to make way for a younger leader.


This isn't a way of levelling the BJP's two competing power centres: the unelected core group dominated by Advani, and the other controlled by Singh loyalists. Rajnath Singh will complete his full term as party president by the end of 2009. He cannot have a second term unless the party constitution is amended.


The RSS's real target is Advani, who breached his understanding with it that he wouldn't be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate beyond 2009. When the election results came in, Advani offered to step down as leader of the opposition, but unilaterally re-usurped that position. The RSS has treated him with apparent deference, but the thrust of its message, that he must hold no office by virtue of his "leadership" and "stature", is unequivocal.


The BJP is in the grip of its worst-ever crisis. At its heart is more than a power struggle, vicious as this is. Its true dynamic lies in a total collapse of organisational authority, political disorientation and strategic bankruptcy. There's no one in the BJP to arbitrate between it warring leaders.


This has allowed the RSS to dictate terms to the BJP in every conceivable way. The RSS decided that the BJP must promote leaders aged 55 to 60 years. And four such leaders duly landed at Bhagwat's feet. The RSS decided to read the riot act to Advani. And its top officials descended on New Delhi. The RSS wants the choice of the next party president to be extended beyond the Advani coterie so serving/former state-level ministers are suddenly in the running.


The RSS is now micromanaging the BJP. It will probably insist on veto power over the party's political line. In some ways, this function is new. The RSS has doubtless intervened in the BJP's affairs in the past. Sarasanghachalak, KS Sudarshan's "midnight knock" in 1998, famously ensured that Jaswant Singh wouldn't become finance minister.


Even more notoriously, after the BJP's 2004 debacle, the RSS summarily replaced Venkaiah Naidu as party president with Advani. In April 2005, Sudarshan publicly demanded that "there should be a generational shift in BJP …" and that both Vajpayee and Advani "should step aside… [and]… watch the new leadership come up…"


This was an unambiguous directive. Vajpayee shrewdly ducked it by saying he held no post. But Advani refused to quit. Months later, the RSS succeeded in sacking him by using his remarks praising Jinnah as "secular" during his Pakistan trip. Advani's departure became a certainty once the RSS dissociated itself from his remarks. All he won was a little time.


What is new about the present RSS-BJP relationship, shaped by the BJP's election defeat and unprecedented turmoil in it, is the scope and quality of the RSS's interference in its day-to-day affairs. Even BJP leaders without an RSS background like Arun Shourie accept this. Indeed, Shourie pleaded for it, when he said the RSS should "take over" the BJP.


This inaugurates a new phase in the BJP's evolution. As long as the Vajpayee-Advani duo was strong, and especially while the BJP held power at the centre, they could carve out a certain degree of autonomy from the RSS in the party and government's day-to-day running.


The RSS adopted a low profile, but remained the BJP's mentor, political guide and organisational gatekeeper. It coordinated relations with the rest of the Parivar. It conceded some policy space to the BJP in governance, especially in economic matters. But behind the scenes, it always asserted its overall primacy, especially that of the Hindu-nationalist vision. A key to this was the BJP's dependence on RSS pracharaks to mobilise votes for it during elections.


This dependence has recently grown not least because the BJP's base and appeal have shrunk. RSS leaders claim that 40 percent of the BJP's total vote in the last election came from their work. Organisationally, the RSS influence is even stronger than in parliament. Thus, only 30 of the BJP's 116 Lok Sabha members come from the RSS. But two-thirds of its national executive members have RSS backgrounds.


That means that the RSS will overtly and blatantly tighten its hold on the BJP, further damaging the party's credibility. Unless the BJP again takes to the politics of passion and mass mobilisation, it's likely to become a rump party, much like the Jana Sangh, albeit bigger in its Lok Sabha presence than the latter, with its 20-35 seats. Even such a party cannot be written off. But it'll be a far cry from a force that's about to come to power.

 

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

 

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I. THE NEWS

COLUMN

REMEMBERING NIAZ NAIK

JAVED JABBAR


After the discovery of Mr Niaz Naik's body in his Islamabad residence on Aug 8, in a condition that indicated possibilities of a violent, I would like to present a humble tribute to a remarkable human being.

General (retired) K M Arif in Rawalpindi and this writer in Karachi were greatly concerned when we were unable for about seven days to get through to him on the phone or, when a person was sent to call on him and there was no response at the door. It was mistakenly assumed by neighbours that, as he sometimes preferred to emerge only once in a couple of days from his upstairs room, he was resting, and did not want to be disturbed.


Four consecutive days passed without our being able to get through to him on the phone, nor was the doorbell answered. At my request from Karachi, the foreign secretary's representatives were able, with official help, to break open the door and enter the house to discover the terrible fact that he had clearly passed away some days ago.


When I last saw him a few weeks ago in Islamabad, he was frail but alert. When I last spoke to him on the phone just a few days before his demise, he remained keenly interested in the subject of our discussion and its details.


Whatever the actual reason for his demise, pain and violence were the most unlikely elements one could associate with Mr Naik. He was the epitome of grace and gentleness, of serenity and sensitivity. Even when expressing a strongly-held opinion or when dissenting with another viewpoint, his voice would only acquire an intense tremor while his bearing and his composure would always be calm and unruffled.


How apt it was that the manners of the man and his mission were so synonymous with each other. For he was a diplomat devoutly dedicated to building and strengthening peace in its most comprehensive sense. For him, the quest for peace meant not just the absence of armed conflict but a state of being in which individuals and nations could freely develop their potential capacities for progress and interact with each other in supportive, co-operative ways.


Though his soft-spoken manner and his commitment to peace could be misperceived by some as weakness or softness, those who knew him well were aware of the quiet strength and deep convictions he possessed on the non-negotiable principles of Pakistan's integrity and vital interests.


His distinguished career in the Foreign Office spanned about four decades of Pakistan's history. Mr Naik served Pakistan with exceptional competence in some of the most important positions and places relevant to foreign affairs. From the United Nations at Geneva and New York to the bilateral bog in New Delhi, from being a rising young officer to becoming foreign secretary, as ambassador or high commissioner, as an articulator of policy in the UN Security Council or as a speaker at international conferences, as a specialist aide to a president or prime minister or as a diplomat conveying a discreet message to his opposite number from another country, he embodied the qualities that shape the finest practitioners of diplomacy. And when required: ambiguity. Etiquette. Alertness to nuance. Composure, especially during times of stress.


Virtually all of Mr Naik's qualities remained intact for the more than 20 years that he lived after retirement. This writer was fortunate to see at firsthand these virtues deployed in his post-retirement phase. While we had met occasionally during the latter part of his official tenure, we began to work together closely in Track-II diplomacy shortly after his leaving the Foreign Office.


Our working relationship started in Islamabad in 1992. Mr Naik was hosting a seminar on India-Pakistan relations at which Mr I K Gujral, then a former foreign minister (and later to become prime minister) was the leader of the Indian delegation. The Kashmir issue was on the boil. Both governments were of the opinion that an independent Track-II process would be useful.


Mr Naik had only recently helped launch the Neemrana Initiative and graciously invited me to join the Pakistani group which comprised 10 persons. The Neemrana Initiative represents a quiet, confidential dialogue held about once every six months, alternatively in Pakistan and India, between a group of Pakistanis and a group of Indians comprising persons of diverse backgrounds from civil society and the military, including some with experience of public office, all of them sharing an interest in improving bilateral relations. A veteran former US diplomat and scholar, Paul Kreisberg, was the convenor in the initial rounds. Later, after Mr Kreisberg left the process, the two sides nominated the respective co-convenors. Mr Naik represented Pakistan, while India was led by Mr A M Khusro, a former ambassador and vice chancellor of Aligarh University, who passed away three years ago. His place was taken by former Indian foreign secretary M Rasgotra, while recently, after the passing away of Mr Naik, the co-convenor of the Pakistan group is Mr Inam-ul-Haq, former foreign minister and foreign secretary.


Using the Chatham House principle of non-attribution, all members strictly abide by the principle of "no disclosure to the media," which is possibly why the process has survived through the bilateral ups and downs for over 17 years and has been endorsed by each new government in both countries to make it the longest-running Track-II process between the two nations.


While members exercise their freedom to express independent viewpoints on issues, when it comes to "country-first," each group interprets subjects from their respective nation's irreducible perspective.


Mr Naik helped steer the dialogue with diligence, enabling members to state diverse viewpoints freely and fully while also encouraging a minimal consensus on core issues.


With tenacity and determination, he would ensure that the Pakistani group prepared well for each round of the dialogue. When exchanges between the two sides became unusually abrasive or harshly critical, using his position as co-convenor and co-moderator of the dialogue, he would intervene in a cool, measured manner to lower the temperature. He made a major contribution to ensuring that the overall character of the dialogue remained cordial and friendly even as it was, and is, always candid and forthright.

He went to extraordinary trouble even in his advanced age to give personal attention to details of travel, hospitality and logistics to make all participants of Neemrana, the Indian group as well as the Pakistan group, feel comfortable, and able to contribute fully to this process.


On certain occasions, both on the sidelines of the Neemrana Initiative and separately on a one-to-one basis on the "back channel" grid, Mr Naik conducted delicate and hypersensitive discussions in reflection of the trust reposed in him by the then-head of government.


Through the marriage of persons related to each of us, we also discovered an indirect, distant family bond that reinforced a purely personal relationship and helped adjust for the more than 20-year seniority he enjoyed over this writer though neither the personal link nor the age difference prevented occasional strong disagreements.

He was the ultimate perennial bachelor who charmed women with his impeccable courtesy. A sober, dignified personality was counter-pointed by sharp, lively eyes and an engaging sense of humour that produced many reminiscences. His brother, Mr Ejaz Naik, the widely respected CSP officer, also a bachelor, remained seriously ill for a long time before his own death. Mr Niaz Naik tended to him to the last with touching devotion. Tragically, in his own last days and moments he was alone and unattended.


Mr Naik was a fine example of an able and gifted diplomats of world calibre that Pakistan has produced over the past 60 years. Present and future officers of the foreign service would do well to emulate the high standards of professionalism that he set. He will always be greatly missed.


The writer is a former federal minister. Email: javedjabbar.1@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

COLUMN

FARCE OF INDIA'S SECULARISM

IMTIAZ GUL


Following the summary dismissal of Jaswant Singh from the BJP for praising Jinnah, several questions keep coming to mind as far as the Indian claim to secularism, democracy and socio-economic justice is concerned.

Is most of 'shining' India – as a mindset -- gridlocked between the desire to be lauded as a secular, liberal society, based on socio-economic justice, and the reality of a society, based on an unjustifiable caste system that stratifies human beings as superiors (Brahmans) and inferiors (Dalits)?


Is it a country that justifiably boasts being numerically the largest democracy but whose political leadership, unfortunately, remains guided by undemocratic whims and intolerant attitudes vis-a-vis its neighbours and their leaders?


These are some of the paradoxes that struck us during a brief visit to the bustling Indian capital – New Delhi -- where the controversy Jaswant Singh's voluminous book, Jinnah, India, Partition, Independence, had just erupted. Some were lambasting him for being a hypocrite.


Strangely, it is a state that raises hell when Pakistan, for instance, raises its defence budget but justifies its own almost $40 billion defence spending by pointing to a border dispute with China, which is one of its largest trading partners. This huge resource allocation flies in the face of the 38 per cent population that, according to an ex-prime ministerial advisor, S M Tendulkar (Hindustan Times, Aug 20) lives in poverty – almost 400 million souls.


Some friends dubbed Singh as an opportunist who, through his book, pretended to "speak for and expand the constituency of peace in South Asia." That is why a few Indians were surprised over the unanimous decision to expel Jaswant Singh from the party.


For some, the reaction within the embattled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its parent organisation, Rashtria Swamysevak Sangh (RSS) and similar entities – the proponents of Hindutva -- was quite natural in view of the upcoming elections in Madhiya Pradesh.


A few analysts also took a swipe at Jaswant Singh when he described the RSS as a "shadowy organisation" and that "no political party could afford to be dictated to by such an outfit" Why did Singh not speak out earlier against RSS earlier, many quipped.


A number of friends tried to play down Singh's expulsion as a result of BJP's internal squabbling and absence of real leadership.


Some insiders also questioned Jaswant Singh's "belated love for secularism and his praise for a secular Mohammad Ali Jinnah" by pointing out that Singh's entire family was up in arms when his son married a Muslim girl and they made sure that he divorced her.


Condemnation, if not hatred for Pakistan and anything related to it, seems to cut across various sections of the Indian society. This, however, does not mean the absence of sane voices; the resignation of an erstwhile speech-writer of Advani, Sudheendra Kulkarni, or the scathing attack on the party president Rajnath Singh and RSS (Aug 24) underscored their discomfort with the treatment meted out to Jaswant Singh.

Writing in the daily The Hindu (Aug 21), Siddharth Varadarajan, made some pertinent observations regarding the chorus kicked up by RSS-BJP, underlining the contradictions that lie at the heart of Jaswant Singh's condemnation:


"In the best of times, the Bharatiya Janata Party's line and manner of comportment have borne scant resemblance to the norms of democracy. Jaswant Singh's expulsion and the Gujarat government's shocking decision to ban his book have revealed the undemocratic core of BJP's politics and diminished the stature of Indian democracy as well."


What does it mean for Pakistan and those Pakistanis who keep hoping that the right-wing nationalist Indians – the flag-bearers of the Hindutva – will gradually shun their direct or indirect rejection of Pakistan?

Javed Naqvi, another Indian journalist, offers comment in this regard: "It is a feature of India's ties with both its nuclear neighbours that whenever something positive is about to happen -- say a summit-level visit or a major meeting to settle border disputes -- something goes off inexplicably that threatens to destabilise the ties."


The noises the Indian right made over praise for Jinnah by Advani (2005) and Jaswant Singh, offers little hope for the "constituency of peace" that Singh talks about. Let us hope this grows in numbers to blunt the hawks in India.

 

The writer heads the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies and is author of The Al-Qaeda Connection -- Terror in Tribal Areas. Email: imtiaz@crss.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

COLUMN

PERFIDIOUS MINDSETS

LEGAL EYE

BABAR SATTAR


Details of the Jinnahpur controversy and acceptance of ISI funds by politicians comprising the IJI adds nothing significant or new to public understanding of those events. It is merely another attempt by the establishment to use a much more powerful medium – the electronic media – to rehash an old thesis that has bedevilled the continuity of the political process in Pakistan: politics is a dirty business and we can trust our politicians only as far as we can throw them. It is true that civilian political leaders at the horizon today have been previously tried and found wanting. They made deceitful deals with the devil and indulged in the abuse of state power for illegitimate private gain. But are those who were enticed, co-opted or coerced to play along with the devil worse than the devil itself?


It is baffling that while we wish to rub in dirt the noses of all those who accepted the ISI's bounty, we don't dare ask whence serving military officers of the ISI accumulated the bounty or derived the authority to interfere with politics and why shouldn't all those involved in cooking up the malicious scheme and implementing it be identified, prosecuted and punished?


Does military interference make politics corrupt and dirty, or does the military only interfere when politics become intolerably corrupt and dirty? The question isn't one of absolute guilt or innocence, but that of relative responsibility. The army and the ISI created the IJI – ignoring for a minute the nonsense about unquestioning execution of orders coming from the presidency. Is the creation then more responsible for its illegitimacy than the creator? The army certainly has the advantage of disowning the actions of individuals who serve its corporate and institutional agenda. After all personal responsibility sticks much more than institutional responsibility. You cannot wish away your genes and your past. But an institution can certainly disassociate itself from individuals who don't serve its interests anymore.


If Nawaz Sharif accepted 3.5 million a decade and a half back and President Zardari has the reputation of being the most corrupt minister Pakistan might have had, the ebb and flow of time neither washes of their stigma nor their personal liability. They must accept responsibility for their past conduct, seek public pardon and hope that people are willing to grant them another opportunity. On the contrary, General Kayani probably feels no responsibility for the illegal and unconstitutional actions of any predecessor who served as army chief or DG ISI. In any comparison between a politician and a coup-maker, the easiest argument in favour of military intervention is a personal comparison between the politician and the general. The politician will have a past that is public and murky and the general will have none.


However, what actually needs to be weighed is the benefit of continuity of the political process as a self-correcting mechanism versus that of undertaking an unconstitutional fire brigade military operation with the professed objective of cleansing the political field. If we actually seek rule of law, continuation of representative democracy and a stable polity, we will need to develop further the concept of institutional accountability. If we cannot ask equally piercing questions and hold accountable the institution that affords army chiefs and intelligence agency heads the uninhibited power to revamp Pakistan's political landscape at will, should the orgy of the mawkish media trial of past misdeeds of politicians not stop as well?

The army seems to have learnt no lessons from Pakistan's history. It has been consistently established that through its intervention in politics the military becomes part of the problem rather than the solution. Yet the khaki savoir instinct simply doesn't die down. If the politicians in power have been corrupt and have abused state authority , the generals in power have been worse. This is not meant as a justification for the dismal and nauseating state of integrity, honesty and ethics in public life, but is a mere pointer that if we wish to reform our polity the response to charges of graft must be institutional as well as societal i.e. it will need to come from the media, the judiciary, civil society groups and the nation more generally and not the army.


However, the most sorry aspect of the continuing media trial of politicians is the eagerness with which politicians themselves have clenched this opportunity to cut each other to size. The Charter of Democracy was rooted in the realization that both our mainstream political parties had taken turns to sleep with the establishment in order to hurt the party in power. And that there was need to redefine the rules of the game, ensure a level playing field for all political actors and agree that political disagreements will not be allowed to escalate into no-holds-barred conflicts. Also implicit in the charter was the acknowledgement that leaders of both political parties had made ghastly mistakes in the past and a joint corrective action plan for the future was imperative if a representative political process was to be resuscitated and strengthened.

It is ironic that our ruling political class, despite being thrown up by a representative process, is failing to fully fathom the change that has transpired in Pakistan over the last few years. While the gains of democracy have not trickled down to the common man due to non-performing self-absorbed patronage-obsessed elected governments and hence his affinity to democracy is temperate, the inalienability of his right to rule of law and free speech is now firmly entrenched. This is evident by the mass public support elicited by the rule of law movement, vocal demands for Musharraf's trial and the angry reaction evoked by any governmental move to put fetters on free media. With independence of the judiciary and the media here to stay and these institutions emerging as effective tools of public accountability, it is no longer possible for politicians, political parties and even the army to approach politics in the business-as-usual mode they are accustomed to.


There is nothing to gainsay that our nation desperately craves change. And the desire for change through reform is based not on amnesia or misconception of the past conduct of our ruling elite, but on the premise that human beings can mend their ways if they so choose. This nation has expressed its willingness to give everyone another chance, notwithstanding his past, who portrays the ability to distinguish right from wrong and is now willing to resolutely stand on the right side of principle. The rousing welcome to our independent-minded judges is proof of such sentiment.


If we wish to usher in change through reform instead of a revolution, we can neither wait for a messiah to emerge nor hanker after the ideal of finding individuals with a completely untainted past. We must unequivocally commit ourselves to constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, transparency and public accountability, and then allow a continuous political process to weed out those who are unable or unwilling to rise up to heightened public expectations.


It might no longer be possible to audaciously justify wrong and get away with extortion, embezzlement or cronyism through the use of stick or carrot. But if the mysterious emergence of the minus-one formula and the IJI scandal or the rants of ruling party members against the media and judiciary are anything to go by, it provides an insight into the perfidious mindset of the establishment as well as our political elite that is unfortunately still refusing to acknowledge the winds of change.


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

COLUMN

OBAMA'S GLASNOST

ANJUM NIAZ


What does it mean when a Pashtun throws down his cap? Let's ask Richard Holbrooke, Obama's point man for 'Af-Pak.' Not only did he get a mouthful from Hamid Karzai in Kabul but watched the enraged president "whip off his distinctive karakul sheepskin hat and slam it onto the table where the two men were having dinner, a day after the disputed August 20 election," according to The Sunday Times. "For an Afghan man to do that," the paper quoted a local, "it's a big gesture. It's like throwing down the gauntlet."


Reining in Richard Holbrooke and others in the State Department to cool it may well have been the cause celebre for Admiral Mike Mullen's widely publicised article in an official military journal recently. As the highest-ranking officer in the US military, Mullen was perhaps inspired by President Obama's Glasnost of opening up to the Pakistanis convincing them that "the US is their friend." Normally 'International Relations 101' is the realm of diplomacy. Hillary Clinton rather than Mike Mullen should have compiled a handbook on how to treat others with respect. Foggy Bottom rather than Pentagon should have been the recipient of this global wisdom.


A former State Department official James Glassman in his September 1 column for Foreign Policy titled "It's Not About Us" snottily dismisses Mullen's rules of engagement with Muslim nations. "For the war-of-ideas part of public diplomacy, the constant admonition to US policymakers should be that it's not about us. Bite your tongue when you say 'we'… The way to counter that narrative is not to protest that the United States has clean hands and that if you really knew us you would love us -- but to change the subject entirely. The US is the scapegoat, the animal on which all cares and hatreds are loaded. We only contribute to that way of thinking when we defend ourselves, or talk about ourselves at all."


Apart from scolding Mullen for taking the blame (for US's bad behaviour) Glassman reviles "Miss Congeniality" Judith McHale who succeeded him as the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in the Obama administration. Heading for Pakistan to befriend the media there, McHale recently got snubbed by ace investigative journalist Ansar Abbasi as salaciously reported by the New York Times. Glassman gloats that McHale's and Mullen's efforts are futile because "Pakistanis don't like the United States… no matter how many bridge-building meetings we have with them." The thrust of the article is to also pick apart Abbasi and debunk his views vis-a-vis the US. "This is their struggle, just as the American Revolution and the Civil War were ours. And what does Ansar Abbasi have to do with such a narrative? Nothing at all. Which is why he is exactly the kind of person not worth talking to."


While Mullen advocates listening to other voices, Glassman's article says just the opposite as reflected in his impolitic remarks against Ansar Abbasi. Such hubris only fuels the fires of hate.


Now for some good news: Obama's Glasnost has finally reached the American embassy in Islamabad. Officials manning the mission have for the first time attempted to bring the national media on board. It doesn't pay to jettison the Pakistani media is the lesson they have learnt rather belatedly. In the past, the American officials appeared concentrating all their time, energies and charm on politicians and some handpicked editors and media persons known to favour the US. They made the rest of the press, especially those openly critical of American foreign policy, to seem invisible. Frequently at social gatherings, the uppity American diplomats showed open disdain by keeping the hacks at arms length.
It badly backfired.

Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu & www.anjumniaz.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GILANI’S FALSE CLAIMS ON FOREX RESERVES

 

AS people get no reprieve from multitudes of economic woes, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has tried to present a rosy picture of the country’s economy. Addressing a news conference after chairing Sindh Cabinet meeting in Karachi on Thursday, he claimed that macro-economic stability had been achieved, foreign exchange reserves had crossed the mark of $14 billion and the economy was now set to resume the high growth path.


The top leadership of the Government speaks on the basis of briefings it receives from the relevant departments and ministries and the Prime Minister might have been made to believe so with regard to the current state of the economy. We don’t dispute the figures quoted by Mr Gilani to lend credibility to his claims but he has easily forgotten the fact that the foreign exchange reserves, in our case, do not indicate strength of the economy. This is because the entire accumulation is based on foreign debts especially the record loans obtained by the present regime from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Is this a pride achievement? Our future generation would become hostage to enormous foreign debt as so far no government took any tangible measures to increase the capacity of the country to pay back and we are now taking loans to pay back loans. There are indications that the foreign debt would reach $ 70 billion during the next few years and no one knows how we are going to retire it. Instead of taking corrective steps and focusing on domestic production, each and every member of the Government right from the President, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister to lower level officials seem to be working on the one point agenda of getting more and more financial assistance from every conceivable source. The size of the begging bowl is getting bigger and bigger but there is no genuine concern among the policy and decision-makers. The remittances by overseas Pakistanis are increasing but we are spending them on non-productive sectors, which amounts to a crime that the history will not forgive. The Prime Minister is talking about economic stability but the masses queuing up for hours in scorching heat to get two kilograms of sugar or 10-kilo bag of wheat flour are either baton-charged or humiliated. Where is stability when essential items are not available to the people easily and on affordable prices? There are no jobs for hundreds of thousands of young people graduating every year from institutions of higher learning and the few one available in the public sector are being distributed as booty among members of the parliament or party office-bearers. These are only a few examples of what is the ground situation. Then how the Prime Minister, who is rightly perceived to be a decent person, can befool the people. Painting a rosy picture of the bad reality would damage the Prime Minister himself. Therefore, instead of indulging in self-deception, we should brace up the challenges and contribute towards resolution of the problems confronting the people.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INJURED MINISTER’S UNIFOCAL STANCE ON TERRORISM

 

MINISTER for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi, who got injured in an attack and motives of the attackers are not yet fully ascertained, has vowed not to bow before the terrorists saying that he would not change his stance against terrorism. Talking to newsmen he also claimed that he had no enmity with any one.

The resolve of the Minister shows that he is a man of strong nerves, as he is talking about principles even after an attempt on his life. The stance of the Minister, which has also been repeated by a number of other Government functionaries, also reflects that mindset of those at the helm of affairs and their unifocal agenda of killings during war against terrorism. This is because when we talk about eliminating terrorism, we are only referring to the use of brutal force to kill those dubbed as terrorists and forget about other dimensions of the issue and the need to address the problem through a comprehensive strategy. Ironically, we have been mentioning about three-pronged strategy or 3-D approach but in practice only one prong or ‘D’ is applied i.e. deterrent or use of force that should be the last option in resolving an internal problem. We have been emphasizing in these columns that mere use of force would generate more extremism and terrorism and, therefore, there is a need for exercising other options like discussions, dialogue, development and mainstreaming. Of course, there are some elements that are considered to be incorrigible but instead of going for a general operation they should be isolated and targeted. No doubt, the United States is exerting pressure for use of force but we should not blindly follow its dictates as we are dealing with our own people. There is a need to apply balm on injuries, initiate development activities, generate jobs so as to win ‘hearts and minds’ as the Prime Minister Gilani himself repeatedly says. The policy adopted with respect to Gilgit-Baltistan can also be replicated in FATA to address the issue on a long-term basis. We would also urge the Minister who is an authority on religion and who also heads the Ministry of Religious Affairs that the simplistic view of life is against the very essence of Islam.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THESE UNRULY MPS

 

YET another incident of wild behaviour by an MP has caused commotions in the society raising many questions about the conduct of those who are supposed to be role model for the people. In the latest episode, member of the National Assembly from Islamabad Anjum Aqeel Khan has been booked for damaging government property at the FG College for Boys in F-10/4 and thrashing teachers and staff.


The unfortunate incident is not only being resented by the college administration and faculty but also by the civil society of the Federal Capital. Incidentally, this is fourth incident of the kind and ironically all those involved belonged to the PML (N). Of course, the party leadership has shown zero tolerance towards such unruly behaviour and took appropriate action against the culprits but repetition of such unacceptable events reflects the mindset of the MPs who consider themselves above law and take pride in violating rules and regulations. This culture is regrettable and needs to be curbed for the sake of good governance. The deterioration can be arrested only if the top leadership demonstrates exemplary conduct because, in our view, fish starts rotting from the above. In this case, we hope, apart from the internal action by the PML (N), the law enforcing agencies too would take notice of the incident so as to discourage this VIP culture and mindset.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

COLUMN

SPLENDID VICTORY OF PAK SECURITY FORCES

LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)


According to one of the leading Indian news paper “Times of India” report of August 13,2009 Asma Jahangir, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) while delivering a lecture to the students on “Democracy and Human Rights in Pakistan: A dead-end” at Agha Khan university said that Pakistan Army is running foreign policy of the country and media cell is working to improve the image of spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and advising young journalists “what to write and what not to write”. Earlier on August 19, 2009, “Telegraph Weekly” revealed that Asma Jahangir, accused armed forces for extra-judicial killings in Swat valley. She also alleged that more than 100 bodies have been found dumped in the streets of towns and villages in Swat since July 13. She also tried to instigate Balochistan people while claiming that Balochistan was given 14 seats against the 14 percent population of the country while FATA having 2.5 of the country’s total population was given 12 seats. She further said “Recently there has been some development work in Balochistan, but it has not been carried out according to the wishes of the people of Balochistan, and the only set of people benefiting from the work are the Pakistan Army,”


Asma Jahangir started criticizing Pakistan Security Forces when they are meeting with splendid success after sacrificing their officers, junior commissioned officers and brave soldiers during war against militancy. Asma has forgotten the occurrences when Taliban use to hang the bodies of innocent people, slaughtering and beheading, lashing of women and murdering of Benazir Bhutto. She has also elapsed the killing of 69 Pakistani in blasting of Samjota express by Col Prohit in India. Asma botched to raise voice against Taliban and Hindu brutality in Pakistan and Kashmir. Should nation excuse her for such lapses since at that time she was committed for shaking hand in yellow dress with Moodi and Bal Tahckery who has also been involved in assassination of innocent Muslims in India? Jahangir meeting Bal Tahckery, an Indian terrorist who called on Indians to form ‘Hindu suicide squads’ to target his own countrymen who happen to be Muslims. There is a perception in the masses that most of the Human rights organizations are being funded or sponsored by anti Pakistan countries. Thus, pleasing the donor’s countries for money making on the cost of national interests has to be plaid by the government. The funds of such type organization should be audited by the concerned government agencies. In short, Asma type personalities always displayed negative role and tried to create instability just to delight their foreign masters and earning loathsome popularity.


Her purpose of targeting/blaming Pakistan Security Forces for extra judicious killing in FATA and Swat Areas would be taken as defaming sensitive and vital organs of the country on some foreign directives. It is also interesting to note here that her statements against Pakistani Security Forces have been given extraordinary coverage by Hindustan Times, The Telegraph and Indian Times. Issuing of such types of statements followed by wide coverage by Indian and western media should be an eye opener for the patriotic opinion makers. Asma Jshangir, Aaamjr Mir and people like Pervaiz A. Hoodbhoy are continuously criticizing nuclear programme and Pakistan Security Forces government policies in relation to war against terror are really agitating most of the minds whether said personalities are Pakistani or Indian. There is a need to condemn such type of characters and organizations which are working against the national interests. Probably people working on foreign agenda are not digesting the splendid victory of Pakistan Security forces, and ISI. Moreover they also not like to see instability in the country and peace in FATA and Swat. She has touched Balochistan issue exactly in Second week of August 2009 when anti Pakistan elements were going to announce liberation of Balochistan province. Is she deliberately raised the issue or just a coincident? The question left for the leader judgment to answer. As per news reports, Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission Chairperson, Asma Jahangir during her one of the visit to India also committed in a sidelines functions that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks came from Pakistan soil. On the other hand, it is yet to be established that whether Ajmal Kassab is a Pakistani or otherwise.

It may be mentioned here Pakistan Security forces and ISI defeated foreign sponsored war on terror in FATA and Swat which was appreciated by the nation too. RAW, CIA, RAAM and Mossad from 2005 onwards tried their best to destablize Pakistan .Weapons like Kalashnikovs, MI-4 American rifles, Israeli sniper rifles, 12.7mm, 14.5mm and 107mm guns, mortars, pistols, RPG-7s, grenades, explosives, equipment like, remote control sets, jamming devices, sophisticated telephone and wireless sets, bullet proof and suicide jackets, kits, and currency of different countries have been provided to the militants. Terrorist have been sent to Pakistan through Indian training camps located at Afghanistan.


Almost four divisions of force have been involved in elimination of militancy in FATA and Swat area. Pakistan Army also managed to take care of her eastern border too. The forces came all out to undertake Operation Rah-e-Rast and her soldiers set the gallant examples while clearing Swat, Dir, Buner, Kanjoo, Shangla and other areas. General Kayani and his team has displayed excellent professional capabilities, ISI unveiled the foreign agenda and fully supported security forces in eradication of terrorists. In this connection over 1000 troops including officers and men have laid down their lives. 2.8 million Individuals of Swat and surrounding area became IDPs. Asma Jahangir probably closed her eyes and is unwilling to see the families of brave soldiers who scarified their today for ours tomorrow. Can she bring these soldiers’ lives back who laid their lives for the country? Can she go in front of bullets for few thousand only? Can she restores those disables individuals who have been deprived from legs, arms and other body parts as result of explosions and mines laid by the militants and terrorists? Can she complete irreparable losses caused to the lives of innocent civilian as a result of suicidal bombing and terrorist activities. In this regard I would like to request her to stop playing in the hands of foreign donors and discontinue with defaming Pakistan vital organs. By doing so, she is only serving our adversaries. She should condemn the brutality of militants and help her security forces in elimination of militancy of the area. She must realize herself that why her statement against Pakistan Army and ISI is being given widely coverage on world media. She should protect the rights of innocent people of Pakistan those have become the victim of terrorism rather defending terrorists’ rights.


Concluding I just say Pakistan Security forces are determined to eliminate the militancy from Pak land. They would be successful with the help of brave nation and locals of the effected area. Pakistani soldier would keep on writing new chapters of sacrifice and heroism with their blood. Nation is satisfied over the recent actions of forces in which militants like Baitullaha Mehsud, Fazlullah, Muslim Khan, Shah Doran and Mulvi Umar have been killed, seriously injured and arrested. A Huge quantity of arms and ammunition have been seized, tunnels and hideouts have been destroyed. Large number of terrorists are being killed or arrested almost on daily basis. Most of the militants are surrendering themselves before the forces to save their lives and promised to lead a peaceful life. The IDPs have are returning to their home town. Now government should take steps to rehabilitate IDPs and unemployed locals be adjusted in public sectors. Particular attention be given to the development of FATA, Swat and Balochistan. At the same time national media policy should be announced and irresponsible statements of so called leaders be taken care for guarding national interests.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

COLUMN

POLITICS OF POPULISM AND POPULARITY

HASHIM ABRO


If you were to ask our leaders what type of government we have in the country. Most of them have to say that we have an elected- democratic government in the country. On the contrary, if you ask a man in the street, what type of government we have in the country, around ninety percent of the people will have to say, neither we have government nor governance, so, what to speak of type of government. Rationally speaking, people are neither concerned about ‘politics’, nor about the type of government in the country. Their sole concern is safety of their life and limb.


Academically speaking, there is not an academic consensus on the precise definition of “ Politics” and what is considered as political and what is not. Max Weber defines politics as the struggle for power. ‘Politics” ultimately comes from the Greek word “ polis” meaning state or city. “ Politikos” describes anything concerning the state or city affairs. In Latin, this was “ politicus” and in French “ politique.” Thus it became “ politics” in the Middle English ( Concsie Oxford Dictionary). Whatever may be other definitions of politics but in the context of our country the most appropriate is the said defintion of Max Weber i. e struggle for power. So the struggle for power goes on. There are several parties with different names and flags but all these have made the politics synonmous with power. Many politicians take advantage of this power and apply it for their own interests. This has created a wave of corruption, deep rooted in the origin our politics. Regretably, even after the sixty two years, our political system has not matured. If anyone has taken the risk of changing the political system in the country, his or her fate is not hidden. Of course, those they live on but changing the political system of the country still a remote dream. However, the present PPP-led coalition seems to be determined to change the system. Lets see what comes out of the bag. Despite sixty-years of age of Pakistan, poverty, inequality and crime remain the central issues of political debate in Pakistan. There is generally great poverty in the rural Pakistan, in particular, Sindh province, and more severe problems of malnutrition, lack of education, life expectancy and substandard housing. In addition to this, sadly, our schools, colleges and universities are terrible, there are no jobs or jobs are scare, and even more scary, no jobs are secure any more, there are too many cars, to many road accidents, there are too many mobile phones, too many people concentrated in small areas, not enough doctors, not enough food, not enough good housing. It is an irony of fate that the people of Pakistan are tolerating such leadership which is essentially self-serving and fundamentally lacking in common sense. Major ratio of our politicians are skewed in their thinking and guided by self-interests. The sucsessive governments have never been fair, upright or equitable, existing to serve the people even when sworn to do. The utlimate victims are the people of Pakistan. The so-called heroes are unable to meet expectations of the common man. But it is the time to bring the change. A nation needs an aimed and strategic direction to attain its growth. Pakisatn should not be behind in this race. The silly seaon of politics of ‘ Populism” has just set in the country. Pakistan Muslim Legaue ( PML-N) and Pakistan Tehrik Insaf ( PTI) are in the limelights for their politics of populism. Indeed, Populism is not bad in politics but whole time politics of populism and rhetorics not only muddy the image of the party but also distrub the different institutions working in the country. I do not want to recap on mistaken or blunders, that the PPP led coalition Government Committed one after another during the past one and a half year that led to the popularly of President Zardari falling so much. According to Concise Oxford Dictionary, “populism” is defined as a “type of Politics that claims to represent the opinions and wishes of ordinary people”. So when a government is not popular, it will probably resort to populist measures as being done by a few political parties are politicians. The are buying media times traveling around giving political speeches, having near conferences and so forth. It appears that all political parties, particulary, those out of Parliament, are hell bent on damaging the nacent democracy in the country. They detest to see the democracy flourishing in this country. Most of the analyst consider extremism and recent hostile gesture poltical parties a great threat to democracy in the country.

Prima facie, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seems to be losing its connection with the poor people of Pakistan, in particular, the rurlites. Keeping in view the prevalent circumstances, the PPP has to adopt to the changed conditions of the citizenry. All that really needs to happen is, to aid the ordinary people in discovering what they genuinely want and thank. Political legitimacy is rooted in the People. Not just power, but the moral right to govern is only found in the true will of a people. No one has the right to presume to speak for that will.


One can only ask the People: “What is your will?”. Service. Find out what do the People of this country want? And, not just superficially. Some kind of political process needs to be begun, which initiates a dialogue that goes deeper and deeper into the pressing questions of the age, from the point of view of ordinary people. Ordinary people of Pakistan are naturally wise. That’s why they are down to earth - humble and patient. They know their job is to work and to raise children- to raise the next generation. For the most part they give their trust to their leaders, a trust which has been increasingly betrayed. It is hoped this time their trust would not be betrayed. The PPP leadership would not betray the trust of the people. We have a Constitution and that can be the basis of the Rule of Law over the populace that needs not to be abused, bended and broken.


They need to do more community service in their respective constitencies and should heed the maxim “ to thine ownself be true.” Finally, the polticians should do what they need to do. They should treat politics as “worship” and do romance with politics and that behaviour makes one immortal. There is nothing in “ Politics of Populism and Politics of Revenge”. This is an age of politics of “Reconciliation and Recconstruction.” It is politics of Reconciliation and Reconstruction will ehances popularity graph both in the hearts and mind of people and not a politics of “ Populisms and Rehtorics”, that is nothing but self -cheating and face -saving device. Hence, our politicians with sole agena of “ Politics of Populims” must reflect on it.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

COLUMN

NEW INTERNAL AUTONOMY FOR NAS

WAQAR MEHDI


The latest announcement of internal autonomy for the Northern Areas (renamed Gilgit-Baltistan) under the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Ordinance 2009 has come under criticism from some quarters regarding its implications. Kashmiri leaders including Azad Kashmir’s former Prime Minister Sardar Atiq Ahmed Khan have expressed concern about these areas’ future status in the Kashmir dispute.

However it is also being said that the unanimous cabinet decision which remains short of granting the areas provincial status does not alter the status of these areas in the context of the Kashmir dispute but is an attempt to redress the longstanding demands of the local people and is consistent with the requirement of decentralization. While the critics’ concerns are misplaced, one thing is quite obvious and that is that the decision has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the local people. It would facilitate the execution of development works there as well as solution of the local problems. The areas will have their own consolidated fund which will be voted on by the legislative assembly and in turn approved by the cabinet.


Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, while briefing the media on Saturday last about the ratification of the federal cabinet of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Ordinance 2009, said that it was based on the recommendations of a high-powered committee constituted with the mandate of preparing a reform package for the Northern Areas. Later, the Prime Minister also met the Northern Areas Council and notables of the areas. Mr. Gilani spelled out some of the salient features of the ordinance: elections to the legislative assembly and the chief minister coming November, composition of the assembly, appointment of the acting governor, etc.


However, at the outset the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, 2009 has been received with mixed reviews. Firstly that it was not discussed by the National Assembly. The fact is that Gilgit-Baltistan as the northern-most entity in the disputed territory of Kashmir is not constitutionally earmarked and reforms in the area have generally been brought about directly without lengthy debates in the National Assembly. So it is in line with traditional practice. The absence of a high court in Gilgit-Baltistan means the locals will have to go to Islamabad to seek justice. Moreover the status of Gilgit-Baltistan also has not been determined within the constitutional framework and only seeks to grant the region with internal autonomy like that of AJK.


The lack of a high court may be redressed by the fact of greater judicial autonomy. Under the Ordinance, a ‘supreme appellate court’ shall be headed by a chief judge who will be appointed by the Chairman of the Council on the advice of the governor. Other judges shall be appointed by the chairman on the advice of the governor after seeking views of the Chief Judge. The number of judges has been increased from three to five and the tenure of the present judges of the Supreme Judiciary has been protected in the Ordinance. The new set-up will also have a public service commission, a chief election commissioner and an auditor general. The establishment of a public service commission for the areas ensures greater job opportunities for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.


As to the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan, the problem has to be seen in the international context because of the Kashmir issue. Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan was not merged into Pakistan proper because the fear was that it could undermine our claim on Kashmir and it was not merged into AJK because it could complicate a settlement on the area. If, for example, Gilgit-Baltistan is made a full-fledged province within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, India could perhaps argue that the state it has carved out of the disputed area, Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir, is also a legitimate entity and that it is a settled issue.

This, then, is the government’s dilemma; acting on the desire to see to it that all the people who live in Pakistan have the same constitutional rights versus potentially further complicating an already intractable problem like the Kashmir issue. What the government has done is to try and occupy the middle ground by moving towards replicating the AJK template of governance in Gilgit-Baltistan and empowering the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is certainly not ideal but it at least opens the door to further changes down the road once the new system is operational. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan deserve all their rights; however, realistically, that goal can only be achieved incrementally.


The writer is Special Assistant to the CM Sindh for Press and Media.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

COLUMN

EXEMPLARY RELATIONSHIP

MALIK M ASHRAF


It is generally said and believed that there are no permanent friendships and enmities in international relations. That saying is however belied in case of Pak-Saudi relations which have grown from strength to strength without any hic-up or lows. They have transcended the changing global environment and expediency of international politics. The Saudis have lent unqualified support to Pakistan’s endeavours to consolidate the gains of its independence and achieving economic and political stability. It has been a staunch supporter of Pakistan on Kashmir and its nuclear programme.


Successive Pakistani governments and the people have invariably shown undiluted reverence for the custodians of the two Holy mosques and the Saudi people . It will not be an exaggeration to say that this reverence is a part of the Pakistani persona. This reverence and concern for Saudi security was amply demonstrated by Pakistan in 1969 when it extended military assistance and support to Saudi Arabia against Yemeni aggression and then again during the first gulf war when Pakistani troops were sent as part of multi-national force to protect Saudi Arabia against any harm.


Although the ties between the two countries were cordial and strong since the very inception of Pakistan, but they were given a new impetus and dimension by the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who vehemently espoused the cause of the middle eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia in the wake of confrontation with the west on the use of oil as a weapon in 1973. The successful holding of Islamic Summit in Lahore in 1974 raised his stature as a statesman and the entire Muslim Ummah looked up him to provide the leadership that was so vitally needed at that time. It was his sagacious and visionary engagement with the gulf states and Saudi Arabia that the doors were opened for the Pakistani skilled and semi-skilled labour which according to the latest estimates is in the vicinity of one million in Saudi Arabia alone. They are not only contributing to the economic progress of Saudi Arabia, but are also a major source of our foreign exchange earnings for Pakistan. Who can deny the economic benefits and the transformation in the Pakistani society brought about by this development? It was undoubtedly the strong foundation laid by Bhutto that determined the special nature of future relationship between the two brotherly countries. The two countries have since shared perceptions and convergence of views on major regional and international issues. Their exemplary relationship is also rooted in common faith, mutual trust, understanding and an abiding interest in each others, security, stability and well being of their people.


The multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries is also firmly based on institutional linkages and strong trade and commercial ties. Saudi companies have made significant investments in Pakistan in diverse fields and our bilateral trade stands at around US$ 5.7 billion. The Saudis have stood by Pakistan in every thick and thin and proved to be a true friend. They supported Pakistan during the Afghan crisis and without their backing it would not have been possible for us to keep the lurking dangers at bay. They have always bailed out Pakistan from economic and political difficulties by showing unique generosity and understanding of our situations. Saudis have extended assistance to Pakistan in the form of fuel credits, fuel donations, loans ,aid and donations and gifts . They further strengthened their credentials as a true and trusted friend when in March 2008 they donated $300 million to Pakistan for fixing the economic maladies. Their help in tiding over the political crisis in Pakistan on numerous occasions through their friendly influence, has earned them the gratitude of the Pakistani nation. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also has been in the forefront in extending humanitarian assistance to Pakistan. When a devastating earthquake struck Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas, the Saudi government under instructions of King Abdullah set up an air bridge with Pakistan to ensure steady supply of relief goods for the affected areas. It also pledged an additional $ 573 million for the rebuilding and rehabilitation tasks in the affected areas.

It has also pleaded Pakistan’s cause at the “ Friends of Democratic Pakistan” initiative. The special nature of ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is also epitomized by the construction of Faisal mosque in Islamabad by the Saudi government during the rule of King Faisal, changing of the name of a Pakistani city “Lyallpur” as Faisalabad and naming of an airbase in Karachi as Faisal base. The frequent visits of the Pakistani leaders to Saudi Arabia and vice versa have always remained a hall mark of these more than cordial ties reflecting their faith and commitment to a continued mutual consultations on issues of bilateral and multilateral interest. For the incumbent PPP led government, the relations with Saudi Arabia have a special meaning in view of the fact that their leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the architect of the new direction of relations between the two countries and putting them on firm footings for all times to come. The esteem in which the Saudi leadership held him and her daughter Shaheed Muhtarma Banazir Bhutto provides an added reason for a more expanded and gainful engagement with the Saudis. President Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have already paid visits to Saudi Arabia and some Saudi ministers have also paid reciprocal visits to re-affirm their resolve to take these relations to new heights.

The recent visit of interior minister Rehman Malik to Saudi Arabia was a continuation of the same mission and to show Pakistan’s solidarity with the Saudi Arabia in regards to assassination attempt on Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy interior of the Kingdom. He conveyed sympathies and concern of the President and Prime Minister on this cowardly act of terrorism and assured all possible help to the Saudi government against such terrorist attacks. Rehman Malik also called on King Abdullah who assured his full support and cooperation to Pakistan in its efforts for prosperity of its people and peace and stability in the region. He also held one-on one meeting with the King and Prince Muqrin. Earlier on arrival he was given unprecedented protocol and reception and received at the royal pavilion by Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy interior minister. The visit reflects government’s confidence in Rehman’s ability to handle such important errands. The fact that the King held one-on one meeting with him, reaffirms the unfathomable depth of relations between the two countries.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

COLUMN

THANK GOD WE ARE VEGETARIANS..!

ROBERT CLEMENTS


“Ashok Patil, state DIG (prisons) told the Bombay High Court that serving non-vegetarian food in jails could be ‘dangerous and create tension’..” —Times of India 1st Sept


Thank God we are vegetarians: It’s because we are so that there is no tension in our country, that we do not riot, do not pull down or desecrate mosque, church or temple, and as our men and women eat vegetables and fruits and roots, not a thought enters our minds of attacking others from weaker sections, raping their women, burning houses, putting burning tires around helpless children, oh no with vegetarianism such thoughts do not exist, oh no they don’t!We are vegetarian and so peaceful.And in America, horror of horrors where meat is eaten, citizens roam the streets killing each other and millions die everyday from gunshot wounds and from stones and arrows when bullets are not available.


Women do not venture outside their skyscrapers as men pounce on them and do with them as they wish right there on the road or street or avenue or whatever they call gullies in a non-veg ruffian land called America. Thank God we are vegetarians: It’s because we are so that we are today incorrupt. No policeman, government employee, municipal worker takes a bribe, no judge, no politician asks for a paisa as cases are judged fairly and politicians rule impartially and without prejudice. Motorists do not cut signals and when they do pay their fines without opening their wallets to cops who if they so much as scent a pay- off march the culprit to jail and throw the key away.


And in those countries where meat is eaten, countries such as those in Europe, dishonesty reigns, as the prime minister of England bribes his Queen to become the prime minister and the president of America bribes members of the senate to become the president and the people bribe the president to continue having democracy in their country. They are non-veg, so different. Thank God we are vegetarians: Where freedom of the press is so respected that no hooligans ever enter newspaper offices, don’t blacken the editor’s face, nor break computers, or throw chairs and tables on helpless female reporters and workers. Thank God for vegetarianism that we can speak what we want and not have a howling mob at our doorstep frightening our children and women.


Thank God we are vegetarians that we don’t thrash someone from another state and call him an outsider just because he speaks the national language and not our own, that we don’t slap and touch women in the guise of being moral police. Thank God we are vegetarians in a country, where a man with such immense, intricate and intellectual knowledge of the repercussions of eating non-vegetarian food can rise up to the post of Deputy Inspector General of Police and voice such so unashamedly before judge and jury..!

Email: bobsbanter@gmail.com

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

EXPORT POLICY

 

The government is readying a three-year export policy starting from 2009. Although a quarter of the new fiscal year has already passed, counting 2009 as the base year would not be out of place. What is significant here is that the new policy has got its priority right with special emphasis on seven sectors with immense potential. These seven sectors - agro-based and agro-processing, light engineering, leather and leather goods, pharmaceutical, software and ICT (information and communication technology) products, home textiles and ship-building industries - are certainly the thrust sectors right at this moment.
Of these, if export from pharmaceutical and ship-building industries takes off to their full potential, they can earn foreign exchange several times higher than they do now. Currently, the total export earning by the pharmaceutical companies here amounts to Taka 4,000 crore whereas Ranbaxy, an Indian drug company exports medicines worth Rs 10,000 crore. Had a few rules and regulations for export of pharmaceutical products been simplified, the country could raise its export volume quite easily. Similarly, entrepreneurs embarking on the challenging job of building ocean-going vessels have already proved a point or two and those days are not far away when many countries will add ships built in Bangladesh to their fleet.


What all this means is that these are areas where opportunities are being seized by entrepreneurs but clearly more needs to be done from the government side. This new policy should be particularly attentive to removing the stumbling-blocks on the way to production and export of the exportable including machines and ships. In the new policy, recommendation has been made for offering cash incentives for export of items like plastic goods, decoration items, herbal products and a few other items produced in our small and cottage industries. Sure enough, these are not huge export earners but their merit lies in boosting rural economy and employment generation. So this is a good move. Agro-industries should be a deserving candidate in this regard.  In case of big industries, though, cash incentives are not a priority, their cause can better be served if facilities like tax and duty rebate along with bank loans are provided.     

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

HELPING THE BLIND

 

In Bangladesh, few people are motivated enough to donate their eyes after their death, a noble act leading to restoration of vision of the cornea-related blind currently numbering about 5.26 lakhs. Even collection of the number of eyes from cadavers is very poor. Sandhani Eye Donation Society (SNEDS), the lone organisation in the country that collects eyes, could collect a paltry 80 corneas in the last three decades against 35,579 willing donors. Currently, SNEDS collects some 150-200 corneas annually. During the same period, the organisation gathered 3,282 corneas from the unclaimed bodies in hospitals, of which only 2,967 could be successfully grafted. 


Poor rate of cornea collection from willing donors is largely because near and dear ones of that person, after death, do not feel interested to inform the concerned organisation mostly for cultural misconception and prejudices. If people cannot be motivated to voluntarily donate eyes and the rate of collection of corneas from cadavers remains the same, cornea treatment will hardly improve. The Tissue Bank Law of 1999 prohibits the hospital authorities to collect corneas from bodies. But if a cornea cannot be gathered within six hours after death, it becomes useless. A social campaign in our country is urgently needed.
When our country first started voluntary eye donation camp, some countries especially Sri Lanka, donated eyes for Bangladeshi patients. Sri Lanka, in fact, exports corneas, as the country has a surplus of donated eyes.

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THE INDEPENDENT

BOB’S BANTER

BANGLADESH BANS SUITS...!

ROBERT CLEMENTS


"…At the last cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed senior bureaucrats to shun suit and tie… to cut electricity consumption caused by the use of air- conditioners…."  The Independent, Bangladesh.

 

In Washington, the President of the United Sates of America shook his head admiringly, "This is absolute out of the box thinking," he said, "I need to think just like her to get out of this recession!" He called out to his aide who came rushing in, "Inform all senators and congressmen," he said, "That we will be issuing them one set of government uniforms to wear when they attend the Senate or Congress!" Aide, "Why Mr President?"
"Can you imagine what the nation will save with them not having to buy their expensive suits, shirts and trousers?
The cash surplus in our country's coffers from unnecessary dry cleaning and detergents?" Aide asks, "Yes sir! But only one set sir?" President firmly, "Yes one set!" Aide, "Why only one set Mr President?" President, "Cloth my dear man! What a saving! This is the way to tackle the recession!" Aide, "Brilliant Mr President!"


"I know, I know! But I had to learn this from a lady!"


In India the PM known for his economic savvy looked at his neighboring country with unconcealed respect, "How is it I never thought of this before?" he asked himself tapping himself impatiently on his wide forehead, "But it is not too late!" he chuckled as his secretary came running to him, "I have found a way to tackle the drought caused by the failure of the monsoons!" he shouted. "That is good PMjee," said his secretary. "Issue a circular," said the PM, "to all ministers, MP's and MLA"s that tea, coffee, and soft drinks will not be served, will not be drunk and will not be found in any of their premises!" Secretary, "Brilliant PMjee!" Said the PM, "I wish I had  been brilliant sooner,"  he looked in the direction of Bangladesh and smiled.


In Pakistan, the President smiled, grinned then laughed. "It takes a lady to teach a man," he said smiling in the direction of what was once East Pakistan then smiling at a photo of his wife, "We can now save millions! Millions!"


"How Mr President?" asked his Prime Minister sceptically. "Give me a world map! Now look, see what I have done!" Pak PM, "You have cut out India from the map?" Pak President, "Cut out India from the maps of all the Generals, the Defense Minister, yours and mine. When we don't see India, she doesn't exist, and if she doesn't exist, we save precious money on defense!"


"Clever!" said his Prime Minister, "Very clever!" And he cut out India from the map hanging behind him. In Sri Lanka, the military rejoiced as the President fresh from his victory over the rebels ordered his soldiers to wear only swimming costumes, and in one of the African countries the President said he would go back to the dressing of his forefathers, as his people cheered and counted the money they would save.   

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

DEMOGRAPHY OF DRINK

SOCIAL SHIFTS, NOT JUST OPENING HOURS, SHAPE ALCOHOL USE

 

KEVIN Rudd wants us to take another look at the 24/7 approach to licensing laws as a way to curb anti-social and drunken behaviour. The Prime Minister is not the only one worried about whether Australians - especially young ones - are drinking too much, but it is not clear extended trading is the cause of what seems to be a growing culture of binge drinking.

 

We can think of a few other social changes having an impact on drinking patterns. One is the delayed age of adulthood as men and women stay in education and continue to live at home. Once, a man of 21 or 22 was married with responsibilities to his wife and children. Family life anchored young men to their homes and limited budgets tended to curb their alcohol levels. These days, those constraints kick in much later. Then there are the ladettes, young women keen to drink as much as men. Exercising that right is not a problem but it is certainly a change from the days when male inebriation was checked by a bloke's need to impress a girl who was sober.

 

There are many other factors, including parents who financially subsidise their children's lifestyles well into their 20s, or condone early use of drugs and alcohol in the mistaken belief that it will keep the lines of communication open with teenagers.

 

In a week when a federal government preventive health taskforce called for taxes to be used to curb behaviour potentially harmful to health, it is worth remembering the limits of social engineering policies in this area, and restating the primacy of personal responsibility.

 

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

TRIUMPH IN TIMOR

JOHN HOWARD IS A FATHER OF EAST TIMORESE INDEPENDENCE

 

JOHN Howard's political opponents criticised him as an insular anglophile, uninterested in Asia and indifferent to the rights of oppressed people. It was always inaccurate, demonstrated by Paul Kelly's analysis of the creation of East Timor in this issue of The Weekend Australian. Kelly's evidence shows Mr Howard to be unique among Australian prime ministers in that he was a founding father of a foreign country. Certainly, the Chifley Labor government supported Indonesian independence from the Dutch after World War II, but it was Mr Howard's support for East Timor that was largely responsible for convincing the Indonesians to accept its then province's secession. In the 10th anniversary year of a sovereign East Timor, this is the great achievement of independent Australian diplomacy, surpassing our role in the Cambodian peace process and in establishing stability in the Solomon Islands.

 

It was Mr Howard's aggressive diplomacy that convinced Indonesian President B.J. Habibie that it was not possible to ignore the desire of most East Timorese for independence. It was Mr Howard's willingness to deploy Australian troops to stare down Indonesian-backed militias that ensured the independence referendum was not overturned. That he accepted the risk of Australian soldiers exchanging fire with the Indonesian army ensured the UN took the crisis seriously. And thanks to Mr Howard's determination, the Clinton administration, admittedly after a slow start, advised Jakarta that it would back Australia. For a prime minister who had entered office just three years earlier with little experience of foreign affairs it was an audacious strategy.

 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the Howard government's involvement with East Timor was the way it ended the policy of appeasing Indonesia. Ever since Indonesian troops occupied East Timor in 1975, governments of both political persuasions had avoided offending Jakarta. It was an article of faith in the foreign affairs establishment then that our national interest depended on a stable Indonesia that did not feel threatened by Australia. And prime ministers from Gough Whitlam on had accordingly ignored human rights abuses by Indonesia's colonial officials and their supporters in East Timor. But while the case for a strong relationship with Indonesia was, and remains, overwhelming, the best friendships are frank. By 1999, the case for East Timorese independence was so strong that Mr Howard knew he could not stay silent, whatever officials wanted. He did what needed to be done without harming our national interest.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

DEVELOPMENT NEEDS DOLLARS AND SENSE

 

FIVE years ago Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Michael Somare, was facing a no-confidence motion in Parliament. He saved himself by adjourning the session, claiming that the water had been cut off. A desperate, comical ruse? Yes, but not a unique one. Last month he again adjourned Parliament, citing building faults, to forestall a no-confidence vote. More than 30 years after independence, PNG has not endured coups like its Melanesian neighbours Fiji and the Solomon Islands, and, except on the island of Bougainville, it has not known civil war. But it is hardly a model parliamentary democracy adhering strictly to the rule of law, either. Yet, as The Age reports in a series beginning today, the country is about to undergo a resources boom that could catapult its people from poverty to riches. Whether that happens will depend in part on the ability of PNG's teetering system of governance to overcome pervasive lawlessness, corruption and instability, and in part on the effect that exposure to the practices of large multinational corporations has on its village-based society and tribal cultures.

 

Senior writer Jo Chandler and photographer Jason South visited the Tagari valley in the PNG highlands, where the local landowners, the Huli people, are the royalty-earning beneficiaries of the PNG Liquid Natural Gas project (PNG LNG), which has the potential to double the country's gross domestic product and return $A38 billion over 30 years to the state and 60,000 landowners. Along with the cash, the project's backers, ExxonMobil, Oil Search and Santos, will provide jobs, hitherto non-existent transport and communications infrastructure, and health care and other community services that the slender PNG budget cannot match.

 

That, at least, is the promise. But the bright dawn of development has already been clouded by the corrosive effects of new wealth. Naomi Samuel, president of the Kutubu Foi Women's Association, told Chandler: ''The men take the new road, and take the money, and go off and marry new wives'', while the women they abandon struggle to raise children alone. And a senior Kutubu man, Banima Vege, said: ''Men get money, get drunk, beat their wives, don't feed their children. Development brings both good and bad, but our leaders … they don't see the impact on traditional life, that money really spoils traditional life.''

 

The good and bad of which Banima Vege speaks is not a simple division between royalty cheques and health care on the one hand and the breakdown of communal relationships on the other. The strain placed on traditional social structures has resulted in a new activism by women, who in village society had little power. There are community leaders like Mr Vege who can see what is happening around them. The leaders he complains about, the ones he says do not see, are PNG's politicians and bureaucrats.

 

This month AusAID, the Australian Government's foreign aid agency, released Tracking development and governance in the Pacific, one of a series of reports on the implementation of the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the region. It makes some observations that no one would contest: ''faster, sustained economic growth is essential to make faster progress towards the MDGs''; the report warns, however, that one of the key obstacles to achieving sustained growth is a lack of ''effective and accountable governance''. AusAID regards this as a challenge throughout the Pacific region, but identifies PNG and East Timor as the countries of greatest concern. They are ''off track'' on almost all of the MDGs: ''poverty in these countries has increased; only six out of 10 primary school-aged children are enrolled in primary school and, of those who are, many do not finish their final years of primary education; child and maternal health rates have improved but remain among the highest in the region; and infectious diseases are spreading at alarming rates.''

 

That East Timor, with its recent history of invasion and brutal military occupation, should be so blighted is no surprise. But PNG, as Australians like to think, gained independence after a period of peaceful preparation under a benign colonial administration. And, because it is now a sovereign nation, there is little that Australia can do directly to combat its endemic corruption and poor governance. But that does not absolve Australia from all responsibility for what happens to its people. PNG continues to be by far the biggest recipient of Australian aid, and Australian governments must insist that aid confers responsibilities, not only on its ultimate recipients but on those who must uphold the framework of law through which it is delivered.

 

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                                                                                                                      THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

GORDON BROWN AND AFGHANISTAN: THE FUTILITY OF BEING EARNEST

 

Last year the Rand National Research Institute produced a revealing fact. A study of the 90 insurgencies that had taken place since 1945 found that it takes an average of 14 years to defeat insurgents once they are up and running. Gordon Brown has not got that long in Afghanistan. It is arguable whether any British prime minister or US president has got 14 more months of public support, given the rate at which it is haemorrhaging after two of the costliest months in British and US and Afghan lives; 50 British lives have been lost in the last four months alone.

 

Propelled by The Sun's poll which found that seven out of 10 believe Mr Brown is failing to support British forces in Afghanistan, and with the words of another resignation letter ringing in his ears, Mr Brown concocted a hastily conceived defence of his strategy in his address to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London yesterday. Mr Brown pleaded repeatedly that his objectives in stabilising Afghanistan were credible, deliverable and specific. He claimed that 4,000 Afghan soldiers could be trained each month, but conceded that that depended on other coalition members showing the same resolve. He refused to provide a timetable for withdrawal and provided only the vaguest measurements of success. He said British troops would only come home when Afghan troops were doing the job themselves. Once again, this amounts to an earnest hope, not a strategy. Even if we hope that in a year's time there will be the quality and quantity of Afghan forces to replace ours, that there will be local governance which is locally accepted, that farmers will be planting wheat rather than poppy seeds, we still have to take the realism of these goals on trust.

 

Eric Joyce, who resigned as parliamentary aide to Bob Ainsworth, the man protecting the premier's right flank at the IISS, evidently does not. Mr Joyce may have had mixed motives in attempting to pull the plug on Mr Brown's policy. Outrage at the attacks of his colleagues on the former head of the British army Sir Richard Dannatt was one. Mr Brown is struggling for credibility on a number of fronts: with the public, with parliament and not least with the army itself. The notoriously aloof prime minister talked of his many friends in the army. Who, precisely? But amid surging emotions, Mr Joyce's letter contained some bald truths. He wrote: "I do not think the public will accept for much longer that our losses can be justified by simply referring to the risk of greater terrorism on our streets." He is right. Most of the plots that have produced terrorism on our streets have emanated from Pakistan, not Afghanistan. While counter-insurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Pakistan are umbilically linked, and a lessening of effort on one side of the border would inevitably spur insurgents on the other, the two operations are not the same. One is conducted by Pakistani forces reclaiming the Pakistan state. The other is conducted by foreign forces whose very presence on Afghan soil generates its own insurgency. In attacking the Taliban, have we not merely blundered into a war with Pashtun nationalists? In fighting the flames with more and more military force, we could merely be fanning them.

 

As in Iraq, the gap between public and private discourse among those running the war in Afghanistan appears to be growing. The undeclared US exit strategy looks like this: two more years spent maximising the military pressure on the Taliban, while everything is done to build up Afghan forces and cut deals with insurgents who agree to cut ties with al-Qaida; a loya jirga will be called to rewrite the constitution, which is a way of circumventing the claim that anyone who reconciles with Kabul will have to respect the constitution; and then the international effort will be scaled back from counter-insurgency into a counter-terrorist mission. It would be a way of withdrawing with the mission of restoring the Afghan state unaccomplished, but avoiding a Soviet-style humiliation.

 

If this is what is in US minds, it would be as well for the process to start now rather than in two years' time. The Taliban, we are told, have to be negotiated with from a position of strength. But two more years of this disastrous fight could see them stronger still. And the strength British and US leaders need to show is the strength of mind involved in realising how many of their original ambitions were misplaced.

 

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

BANKING CRISIS: LESSONS FROM A MAN-MADE TRAGEDY

 

Two global events will define this decade, and they hang on either end of it in a rough and ghastly symmetry. First came the terrorist attacks on America on 11 September 2001. The second fell on 15 September last year: the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and the climax of the international banking meltdown. The chain of events that triggered the worst financial chaos since 1929 is revealed in the investigation we are publishing this weekend. As it illustrates, this catastrophe – which caused banks to go bust, the global economy to sink into its deepest recession in decades, and millions to lose their jobs and their homes – did not drop out of a clear blue sky, but was years in the making; and its consequences will be with us for many years to come.

 

This weekend's meeting of Alistair Darling and finance ministers from the G20 group of significant economies, as they argue over how best to tame the banking industry, is part of the aftermath. So too is this autumn's pre-budget report in which Mr Darling and Gordon Brown will try to strike a balance between reviving a recession-hit economy and repairing a wrecked public balance sheet – and the general election in which they will be judged by voters on their efforts. But this turmoil is still likely to be felt many years from now, as central bankers have to manage a much choppier economy, and government ministers no longer squabble over who receives most money but who must make the biggest spending cuts. Before Lehman Brothers went bust last autumn, it was still (just about) possible for politicians, businesspeople and taxpayers to believe that the world economy would in time revert to the placid norm of the previous decade; after it broke, it was only a question of how much things would change.

 

If the full impact of last September's terrible events have yet to percolate into public debate, that is partly a tribute to the speed and intelligence with which the British government contained the collapse of the banking system and tried to mitigate its worst effects on the economy. Yes, the Labour government spent a decade paring down financial regulation. But when the crisis hit last autumn, Mr Darling and the Treasury worked around the clock and came up with a plan that was followed around the globe. Compare that with yesterday's reports of Hank Paulson, then treasury secretary of the world's most powerful economy, phoning around to find a rescue bid for Lehman – and failing.

 

That horrific failure at least clarified one big policy argument. Before 15 September 2008, it was possible to argue that a market solution could always be found for failing banks – that they could be allowed to go bust, or be sold to a willing bidder. Lehman's collapse showed the consequences of sticking to that line – and at least Mr Brown knew better. Whatever the prime minister's numerous other flaws, the height of the banking meltdown was his finest hour. The idea of Mr Cameron in the same hot seat does not bear much thinking about.

 

Yet it is the Tories who will surely take power come the next general election, and there lies a political puzzle best summed up by Hilary Wainwright in a comment the editor of Red Pepper made to this paper last month: "The crisis of the financial markets has become a crisis of public spending. Public servants are going to be scrutinised down to the last paperclip, while bankers are not going to be scrutinised down to the last million they have received from the government." Mr Brown failed to turn from firefighting tactics to a strategy of reforming finance and reshaping the economy. It is left to Adair Turner and Mervyn King – a financial regulator and a central banker – to warn against City excesses and an economy over-reliant on its banking sector, even while Labour ministers refuse to bring bankers to heel. A year on from Lehman, such timidity is unwise in both politics and policy terms. The banking system is past the worst of the crisis, while still reliant on government guarantees and taxpayer money. Now is the time to be cracking down on excessive bonuses and superfluous financial innovation. Now is the time to be laying out plans for banks to be split between their utility and their speculative arms. Now is the time to wean the UK economy off its dependence on City tax revenues. Otherwise, the events of last autumn will be more than a historical anniversary; they stand to be repeated.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

FROME THE ARCHIVE: EDITORIAL: CRIME AND SIN

 

The Wolfenden Committee's report on homosexual offences and on prostitution is out at last, after three years' preparation. The committee take their stand, in both sections of their report, on a principle of fundamental importance. They distinguish between crime and sin, and regard as criminal only those acts, however sinful, which do injury to someone other than the sinners, or which are an offence against public decency. From this principle spring the two most striking recommendations made – that homosexual acts done in private between consenting adults should cease to be criminal offences, and that prostitutes convicted of soliciting several times should be liable to penalties of increasing severity, rising to three months' imprisonment for the third offence, in place of the present derisory forty shillings. To many people it must seem that two homosexuals acting together, however discreetly, are on a lower moral level than a prostitute looking for a customer. They may be, the committee would say; but they injure none but themselves and leave public decency intact. Therefore their sin is not a crime. Only one member of the committee, Mr Adair, formerly a procurator-fiscal in Glasgow, dissents from this cardinal principle. Yet if it stands the main recommendations based upon it must surely stand, too.

 

The proposal regarding the acts of consenting adults is not so startling as it seems at first sight. What the committee propose is in fact the law to-day in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, and Spain. The complex of offences commonly known as "gross indecency" have been illegal here only since 1885. Yet the issue is not quite clear-cut. Two points in Mr Adair's dissent deserve particular consideration. One is that two homosexuals, living together, might escape prosecution by committing no overt acts in public, and yet so flaunt their way of life in other respects as to be offensive or demoralising to others. Is there any way in which such conduct could be defined as an offence against public decency, which in effect it is? Secondly, he points out that a homosexual who knows that while he acts discreetly he is not liable to prosecution loses a strong motive for seeking medical or other assistance in lessening his desires or strengthening his resistance to it. There is perhaps a certain inconsistency here between the committee's attitudes to the homosexuals and the prostitutes. The threat of severe sentences for soliciting is defended on the ground that it will induce prostitutes to accept the guidance of a probation officer rather than go to prison. Does not the same argument apply to the homosexual, who may need expert aid just as much as the prostitute does?

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE IN SCOTLAND

 

Justice should be tempered by mercy. That was the thinking of the government of Scotland when it decided to release Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal cancer, from prison, eight years into a 27-year minimum sentence for blowing up an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and killing 270 people.

 

But that show of humanity has unleashed a firestorm of controversy. Critics argue that compassion from the government should be matched by a similar demonstration by al-Megrahi himself, a step he has never taken. More disturbing still are reports that the Scottish decision was influenced by the British government's desire to improve ties with Libya. London has vehemently denied the accusation, but questions linger, clouding an already emotional and difficult decision.

 

Pan Am flight 103 exploded in midair over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, claiming 270 lives. The atrocity triggered the largest law enforcement investigation in British history, one that concluded in murder indictments against al-Megrahi, then a Libyan intelligence officer, and Mr. Lamin Khalifah Fhiman, the Libyan Arab Airlines station manager in Malta. After protracted negotiations with the Libyan government, the two men were handed over and a special court was convened in 1999. In January 2001, the court found al-Megrahi guilty of murder while acquitting Mr. Fhimah. Eight years into his sentence, al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds: He suffers from prostate cancer and is said to have but three months to live.

 

The decision to free al-Megrahi outraged the families of the victims, law enforcement officials, and the United States government. The director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Robert Mueller, who led the investigation of al-Megrahi, sent a letter to Mr. Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary who approved the release, saying, "Your action makes a mockery of the rule of law," insisting that the move was "as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice."

 

U.S. and British officials condemned the hero's welcome al-Megrahi received upon returning home, calling it "outrageous" and "disgusting." The anger was magnified by Tripoli's disregard for warnings from Washington and London that a public spectacle would be inappropriate. Libyan officials brushed off the complaints. Leader Moammar Gadhafi even used the occasion to make mischief, calling British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "my friend" and thanking him for pushing the Scottish government to free al-Megrahi.

 

Mr. Brown, along with other ministers, insisted that neither he nor anyone else in his government applied any pressure on the Scottish government. "On our part, there was no conspiracy, no coverup, no double-dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to Col. Gadhafi."

 

Indeed, the decision to free al-Megrahi was for Scottish officials to make and, after the devolution of power to Britain's regions during the past decade, the London government had no input into it. Mr. Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish government, said his government was driven by compassion for a dying man. Mr. MacAskill added that the humanity behind his ruling was "a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people."

 

While Britain has no official say in the decision, questions have been raised by its handling of the matter. Mr. MacAskill said requests for advice from London were met with silence, suggesting that it did not feel strongly about the issue. More troubling is the release of letters between Libya and Britain in which Tripoli warns that the death of one of its nationals in a Scottish prison would have "catastrophic effects for the relationship" between the two countries. This was part of a broader negotiation over the terms of a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA), in which a key question was whether al-Megrahi would be included.

 

At the same time, British companies were discussing investment in Libyan oil fields, in particular, a $900 million deal involving BP, as well as others. Again, the denials have been loud and heartfelt. British Foreign Minister David Miliband said it was "a slur both on myself and the government" to suggest that oil was a factor in the decision and the Foreign Office flatly denied there was "any deal in relation to Megrahi and any commercial interests in Libya."

 

In fact, the British position changed: After initially supporting leaving al-Megrahi out of the PTA, the British justice minister told Mr. MacAskill that it did not make sense "to risk damaging our wide ranging and beneficial relationship with Libya by inserting a specific exclusion into the PTA."

 

There is another troubling element of this tale: the lack of remorse by al-Megrahi himself. Some would say that compassion to him should be matched by compassion by him. He should show some feeling for the victims and to their families. Instead, he continues to insist on his innocence, a view that seems to match that of his government.

 

When Tripoli accepted responsibility for the Pan Am attack, its letter to the United Nations merely "accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials." If he was innocent — and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission ruled in June 2008 that al-Megrahi "may have suffered a miscarriage of justice" — then he too is another victim of the games played by nations. Justice tempered by realpolitik is not justice at all.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

MOVING FROM FINANCIAL CRISIS TO DEBT CRISIS?

BY KENNETH ROGOFF

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Everyone from the queen of England to laid-off Detroit autoworkers wants to know why more experts did not see the financial crisis coming. It is an awkward question.

 

How can policymakers be so certain that financial catastrophe won't soon recur when they seemed to have no idea that such a crisis would happen in the first place? The answer is not very reassuring. Essentially, there is still a risk that the financial crisis is simply hibernating as it slowly morphs into a government debt crisis.

 

For better or for worse, the reason most investors are now much more confident than they were a few months ago is that governments around the world have cast a vast safety net under much of the financial system. At the same time, they have propped up economies by running massive deficits, while central banks have cut interest rates nearly to zero.

 

But can blanket government largess be the final answer? Government backstops work because taxpayers have deep pockets, but no pocket is bottomless. And when governments, particularly large ones, get into trouble, there is no backstop. With government debt levels around the world reaching heights usually seen only after wars, it is obvious that the current strategy is not sustainable.

 

If the trajectory is unsustainable, how long can debt keep piling up? We don't know. Academic economists have developed useful tools to predict which economies are most vulnerable to a financial crisis. But, although we can identify vulnerabilities, getting the timing right is virtually impossible.

 

Our models show that even an economy that is massively overleveraged can, in theory, plod along for years, even many decades, before crashing and burning. It all boils down to confidence and coordination of expectations, which depend, in turn, on the vagaries of human nature. Thus, we can tell which countries are most vulnerable, but specifying exactly where and when crises will erupt is next to impossible.

 

A good analogy is the prediction of heart attacks. A person who is obese, with high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol, is statistically far more likely to have a serious heart attack or stroke than a person who exhibits none of these vulnerabilities. Yet high-risk individuals can often go decades without having a problem. At the same time, individuals who appear to be "low risk" are also vulnerable to heart attacks.

 

Of course, careful monitoring yields potentially very useful information for preventing heart attacks. Ultimately, however, it is helpful only if the individual is treated, and perhaps undertakes a significant change in lifestyle.

 

The same is true for financial systems. Good monitoring yields information that is helpful only if there is a response. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the political and regulatory system is often very weak and shortsighted.

 

Indeed, no economy is immune to financial crises, no matter how much investors and leaders try to convince themselves otherwise, as Carmen Reinhart and I show in our new book, ironically titled "This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly." Right now, the latest "this time is different" folly is that, because governments are taking all the debt on their shoulders, the rest of us don't have to worry.

We are constantly reassured that governments will not default on their debts. In fact, governments all over the world default with startling regularity, either outright or through inflation. Even the U.S., for example, significantly inflated down its debt in the 1970s, and debased the gold value of the dollar from $20 per ounce to $34 in the 1930s.

 

For now, the good news is that the crisis will be contained as long as government credit holds up. The bad news is that the rate at which government debt is piling up could easily lead to a second wave of financial crises within a few years.

 

Most worrisome is America's huge dependence on foreign borrowing, particularly from China — an imbalance that likely planted the seeds of the current crisis. Asians recognize that if they continue to accumulate paper debt, they risk the same fate that Europeans suffered three decades ago, when they piled up U.S. debt that was dramatically melted down through inflation.

 

The question today is not why no one is warning about the next crisis. They are. The question is whether political leaders are listening. The unwinding of unsustainable government deficit levels is a key question that G20 leaders must ask themselves when they meet in Pittsburgh later this month. Otherwise, the queen and autoworkers will be asking again, all too soon, why no one saw it coming.

 

Kenneth Rogoff is a professor of economics and public policy at Harvard University. © 2009 Project Syndicate

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

EDITORIAL

 

CABINET RESHUFFLE

 

The selection of Chung Un-chan as prime minister designate on Thursday defies easy comprehension. To say the least, he is a most unlikely pick for the conservative government under President Lee Myung-bak.

 

Of course, this is not to say Chung is unqualified for the post. Instead, he has solid credentials. Not many could have challenged him for the post.

 

Chung is an esteemed economist by training, who served as president of Seoul National University. He was wooed by the previous progressive administrations to lead the Cabinet. Moreover, he was often referred to as a potential presidential candidate.

 

As an academician known for espousing progressive and reformist ideas, however, Chung sets himself apart from President Lee, who has vigorously pushed for his conservative agenda until recently. Chung has often been critical of Lee's conservative policy.

 

True, Lee now avoids referring to conservatism as his political ideology. Instead, he professes to be pursuing centrist pragmatism in favor of middle and lower classes rather than the upper class. But few would believe he has truly changed his ideological stripes overnight.

 

No wonder this ideological difference gives rise to a speculation that Chung's regional background played a key role in his selection as prime minister designate. The conjecture is bolstered by the fact that Lee had unsuccessfully tapped a politician from South Chungcheong Province, who is affiliated with a minor opposition party, for the post of prime minister before approaching Chung, who hails from the same province.

 

Lee has good reason to offer the post to a person believed to hold sway over the electorate in the Chungcheong region. His Grand National Party wishes to carry many of the constituencies in the region in the June provincial and municipal elections, which will certainly serve as an occasion for the mid-term evaluation of Lee's administration.

 

What is even more difficult to comprehend is why Chung, who had previously rejected the post of prime minister offered by the previous administrations, accepted Lee's proposal this time. Chung provides no explanation. Instead, he merely says he aims at assisting the president in building a strong economy and fostering a social integration of different classes.

 

Now the question is whether or not Chung will make a competent prime minister. That depends to a great extent on how much power Lee is willing to delegate to Chung, who has little experience in administration and few connections with senior government officials. Lee may choose to throw his weight behind the new prime minister so that he can represent him on important occasions or to withhold support from him so that he can do nothing but read commemorative speeches of little value on behalf of the president.

 

But Lee should guarantee Chung all the powers he is constitutionally mandated to exercise as prime minister once he clears the hearing at the National Assembly. The prime minister's is intended to be a powerful post. For instance, he is empowered by the Constitution to recommend candidates for presidential appointments as members of the Cabinet and their removal from the Cabinet posts.

 

Regrettably, however, Lee bypassed the constitutional process of reorganizing the Cabinet this time to nominate the prime minister and another six Cabinet members simultaneously. Chung was denied his right to recommendations.

 

Though it is difficult to understand what has brought Lee and Chung together, they have a common mission to rebuild the Korean economy that has been weakened by the global financial crisis and to provide greater care for the underprivileged.

 

They will be able to accomplish the task if, as Chung says, both of them highly value competition and share the need for "warmly caring about those who are left behind in the race." Their pursuit of a common goal should help prevent Lee's office from lapsing into an imperial presidency.

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

                                           EDITORIAL

EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

 

Economic indicators point to an accelerating recovery from the economic crisis. Among them is gross national income, which increased 5.6 percent in real terms from the first quarter of this year to the second quarter - the highest in 21 years.

 

The government, which estimated second-quarter growth to be 2.3 percent, now says the actual growth rate is believed to have reached 2.6 percent or 2.7 percent. Moreover, consumers and corporations are regaining confidence.

 

But one notable exception is the job market. Economic think tanks are coming up with gloomy prospects for employment in the months ahead. They say the number of job openings will continue to decline, adding that no recovery is anticipated until after the first half of next year.

 

There is a limit to what the public sector can do. Indeed, few government-invested corporations have plans to hire new recruits in the second half of this year. Moreover, about 12,000 makeshift internships they have provided will have been phased out by the end of this year.

 

It is the private sector that creates the lion's share of jobs. But many companies have had to slash their payrolls as part of their crisis-driven restructuring. Even those making new investments have been cautious about recruiting.

 

Against this bleak backdrop, a ray of hope is being shed by Samsung, SK, LG and other large business groups. They say they will hire more people during the second half of this year than they had previously planned. For instance, the Samsung Group says it will recruit 4,400 people later this year, or 1,000 more than they planned at the outset of this year.

 

It is corporate investments that will ultimately create jobs. But investments by the 10 largest business enterprises declined 9.2 percent in the first half of this year. What the government needs to do is encourage investments with incentives, including tax favors.

 

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THE KOREA HERALD

                                           EDITORIAL

INNOVATION AND SCIENCE PHILOSOPHY

SANTIAGO MONTENEGRO

 

MIAMI - Is it possible to learn to innovate? Is innovation something that can be taught at school?

 

After reading literature by some of the world's leading experts on innovation - Clayton Christensen, Henry Chesbrough, John Kao, James Andrew, and Harold Sirkin - I was fascinated but, alas, also frustrated. Innovation is the production of new knowledge that generates value. It is about fresh ideas that give rise to novel products, services, and processes, new management methods, and original designs and inventions that generate greater profits for firms, regions and countries.

 

Most experts agree that there are no ready-made formulas or recipes for how to innovate. But is it possible to create the appropriate conditions - to filter ideas and execute plans, and thus to facilitate creativity - under which innovation may flourish?

 

Managers can perhaps be taught how to nurture innovation by creating an environment that stimulates and encourages individual freedom, creativity, and constructive criticism. Innovation is more likely where it is possible to defy restrictions and authority; where individuals and groups are allowed to ignore conventions; where a mixing of ideas, people, and cultures is permitted and stimulated; and where management techniques enable firms and industries to acknowledge, identify, and learn from errors as quickly as possible.

 

Above all, innovation will blossom wherever it is recognized that innovation must be open to the physical world and to the world of ideas, and that, because no firm, no process, and no invention has a guaranteed future, everyone should be prepared for uncertainty. Innovation may increase even more when firms and managers realize that even the most successful firms - those that "have done everything right" - may languish and disappear. In brief, innovation will only truly take off with the understanding that the world is rapidly changing, extremely dynamic and volatile, and that the future is unpredictable.

 

These are great ideas, but as I went through these texts I found them to be rather familiar sounding; I had the feeling that somehow and somewhere I had already studied them. I soon realized that these clever ideas had already been developed by the theory of knowledge and the philosophy of science. Indeed, innovation is simply a subset of scientific knowledge.

 

According to the school of rational criticism, when existing theories can neither explain nor solve current problems, the formulation of new hypotheses - and thus new scientific knowledge - is, like innovation, more likely to flourish when constructive criticism is openly allowed and encouraged. Here, too, the formulation of new ideas and hypotheses quite often takes place far removed from the authority of experts, because experts, like business managers, often become prisoners of their specializations and backgrounds.

 

Scientific knowledge is more likely to emerge in environments where it is accepted that there are no prescribed or logical methods for formulating hypotheses; that they may be the result of sudden inspiration or that they may come from dreams, from other disciplines, or from people that belong to different professions or have different backgrounds.

 

Once a plausible hypothesis is formulated, it must be tested against all existing theories and against all available experience and information. It has to be subject to open criticism from all directions, and only if it survives these tests and criticisms may it be adopted as tentative and conjectural new knowledge. Science and knowledge are made up not of winners, but of survivors of continuous and systematic efforts to refute. Theories are never certain and must always be prepared for an uncertain future. Or, as Karl Popper put it, truth is never definitive and error is always probable.

 

No book on innovation that I have read makes the connection between innovation and the theory of knowledge and philosophy of science. This is unfortunate, because the theories of innovation may be subject to all the questions, conjectures, and answers that these disciplines have developed with respect to scientific knowledge. Should business administration students and future business managers immerse themselves in the philosophy of science, they would not only become more knowledgeable and have greater respect for science; they might also become more rigorous and more competent, have greater respect for other disciplines, and be more humble.

 

At the same time, philosophy professors and students might also profit from the questions that challenge firms and industries. They might broaden their scope and find that they, too, can contribute to the productivity of firms, industries, and the economy in general. But it is past time that some basic principles in the theory of knowledge and of philosophy of science are introduced into schools of business administration.

 

Santiago Montenegro, a visiting fellow at the Center of Hemispheric Policy, University of Miami, was director of Colombia's National Planning Department (2002-2006) and dean of the School of Economics, Los Andes University (1996-2000). - Ed.

 

(Project Syndicate/Institute for Human Sciences)

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

BOOST TO IMF REFORM

 

China's agreement to buy the first bonds issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for up to US$50 billion will understandably spark hot domestic debate over how the country should deploy its increasingly huge foreign exchange reserves.

 

However, as part of the global effort to increase IMF lending resources, this unprecedented note purchase agreement should, to a large extent, be measured by how it will enhance the Fund's role in fighting the global financial crisis.

 

Admittedly, as the IMF pointed out, the agreement offers China a safe investment instrument.

 

With more than $2 trillion in foreign reserves, China is in dire need of a new investment vehicle to help diversify its foreign holdings beyond US treasury bills, in which it is believed that the country has kept a disproportionately large share of its reserves.

 

Though it appears unnecessary to cut its holding of US treasury bills in the near term, the country's foreign exchange reserves will only get more diversified in the long run.

 

In this sense, the purchase of IMF notes marks a welcome step forward towards diversifying China's foreign exchange reserves.

 

More important, it can also boost IMF's capacity to help its members - particularly the developing and emerging market countries - weather the global financial crisis, and facilitate an early economic recovery.

 

Emerging signs show that the global economy is putting the worst behind it, but recovery is expected to be sluggish and financial systems remain fragile.

 

By significantly expanding its lending capacity, the IMF is making needed preparation for any unforeseen economic downturn that the world still cannot rule out.

 

A thickened financial cushion will certainly enable the Washington-based IMF to better finance those countries hit hardest by future economic downturn.

 

But that does not amount to a sufficient response to the worst global financial and economic crisis since the 1930s.

 

Consider this: Although Asia has almost $4 trillion in currency reserves, the combined voting rights of Japan, China and India in the IMF are lesser than that of the United States and half of the EU members.

 

Without taking steps for reforming the IMF in line with this new global economic reality, how can this institution possibly mobilize global resources proportionately and thus efficiently address global challenges?

 

Global leaders have reached a consensus on the significant role of the IMF in dealing with the current crisis. It is hoped that the issue of IMF bonds will lead to changes that can make this Fund more representative, and hence, more relevant in pulling the world economy out of the worst recession since the World War II.

 

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CHINA DAILY

EDITORIAL

SOES IMAGE & REALITY

 

How to improve the image of big State-owned enterprises (SOEs) has become a matter of concern for the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) when scandals involving some of these enterprises under its auspices have been exposed one after another.

 

Squandering of public money in headquarters building refurbishment and purchase of a lot of commercial houses at lower prices for employees have put in the limelight two petroleum giants - China Petrochemical Corporation (SINOPEC) and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNAC). Some other SOEs are exposed to be on the list of bribery cases under US judicial investigation.

 

However, a SASAC deputy director's suggestion for management of public opinion by improving and strengthening the information release mechanism of SOEs is vague on what it proposes to do about the matter.

 

If he means to have a better spokesperson system for these SOEs to tell the truth about their status or dispel misunderstandings from the public, then there is hope that the SOEs will learn how to operate in the interest of the State and the general public.

 

Most of these SOEs as listed companies are actually owned not only by the State but also by those who hold their shares. In the broadest sense, SOEs are owned by all citizens of this country. In this sense, citizens are entitled to question any SOE about whatever they believe to be problematic about it.

 

As far as these scandals are concerned, the right thing to do for the SOEs involved is to come clean and tell the whole truth. For the SASAC, which is supposed to be the patron of big SOEs, the best way to keep up public confidence in these enterprises is to conduct thorough investigation of the scandals and punish those who are responsible according to rules.

 

Given their powerful monopoly status, most big SOEs are too arrogant to care about how they impact public opinion. They believe that they are entitled to enjoy favorable policies from the central government and their employees, too, are entitled to higher-than-average income and other privileges that non-SOEs or smaller SOEs can never get.

 

In this context, it is even more necessary for the general public to know the whole truth about the scandals clouding their image. The public is also entitled to know whether those who are found responsible are duly punished. It would do no good to the building of a harmonious society to let the general public gain the impression that big SOEs get favorable treatment because of their bigger contributions to the State coffer.

 

To let these big SOEs cover up their scandals or even to help them do so will not contribute to their own development in the least. It is also unfair to other non-State owned firms, which contribute less to the public exchequer, simply because they do not enjoy monopoly positions.

 

We hope what the SASAC will do to strengthen these SOEs' information release mechanism is not just to spin public opinion in favor of the SOEs but also increase the transparency of their operations and functi