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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

EDITORIAL 23.09.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month september 23,  edition 000305, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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














2.      CRUDE MESS





























2.      A SHARP DIP










































2.      ON A PLATTER...































































There is nothing startlingly new about the so-called disclosures made by AQ Khan, the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist and father of the ‘Islamic Bomb’, in a letter he is believed to have written to his Dutch wife while under house arrest. Apparently, he wanted the letter to be made public if he were to die a mysterious death — in the event, there was no such denouement to a life built on theft and proliferation of nuclear know-how and fuel reprocessing hardware. After the Americans confronted Gen Pervez Musharraf with evidence of Khan’s illicit nuclear bazaar and the then Pakistani military ruler responded by placing him under house arrest following a televised ‘confession’, Khan has at best led a lonely life in his sprawling lakeside mansion in Islamabad. The restrictions imposed on him were lifted earlier this year by the courts and the PPP Government did not bother to contest the orders, which by itself suggested that Benazir Bhutto’s party would like to keep Khan in good humour. Khan’s letter provides a clue as to why the PPP has been soft on him: He claims that he passed on blueprints of making a nuclear bomb to Iran, Libya and North Korea on Benazir Bhutto’s instructions. A biography of the slain Pakistani leader makes the same point differently — that Benazir Bhutto carried computer disks with nuclear secrets while travelling to North Korea. Strangely, Khan neither implicates nor indicts the Pakistani Army although it stands to logic that unless the military approved of his transactions he could not have expanded his business across countries and continents. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the military colluded with his nefarious activities and the CIA was aware of this fact, although the American Government chose not to pull the plug till such time Libya struck a deal with the US and ‘came clean’ on its nuclear programme

The world has known for long that the Iranian, North Korean and Libyan (some would add Malaysia to the list) bomb-in-the-basement programme was facilitated by Pakistani nuclear proliferation of which Khan was the evil mastermind. Nor is it a secret that knowhow and hardware surreptitiously provided by China to Pakistan enabled the latter to acquire nuclear military capability. Khan’s letter offers evidence to prove the China-Pakistan nuclear axis and renders Beijing’s denials inconsequential. The US should have pressed for access to Khan and demanded that Pakistan allow the IAEA to interrogate him to get an accurate picture of the extent to which he had helped rogue regimes in building their nuclear arsenals. That, however, never happened. Ever eager to mollycoddle Islamabad and cover up its sins of omission and commission, Washington, DC, allowed Gen Musharraf to ‘deal’ with the issue of nuclear proliferation by Khan as he chose fit. That nothing was done by America’s blue-eyed boy (who has since fallen from grace) is common knowledge and does not merit elaboration. Which brings us to the question: Will those who claim to be opposed to nuclear proliferation and the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by unreliable regimes now demand an explanation from both Pakistan and China? Not to do so would be tantamount to the West adopting double standards — an art in which, of course, it is accomplished.







The border with Bangladesh is once again under the scanner for smuggling. In recent months, the area near Chanralkhali village on the bank of the Kalindi river has become a hotspot for the illegal trade in cattle. As night falls, hundreds of cattle are smuggled across in boats through the marshy Sundarbans into Bangladesh for slaughter. What is truly worrisome is the volume of smuggling that is taking place which has increased manifolds. When cyclone Aila struck the coast of West Bengal earlier this year, it devastated scores of villages like Chanralkhali, rendering people homeless and destroying their livelihood. At the same time, the cyclone took out most of the patrolling infrastructure that the Border Security Force had in the region. This has created ideal conditions for smugglers to thrive in. On one hand, the BSF is still trying to get its patrolling infrastructure back on track while on the other local villagers, bereft of a source of livelihood in the aftermath of the cyclone, have become willing middlemen facilitating the smuggling operations. And it is not just cattle that are being illegally ferried across to Bangladesh. Bidis, garments and drugs are also on the smugglers’ list.

Unless the rising incidence of smuggling is promptly contained, it could have catastrophic consequences on the local economy of the area. The local fishing industry has already taken a hit with villagers who had lost their fishing equipment in the cyclone now turning to smuggling activities for an income. On the other hand, the social impact of smuggling is being felt with respect to the local youth. Young boys are being lured away from their schools by the prospect of easy money that they can earn by helping the smugglers. This in turn can drive them to alcoholism and other related problems. Also, if appropriate steps are not taken immediately and the smuggling activities continue unabated, it will slowly spawn a local mafia that will thrive on the illegal cross-border trade and will be extremely difficult to stamp out. It is true that the smuggling can only be completely stopped when security authorities on both sides of the border undertake concerted joint efforts to bust the smugglers’ operations. This will require co-operation and timely exchange of information between the BSF and its Bangladeshi counterpart the Bangladesh Rifles. It is positive that political developments in Dhaka since December last year have created fertile conditions for exactly this kind of co-operation. But much more needs to be done if an effective joint mechanism is to be put in place. Meanwhile, the BSF would do well to increase its vigil along the border and ensure that the smugglers do not have a free run.


            THE PIONEER




The principal strategic challenge in any conflict comprises four elements: A realistic and accurate assessment of the threat; an objective assessment of the resources for an adequate, if not overwhelming, response (including institutional, financial, manpower and technological components); the acquisition of these resources within timeframes imposed by the conflict; and, the sagacious deployment of these resources to secure the objectives of a coherent and clearly defined strategy.

Of the four elements of a strategic response to the ongoing Maoist insurgency across wide areas in India, it has long been the case that not even one was in place. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, of course, repeatedly emphasised the urgency of the Maoist threat ever since his authoritative statement on terrorism in general and Maoism (Left-wing extremism) in particular, at the Chief Minister’s Conference on April 15, 2005. Regrettably, every time the Prime Minister spoke in the past, his assessment was almost immediately contradicted by his then Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, who was inclined to systematically underplay the threat, and to muddle issues by speaking of the Maoists as “our brothers and sisters” and “our children”, and by insisting that the Maoist problem was ‘political’ or ‘developmental’ and not a ‘law and order issue’.

This manifest incoherence of perspective at the Centre appears now to be a thing of the past. A new realism is visible in political assessments and, while addressing the Directors-General of Police Conference on September 15, the Prime Minister not only reiterated his contention that Maoism was the ‘gravest internal security threat’ confronting India, he went on to candidly admit, “We have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace. It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected States continues to rise.”

Significantly, while speaking in the Rajya Sabha on July 15, Union Minster for Home Affairs P Chidambaram had conceded that the Government had failed to tackle the Maoists with the seriousness they deserve and had also failed to assess the threat posed by them. Crucially, while inaugurating the Directors-General of Police Conference on September 14, Mr Chidambaram had indicated that Maoists had “their pockets of influence” in as many as 20 States across the country, with over 2,000 police station jurisdictions in 223 districts “partially or substantially affected by the menace”. Observing that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was the “most potent of the Naxal groups, with a presence in 17 States and a 90 per cent share in Naxal violence”, the Home Minister noted, further:

Recent decisions taken by its Politburo indicate that the CPI (Maoist) is determined to expand its activities into newer areas, on the one hand, and intensify its ‘mass resistance’ in the existing areas, on the other. Violence, the most visible aspect of Maoist menace, has been consistently witnessed in about 400 police station areas of around 90 districts in 13 of these States. Last year, a total of 1,591 incidents of Maoist violence resulting in 721 killings were reported from 399 police station areas of 87 districts of 13 States. This year 1,405 incidents of Maoist violence resulting in 580 killings have been reported up to August 27 from 355 police station areas in 78 districts in 11 States.

The Home Minister also noted that the Maoists had also “improved upon its military wares and operational tactics”:

With increasing sophistication in fabrication and deployment of improvised explosive devices, it has inflicted more casualties on the security forces. As many as 80 security forces personnel were killed in 53 landmine-based attacks by the Maoists in 2008. 123 personnel have lost their lives so far in 61 landmine-based Maoist actions this year. Altogether, 231 security forces personnel were killed in Maoist violence in 2008 while 250 have lost their lives this year.

On September 16, Union Home Secretary GK Pillai went further to inform Parliament’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs that the Maoists were “calling the shots” across nearly 40,000 sq km of Indian territory — mainly in parts of the dense forest area in Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand — where the Government had “virtually no control”.

It is regrettable, however, that the Prime Minister found it necessary to continue to parrot the meaningless, though politically correct, formulation that the Maoist threat “cannot be treated simply as a law and order problem”. This cliché has had a long and paralysing impact on policy, strategy and security forces’ responses, without, in any way, adding to the state’s capabilities in dealing with the Maoists, or in augmenting the spectrum of available policy alternatives. The ‘root causes’ formulation is sterile — development is not something that can be ordered off a menu card, and there is no set of policies that can ‘wipe every tear from every eye’ in India within any time-frame that has relevance to counter-insurgency.

Crucially, no country in the world has every ‘out-developed’ an ongoing insurgency. In any event, development, public welfare and grievance redressal are fundamental responsibilities of governance; they do not arise because of the threat of insurgent violence. And finally, unless the state establishes dominance over its territories, it cannot implement the various other ‘solutions’ it may imagine. As one commentator noted in a different context, “You can argue about whether security is 10 per cent of the problem or 90 per cent of the problem, but it’s the first 10 per cent or the first 90 per cent.” Without order, and without a concomitant security of life and property, there can be no freedom, no rights and no development. Unless this clarity of understanding and purpose is secured, a coherence of response will remain elusive.

A consensual threat assessment would not, however, automatically yield the remaining elements of a coherent counter-insurgency response. For one thing, the Centre’s assessment is not necessarily shared by leaderships in all the afflicted States, most of whom remain mired in ‘root causes’ reasoning, and variously averse to any effective security forces reform or action. Worse, the cumulative deficits of decades of neglect of internal security, the intelligence apparatus, and structures of governance means that India simply does not have the capacities to launch the comprehensive operations that are required to deal effectively with the Maoist threat — even if it is universally recognised in its real dimensions.







Of late, we have been treated to a grand vaudeville show by the media about the alleged fake encounter in which a 19-year-old Muslim girl, Ishrat Jahan, was killed on June 15, 2004, along with her three friends believed to be Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives. According to the inputs received by the Gujarat Police from the Union Home Ministry, the quartet was being guided by the Pakistan-based terror outfit to carry out the assassination of some prominent political leaders.

The media, particularly voluble 24/7 TV news channels, sensed a grand opportunity to berate and condemn the Gujarat Government after Metropolitan Magistrate SP Tamang released his handwritten 240-page report indicting 21 police officers, including a retired Director General of Police and a former Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, of staging a fake encounter.

Curiously, while eulogising the report the media refused to examine, either wittingly or deliberately, certain glaring infirmities, both legal and factual, in the magisterial report. Here are some of the very obvious questions that ought to be answered.

First, why were the accused police officers not given an opportunity to be heard? This is a flagrant violation of the due process of a magisterial inquiry.

Second, why did the report not take into account the contents of the affidavit filed by the Union Home Ministry on August 6, 2009, before the Gujarat High Court that categorically states that Ishrat Jahan and her friends were LeT operatives? The Centre’s affidavit further stated that Javed Sheikh, a friend and accomplice of Ishrat, was in constant touch with LeT operators, especially Muzamil aka Tariq, for executing terrorist attacks in Gujarat. He also held two passports in different names and had travelled abroad to meet some LeT operators.

Why did the Magistrate go out of the way to assert in his report that the two alleged Pakistani terrorists, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar, were actually Indian nationals when the Centre’s affidavit clearly states that Zeeshan Johar had infiltrated into Jammu & Kashmir from Pak-Occupied Kashmir and then obtained an identity card, purported to have been issued by a Tehsildar of Mahore (Udhampur district) in the name of Abdul Ghani, showing him to be a resident of Shikari village?

Also, the Lashkar’s Lahore-based official mouthpiece, Ghazwa Times, had announced on July 15, 2004, that its valiant woman activist Ishrat Jahan was martyred for a holy cause. All of this flies in the face of the media’s claims.








Dubious attempts by some Indic studies scholars to prove that ancient Indians ate beef have failed to convince us that this was indeed so. Go sewa and eschewing beef are integral to the Hindu weltanschauung even though today cattle are treated badly, with old and ‘useless’ cows and oxen being sold to butchers by owners and lifters, and cattle being smuggled across India’s borders into Bangladesh with impunity. This paper on Tuesday reported how cows are daily transported in the dead of night across India-Bangladesh border. Sahebkhali in the Sundarbans and Chanralkhali village on the bank of the Kalindi river have been identified as venues where cattle from various parts of India arrive.

The wreckage caused by cyclone Aila in the deltas reportedly disrupted patrolling by the Border Security Force. Left without sources of livelihood, locals are helping smugglers of cattle and commodities. Earlier, a sum of Rs 200 was paid by smugglers to a person for transporting cattle from one village to another. The amount was halved after more people took to such work. Boats are kept ready in the Sundarbans mangrove jungles bordering Bangladesh. At night, the animals are loaded on to them. Another method is for locals to lead cattle through fields, inundated with water, and into the ebbing Kalindi. From there, the smugglers move towards Bangladesh. Many villagers are reported to have sold their own cattle to smugglers in a bid to keep kitchen fires burning.

Sources in BSF claim to have seized 4,169 cattle so far. Since these bulky animals are difficult to overlook in the course of their journey from Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and elsewhere, it is difficult to understand how law-enforcers allow their passage. And in that failure hangs a tale that illustrates the laissez faire attitude of the Congress, socialist and Communist parties to the vital issue of protecting these gentle creatures which, along with the Ganga and Gayatri mantra, are considered by many Hindus to symbolise Sanatan Dharma or the perennial faith. Believers revere cows because they are seen to be the repositories of divine forces. Tending them induces all-round well-being on the material as well as metaphysical plains.

Swami Vivekanand pointed out that India’s genius is religious. India, sadly, is a deracinated nation that has repudiated its cultural heritage in favour of a dry utilitarian creed which favours the butchering and commercial uses of cattle. The leather and meat export industries wield enormous clout in shaping policies. Successive Congress Governments at the Centre after India won freedom are to be blamed for flouting the constitutional directive to ban cow slaughter. Congress’s policy of kowtowing to minorities at the expense of the majority community’s sentiments was evident when it repeatedly ignored demands by Hindus for a nationwide ban on cow slaughter. That apart, the butchers’ lobby ensured that no such law could be enforced.

States began to make their own anti-slaughter laws. The butchers’ lobby challenged the Bihar Government’s complete ban in the Patna High Court. After the court upheld the ban, the lobby moved the Supreme Court, pleading that cow slaughter was a religious duty under Islam. The court dismissed this plea in 1958, though permitting impotent bulls to be butchered. The States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and others were forced to modify the complete ban imposed by them in light of the verdict.

Cows and calves, ruled the court, should not be killed because they were economically productive. One quotes from the judgement:

“Cattle in India has three-fold uses: First, providing milk for consumption; second, for draught purposes; and, finally, as provider for manure for agriculture. Dung is cheaper than chemical fertilisers and extremely useful. In short, the cow and bullock are the backbone of India”.

But the ruling Congress dispensation continued to be hostile to Hindu interests, even ordering a clamp-down on sadhus protesting against cow slaughter in 1966-1967. Mrs Indira Gandhi, sworn-in as Prime Minister, thus saw a bad beginning to her tenure. The campaign to save cattle — Goraksha Andolan — was formally launched in 1952, with RSS activists collecting 1,75,39,813 signatures in support of the cause. Later, the VHP gave the movement an impetus by holding a massive rally in Delhi. The police assault on participants at the Government’s behest indicated Congress’s proclivities.

Not that the communists were any better. After Goa also passed a law against cow slaughter, Leftist West Bengal and Kerala remained the two States which permitted butchering of cows. Incidentally, the Janata Government (1977-1999), dominated by socialists, was not different either. A committee, set up by Mrs Gandhi to review the issue in January 1967, was dissolved by the Janata Government, headed by strict vegetarian Morarji Desai. Though an interim report, advising laws to protect cattle within the ambit of the Supreme Court order, had been submitted to the Indira Gandhi Government, the final report was not submitted since the committee was dissolved.

Socialists in the cow belt States of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, flouting their own dharma of protecting cows, are as prone as the Congress to kowtow to minorities — essentially, Muslims — on the mistaken assumption that cow slaughter is a religious duty under Islam. Thus, cattle is routinely smuggled out of these States under the nose of the police in West Bengal, where the Communist Government, also dependent on minority support, does little to protect cattle. It is unholy business, all around.







Chandan Mitra’s article, ‘Austerity or hypocrisy,’ on September 13, commenting on the Congress asking its Ministers to vacate five-star hotels and to travel economy class, was indeed telling. Crocodile tears seldom cut ice, except that most of the comments I have heard celebrated the humiliation suffered by the Ministers; a reflection on the unpopularity of politicians. Otherwise, the gestures of economy or the donation of 13.5 lakh rupees by Congress MPs in order to mitigate the suffering of drought-hit farmers are insults to the common man. Mr Mitra sees it as neither austerity nor hypocrisy, but as a tribute by a minion to the mistress of the party kitchen.

There is widespread misreading of Gandhian austerity. Sarojini Naidu’s distress at the Mahatma’s fetishes being so costly to keep him poor was a piece of naivety. Gandhi knew he was fooling no one by not wearing a shirt or by travelling third class. Had he not known so, he would not have stayed at either Birla House or the Aga Khan palace. Nor would he drink goat’s milk which was clearly costlier than buffalo’s. He knew that the poor man knew that Gandhi was not poor. He only meant to tell the poor that he empathised with their poverty and discrimination. Which is why he once spent several days at Harijanvas in Delhi. He was a master at communicating; which was a key to his success at commanding greater mass following than anyone before or after him.

In fact, he was a systems genius. India could have progressed much faster if only our rulers had perceived and imbibed this aspect of Gandhi. Instead, unfortunately, the political parties have adopted his blunderous appeasement of Muslims born out of his ignorance of Islam. They have misconstrued Gandhian show of simplicity as ‘austerity’ to be aped, say by travelling economy class; they have borrowed from his faults rather than learnt from his rare strengths. To get a flavour of Gandhi’s sense of system, understand his total package.

His freedom struggle was an integral combination, which mobilised the masses, harnessed their political energies and, at the same time, tried to promote their socio-economic welfare. His discovering among the masses the desire, albeit latent in 1916, for freedom and establishing his credentials as a super-leader were the first links in his system. It is unlikely that so many across the country would have cared to listen to him had he not attained the stature of a ‘Mahatma’. He did so by creating an aura of tyag and selflessness. He knew that abstinence from sex is a highly rated virtue amongst Hindus and he wrote about his self denial. In our society, a speaker is more important than his speech; a leader matters more than his leadership. Gandhi, with all his wisdom but without the image of ‘Mahatmahood’, might have been a voice in the wilderness.

To be a Mahatma, a message was not enough. It had to be communicated across the sub-continent, to many towns and villages. There were few highways in those days and most villages were difficult to access. Illiteracy was high; not many read newspapers, most of which were British-influenced. Languages were many. Even when the radio came in 1927, it belonged to the rulers. And yet Gandhi cut across these barriers with the help of the charkha and khadi. Apart from helping the landless in the villages to earn more, the spinning wheel explained to all Indians what the struggle for freedom was all about; for economic betterment. This instrument of communication was more eloquent than any words or speeches. It was an essential link in the Gandhian system.

Gandhi was able to achieve mass involvement by espousing the cause of Dalits. By demonstrating his care for the most down-trodden, he was able to convince everyone that his struggle was for the benefit of all Indians. This was yet another link in Gandhi’s package.

Having inspired the masses, having communicated with and involved them in the freedom struggle, the problem would be to give them the weapons to fight with. Guns were no answer. The British had many more of them. Moreover, violence would have confined the struggle to some young revolutionaries and excluded most others — old, young, women and children. It would not then have been a mass struggle; Gandhi found the answer in non-violent non-cooperation. He invented satyagrah which was a weapon any Indian could wield.

Thus ‘Mahatmahood’, the charkha and khadi, the cause of the Dalits and satyagrah were all essential links in an integral system. It was a full package of strategies and weapons that involved so many Indians together in achieving a national goal. Gandhi was neither a saint nor a simple person. He was a complex personality, a consummate politician who had his finger on the Hindu pulse nearly all the time. By the same token, few Hindus understood him.







The Obama Administra- tion has established an alarmingly naïve and dangerous record on Arab-Israeli issues, leading me to worry about spectacular policy failures ahead. But it has initiated one innovative and positive policy deserving high praise.

Instead of Israel making yet more unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, in late May Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called to “bring Arab states into the circle of peace.” US special envoy George Mitchell and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak picked up on this and developed plans to integrate those Arab states into the diplomatic process. In mid-July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that “Arab states have a responsibility … to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel’s place in the region.”

A month later, US President Barack Obama declared his hope that “we are going to see not just movement from the Israelis, but also from the Palestinians around issues of incitement and security, from Arab states that show their willingness to engage Israel.” According to Foreign Policy blogger Laura Rozen — later confirmed by the White House — Mr Obama “sent letters to at least seven Arab and Gulf states seeking confidence-building measures toward Israel.” (Those states include Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.)

In one such letter, sent on July 7 to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Mr Obama expressed his hope that Arab states will take steps to end Israel’s “isolation” in West Asia and that “Morocco will be a leader in bridging gaps between Israel and the Arab world.” Examples of CBMs include Arab states opening trade office in Israel, allowing Israeli planes to traverse its airspace, issuing tourist visas to Israelis, and Arab officials meeting with Israeli leaders.

This appeal found a mixed Arab reception. On the positive side, Bahrain’s crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, suggested that “All sides need to take simultaneous, good-faith action if peace is to have a chance” and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh committed his Government “to creating the right atmosphere” and supporting the US “vision”. An unnamed Arab diplomat offered that “In return for a symbolic compromise on the settlements, some Arab states will be willing to pay with some symbolic gestures.”

In contrast, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia rejected Mr Obama’s appeal for CBMs vis-à-vis Israel during a presidential visit in early June. Rozen reports that the Saudi monarch “launched a tirade during Mr Obama’s long meeting in Riyadh.” It went so badly that Saudi officials “later apologised to the US President for the king’s behaviour.” Likewise, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit asked rhetorically, “Is normalisation possible as long as the building in settlements continues? The answer is no, of course.” Arab League chief Amr Moussa deemed it “impossible to speak of normalisation when Israel rejects any significant measure.”

Negative responses notwithstanding, the involvement of the Arab states that can offer benefits to Israel should limit the harm inflicted by do-gooding diplomatic ‘peace processors’.

Almost two decades ago, in a Wall Street Journal article of June 1990, I called for including the states. I noted there a remarkable symmetry in which “Palestinians want from Israel what Israel wants from the Arab states — recognition and legitimacy. Thus, Palestinians seek concessions from Israel and Israel seeks concessions from the Arab states.”

I suggested yoking together the parallel frustrations that “Israel cannot get what it wants from the Arab states, and the Palestinians cannot get what they want from Israel.” The US Government should, I proposed, “link concessions to Israel by the Arab states with Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.” That is, when the Arab states give Israel something it wants, Israelis should then — and only then — be expected to give something in turn to the Palestinians.”

As an example, I proposed that when the Saudis end their economic boycott of Israel, Israelis in return increase Palestinian access to underground water on the West Bank. This balanced approach, I suggested, “places the burden of the initiative squarely on the Arab states-where it should be.”

After the long, sterile, and counterproductive detour of exclusively Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, it is gratifying to see an attempt finally to bring the Arab states into the negotiations. I still maintain that the Palestinians need be defeated before negotiations can usefully take place, but involving the Arab states improves the balance and reduces the potential for damage









The kidnappers holding an Iraqi auto mechanic’s 11-year-old son gave him just two days to come up with $ 1,00,000 in ransom. When he could not, they were just as quick to deliver their punishment: They chopped off the boy’s head and hands and dumped his body in the garbage.

The boy’s final words to his father came in an agonising phone call.

“Daddy, give them the money. They are beating me,” Muhsin Mohammed Muhsin pleaded a day before he was killed. As the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodshed ebbs, Iraqis now face a new threat to getting on with their lives: A frenzy of violent crime.

Many of those involved are believed to be battle-experienced former insurgents unable to find legitimate work. They often bring the same brutality to their crimes that they showed in the fighting that nearly pushed the country into a Sunni-Shiite civil war in 2006 and 2007.

The result has been a wave of thefts and armed robberies, hitting homes, cars, jewelry stores, currency exchanges, pawn shops and banks.

Kidnapping, too, remains terrifyingly common, as it was during the peak of the insurgency. Now, however, the targets are increasingly children, and the kidnappers, rather than having sectarian motives, are seeking ransoms.

In southern Baghdad’s Saydiyah neighbourhood, photos of missing children are pasted on electricity poles and the concrete blast walls that enclose many areas of the bomb-battered capital. There are few statistics tracking the number and kinds of crimes, in part because the Government remains focused on the bombings and other insurgent attacks that continue to plague Baghdad and Iraq’s north.

But in the minds of the public, crime has become at least as consuming as the violence directly related to the war. And like the lack of electricity and other services, crime is now a top complaint of Iraqis.

To cope, some businesses are hiring more guards and even taking their money out of Iraqi banks, believing it will be safer in secret locations under private guard or in banks outside the country. Iraqi military spokesman Maj Gen Qassim al-Moussawi said investigations found that 60 to 70 per cent of the criminal activity is carried out by former insurgent groups or by gangs affiliated with them — partly explaining the brutality of some of the crimes. “After the success our forces have achieved in tightening the noose on insurgent groups, we are seeing that some of them are turning to form well-organised criminal gangs,” al-Moussawi said. Some members of Iraq’s security forces are also involved, perhaps a sign that militants are still infiltrating the security services. In August, two gunmen in their 20s broke into a neighbour’s house in Baghdad’s southern Dora district, beheading a father and his one-year-old daughter and severely injuring her mother and another child. They stole five million Iraqi dinars, or about $ 4,300, and some jewelry.

They were arrested the next day. One of them was a former soldier who left the Iraqi Army seven months ago.

In one of the most high-profile crimes in recent years, several members of Iraq’s presidential guards — which protect senior officials — broke into the state-run Rafidain Bank on July 28 and stole about 5.6 billion Iraqi dinars, or $ 4.8 million. They tied up eight guards at the bank in Baghdad’s central Karradah area and shot each one execution-style.

Four of the robbers were convicted and sentenced to hang. Three others remain at large.

In another heist, four gunmen with Interior Ministry ID cards robbed a private bank on August 13 after forcing employees into a side room at gunpoint. The gunmen surrendered after a shootout with police, and no one was hurt.

In April, Iraq created a military task force to battle gangland-style crime after gunmen with silencer-fitted weapons killed at least seven people during a daylight heist of jewelry stores.

Still, criminals continue to operate seemingly without fear of getting caught.

Muhsin Mohammed Muhsin, the 11-year-old, was kidnapped around noon on his way home from a neighbour’s funeral on August 31 in Baghdad’s eastern Shiite district of Sadr City.

His father frantically searched through police and hospitals records and distributed his son’s picture. The kidnappers called two days later








In the time-honoured Washington tradition, the leak of a confidential report submitted by US general Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, has focused attention on the future of the Afghan war. He has good reason to be concerned. The recent elections were meant to be the turning point in the conflict. It was the first held under the auspices of Afghan election authorities, meant to imbue the government with legitimacy. The reality has been very different. If Hamid Karzai, the incumbent, wins as now seems likely, it will be a tainted victory because widespread rigging is suspected. Factor in the Taliban's successful regrouping and inadequate troop levels and it isn't difficult to see where McChrystal is coming from.

As it stands now, preliminary results have given Karzai 54.6 per cent of the vote and his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, 27.8 per cent. But as many as 1.5 million ballots, or over a third of the total, are thought to be suspect. They could make the difference between a run-off election and another term for the Karzai administration. What is needed now is a swift consensus among all international stakeholders on whether to throw their weight behind Karzai or push for a recount. The latter is not without its problems expense, delays and potential of more violence chief among them. But in the long run, it would be worth the immediate pain. Failing that, a compromise option could be to give Abdullah a role in government and push Karzai and Abdullah to work together.

Militarily there is a different set of problems. McChrystal's predecessor had focused on a conventional approach to combating the Taliban, deploying troops in contested areas. But McChrystal has outlined a counter-insurgency model based on guaranteeing the security of the Afghan people and ensuring governance delivery rather than chasing the Taliban. The problem is that troop allocation and deployment are not currently in line with this strategy. And given US president Barack Obama's domestic compulsions support for the war within his party as well as among the public is on the decline McChrystal's request for more troops may well go a-begging.

There are no easy solutions to be found in Afghanistan. If the various factions continue to dither and argue, Afghan cynicism about their government may grow. The only certainty that remains is that the US and its allies must have the resolve to stay the course. The alternative a fillip to Islamic fundamentalists everywhere who could boast that they have bested the world's superpowers would make the current situation seem benign.








Orissa's Paradip port in the Bay of Bengal is faced with a huge oil spill from a ship that sank 5.5 km off the coast. Environmentalists are concerned as the slick is moving shoreward, posing a potential threat to the rich biodiversity of the area. Although Paradip Port Trust officials assure us that there is no immediate risk as the sunken ship ''has not yet split into two'', the possibility of an impending ecological disaster cannot be ruled out.

More than a week after the mishap, little has been done by the authorities to undertake corrective emergency measures. The port authorities have access neither to bioengineered bacteria that can clean up the oil nor technological solutions that can skim the oil off the water. The ship from Singapore had set sail without valid documents and was probably overloaded. It was carrying 24,000 tonnes of iron ore and 920 tonnes of furnace oil and capsized shortly after it left Paradip.

The incident draws attention to several issues that need to be addressed without further delay. The environmental aspect of the oil spill is disturbing as it would not only compromise the safety of local wildlife, off and onshore, it would also disrupt the annual nesting ritual of Olive Ridley turtles that make the trip to Orissa's beaches during the breeding season in winter. The Garimatha marine wildlife sanctuary here is a haven to thousands of these endangered creatures. Unsurprisingly, the place is a valued tourist attraction. The turtles already face toxic pollutants from a Paradip chemical factory; they get hurt or get killed by mechanised boats plying the waters. Many turtles die after they get caught in fishing nets that do not use turtle excluder devices as required by law.

Birds, fish and other marine creatures like sharks and dolphins might asphyxiate and die or get poisoned by exposure to the oil and this could seriously impact commercial fishing as well as the health of people living along the coast. India's coastline has been exposed earlier to undersea pipeline leaks and oil tanker accidents. Yet the country with a 7,500 km-plus coastline has no firefighting system in place to deal with these mishaps. Coastal zoning laws and shipping protocols need to be strictly followed and enforced and mop-up technology needs to be marshalled from both domestic as well as international sources so that coastal emergencies such as this can be handled effectively on time.







What could cause the Darul Uloom Deoband and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to join forces with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad? Answer: homosexuality, which according to all of the above should be severely punished by the law. Sikh and Christian bodies are also negative about repealing the parts of Section 377 which criminalise homosexuality. Joining them is a motley group of godmen, astrologers, politicians and now even a child rights group, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Such a grand alliance is bound to make any move to decriminalise homosexuality a political hot potato, even if that is what the Indian Constitution's guarantee of equal rights to all citizens demands. Not surprisingly the Union cabinet played safe and lobbed the ball back to the Supreme Court, when asked for the government's position on whether gay sex ought to be legalised or not, following landmark legislation by the Delhi high court which declared much of Section 377 unconstitutional.

When India, in general, is keen to protect minorities of all sorts, what is it about this particular minority the homosexual community that presents seemingly intractable problems? It's that homosexuals snap the bond between sex and procreation, invoking the spectre of individual pleasure that exceeds any collective, utilitarian ethic.

The interesting thing about Section 377 is that it outlaws not just homosexual behaviour, but most forms of heterosexual activity that even lawfully married couples engage in. The only kind the law permits is that with direct procreative potential. Canute-like, Section 377 attempts to lock sex into a utilitarian grid.

Historically, most societies have sought utilitarian control over sex. Religions, especially proselytising ones, would like to multiply their numbers. Thus the biblical injunction to go forth and multiply. Socialism enforces an all-embracing altruism. According to its calculus individual pleasure can open the floodgates to selfish bourgeois vices. That's why most communist countries brutally suppressed homosexuality. Ditto for fascist states. Authoritarian societies, in general, tend to see homosexuality as disruptive of social order and cohesion, a quality they prize above anything else.

Early industrial capitalism, too, would like to expand the labour force to multiply production and profits. That gives it an interest in encouraging procreative heterosexual behaviour and driving homosexuality underground. It's only in late 20th century, post-industrial capitalism predicated on consumption as much as it is on production that the equation begins to shift. With the modern consumer, individual pleasure matters and choice comes into play. Procreation and perpetuation of race/religion/society/nation aren't everything. Add to that the green imperatives of the early 21st century, and growing populations with expanding ecological footprints even begin to look menacing.

The principle of choice can also extend to sexual lifestyles. Homosexual activity has been around for ages. But the notion of 'lifestyle', a peg on which one hangs one's very identity, emerges only under modern consumer capitalism. One can 'consume' alternate sexualities. In that context the emergence of sexual minorities is a marker of ongoing globalisation. It's no accident that with liberalising and globalising tendencies washing up on Indian shores, the question of gay rights has come to the fore as well.

Take the gay pride parades which are being held in more and more Indian cities, reaching Bhubaneswar and Chennai this year. The annual parades are held in sync with similar events in cities across the world, and commemorate the Stonewall riots that took place in New York's Greenwich village in 1969. On June 27 of that year police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the area. While such raids had been routine, on that occasion the crowds fought back and the neighbourhood erupted in riots and protests for the next few days. That event sparked the worldwide gay liberation movement. No wonder that Bhim Singh of the Jammu and Kashmir Panthers' Party describes the movement to legalise homosexuality as an "American invasion".

It's the 1960s that mark the shift to post-industrial capitalism, spurred by the global communications revolution which began that decade (causing Marshall McLuhan to quip, famously, that electronic technology was contracting the world into a "global village"). According to social thinker Anthony Giddens the communications revolution dating from the 1960s ushered in a more radical and thoroughgoing modernity than that of the Enlightenment, touching the core of private life and incorporating what he calls 'emotional democracy'. This is associated with the rise of new social movements that emphasise life politics (to do with private life) rather than emancipatory politics (to do only with public institutions).

When Vikram Seth and others wrote an open letter addressing the government and judiciary, urging the overturning of Section 377 which "punitively criminalises romantic love and private, consensual sexual acts", quite apart from the utilitarian value of combating HIV/AIDS, it's also the private rights of the citizen that they are concerned to defend. It's time for the state to treat Indian citizens as adults, moving away from the patron-client relationship preferred by our political and bureaucratic elites.






Have business models changed for technology companies following recession?

Yes, customers today want solutions, not a technology pitch. You can't try to play one tech stack against another IBM Notes against Microsoft Exchange, or Sun Open Office against Microsoft Office. Governments and companies want to know what the technology would mean for productivity increase, cost reduction, job creation, educational and skill improvements. Tech decisions are no longer taken at the level of the technology head, but at the company CMD level. And they want technology vendors to take ownership and responsibility for outcomes; take a lot more risk.

What are these newer business models?

Instead of just licensing out technology, tech vendors are also now taking full responsibility for maintaining it. You can have a payment-per-transaction model, where tech vendors make enough money only if the solution encourages a lot of consumers to use the system. The government's passport and income-tax returns processing contracts are based on the transaction model. You can have an advertisement-based model, where you make money only if the system generates enough ads.


Microsoft has been accused of sticking to its proprietary model even as many others are moving to make software free.

No, we today have a much more open and mature approach towards this. Our solutions are becoming interoperable with others. For instance, we contributed a (software) driver to a Linux kernel. We offer an open source model for some of our products. Some see the matter as an either/or, proprietary or open source. But the reality is that everybody now offers a mix of solutions, including charging for software that is implemented at the customer site, giving software free but charging for maintenance and support, offering software through the internet and only charging for it each time it is downloaded for short-term use. This gives a choice to the customer.

You will soon launch your latest operating system. Some people say operating systems are becoming less important with just about everything moving to the internet and all you need is a browser.

Of course, many things can now be done through applications on the Net. Even with Microsoft Office, a basic document can be done on a browser. But the moment you need rich applications, say you want to put graphics or do macros on the document, you would need software on your PC, and therefore also an operating system to manage this software. If internet connectivity is poor or you have an outage like Google had earlier this year, you would again need to depend on your device for work you need to do urgently. To have this flexibility, people will need both the internet and software applications on the device.








Sarojini Naidu's remark that it cost the Indian taxpayer a lot to keep the Mahatma in the poverty he was accustomed to has gained relevance again, more than 60 years after it was originally made. Sarojini was referring to Gandhiji's habit of travelling by III class on trains, with the result that, for security reasons, an entire coach had to be reserved for him alone. Like history, austerity repeats itself. And the Congress-led UPA government has energetically been embracing conspicuous austerity to win kudos and influence the electorate.


Ostentatious austerity, or spendthrift thrift, has become politically correct in view of the deficit monsoon which is likely to adversely impact the rural economy and act as a brake on India's growth story, already affected by the global slowdown. Taking the cue from Sonia Gandhi, Congresswallas and their allies have been scurrying to show solidarity with what might be called the alms janta by flying economy class on airlines. As 'airdashing' to sundry places the farther off the better is the preferred pastime of our netas, the economy-package rule is likely to cramp their style, amongst other things.


But what price such cut-price netas? Just how effective will this austerity raj prove in wooing the once and future voter? Does the average voter - whoever she may be actually want bargain-basement, cheaper-by-the-dozen desh ka netas? Or is this mythical average voter more likely to be impressed by larger-than-life, literally high-flying and big-spending brand leaders, be they political fat cats, Bollywood superstars, or cricket crorepatis?


The misapprehension that a lot of armchair ascetics make is that austerity is a virtue in the eyes of the poor; it isn't. Austerity is a virtue only in the eyes of the affluent (people who observe religious fasts or go on diets to lose the excess weight their wealth has burdened them with). For the poor, austerity is an ever-present evil, an inescapable nemesis; it's the gnawing pain of an empty belly, the skeletal spectre of despair.


The poor don't want to see people whom they know to be rich and powerful as their netas must be, or why are they netas in the first place? to enact austerity; the poor recognise this for the sanctimonious hypocrisy that it is. (Fly economy and how many of the poor can afford to fly at all, forget economy? and continue to live in a Lutyens' bungalow which costs over Rs 150 crore, which would provide a school and a hospital each for some 150 villages.)

Marie Antoinette almost got it right: if the poor can't eat bread, they can eat vicarious cake through others. Mayawati is one of the few Indian politicians who seems to have understood this. Behenji long ago realised that leave alone cake, even enabling the poor to eat bread is a task beyond her capabilities (or her inclinations, or both) as a political leader. So she did the next best thing. She enabled the poor to watch her eat birthday cake, and wear diamonds in her hair, and put up hundreds of crores worth of statues to herself.


Mayawati's political strategy is the mirror image of conspicuous austerity; it is proxy prodigality, second-hand cake. True, this strategy doesn't seem to have worked any too well, going by the results of the last polls.


But it's early days yet. Sooner rather than later, the Indian voter poor or otherwise will see through the sham of conspicuous austerity just as she sees through Behenji's conspicuous consumption. In that they both end up beggaring us, they're both the same: a pain in the austerity.






In Darjeeling those days, students in colleges were taught very little. Most of the time, the classrooms would be empty no teachers, no students. In the canteens, young boys would be cooped in for hours doping, smoking, drinking, talking about the Gorkhaland movement, of an uncertain future and a shaky present. Naturally, between the violence, bandhs, killings and anxiety that weighed heavily on most shoulders, many didn't make it through graduation. The few that scraped past considered themselves lucky. So when one entered the classroom for an MA in English in JNU for the first time, one was a nervous wreck, a lost puppy. My classmates from the metros knew more and came with the surefootedness that belonging to the 'mainstream' brings. I sat at the back of the classroom the first few days, shuddering at the thought of coping with Indian literary thought and tradition, Panini and Bhartrhari. Or semantics and semiotics.

Then one morning professor Meenakshi Mukherjee walked in, smiling and graceful, tilting her head to settle her bob-cut hair in that particular way she had. I slowly inched towards the front benches for her classes. If she noticed, she didn't say anything. There was something about her that made all students feel comfortable and wanted, wherever they came from, whatever their proficiency levels in English. There was an Oriya classmate who was greatly uneasy speaking in any other language apart from his own. I guess she noticed that. "English is one of the easiest languages,'' she said, not to him, but to the class. "I read in a Bengali-medium school and most of you are very fortunate.'' I came across a new teacher in my third year at JNU who was rude, arrogant and openly vicious. Most capitulated before her thundering, withering remarks. We soon had a showdown and she took the matter to the vice-chancellor. I could only turn to my professor, who by then was my MPhil guide. "I believe your version of the story,'' she said, smiling again. The matter took care of itself. On Wednesday, Mukherjee collapsed at the Hyderabad airport and died moments later. But more than anything else, more than her tremendous achievements in Indian lit crit, she left behind love and kindness. Something not one student who's ever been in her class as she laughed and tilted her head would ever forget.









What’s your definition of an uber optimist? The answer would have to be Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. For even before we have reached the ‘on your marks’ stage, leave alone the ‘get set’ and ‘go’ of the Commonwealth Games, the dear lady says that our gameplan is to get Delhi ready to bid for the Olympics in 2024. We wonder how Ms Dikshit is so buoyant when the Commonwealth Games Federation chairman Michael Fennell has said that he is extremely worried about New Delhi’s colossal lack of preparedness to host the prestigious event.


The main sports venues are still under construction, connectivity is abysmal and there is a woeful lack of hotel rooms. Even if, by some miracle, we manage to pull it off by 2010, the damage to India’s image has already been done. From the word go, things have not gone smoothly for this mega venture. At first there was political sniping and then of course, bureaucratic delays and red tape. Finances were never a problem, it is just that all sorts of power groups have come up, each more determined to do the other down than get the Games up and running. Ms Dikshit, for all her enthusiasm, has little control over the city’s land use policies, its sanitation, police or traffic. So, much of the inputs for the Games is not really in her hands. It would be a body blow to India if the Games were to be moved to another country. The portents for Delhi are worrying. Already, two flyover projects that were to improve traffic movement for the Games have fallen through due to lack of availability of land. So far, we have seen little official concern over the progress of work on the Games sites. We have, however, seen some unholy interest in the disposal of flats that are being built for the Games village. There really can be no excuse for this cavalier attitude.


New Delhi went into this venture with its eyes wide open. The Games were to herald Delhi’s arrival as a serious sporting venue and as a player in the big league. For quite a while, we were told that work was held up due to the elections. However, when it comes to such an internationally prestigious project, the task should have been left to professionals who do not feel the need to cease work because an election is on. We still hope against all hope that come October 2010, the curtain will go up on our reputation and not down on the Games.







The original patron saint of the aam admi, now in her incarnation as Union Minister of Railways, was supposed to pick up her predecessor Lalu Yadav’s legacy and go ‘coo-jhuj-jhuk’ with it. Well, in a way Mamata Banerjee has, as she followed up on her promise made in her Railway Budget speech earlier this year and unveiled the new ‘Duronto’ trains earlier this month. Literally Bengali for ‘furious’ — in the sense of ‘the fast and the furious’ — the trains are supposed to be faster than the Rajdhani Express. The problem is that some thinking about passenger comfort has been sacrificed under the rails by the return of the dreaded ‘third side-berth’.


For those unfamiliar with this horrible feature that was discontinued, Ms Banerjee’s insistence on re-introducing the three berths where there were two on the side of the train compartment — as opposed to the three-plus-three in the more ‘room-like’ space on the other side of the aisle — is akin to fitting another seat in the existing space between the window and the middle seat of a plane. Just to make it that much more attractive to the more humble passenger, the economy class of a ‘Duronto’ train ticket is Rs 55 cheaper than that of a normal AC three-tier that doesn’t have any third side-berth. Woe be the unlucky passengers who got the shorter straws and have to spend a night on these truncated side-berths.


The other meaning for ‘duronto’ is naughty. While Ms Banerjee’s intentions seem to have been good, she may have just invited a bit too much in too little a space. Some passengers do think she’s been quite ‘duronto’ actually.







After a long lull, doubts have once again been expressed about the efficacy of the Indian 1998 nuclear tests. In this context, many issues have been raised: How big a deterrent should India have? Should India sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? While many of these questions do have some relevance for Indian strategic planning, they have been linked to the success of the 1998 tests and, in particular, whether the yield of the 1998 tests were in conformity with the planned yields.


There is no confusion about the design/planned yield of the 1998 thermonuclear test: it was 45 kiloton. This has not been disputed by anybody. According to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), the estimated yield of the test was in rough agreement with the design yield subject to the usual errors associated with such estimates. It must be stated at the outset that there is no unanimity among the Indian critics of the DAE about the yield of the tests.


P.K. Iyengar, former DAE chairman, and the only nuclear scientist among those critical of the 1998 test, does not question the DAE estimates and is on record saying, “If one goes by the numbers for the total nuclear yield put out by the Department of Atomic Energy, which I see no reason to dispute, the yield of the thermonuclear device detonated on May 11, 1998 was around 40 kilotons.”


The DAE estimates are, however, contested by some Indian non-scientists and non-nuclear scientists. Till very recently, they had relied solely on the estimates of some foreign scientists for their contention. These estimates had been contested by DAE scientists and Indian scientific journals had carried an extensive debate on the issue with both the foreign and DAE scientists presenting their case. However, none of the Indian critics of the DAE ever presented any scientific argument in support of their case.


There are a number of ways of estimating nuclear test yields. Some on-site, some off-site; some off-site estimates that require data on the geology of the test site, and some that do not. The on-site methods are a) radiochemical analysis; b) close-in ground motion; c) hydrodynamic-CORRTEX. The off-site methods are seismic estimates using a) surface wave characteristics; independent of test-site geology data; b) body wave characteristics requiring some on-site geological data and c) using Lg wave characteristics requiring some on-site geological data.


Each of the above methods has its own estimate error. In terms of accuracy, the radiochemical analysis offers the best estimates. This was the method used by the United States estimating the yield of their nuclear devices. The Hydrodynamic (CORRTEX) and ground-in motion estimates rank second in their accuracy. While negotiating on the test methodology before ratification of the Threshold Test Ban Treaty, the US had insisted on the CORRTEX system for measuring the yield of an explosion, while the Soviets had favoured seismic monitoring. Seismic methods are the least reliable, especially when only one of the seismic methods is used.

The DAE had used all of the above methods in their estimates of the yields. The foreign experts who had disagreed with the DAE had employed only one method: the seismic method using body wave, which is the most unreliable of all of the above methods.


As mentioned earlier, till very recently the Indian critics of the DAE had based their criticism solely on the estimates of foreign scientists. Only very recently, former Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientist K. Santhanam revealed that there was a disagreement between the DAE and the DRDO on the yield of the 1998 test based on one method used by both parties, namely the close-in ground motion characteristics of the test. The DRDO seemed to have used only this method for estimating the 1998 yields.


As in all experiments, the success of the effort depends much on the instruments used and the calibration of these instruments. While Santhanam is on record as stating that the DRDO’s calibrations “were acknowledged to [have met international standards] by the BARC [Bhabha Atomic Research Centre]”, it’s a matter of record that much before the tests, the DAE had strongly questioned both the sensitivity of the DRDO instruments and their calibration and these had not been agreed to by the DAE. So, it’s not surprising to find  the DAE and DRDO estimates not matching each other.


However, notwithstanding the fact that the DAE had used all six methods of estimation of nuclear yields, and that the DRDO had used only one method and that too under circumstances that were questioned by the DAE  before the tests, it should be possible to resolve the issue by placing all the pre-test and post-test data before a group of Indian scientists qualified to judge all elements involved — the pre-test instrumentation sensitivity and calibration methods and the post-test data and charts — to come to the relative correctness of the two estimates.


It is interesting to compare the Indian and Pakistani reaction to the foreign estimates of the yields. As was the case with India, the foreign critics estimated the Pakistani yields to be far less than what was claimed by Pakistan. However, unlike in the case of India, there has not been, so far, any response from Pakistani scientists about the foreign estimates of their test yields. The Pakistani armed forces, of course, have kept quiet all along.


G. Balachandran is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) and Research Consultant, National Maritime Foundation (NMF).







Last year on the eve of the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) season I had written that the dawn of the freelance cricketer was upon us with Twenty20 tournaments mushrooming around the world. Now England’s Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff has carved out his little bit of cricket history by declaring himself as cricket’s first free agent.


It is still unclear how his own board, the England Cricket Board (ECB) and the IPL committee will react to his agent’s announcement that Flintoff intends to travel the cricket world, making appearances for franchises as far-flung as India (Chennai Super Kings), Australia, South Africa and perhaps even in the West Indies.

IPL supremo Lalit Modi has stated a player cannot appear for his franchise unless he gets a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from his parent body. But it has become clear that the IPL rules and regulations are written in a kind of magic ink that tends to disappear once the franchise owners make their demands. In the IPL today, it has become a case of the tail wagging the dog.


There is also the nagging question of restraint of trade. Can a national body like the ECB come in the way of a cricketer who does not sign contract (as in Flintoff’s case) and decides to sell his wares to the highest bidder? At best they can choose not to include him in the national side.


Considering Flintoff can earn tonnes more plying his trade around the word playing Twenty20 (aka ‘cricket-lite’) than appearing again in England colours (he has already retired from Test cricket), this would appear to be a no-brainer for both the agent and the player.


Since players’ agents work on a commission basis, it is obvious they will encourage their star clients to go for lucrative deals rather than opt for national duty. Or as Cuba Gooding Jr. put it so succinctly in Jerry Maguire: “Show me the money.”


Aussie bad boy Andrew Symonds had hinted even before Flintoff that he would take the freelance route. Symonds was banished from the national squad due to his drinking issues and his agent has been busy trumpeting his Twenty20 wares. Others like Chris Gayle, Kevin Pietersen and Brendon McCullum are sure to follow. And really who can blame them when the toothless ICC watches on helplessly even as the game is hijacked by businessmen out to line their pockets?  What is fascinating about cricket is how the more things change, the more they actually remain the same.


Competitive cricket emerged over 300 years ago in England and the first recorded match with prize money on offer (£10) dates back to 1700.  The early pros would receive lucrative challenges from clubs and villages around England, riding on horseback and later by train to earn their living. Today horse and train have been replaced by the corporate jet.


But by the mid-19th century, widespread betting mixed with alcohol led to match-fixing and violence. The authorities plucked from elite schools and colleges stepped in to clean up the game and establish the county championship where amateurs held sway.


South African captain Graeme Smith has dubbed events like the just-concluded England versus Australia ODI series as ‘meaningless’. But does he seriously think Otago Volts v Wayamba or Cape Cobras v Sussex Sharks in next month’s inaugural Champions League will have any meaning to them?

History has a nasty habit of repeating itself especially by those who either ignore it or are just plain ignorant. Watch this space!


Gulu Ezekiel is a senior sports journalist and a Delhi-based author








There is something unseemly about the sight of professors at one of India’s best-known institutions going on a hunger strike. Here is a brand synonymous with the technical skills associated with a resurgent India. Here is an institution with alumni in boardrooms across the world, eager to give back to their alma mater. Here is an engineering college whose students have the pick of global jobs and command salaries that awe, even in these recession-hit days. But instead of leveraging all of this, what have you? Teachers at the Indian Institutes of Technology having to grovel before the human resource development ministry for better salaries and incentives.


India’s approach to higher education has been a combination of Stalinist centralisation and the belief that one size should fit all. This would make some sense if the size was of the IITs or IIMs — world-class institutions that our other universities could learn from. But the government’s chosen model has been the lowest common denominator — regulations that reduce all colleges to the grubby decay of our very worst. The argument that institutions must surrender some of their autonomy in return for government financing makes sense. But the IITs and IIMs can easily raise the cash to improve infrastructure and attract teaching talent. Should not tax payers’ money be spent on those who really need it?


There is yet another justification for increasing pay at the IITs. They have an enviable reputation for producing bright young graduates ready for the toughest and most varied assignments. They are less likely to retain researchers and academics, the kind of skills that only committed high-quality, and equally appreciated, faculty can guarantee. For the IITs to change from a quality technical institute to a quality research one requires flexibility in hiring and putting incentive structures in place. No matter how benevolent the rules from New Delhi may seem, they cannot factor in the needs of an institution more than that institution itself can. The performance-linked bonus that IIT directors have proposed is precisely such an idea. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal brings much needed energy to his ministry. From making board


examinations optional to persevering with the Right to Education Act, he has so far made the right noises. He could well negotiate his way out of the IIT impasse by compromising on some specific demands, but that would be ignoring the systemic problems that caused the dispute, problems of institutional autonomy. It is there that reform should begin.







Gopinath Munde, as the BJP general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, currently carries considerable clout. With tickets being finalised for next month’s state assembly elections, he would be expected to sit in judgment over many aspirants. Among the candidatures cleared on his watch are his daughter Pankaja Munde Palve’s, his niece (and daughter of Pramod Mahajan) Poonam Mahajan’s and his nephew, Madhusudan Kendre’s. That these decisions reportedly came amidst stormy scenes over “the place of dynasty in the party” indicates that the widespread opinion was not that the tickets had been won on merit alone. And as the other main parties in the fray in Maharashtra, the Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP, too deal with friction over relatives of politicians claiming tickets, the issue of “dynastic” politics is being framed rather more starkly than before.


The question of whether relatives of established politicians should be given preference in assigning tickets has always been a tricky one. Unabashed supporters of the idea say that in our first-past-the-post politics, every candidate, whether related to somebody significant or not, must get the voters’ endorsement and, by that logic, prove her merit. Certainly, it can be nobody’s case that family ties to political leaders bar a person from pursuing a career in politics. Politics nowhere is a level playing field, with access to funds, networks and charisma being crucial determinants in making it. And in a crowded field, name recall and the networks that come with it are substantive political assets. However, political parties, especially in a parliamentary system, are also managers of aspiration. As entities always in election mode — Lok Sabha, state assembly, local bodies, by-poll — for their own survival they need to constantly reinvigorate their ranks with cadres and ideas, a process that can be best achieved in an open, democratic intra-party framework. And since our deeply contested electoral landscape offers so much fertile ground to rebels and break-away factions, the processes by which a party opens itself to questioning on its decisions can determine its success in averting rebellions.


Family ties will continue to be on many candidates’ CVs. But amongst a generation next in Indian politics obtained from children of successful politicians, can political parties find the internal clarity to show that having a relative with clout has not been a decisive factor?








It is one thing for the Indian government to be embarrassed about the media’s loud and tactless China chant in recent days, which has ratcheted up unnecessary tension in neighbourly relations. It is another thing altogether to take a cue from the Chinese playbook and threaten punitive action against journalists for inconvenient reports.


Certainly, some sections of the media have exploited our simmering and unspoken China paranoia, pointing attention to repeated military incursions into Indian territory. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, these rumours gained force and momentum as talking heads on television and newspaper reports touched on the repressed trauma of 1962 and issued dire warnings. It was left to the prime minister himself to tamp down the anxiety, and assure the country that all was well on the Chinese front. As the matter threatened to destabilise a delicate diplomatic balance, the foreign secretary, the army chief and the national security advisor all stressed that while a low-level military back and forth is routine for a porous and contested boundary, there has been no significant increase in Chinese incursions along the entire 4000-plus kilometres of the border.


Now, the government is contemplating more serious action, threatening to file FIRs against those who reported on Chinese firing across the border. After a complaint by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, debunking a report that two Indian soldiers were injured in firing by the Chinese in northern Sikkim, there is an attempt to address such “wrong” reporting with punishing consequences. But why allow things to come to this pass? Inaccurate reporting must be fixed with facts — why did the government’s information establishment simply sit by as the stories swirled, instead of providing the correct context and data? Instead of handling the scare-mongering with calmly presented facts, such punitive action would suggest that the government now wants to paper over its own inadequacies by launching this harsh and unusual action against the media. The cold fact remains that the Indian state needs to reorient its own placatory, fearful relationship with China and compete openly, with our own aggressive infrastructure projects. Perhaps if our official bilateral relations were robust and clear, these mutterings in the media would not appear quite so threatening.










Anoushka Shankar’s saga of harassment sent a shudder down many spines, simply because we know that you don’t have to be a celebrity to be vulnerable in exactly the same way. Even if your Facebook account or email isn’t actually hacked, the Web enables dramatic violations of personal space. Stories like this are the downside of the constant self-narration we now take for granted on the Web. Increasingly, difficult questions about privacy and reputation are jostling our celebration of this wondrous and liberating medium.


We live in a time of Facebook self-fashioning. Young people today are digital natives, with an entirely different concept of what’s private and what’s public. They have no experience that is not announced, their lives can be pieced together from vast photo archives, personal details are sprawled out for “friends of friends” and even more faraway connections. As David Weinberger puts it, on the Web, everyone’s famous for fifteen people. We drag longer and longer tails of personal information behind us, records that linger on whether or not we like it.


But even those who stage their lives for their friends do not always think about larger audiences. It is a peekaboo dynamic, of revealing and masking, behaving and performing. As a young person interviewed for a New York Times story confided, “he wanted his posts to be read, and feared that people would read them, and hoped that people would read them, and didn’t care if people read them.” In short, people are rarely prepared for the real and unfortunate ramifications of their online actions.


Even if you are not actively putting out information about yourself on a blog or social network, mighty marketing machines can sketch a pretty discomfiting picture of you from the various driblets of data you submit for routine online transactions and searches. And yet, apart from a handful of privacy activists, most people do not really seem to mind, or try not to think about the vast digital dossiers about them. If they’re watching you, it’s a pleasant enough panopticon.


So now, we know more than ever about each other’s lives, but more information need not be better information or lead to more accurate judgments. Other way round, usually. Legal scholar Daniel Solove points out how the video of a young Korean woman who refused to pick up her dog’s poop on a subway became a viral phenomenon that would trail her for a small eternity. She was publicly shamed and heckled to an extent that far exceeded her crime. It is stories like this that dampen the excitement about the Web as a glorious free-for-all, and make us feel like prisoners of a wired world.


Have free speech absolutists discounted something crucial, the freedom to speak and act without worrying that it could all end up online, mangled and misread by people it was never meant for? Anyone who has been burned by the experience knows that gossip and rumour take on frightening force on the Web. While bitching about your workplace or friends, or taking down a public figure, has always gone on in tight private circles, now there is a scaldingly public dimension to every kind of trash talk. The New Yorker’s David Denby recently wrote a book about such snark (“personal, low, teasing, rug-pulling, finger-pointing, snide, obvious and knowing” abuse) which he says has “spread like a sneezy cold through the vast kindergarten of the web”. A blog like Wonkette which dishes out mean Beltway gossip, or the erstwhile War for News which rocked the Indian media scene a few years back, or even more intimate Facebook groups can be sites of unfair public shaming.


No matter how committed you are to free and unrestrained conversation on the Web, there is a nagging sense that online speech and action put the skids under the classic liberal division between words and deeds. As far back as 1993, the pioneering cyberspace writer Julian Dibbell wrote a famous account called “A Rape in Cyberspace”, about sexual violence on LambdaMOO, a multi-user game with avatars. One of the users, screen-named Mr Bungle, used a subprogram to sexually humiliate another user, who called herself legba. And just like that, what had been a sweet and harmless geek game, a bunch of people conspiring in a fiction, found itself facing an only-too-real social dilemma of crime and punishment. Was virtual violence still violence? “Where real life, on the other hand, insists the incident was confined to the realm of the symbolic and at no point threatening any player’s life, limb, or material well-being, here now was the player legba issuing aggrieved and heartfelt calls for Mr Bungle’s dismemberment”, wrote Dibbell. “Ludicrously excessive by Real Life’s lights, woefully understated by Virtual Reality’s, the tone of legba’s response made sense only in the buzzing, dissonant gap between them.”


Reputation is the bedrock of social interaction. We care tremendously about what others think of us, because we know these assessments make all the difference to our chances in life. And indeed, on the Internet, it matters more than ever. The Web is the closest we’ve come to a reputation economy, where your stock dips and rises by the judgment of others. How do you rewind/ delete/ undo a digital trail that embarrasses you? Walling oneself off is no longer a tenable option, but perhaps people should be handed their own control buttons, to contextualise and qualify info about themselves. Internet theorists like Jonathan Zittrain even suggest a reputation bankruptcy system, to give people a fresh start online.


Maybe in the longer term, as we take the digital glasshouse for granted, we’ll learn to cut each other some slack, and our ideas of privacy may mutate. But meanwhile, we are left groping for a balance that protects the openness and freedom of the Internet, without shredding the norms of personal inviolability. Who knows, Shashi Tharoor might have some ideas.










Nawaz Sharif thinks the only way to effect a closure is to hang, draw and quarter Musharraf. Some of his party leaders want to extend the courtesy to other former dictators also. Since, except Musharraf, all are dead, the PMLN wants to do a Cromwell on them. That’s the problem with selective reading of history, in this case of Great Britain’s and Cromwell’s place in it.


But while Sharif and his cohorts need to push this line for political reasons, finding it deliciously propitious that it also syncs with the slogan for constitutionalism, Musharraf himself is equally to blame for not letting the waters go still.


He has continued to speak, Oracle-like, on Pakistan and its various problems; he threatens to return and play a political role and, to that end, is actively trying to put the Q-League Humpty together.


The PPP government, meanwhile, is trying its best for a lockdown on the whole affair and is seeing its political fortunes take a dip as Sharif’s go up. So, where do matters stand and what about the army?


The army has signalled that it would stay neutral if Musharraf returned and was tried. There’s dilemma here for it. Musharraf has become a steel-ball around the institution’s ankle. When he was in power, the army went along with him even as dissent over his policies grew. His November 3, 2007 decision was very unpopular and the top brass knew, for the most part, that it was the clichéd beginning of the end. Yet, they supported him for institutional imperatives, perceived or real is another debate.


So, the issue is not whether Musharraf, as an individual, can be allowed to go under but how would accepting a judicial process against him and his possible indictment impact the standing and influence of the army as an institution. Protecting Musharraf goes beyond the problem of one man’s fate; it becomes a matter of defending institutional turf here and now, and by extension, in the future.


On the other hand, Musharraf’s tenure has left the army with limited choices. The fact that the army had to agree to his unceremonious ouster showed it realised that it could not let him continue in office in the face of overwhelming anti-Musharraf and, worse, anti-army public opinion. The anti-Musharraf feeling still obtains even as the political system remains tenuous and the army’s stock has gone up.


But precisely because the army’s reputation is on the climb that it is unwilling to be drawn into the political fray because of Musharraf. He has now become a liability for the institution.


But neither could it afford Musharraf’s indictment; hence the backchannel efforts and guarantees which induced Musharraf to bow out. The army can’t leave him for institutional reasons; neither can it go beyond a point in saving him for the same institutional reasons.


The army has drawn its lessons from the Musharraf years and now seems more concerned about the exit strategy than the entry point. For once it is bringing Clausewitz to bear on politics and realises that when it comes to the fog and the drag, politics may offer more of the two than even war. This is not a bad development.



For anyone who puts more premium on strategy than tactics, more on the indirect than the direct approach, the issue of intervention, by that very fact, must be decided less by whether the army can make a coup happen (entry) and more by what it can achieve by making one. That’s the point where the question of exit comes in: when is the right time to get out. Even Huntington, in his classic Political Order in Changing Societies could not provide a satisfactory answer.


The army wants Musharraf to stay away and let the ruckus die down. The government has also involved Saudi Arabia which was one of the guarantors against any trial of Musharraf. The army feels that his staying away would give it the time to work out things with those political elements that are baying for his blood. The army also knows that if he were to return and be tried, it won’t be able to do much to save him from the judicial process.


Musharraf, however, is telling most visitors that he wants to, and will, return. He is very serious, going by his statements, about playing a political role. The army’s contention that it will stay neutral is a signal to its former boss that if he were to insist on such a decision before the time is opportune, he will be on his own.


Musharraf’s successes and failures spring from the same source, his audacity. General Zia-ul-Haq was an armoured corps officer but always acted as a gunner and relied on indirect fire and the strategy of the indirect approach. Musharraf was a gunner but has always preferred direct fire. He would have been more successful if he could determine when to be audacious and when to hunker down and let the storm pass.


The writer is Op-Ed Editor, ‘Daily Times’, Lahore. The views expressed are his own








October 13 is a critical day for most of the players in Maharashtra politics. The MNS may finally find a place in state politics and Raj Thackeray may take over his uncle’s mantle and undo the Shiv Sena. The day will also indicate if the Thackerays have been able to transform the emotional Marathi manoos agenda into a political vision with electoral benefit. This plank may ignite passions, but citizens seldom make their electoral choices on one single issue. Evidence from National Election Survey (NES) 2009 (a post-poll survey conducted during the Lok Sabha elections by CSDS) reveal that though 78 per cent of the respondents agree that people from Maharashtra must have priority in employment, their voting preferences did not show much variation.


The Shiv Sena and the BJP have tried to corner the government over the Mumbai terrorist attacks, but they would also be surprised to know that 44 per cent of the respondents were satisfied with the government’s counter-terrorism measures after the Mumbai attacks; only 21 per cent expressed dissatisfaction. NES 2009 also showed that issues like farmers’ suicides, price rise and OBC reservations have an influence over voters, but just a tiny variation in voting behaviour suggests that the BJP-Shiv Sena’s Mumbai-Thane-Pune-centric oppositional politics proved disastrous for them as they failed to convert these sentiments into votes.


The alliance never looked like a unified opposition and their seat-sharing formulae seemed nothing more than an arrangement where prominent leaders of both parties could win. The remaining few in Mumbai-Thane-Pune was damaged by the junior Thackeray. Although the MNS could only manage 4 per cent of the total votes in the state in 2009, its voteshare was 21 per cent in 9 seats in the Mumbai-Thane region. The MNS is planning to contest 110 assembly seats and they will definitely test the influence of the BJP-Shiv Sena in no less than 80 seats in Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Bhivandi, Pune, Maval, Nashik and Nagpur. These forms 30 per cent of all seats in the state legislature, and it is strange that Uddhav toured rural Maharashtra when the Shiv Sena had to bargain for more seats in urban areas, despite knowing that the BJP performs better there.


The Congress monopoly in state politics has been challenged only once in 1995-1999 when the Shiv Sena-BJP managed to take advantage of religious polarisation in the state. This time around, the Congress-NCP strongholds of Konkan, Western Maharshtra and Marathwada are witnessing strained relations among the alliance partners at the local level. The farmers’ unrest and the Raju Shetty factor are hurting the NCP-Congress in their pocket borough. For the NCP, especially Sharad Pawar, this election is a do or die matter as the old warrior prepares the ground for his daughter. A good showing in these elections would facilitate power-sharing for his followers after their dismal performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections.


The BSP and the RLDF (an alliance of more than dozen parties) may not have a state-wide impact, but their capability to divide Muslim votes may prove lethal for the Congress- NCP in closely fought constituencies. There are 38 assembly constituencies where Muslim voters may tilt the equation. Generally the Shiv Sena and BJP have an edge over their opponents in upper caste, Maratha, Maratha-Kunbi and OBC votes but the NCP and the Congress lead in Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim sections. It is here that the BSP and RLDF can cause jitters in the ruling faction. There are about 50 seats where the Dalit population is more than 15 per cent and around 30 seats where Adivasi population is more than 20 per cent. As a more localised caste alignments unfold, it is making political equations more uncertain.


The BJP-Shiv Sena combine was confined to Mumbai-Thane and Konkan since 1998, but in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections Konkan, North Maharshtra and Western Vidharbha have emerged as a Shiv Sena-BJP stronghold. While Western Maharashtra and East Vidharbha was an NCP-INC fortress, Marathwada remained fragmented and Mumbai Thane have come to them by default due to the MNS.


But the equations may change, as it did for the BJP-Shiv Sena. Despite having the edge in the 2004 parliamentary elections, North Maharashtra and East Vidharbha became the Waterloo for the BJP and Mumbai Thane for the Shiv Sena. Thus, the Congress must realise that the May 2009 results were dictated by the national mood. The BJP-Shiv Sena needs to find issues close to people and exploit the ten years of anti-incumbency. Raj Thackeray meanwhile, just needs to make a start. Who knows, luck may favour him, as the battle-scarred veterans of Maharashtra politics are ageing fast.


The writer is with Lokniti, CSDS








In scrapping the plans to deploy missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic last week, US President Barack Obama may have brought down American political stock in Eastern Europe, where the post-Soviet regimes have relied on Washington for their security. The US losses in Eastern Europe might be worth it, if Obama’s attempt to’re-set’ relations with Russia produces gains elsewhere, in regions that matter more to him at this juncture.


India will surely be interested in finding out if the new US-Russian rapprochement will lead to their cooperation in the Great Game territory — Iran, Central Asia and the Af-Pak region.


After September 11, 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin had strongly supported the US war on terror in Afghanistan and American military presence in Central Asia. As Washington continued to treat Moscow with condescension, expanded the Western military alliance, NATO, into Eastern Europe, and promoted colour revolutions to undermine Russian influence in the former Soviet republics, a disappointed Putin distanced himself from Washington and drew closer to Beijing.


The renewed chill between Washington and Moscow has tended to complicate India’s diplomacy in many areas. If the US and Russia construct a measure of bilateral understanding on regions of interest to us, Delhi’s own room for manouevre will significantly improve.


Above all, an American strategy to stabilise the Af-Pak region has a better chance of succeeding with Russian support than without it. US-Russian strategic coordination on Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia does not automatically follow from the latest moves on missile defence. It might certainly need Western recognition of a Russian sphere of influence in Eurasia. The enduring Western tradition of Russo-phobia is a major political obstacle.


As Russia and the West probe each other for a new strategic bargain, India should be doing what little it can to encourage Washington and Moscow to coordinate their moves in Afghanistan. After all India has a shared interest with the US, Russia and Europe in preventing the return of the Taliban.


Party or army?


Winning Russian support in Afghanistan might be a lot easier for Obama than persuading his own Democratic party, which is in control of both houses of the Congress, to back the war in Afghanistan.


Obama is torn between the rapidly declining support for the Afghan war within the liberal wing of his party which wants a clear exit strategy, and the mounting pressure from US military commanders for an early decision on deploying additional troops into Afghanistan.


In a series of TV appearances on Sunday morning, Obama said he was not going to take an immediate decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan. He also insisted that unless there was a clear strategy for Afghanistan, he was not going to address the question of how many troops must be committed to the war.


As he seemed to tilt towards the liberal wing of the Democratic party, the Republican opposition accused him of walking away from his campaign pledge to confront, head-on, violent extremism in the Af-Pak region. The Republicans also accused the president of undermining the military commanders on the ground — General David Petraeus, the chief of Centcom and General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. As the White House put out the word that the president is rethinking the entire approach to Afghanistan, The Washington Post leaked a report from General McChrystal that was submitted three weeks ago. In his gloomy assessment, General McChrystal argued that if there is no deployment of additional troops now, the whole Afghan mission might end in failure. Trapped between the party and the army, Obama now has no place to hide.


Training mission


Liberal opponents of the war in Washington say they are not for the abandonment of Afghanistan. Instead of sending more American troops into the war, the Democrats want a major new investment of resources into standing up a credible Afghan national army. India does currently train a modest number of Afghan military and police officers. An Indian offer to significantly expand its Afghan training mission might find considerable resonance in the Obama administration.


The writer is Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress, Washington DC









The lead editorial in the latest issue of CPM mouthpiece People’s Democracy rejects outright the claims of a turnaround in the global economy. It argues that the recessionary impact would continue for many more years. The editorial, marking the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, refers to an analysis of the cyclical capitalist business cycle in the entire history of capitalism, to buttress its point.


“It shows that in the aftermath of an average crisis asset prices fall sharply, real housing prices fall on an average by 36 per cent over six years, equity prices by 56 per cent over three and a half years. Unemployment tends to rise by seven percentage points during the down phase of the cycle, which on average lasts four years. Government debt increases by 86 per cent. GDP falls by over 9 per cent on the average, and typically takes ten years to return to what it was before the crisis. This is the history of an ‘average’ crisis. What we are witnessing is much worse than an average crisis. Under these circumstances, it would be naive to exude confidence of a visible turn-around in the global economy”, it says.


It also attacks the prime minister and the Planning Commission and states that their optimism about a turnaround could well be a “case of gross overestimation of the Indian economy”. The editorial is also critical of the government’s policy of giving concessions to corporate houses. Referring to the budget papers it says that as much as Rs 4.18 lakh crore was foregone as tax collection last year as a result of various tax concessions and this year it would reach Rs 4.28 lakh crore. “This is being done under the presumption that with greater availability of capital, the corporate world would expand its activities and thus stimulate the economy. There is a fundamental flaw in this reasoning. No amount of availability of capital can stimulate the economy unless there are people who have purchasing power to consume what is produced”, it says.


Solidarity now

In an article about the five day strike by Jet Airways pilots, CITU leader M.K. Pandhe calls upon trade union units in the civil aviation industry to unite and form a “common organisation”. “In many countries in the world there is a common organisation from pilots to unskilled workers. However in the public sector, we have category-wise organisations which is reducing the bargaining power of the employees with the management”, he points out. Pandhe sets aside the argument that pilots should not be allowed to form unions as they are highly paid and claims there is an urgent need that civil aviation employees of all categories form a common industry-wise union.


Pointing out that Jet pilots had approached the CITU, Pandhe assures all help to the pilots and cautions the registrar of trade unions against any attempt to de-recognise the union. “The Jet management is trying to get the NAG de-registered by manipulating the registrar of trade unions office by resorting to flimsy objections..The trade union movement in India will oppose any attempt on the part of registrar of trade unions, Mumbai to help the Jet Airways management in their vile designs”, Pandhe states.


Foreign hand in Bengal

In an article, the party charges that their opponents in West Bengal were being funded by foreign countries. “The forces of reaction in Bengal had a supply of money and intelligence from foreign sources. The murders of CPM cadres must be the ‘utilisation certificate’ that the terrorists would submit to their foreign bosses to ‘account for’ the funds”, writes B. Prasant quoting state secretary Biman Basu.


The article also seeks to downplay the Left’s defeat in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, using vote percentages: “The elections to the municipal corporation saw the Left Front win 17 seats with a vote percentage of 46.13 per cent. The anti-LF alliance of Trinamul and Pradesh Congress won 30 seats with a vote percentage of 47.14 per cent”, it states without making any further analysis.      










It was a decade ago that an IITian famously said his alma mater produced more millionaires than any other undergraduate institution. You could dispute that claim, but then there would still be plenty of similar ones to contend with, from more objective commentators. Bill Gates has called IITs a world treasure. Thomas Friedman is a fan. As is Bobby Jindal. And the list goes on, but the Indian government seems to be taking some other class. In the times of Murli Manohar Joshi, the IITs had to fight back suggestions ranging from taking more students per institution to price controls on tuition fees. The Kapil Sibal regime looks much more reasonable. Yet, here we are. IIT faculty has been forced to go on a hunger strike to get some very reasonable demands addressed. To their credit, they aren’t planning to take casual leave or cancel classes; they are going to observe a fast instead. They will also be flooding the HRD ministry with mails (and videos) about the work they do, from research and teaching to industry services. Comparisons with Munnabhai’s gandhigiri are flying thick and fast.


What are the grievances? First, there is the pay aspect, ranging from a 40% cap on professors who are eligible to receive higher pay after six years to an incoming salary of about Rs 30,000. But there is also a range of other concerns raised by the ministry’s new notification. Like the curbs on recruitment—10% of all faculty has to be hired at the level of ‘assistant professors on contract’, an assistant professor must have at least three years of experience at that level before being promoted and only 40% of professors with six years of experience at that level can advance to the next academic pay grade. Such nitpicking pretty much throws autonomy out of the window. All flexibility for advancing meritorious people looks lost. And there couldn’t be a worse time for such counter-productive interferences, as the IITs face up to 20% faculty vacancies. Brand IIT surely deserves better, and it would get what it deserves if only the government would loosen its apron strings. This is one public baby that’s been adventurous and thrived in the world, won it over. There can be no better proof that it can take care of itself. Whether it is the Govardhan Mehta committee or a memorable dissent note to the Yash Pal committee, one informed forum after another has recommended that the IITs deserve a special pay scale. One of our columnists today further argues that quality cannot be delivered in a hurry. When we do have quality at hand, it deserves nurturing—if the government cannot concede autonomy in a hurry, it should at least make provisions for differential pay scales.






Statistics is a discipline that attempts to make sense of raw data. It is important because raw data by itself may

not always be meaningful. But statistical exercises must be conducted with much rigour and on the basis of credible raw data for them to be a useful tool, at least for serious policymakers. Done shoddily, statistical exercises could throw up misleading conclusions that could have damaging consequences. The state of economic statistics in the government set-up in India leaves much to be desired. The latest instance of major discrepancy is the case of the revised export data for 2008-09. The initial estimate compiled by the directorate-general of commercial intelligence & statistics had indicated a very moderate growth of 3.4% for 2008-09. The revised estimates by the same agency now say that exports grew at a considerably faster rate of 12% in 2008-09. Such a wide divergence suggests that a mistake has been made in at least one of the two estimates (it may even be both). It wouldn’t matter so much if the numbers did not have policy implications. But, they do. If growth of exports is an anaemic 3.4%, then there is plenty for the government to be worried about, and a case can be made for some of the sops that have been given out. On the other hand, if the growth rate of exports is 12%, then sops are probably a waste of precious public finance.


Of course, it isn’t just exports data which suffers from such discrepancy. The most prominent statistical divergence is in the measures of inflation. The WPI says inflation is just about in positive territory, while the CPI says it is nearly 13%. The WPI does not include services at all, and suffers from base-effect problems. But it is on the basis of this WPI that RBI tightened monetary policy in the first half of 2008, a policy move whose negative impact continues to be felt even a year later. Remember, at that time, CPI was nowhere near as high as WPI. CPI itself may have problems. For one, there are four different measures of CPI—agricultural labour, rural labourers, industrial workers and urban non-manual employees. It isn’t at all clear whether consumption baskets of these four groups are different enough to warrant four different indices. Surely, the exercise can be meaningfully conducted with a single measure. If exports and inflation weren’t troubling enough for our statisticians, the key measure of output, IIP, suffers from a number of limitations, too. And it doesn’t even include services. Other than the problem of data and measurement, there is the issue of time lags as well. Many of these indices are released with delays of one or two months, which is far too long for quick policy action. We need to urgently sort out our statistical problems. Begin with allowing more agencies access to raw data. Competition will likely produce better results. Then switch to month-on-month, seasonally adjusted analysis for most key variables. The changes that matter for policy action are best reflected in such analyses.







Inflation as measured by CPI is at a 10-year high. And, it ain’t creating a correspondingly vexatious tempest. In the past very high levels of inflation have brought down governments. Remember the sharp increase in prices of onions in 1998 brought down the BJP government in Delhi and Rajasthan state elections. Inflation in the CPI had then peaked at 19.7 per cent. Now, it is almost 13 per cent.


Around early 2008, when inflation was not as high as it is today and was caused by global movements that were well beyond our control, the RBI tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to control inflation by raising rates and sucking liquidity out of the markets. The RBI then did not appreciate that its actions were futile as the causes of inflation could not be influenced by its tight-money policy.


As a result of this misguided policy, corporates suffered high interest rates along with high commodity prices. Raw material costs increased by 28.1 per cent in the quarter ended March 2009. Their share in total costs increased from 64.5 per cent in the December 2007 quarter to 67.2 per cent in the September 2008 quarter. Similarly, the interest costs increased by 38 per cent and its share increased from 2.1 per cent to 2.4 per cent during the same period. The two thus had the impact of shaving off nearly three percentage points from corporate margins.


A strong balance sheet and robust demand helped corporates survive this increase in costs. The debt-equity ratio was the lowest in a decade and net profit as a per cent of sales was the highest in a decade around March 2008. Strong financial health helped corporates survive not only the RBI’s policy of dear-money but even the global liquidity crisis that followed it. But, the corporate sector is not so well covered now to suffer another round of a liquidity crunch.


Like we quaintly rejoice RBI’s conservative policies for having saved us from the global liquidity crisis, we equally quaintly ignore its futile efforts to control inflation. As a result, we run the dual risk of keeping the RBI from reforming its policies towards the financial markets and also forcing it to continue to commit mistakes on inflation management.


The RBI has clarified that it prefers a more flexible set of objectives rather than it being narrowly focused on inflation-targeting. This is a relief. But, it keeps saying that inflation is a problem and it therefore implies that it may act to control it. The consequent uncertainty is unnecessary.


Quaintly again, the government has been silent on inflation. Although, going by the lessons of 1998 and given that state elections are around, it is the government that stands out to lose the most when inflation is high.


This time, inflation is caused almost entirely by domestic supply constraints. Drought-like conditions have led to a 16 per cent increase in the price of rice. Prices of jowar are up by 31 per cent; those of tur by 39 per cent; potatoes 47 per cent and tomatoes 72 per cent.


This inflation is not caused by the easy-money policy of the RBI. If it were,it would have led to all-round increase in prices. Instead inflation is concentrated in just a few commodities. These are the crops mentioned earlier and agro-industries that have seen supply shortages following the drought.


For example, consider the WPI for manufacturing products that is up by only 0.76 per cent. Within this, the WPI for manufactured food products is up by 12 per cent. This implies that the prices of all non-food manufactured products are negative. In fact, it works out to -0.4 per cent. Prices of metals are down 14 per cent.


Within the manufactured food products group, inflation is concentrated in sugar, fish and salt whose prices are up by 33, 43 and 16 per cent, respectively. But, prices of many other manufactured food products have fallen. Prices of edible oils, for example are down by 8.4 per cent.


How is it possible that the excess liquidity caused by RBI leads to consumers buying sugar to a point of causing a 33 per cent increase in its prices and dropping the demand for edible oils simultaneously to a point where its prices fall by 8.4 per cent? Sugar is not an essential commodity or a price inelastic commodity to skew inflation among commodities. Neither is edible oils such an inessential commodity to yield to any excessive demand for sugar.


The problem is in the shortage of supplies and not in excess demand. This is a problem that the government should solve by timely imports and release of government stocks. It is not a problem that can be or should be tackled by the RBI. If the RBI does raise interest rates, it will only burden the corporate sector with higher interest costs. It cannot selectively reduce the demand for rice, jowar, potatoes, tomatoes, sugar and fish. And, it should not reduce the demand for other commodities.


The author heads the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy







The last student that got into Delhi University’s Shriram College of Commerce (SRCC) this year got 94% in Class 12. So the 81% that got me into this college in 1987 would not be good enough for admission today. What is going on? There are three possible explanations. The first hypothesis is that today’s kids are smarter than my cohort. Based on a recent visit to the SRCC campus and, at the risk of sounding like an old crank confusing nostalgia with amnesia, I can testify that today’s kids are not smarter than us. Better dressed for sure, better looking maybe, thinner possibly, but more intelligent—not really! The second explanation could be that there has been hyperinflation in the way exams are scored and the new 81% is 96%. The third and most logical explanation is that higher education capacity (supply) has just not kept up with the number of students applying (demand) so the cut-off percentages reflect the price of a bag of rice in a famine i.e. it’s not a fair price but reflects an acute shortage. This famine in Indian higher education is set to accelerate because of the combustible combination of stronger school enrolment (powered by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and rising incomes) and our demographic dividend—about 75 lakh students took various Class 12 exams last year.


I argue that the only sustainable solution to this famine is a massive expansion in capacity i.e. ending the license raj which breeds an adverse selection in education entrepreneurs. This deregulation-driven capacity expansion will facilitate thousands of statistically independent tries in education. But we must be realistic in our expectations about a massive capacity expansion without a short term drop in quality. In fact, solving our higher education famine may require us to accept three painful truths in the short run: a) a bad college is better than no college, b) the most expensive college for a child is no college, c) it’s easier to improve quality in an existing college than to create a new college.


But as horrifying as these truths sound, educational institutions are not like Athena in Greek mythology who sprung fully formed from the head of Zeus—they need time and competition to mature. In fact, we may be seeing the first signs of competition and oversupply in engineering colleges in South India; we have had a flood of them approach us to understand employability criteria and figure out ways to attract employers for campus recruitment since children are talking with their feet (20% of the seats are vacant). It’s hard to be patient with bad quality but MohanDas Pai of Infosys reminds us that most of the goofy engineering colleges started in the 1980s in the South went on to become the supply chain of the Indian IT industry.


Choosing quantity over quality brings us to the unenviable and unviable expectations from the proposed National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER). As NCHER destroys the licence raj in education, stakeholders (governments, parents, students and institutions) must recognise that expectation of simultaneous quantity and quality expansion without compromises is misplaced. Deregulation will create opportunities for birthing many good institutions but the flood will let in some goofy institutions, some cheats and some thugs. But these bad institutions are not an argument against deregulation—just as drunk driving is not an argument against cars or obesity is not an argument against food. The painful journey from quantity to quality will take five years but this does not mean that NCHER has an impotent or limited role; free markets need effective regulation, informed customers, pressure to improve quality and audits that keep suppliers honest but do not degenerate into blackmail. This requires carefully balancing multiple, often conflicting, objectives and NCHER’s job is complicated further by regulating institutions where outcomes are hard to measure. Few doubt that an honest and effective NCHER will have the most difficult regulatory role in the country.



The difficult choices of quantity, deregulation and fee freedom required of the education regulator are bound to horrify parents and policymakers but our situation is not very different from Winston Churchill in the Second World War who said: “I know the difference between right and wrong and I can tell good from bad. I also know the more difficult decisions come when we have to choose between good and better. But the toughest calls of all are between bad and worse”. Years of myopia and corruption in higher education force us to make the bad choice of quantity over quality because a worse choice would be to waste our demographic dividend. Effective and inclusive higher education will be the difference between a demographic dividend and a demographic disaster. It will also be the difference between busy children and restless or jobless youth. Most importantly, it could be the difference between peace with prosperity and crime with civil unrest.


The author is chairman, Teamlease Services







It took a long time coming, but last Thursday’s Cabinet approval of a Rs 17,700-crore loan from Japan for building the western arm of the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) means that the project may finally start in earnest. The ambitious project has been in the planning for over four years, and the railway ministry has already taken numerous approvals from the Cabinet. The DFC, with its electrified lines reserved solely for running freight trains, will transform the way the railways runs its goods transport business and more importantly, will end the logistical nightmare of industrial hubs. Of special importance is its western arm, covering the 1,483-km distance between Mumbai and Tughlakabad, linked with the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.


Although the efficacy of the DFC has never been in question, the project has courted controversy ever since it was conceptualised in 2005. Debates over its ownership pattern and funding mode had to be finally quelled by setting up a group of ministers to decide on the issues. Meanwhile the finalisation of the funding pattern too has taken a long time. The railways, which until a year back boasted of a Rs 25,000-crore cash surplus, was undecided on whether to build the corridor on its own or use the public private partnership route. Even after the Japanese government indicated its willingness to invest in the corridor, the loan has taken a good three years to materialise. The years of dilly-dallying have already meant that the cost of constructing the two arms of the corridor has shot up tremendously—from an initial estimate of Rs 22,000 crore in 2006, it is now expected to need over Rs 40,000 crore. The entire project has also been hijacked by these delays and is now scheduled to be finished by 2017, compared to the earlier expectation of wrapping it up in the next four to five years.


With the financial security from the Japanese loan, it’s essential that the actual construction should be taken up at the earliest, instead of charting out new plans and blueprints. For after facing such huge time and cost overruns and given its own debatable finances, the railways can’t afford to lose the DFC in details again.









Andhra Pradesh is in need of a government that works not a dysfunctional arrangement where Ministers, scheming overtime to make their overlord Chief Minister, have no time or mind for governance. Shockingly, from day one 76-year-old Konijeti Rosaiah, sworn in as Chief Minister following the death of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a tragic helicopter crash, was faced with non-cooperation from his Cabinet colleagues. It is not just that Ministers owing allegiance to YSR’s s on, Jaganmohan Reddy, showed no interest in work; they were brazen about undermining the Chief Minister’s authority and leadership. Only when the Congress high command adopted a no-nonsense attitude and made it clear that the leadership issue was not a matter for political bargaining did many of the YSR loyalists agree to carry out their constitutional obligations. Even so, Ministers continue to spend more time discussing the leadership issue with YSR’s close aide, K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, than in doing government work.


Quite understandably, the Congress high command is in no mood to give in to such pressure tactics and crown Mr. Reddy whose formal political experience is all of four months as a Member of Parliament. At the same time, the party leadership does not want any sort of rebellion on its hands in the weeks leading up to crucial Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Arunachal Pradesh. Chief Minister Rosaiah thus finds himself suspended in Trisanku swarga. Without the full backing of the high command, he is in no position to discipline the mutinous Ministers. A YSR loyalist himself, he does not want to be seen as standing between Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy and the Chief Minister’s gaddi. He is consequently tentative in decision-making, and reluctant even to relocate himself to the official chambers of the Chief Minister in the Secretariat. Despite his vast experience in governance, he is unable to get things moving in this politically supercharged atmosphere. Mr. Rosaiah does not have the mass base of YSR but with firm support from the party high command, he should be able to tackle the most pressing issues of South India’s largest State: drought, the price rise, naxalite activities, and the swine flu challenge. The State Assembly is still in the first half-year of its term, and 36-year-old Mr. Reddy’s vaulting ambitions can wait. Andhra Pradesh needs steady, clean hands to steer it towards development. Mr. Rosaiah certainly looks like the man for the moment. Meanwhile, Mr. Reddy, as an elected M.P., can be given an opportunity at the Centre, perhaps as a Minister of State, to develop his political and governance skills and to show his mettle. He must realise that time is on his side.






The World Investment Report (WIR) of UNCTAD finds the prospects for global foreign direct investment (FDI) gloomy during this year — it is expected to drop below $1.2 trillion from $1.7 trillion in 2008. A modest recovery is forecast in 2010 when the aggregate inflows are expected to be around $1.4 trillion. FDI flows are likely to gain momentum only during 2011 and touch $1.8 trillion. Since capital flows correlate with economic activity, the WIR’s estimates o f cross-country capital flows are broadly in line with the growth forecasts of international organisations. Recovery, expected to start later this year, will initially be feeble and gain traction only towards the end of 2010. Developed countries as a bloc are expected to fare worse than the fast-developing emerging economies, especially China and India. The WIR says that FDI to the developing countries has held out better, while the flows to the developed countries have slipped. In the last quarter of 2007, the developed countries received 80 per cent of the world’s FDI, but their share fell to less than two-thirds of the total by the first quarter of this year. FDI inflows to developed countries were lower by 29 per cent in 2008, compared to 2007. Despite this, the U.S. remained the world’s largest recipient followed by France, China, the United Kingdom, and the Russian Federation.


The FDI outflows from developed countries fell less sharply in 2008. The U.S. retained its top place as the largest exporter of capital. In the case of developing countries, they continued to grow although the trend was uneven across regions. Transnational companies from China embarked on a significant outward expansion while capital outflows from West Asia were relatively muted. The WIR attributes the decline in global FDIs to growing divestment by transnational companies world wide. Taking the form of repatriated investments, reverse inter-company loans and so on , they exceeded the gross FDI inflows in several countries. Cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&As) which have traditionally contributed to the FDI growth fell sharply in 2008 as the financial markets collapsed during the second half of the year. Private equity firms had a relatively lean year. Only sovereign wealth funds bucked the trend and recorded a rise in FDI in 2008. Despite the financial turmoil and massive government interventions, there has no been no significant trend towards investment protectionism. As the crisis recedes, the exit of government from ailing industries could provide a significant opportunity for mergers and acquisitions and the concomitant FDI flows.









The controversy relating to the proposed appointment of Justice P.D. Dinakaran to the Supreme Court is unique and unprecedented. The citizen is entitled to be informed about the many issues that have arisen.


The procedure and process of appointment of Judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court has been the subject matter of three judgments of the Supreme Court.


The first one (Justice P.N. Bhagwati in S.P. Gupta v. UOI) has picturesquely described this process:


“The exercise of the power of appointment and transfer remains a sacred ritual whose mystery is confined only to a handful of high priests, namely... The mystique of this process is kept secret and confidential between just a few individuals, not more than two or four as the case may be, and the possibility cannot therefore be ruled out that howsoever highly placed may be these individuals, the process may on occasions result in making of wrong appointments and transfers and may also at times, though fortunately very rare, lend itself to nepotism, political as well as personal and even trade-off.”


This judgment has been overturned only on two points. First, primacy is now given to the opinion of the CJI and not the Central government. Secondly, in view of the wider consultation required, judicial review is excluded except where the requisite consultation is not done or the appointee is ineligible.


Yet, the mystique of the “Sacred Ritual” remains, with certain changes introduced by two subsequent judgments of the Supreme Court (SCAORA v. UOI and Presidential Special Reference No.1 of 1998). Both these are nine-Judge Bench judgments. The first change is that the circle of “high priests” has been enlarged to include some senior judges in different collegiums, and a wider consultation amongst knowledgeable judges is taking place. Secondly, the substantial exclusion of judicial review makes the process virtually non-transparent and unaccountable. What was opaque has now become total darkness.


Has this exercise gone awry in the case of Justice Paul Daniel Dinakaran Premkumar?


On August 28, The Hindu came out with the news that the Supreme Court collegium had recommended five names for elevation to the Supreme Court. These were of A.K. Patnaik (the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court), T.S. Thakur (Chief Justice: Punjab and Haryana), K.S. Radhakrishnan (Chief Justice: Gujarat), S.S. Nijjar (Chief Justice: Calcutta) and P.D. Dinakaran (Chief Justice: Karnataka).


On September 8, the Chief Justice of India and the collegium as well as the Law Minister were informed by a few senior members of the Bar by means of letters that “we have got very disturbing reports about the integrity of one of the proposed appointees from multiple reliable sources.” (The author of this article was a co-signatory.)


On the same day the letter was followed by a communication enclosing a representation from several responsible members of the Tamil Nadu bar with detailed facts and particulars. The President of India and the Prime Minister were apprised of the situation. A second representation by members of the Tamil Nadu bar with additional facts has now been communicated to the authorities concerned.


Upon the news breaking in the print and electronic media the Karnataka Bar Association passed a resolution calling upon Justice Dinakaran to refrain from discharging judicial duties. Justice Dinakaran stoutly denied the allegations and any wrongdoing.


Issues mixed up


In view of the demand made by the Karnataka Bar Association, two issues have got mixed up and this is confusing the public mind.


The first is regarding the suitability of a candidate to be appointed as a Judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court. The second is whether the allegations and complaints against the Judge are to be inquired into and findings arrived at, and for what purpose? The mechanism and the tests for arriving at an opinion on these two issues are entirely different.


This article only deals with the first issue.


In the celebrated case of S.P. Gupta v. UOI, Justice Bhagwati was called upon to deal with a similar issue. Justice S.N. Kumar was appointed an Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court for two years and the question arose whether he should be recommended for further extension as an Additional Judge. The then Chief Justice of India (Justice Y.V. Chandrachud) recommended him for further extension. But the then Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court (Justice Prakash Narain ) wrote to the Law Minister that he was not in a position to recommend such extension for Justice Kumar. His reasons included several complaints and also the fact that some responsible members of the Bar and some of his colleagues had expressed doubts about Justice Kumar’s integrity. The Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court frankly stated that he had no investigating agency to conclusively find out whether the complaints against Justice Kumar were genuine or not. But he added that “all the same, the complaints have been persistent.” The Law Minister, accepting the views of Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, did not give an extension to Justice Kumar.


On a challenge to this decision, Justice Bhagwati discussed the entire record of relevant correspondence between the Law Minister and the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and observed: “While making his recommendations whether S.N. Kumar should be continued as an Additional Judge or not, the Chief Justice of Delhi had to consider the fitness and suitability of S.N. Kumar at the time... and doubts about the integrity of S.N. Kumar were expressed by responsible members of the Bar and some of his own colleagues, the Chief Justice of Delhi could not be said to have acted unreasonably in declining to recommend S.N. Kumar for an extension. It may be that on full and detailed investigation through an independent and efficient investigative machinery, the complaints and the doubts against S.N. Kumar might have been found to be unjustified but such a course would have been neither practicable nor desirable.”


The contention urged on behalf of Justice Kumar was that the question to be addressed was whether in fact the judge possessed honesty and integrity and not whether the judge enjoyed a good reputation for honesty and integrity. This argument was rejected.


It was held that while arriving at his opinion on suitability the matter was not required to be adjudicated or a quasi-judicial or judicial inquiry to be held to find out whether the Additional Judge was in fact lacking in honesty and integrity.


It was observed (by Justice Bhagwati):


“Such an inquiry against a Judge whether additional or permanent would not be permissible except in a proceeding for his removal. What the Chief Justice of the High Court has to do is merely to assess the suitability of the Additional Judge for further appointment and where lack of integrity is alleged against him, the assessment can only be on the basis of his reputation for integrity.”…


“It is therefore not enough in order to be able to recommend a person for appointment as a Judge to say that there is no proof of lack of integrity against him, because, if such were the test to be applied, there would be grave danger of persons lacking in integrity being appointed as Judges. The test which must be applied for the purposes of assessing the suitability of a person for appointment as a Judge must be whether the Chief Justice of the High Court or for the matter of that, any other constitutional authority concerned in the appointment, is satisfied about the integrity of the person under consideration... The public injury which may be caused by appointment of a Judge lacking in integrity would be infinitely more than the public injury which may result from non-appointment of a competent Judge possessing integrity.”


No inquiry necessary

In sum, to make an appointment no inquiry into allegations is necessary. What is essential is that the constitutional functionaries have to be satisfied about the appointee’s integrity. In other words, as Justice Verma put it pithily, “The collective wisdom of the constitutional functionaries involved in the process of appointing superior Judges is expected to ensure that persons of unimpeachable integrity alone are appointed to these high offices and no doubtful persons gain entry.”


(Anil Divan is a Senior Advocate. He could be contacted on e-mail at )









Sharm el Sheikh has become shorthand for cardinal diplomatic error. The media has gone to town on the communiqué, endlessly turning it over and trumpeting adverse findings. The ‘strategic community,’ shadowy but vocal, has jumped in, as has the parliamentary opposition. Even usually sober observers have been swayed by the clamour and are inclined to blame the Prime Minister for putting his name to the document. On his return, he was left conspicuously alone, with nobody in the government showing much inclination to stand by him as the criticism mounted. And to rub it in, the statement that raised such a storm here was warmly welcomed in Pakistan.


But is the uproar justified? Did India really lose ground in Sharm el Sheikh and is there any cause for alarm? Condemnation of what came from there has been directed mainly at two features of the joint statement: first, that it contains a mention of Baluchistan, and second, that it de-links dialogue from other bilateral issues. These themes do not feature in earlier communiqués, and perhaps largely for that reason, their inclusion has been castigated as a damaging innovation. But there is no sound basis for such criticism. Take Baluchistan: the joint statement says Pakistan had information on threats in that province, and goes on to state that India is ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan. This is taken to imply that Pakistan has somehow succeeded in smuggling in an oblique reference to Indian complicity in Baluch events. If that were so, it would indeed be serious, but such an interpretation overstretches the facts. In a spirited address to Parliament, the Prime Minister explained his aim: Pakistan has made a frequent grievance of India’s supposed involvement in Baluchistan, and as this is entirely untrue, there is no need for India to look as if it must avoid talking about it. This is a reasonable and confident rationale for the joint statement. But the mere mention of Baluchistan is regarded by some as a blunder and an unwarranted concession. As so often in India-Pakistan affairs, all sorts of implications are attached to relatively straightforward propositions; there is constant second-guessing and excessive analysis, so that we tend to advance further and further into the trees, often losing sight altogether of the wood. After all, the purpose of entering into dialogue is to cover all subjects of concern to both parties, so as to permit a meeting of minds where possible, and, where necessary, to confront and repudiate wrongful accusations.


At Sharm el Sheikh it was also decided not to bracket composite dialogue with action on terrorism. This, too, has received a hostile reception in New Delhi, the more so as it goes against the frequently reiterated Indian position that Pakistan must bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to book before dialogue can resume. What, it is asked, has taken place to permit this apparent softening of stand, and why should such indulgence be shown to the other side. It is true that Pakistan’s response on this crucial matter has been contradictory and uncertain, at times more open than in the past, at other times rhetorical and unfriendly. Clearly Pakistan needs to do much more, and it is not India alone that is urging it on — other members of the international community are also insistent. Yet, taking all factors into account, at Sharm el Sheikh India’s Prime Minister signalled readiness to re-engage in talks. India’s anger and disgust have not dissipated but even so it is time to strengthen diplomatic efforts to advance the country’s purpose. The only available modality is dialogue, which can now usefully be resumed, for to remain indefinitely disengaged would yield little and could mean that opportunity would be lost.



We are now at a stage when meetings in New York are expected shortly between the Foreign Secretaries and the Foreign Ministers. The shadow of Sharm el Sheikh should not hang over these meetings. India’s representatives may be understandably reluctant to undertake significant new initiatives, but it is important, nevertheless, not to get bogged down into merely repeating established nostrums. Mild encouragement can be taken from one or two recent developments. The most eye-catching of these is the attendance by Pakistan’s DG ISI at the iftaar reception of India’s High Commissioner in Islamabad. This appears to have been intended as a gesture of good intent and the DG seems ready to break fresh ground. His willingness to meet his Indian counterpart has been publicly made known. Such a meeting could be an important step and should be encouraged. It may be relevant both to the pursuit of the criminals of the Mumbai attacks and also to the issue of infiltration across the LOC. This last is a perennial matter of bilateral discord and suspicion. Pakistan has given assurances that it has, finally, clamped down on the cross-LOC traffic but reports from J&K suggest otherwise. This is the domain of the security agencies and if the two intelligence chiefs can have a frank discussion on the subject, it could help to clear the air to some extent. They could even consider practical measures on the ground to meet India’s concerns about LOC crossings. In this, the Prime Minister’s dictum ‘trust but verify’ must be the watchword.


Looking further ahead, India needs now to view its neighbourhood relations, especially with Pakistan, in the context of its ever expanding international role. Within the Asian region, the demands of a new security architecture have come under serious consideration. Some strategists have envisaged an Asian Union that would eclipse in size and significance the EU and be a dominant global entity for the 21st century. Sorting out neighbourhood affairs is an essential prelude to the larger international role that India must assume in this changing environment. The serious effort to resolve issues close to home, of which Sharm el Sheikh is one episode, is of a piece with a bold vision for the country’s future.


Hard-won opportunity


As post-Sharm el Sheikh reactions have shown, public voices in Parliament, the media, and elsewhere, will not make it easy for the Prime Minister to pursue the course on which he has embarked. Yet he enjoys a wide window of opportunity and is better placed than ever before to find a path through the neighbourhood dilemmas that have so long beset India. The opportunity that exists today has been created through sustained effort during the first term of the UPA government. It must not be lost. Wise and determined leadership will make all the difference at this challenging time.


(The writer is a former Foreign Secretary.)









It was revolting, monstrous, inhumane — and scarcely different from what happens in Africa almost every day. The oil trading company Trafigura has just agreed to pay compensation to 31,000 people in Ivory Coast, after the Guardian and the BBC TV’s Newsnight obtained emails sent by its traders. They reveal that Trafigura knew that the oil slops it sent to that country in 2006 were contaminated with toxic w aste. But the Ivorian contractor it employed to pump out the hold of its tanker dumped them around inhabited areas in the capital city and the countryside. Tens of thousands of people fell ill and 15 died. While the settlement says that the slops could at worst have caused a range of short-term low-level flu-like symptoms, and anxiety, it is one of the world’s worst cases of chemical exposure since the gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. But in all other respects the Trafigura case is unremarkable. It’s just another instance of the rich world’s global fly-tipping.


On the same day that the Guardian published the company’s emails, it also carried a story about a shipwreck discovered in 480 metres of water off the Italian coast. Detectives found the ship after a tip-off from a mafioso. It appears to have been carrying drums of nuclear waste when the mafia used explosives to scuttle it. The informant, Francesco Fonti, said his clan had been paid £100,000 to get rid of it. What makes this story interesting is that the waste appears to be Norwegian. Norway is famous for its tough environmental laws, but a shipload of nuclear waste doesn’t go missing without someone high-up looking the other way.


Italian prosecutors are investigating the scuttling of a further 41 ships. But most of them weren’t sunk, like Fonti’s vessel, off the coast of Italy; they were lost off the coast of Somalia. When the great tsunami of 2004 struck the Somali coast, it dumped and smashed open thousands of barrels on the beaches and in villages up to 10 km inland. According to the United Nations, they contained clinical waste from western hospitals, heavy metals, other chemical junk and nuclear waste. People started suffering from unusual skin infections, bleeding at the mouth, acute respiratory infections and abdominal haemorrhages. The barrels had been dumped in the sea, a U.N. spokesman said, for one obvious reason: it cost European companies around $2.50 a tonne to dispose of the waste this way, while dealing with them properly would have cost “something like $1,000 a tonne.” On the seabed off Somalia lies Europe’s picture of Dorian Grey: the skeleton in the closet of the languid new world we have made.



The only people who have sought physically to stop this dumping are Somali pirates. Most of them take to the seas only for blood and booty; but some have formed coastal patrols to stop over-fishing and illegal dumping by foreign fleets. Some of the vessels being protected from pirates by Combined Task Force 151, the rich world’s policing operation in the Gulf of Aden, have come to fish illegally or dump toxic waste. The warships make no attempt to stop them.


The law couldn’t be clearer: the Basel convention, supported by European directives, forbids European Union or OECD nations from dumping hazardous wastes in poorer countries. But without enforcement, the law is useless. So, for instance, while all our dead electronic equipment is supposed to be recycled by licensed companies at home, according to Consumers International around 6.6m tonnes of it leaves the European Union illegally every year.



Much of it lands in West Africa. An investigation by the London-based Mail on Sunday found computers which once belonged to the U.K. health service being broken up and burnt by children on Ghanaian rubbish dumps. They were trying to extract copper and aluminium by burning off the plastics, with the result that they were inhaling lead, cadmium, dioxins, furans and brominated flame retardants. Tests in another of the world’s great fly-tips, Guiyu in China, show that 80 per cent of the children of that city have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.


In February, working with Sky News and another British newspaper — the Independent — Greenpeace placed a satellite tracking device in a dead television and left it at a recycling centre in Basingstoke, southern England, run by the local authority, Hampshire county council. It passed through the hands of the council’s recycling company, then found its way first to Tilbury docks on the Thames then to Lagos, where the journalists bought it back from a street market. Under EU law, used electronic equipment can be exported only if it’s still working, but Greenpeace had made sure the TV was unusable. A black market run by criminal gangs is dumping our electronic waste on the poor, but since the European directive banning this practice was incorporated into British law in January 2007, the U.K.’s Environment Agency hasn’t made a single prosecution. If a Briton dumps his or her over a hedge, they can expect big trouble. Dump 10,000 in Ghana and you can expect to get away with it.


If the mafia were to establish itself as an effective force here in the U.K., it would do so by way of the waste disposal industry. All over the world the cosa nostra, yakuza, triads, bratva and the rest make much of their fortune by disposing of our uncomfortable truths. It suits all the rich nations — even, it seems, the government of Norway — not to ask too many questions, so long as the waste goes to far away countries of which we know little. Only when the mobs make the mistake of dumping it off their own coasts does the state start to get huffy.


The Trafigura story is a metaphor for corporate capitalism. The effort of all enterprises is to keep the profits and dump the costs on someone else. Price risks are dumped on farmers, health and safety risks are dumped on subcontractors, insolvency risks are dumped on creditors, social and economic risks are dumped on the state, greenhouse gases and toxic waste are dumped on everyone.



Another story that broke on the same day was the shifting, by Barclays, of £7bn of residential mortgage assets and collateralised debt obligations to a fund in the Cayman Islands. These were universally described by the media as toxic assets. Some traders also call them toxic waste. Everyone understands the metaphor even if they haven’t thought it through: the banks seek to dump their liabilities while clinging on to their assets. Perhaps it comes as no surprise to find that Trafigura also runs a hedge fund, or that Lord Strathclyde, leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords, the British parliament’s upper house, is a non-exectuive director of that hedge fund.


That party, like New Labour under Tony Blair and then Gordon Brown, advocates the continuing deregulation of business. The Trafigura case, like the financial crisis, suggests that in business there are people ruthless enough to shut their eyes to almost anything if they think if they think they can make money. Business without regulation is scarcely distinguishable from organised crime. Regulation without strict enforcement is an open invitation to mess with people’s lives.


Tedious directives, state power and bureaucratic snooping — the interference that everyone professes to hate — are all that stand between civilisation and corporate hell. © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








The Group of 20, comprising leaders who represent 85 per cent of the world’s economy, are meeting under very trying and contentious circumstances for a two-day summit that begins in Pittsburgh in the United States on Thursday. The top four or five leaders have their own agendas, and there is a sub-agenda that could see the Europeans, led by France and Germany, trying to get their views accepted by the Anglo-Saxons, represented by the US and Britain, while China and India will be campaigning for a more balanced representation at the IMF and the World Bank. The overarching issue in Pittsburgh will be reining in the banks, the culture of paying out hefty bonuses to those who take the highest risks for short-term gains while not taking punitive action when the risks land the banks in financial turmoil. The banks will also have to be made to increase their capital and assets as buffers against any future crisis. This has been opposed by the Europeans as they feel it was the American banks which caused most of the problems. Increasing the capital of the banks could cost the US and Europe up to $875 billion, according to one IMF estimate.


Considering the belligerent mood of taxpayers in the West, particularly in the US and Britain, not to mention Europe, the G-20 cannot afford to soft-pedal the issue of disciplining banks as self-regulation appears alien to their DNA. It was not even a year since the Lehman Brothers debacle in September 2008, which snowballed into an unprecedented global financial tsunami, that top Wall Street banks started giving out liberal bonuses. They are back to their profligate ways. The most shocking case is that of Andrew Hall, a Chicago trader who is entitled to a pay package of $100 million from Citibank which, as reported, is 200 times the median US household income in 2008. Citibank chief Vikram Pandit, while agreeing that this amount is excessive, says it is part of a contract and has to be paid. Citibank, it may be recalled, received the biggest bailout package of all banks. People cannot be blamed for becoming furious when they see fat cats keep the profits for themselves in good times, while in bad times it is they (the people) who have to pick up the tab. It has been reported that 73 per cent of people in Britain polled by YouGov say they want a tax on bonuses of around £10,000, while 59 per cent of Americans indicated in a Gallup Poll that they wanted strict curbs on executive pay.


There has been a lot of talk of changing the architecture of the global financial system and the way in which trillions of dollars are transacted around the world every day, but very little appears to have been achieved on the ground. There is still a debate on whether capitalism has failed and a new ideology is needed in its place. This indicates how strong the Wall Street lobby continues to be in the US, with any attempts, however feeble, by President Barack Obama to bring discipline to the financial system being met with accusations that he is trying to usher in socialism.


India’s main concern in Pittsburgh will be to fight for curbs on protectionism and to take up WTO-related issues which are expected to be discussed on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. So far, all discussions on the US and Europe cutting subsidies have failed and these countries are still trying to railroad their way into the agricultural markets of developing countries.








The Northern Areas of Pakistan, the forgotten region that once formed a part of the domain of the Maharaja of Kashmir, was in the news recently when the Pakistan government, with its Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, restored the old name of the region, Gilgit-Baltistan, and devolved greater administrative and political powers to the region.


With huge amounts of investment scheduled to pour into the region — China is due to invest billions of dollars in Gilgit-Baltistan, building infrastructure, including upgradation of the Karakoram Highway that connects China and Pakistan — it could have been embarrassing for Islamabad to continue to deny the people of the region some basic democratic rights.


However, for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, some of whom have agitated for autonomy and even independence, the only measure of satisfaction the order provides is that they have regained their distinct identity instead of having their homeland known only by its geographical location. While leaders on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) have criticised the order for seeming to acquiesce to the partition of Kashmir, pro-independence leaders in Srinagar have said it dilutes Pakistan’s commitment to "self-determination" in Kashmir.


It took the Indian government two weeks to convey its protest through diplomatic channels at the "cosmetic" changes that it said were intended to camouflage Pakistan’s illegal occupation of the region. It also pointed out that the people had been denied basic democratic rights for past six decades.


The Pakistan government’s order seemingly gives a measure of autonomy to a region long ruled by Islamabad as a department under the federal ministry of Kashmir and northern affairs with the help of the Pakistani Army.


The Constitution of Pakistan made no mention of the Northern Areas though it referred to Azad Kashmir as a disputed territory, which created an anomalous situation for the residents. It meant that they had no constitutional or legal rights under Pakistan’s Constitution, nor any political representation. The region will now have a local administration headed by a chief minister and a council of ministers, a partly elected and party-nominated body.


The Northern Areas are of immense geo-strategic importance, but its inaccessibility and other restrictions had relegated it to the background. The region lies south of Afghanistan and China’s Xinjiang Province, on the west is the strife-torn North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) with Azad Kashmir to the south and the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the east. Its strategic and political importance was greatly enhanced when the Chinese built the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistani cities to Kashgar in Xinjiang province.


To most Indians, the area across the LoC is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Media shorthand assumes that PoK is co-terminus with the area known in Pakistan as Azad Kashmir. But the Kashmir territory in Pakistan’s occupation is not just the narrow strip of land that is showcased as Azad Kashmir by Pakistan; it includes the vast, sparsely-populated Northern Areas that comprised a third of the former princely state of Kashmir and the Trans-Karakoram Tract, which Pakistan ceded to China under a bilateral agreement in 1963.


The Northern Areas were formed from the amalgamation of Gilgit Agency, Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar, with Gilgit town as the administrative headquarters. Pakistan divided the Northern Areas into three parts — it detached Gilgit-Baltistan from Azad Kashmir because of its strategic importance, it separated the state of Chitral and integrated it into the NWFP and later it hived off the Shaksgam Valley and ceded it to China.


The Shias of Baltistan have close ethnic and cultural ties with the Shias of Kargil. The people do not consider themselves Kashmiris as the state of Gilgit came under the suzerainty of the Maharaja of Kashmir only after 1866. The original inhabitants of the region are Shias and Ismaili Khojas, but in 1975 Islamabad repealed the old Kashmiri "state subject" regulation that prevented outsiders from purchasing land and settling down in the state. The government then encouraged migration by Pathan Sunnis from the Federally Administered Tribal Agency (Fata) region and the Army facilitated settlement by ex-servicemen to ensure greater control of the area. The settlement of outsiders has reduced the local Shia residents from 80 per cent in 1947 to about 53 per cent. There have been violent clashes between Sunnis and the local Shias on several occasions that were put down with a ruthless hand by the authorities.


The Karakoram Highway is to be upgraded to a 30-feet wide highway that would eventually link up to provide an all-weather access route to the Chinese-built Gwadar port on the Balochistan coast at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Among the other Chinese investments in the region are plans to construct a hydro-electric power station at Bunji, building the Bhasha dam as well as building bridges and irrigation works and providing telecom facilities to the remote area. China is also constructing a dry port at Sost near the border with Xinjiang.


Gilgit was the route through which trading goods from Central Asia reached the Kashmir Valley. Many years

later, a British agent was located in Gilgit to watch over Russian incursions into Afghanistan and the Central

Asian region. Now the arid, mountainous region is set to become China’s gateway to the warm waters off Pakistan’s coast.








The legislative measures as well as the procedures in force for fighting corruption among public servants have come in for sharp criticism, both in Parliament and in the media. However, very few have dealt with this problem with the frankness and sense of urgency as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan in his speech at a seminar in New Delhi recently. Justice Balakrishnan not only pointed out the main lacunae in India’s anti-corruption laws and procedures, but also offered several practical suggestions to rectify their deficiencies. Some of his important suggestions are: confiscating the assets of persons convicted of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, creating more designated courts and separating Central Bureau of Investigation’s investigating and prosecuting functions. However, the brunt of Justice Balakrishnan’s criticism was on the requirement of prior sanction of the competent authority to initiate proceedings against public servants. Referring to the inordinate delays in getting sanction, the CJI stated that "the quality of governance suffers when decisions are made on account of other considerations related to political patronage, kinship or caste and linguistic identity". This may appear as strong words, but they reflect the concerns of most citizens at the gross misuse of the provision for prior sanction.


Unfortunately, certain observations made by M. Veerappa Moily, Union minister for law and justice, at the same seminar a day later have caused doubts whether the government will ever give up its powers of prior sanction. An attendant issue is whether dilution or dropping of the guarantees given to public servants under Article 311 will in any way contribute to the efficiency of the fight against corruption by public servants. Mr Moily said: "There is no gainsaying that the provisions of Article 311 have come in the way of bringing corrupt civil servants to book". He added that Article 311 requires a "revisit". However, the doubt that persists is the linkage between Article 311 and eradication of corruption among public servants.


In this context it is necessary to remind those who wish to revisit Article 311 that this Article was not supposed to be a tool to fight corruption by public servants but was intended to assure public servants security of tenure and protection from arbitrary punishment and, thus, induce the best candidates to join the All-India Services.


Article 311(2) states that no person who is a member of the civil service shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an enquiry in which s/he has been informed of the charges against him/her and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges. Then why do those in power believe that punishing guilty civil servants without due process is necessary to make laws against corruption more effective?


Everyone familiar with the debates in the Constituent Assembly on the creation of All India Services with constitutional safeguards against arbitrary dismissal, removal or reduction in rank will acknowledge the crucial role the chief architect of India’s unity, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played in winning the support of the Assembly in creating the All-India Services and giving the officers certain guarantees. Even Jawaharlal Nehru was opposed to the creation of an All-India Civil Service on the Indian Civil Service pattern which prevailed in pre-Independence days. In a letter dated April 27, 1948, to Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel had said that "constitutional guarantees and safeguards are the best medium of protection for these services and are likely to prove more lasting".


Eventually Sardar Patel was successful in getting the support of Nehru and all others who were opposed to the creation of All-India Services and to granting them constitutional guarantees against arbitrary punishments. One can only hope that such a historic decision made by the Constituent Assembly, mainly because of Sardar Patel’s strong conviction about their needs, will not become a casualty of the zeal for reforms in the laws for fighting corruption.


Mr Moily, who is also the chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission, is reported to have said that the scope of the Prevention of Corruption Act should be widened to include "gross perversion of the Constitution and democratic institutions amounting to the wilful violation of the oath of office, abuse of authority by unduly favouring or harming someone, obstruction of justice, squandering of public money and collusive bribery".


Most right thinking citizens will support such measures, but this does not mean that the constitutional safeguards under Article 311 have to be diluted in order to deal with the problem of corruption by public servants.


Now let us examine how the provision for prior sanction has been hindering the investigation into complaints of corruption against public servants. Many people who are not familiar with the decision-making process in the government seem to believe that civil servants themselves can delay or deny sanction for prosecution with the help of their fellow civil servants. In actual practice, however, prior sanction for investigation of complaints of corruption can be issued or denied only by the political executives, i.e. the ministers and, in sensitive cases, only with the approval of the Prime Minister. In some cases of complaints of corruption, investigations may reveal that some politicians have also been involved in the crimes alleged against the public servant. Naturally, such politicians would try their best to ensure that sanction is held up for long periods or even denied.


Sanction issued after three-four years is as bad as sanction refused because the politician-bureaucrat combine would have easily won over many witnesses from the side of the prosecution. Some politicians take the stand that they have been misled by their officers, but this cannot exonerate them from complicity in the crimes.


There have also been complaints that some politicians deliberately delay granting permission for prosecution in order to keep the civil servants as their willing tools for indulging in more corrupt practices. Thus, there is corruption within some corruption cases because of the requirement of prior sanction.


Mr Moily has said that the protection given to public servants under Article 311 of the Constitution is being used to create obstacles for expeditious punitive action. But there is no protection in Article 311 for public servants against prosecution or punishment; the only safeguard is that the civil servants should be punished only after due process.


If the government would bring about some of the reforms suggested by the CJI and also altogether drop the requirement of prior sanction, the scope for "creating obstacles for expeditious punitive action" would be considerably reduced.


P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra











Despite sufficient evidence given by India against Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed for his role in the Mumbai terrorist attacks, no concrete action has been taken against him so far. He was declared to be “under house arrest” after much international pressure, but soon got released following a Lahore Court order managed by the government. Now when the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York, Saeed is reported to have been orally put “under house arrest”. But the reason given is that this is in his own security interest. Whether the action against him has anything to do with the two FIRs filed against him in Faisalabad recently for glorifying and soliciting funds for jihad is not clear. The terror mastermind must be questioned for his involvement in 26/11, as demanded by Home Minister P. Chidambaram.


Pakistan is not serious about eliminating anti-India terrorist outfits. No other conclusion can be drawn when 10 new terrorist training camps have come up after 26/11, bringing the total of such camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and elsewhere to 62. Infiltration attempts by Pakistan-based terrorists also increased considerably during the first six months of this year compared to that during the corresponding period last year. The terrorists who succeeded in crossing over to this side of the border were found to be as motivated and trained as those who massacred innocent people in Mumbai last November.


All this shows that India continues to face as serious a threat to its security from Pakistan-based terrorist organisations as ever. India will have to bring to the notice of the international community that Pakistan’s behaviour cannot help promote peace in South Asia. Pakistan’s non-seriousness will only complicate the situation. Islamabad must be made to honour the commitment it has made not to allow any kind of terrorist activity from its soil. The matter requires special attention particularly of the US, which has promised increased financial aid to Pakistan for fighting terrorism.








Maharashtra is one state where the Congress has been in power for full 10 years in the company of the

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar. That is a long enough period for the anti-incumbency factor

to take roots firmly in any state. Both parties are aware of their vulnerabilities and that is why they seem to have

decided to paper over their differences and strike an all-is-well-in-the-family pose. Why, they have even decided to launch a joint campaign and manifesto for the Assembly poll on October 13. It does not mean that there are no differences, but these have been prudently narrowed down because both know that any wrangling will hurt them both.


While the Congress is to contest 174 seats, the NCP has been given 114. They are planning to go to the polls

with the theme of Rashtra ke baad Maharashtra (after the country, now Maharashtra) to hammer home the point that the alliance which has been looking after the country will also look after the state. The smart catchline also aims to blunt the Marathi edge of the Shiv Sena.


The biggest worry of the Congress is the demand by the relatives of many senior leaders for tickets. Fortunately for it, there is far greater bickering in the BJP-Shiv Sena combine over the distribution of tickets. There is a revolt in both parties, not only over the seats of one party being given to another but also over the selection of candidates. If former MP Pradeep Jaiswal has resigned from the Shiv Sena after being denied the Aurangabad ticket, in Ghatkopar West, the local corporator and BJP leader Pravin Chadha’s supporters have quit the party protesting against the candidature of Poonam Mahajan, daughter of the late leader Pramod Mahajan. The party says things will be sorted out but chances of that happening are slim.







Health is hardly a priority in India and mental health is an abjectly ignored area. The National Mental Health Programme’s shocking revelation that there is a treatment gap of over 50 per cent in cases of severe mental disorders, the fact that National Rural Health Mission makes no mention of psycho-social disorders are worrying pointers. Clearly, India with a woeful patient-physiatrist ratio seems to have abdicated its responsibility towards its mentally ill patients that need utmost care and treatment.


Mental health is a significant measure of one’s well-being. If treated, mental health can take care of many physical illnesses too. According to a recent multi-centre study, nearly 15 million Indians are afflicted with serious psychiatric illnesses and another 30 to 50 million suffer from mild-to-moderate psychiatric problems. Yet the grandiose objective of the National Mental Health Programme to “ensure availability and accessibility of minimum mental health care for all in the foreseeable future, particularly to the most vulnerable and underprivileged sections of population.” remains largely unfulfilled. The government apathy is evident in paltry allocations and absence of political will to expand the mental health program at the district level. Despite 7 to 15 per cent children having significant mental disorders, there is no special programme for them. Depression and anxiety disorders are more common among women and many of them continue to suffer silently. Even otherwise fear of stigma dogs mentally ill patients.


To drive home the point that mental illness can be treated, education and communication plays a crucial role in the mental health programme and no compromise can be made on its budget. Besides proper institutional care and awareness drives, there is need for more doctors who can tackle mental disorders. Since only a miniscule percentage of the mentally ill need in-house treatment at a psychiatric facility, community and family support is a must. It is time mental illness does not carry a stigma and is viewed as any other health problem to be treated with equal urgency and care.
















With the kind of wasteful expenditure that the government visibly makes under normal circumstances all year round, it is hard to think of austerity. Huge amounts of money are spent by the government for foreign travel of ministers and their entourage. They go first class and stay in five star hotels abroad and have a number of big cars waiting for them to ferry them around, round the clock.


The embassies are not run on a shoe-string budget either and they are expected to pamper and look after the visiting dignitaries that include wining and dining and sight-seeing and quite often shopping. But it is still heartening to note that a parliamentary delegation to Greece and Egypt has cancelled its trip and two prominent ministers have vacated their five star lodgings after three months.


The government pays hefty amounts to lobbyists in the US and other important countries and finances posh seminars and conferences in five star hotels in India and abroad. But, perhaps, the most glaring wasteful expenditure is in the area of subsidies for the poor because instead of the poor benefiting, a chain of middlemen pocket most of the money by nefarious means. It doesn’t mean that the subsidies should be abolished, but that the governance and delivery system should be vastly improved. Subsidies will be needed as long as poor and marginal farmers exist in our agriculture and the very poor reside in our countryside.


Somehow corruption that has crept into the system is spoiling all efforts to uplift the poor, and though corruption exists in the rich countries also, it is most reprehensible in a country like ours where millions are visibly and genuinely poor.


The colossal waste and misuse of government money that has become a part and parcel of the government’s functioning and culture is very difficult to curb or eradicate. Perhaps, the only wayout is to have national and regional leaders as well as parliamentarians who are not corrupt themselves. This is sometimes not possible because the corrupt get elected again and again through their money power and the equally corrupt entourage clings to them in order to occupy high offices. It seems that the waste of monetary resources and corruption cannot simply be counter-manned by pledges of austerity.


Another huge expenditure that has crept into the system is the regular sops in the form of dearness allowance to the government staff. Recently there has been another 5 per cent hike in dearness allowance (DA) for the government’s 8 million workers. No doubt, the government is keen to boost consumption because the slack consumer demand will prolong recession and an additional DA will also ease the difficulties of people facing rising food prices. The DA will cost Rs 4,355 crore to the exchequer. But in this case, government spending will boost sales especially of consumer goods and food.


As is known, inflation, as measured by the consumer price index for industrial workers, is in double digits today, reflecting high food prices, and perhaps it is the biggest blot on the government’s performance in its first 100 days. But the sustained consumer demand that has resulted from government spending has kept the automobile and auto-parts industry going. There has been a big rise in car sales though it is hard to explain why people are going on buying cars when the roads are so congested in metro cities and traffic jams are the bane of urban India.



In addition, the government has offered interest subsidy on farm loans as promised on account of the drought in many parts of the country. This would cost the government Rs 4000 crore. It has also offered to help people in their housing schemes which would cost the government Rs 1000 crore but benefit 1 million borrowers. Big giveaways are definitely going to earn brownie points for the UPA government and ensure the continued support of the people in the future also, but it may lead to problems on the inflation front.


Like in the past the government has a heavy borrowing programme ahead and is going to borrow Rs 3.98 lakh crore from the market to finance its fiscal deficit of 6.8 per cent of the GDP in 2009-10. Recently the RBI chief, Mr. D, Subbarao, warned that this might stoke inflation. There would have to be a monetary policy tightening that would result in a rise in interest rates which would not be favourable to industry because, though the Indian industrial growth is showing slow signs of revival, ( 6.8 per cent growth in July 2009), there could be a slowdown. It would not be good for the export industries also which are suffering a setback for the eleventh month now.


There is already a fallout on employment, and if expansion plans of companies are further curtailed due to the hike, there could be more jobs lost. Thus there could be a reversal of the encouraging news that companies are on a hiring spree in India as compared to other countries.


Many would point out that India is now on its way to recovery and a relatively high rate of GDP growth of at least 6 per cent is possible this year ( India’s GDP growth was 6.7 per cent last year). The signs are that Sensex has picked up and crossed 16,000 level due to the huge inflow of $3.6 billion per month between April and July of foreign insititonal investor (FII) funds. This injection of capital has boosted up the stock market.


Since the beginning of 2009, FIIs have bought equities worth $8 billion because India and China seem to be more stable markets than elsewhere. But the problem with the FIIs is that they are unpredictable and the outflow can suddenly increase or inflow can slow down like in the week of September 2, 2009, with a mere $68 million flowing in, which is not even 10 per cent of the average inflows per week between March and July. In fact, there is now a worry that too much liquidity caused by a sudden surge in FII inflows may add to the inflationary pressure.


If the government does not curb its expenditure, especially of the wasteful kind, there will be trouble in meeting its important commitments on the infrastructure and social sector fronts because there has been a fall of 28 per cent in the indirect tax collection till July. A 20 per cent voluntary cut in salaries by ministers and legislators would help in releasing funds for the kind of expenditure the government is contemplating. Moreover, austerity is called for at a time when millions of people are not able to eat two square meals a day due to high food prices, and in such times, not splurging on unimportant things makes a lot of sense.








He was intent on chewing baked corns from his paper cup when I spotted him. It was the Chandigarh airport and passengers were waiting for the hour-long flight to Jammu to arrive from Delhi.


He was juggling his cup, spoon etc. with one hand and his mobile with the other. A common enough sight anywhere but this young man drew attention because of his saffron robe that stopped at his knees. He also had a saffron headgear and I noticed he had canvas shoes on his feet. Another flying Baba, I reflected and promptly lost interest in him.


It was a small ATR plane and I had a window-side seat. I was amused to find that I had the flying Baba as my travelling companion on the next seat. He was clearly used to flying and buckled his seat belt without any fuss.


Unlike in trains, plane passengers do not start a conversation with rank “strangers” but the Baba provided an opening. As the plane took off, he seemed restless and craned his neck to look outside. Would you like to take the window-side seat, I asked and he nodded happily. We switched seats.


Sant Gurpreet Singh, I learnt, was 31 years old and was on his way to Srinagar. A disciple, a retired DIG, wanted him to visit his home at Anantnag. Curiously, his father was in the Army and one of his brothers, yet unmarried, settled in Italy. One of the uncles lives in Germany but the Baba was yet to travel abroad. “ They have not yet invited me,” was his disarming explanation.


A premature baby, he barely survived and his parents had pledged that if the baby survived, he would be given away to their “guru” Baba Balwant Singh. He had grown up in the company of the senior monk and now looked after the small “ashram” in Ludhiana after the “Guru” passed away.


Why do people come to you and how do you help, I asked. “ They come because they have faith. A father, for example, comes to confide that his son has gone astray and does not listen to him,” my companion said. So, what do you do, I prodded him, pray for them ? “ I tell them whatever comes to my mind,” he replied. I could not help grinning or asking, what did you tell the father ? “ I told him that every month he should take his son to the needy, an orphanage, old age home or whatever and donate whatever he could in the name of the son.” And that reformed the son , I asked. “ It did,” he answered gravely.


The flying Baba, it seemed, does not have an empire. No school, orphanage or hospital. “ My Guru forbade me from begging or raising resources,” he explained, “ He would say that you do whatever you can with the resources you have; and if you don’t have resources, you do not have to do anything.”


If you don’t do anything, I asked, how would you get disciples and how would you fly ? “ You have to be

different,” he beamed. Pointing to his shoe, he said, “ see, this is made of cloth and made specially for me by a disciple; I am different.” Baba, you should have been in the marketing department, I teased as the plane touched down at Jammu.


“ I seek a favour,” he said looking into my eyes. “ If you ever write anything on me, please mention that my message to the people is that they should have the wedding feast or the party only a year after the wedding,” he said earnestly.

“A large number of youngsters come to me because they are unhappy in their marriage. They are not compatible. So, celebrate but celebrate only if you are sure that your marriage will last,” he mumbled as I hurried to the exit.








The United States has entered a new energy era, ending a century of rising carbon emissions. As the U.S. delegation prepares for December's international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, it does so from a surprisingly strong position, based on a dramatic 9 percent drop in U.S. carbon emissions over the past two years and the promise of further huge reductions.


Prominent among these carbon-cutting initiatives are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, appliance efficiency standards, and the potential to heat, cool and light buildings with carbon-free sources of electricity. On the supply side are efforts supporting the development of U.S. wind, solar and geothermal energy resources.


Part of this decline in carbon emissions was caused by the recession and higher gasoline prices, but part came from gains in energy efficiency and shifts to carbon-free sources of energy, including record amounts of new wind-generating capacity. This impressive decline should enable the United States to push for a steep cut in Copenhagen.


For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. Last year, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent and overall carbon emissions 3 percent. Projections for this year, based on Energy Department data, show oil use down by an additional 5 percent, coal by 10 percent. Altogether, carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels, including natural gas, dropped 9 percent over the two years.


The improving numbers on carbon emissions are not debatable.


Although Congress is considering legislation that would cut emissions only 15 or 20 percent by 2020, it's clear that with just a little effort, the United States could far surpass this. Given the potentially catastrophic climate change the world faces, we should push in Copenhagen for an 80 percent reduction by 2020.


Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and cut carbon emissions are underway at every level of government and in corporations, utilities and universities. Millions of Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.


Despite the coal industry's $45 million annual budget to promote "clean coal," utilities are giving up the coal ghost. In July, Bruce Nilles, coordinator of the Sierra Club's national program to ban new coal-fired power plants, announced the 100th cancellation of a proposed plant since 2001.


The Tennessee Valley Authority, with a fleet of 11 aging coal plants and a court order to install more than $1 billion worth of pollution controls, is considering closing its John Sevier Fossil Plant near Rogersville, Tenn., along with the six oldest units out of the eight at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant near Stevenson, Ala. Altogether, about 22 coal-fired power plants in 12 states are being replaced by wood-fired power, wind farms or natural gas plants.


Utilities are facing falling demand because of the economic slump and advances in efficiency. The potential is evident in the wide variation among states, with some embracing energy-efficient technologies and others mired in old ones. The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that if the 40 least-efficient states were to achieve the electrical efficiency of the 10 most-efficient ones, national electricity use would be reduced by one third, allowing the equivalent of 62 percent of the country's 617 coal-fired power plants to be closed.


Last year, 102 wind farms came online, providing 8,400 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity, the equivalent of eight coal-fired power plants. This year 49 wind farms were completed and 57 more are under construction. More important, 300,000 megawatts of wind projects (think 300 coal plants) await access to the grid so that construction can begin.


Oil use has dropped precipitously for several reasons, including the economic downturn but also the growing insecurity about oil supplies and consumer concern about future gasoline prices. Gasoline use will drop further as the fuel economy standards announced in May raise the fuel efficiency of new cars 42 percent and light trucks 25 percent by 2016. The trend is strikingly evident in the new vehicle sales figures for the first eight months of this year, which show a significantly higher average of miles per gallon than the vehicles sold over the same period of last year.


The really big gains in fuel efficiency will come with the shift to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Not only are electric motors three times more efficient than gasoline engines, they make it possible to run cars on domestic wind-generated electricity at a gasoline-equivalent cost of 75 cents a gallon. As the low fueling cost becomes more apparent, the shift to plug-ins and all-electric cars will come far faster than most policymakers anticipate.


The melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau will deprive the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze and Yellow rivers of the ice melt that sustains their flow during the dry season and the irrigation systems that depend on them. China and India are the world's leading producers of wheat and rice; anything that reduces their grain harvests will raise food prices everywhere.


Previously, if countries resisted international initiatives, the international community could resort to trade boycotts, export embargoes or tariffs on exports from the offending countries. Bilateral penalties are also an option. The United States is, after all, China's largest export market.


But this situation is different because some countries are affected more directly by climate change than others and because an aggressive carbon-cutting effort attracts investment in the new energy industries. The two countries building the most coal-fired power plants, China and India, are among the countries whose food security is most directly affected by global warming. Smaller countries such as Egypt, South Korea and Japan can import half or more of their grain supply, but these two population giants cannot because the exportable supplies do not exist.


The answer to India's carbon-cutting challenge lies not only in wind energy but in the solar riches of the Great Indian Desert. The harnessable solar energy there could power the entire Indian economy. The new solar thermal power plants, which can generate electricity several hours after sundown, could wean India from its coal addiction.


Underlying the carbon-cutting question are: Where will the new energy industries be located? Who will be building the wind turbines, solar panels and highly efficient light emitting diodes? The countries that cut carbon emissions fastest will have a competitive advantage.


Stabilizing the earth's climate is a complex undertaking and fraught with risk. If the United States leads – and

does so boldly – I believe the world will follow.


The writer is the President of the Earth Policy Institute


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post








Mr P. Chidambaram is one of the most articulate ministers. I had occasions to work with him closely in the Government of India when he was a minister of state in the Ministry of Home Affairs in the Rajiv Gandhi government between 1984 and 1989.


He worked meticulously to strengthen the police and para-military forces through an increase in their numbers by improvement in their training and providing better means of communication and transport.


Punjab police officers of those days still remember with admiration his contribution in strengthening the police apparatus when the force was fighting the cost-challenging menace of terrorism.


Watching his performance then I had no doubt in my mind that Mr Chidambaram was cut out for higher responsibilities and greater contribution in nation building in the years to come. It was, therefore, no surprise to me that he took over the responsibilities of the Ministry of Home Affairs after 26/11.


His comments at the recent annual conference of IGPs and DGPs are very bold. He exhorted the senior police officers to resist attempts by the political bosses in the states to kick police officers as footballs by transferring them in season and out of season.


No Home Ministry has ever given such rebuff to the DGPs. In essence, the Home Minister asked the DGPs to measure up to the requirements of their jobs.


Political interference is not such a dirty word as it is made out to be. In fact, it is expected of all politicians to fight for genuine problems of the people. And duty-conscious officers at all levels should welcome it.


However, it is only illegal and administratively inappropriate recommendations which have to be resisted. Even the political bosses do admire officers who have the guts to say “No” to them firmly but politely.


But, unfortunately, quite a few officers develop an unhealthy nexus with the powers-that-be to enjoy plum postings. So it is not always the politicians who are to be blamed.


In the early seventies of the last century an IGP took over in Punjab. He was no example of a strong officer. He could not transfer a single SSP from any district. They were well entrenched.


But the IGP had to give an impression of his strength. So he issued a transfer list of seven-eight young junior SPs and gave a press brief of a major reshuffle in the Punjab police. Well informed people were, however, aware that the fact was otherwise.


In 36 years of my service in the IPS, I had 20 assignments. In the initial six years, I was transferred six times, each transfer involving avoidable personal hardships and was a completely counter-productive exercise.


The only time when I did a full tenure of posting at one station was as the SSP, Faridkot. But the credit for that should go not to the government of the day but to the extraordinary challenge of the first onslaught of terrorism facing the state between 1981-84.

The situation was first of its kind in Punjab and so the government did not find it appropriate to disturb me. But

the day the peace returned after an unfortunate operation, I was not needed any more. As for the present and future challenges that lie ahead, I hope and pray to the Almighty to give enough strength to the elbows of IGPs and DGPs in the country to say “No” to the political bosses politely and firmly when the legal and administrative propriety so demands.


The writer is a former DGP, Punjab











Whether or not Shashi Tharoor should have made the “cattle class” remark is being debated endlessly, but the fact remains that his action has brought the term into currency like never before, at least in India.


The Union Minister of State for External Affairs surely cannot be given credit – or discredit – for coining this word. It has been in existence for as long as there have been commercial flights and is actually an oft-used description of the hardship the poor economy class travellers have to face day in and day out.


The sufferers themselves have used the term “cattle class” to draw the attention of powers that be to the sorry state of affairs, but that has not made any difference. Now that Mr Tharoor has popularised the word, perhaps someone will have some pity on them.


Indeed, insensitive airlines have been herding them into this class like cattle. Anyone who has travelled economy (who hasn’t? Only those on company accounts or ministers and others of their ilk who enjoy life on taxpayers’ money can afford to travel business class or first class which cost a packet) knows that the leg space is woefully inadequate there, and so is the size of seats, even on flights which last 15 or 16 hours.


If the person in front has tilted his seat backwards, you virtually have his head in your lap. Getting up and going to the washroom involves treading on many toes. Moving your legs can be an ordeal. In fact, deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), the formation of clots because of lack of movement, is widely known as the economy-class syndrome.


Only a few airlines maintain the optimum quality of air in the economy class cabin. Most scrounge, making it tough for the already harried travellers to breathe properly.


The quality of food is also scandalous for those condemned to fly economy. Airhostesses know that the men who matter sit up front and should be kept in good humour. Those in the economy class can go hang themselves.


As aircraft become bigger and bigger, getting into them can be as much of an ordeal as deplaning. And retrieving your luggage from the carousel can be a tough proposition as well.


If indeed the political holy cows travel the way common cattle do, they will perhaps be more alive to the woes of the aam admi. But ministers being ministers, they can be depended on to wriggle out of the hoi polloi category on one excuse or another. My hunch is that the VIPs will once again get themselves insulated from the cattle class after some time citing security reasons. But as long as they are flying economy, whether to impress the party bosses or to get good Press, they might as well spare a thought for the common man and do something for him.


One minister said that he could not fly economy because had to attend important meetings soon after reaching his destination. Did he mean that the non-VIPs have the luxury of sitting idle on reaching their destinations?



Another protested that he cannot fit in the tiny economy seats because of his tall frame. As far as we know, there are tall or fat people among the paying public also. Why has no one ever bothered that they also cannot fit into the impossibly congested rows?


Perhaps the anger against Shashi Tharoor is not for his use of the expression “cattle class” but to that of “holy

cows”. However, isn’t it a fact that the holy cows have enjoyed numerous immunities in that capacity? In a typical display of Machiavellian cleverness, the holy cows have turned the common man against the minister who was inexperienced enough to break ranks with them. Cattle will be cattle and the holy cows will be holy cows, it seems.












The strong earthquake that hit areas of Bhutan and the North East on September 21 reportedly resulting in the

deaths of a few people and some destruction of property, has literally sent shivers up the spines of people of this region. By itself this earthquake would not have aroused the consternation it did, since it measured only a moderate 6.2 on the Richter scale. Moreover, falling as it does in a zone of intense seismic activity, with the Shillong based Central Seismological Observatory recording hundreds of tremors each year, some so mild as to be recorded only by instruments, the inhabitants of the North-East have been conditioned to accept earthquakes as a way of life. In fact, the style of architecture called “Assam-type,” as also the tribal practice of building huts on stilts, evolved from the region’s propensity towards frequent tremors. But what has caused anxiety amongst the multitude is the fact that this earthquake is the latest and strongest one in a series of tremors occurring in the past month. Though it had not been officially recorded, yet old timers claim that a similar series of low to moderate intensity tremors had preceded the killer earthquake of 1950. Thus the spectre of another enormous quake in this region like the ones of 1897 and 1950, two of the biggest in human history, has begun to haunt the public mind.

The devastation wrought by those two earthquakes had been unprecedented, resulting not only in death of thousands and destruction of infrastructure, but also major changes in the geophysical morphology of the region. For instance, after the 1950 earthquake, the bed of the river Brahmaputra rose by 3 metres resulting in subsequent increase in the severity of floods in the valley. Having its epicentre near Rima in Arunachal, that quake caused major river-shifts wiping townships like Sadiya off the face of the earth. There is little doubt that another quake of similar magnitude will cause enormous damage, particularly in thickly populated urban locations. Though some seismologists have reassured that frequent low to moderate tremors are actually good because they release energy generated by plate-tectonic friction in a gradual manner, thereby diminishing the chances of a major earthquake, the authorities need to remain on high alert, since available technology or know how make accurate seismologic prediction impossible. Given such a scenario, it is deplorable that the “Natural Disaster Rapid Action force” promised by the State Government has remained on paper, while unchecked construction of buildings, especially high rises, in towns such as Guwahati, continues unabated despite the obvious hazards entailed. Not only that of Assam, but Governments of all the States in the entire North-East must get their act together to prepare for any eventuality, for it would be of no use closing the stable door after the horses have bolted.







While Manas, like some other national parks, has received due attention as a habitat of some rare wildlife, a recent project has brought focus on a subject much less examined and appreciated. An ambitious project has brought to light the fantastic diversity of plant life inside the park, which incidentally is only a part of the larger Tiger Reserve. Ongoing work has been able to document around 675 species, a range that includes endemic as well as rare plants. Nestled near the lower Himalayan range, the natural landscape contains at least four varieties of wild grass and moist mixed deciduous forests. Apart from medicinal plants, the park has been found to contain 55 species of orchids. Significantly, a number of such plants could be commercially grown, a boon to entrepreneurs of the region that has hardly seen any new opportunities in the plantation sector. According to Gajen Chandra Sarma, the current principal investigator of the project, the number of flora would further rise when adjoining areas are covered. In due course the total range of species could put Manas among the top hotspots of floral biodiversity.

The news comes as an encouraging sign to a park that is struggling to recover its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a Protected Area where wildlife was decimated in the recent past. More importantly, it has succeeded in highlighting a crucial part of Assam’s biodiversity that has received little scientific scrutiny, at least not to the extent that the region’s mega fauna have. It is a sad comment on our sense of priority that field botany remains one of the ignored domains of knowledge, even though a living laboratory greets us the moment we walk a little distance from any human settlement. It is not just botany that has been left neglected, the opportunities to realise the commercial potential of medicinal plants and orchids have remained unexplored. Properly understood, the huge biodiversity involving trees could not only further scientific understanding, but create avenues for economic uplift particularly among people for which livelihood opportunities are limited. A proper assessment of the floral wealth of Assam is of crucial importance in the context of global warming and climate change. Comprehensive documentation of plant life based on good science would prove to be the most important component in any mitigation strategy to reduce carbon emission and ensure a sustainable future. The project deserves to be commended for making us aware of a woefully unexplored part of our living heritage.








'Austerity’, of late, seems to be the brightest buzz word; more so, among a select minuscule-posse of self-styled

political homo-sapiens, who, miraculously and mockingly, had stopped just short of being tagged as mere imbecile nincompoops. Perhaps, the present ‘austerity’ fad, could be an astute make-believe notion of artificial frugality of sorts; a perverted version of political parsimony with an ulterior motive to circumvent the real issue of political accountability. Such has been the impact of this self-effacing argot, hitherto ensconced somewhere among the myriad pages of hallowed lexicons, the present 'austerity’ cacophonic-brouhaha has been perilously and paradoxically, exceeding all its prescribed decibel levels; not only hogging the national headlines by occupying both quantitative and qualitative space among the doppelganger forms of media, but has also propelled itself to a very smoldering topic of high-pitched frenzied debate. ‘Austere’ or ‘austerity’, to be more precise, given the overall oblique present political dispensation, seems more or less like a profane-gobbledygook, rather than a revered-jargon, that hardly boasts of any terminological-potency. There was a subtle air of guarded expectancy reverberating upon the periphery of the political envelope that overtly smacked of sheer snooty ramifications, laced with a pinch of hush-hush debauchery. Devoid of even an iota of smattering of an innate probity-quotient vis-a-vis those very braggarts, who, in essence, had really kick-started this vacuity-smitten tamasha, one could safely assume, though, with a few mundane exceptions here and there, that the present sardonic merry-go-round, song-and-dance drama (read austerity ‘hullabaloo!), could most likely be diagnosed as a case of acute gibberish political dysphasia of sorts. The now infamously-famous Great Indian Tamasha, indeed, has taken off once again; it seems to be gaily galloping the political trail full throttle; anyone and everyone, even those with a remote penchant, (innate or even imposed!), for cutting frills, embellishments and superfluities, seems to be happily joining the new-age ‘austerity bandwagon of buffoonery’.

Enough of glossary-bashing for now! Let us now rewind our ever decaying cerebral horizons and try to diagnose the very genesis of this sudden, spur-of-the-moment and somewhat impromptu ‘austerity’ eccentricity, that has been frustrating most of our sensibilities on a daily, basis. This ‘austerity’ craze actually began when the Congress Working Committee announced on August 19, 2009, that its ministers would take a 20 per cent salary cut in view of the prevailing drought all over India. But here’s the catch! It was certainly not the usual magical panacea of ‘desperate measures for desperate times’, but instead, a mere symbolic gesture to sympathise with the myriad drought victims. Just another cretaceous instance of a Himalayan waste in mere tokenism vis-a-vis symbolism, the ‘common man’s’ wallet-worries again being forlornly relegated to oblivion-, day in and day out we see colossal waste of money, siphoning of the nation’s assets and utter insolence for the ‘common man’s’ cries for help. No island of sobriety, it seems, was left in God’s own country-, the (common man’s) chirp and the (ruling elite’s) roar seem to have been an utter vocal-verbal-mismatch of sorts. Would ‘austerity’ really make any difference?

Then comes a news report in The Indian Express that External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and his deputy Dr Shashi Tharoor were occupying five-star hotels in the capital for over three months, as their allotted government homes were readied, although, they were paying for it out of their pockets. SM Krishna was staying at ITC Maurya Sheraton on Sardar Patel Marg and Shashi Tharoor was lodged at Taj Mahal on Man Singh road. In reaction, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on September 8, 2009, ordered the two ministers to check out of five-star suites, which they humbly obliged. Since then, the austerity ‘cult’ has been somewhat of a sort of a national suffocation’ on a day-to-day basis. Immediately after the so-called 'austerity’ clarion-call, which has since become more of a contagious-epidemic, both Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul immediately jumped into the austerity bandwagon. Sonia Gandhi on September 14, 2009, flew by economy class to Mumbai to attend a rally of party workers and also to hold discussions with the leadership of the Sharad Pawarled Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, was frugally more obsequious by travelling to the northern industrial city of Ludhiana in the AC chair-car of Amritsar-New Delhi Shatabdi Express from the New Delhi Railway Station on September 15, 2009, to address Youth Congress workers of Punjab. Unfortunately, while returning back to New Delhi from Ludhiana, his train was stoned at Ghokrunda station near Panipat, though lie was luckily safe and unhurt in the entire incident.

But amidst this ecstatic-euphoria over ‘austerity’, there were some who were hell-bent to throw a monkey wrench in the works. The UPA government’s austerity drive had come under some questioning from its ally, the NCP, with a skewed mind of its own. While Sharad Pawar cited health-related reasons and privacy to avoid travelling by economy class, Praful Patel asked why ministries couldn’t hold programmes at five-star hotels. As if this was not enough to fluster the ‘austerity’ overdrive, Minister of State for External Affairs Dr Shashi Tharoor, landed in a fresh controversy for reportedly dubbing travel by economy class as “cattle class”, a remark which has been strongly disapproved by the Congress as “insensible”. Has the Congress, with its austerity-voluptuousness, bitten off a little bit more than it could possibly chew? Or, so it seems!

The million-dollar question now is: what’s the big fuss really about? Is austerity a new-found, instant antidote to the present global recession, which, if one wants to seriously take Barrack Hussein Obama’s recent gaga vis-a-vis his economic-optimism overtures, is steadily on the wane? Or is it just careless, carefree, nonchalant, insensitive, political gambolling? Or have we suddenly reverted back to some extra-terrestrial form of ‘suffocating socialism’, as has always been the norm with us, rather than an exception? The ruling elite in more ways than one, has always been profusely allergic towards the hapless ‘Common Man’, (so very reminiscent of RK Laxman’s over half-a-century famous Times of India “You Said It” cartoon strip). The ‘common man’ has perennially represented the myriad hopes, aspirations, troubles and perhaps even foibles of the average Indian; a quiet spectator of the events, politics and the country’s economic rise and fall. The `common man’ symbolises the mute millions of India. The ‘common man’ has indeed, been the voice of India. The ‘common man’, ironically, has also been an anathema to our political mandarins-, unenthusiastic to embrace the very refreshing idea of an egalitarian social-cocktail, the political mandarins are overtly shy to even remotely blend-in with the masses. The common man is forever confronted with a raw-reality; their rulers reside in the cosiest homes and the most secured zones in an insecure India! It’s only in India, where ‘masses’ and ‘classes’, at least, seem to coexist, but inharmoniously, in separate set of social-boxes. But hang on for a moment! It’s not the usual notion of a rural-urban thorny dichotomy; its emergence, on the contrary, in the lexicon of overall current socio-political fabric is of a much later vintage. Indeed, it's an embarrassing achievement! So disconcertingly true! Isn’t it?









The North-Eastern Region (NER) of India can claim to be a potential source for many valuable minerals. But, practically, they lack substantial evidences to prove that claim excepting well exhibited existance of a few minerals like petroleum, coal, limestone and base-metal deposits of copper and zinc in the region, now-a-days. Still, the available data relating to old workings of some of the minerals like common salt, iron, gold, silver, sillimanite and chromite yielded prosperity of mineral resources. Common salt was harnessed from brine springs mostly occurred around Sadiya and Borhat areas of Assam. In this regard Capt R Boileu Pemberton’s report of 1835 is enough to gather information wherein he stated as “The springs most generally known are those of Boorhat and Sadiya ... salt obtained from the springs was said to much more pure and higher price than that imported from Bengal ...” As regard iron, Pemberton pointed out that it was found north of Dergaon, south of Kacharihat and under the Naga Hills. Iron was reportedly extracted from Garo Hills of Meghalaya and Loharghat of Kamrup district, Assam. Similarly, gold and silver were said to be extracted from gold-silver bearing placer deposits found abundantly in most of the rivers of Assam. Likewise, sillimanite and chromite were mined from Sonapahar of Meghalaya and Ukhrul of Manipur respectively in the region.

Minerals of NER could be categorised on the basis of their characteristics as metallic, non-metallic, fuel along with energy group of minerals and constructional as well as decorative stones. Metallic minerals are found in rocks as ores, wherefrom different metals could be extracted economically. Non-metallic minerals are regarded as raw materials for various industries for obtaining processed products and application in furnaces as lining bricks. Fuel minerals have wide application in generation of power besides being used in manufacture of POL, oil, gas, LPG and coal based products. The workable metallic minerals found available in the region are iron, gold, copper and chromium. In general, iron ores occure in two seperate mineral assemblage zones in Archean Gneissic Complex giving rise to Banded Haematite Quartzite (BHQ) and Banded Magnetite Quartzite (BMQ) havinf exception with the deposit of Samchampi of Karbi Anglong district, Assam where it is found in Carbonatite Complexes.

The deposits of iron are well exposed in Chandardinga Hills of Dhubri district and Lengupara and Kumri of Goalpara district, Assam whose reserves are estimated to be of 11.24 million tonnes, 7.50 million tonnes and 9 million tonnes, respectively. The iron content of the reserves varies from 46.09 per cent to 51.23 per cent. It is to be noted that the deposits may not be suitable for beneficiation at present, yet it has been opined by experts that there is likelihood of extraction of iron from the ores through advanced technology. Significantly, the iron ore of Chandardinga is claimed to be upgraded through mixing of high assayed iron ores, which will have wide application in various iron industries.

In contrary to the above deposits, a fairly good deposit of iron has been discovered around Samchampi area of Karbi Anglong district few years back. The deposit is located by Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Atomic Mineral Division (AMD), Government of India. It occurs in alleged Samchampi Carbonatite Complex (SACC) in the Archean Massif. As reported, the most important resource of SACC is iron ore. Two large stock-like out crops of titano haematite occupy an area of 2.5 km in the central and western part of the complex. The ores contain an average of 83 per cent Fe2O3, 0.7 per cent FeO, 3.7 per cent TiO2, 2.77 per cent Al2O3 excluding some other substances. The reserve of the deposit has been calculated as 3x108 tonnes (inferred).

The gold along with the silver became the prime minerals in Assam during Ahom’s reign. They occur as placer deposits in most of the rivers of the State. Still major emphasis on extraction was given on four rivers – the Subansiri, the Bhoroli, the Disoi and the Janglupani. Out of which Subansiri’s share was maximum. Inspite of that then British government temporarily suspended the gold washing with a view to make necessary arrangements for carrying out the investigation and exploitation systematically. But due to prevailing disturbed political situation and other reasons the government gave a deaf ear to extraction and ultimately gold washing getting closure from the year of 1875. Apart from the placer gold of Assam, small quantity of gold reported to have been occurred in Sidang (Arunachal Pradesh), the Dhansiri (Nagaland) and Jyrsad (Meghalaya).

It may be stated that out of the metallic deposits, only a workable copper-lead-zinc deposit is found at Bhotang-Rangpo and Dikchu in East Sikkin district, Sikkim. This polymetallic deposit bears a reserve of 803x103 tonnes, 803x103 and 803.90 tonnes respectively of copper, lead-zinc and silver ones. Apart from this a similar polymetallic zone in Khasi and Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya and copper-zinc mineralised zone in Subansiri and Sidang districts, Arunachal Pradesh are encountered. Similarly, in case of chromium, the region is not rich enough barring a 2000 tonne reserve of refractory grade chromite of Ukhrul, Manipur. Further, a minor deposit of chromite has also been reported from Pukhpur area of Nagaland.

The non-metallic deposits confined to this region are limestone, dolomite, sillimanite, graphite, chinaclay, fire clay and asbestor. So far as the deposit of limestone is concerned the State of Meghalaya received prime importance as it bears a maximum quantity of 133978x103 tommes. Both cement and lime grade limestone bearing suitability to use in cement and chemical industries are available in the State.

Out of the eight States of the region, Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh are the treasure houses of decorative granite in general and marble in particular. Granite of attractive colours like grey, pink and black being suitable for preparations of decorative tiles, slabs and poished/unpolished blocks of various sizes are available in the States. As a whole, the reserve of the granite in the States of Assam and Meghalaya respectively are 58350m3 and 286467x103m3. The marble is confined only to certain localities of Arunachal Pradesh viz Hanli and Dora having a total reserve of 76112 million tonnes.








Steamy novels about love in high places should not be considered the sole preserve of the late Dame Barbara Cartland, but even she never thought of penning a novel featuring her late step-granddaughter, Diana, Princess of Wales.

That leap of fantasy has, apparently, finally been made by a suave, octogenarian former French President. Most of Diana's life was not exactly the stuff of fairytales, and has already been elaborated upon in sordid detail by a procession of writers from ex-butlers and ex-lovers to royal historians to society columnists.

But 83-year-old Valery Giscard d'Estaing's purple prose appears to be of a different genre — part diary, part confessional, part novel — long on detail but short on actual chronology to give rise to speculation that the story is actually part vivid imagination, part wishful thinking.

The idea of kiss-and-tell novels disguised as fictional romance is not new, especially in Britain; nor would the revelation of one more man in Diana’s life surprise anyone, even if he was old enough to be her father.

The main characters of The Princess and the President, Princess Patricia of Cardiff (an unsubtle allusion to the capital of Wales) and President Jacques-Henri Lambertye, leave no doubt as to identity of the protagonists, but the story's sequence of events is skewed enough to raise question marks about the veracity of their purported romance.

The book could be an interesting read for those Indians fascinated by the dalliances of the famous and powerful if only to marvel at their expertise at working out the logistics of their romantic rendezvous around the world, away from prying media.

Giscard d'Estaing's adroit literary gambit assumes even more significance in India amid news this week that the shooting of Indian Summer has been halted reportedly due to the Indian government's concern over the film's portrayal of the 'friendship' between Lady Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru. If only someone had penned a 'fictional' account of 'A Vicereine and A Prime Minister'.







If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. That principle is a sound guide when it comes to fixing the pay structure for jobs beyond the reach of the normal simian. The fiat on faculty pay that is agitating dons at our premier institutes of technology and management pays no heed to this principle. This must change.

If India is to realise its real potential to become a research and development hub for the world, it needs excellent manpower. That calls for excellent educational institutions. Excellence in education cannot be achieved by people who see teaching jobs as the last resort for a decent living.

Teachers need to be paid exemplary salaries. Sure, this should be accompanied by stringent and ongoing evaluation of standards and conduct. The cost the system bears — unemployable graduates, huge initial training costs in terms of both time and money for companies before they can deploy a fresh graduate on actual duty, etc — from having substandard educational institutions is huge.

Having attractive salaries for teaching faculty could mitigate a large part of that cost. India accounts for less than 2% of the world publications in the areas of science and technology research. Only better, and that means better paid, faculty can change this. The notifications (particularly of September 16) of the ministry of human resources and development (MHRD) on pay revision and promotions appear to run counter to such change.

The demand of the institutes that they be given the autonomy to decide pay scales and promotions is legitimate. The MHRD notified ceiling — that only 40% for professors at any point in time can move up the scale for higher academic pay scale — violates the spirit of merit-based evaluation and promotion.

Similarly, the stipulation that academician should have a minimum 10 years of experience to be appointed professor with at least four years as associate professor at one of the premier institute closes doors on lateral entry.

Lucky Amartya Sen, who was appointed professor at Jadavpur, mint-fresh from Cambridge at the ripe age of 23, came up for an academic appointment before the present HRD bureaucracy got its act together.








The RBI is reportedly considering a ban on banks lending below their respective benchmark prime lending rate (BPLR). This is unlikely to address the issue of BPLRs being poor reference for pegging floating rate loans, as instead of being sticky on the higher side, the benchmark would get range-bound at the lower end.

The RBI would do well to continue with efforts to develop the inter-bank term market that can yield a better reference for pricing floating rate loan products. Ever since banks were allowed to lend below BPLR, top corporates and big borrowers have been able to negotiate and get rates that are well below the benchmark.

The sub-PLR lending has now grown to nearly three-fourth of all bank lending, making the benchmark almost irrelevant. As banks have the freedom to price loans below their BPLR, there is no pressure on them to lower it when their cost of funds declines. Resultantly, while new customers are able to shop around for better rates, the majority of existing borrowers of floating rate loans are denied the benefit of declining interest rates.

This flexibility to lend below the BPLR is the reason banks jack up BPLRs quickly in a credit squeeze situation, but do not show the same promptness in lowering rates when the pressure abates.

However, preventing lending below BPLR would only cause banks to drop them to the lowest possible. Banks would give the BPLR rate to their best borrowers and BPLR-plus to others. There would not be any need for them to hike the BPLR unless interest rates move sharply. The only difference would be that instead of banks offering rates at BPLR less some percentage point, they would price it at BPLR plus something.

Bank lending would still not be truly floating. That is why corporates have demanded a change in the benchmark: floating rate loans should be pegged to yield on the 10-year paper. In mature markets, the yardstick for pricing floating rate loans is the inter-bank lending rate, the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) for instance.

But in India, the inter-bank term money market is yet to develop to a stage where it can provide a benchmark for pricing floating rate loan products. RBI should continue to make efforts to obtain a liquid inter-bank market.









The global financial crisis and resultant economic turbulence has dealt a double blow to companies. They are finding it more difficult to secure outside funding, just when cash flows are harder than ever to generate. Though not as battered by bankruptcies as corporate America, many companies in India Inc are experiencing severe cash flow problems.

Airlines in India are prominent examples with Air India, Kingfisher and Jet Airways facing heavy operating losses due to the slowdown and, as a result, are seeking government assistance such as reduced taxes on fuel.

Whether in India or elsewhere, the bottom line is that senior executives can no longer regard managing cash flow and liquidity as tactical and mundane. In today’s brutally unforgiving environment, cash management has become strategic. Companies that manage cash and liquidity aggressively, and use the perspective and the data that come with it to gain forward visibility, have a big advantage in facing headwinds.

Wal-Mart, for instance, is aggressively managing resources to take advantage of others' weaknesses. The company cut capital expenditures, halted a stock buyback programme and trimmed inventories. It shifted cash from opening new stores to remodelling existing ones. That has allowed Wal-Mart to keep cutting prices and maintain a stable business amid the recession that has battered other retailers.

In India, Pantaloon Retail, the country’s largest listed retailer, kept its ears to the ground early last year and prepared itself for a change in the business climate. It did so by cutting costs, redeploying existing staff to new stores and outsourcing its IT function, among other steps. It called its programme: "Say with pride we are stingy." When the slowdown did hit later that year, Pantaloon was ready. And its "stinginess" paid.

The retailer's EBITDA surged over 43% in the tough October-December 2008 quarter to Rs 1.57 billion year-on-year as it cut staff costs and rationalised administrative and selling costs, while its competitors struggled. Pantaloon managed this while continuing to expand, albeit at a slower pace.


In turbulence, scenario plans built from cash flow and liquidity measures can show management teams how much cash they need to preserve and protect the business under different conditions. But the immediate opportunity is to use cash and capital resources more efficiently.

The idea is to capture real-time information on what is flowing into and out of each business segment on a weekly and monthly basis, and then compare those flows with budgeted amounts. Big variances raise red flags in product lines, routes to the customers and vendor relations that can be addressed before it is too late.

The data helps companies spot patterns and understand how big changes in liquidity flow through to the profit-and-loss statement. By running similar analyses on the cash flows of competitors, customers, and vendors, companies can learn which rivals are vulnerable, which customers are strongest, and which vendors might not survive.

With enough reliable data, companies can make better predictions and manage effectively through even a sustained period of turbulence.

The visibility gained this way can be powerful. One large high-tech industrial group in Europe discovered that payment cycles in several older industrial equipment businesses had been stretched out as sales slowed and customers struggled with payments. That tied up cash in mature parts of the business and prevented the company from investing in a major competitive opportunity in power from renewable sources.

Managers tackled the problem by first examining the company's net working capital requirements by business line and function. They determined how long cash was locked up, from raw materials acquisition to the last customer payment. By comparing those cash cycles against the competition, they discovered rivals were collecting faster and aggressively managing inventories.

Closing that gap released more than $350 million in cash, providing money to fortify the mature businesses against the downturn and capital to invest in the promising solar business. The moves were not radical: cracking down on receivables collection, enhancing account payables terms with suppliers and managing inventories better. The key was focusing managers' attention on careful cash management.

Many companies have discovered in the downturn that their reliance on free-flowing, cheap capital during good times covered up a host of problems. At one major cosmetics company, high-, medium-, or low-volume accounts were all treated the same, and incentives encouraged orders, not sell through.

When business slowed, the cash cycle lengthened, exposing the highly leveraged company to a liquidity squeeze. An analysis of all the inputs determined the company was spending $1.86 for each dollar of sales. Investing more intelligently by focusing on the cost of sell-through promised as much as $800 million in freed-up capital.

Analysing the cash flow and liquidity of competitors and customers also provides potent competitive information that can be used strategically. One global consumer products firm has used the downturn to win new customers with lower prices, convinced that its main rival's weak balance sheet and lax cash management practices would leave it unwilling or unable to respond.

After doing a thorough analysis of its rival's liquidity, the company set prices low enough to attract new business. That crimped the profitability of its main business, but top management reasoned the company could afford some softness in that division because it was diversified into other product lines.

Not so its competitor. Lost business upset the relationships between fixed and variable costs and destroyed the profitability of the rival company's plants. With no focus on managing cash or liquidity, the company failed to respond with lower prices until it was caught in a severe liquidity crisis.

With a clear view of the strength of its own balance sheet and the weakness of its rival's, the consumer products firm had enough confidence to make a bold strategic move when others were retrenching.

Managing for cash flow helps executives hone a company's strategy based on a full picture of how the business is performing. Armed with that vital information, managers can make informed choices and free up capital to invest opportunistically throughout the downturn.

(Singh is the MD of Bain & Company in India. Sweig is a Bain partner in Chicago.)










As per the declared objective of moving towards market determined prices for petroleum products, the Administered Pricing Mechanism (APM) was abolished in April 2002. However, oil marketing companies (OMCs) have hardly been free to fix the prices of their products.

It has been the prerogative of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs! So, the timing and quantum of retail price revisions have been guided more by political compulsions than by economic and business considerations. We, therefore, witnessed only minor adjustments of less than 20% in the retail price of petrol when the price of crude, which is a primary input to OMCs, fluctuated by as much as +70% in the past two years.

Given that the petroleum sector accounts for nearly 10% of the country's GDP, all governments have seen pricing of petro-products as a sensitive issue and have always played it safe. The UPA II proved the point once again by appointing an expert committee on pricing — for the third time since 2004.

Earlier committees evaluated the pricing models like cost-plus, import-parity, export-parity, and trade-parity; proposed an end to 'freight equalisation' meant to achieve uniform pricing across the country and suggested the government to disengage itself from the process of pricing petroleum products.

They recommended purely specific levies in place of a mix of specific and ad valorem duties; to ensure that crude price and currency fluctuations do not allow the government to gain at the cost of consumers. They proposed "metro extra" tax on diesel in large cities and discussed oil bonds and other models for sharing the subsidy burden amongst the government, OMCs and oil exploring companies.

Although very little has been implemented from the earlier committee recommendations, another expert committee has been constituted now "to advice the government on a viable and sustainable system of pricing petroleum products".

The new committee may take a view that "no system can be 'viable and sustainable', unless product prices are determined by market forces" and raise fundamental questions on the very rationale for continuing subsidies in petroleum sector.

Petrol is consumed only by those who invest at least Rs 10,000 on their vehicle and spend minimum Rs 1,000 (20 lit) on petrol every month. For such consumers, the impact of subsidy removal would be less than Rs 100 per month, when OMC's losses are estimated at Rs 4.00 per litre of petrol sold.

These consumers can easily absorb such a hike or suitably adjust their consumption pattern. The same argument applies to four-wheeler owners. Therefore, any subsidy on petrol, which encourages private vehicle ownership and higher fuel consumption, pushing the OMCs further into the red, needs to be discontinued.

Indian Railways, which annually reports a surplus of thousands of crores, consumes over 250,000 million litres of diesel every year and at Rs 4 per litre, contributes Rs 1,000 crore to OMC losses. The story is no different for other transporters.

All companies running passenger and goods transport businesses enjoy the diesel subsidies and most of them regularly make profits. Further, everyone availing of the transport services, irrespective of his or her income level, benefits from subsidised fuel prices. Therefore, a subsidy on diesel tends to induce operational inefficiencies in the transport sector and merely adds to the sector profits. Such a subsidy that fails to reach
the target consumers and puts OMCs behind the oil bonds is clearly unjustified.

In case of LPG, most of the domestic consumers belong to non-poor segment of the society. Therefore, in a situation where vegetables and pulses are not subsidised, continuing a huge subsidy on cooking gas, alongside the large fiscal deficit and government's austerity drive, is simply "indefensible".

Kerosene, being highly subsidised, is amenable to misuse as a profitable adulterate and diversion to other markets. And the fact that retail price of kerosene has not been revised for so long has further complicated the situation.

The only way to overcome these problems is to get away from fixing the 'subsidised price' and shift to a regime of market determined prices for the sale of kerosene. And subsidies on kerosene consumption of BPL families can be reached by transfer of cash to their bank accounts or by transferring credits to their soon to be delivered UIDs. In conclusion, the committee may advise the government to restrict its role to reaching the kerosene subsidies to BPL households and letting the market determine OMC's product prices.








                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL





The Group of 20, comprising leaders who represent 85 per cent of the world’s economy, are meeting under very trying and contentious circumstances for a two-day summit that begins in Pittsburgh in the United States on Thursday. The top four or five leaders have their own agendas, and there is a sub-agenda that could see the Europeans, led by France and Germany, trying to get their views accepted by the Anglo-Saxons, represented by the US and Britain, while China and India will be campaigning for a more balanced representation at the IMF and the World Bank. The overarching issue in Pittsburgh will be reining in the banks, the culture of paying out hefty bonuses to those who take the highest risks for short-term gains while not taking punitive action when the risks land the banks in financial turmoil. The banks will also have to be made to increase their capital and assets as buffers against any future crisis. This has been opposed by the Europeans as they feel it was the American banks which caused most of the problems. Increasing the capital of the banks could cost the US and Europe up to $875 billion, according to one IMF estimate. Considering the belligerent mood of taxpayers in the West, particularly in the US and Britain, not to mention Europe, the G-20 cannot afford to soft-pedal the issue of disciplining banks as self-regulation appears alien to their DNA. It was not even a year since the Lehman Brothers debacle in September 2008, which snowballed into an unprecedented global financial tsunami, that top Wall Street banks started giving out liberal bonuses. They are back to their profligate ways. The most shocking case is that of Mr Andrew Hall, a Chicago trader who is entitled to a pay package of $100 million from Citibank which, as reported, is 200 times the median US household income in 2008. The Citibank chief, Mr Vikram Pandit, while agreeing that this amount is excessive, says it is part of a contract and has to be paid. Citibank, it may be recalled, received the biggest bailout package of all banks. People cannot be blamed for becoming furious when they see fat cats keep the profits for themselves in good times, while in bad times it is they (the people) who have to pick up the tab. It has been reported that 73 per cent of people in Britain polled by YouGov say they want a tax on bonuses of around £10,000, while 59 per cent of Americans indicated in a Gallup Poll that they wanted strict curbs on executive pay. There has been a lot of talk of changing the architecture of the global financial system and the way in which trillions of dollars are transacted around the world every day, but very little appears to have been achieved on the ground. There is still a debate on whether capitalism has failed and a new ideology is needed in its place. This indicates how strong the Wall Street lobby continues to be in the US, with any attempts, however feeble, by President Barack Obama to bring discipline to the financial system being met with accusations that he is trying to usher in socialism. India’s main concern in Pittsburgh will be to fight for curbs on protectionism and to take up WTO-related issues which are expected to be discussed on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. So far, all discussions on the US and Europe cutting subsidies have failed and these countries are still trying to railroad their way into the agricultural markets of developing countries.








The legislative measures as well as the procedures in force for fighting corruption among public servants have come in for sharp criticism, both in Parliament and in the media. However, very few have dealt with this problem with the frankness and sense of urgency as the Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan in his speech at a seminar in New Delhi recently. Justice Balakrishnan not only pointed out the main lacunae in India’s anti-corruption laws and procedures, but also offered several practical suggestions to rectify their deficiencies. Some of his important suggestions are: confiscating the assets of persons convicted of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, creating more designated courts and separating Central Bureau of Investigation’s investigating and prosecuting functions. However, the brunt of Justice Balakrishnan’s criticism was on the requirement of prior sanction of the competent authority to initiate proceedings against public servants. Referring to the inordinate delays in getting sanction, the CJI stated that “the quality of governance suffers when decisions are made on account of other considerations related to political patronage, kinship or caste and linguistic identity”. This may appear as strong words, but they reflect the concerns of most citizens at the gross misuse of the provision for prior sanction.


Unfortunately, certain observations made by Mr M. Veerappa Moily, the Union minister for law and justice, at the same seminar a day later have caused doubts whether the government will ever give up its powers of prior sanction. An attendant issue is whether dilution or dropping of the guarantees given to public servants under Article 311 will in any way contribute to the efficiency of the fight against corruption by public servants. Mr Moily said: “There is no gainsaying that the provisions of Article 311 have come in the way of bringing corrupt civil servants to book”. He added that Article 311 requires a “revisit”. However, the doubt that persists is the linkage between Article 311 and eradication of corruption among public servants.


In this context it is necessary to remind those who wish to revisit Article 311 that this Article was not supposed to be a tool to fight corruption by public servants but was intended to assure public servants security of tenure and protection from arbitrary punishment and, thus, induce the best candidates to join the All-India Services.


Article 311(2) states that no person who is a member of the civil service shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an enquiry in which s/he has been informed of the charges against him/her and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges. Then why do those in power believe that punishing guilty civil servants without due process is necessary to make laws against corruption more effective?


Everyone familiar with the debates in the Constituent Assembly on the creation of All India Services with constitutional safeguards against arbitrary dismissal, removal or reduction in rank will acknowledge the crucial role the chief architect of India’s unity, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played in winning the support of the Assembly in creating the All-India Services and giving the officers certain guarantees. Even Jawaharlal Nehru was opposed to the creation of an All-India Civil Service on the Indian Civil Service pattern which prevailed in pre-Independence days. In a letter dated April 27, 1948, to Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel had said that “constitutional guarantees and safeguards are the best medium of protection for these services and are likely to prove more lasting”.


Eventually Sardar Patel was successful in getting the support of Nehru and all others who were opposed to the creation of All-India Services and to granting them constitutional guarantees against arbitrary punishments. One can only hope that such a historic decision made by the Constituent Assembly, mainly because of Sardar Patel’s strong conviction about their needs, will not become a casualty of the zeal for reforms in the laws for fighting corruption.


Mr Moily, who is also the chairman of the Administrative Reforms Commission, is reported to have said that the scope of the Prevention of Corruption Act should be widened to include “gross perversion of the Constitution and democratic institutions amounting to the wilful violation of the oath of office, abuse of authority by unduly favouring or harming someone, obstruction of justice, squandering of public money and collusive bribery”.


Most right thinking citizens will support such measures, but this does not mean that the constitutional safeguards under Article 311 have to be diluted in order to deal with the problem of corruption by public servants.


Now let us examine how the provision for prior sanction has been hindering the investigation into complaints of corruption against public servants. Many people who are not familiar with the decision-making process in the government seem to believe that civil servants themselves can delay or deny sanction for prosecution with the help of their fellow civil servants. In actual practice, however, prior sanction for investigation of complaints of corruption can be issued or denied only by the political executives, i.e. the ministers and, in sensitive cases, only with the approval of the Prime Minister. In some cases of complaints of corruption, investigations may reveal that some politicians have also been involved in the crimes alleged against the public servant. Naturally, such politicians would try their best to ensure that sanction is held up for long periods or even denied.


Sanction issued after three-four years is as bad as sanction refused because the politician-bureaucrat combine would have easily won over many witnesses from the side of the prosecution. Some politicians take the stand that they have been misled by their officers, but this cannot exonerate them from complicity in the crimes.


There have also been complaints that some politicians deliberately delay granting permission for prosecution in order to keep the civil servants as their willing tools for indulging in more corrupt practices. Thus, there is corruption within some corruption cases because of the requirement of prior sanction.


Mr Moily has said that the protection given to public servants under Article 311 of the Constitution is being used to create obstacles for expeditious punitive action. But there is no protection in Article 311 for public servants against prosecution or punishment; the only safeguard is that the civil servants should be punished only after due process.


If the government would bring about some of the reforms suggested by the CJI and also altogether drop the requirement of prior sanction, the scope for “creating obstacles for expeditious punitive action” would be considerably reduced.


P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra








President Obama is in the uncomfortable position of staring reality in the face in Afghanistan. Reality is not blinking.


The President’s handpicked point man in the war zone, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, wants more troops and a stepped-up commitment by the United States that would lock us into the conflict indefinitely, with nothing like an exit strategy in sight, or even a conception of what victory might look like.


Mr Obama himself has banged the war drums loudly, having already increased the number of US troops in Afghanistan and declaring just last month that the war is absolutely essential to American security, that it “is fundamental to the defense of our people”.


Among the many problems for the President on this front is the sobering fact that most ordinary Americans do not seem to agree. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 51 per cent of respondents believed the war has not been worth its costs, and only 26 per cent favoured sending more troops.


That does not bode well for an expensive and debilitating conflict that is about to enter its ninth year and would go on for untold years to come if the President decides to double down on America’s military commitment.


Senator John McCain gave us a compelling insight into these matters in a foreword that he wrote about Vietnam for Mr David Halberstam’s book, The Best and the Brightest: “War is far too horrible a thing to drag out unnecessarily”, he said. “It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanising experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay... No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone”.

The only thing that needs to be updated about Mr McCain’s comments is that we now regularly send women as well as men off to war.


In the case of Afghanistan, we’re sending them off to fight and possibly die in support of a government that is incompetent and riddled with corruption and narcotics traffickers. We’re putting them in the field with Afghan forces that are ill-trained, ill-equipped and in all-too-many instances unwilling to fight with the courage and tenacity of the American forces. And we’re sending them off to engage in a mishmash of a mission that alternates incoherently between aggressively fighting insurgents and the admirable but unachievable task of nation-building in a society in which most Americans are clueless about the history, culture, politics and mores.


In a confidential assessment of the war prepared for President Obama, General McChrystal wrote: “The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials and (the American-led Nato force’s) own errors have given Afghans little reason to support their government”.


A friend of mine who lives in South Carolina sent me an email about a young serviceman in civilian clothes whom she and her husband noticed as he talked on a public telephone in the Atlanta airport last week. He was 19 or 20 years old and quite thin. His clothes and his shoes were worn, my friend said, but the thing she noticed most “was the sadness in his eyes and his sweet demeanour”.


The young man was speaking to his mom in a voice that was quite emotional. My friend recalled him saying, “We’re about to board for Oklahoma for the training before we move out. I didn’t want to bother Amber at work, so please tell her I called if you don’t think it will upset her too much. ...I miss you all so much and love you, and I just don’t know how I’ll get through this”.


At the end of the call, the serviceman had tears in his eyes and my friend said she did, too. She wrote in the e-mail: “I stood up and wished him good luck, and he smiled the sweetest smile that has haunted me ever since”.


As President Obama tries to decide what to do about Afghanistan, reality is insisting that he take into account the worn-down condition of our military after so many years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the soaring budget deficits and sky-high unemployment numbers here at home in a country that is hurting badly and could use its own dose of nation-building.


Mr Obama, in the face of these daunting realities, is said to be re-thinking his plans to ratchet up American involvement in Afghanistan. One can only hope.








The first sign of illicit industry in the West Bengal district of Raniganj is the number of bicycles wobbling precariously down its village tracks, their panniers piled to an improbable height with coal. Then there are bullock carts and the occasional truck, all carrying the same cargo.


At New Kenda Colliery, one of the underground mines owned by Coal India, the state coal monopoly, it becomes obvious where it’s all coming from. A couple of dozen blackened villagers squat over a coal stockpile the size of a football pitch, filling sack after sack by hand as a guard gazes on. “They give money to the guard so he looks away,” explains Ranjit, an unemployed youth who is showing me around.


Just three hours away by Indian Railways’ air-conditioned Coalfield Express is the office of the man ultimately responsible for New Kenda. Coal India’s chairman Partha Bhattacharyya inhabits a very different world — the world of Kolkata’s upmarket Alipore district, where he and his banker wife live; the exclusive world of the Calcutta Club and the Tollygunge Club. As we start the interview, he explains why he’s keen to raise Coal India’s profile.


“We are the world’s largest coal-mining company, the top two Chinese ones taken together are the same as Coal India, so our impact on gross domestic product (GDP) is quite substantial,” he says. In fact, Coal India is a central element of economic development, producing 46 per cent of the energy used by India’s 1.2 billion citizens. The 404 million tonnes of coal it churned out last year is roughly equivalent in energy to the total oil production of Kuwait.


Last year, Mr Bhattacharyya sold his coal at an average of $20 a tonne. “This is possibly the cheapest price at which coal sells anywhere in the world,” he boasts. “And yet I made at least $2 billion in profits before tax. Arguably, we are one of the most efficient coal-mining companies in the world.”


But the head of the energy practice at a major international accountancy firm says that this performance reflects the low cost of labour and equipment Coal India enjoys.


In fact, its operating costs are at least 50 per cent higher than a private-sector miner might achieve in India. Moreover, China’s largest coal-mining company, Shenhua Energy, increased its coal export by 17 per cent last year. Coal India’s production grew by just 6.4 per cent.


According to a former official of Coal India’s vigilance department, theft from New Kenda is just the bottom rung of an institutionalised system of corruption. “The problem at Coal India starts from the top,” he explained. “Somehow the last half-dozen ministers responsible for coal were very corrupt.” His allegation is that, before Mr Battacharyya’s time, ministers would fix monthly pay-off targets with certain senior executives of the coal company. “The amount depended from minister to minister, but it would run into crores of rupees. Coal has become one of the main sources by which money is funnelled to the political parties. And that’s the case whichever party is in power.”


Coal India’s ministers can be particularly colourful. Shibu Soren, the first coal minister of the last Congress-led government, was arrested on a charge of tribal-related mass murder dating from 1975, just a few months after his 2004 appointment. Soren’s tenure finally ended in 2006 when he became the first sitting Indian minister ever to be found guilty of involvement in a murder (unrelated to the earlier case), though the conviction was later overturned.


Part of the problem is that India’s “linkage system” of coal rationing, combined with a monopoly producer, gives an enormous amount of discretion to the minister concerned.


Mr Bhattacharyya himself does not deny the continuing existence of corruption in his company. “To the extent that there is corruption in society, the coal sector is a part of the society,” he admits. “I wouldn’t say there is more corruption in coal or less corruption in coal.”


The Indian coal industry’s long history began when Suetonius Grant Heatly opened the first mine back in 1775. It has left a wide stretch of landscape from Raniganj to Dhanbad in the nearby state of Jharkhand pockmarked with hundreds of ageing underground mines.


When coal was nationalised in 1973, most were deemed too small or depleted for Coal India to operate, and were officially abandoned. Only they weren’t really abandoned: today almost of all of them are still illegally mined, and the money Coal India officials receive to look the other way forms another of the inputs into the company’s shadow economy.


Coal India’s inability to meet the needs of much of Indian industry means that the mafia behind the illegal coal trade find ready buyers. “We buy directly from the mafia”, admits the owner of a sponge iron plant in the region.


Coal is also diverted from the mines Coal India runs itself. Some of this, like at New Kenda, is small-time thievery, but according to another Coal India executive, more than 10 per cent of some mines’ production is skimmed off by managers and contractors. “For every truck which goes out carrying 12 tonnes”, he explains, “you can be sure that two tonnes extra goes out without being weighed”.


“If you see the hierarchy of a colliery, the flow of authority is not exactly linear,” he goes on. “There are certain people, the weigh-bridge babus (senior clerks) and the loading babus, who carry a lot of clout.” Most powerful, historically, have been the transport mafia who use their control of the unions to levy extortionate rates for shifting coal from mines to market.


Rivalry between these gangs has sometimes turned bloody — and at the same time, some family members are also active in party politics.


According to the former vigilance officer, the most common way for Coal India executives to generate funds nowadays is by overpaying for equipment and service contracts, then taking a kickback. “It’s not about taking away coal any more”, he chuckles. “That’s a very crude form of doing mischief.”


In 2007, the South Eastern Coalfields subsidiary was investigated by India’s Central Vigilance Commission and then by the Central Bureau of Investigation in Delhi after it was claimed that 20,000 tonnes of coal a day was being skimmed off from its most productive mines. The coal ministry quashed that investigation at an advanced stage.


N.K. Sharma, Mr Bhattacharyya’s predecessor was sacked in 2003 when the then coal minister, Karia Munda, unearthed a system of kickbacks and contract over-invoicing for excavation machinery.



The surprisingly good result for the Congress Party in this May’s general election means that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh no longer needs to reward a regional party with the lucrative coal ministry. Instead he appointed a Congress Party stalwart, Sriprakash Jaiswal, who immediately released a barrage of reform plans, proposing to end Coal India’s monopoly, install an independent Coal Regulator and auction off blocks to private-sector mining companies. He also says he aims to try and put an end to the notorious coal mafia.


The prospect of a listing for Coal India in the next couple of years may throw some more light onto this murky sector. But a journalist from Kolkata who has long followed the coal industry laughs away the suggestion that Mr Jaiswal will ever actually open up mines fully to private companies.








The Northern Areas of Pakistan, the forgotten region that once formed a part of the domain of the Maharaja of Kashmir, was in the news recently when the Pakistan government, with its Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order, restored the old name of the region, Gilgit-Baltistan, and devolved greater administrative and political powers to the region.


With huge amounts of investment scheduled to pour into the region — China is due to invest billions of dollars in Gilgit-Baltistan, building infrastructure, including upgradation of the Karakoram Highway that connects China and Pakistan — it could have been embarrassing for Islamabad to continue to deny the people of the region some basic democratic rights.


However, for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, some of whom have agitated for autonomy and even independence, the only measure of satisfaction the order provides is that they have regained their distinct identity instead of having their homeland known only by its geographical location. While leaders on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) have criticised the order for seeming to acquiesce to the partition of Kashmir, pro-independence leaders in Srinagar have said it dilutes Pakistan’s commitment to “self-determination” in Kashmir.


It took the Indian government two weeks to convey its protest through diplomatic channels at the “cosmetic” changes that it said were intended to camouflage Pakistan’s illegal occupation of the region. It also pointed out that the people had been denied basic democratic rights for past six decades.


The Pakistan government’s order seemingly gives a measure of autonomy to a region long ruled by Islamabad as a department under the federal ministry of Kashmir and northern affairs with the help of the Pakistani Army.


The Constitution of Pakistan made no mention of the Northern Areas though it referred to Azad Kashmir as a disputed territory, which created an anomalous situation for the residents. It meant that they had no constitutional or legal rights under Pakistan’s Constitution, nor any political representation. The region will now have a local administration headed by a chief minister and a council of ministers, a partly elected and party-nominated body.


The Northern Areas are of immense geo-strategic importance, but its inaccessibility and other restrictions had relegated it to the background. The region lies south of Afghanistan and China’s Xinjiang Province, on the west is the strife-torn North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) with Azad Kashmir to the south and the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the east. Its strategic and political importance was greatly enhanced when the Chinese built the Karakoram Highway connecting Pakistani cities to Kashgar in Xinjiang province.


To most Indians, the area across the LoC is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Media shorthand assumes that PoK is co-terminus with the area known in Pakistan as Azad Kashmir. But the Kashmir territory in Pakistan’s occupation is not just the narrow strip of land that is showcased as Azad Kashmir by Pakistan; it includes the vast, sparsely-populated Northern Areas that comprised a third of the former princely state of Kashmir and the Trans-Karakoram Tract that Pakistan ceded to China under a bilateral agreement in 1963.


The Northern Areas were formed from the amalgamation of Gilgit Agency, Baltistan District of the Ladakh Wazarat, and the states of Hunza and Nagar, with Gilgit town as the administrative headquarters. Pakistan divided the Northern Areas into three parts — it detached Gilgit-Baltistan from Azad Kashmir because of its strategic importance, it separated the state of Chitral and integrated it into the NWFP and later it hived off the Shaksgam Valley and ceded it to China.


The Shias of Baltistan have close ethnic and cultural ties with the Shias of Kargil. The people do not consider themselves Kashmiris as the state of Gilgit came under the suzerainty of the Maharaja of Kashmir only after 1866. The original inhabitants of the region are Shias and Ismaili Khojas, but in 1975 Islamabad repealed the old Kashmiri “state subject” regulation that prevented outsiders from purchasing land and settling down in the state. The government then encouraged migration by Pathan Sunnis from the Federally Administered Tribal Agency (Fata) region and the Army facilitated settlement by ex-servicemen to ensure greater control of the area. The settlement of outsiders has reduced the local Shia residents from 80 per cent in 1947 to about 53 per cent. There have been violent clashes between Sunnis and the local Shias on several occasions that were put down with a ruthless hand by the authorities.


The Karakoram Highway is to be upgraded to a 30-feet wide highway that would eventually link up to provide an all-weather access route to the Chinese-built Gwadar port on the Balochistan coast at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. Among the other Chinese investments in the region are plans to construct a hydro-electric power station at Bunji, building the Bhasha dam as well as building bridges and irrigation works and providing telecom facilities to the remote area. China is also constructing a dry port at Sost near the border with Xinjiang.


Gilgit was the route through which trading goods from Central Asia reached the Kashmir Valley. Years later, a British agent was located in Gilgit to watch over Russian incursions into Afghanistan and the Central Asian region. Now the arid, mountainous region is set to become China’s gateway to the warm waters off Pakistan’s coast.








Irving Kristol was born into a fanatical century and thrust himself into every ideologically-charged battle of his age. In the 1930s, as a young socialist, he fought the Stalinists. In the 1940s, as a soldier, he fought fascism. In the decades beyond, as a writer and intellectual, he engaged with McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Great Society, the Woodstock generation, the culture wars of the 1970s, the Reagan revolution and so on.


The century was filled with hysterias, all of which he refused to join. There were fanaticisms, none of which he had any part in. Kristol, who died on September 18, 2009, seemed to enter life with an intellectual demeanour that he once characterised as “detached attachment”. He would champion certain causes. He could arrive at surprising and radical conclusions. He was unabashedly neoconservative. But he also stood apart, and directed his sceptical gaze even on his own positions, and even on the things to which he was most loyal.


“There are no benefits without costs in human affairs,” he once wrote. And so there is no idea so true and no movement so pure that it doesn’t require scrutiny. There was no position in this fallen world without flaws.


So while others were marching to barricades, picking out bits of the truth that confirmed their own prejudices, editing contrary evidence and working themselves up a righteous lather, Kristol would adopt an attitude of smiling forbearance. He was able to pick a side without losing his clarity.


Kristol championed capitalism and wrote brilliantly about Adam Smith. But like Smith, he could only give two cheers for capitalism, because the system of creative destruction has victims as well as beneficiaries.


Kristol championed middle-class virtues like faith, family and responsibility, especially during the 1960s when they were so much under attack. But he acknowledged that bourgeois culture could be boring and spiritually unsatisfying.


Kristol championed democracy but understood its limitations. He emphasised that the American founders believed in a democratic system, but were appalled by the democratic faith: the idea that the majority view should be followed in all circumstances. They built a system that was half-democracy and half a republic, designed to acknowledge and also subdue popular will.


Kristol embraced the welfare state (one of his great achievements was to reconcile conservatism with the New Deal), but he was sceptical of most individual proposals. Improving society is so intractably hard that all efforts to do so should be subject to the most careful scrutiny.


His goal, he wrote, was “not to dismantle the welfare state in the name of free-market economics but rather to reshape it so as to attach it to the conservative predispositions of the people”. He believed that government programmes that were not paternalistic, but merely provided social insurance, would “engender larger loyalties”, which is “precisely what the art of government, properly understood, is all about”.


Kristol was easily the most influential contemporary writer in my life, and while going over my worn collections, I’ve wondered where this attitude of detached attachment came from. My first guess is ethnic. Kristol grew up in a working-class neighbourhood in Brooklyn and seems to have absorbed the elemental Jewish commandment: Don’t be a schmuck. Don’t fall for fantastical notions that have nothing to do with the way people really are.


My second guess is philosophical. Kristol wrote in a time when intellectuals saw themselves as heirs to the Enlightenment, by which they meant the French Enlightenment. They put their faith in a rational elite and a moral avant-garde that would champion justice, virtue and equality by leading social and political revolutions.


But Kristol was drawn to the other Enlightenment: the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment, led by Lord Shaftesbury, Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith and Edmund Burke. This was a more prosaic Enlightenment, which was hostile to passionate politics. The leaders of the Scottish environment hoped that progress might come gradually and organically — if individuals were given the liberty to develop their own responsible habits and if they themselves built institutions to guide them on their way. My third guess is moral. In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky has his antichrist flaunt a banner that, in modern form, reads: “First make people prosperous, and then ask of them virtue.”


Kristol argued that this was the great seduction of modern politics — to believe that problems that were essentially moral and civic could be solved by economic means. They can’t. Political problems, even many economic problems, are, at heart, ethical and cultural problems. And improving the attitudes and virtues of a nation is, at best, a slow, halting process. Kristol pursued this task by being cheerful, patient and realistic — by being at once courageously committed and sceptically detached.











THE most charitable construct that can be placed upon the union health ministry’s move to make rural service for doctors attractive is that it is incredibly disingenuous. Evaluation of knowledge and merit will be reduced to a travesty if doctors, merely because they have served in rural India, are awarded 10 per cent additional marks per year in the national entry test for post-graduate medical studies. Over three years of rural service, the formula works out to an additional 30 per cent marks ~ a distinct edge in any competitive examination. Not to put too fine a point on it, it verges on an undeclared quota for doctors in rural service. Marks in any examination have to be earned, not doled out as a governmental incentive. Of course, 50 per cent of the post-graduate medical seats in Tamil Nadu are reserved for interns who have served in rural areas; but that tenure is not factored in the allotment of marks in the entrance exam ~ a different proposition altogether. Clearly, this isn’t the way to incentivise a length of service that graduate doctors avoid for a variety of reasons. Predominantly, they opt for private practice and in consequence the state healthcare sector is as often as not denuded of talent. It is cause for alarm that the trend is manifest across the country; but the union health minister’s move is less than half-baked.

Ghulam Nabi Azad wants “to encourage doctors to go to the rural areas before they apply for the PG entrance examination”. No issue with that statement of intent; but to award a generous dose of bonus marks is an almost sub-literate incentive. Consciously has merit been placed at a discount, indeed sacrificed at the altar of a spurious incentive. The move is in the nature of a quick-fix solution, and will never stand serious academic scrutiny. The contrived formulation is a testament to the failure of governments, both at the Centre and in the states, to make rural service for interns mandatory. That the tenure is generally dreaded is itself a commentary on the decrepit medical system in rural India. Admission to the post-graduate course must be determined exclusively on proven merit. It’s medical science, after all.







THE born-again UPA government has effected a dramatic modification of what was fairly in place till a few months ago. If the Foreign Educational Institutions Bill wasn’t introduced in the last Parliament, it was primarily because of certain valid objections raised by the Left, the government’s crutch till July 2008. Aside from the standard cavil against increasing American presence in the country, there was the very substantial risk that fly-by-night offshore institutions ~ without a credible presence abroad - would set up camp in India. As it turns out, this objection has been addressed and ironically without the Left crutch. One must give it to the present minister, Kapil Sibal, that a definite safeguard is now in place against dubious entities. The revised draft makes it mandatory that the institutions must be of ten years’ standing ~ somewhat inadequate in our view ~ in the country of their origin if they wish to apply for setting up of shop in India. Hopefully, the urge to make a quick profit will now be curbed.

If governments and ruling parties have been rather sluggish in granting autonomy to institutions at home, the redrafted Bill imparts freedom to foreign universities/colleges in the truest sense of the term. Without spelling it out in so many words, the Bill has unshackled foreign institutions from governmental control perhaps even before a single application has come in. There will be no quotas for Indian students. Nay more, they will have the authority to fix their own fee structure. Even such regulatory authorities as the UGC will have little or no control. The Bill by itself will grant legitimacy to these institutions, and significantly without seeking the UGC’s sanction for the deemed university status. Which category itself is now under a cloud with the Centre only too anxious to do away with the halfway house. A new appellation has been introduced, namely “foreign education providers”. Market rates will determine fees, there will no reservations for teachers and students, recognised agencies in the home country will grant accreditation and only the applications will be vetted by the Centre. All in all, the foreign institutions will showcase an oasis of freedom on a predominantly sarkari campus. In the net, the dichotomy will be stark. Limited autonomy is granted to centres of excellence at home; where full freedom is allowed, the degrees can be subject to “standardisation” at the post-graduate level. With respect, this isn’t an area where courts should intervene. The double-think that marks the government’s perspective can be damaging enough.







THE revelations made through Dr AQ Khan’s letter to his wife regarding complicity of the Pakistan government in nuclear proliferation have excited media worldwide. The Indian government has sought a full investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Dr Khan’s letter was written in 2003, was obtained by a journalist in 2007, and has been released only now. Now the world is watching Pakistan.

Accountability is demanded from Pakistan. This reaction is pathetic and hypocritical. We will never get genuine reform unless the real villains of nuclear proliferation are nailed. The real rogue nations are China and the USA. China is the fountainhead of nuclear proliferation. The USA was aware but remained complicit because of its considerable vested economic interests. Pakistan and North Korean nuclear partnership could not have occurred without Beijing’s nod. China can bring North Korea to its knees and starve it within one week. China’s nuclear and missile aid to Pakistan is very well-known.

Despite this, the root cause of nuclear proliferation has never been addressed. The corporate business lobby in the USA has subverted the government in Washington. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) can browbeat the government in Beijing. Unless Washington can contain its corporate lobby and Beijing can prevail over the PLA there is no hope for any meaningful change in the nuclear situation. The bulk of the low-tech Chinese exports to the USA in the five-to-one trade imbalance favouring China since decades are owned by the PLA. Its profits fund the Chinese military. Profits help Chinese Generals become billionaires. Together, the US business lobby and the PLA comprise the real axis of evil. To reinforce this claim, I reproduce extracts from an article I wrote for a magazine now defunct on March 1, 2004:

“FOR years bits of information suggesting Pakistan’s involvement in nuclear proliferation dribbled from western intelligence agencies. The US turned a blind eye to them... Eventually, investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that Dr Khan had illegally obtained nuclear technology from a Dutch firm. Neither Washington nor Islamabad could ignore this. One thing led to another and Islamabad was compelled to investigate and subsequently arrest Dr Khan. The latter said that senior Pakistani leaders and army officers, including General Pervez Musharraf, had been aware of his actions… He then sought a meeting with Musharraf. It was immediately granted. After the meeting he retracted to say that nobody apart from him was involved in the nuclear transactions. He abjectly confessed to selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. A day after this “confession” Musharraf granted him full pardon… The US went along with this naked charade by describing the whole affair as Pakistan’s internal affair. US spokesmen reiterated Washington’s confidence in Musharraf and ruled out his involvement in the proliferation scandal…

“The odd thing is that world attention is focused primarily on customers willing to buy nuclear know-how. Little attention is paid to the powers spreading nuclear weapons through illegal sales… Confronting Musharraf and Pakistan could force the US to confront China… The fiction that Pakistan is the fountainhead of nuclear proliferation is convenient for the US. It helps the US and the world’s mainstream media to ignore China helping, guiding and masterminding moves by the Islamist fundamentalists of Pakistan inside and outside its army. It is naïve to the point of silliness to believe that China would transfer nuclear weapons or know-how to any nation directly or indirectly without ensuring that it retains overall control… The foundation of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons system was laid by China. And the US is fully aware of this. In the New York Times of January 4, 2004 David Sanger and William J Broad wrote: ‘

A DECLASSIFIED State Department memo obtained by the National Security Archive in Washington concluded that China, sometime after its first bomb test in the mid-1960s, had provided Pakistan technology for ‘fissile material production and possibly also nuclear device designs’.

“Why is the US administration so coy about confronting Pakistan? The probable reason is that it cannot do this without confronting China which controls Pakistan’s fundamentalism... The Business Coalition for US-China Trade has over 1000 of the largest US corporations as members… Henry Kissinger is the central adviser for the Coalition… All these US mega corporations would lose billions if the US were to impose sanctions against China for its record in nuclear proliferation…”

The threat of nuclear weapons reaching terrorists has become so acute as to alarm even Dr Kissinger. He is now strenuously advocating total nuclear disarmament. But for years America sat alongside China among the world’s big five nuclear powers. American media and government sermonised to the whole world about the dangers of nuclear proliferation. America strenuously promoted the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Could deceit have been more brazen?







DAVIS Cup tennis is truly a different ball game. Recognition of that has come courtesy the huge public and media “response” to India regaining a place in the elite World Group of men’s tennis’ most celebrated national-team event. And while it is true that 11 years has been an agonisingly long wait to get back to the big league, India does have something of a proud Davis Cup tradition ~ almost every player has excelled himself when wearing the national colours. So to put things in perspective, the superb showing in Johannesburg over the weekend was not unprecedented, even if a trifle unexpected. What was so particularly rewarding about the excitement at Ellis Park was that after a long, long time the established stalwarts ~ Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati ~ played no part in the win. That, of course, was due to injury and there is every reason to expect them to play the doubles rubber in future Davis Cup ties. That those seasoned stars can put personal differences aside and give of their best for the nation testifies to precisely what the Davis Cup is all about, and how much it means to Indian tennis. It may be a trifle premature to talk of the baton changing hands, but clearly have Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devvaraman and teenager Yuki Bhambri stepped up to the plate. Each of their several accolades ~ which include oodles of praise from former Davis Cuppers ~ has been truly merited.

Still, there is need to caution against that trio getting carried away with the hype. Having staged a truly epic come-from-behind five-set win to tip the scales in India’s favour, Somdev is being hailed in the superlatives. That must not distract him: he is yet to break into the top 100 of the ATP rankings, and at 24 age is not exactly in his favour. Not in a game dominated by guys in their early 20s. In short, both he and Bopanna have a tough, immediate task on hand. So too does Yuki need intelligent guidance. They must not lose focus in the current publicity blitz that will be followed by commercial allurement. Fortunately they have ideal examples within “striking distance”: Mahesh and Leander never allowed success to go to their heads.











The least that the people expect a modern State to do is ensure the security of their lives. For those living in the Maoist-infested areas of West Bengal, the State and the government have clearly ceased to exist. The result is a grim situation in which the people either die in violence triggered by Maoists or live in constant fear of violent deaths. It has been three months since the forces of the Centre and the state government started joint operations against the rebels. What is truly amazing is that neither New Delhi nor Calcutta seems to have taken any lessons from its colossal failure. This has led to a dangerous drift that sees innocent people caught in the crossfire between Maoists and the government forces. Worse, the State’s failure has forced the people to either surrender to the rebels or take up arms in order to defend themselves. Monday’s gun battle between the Maoists and supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) close to the district headquarters of West Midnapore underscores the alarming spread of the rebels’ area of influence. It also shows how the government has abdicated its responsibility, allowing the cadre of the ruling party to usurp the administration’s role. Even if the Maoists are killing mostly CPI(M) activists, it should be the responsibility of the administration, and not of armed partymen, to tackle the rebels’ challenge.


The problem for the CPI(M) — and hence for its government — is that it has always mixed up the party and the administration. If the state police and administration are so incapable of meeting the Maoist challenge and winning the people’s confidence, it is because the party has systematically used them to serve its own agenda. The exchange of fire between the Maoists and the Marxists proves once again that guns are increasingly taking over politics in West Bengal. The CPI(M)’s leaders talk of fighting the Maoists “politically”. That is why the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government did not act on the Centre’s suggestion that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) be banned in the state. Several state governments that banned the Maoist party have been more successful in fighting it. It is time the chief minister realized the cost of a confused strategy. The battle against a group engaged in guerrilla warfare may be long and hard. Arming the party cadre cannot be a winning strategy.








Contrary to the way most strikes go in India, this one promises to be both honourable and reasonable. If, and when, the faculty of the Indian Institutes of Technology go on a token, one-day hunger strike tomorrow, classes and other academic duties are not going to be abandoned. So the Union ministry of human resource development should pay serious attention to what some of the country’s finest academics are trying to get across to it. The ultimatum issued by the IITs has two elements, both of which touch upon the fundamentals of the HRD ministry’s relationship with these premier institutions. First, the teachers have challenged the ministry’s supposedly ‘revised’ pay regime, which was drawn up after their first round of protests. If the HRD ministry is sincere about interfering as little as possible in the running of the IITs, then letting go of the purse strings would have to be the first important step towards that vision of what the ministry would like to call ‘autonomy’. Excellence in higher education is not simply a matter of academic achievement, but is also about the enabling of a certain kind of professionalism. The only way to draw the best minds to the IITs is to let the institutions themselves work out their own ways of dealing with the market. Salaries and perquisites should not be confined to the government’s regulatory tendencies, and the Centre must think through the entire question of financial autonomy without giving in to its usual anxieties.


Second, the IITs want to remove the shadow of a new regulation regarding appointments from above their heads. To disallow the appointment of professors who have not taught for a certain period of time at institutions specified by the government is to allow essentially bureaucratic systems of control to come in the way of merit. A stipulation like this can only foster an ethos of inflexible red tape. To be tied to such externally and mechanically imposed regulations is precisely the sort of thing that hinders the free flow of excellence in an open world. Properly considered appointments should not be held to such mindless specifications, and each institution should be able to decide with each candidate the question of suitability. The fate of quality higher education in India depends on freedom from restrictions and not on more rules drawn up by politicians and bureaucrats.









It is symptomatic of the perversity of the relationship between India and the United States of America that one of the most successful periods in our bilateral relations was at a time when US policy and modus operandi were subject to worldwide criticism, not least from influential circles in India, and when the incumbent at the White House was either ridiculed or demonized in most parts of the world. It is for psychoanalysts to unravel the mysteries of a love-hate relationship, with the attendant emotions of obsession, expectation, disillusion and bitter recrimination. But in truth, a love-hate description does not begin to do justice to the complications of the ties between the US and India.


The liberties we enjoy, or aspire to enjoy, would not have come about if Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt had not championed the cause of decolonization, and if the US had not entered World War II in the Pacific. After the war, when the Cold War and the supposed Indian tilt towards the Soviet Union were at their height, the American food supplies under PL 480 fed large sections of our people from ship to mouth. The amount due to the US was written off and a facsimile was on prominent display at the Empire State Building as the biggest amount ever written on a cheque. In the US in the 1970s, Indian representatives used to be asked at public meetings why India was ostentatiously ungrateful for this help. Fortunately, nobody talks about these awkward passages any more in either country.


Nevertheless, a predominant image of the US in India is the unit of the 7th fleet led by the aircraft carrier, Enterprise, which was sent to the Bay of Bengal during the war leading to the creation of Bangladesh. This bogey image begs the fact that the nuclear-capable weapons were unusable, and their effect as a restraint on India was zero — like the grand old Duke of York who marched his troops up the hill and down again.


If an Indian goes to China, which was excluded by the US from the United Nations from 1949 to 1971, or to Vietnam, which was ravaged in every possible way by the US from 1959 to 1975, he will be surprised to find there nothing like the hostility and suspicion of the US that exists in India — in fact, exactly the reverse. Indians love speaking about the ‘Ugly American’, without realizing that this person is the hero of the 1958 novel and not the villain. This is the kind of misunderstanding that bedevils the relationship.


The degree of reciprocal hostility from the US towards India is far less, even non-existent, though there is a bemused curiosity among aware circles in that country about India’s economic progress, democracy and civilization, in spite of the apparent anarchy that attends every human activity here. We cannot assume that India can ever feature prominently in the public consciousness in the US, in which the population, by and large, knows even its big neighbours, Mexico, only through the Latino working class, and Canada as a part of the frozen northern waste. When Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house in Alaska, that said it all.


Is the relationship especially difficult because we are too much alike? Two big democracies that gained independence from the same colonial power, though nearly 200 years apart, should have more in common. M.K. Gandhi gleaned many strategies of non-cooperation from Henry David Thoreau, and, in turn, influenced the non-violent civil rights movement under Martin Luther King. What we share with the US is a love of obscure team games that few other countries take seriously — baseball and American football on the one hand, and cricket and kho kho on the other. The Americans invented records — faster, higher, stronger; and it takes a heavy dose of materialism to do that. The Guinness Book of Records and Ripley’s Believe It or Not became the yardstick of earthly success.

Big countries usually differ on big issues, like security and arms control, the environment or access to trade. But between India and the US, the small matters are blown out of all proportion and it seems, at times, as if India is searching for matters on which to take offence. Whereas the US is supremely confident about its nationhood, which was evident from the very start and well-entrenched by the time of de Toqueville’s visit in the 19th century, India appears still to be groping for a definition of itself as a nation. This, perhaps, is one of many reasons why it is so prickly and reactive to America. In a country where a proposed national health service is branded as socialism, it is hardly surprising that Nehru’s and Indira Gandhi’s socialistic policies and non-alignment were regarded as immoral and found few sympathizers, in the same way that the US’s cold and proxy wars against the USSR had no appeal for India. The subtlety of the Indian intellect, which means Maybe when it says Yes and No when it says No Problem, found the direct approach of American Manicheanism offensive.


The T-shirt slogan coined during the Vietnam War, “Yankee Go Home — and take me with you!” somehow gets near the heart of the Indo-US complications. An Indian actor, feeling rebuffed in the US, swore never again to set foot on American soil — except for work, to see friends and relatives, and for holiday recreation. His angst may have been profound, but he knew his dilemma would leave the Americans unmoved. Would the Delhi establishment have reacted in the way it did to the Shah Rukh Khan episode if the actor had been detained at Tokyo, Madrid or Burkina Fasso? Perhaps, as Bernard Shaw could have said, the US and India are two countries divided by a common language.


The Indian political leader sees no contradiction whatever in fulminating against American policies but resorting to by-pass surgery in Houston or an American education for his children in order to enhance their prospects, usually by staying on in the US itself. One prominent personage from India led a party delegation to Disneyland with the stated justification of studying crowd control. Those who pour scorn on America’s alleged lack of civilization, culture and morals are fully aware that there is a great Indian popular appetite, despite the negative rhetoric, for all things American; that Bollywood shamelessly plagiarizes American movie plots and filmscores, and that a green card is a star on the CV— “Green-card-holding Saraswat bachelor seeks same-caste soulmate, horoscopes welcome.”


The same contradiction appears in more serious aspects, such as the multiple joint armed forces exercises nowadays performed by the military people of both countries without sharing any stated or presumed joint strategy in the Asian, let alone South Asian, theatre.


What of the near future? Irrespective of the diatribes of certain political circles against everything American, admittedly more muted after the arrival of President Obama, and emotional reactions against any outsiders who dare to interpose themselves in Indo-Pakistan bilateral relations, there is nothing the government of India would like more than Washington’s benevolent attention and sympathetic understanding. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US has treated India with caution and a minimal pressing of its point of view. In other words, it has been largely accommodating.


Various anxieties arise nevertheless. Does the US under Obama share the same preoccupation with China’s rise to world power as it did under George W. Bush? Why is it that from the American side, the only senior politician to visit India so far has been Hillary Clinton, and that too after seven months? Is the US devoting thought and time to Pakistan at the expense of India — a Pakistan where, incidentally, anti-Americanism is even stronger than it is in India, despite it being a client state in nearly every respect? Have the matters of nuclear-waste enrichment, reprocessing and dual-use technology access been settled in India’s favour or will mutual recrimination fly thick and fast? Will the implications of K. Santhanam’s allegations of a fizzle thermonuclear explosion stir another hornet’s nest? Will carbon emission controls, Iran, CTBT, fissile material freeze and protectionism, all of which Obama strongly cares about, sour relations?


In the next few years, Indian attitudes to the US, irrational as they usually are and locked in the mind-set of a bygone age, will not change. Anti-American attitudes will always find willing audiences, and not only among the Left-leaning, because inherited obsessions cannot be shaken off without self-examination and a thorough mental purging. Nothing like that is likely to happen, and those who know better do not attempt to shape public opinion. American attitudes to India, on the part of the Washington apparatus, will depend on what role is envisaged for India to further the AfPak strategy, and whether India will be compliant. The chances for this to happen are very poor. Both India and Pakistan will be unreliable allies in any US regional strategy. In the longer prospect, even by 2050, the US will be among the world’s three biggest economies, and still by far the strongest military power. India and the US will never go to war, but neither will there ever be harmony. India should show greater self-confidence and concentrate on building itself economically. At present, we have no other choice. As the world emerges from the present recession, India will be stronger than most countries, and will loom large in the plans of every other big economy.


The author is former foreign secretary of India



            THE TELEGRAPH





The Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, has said the government has reports that the Maoists are making contacts with secessionist forces in the Northeast and that the cadre of the United Liberation Front of Asom is receiving training in the forests of Jharkhand. Suspicions of such a development had strengthened over the last few years and now there is official confirmation. It is part of the Maoists’ tactics to infiltrate all areas of unrest, irrespective of the character of the agitation, and the home minister must be aware of this. He has spoken of the Northeast and would perhaps do well to look beyond as well. The situation in North Bengal, particularly Darjeeling, is well worth considering from this angle.


Darjeeling borders Nepal and the Maoists in that country are seemingly all set to return to their old ways. In the past, they had contacts with their counterparts in India. For a while, on coming to power in Nepal, they had spoken in a different voice, but now after walking out of office in Kathmandu, they have no reason to do so any more. And the best way to establish physical contact is to enter Darjeeling — which has never been a problem given the fact that the Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950 allows free movement between the two countries.


The huge turnouts in the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha rallies are causing eyebrows to be raised. There is a strong feeling that the agitation’s support base is bolstered from across the border. Indeed, Morcha leaders themselves have, at times, been disturbed by the militancy displayed by their frontal organizations. They have, of course, always sought to explain this as added enthusiasm among local leaders. But is such enthusiasm spontaneous or sponsored?



Soon after Subash Ghisingh had started the Gorkhaland agitation in the Eighties, intelligence agencies had suspicions, not entirely unfounded, that Gorkha soldiers, retired from the British army and settled in Nepal, were providing military training to the cadre of the Gorkha National Liberation Front. Today, the same kind of service may well be provided by Maoists from Nepal who share with those in India the perception that the ‘people’s war’ must cover as wide an area as possible. The existing treaty helps them immensely in this regard.The Morcha leadership itself has so far kept the agitation confined to democratic ways. But any agitation that drags on, with no hope of reaching the goal in sight, can take a different turn. It is a situation tailor-made for extremists. Even if the demand for a separate state is met at some point of time, Maoists from Nepal may well have created by then a strong base for spreading their political message, as is being done today in the plains.


But why will the Maoists from Nepal have to be active in Darjeeling — why can the indigenous ‘revolutionaries’ not do the job? The answer is simple — it is a matter of ethnic affinity. A Nepali in the Darjeeling hills will respond far more easily to overtures from his kinsmen than from somebody speaking Telugu or Hindi or Bengali. Also, thanks to the absence of any travel restrictions, a Nepali from Nepal has no problem mingling with his own crowd in India which is not possible for a non-Nepali.


When he was the prime minister, Prachanda himself had wanted a revision of the 1950 treaty to show that Nepal wanted to be a truly ‘independent’ nation, not bound by the obligations of a treaty agreed upon by feudal rulers. New Delhi had not paid any attention to the subject then. Today, in the context of the serious concern at the spread of Maoist activities, New Delhi should have a second look at the treaty so that future movement from Nepal is viewed in the same way as that from the other neighbouring countries.









It was discovery of a stocky Japanese wheat variety Norin-10 that the US military advisor, Dr D C Salmon, sent back home in the early 1960s that changed the face of global agriculture. This was the variety, the only known semi-dwarf traditional wheat strain, that Dr Norman Borlaug was keenly looking for. Crossed with the rust-resistant varieties that Borlaug had developed at the International Centre for Wheat and Maize Research in Mexico, the world got the miracle improved varieties that made history.


These semi-dwarf plants developed by Borlaug responded to the application of chemical fertilisers and produced a bountiful grain harvest. The yields multiplied under favourable conditions, and Borlaug knew that the best place to apply the new technology was obviously India, with the largest population of hungry and starved in the world.

“I tried my best to convince the Indian politicians about the utility of these semi-dwarf varieties in fighting hunger, but they were not interested,” he had once told me. Although agricultural scientists, by and large, were convinced about the yield potential of these varieties, the politicians were not.


“When I didn’t see much headway being made, I played the political card knowing the political rivalry between India and Pakistan,” he went on to explain. “I told India that if you don’t want these varieties, I will give them instead to Pakistan.” I am not sure whether it was because of the political astuteness of Borlaug or the domestic necessity, India imported 18,000 tonnes of wheat seed of the semi-dwarf varieties in 1966. Within a few weeks of the import, the seed was made available in five kg packs and distributed widely in the areas where irrigation was abundant.

The rest is history. India emerged out of ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence. Although hunger prevails, famine certainly has become history.

For several years after the Green Revolution was launched, I had the pleasure of accompanying him on his annual visits to the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana. As a young journalist I was always in awe of Borlaug, but always found him to be a simple and dedicated scientist. He would spend hours in scorching sun in the wheat research fields and was always keen to visit farmers.

Green Revolution subsequently spread to parts of Asia and Latin America. It did enable a number of developing countries to emerge out of the hunger trap. Agricultural scientists globally promoted the technology and were never able to understand why environmentalists were opposed to the technology.

Such was the blind faith in the technology that Borlaug developed and promoted that agricultural scientists refused to see the flip side, which was clearly evident through the deterioration of the plant ecology and destruction to the environment. Several years after Rachel Carson published her historic work ‘The Silent Spring’ I asked Borlaug whether he had read the book: “She is an evil force,” he reacted angrily, adding: “These are the people who do not want to eradicate hunger.”

Borlaug remained steadfast all through on the role of chemical fertiliser and pesticides. He was so adamant that when the Third World Academy in Italy presented a paper on how Brazil had achieved remarkable crop yields in soybean and sugarcane without applying chemical nitrogen, he didn’t agree. It was only after he travelled to Brazil and saw for himself the crop yields that he at least acknowledged the reality.


He would often tell me that if India had not followed the Green Revolution technology, the country would have required bringing an additional 58 million hectares under cultivation to produce the same quantity of food that was being produced after the high-yielding varieties of wheat were introduced.

My argument to this was that although the country saved 58 million hectares, 40 years after Green Revolution, more than double — close to 120 million hectares — are faced with varying degrees of degradation. Borlaug never pardoned me for espousing the cause of long-term sustainability in agriculture. He never accepted that the world could produce enough food with Low-external Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) techniques. In fact, knowingly or unknowingly he did espouse the cause of corporate control of agriculture.

“Be warned,” he told me during one of his visit to Pantnagar University, situated at the foot of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand: “When people stop talking about farmers, when people fail to recognise their role in feeding the country, be sure there is something terribly wrong happening in agriculture.”

These prophetic words hold true today. In India, it no longer hurts when farmers commit suicide or quit agriculture. For quite some time, farmers have disappeared from the economic radar screen of the country. This is a clear pointer to the terrible agrarian crisis that prevails.









As the train rolled into the station, I looked at my mother sitting in front of me. Being a well known teacher in the village, she was known to be a compassionate woman of simple tastes. This was her very first visit to the city where I lived and she seemed enthusiastic. Beside me sat my 7-year-old son, who seemed enthusiastic about catching up with his friends. I was happy that my mother had finally given up her initial inhibitions of coming to a city.

At the station, I quickly alighted and looked around for a porter to carry our luggage. I remember telling my son to stay with his grandmother while I fetch a porter. I found a porter and turned around to see my son a few feet away from me. I asked him why he had followed me. He gave me a quizzical look and didn’t say a word. I tried locating my mother, but failed to do so due to the crowd. I assumed that she was standing behind one of the stalls on the platform. I guided the porter towards our luggage and I was stunned not to find my mother near the luggage.

It was a moment of madness. And I did something bizarre. I picked up the two pieces of luggage which was of considerable weight, swung them around my shoulder, told my son to carry his cricket bat and began hurrying towards the exit. The thought that my mother could have gone to the newspaper stand (she was an avid reader) nearby, or any other place never once crossed my mind.

A lot of emotions and thoughts go through you in such a scenario. One was of anger. I couldn’t believe that I had coaxed my mother to leave the village and come with me, and now she had gone missing.

The exit could be reached only by taking the sky bridge. Tailed by my son I scurried towards the entrance of the sky bridge. There I told a man of my problem. I guess he realised I was really worried. He told me to calm down and suggested we approach the railway announcer in order to alert my mother. I don’t remember what I thought of that suggestion, because at the same moment I spotted my mother, in her bright yellow sari getting off the sky bridge. I was relieved instantly. I handed my luggage to that man and descended the stairs at lightning speed. When I caught up with her, she was least bit perturbed. Huffing and puffing I asked her why she had left me and gone. Her response was “I imagined that you left and thought maybe you would be at the gate.”

I couldn’t respond to that because then I remembered my son. I thought he was missing now. But he was standing there, maybe be a bit taken back by all the action. He came up to me. I thought he was going to hug his grandmother or maybe me, but all he said was, “You better remember the Pepsi you promised me on the train. Don’t run off without buying me one…”









Two authoritative surveys in recent days have underscored why all Americans have a stake in successful health care reform. Too many people are being hit with relentlessly rising premiums or are at serious risk of losing their coverage to allow the status quo to continue.


A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, once again, health insurance premiums rose faster last year than either wages or general inflation. A study by the Treasury Department found that almost half of all Americans below Medicare age have gone without insurance at some point over the last decade.


The Kaiser study, conducted jointly with the Health Research and Education Trust, an affiliate of the American Hospital Association, found that the average premium for a family policy offered at work rose above $13,300 in 2009 — up from $5,800 in 1999. The average employer paid more than $9,800 of that, while the workers contributed more than $3,500. The workers were also hit with larger co-payments and deductibles, while their policies often offered fewer benefits.


The premium increase this year was a relatively modest 5 percent, far below the 13 percent rate in two previous years. But that still far outpaced a 3.1 percent growth in wages and a small decrease in inflation. Absent meaningful reform, worse is sure to come.


Kaiser estimates that, if increases revert to the average of the last 10 years, health insurance premiums in 2019 will average a whopping $30,800, which it calls “a very scary number.” More immediately, a fifth of the employers surveyed said they are very likely to increase the amount that employees pay for premiums next year.


Meanwhile, the Treasury Department’s study highlighted how vulnerable Americans are to losing their coverage.


It found that, between 1997 and 2006, 48 percent of nonelderly Americans went without health insurance for at least one month, 41 percent lacked coverage for at least six months and 36 percent were uncovered for a year or more. That happened during a decade of strong economic growth. The number of uninsured is likely to be higher over the next decade, the study warns.


The argument for reform seems clear. Americans without insurance need guaranteed access to coverage. Those with insurance need a guarantee that they will not be dropped by their insurers and will be able to buy an affordable policy if their employers decide to drop coverage. And ways must be found to slow the rise in health care costs and ease the burden of paying for insurance.








President Obama made a peculiar choice in June when he nominated Anne Ferro, a major trucking industry lobbyist in Maryland, to lead the agency that oversees truck safety. On its face, Ms. Ferro’s selection violates the spirit of Mr. Obama’s decision to limit the ability of lobbyists to enter government as high officials and influence policy from within.


The order bars hiring anyone who lobbied an executive-branch agency within the past two years, which technically means federally registered lobbyists. But it is hard to see how naming a trucking industry insider like Ms. Ferro, the president of the Maryland affiliate of the American Trucking Associations, to lead the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration squares with Mr. Obama’s promise of “a clean break” from business as usual.


This disconnect should trouble members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as they convene on Wednesday for Ms. Ferro’s confirmation hearing. It was wrong, as several committee members noted at the time, for the Bush White House to install people from the trucking industry to regulate their own industry. It is no less wrong for Mr. Obama’s to do it.


Ms. Ferro’s record on road safety includes some pluses. As the chief of Maryland’s motor vehicle agency, from 1997 to 2003, she implemented a graduated licensing system for new drivers and an ignition interlock program for drunken drivers.


But her more relevant experience these past six years was in supporting the trucking industry’s efforts to thwart and defeat policies and programs needed to protect the public and promote the health and safety of truck drivers. Just in January, Ms. Ferro co-authored a letter to The Baltimore Sun essentially defending the Bush administration’s loosening of regulations on drivers’ schedules and driver fatigue in defiance of considerable evidence of danger and two court decisions.


Ms. Ferro’s record, we believe, is disqualifying. With more than 5,000 fatal truck crashes a year, Americans cannot afford conflicts of interest in the running of their truck safety agency.







New York State can certainly use all the leadership it can get, so it came as good news when the State Court of Appeals upheld Gov. David Paterson’s appointment of Richard Ravitch as lieutenant governor.


Mr. Paterson named Mr. Ravitch to the office, which Mr. Paterson had held until Eliot Spitzer resigned and he became governor, in an attempt to break the stalemate in the State Senate over whether the stubborn, irresponsible Democrats or the stubborn, irresponsible Republicans were in charge of that less-than-august body.


Under New York law, the lieutenant governor can cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, fills in for the governor when he is out of state or incapacitated and succeeds to that office if it becomes vacant for any reason.


This decision, which gave an instant boost to the beleagured Mr. Paterson, also means that there will be at least one level head in Albany as lawmakers face a $2.1 billion budget gap this year and even more in 2010.


Tuesday’s decision, which overturned two lower court rulings, drew a swift and angry response from Republicans, especially Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican leader in the Senate who called it “dangerous to democracy.” That argument is frivolous, but Mr. Skelos also suggested that there should be a new law on succession, perhaps requiring Senate confirmation of such an important appointment. That is an idea that should be considered.


For now, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman made a compelling case for the majority that the governor could legally appoint a new lieutenant governor.


Judge Lippman wrote that neither the State Constitution nor state law specifies exactly who fills a vacancy in the lieutenant governor’s office. The temporary president of the State Senate takes over the lieutenant governor’s duties, he argued, but does not actually fill the vacancy. Therefore, a “catchall” section of the state law requires the governor to fill vacancies in elected offices that are not listed.


Mr. Ravitch’s appointment in July calmed the circuslike atmosphere in Albany. A former banker and developer, Mr. Ravitch has made a name for himself over the last 40 years rescuing wounded state agencies like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Now he has a far larger task: helping a wounded governor push a stubborn Legislature forward.







Of more than 100 world leaders who gathered Tuesday at the United Nations for a summit meeting on climate change, two mattered most: Barack Obama and China’s president, Hu Jintao. Together their countries produce 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Together they can lead the way to an effective global response to this clear global threat. Or together they can mess things up royally.


In less than three months, negotiations will begin in Copenhagen for a new agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The hope is these talks will produce commitments from each nation that, collectively, would keep temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. That will require deep cuts in emissions — as much as 80 percent among industrialized nations — by midcentury.


And there’s not a lot of time to waste. As Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned on Tuesday: “Science leaves us no space for inaction.”


While Europe and the United States disagree over how quickly developed countries should move, their differences pale in comparison to the historical divide between developed and developing nations, which have argued that the industrialized West should bear most of the burden. For its part, the West has argued that countries like China and India are growing so fast that they can no longer remain on the sidelines, as they did in Kyoto.


Mr. Obama and Mr. Hu did not bridge that gap, but their governments are listening more carefully to one another. China is no longer pretending that it is a backward country whose need for economic growth relieves it of any obligation to control emissions. The United States — the world’s largest emitter in historical terms — is acknowledging its responsibility to help the poorest and most vulnerable nations reduce emissions without sacrificing growth.


Still, the two leaders have a considerable distance to go.


For Mr. Hu, this means becoming much more specific about his encouraging pledges. On Tuesday, he promised to reduce the rate of growth in carbon dioxide emissions between now and 2020 by a “notable margin” — at which point, he implied, China would seek to reduce them in absolute terms. This vague formulation is unlikely to pass muster in Copenhagen. An agreement does not have to be one-size-fits-all, but every country should be obliged to make real and verifiable commitments. Mr. Obama recognizes the urgency of the problem. He will have to work hard to persuade a Democratic-controlled Senate (the House has acted) to see it as well and to pass strong legislation committing the United States to binding cuts in greenhouse gases.


The president made much of the regulatory steps he had taken or planned to take to control emissions, and the investments he had made in cleaner technologies. Legislation, however, remains essential to America’s claim to leadership and to getting an international deal.


For years, China and the United States have engaged in a dangerous Alphonse-and-Gaston routine, using each other’s inaction to shirk their responsibility. Both leaders agreed that it is past time for this dance to end. Though much more will be required to produce a credible, comprehensive agreement, that is progress.








Tom DeLay was icing his foot and resting his booty.


On Monday, his debut as a dancing fool (or just a fool, depending on whom you talk to), he had started at 10 a.m. and ended at 10 p.m., and his pre-stress fracture was acting up.


“It swole up a little bit,” he said, on the phone from Los Angeles. “The doctor says to keep icing it.”


That meant a delay in learning the tango from Cheryl Burke, his partner on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” who blessedly had never heard of the guy once dubbed “The Meanest Man in Congress” when he was first assigned to her.


“Cheryl says the tango’s macho, arrogant and aggressive, and I said, ‘That’s me,’ ” he recalled.


The Hammer, who in rehearsal admitted to feeling like “a complete goose” — and not simply because he had his golf shirt tucked into his sweat pants — is clinging to his Texas machismo even as he follows Cheryl’s instruction to find his “feminine side.”


“I’m being more feminine and a little prissy,” he said, using a word that smacks of über-alpha “I am not gay even though I have on heels and sparkles and want a disco-ball trophy” overcompensation.


“My brain is telling my hips, ‘We don’t do that.’ It’s not like a speech or a press conference. This is exposing your soul.


“At the beginning, I told Cheryl, ‘No rhinestones, no frilly shirts and no pink.’ Well, it didn’t take Cheryl two seconds to put rhinestones on me. And she swears she’s going to put ruffles on me for the tango — probably pink.”


It might be a sign of the apocalypse — a frilly Tom DeLay shimmying away from an indictment and onto “Dancing.” It’s certainly a blazing reminder that in our lowbrow-loving, no-attention-span culture, most any scoundrel can do the redemption tango simply by being a good sport.


“I’m very excited for people to see the real Tom DeLay,” the former House majority leader said. The Hammer vigorously flipped his fanny and played air guitar to the tune of the Troggs’ “Wild Thing,” a song that came out in the mid-60s when the teenager was starting at Baylor University in Waco.


“I used to gator to this song in my wild days before I was kicked out of Baylor,” he said. “I was so good they nicknamed me ‘Gator.’ ”


No gatoring on campus, though. The Southern Baptist college banned dancing for 151 years, relenting in 1996.


“Somebody gave the school a student union building that had the most beautiful dance floor you ever saw with the provision that if we ever had a dance, they’d tear it down,” he said. “We had our dances off campus in hotel rooms and parking lots.”

So DeLay, 62, cutting loose in his orthopedic shoes with the cha-cha and his Texas mugshot grin, was the Lipitor version of the finale of “Footloose.” The judges gave him tepid scores in Monday’s male dance-off, but a scandal-plagued former Dallas Cowboy and George Hamilton’s glossy son rated lower.


The man whose house was christened “Macho Manor” back in his party-boy, “Hot Tub Tom” days in the Texas Legislature compared looking for his feminine side to “knocking on a closed door.” But he gave it a shot during his cha-cha by winking and pointing at Bruno Tonioli, the effervescently effeminate judge.


“You’re crazier than Sarah Palin!” Bruno shouted when a winded DeLay was done swiveling in a leopard-skin-sequin-trimmed brown get-up.


“I think that’s a great compliment,” DeLay told me afterward.


Once the Hammer tried to outfox Democrats. Now he’s trying to outfox-trot Donny Osmond. Once he whipped Republicans relentlessly to keep their votes in line. Now he says he and his daughter have “a strategy to whip the vote” on “Dancing.”


“Nothing complicated,” he said. “Twitter. Facebook. My daughter taught me how to tweet.”


The former exterminator drove the loony Clinton impeachment, pushed the nutty Terri Schiavo legislation, gutted the House ethics committee, engaged in gerrymandering schemes, enhanced the pay-to-play political culture and made the Republican Party so sulfurously partisan, ethically suspect and God-centric that voters recoiled.


He dropped out of politics in 2006 after a campaign finance violation indictment and ties to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.


I asked DeLay about Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a watchdog group that had a “Dancing” watching party at a bar here featuring Hammer-tinis — an occasion to reiterate that DeLay was corrupt and should go to jail.


“I wish I could have gone,” said a cheery DeLay, adding that he’s not worried that his foes will skew the voting. “You can’t vote against somebody. You can only vote for me or somebody else.”


Would he want to be on another reality show?


“No,” he said. “I’d probably end up killing somebody on ‘Big Brother.’ ”









BEFORE they were elected, Barack Obama and Kevin Rudd argued against the invasion of Iraq, saying Afghanistan was the first front in the war on terror. It certainly is now. While Iraq stumbles towards stability, the Taliban is defying allied armies in Afghanistan and is intent on re-creating the terrorist regime that controlled the country before the US drove it out in 2001. It is now time for the US President and the Prime Minister to act on their original arguments and create a stronger coalition to carry the fight to the Taliban. This will not be easy. Because Afghanistan is a long way from the West, it is easy to ignore. Certainly the NATO nations are doing so. With the exception of the British and Canadians, NATO has left the Americans to do the fighting. There are 10,000 British troops in the country, with the possibility of more to come, and the US has just about doubled its deployment, to 65,000, since the start of the year. Australia has 1500 personnel on active service in Afghanistan, a significant commitment given our small army is on standby in case it is needed in East Timor or the Pacific.


In contrast, the Europeans are underperforming. Germany has 4000 troops in Afghanistan, from a standing military 250,000 strong. The French commitment is just 3000, leaving 300,000 regulars available for garrison duty at home and minor international deployments. And few other NATO nations have much stomach for the fight. Dutch troops, who work closely with the Australians, will leave next year and the Canadians, whose infantry force has taken heavy casualties, will follow in 2011. While an improved strategy is as important as more soldiers, it is time for NATO to make more than a token commitment to the campaign. The alternative is too appalling to contemplate. The Taliban is a movement of religious fanatics who believe they have divine sanction to slaughter all those who do not share their beliefs. But it is also a gangster organisation committed to making money. While critics correctly point to corruption in the Western-backed Karzai government, a second Taliban state would be infinitely worse. If allowed, the Taliban would turn Afghanistan into a narco-state, where it controlled opium exports but imposed a fundamental interpretation of the Koran. The model for clerical kleptocracy in Afghanistan is the bandit state of Somalia where pirate chiefs use religion as a cover for their crimes.


And what would be a catastrophe for Afghanistan would be a disaster for the rest of the world. The last time the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, it harboured Osama bin Laden. It seems certain a second Taliban state would be a safe haven from which to launch terror attacks across the globe, including at Europe. Mr Obama and Mr Rudd say they have always understood the dangers of Taliban rule. It is time they convinced the Europeans that they have no choice but to join the US, Australian and Britain in taking the terrorists seriously.








PERHAPS frozen climate change negotiations are starting to thaw, both globally and locally. It seems certain no nation wants to be seen as sabotaging the Copenhagen climate change conference before it starts. And UN head Ban Ki-moon is calling for a 'fair deal" as the basis for the Copenhagen talks. It seems he might have cause for confidence. Ahead of a major speech in New York by China's President Hu Jintao on his country's commitment to tackling global warming, Chinese officials were emphasising the country's commitment to dealing with the "real and imminent" threat of climate change. The UN's climate change director, Yvo de Boer, is talking of "his high expectations" of what Mr Hu intends to propose. Even India, which continues to demand action from the US, appears intent on bringing some reduction measures to the negotiating table. It seems a sea-change on climate is in the offing internationally and perhaps at home. Climate Change Minister Penny Wong is saying that if the conservatives can come up with a settled stance on the government's emissions trading scheme by next month, she will consider amending the legislation.


This is all smart politics. While the science may not be settled, people all over the planet are convinced global warming is a problem that requires an international approach. And remembering how George W. Bush was blamed for refusing to submit the Kyoto Protocols on climate change to the US Senate for ratification, no national leader wants to be the one seen to stymie a deal by putting his or her country's economic interest above the good of the globe. If the emerging Asian economies can convince the world this week they are serious about addressing their emissions, the developed world will have to negotiate. The same applies at home. With Newspoll showing 67 per cent support for the Rudd government's overall Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Malcolm Turnbull has few options other than to demand the sceptics in his party support negotiations. It may not matter all that much whether Australia has an ETS before Copenhagen, and there are many devils in the detail. But if the Opposition Leader does not negotiate, the government will accuse him of being a climate change denier. On the basis of minor government concessions in the Senate last month, the Liberals supported the first set of climate change legislation, the renewable energy targets. They may do it again.


A great deal can still change before we have global and local deals to reduce carbon emissions. The cuts energy-intensive economies such as Australia can afford will not impress the big Asian polluters at Copenhagen. And President Barack Obama, like his predecessors, will struggle to convince congress that the US needs to make major cuts. But while the world will not have a commitment to cut carbon emissions by Christmas that will please everybody, it is starting to look like there will be a scheme of sorts.








HUNDREDS of thousands of people from around Australia and the world have discovered Byron Bay over the past four decades, prompting local residents to discuss "raising the drawbridge" to preserve their idyllic quality of life. After decades as a small hamlet based on timber-getting, dairying, whaling, sand mining and the now-defunct meatworks and dairy works, the shire's superb beaches, rainforests and landscapes began attracting large numbers of visitors in the 1960s, with the influx rising to 1.7million annually.


Residents expect their council to limit development to avoid overcrowding and overtaxing local infrastructure and facilities. But in stopping homeowners building seawalls to protect their properties from erosion, and barring investors from renting their properties, the Greens-dominated council has shown it is devoid of common sense. Its extremism in disregarding the basic rights of property ownership would have better suited the Soviet era.


The local economy is losing from bans preventing investors letting their holiday homes. Given that the owners are entitled to occupy the properties, or presumably to lend them to family and friends without rent, such a measure can have only a limited impact on overcrowding. If the council is serious about turning away large numbers of visitors, it could look at closing a caravan park or two, although it would be better to leave them open to give as many people as possible the chance to enjoy Byron.


Under its "planned retreat" policy aimed at encouraging waterfront property owners to relocate, residents have been told they are not allowed even to sandbag their properties to protect them from erosion. The council's greenhouse action strategy claims sea levels will rise by "up to 80cm" by 2100. But decades before the term climate change was coined, people living along the coast knew that using sandbags and building walls after cyclones, storms and occasional high swells was part of life. The least waterfront owners can expect is to be allowed to maintain the properties on which they pay high council rates.


In a recent paper on the conflict, Ralf Buckley, director of the International Centre for Ecotourism Research at Griffith University, said sea-level rises due to climate change, past and future, were no different at Byron to elsewhere on the east coast, and are below the global average. But it was "only in Byron Shire that the risks ... have been so wildly misrepresented" and "political power-plays" were preventing a solution.


The NSW government has told the shire to reconsider, but Mayor Jan Barham is not budging, claiming the government is 'very Sydney-centric". Ms Barham should consider that at least six councils have been sacked in NSW since 2003, for reasons ranging from corruption to incompetence. It is time her council planned its own retreat. The metaphorical drawbridge is no excuse for stripping property owners' rights.









THE big game of brinkmanship at the climate summit in the United States - between developed and developing countries over who will cut greenhouse gas emissions first, and how much - is mirrored by the little one between the Government and the Opposition over Australia's approach. The withdrawal of Andrew Robb as the Opposition's climate change spokesman, with Ian Macfarlane replacing him, has brought more than a change of faces. Macfarlane, John Howard's industry minister, has been a conservative on climate change. With him has come a hardening of the Opposition's stance. The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, has presumably calculated Macfarlane is more likely to achieve a Coalition consensus than someone more sympathetic to climate scientists and environmentalists. In the worldwide disagreement on this issue, unity matters more to the Opposition than far-sightedness.


The Coalition wants big concessions to farming and industries which use energy heavily before it will support the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme in the Senate. The Government has been threatening to take the issue to voters in a double dissolution of Parliament. But yesterday's revelation that the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, has told the Coalition to settle on a position by October 19 is a welcome hint the Government wants to do a deal rather than dissolve Parliament, and it wants to deal with the Coalition (and hence farmers and business) rather than with the Greens and independents. Labor and the Coalition, in other words, are aligned in their approach to climate change, if not yet on policy.


Certainly a double dissolution should be avoided. It would be a de facto referendum on the response to global warming and has the potential to crystallise divisions and stop progress when flexibility and room for manoeuvre are needed. The last election gave Kevin Rudd a mandate to deal with the issue; the Opposition should respect it. A double dissolution, too, with smaller quotas for a Senate seat, which give fringe candidates a better chance, might well see the Senate position unresolved - the Government still short of a majority and relying on cross-bench senators, but worse off because its position had just been confirmed.


Yet the upshot of all this politicking is disappointing, to put it mildly. Australia is likely to go to the Copenhagen talks in December with a position which is a compromise on a compromise - with scientists arguing all the while that the cuts proposed in carbon emissions are too slight to make a difference. Small wonder the Prime Minister is already busy lowering expectations about the likely outcome there.








THE Defence Minister, John Faulkner, has made the right decision in overriding his department to release secret advice urging the closure of military bases in three states and the creation of so-called super-bases.


Ian Williams, a senior Defence official, had argued that to release details of the independent report, which was commissioned to advise the department how to make the $20 billion in savings the Government wants it to find, would arouse unnecessary speculation and anxiety. As far as the Richmond RAAF base is concerned, there will probably still be plenty of that: the runway might form the nucleus of a second civilian airport for Sydney, neatly cutting through decades of dithering.


However, the Defence bureaucracy will not be too worried that the report's details have become public: speculation and anxiety might in fact suit it by raising the political pressure to keep the bases and forget about the savings. Already the Opposition has said it would oppose any closures and that super-bases are unnecessary. The recent white paper, Force 2030, gave the services a big boost in resources and equipment, in return for a small trade-off in the $20 billion savings. But Defence wants to have its cake and eat it, too.


The department has long been a protected species, guaranteed a 3 per cent annual increase in its budget. Though regional analysts may differ over the threat posed to Australia by China's military rise which concerned the authors of Force 2030, the white paper argued that US influence and firepower in the region are waning and that new submarines, fighters, helicopters and frigates are essential if Australia's armed forces are to control the waters to our north. But budgets are not limitless, and to pay for the extra capability, savings are needed.


Moreover, for more than 20 years internal and external reviews have called for structural and systemic reform of the Australian Defence Force. That $20 billion in savings is considered attainable tells its own story.


It may seem counter-intuitive but reducing the number of military bases strengthens our defence structure. Small bases are inefficient. Australian military chiefs agree that more super-bases like those in Darwin and Townsville are needed. A new departmental secretary, Dr Ian Watt, has been appointed to make the cuts.


But closing bases loses votes, and many of them are in marginal electorates. Action, or inaction, on these closures will show whether the Government has the courage to see through the cuts and the overdue reforms to Defence which they entail.








GENERALS rarely say they have all the troops they need to do the job properly. But when General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, advises the Pentagon that the war against the Taliban will be lost without more troops and a change of strategy, it may be assumed that he is not just issuing an ambit claim. General McChrystal's 66-page report, leaked to The Washington Post, is an indictment of NATO's conduct of the war and of President Hamid Karzai's Government, and a warning that the US and its allies are courting disaster in Afghanistan.


General McChrystal's analysis is not itself new. Observers of the conflict have expressed similar fears before in the eight years since the US-led invasion of the country toppled the former Taliban regime. What is new, however, is that such a senior American officer is making the case so frankly, and as a matter of urgency. The Obama Administration, General McChrystal believes, must decide whether it really wants to defeat the Taliban insurgency, and must recognise that it cannot do so without extra forces and without accepting a higher casualty rate. If it is not prepared to do whatever it takes to win, it should quit now and avoid those casualties.


The general, a former special forces officer, argues that if NATO is to have any chance of military success it must abandon its strategy of protecting its forces within secure bases and concentrate instead on protecting Afghan civilians. That would make increased NATO casualties inevitable, but as General McChrystal points out, it is the reluctance of large sections of the population to resist the Taliban, for fear they will win, that is making the war unwinnable. The Afghan people do not believe NATO can protect them, and the fact that the Karzai Government is rife with corruption does not help those trying to make the case that it is a better alternative to the Taliban. The Government's democratic legitimacy has also been undermined by the low turnout in last month's presidential election. If President Karzai's re-election is confirmed, he will be able to claim the support of barely 15 per cent of eligible voters.


The other thing that is new is President Obama's reaction to General McChrystal's report. For the first time, he appears to be wavering on the commitment to Afghanistan. Hitherto that commitment has had a clear purpose in his mind: to protect America by killing or capturing those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In pursuit of that aim, by the end of the year he will have increased the number of US troops in the country to 68,000, up from 38,000 when he took office. But he has declined General McChrystal's demand for an immediate further boost, saying that deciding the right strategy is more important.


Mr Obama, of course, like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in this country, must deal with a problem that the general does not have. Polls consistently show that a majority of US voters do not support the war, nor do they share Mr Obama's belief that it is necessary for the defence of America. Similar scepticism is widespread here in Australia, and in other nations supplying troops to the NATO force. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has hinted that he may withdraw his country's forces, a decision that Canada and the Netherlands have already made. Germany, too, may follow suit if the Merkel Government is not returned in next Sunday's election.


Faced with both the unpopularity of the war in the US and General McChrystal's insistence that more troops are necessary, Mr Obama may seek those extra forces from remaining members of the international coalition. Mr Rudd has virtually ruled out increasing Australia's 1550-strong contingent, while also maintaining that his Government continues to support Mr Obama's war aims.


The danger for both men is that they will listen neither to their best military advice nor to the voters. General McChrystal has set out in very clear terms what victory in Afghanistan requires, but if Mr Obama is not willing to accept that commitment he should heed the rest of the general's advice and withdraw. Persisting in an unwinnable war would be the worst course of all. Mr Rudd, for his part, should acknowledge frankly the reasons for Australia's continued participation in the war. Is it because the Government really believes it is vital to Australian security, or does it rather see the war as the price of the US alliance? If it is the latter, the example of the Vietnam War suggests that Australian defence policy should be determined above all by what is in the national interest.








THE global financial crisis may have put the issue of soaring executive remuneration under the spotlight but that has not deterred corporate Australia from providing golden parachutes to departing chiefs, even after a less-than-stunning performance at the helm.


The latest instalment of corporate excess to grab headlines concerns Qantas former chief executive Geoff Dixon's final payout of almost $11 million for 2008-09. This weighs in at just under last year's controversial $12.2 million package, but is in some ways even more objectionable, considering Mr Dixon spent just five months of the year in the hot seat (he worked as a consultant for another four). The airline during the same period shed 1750 jobs, sought another $1.5 billion in cost savings and profits dived by 88 per cent, with shareholders denied a second-half dividend.


It's worth pointing out that Mr Dixon deserves credit for Qantas reporting a profit during the downturn- many other airlines fared less well - and for launching the low-cost carrier Jetstar. His departing package was padded by more than $3 million to offset Howard government changes to superannuation laws that would have left him disadvantaged. These packages are sometimes creatively configured, of course, and the high-flyers do not disguise their sense of entitlement, arguing that if executive remuneration is capped, ''talent'' will flee to richer pastures offshore.


It would be nice to believe the days of this warped market are numbered, now that executive greed has finally made it on to the agenda of global leaders seeking financial reforms. Proposed federal laws requiring shareholder approval for termination payments above one year's base pay are at least a start.











He inherited two wars, a banking crash and years of inaction on the world's most intractable dispute – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is it any wonder that, eight months on, Barack Obama's outstretched hand has still to pluck its first fruit? And yet movement is so slow, it barely registers. The US special representative George Mitchell has conducted five tours of the region. Last week he shuttled back and forth between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli prime minister's office seven times.


What has been achieved? On settlements, an offer to freeze construction for nine months, with the exception of 2,500 housing units already under construction and 500 more that are planned. The gap between that and Hillary Clinton's words in May ("He [Mr Obama] wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not 'natural growth' exceptions") is so stark as to rob any new formula of its meaning. Apart from that, a few road blocks in the West Bank have been dismantled – although two major components of an economic revival, a new town north of Ramallah and a second mobile phone operation, have so far been blocked by Israel.


The Palestinian Authority, for its part, has made tangible improvements on law and order in the West Bank and the training of security forces. For an inherently weak leader, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is being unusually firm in his demand that he will not restart talks unless settlement construction is frozen. Maybe it is because he had a successful Fatah conference in Bethlehem and has good relations with Washington. But the sum total of these efforts is still zero.


So the vultures are circling. Show us deeds, not fine words, the cry goes up from Arab capitals. And in Israel, the air is thick with claims that Mr Netanyahu has run rings around the US president. Had Mr Obama chosen the dismantling of far-flung outposts rather than all settlement construction as the issue on which to press the Likud leader, he could have split the Israeli mainstream from its extremes, it is argued. All this is premature.


The search for a basis for talks is still going on. No one who witnessed Mr Mitchell in action in Northern Ireland should doubt his determination. With their strongest ally so doggedly engaged, neither Mr Netanyahu nor Mr Abbas is in a position to walk away from anything. And while that remains the case, Mr Netanyahu is subject to steady pressure on settlements. To succeed, Mr Obama has to move the parameters of the entire debate in Israel, for moderates and hardliners alike, towards the inevitability of a Palestinian state. It will take remorseless pressure, but it will, in the end, pay dividends.







Few forces are more powerful than the magnetic pull that developed countries exert on the rest of the world. Across deserts, over rapids or bundled into trucks, untold thousands make the journey every year; many more who arrive legally stay on after their paperwork expires. Perhaps it is nagging insecurity – the private acknowledgment that this is one phenomenon that it is way beyond their capacity to undo – that makes politicians so peculiarly desperate to be seen to be doing something or other about illegal immigration. "Act now, think later" has become the orthodoxy, but it has perverse consequences, as was seen on both sides of the Channel yesterday.


On the English side, the attorney general found herself caught out by heavy-handed legislation which she had personally steered through the Lords. When Baroness Scotland employed an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper, she checked all the documents but failed to – as the new law requires – make photocopies and so was served with a civil penalty of some £5,000. It hardly makes a difference that the legislation was designed to deal instead with cases of exploited, trafficked labour; nor that the young woman in question is married to a Briton and so could, easily enough, have obtained the right to remain. For the country's senior law officer to fall foul of the law is itself a serious matter, and even though the prime minister eventually decided she should stay yesterday, her career hangs by a thread.


In France, meanwhile, the police dismantled the immigrant camp near Calais that has become known as "the jungle". The UK authorities pushed Paris to take down the shantytown, which housed Afghans hoping to make a dash to Dover. The undoubtedly squalid conditions of the camp were highlighted to explain the urgency of clearing it – an intriguing contrast with the argument used for closing the nearby Red Cross facility at Sangatte in 2002, which was then said to represent an advertisement for seeking asylum in the UK. Many of those in the jungle were planning to stow away with cargo bound for Britain, which is a very dangerous thing to do. But there seems no clear plan for what will now happen to the former residents who were rounded up yesterday. The Refugee Council, which visited the site in May, warns that simply closing it is not in itself any solution at all. Sangatte, after all, originally opened in the 1990s because Calais was littered with rough sleepers. The lack of a viable alternative to the jungle will prevent Afghans arriving in Pas-de-Calais, but instead risks them arriving to live on the streets once more.


So the "delight" the Home Office proclaimed yesterday was as misplaced as its cheap condemnation of "asylum shoppers". An asylum process is of course required to distinguish arrivals driven by economic hopes and those driven by political despair. But despite the rule that claims should be lodged in the first EU state reached, the French have made it so awkward in Calais that this summer the United Nations high commissioner for refugees announced it was setting up shop in the town. Consequently, most of the Afghans have not yet made a claim, so neither the Home Office nor anyone else can know whether their stories are genuine. Furthermore, there are unaccompanied children in Calais seeking to link up with relatives in Britain – hardly an ambition to dismiss as shopping.


In truth asylum is a European issue which will require a pan-European solution. The way to tackle internal pressure points, such as Calais, is to broker a new deal between EU states on the sharing of asylum duties. Currently, states pass the buck, with many effectively turning virtually all claims down automatically. To put things right, the politicians would have to prioritise quiet diplomacy over noisy action. But yesterday reminded us that, with immigration, being seen to act is still what counts – regardless of how perverse the effects might be.






The producers of Strictly Come Dancing must have thought they were on to a sure thing in copying The X Factor's ploy of putting a former reality TV contestant on the panel


A not-very-good twentysomething pop singer (with a thing for dodgy footballers) gets convicted for aHillary Clinton's words in Mayctual bodily harm on a nightclub toilet attendant – only to be reborn a few years later as a celebrity judge on a TV talent show. Another not-very-good young pop singer (with a thing for dodgy rappers) debuts as a celebrity TV judge – and bombs. The parallel between Cheryl Cole and Alesha Dixon is not accidental; the producers of Strictly Come Dancing must have thought they were on to a sure thing in copying The X Factor's ploy of putting a former reality-TV contestant on the panel to give an accessible performer's perspective. But while Cole is advancing on national-treasure status (on the grounds that she, um, wears a frock well), Dixon has been slated. She has prompted complaints to the BBC, provided sustenance for angry radio phone-ins, and been denounced by newspaper columnists. The Sun's man yesterday wrote that "nobody can take her seriously", the Mirror's woman sighed over "the bland Alesha-isms" (Cole is, of course, a latter-day Dorothy Parker). Let us get this straight: Dixon's main crime is that she is not Arlene Phillips – and the Strictly team must now realise they should have jettisoned one of the dull male judges. Her second sin is that she cannot deliver snappily entertaining soundbites – yet. But restaurants should not be judged on their opening night, and Dixon does have star quality. She deserves a break – as do poor old newspaper columnists, who must be bored with writing about shows they have barely watched.








U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to abandon plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe to counter an Iranian missile threat. The way it was carried out raises questions about U.S. commitments to its allies. The missile defense program is a partnership between Washington and its allies. As such, decisions regarding its future should be made together, not imposed by one on another.


Still, Mr. Obama's decision makes sense. It has removed the probably greatest barrier to the progress of negotiations between the United States and Russia for nuclear arms reductions. It is strongly hoped that the U.S. and Russia will make a great step forward to conclude their negotiations by yearend.


Concerned about the prospect of Iranian missiles attacking the U.S. and its European allies, former U.S. President George W. Bush developed a plan that would deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic and 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland. That decision infuriated Russia, which insisted that the deployment threatened to neutralize its nuclear deterrent, a charge that the U.S. consistently denied. Equally important for Moscow but rarely stated outright was fear that the integration of the two countries more deeply into the U.S. defense system would undercut Russian influence in an area that it considers part of its sphere of influence.


Yet, on Sept. 16, Mr. Obama announced that he was scrapping the planned deployment and would instead use smaller missiles, first on ships, and then later on land, to counter the Iranian threat. As Mr. Obama explained, "President Bush was right that Iran's ballistic missile program poses a significant threat." Assessments of that threat have changed, however.


Now, the chief danger is seen as emanating from short- and medium-range missiles, rather than the long-range missiles for which the original deployments were best suited. It is also thought that moving the interceptors further south will offer more defense for Israel, another U.S. ally threatened by Iranian missiles. (More security for Israel would also dampen the enthusiasm in that country to launch a preemptive strike against Iran.)


Anticipating criticism, Mr. Obama noted: "This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems and offer greater defenses against the threat of missile attack than the 2007 European missile defense program."


For many observers, the real issue is not defense against Iranian missiles. Rather, this move is seen as part of the broader U.S. effort to reset relations with Russia, which the Obama administration has made a priority. Eliminating the missile defense irritant is a big step forward in that effort.


Ideally, Washington can now enlist Moscow to help halt the Iranian nuclear program, an effort for which Russia has thus farshown little enthusiasm. It could also lessen Russia's objections to strategic arms cuts. Russian leaders have responded to the move positively, applauding it as a "responsible approach" and for respecting their national concerns.


In his visit to Moscow in July, Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,500 to 1,675 and that of launchers to 500 to 1,100, under a new treaty to succeed START-1 (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty-1), which expires in December. It is hoped that in a short time the world will be able to see a concrete payoff from Mr. Obama's move.


But while relations with Russia may improve, there is a distinct chill coming from Europe. The governments of Poland and the Czech Republic took considerable criticism from their publics for agreeing to the U.S. deployments in the first place. The governments are angry that they took that heat for nothing, and worry that their security is being traded for better relations between Washington and Moscow. As one counter to that criticism, the U.S. has agreed to deploy a significant number of smaller interceptors in Poland.


While U.S. officials say there was consultation with European allies, there appeared to be a scramble to reassure the two countries, both of which belong to NATO. In a late-night phone call to leaders of the two countries, Mr. Obama repeated the U.S. commitment to their defense and reaffirmed "our deep and close ties." The timing also suggests that the announcement of the decision on the European missile defense system may have been premature: It was made the day before the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the start of World War II.


In Asia, China worries that U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Asia — which Japan is joining — could undermine its nuclear deterrent. It may complain loudly to the U.S. Japan and the U.S. need to correctly assess the nature of the threats they face and consider the most appropriate way to deal with them. In doing so, they should pay utmost attention to minimizing friction and maximizing stability in the region.










CINDERFORD, England — Yukio Hatoyama and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) have finally taken up the reins of power after their stunning election victory Aug. 30. The promise of their manifesto is change. With politicians on top and bureaucrats on tap, Japan is to develop a proactive autonomous foreign policy that establishes a more balanced Japan-U.S. alliance, strengthens Japan's trade relations and promotes measures to prevent global warming. Interestingly, this agenda is echoed in Brussels.


Yet in the 30 pages of the DPJ's "Platform for Government," the European Union is not mentioned on a single occasion; nor is it in the "Policy Agreement upon the Establishment of a Coalition Government," signed Sept. 9 by the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party.


While one understands the need to emphasize the establishment of cooperative mechanisms in East Asia that would build toward an East Asian Community, it seems to be a mistake to play down the EU to this extent. After all, the EU is bigger than the United States, richer than the U.S. and gives more assistance to the Third World than the U.S. Moreover, Washington has played the EU and Japan off against each other. More autonomy requires new allies.


While there is a specific commitment to promote the liberalization of trade and investment through the conclusion of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S., nothing is said about the EU, presumably subsumed under the phrase "as well as countries throughout the world." Yet the economic case is crystal clear. Combined EU-Japan trade is almost 40 percent of the world's total, and the EU is overwhelmingly the biggest source of foreign direct investment into Japan.


The political case is even clearer. Both the U.S. and EU have been negotiating FTAs with Seoul. An FTA between South Korean and the U.S. was finally signed last year at the end of the Bush administration after facing massive opposition and demonstrations in South Korea.


Now the FTA is in limbo as the Obama administration wants to renegotiate it, something that may be impossible for South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to accept in view of the domestic backdrop. Without a renegotiation, Obama is so in hock to the Democrats and the motor lobby that the proposal will be difficult to put to Congress and almost impossible to get ratified.


By contrast, the EU-South Korea agreement has been comparatively trouble-free. There was opposition in Seoul but it was largely ritual. Certainly, the numbers on the street could be counted in the dozens rather than thousands. The agreement is close to being initialed with a late massage on duty drawback on the one side and the German elections to be out the way on the other. The reason is simple.


While there are enormous clashes on agriculture between South Korea and the U.S., these are largely absent with the EU. The EU does not produce much rice. The implementation of a deal like the EU-South Korea FTA would hugely disadvantage Japan for two reasons.


First, South Korean manufacturers would for the first time have an advantage over Japanese domestic producers. Second, Japanese motor manufacturers in Europe would be badly hit. All the surveys indicate that the 600,000 Korean cars expected to be sold in the EU after the six-year transition period lapses would almost exclusively be at the expense of Japanese production in Europe.


Any attempt by Japan to negotiate an FTA with the U.S. would have the same problems regarding agriculture as were discovered by Seoul and would fly in the face of the incoming government's commitment to revitalizing agriculture, forestry and fisheries and to making Japan self-sufficient in staple grains.


Rather than neglect the EU on trade, Japan should embrace it. Agriculture is less problematic and there is an opportunity to go far beyond a simple FTA to an economic integration agreement (EIA). This would embrace the EU's four freedoms — the movement of goods, services, capital and people — with cooperation on regulation, food safety and procurement plus an integrated approach to research, development and innovation, and an environment-friendly society.


Japanese and European industry have seen the opportunity with the EU-Japan Business Round Table urging in its report June 22 the "early commencement of a joint bilateral study into a Japan-EU EIA to be undertaken by industry, government and academia, on the basis of a high level bilateral initiative."


This would all neatly mesh with the new government's commitment to a low-carbon economy and low-carbon industries. The EU has led the way here and welcomes the commitment on these issues by the new government in Tokyo. But to advance the agenda the EU and Japan need to work in tandem to ensure global rules are not written to disadvantage the green new deal that both sides are trying to deliver at a cost to the two domestic economies.


Some of Japan's companies are embracing the need to move toward low-carbon and even carbon-neutral products and lifestyles. All of the above will be helped by taking Europe seriously.


Glyn Ford, a former member of the European Parliament, is an associate with GPlus Europe.








STRASBOURG, France — After almost two decades as a failed state torn by civil war, perhaps the world should begin to admit that Somalia — as it is currently constructed — is beyond repair.


Some of the country, however, can meet at least a basic standard of governance. The northernmost region, Somaliland, situated strategically at the opening to the Red Sea and home to roughly 3.5 million of Somalia's 10 million people, is more or less autonomous and stable. But this stability fuels fears that Somaliland's people will activate the declaration of independence they adopted in 1991.


At the end of September, Somaliland will hold its third presidential election, the previous two having been open and competitive. Unlike many developing countries, it will welcome foreign observers to oversee the elections, though, unfortunately, most Western countries and agencies will stay away, lest their presence be seen as legitimizing Somaliland's de facto government.


But Somaliland's strategic position near the world's major oil-transport routes, now plagued by piracy, and chaos in the country's south, mean that independence should no longer be dismissed out of hand.


Indeed, following a fact-finding mission in 2007, a consensus is emerging within the European Union that an African Union country should be the first to recognize Somaliland's independence. A 2005 report by Patrick Mazimhaka, a former AU deputy chairman, provides some leeway for this, as Mazimhaka pointed out that the union in 1960 between Somaliland and Somalia, following the withdrawal of the colonial powers (Britain and Italy), was never formally ratified.


Ethiopia is the obvious candidate to spearhead recognition, given its worries about jihadi unrest in Somalia. Moreover, landlocked Ethiopia uses Somaliland's port of Berbera. Yet Ethiopia may hesitate, owing to its fears that formally recognizing Somaliland's independence could undermine Somalia's fragile Western-backed transitional federal government (TFG). But, as Somalia's new president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, is an ex-head of the Islamic Courts, Ethiopia may choose the current status quo in Somaliland over the dream of stabilizing Somalia.


The key regional obstacle to recognition is Saudi Arabia, which not only objects to the secular, democratic model promoted by Somaliland, but is a strong ally of Somalia, which is a member of the Arab League (despite not being Arab) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Saudi Arabia supports the TFG financially and politically. Saudi pressure on Somaliland has ranged from banning livestock imports between 1996-2006, to threatening to reject the Somaliland passports of Hajj pilgrims.


When Somaliland's people vote at the end of September, they will not be deciding explicitly on secession, but their steady effort at state building does amplify their claims to independence. So, two years after Kosovo's independence, and a year after Russian troops wrenched Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia, it is high time for diplomats and statesmen to provide some guidelines as to when and in what circumstances secession is likely to be acceptable.


Does any self-selected group anywhere have the right to declare independence? If so, the richest parts of any country could decide to go it alone, thus impoverishing their fellow citizens. Even if greed is ruled out as an acceptable motive, in favor of traditional ethno-cultural nationalism, a profusion of tiny tribal states might make the world far more unstable.


Moreover, does anyone, for example, want to see China return to the years of bloody warlordism of the early 20th century? Not likely. Thus clear principles are needed, as neither self-determination nor the inviolability of national borders can be treated as sacrosanct in every case.


Let me outline some basic principles: * No outside forces should either encourage or discourage secession, and the barriers for recognizing secession should be set high. Secession is in itself neither good nor bad: Like divorce, it may make people more (or less) content. * A declaration of independence should be recognized only if a clear majority (well over 50 percent-plus-one of the voters) have freely chosen it. * The new state must guarantee that any minorities it drags along — say, Russians in the Baltic states, or Serbs in Kosovo — will be decently treated. * Secessionists should have a reasonable claim to being a national group that, preferably, enjoyed stable self- government in the past on the territory they claim. Nations need not be ethnically based; few are entirely. But most nations are unified by language, a shared history of oppression or some other force of history.


By this, admittedly subjective, measure, Somaliland qualifies as a nation. It was briefly independent in 1960 (for five days) after the British withdrawal, before throwing in its lot with the formerly Italian south, a decision which its people have regretted ever since. In this brief period, 35 countries, including Egypt, Israel and the five permanent members of the Security Council, recognized Somaliland diplomatically.


If Somaliland's imminent multiparty elections are reasonably fair and open, the outside world, including the AU and the United Nations, will need to reconsider its status, which has been fudged since the collapse of Siad Barre's regime in 1991. All three of Somaliland's parties contesting the forthcoming election are adamant about wanting recognition of the region's independence, which was confirmed overwhelmingly by a referendum in 2001. There is no question of one clan or faction imposing independence on the others.


Given the interests of all the world's great powers in stabilizing the Horn of Africa, there does seem to be movement toward accepting Somaliland's claims. An independent Somaliland could be a force for stability and good governance in an otherwise hopeless region. The world may soon need to test whether the controversial principles it brought to bear in Kosovo have the same meaning in Africa.


Charles Tannock is spokesman on the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. © 2009 Project Syndicate









Indonesia's economy will most likely expand faster in the third quarter than in the second due primarily to robust consumer spending during Ramadan and Idul Fitri celebrations between the last week of August and the end of this week.


The economy grew by 4 percent in the second quarter and 4.4 percent in the first - the fastest pace of economic expansion in Southeast Asia - as higher commodity prices boosted rural income, and a peaceful presidential election and the re-election of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono buoyed consumer spending and investment. Consumer confidence has indeed remained strong.


Department stores and supermarkets have rung up much higher sales over the past four weeks. Likewise, car rentals and motorcycle and mobile phone distributors booked robust business. Mobile phone operators also reported much larger sales revenues.


Bank Indonesia injected, through commercial banks, Rp 150 trillion (US$15 billion) in banknotes into circulation, and deployed armored trucks across Jakarta filled with banknotes to dispense small bills over the past three weeks to meet the needs of revelers.


State-owned lender BNI, the Indonesian bank with the largest international branch network, reported much higher monthly remittances from hundreds of thousands Indonesian workers overseas, especially in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Middle East. Last month, remittances totaled Rp 17.35 trillion, up 17 percent from Rp 14.82 trillion in July. In the first eight months of this year, total remittances exceeded Rp 100 trillion.


State pawnshops did more transactions than in the previous month, as even people who were stone broke went to such extremes as pawning their valuables, such as jewelry or motorcycles, to get cash to join the exodus back home.


Welcome to Idulfitrinomics, the time of the year when an estimated 28 million of people in major cities across the country with the world's largest Muslim population made their way home to celebrate Idul Fitri with their parents and relatives. From Jakarta alone, an estimated 3.25 million people took part in the exodus.


This is the annual mass exodus from urban areas, locally known as mudik, when millions of people - street vendors, beggars, maids, company workers, construction laborers, civil servants - return to their hometowns to share with their relatives their joy, wealth and the fruits of their hard toils in the cities.


It is also a great consolation that during the period of Ramadan and Idul Fitri, the prices of basic food commodities, except sugar, and most other consumer goods remained stable, thanks to adequate supplies and smooth distribution.


Some estimate almost Rp 100 trillion will be pumped into the rural economy during the one week of Idul Fitri festivities between Sept. 18 and 26, generating an enormously strong market demand for goods and services, thereby fueling private consumption, which has been the main driver of economic growth.


As usual, for Jakarta residents this week is also the annual season to enjoy the rarely smooth traffic that descends when the city's population has been reduced by almost a third. But the efficient traffic will not contribute anything to the economy, as production operations, especially manufacturing, mostly stop during the weeklong holiday.








If one walks along the Ganges River in Benares, India, one keeps hearing the phrase "Shanti, shanti, shanti", meaning "peace, peace, peace", and when used in English, one understands it as "farewell", or "Rest in Peace", or in Hawaii, Aloha. When one sees Jews greeting each other, one hears, "Shalom", and from Muslims, one hears "Salam" or "Al-salaam mu *alaikum: "Peace be upon you." Salaam has many meanings: safety, welfare, prosperity, security, fortune, friendliness, and peace.


There is no religion, faith, or spiritualism that does not preach peace, yet one or some religious traditions are singled out as "a religion of the sword", "a religion of violence or terrorism", whereas others as "religion of peace", religion of pacifists, and so on.


It is often forgotten that religions and ideologies have to face occasions when tensions, conflicts, violence, and sometimes wars become inevitable for complicated different reasons: Political, economic, cultural, as well as religious.


Peace is sometimes understood as an absence of aggression, war, violence, or hostility. Peace is when there are healthy interpersonal, inter-group, inter-family, inter-church, international relationships. The causes for the absence or lack of peace can be insecurity, social injustice, economic inequality, ignorance, religious fanaticism, or chauvinist nationalism.


Indeed, some Muslim groups use the sword either in defending or expanding their universalizing faith. But Islam, like any other religion and ideology, can be used for that expansionist zeal as well as for protecting, supporting, and making a difference to make a world a better place to live.


A violent leader is more likely to see the texts such as the Koran as justifying his violent acts against the others he sees as "the enemy".


A peaceful, tolerant leader will see the Koran in an entirely different way. For him and many others the Koran is an inspiration for love of others, coexistence, and peace. They cultivate the ethos of tolerance and non-violence.


Therefore, for us, it is a time to choose whether we act as a loving, peaceful personality or otherwise. As a rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his book "the Dignity of Difference", says, "if religion, or faith, cannot be part of a solution, it will certainly be part of the problem."


Islam shares such common values as love, compassion, freedom, responsibility, and interconnectedness. A Muslim is anyone who loves his or her brothers and sisters and does not kill nor incite killings of self or others. A Muslim is someone whose heart fluctuates but remains controllable and peaceful.


Peace is not a state where there is no noise, trouble or hard work: peace is in the midst of those things and still to be calm in our heart.


Islam also endorses "no coercion in matters of faith", because a coerced faith is neither genuine nor sincere. Islam emphasizes that mankind is made up of brothers and sisters, regardless of religion, race, gender, politics, and economic standing.

Global brotherhood and sisterhood manifests themselves in very local, very personal lives. "And the people of God are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "peace"(Guidance: 63) . "Had not God checked one group of people, there would surely have been destroyed monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is much remembered." (Pilgrimage: 40)


Faith-based communities, local or global, were born out of concern about surrounding social problems. Faiths operate to make a difference. It is therefore necessary for faiths to listen to each other, to understand what the others are working on, to seek common concerns and work in co-existence, while symbolic and ritualistic differences are simply respected and valued.


The writer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor, Religious Studies Department, University of California, Riverside.










Institutes of higher learning - especially research universities - from around the world have been under dual pressures since the arrival of the global economic crisis a year ago. Signs of recovery are seen here and there, but universities remain a low priority in the distribution of resources by governments and still-struggling donor corporations.


This week in Seoul, a symposium of leaders from international and Korean research universities heard top scholars and administrators reveal how their schools have suffered through the year under reduced government subsidies and private endowments which forced them to postpone various globalization schemes and cut down on research expenditures. Applications for master's and Ph.D. programs declined while large percentages of graduates failed to find jobs.


At the same time, research universities came under mounting pressure from the state and society to provide magical solutions to the problems they face under the economic crisis of unseen magnitude. Universities thus had to shift resources from the studies of basic science to applied fields for the purpose of making visible contributions to national recovery efforts, according to presentations at the 2009 International Presidential Forum of global research universities organized by KAIST.


Participants from North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, China and Japan exchanged opinions and visions on institutional management in times of financial crisis, as well as innovation in education and research and the roles of government, universities and industry in the development of sustainable technologies. They were in accord on the need to accelerate globalization on the academic level to tackle the problems facing mankind through borderless cooperation and competition.


With their country showing a rapid pace of recovery, universities in Korea are in a better situation than many of their overseas counterparts, especially considering the substantial government outlays for research and development in "low carbon, green growth" projects that are largely dependent on research universities. The more the government seeks their direct contributions, the harder universities should try to increase transparency and accountability in the use of taxpayer money, so as not to betray the nation's trust in them.


The university presidents' forum introduced a number of pioneering research projects the world's major universities have undertaken in the common endeavors toward "green (sustainable)" development. The Technical University of Denmark, for example, is developing wind power generation with generous government support under the ambitious goal of supplying 80 percent of the nation's energy needs. Kumamoto University of Japan is building a "green city" with clean energy and a clean environment in cooperation with the local government. Likewise KAIST's online electric vehicle and mobile harbor projects are among the government's 20 growth engine projects.


In the wake of the global economic crisis, academia, government and industry find themselves in closer ties as they share new concepts of innovation and development in a common quest for growth. The tripartite cooperation has new significance in the recovery process. To achieve any development objectives, the other two partners must prioritize the funding of universities.






Each time a person from academia is nominated for a high government post, ethical questions are raised by his or her peers or the media, tipped off as to the alleged "plagiarism" of his/her published research papers. We have witnessed some regrettable cases in which the nominees gave up appointment when the controversy was further complicated by other stains in their careers. Whenever such questions are raised, we are puzzled by the ambiguity regarding the division between right and wrong.


It seems that five categories have been established by academic sleuths to apply to the alleged offense by the candidates from academia. Most condemned is plagiarism which, according to the dictionary, means the unauthorized use or close imitation of the words and thoughts of another author as one's own original work. The second category is "self-plagiarism," which is defined as using a part of one's own article in a different paper without proper reference.


Next comes multiple publications of the same or virtually same articles in different journals. The publishing of the translation in a foreign language of a previously published treatise is also picked up as a case of violation. Prime Minister-nominee Chung Woon-chan is said to have committed this type of offense. Lastly, there are instances of listing one's name as a co-author without having actually contributed to the published research.


It is amazing that critics are able to discover the articles, chapters, paragraphs and lines in question so accurately. We wonder how these supposed violations of academic protocols had not been exposed until the time of appointment to government positions, since being a university professor should call for the same or even higher standards of moral judgment as taking the office of cabinet minister or presidential secretary.


In human affairs, everything needs to be judged by the intent of the doer. There can be inadvertent omissions of references because the author believed in earnest that certain ideas were his own, forgetting that they had originated from others. We would also have to think of the saying that nothing is 100 percent creative in the world of knowledge. It actually sounds nonsensical that so-called "self-plagiarism" and the translation of one's own paper should become the targets of criticism.


If one produced a paper by putting together the findings of others just to meet a given deadline or a quota of academic production, the author cannot evade censure. If one allowed his or her name to be listed as a co-author after offering some broad guidance and advice in the research, it does not warrant putting his or her integrity to doubt.








English-speaking people are well-known for their appropriation of foreign names. Sometimes they change the spelling, for example, from Platon and Aristoteles to Plato and Aristotle, and from Italia and Roma to Italy and Rome. Latin names such as Marcus Antonius, Horatius and Ovidius become Mark Antony, Horatio and Ovid in English. Sometimes they pronounce foreign proper nouns in their own English way: Nietzsche and Goete, for instance, are often pronounced as Nietzschi and Goeti.


Koreans, too, tend to alter, albeit slightly, the structures of foreign languages to better suit their native tongue. That is to say, when Koreans speak English, they tend to "Koreanize" the language into something more familiar and comfortable. For example, the Korean language does not mandate the use of definite and indefinite articles. For example, one says "I like apples" or "Bring me an (the) apple" in English. However, when using Korean, one can simply say, "I like apple," or "Bring me apple."


Korean movie titles are the perfect example of such a tendency. For example, the popular American television drama, "Legend of the Seeker" is referred to as "Legend of Seeker" in Korea. Likewise the Hollywood movie, "Enemy of the State," is called "Enemy of State." Similarly, "The Black Dahlia" is written as "Black Dahlia," and "A Beautiful Mind" as simply "Beautiful Mind." "The Incredible Hulk" was naturally translated as "Incredible Hulk" without the "The." Likewise, "The Peacemaker," "The Pelican Brief" and "The Lawnmower Man" are called "Peacemaker," "Pelican Brief" and "Lawnmower."


For some reason, Koreans do not seem to like words ending with an "s," either, and thus tend to pronounce many words without the "s." For example, "Macy's," "McDonald's," and "Wendy's" are pronounced as "Macy," "McDonald" and "Wendy" with the "s" conveniently omitted. Koreans change not only the names of fast food restaurants, supermarkets and department stores, but movie titles as well: "Behind Enemy Lines," "Long Riders," and "Tomorrow Never Dies" have been changed into "Behind Enemy Line," "Long Rider," and "Tomorrow Never Die." Likewise, the Korean titles of "Austin Powers," "Assassins" and "Bad Boys" are "Austin Power," "Assassin" and "Bad Boy." The list of examples is endless.


Using an incorrect foreign word can cause problems sometimes. For example, Koreans call gasoline "oil," which can lead to confusion when a Korean driver wants to fill up at a full-service gas station in the United States or United Kingdom. Once, I was walking along a street in an American city when a Korean student's car abruptly stopped at an intersection. Because one can get a ticket for blocking an intersection, the Korean student panicked. He called out to me to help him push his car to a nearby gas station. Once at the station, the Korean student tried to explain the situation to the gas station attendant, saying breathlessly, "My car ran out of oil and stopped. I need oil!" "Are you sure?" asked the attendant. "A car doesn't stop because of an oil shortage. But I'll get you some oil if you say so." Then he brought us a can of Mobile engine oil. "He needs gas, not oil," I intervened, realizing that the frustrated Korean fellow would probably end up buying engine oil while his car was breathing its last gasp, desperately waiting to be quenched of its thirst for gasoline.


There are numerous other funny predicaments a Korean can get into for misspelling or mispronouncing English words. For instance, Koreans customarily put a colon in front of a phrase, not at the end of it, and write "vs" instead of "vs." omitting the period. Oftentimes, Koreans, like other Asians, do not differentiate the pronunciation of "r" and "l." When they speak or read, therefore, Koreans often mispronounce "river" and "rice" as "liver" and "lice" and vice versa, thereby creating hilarious confusions by saying, "We eat lice," when meaning "We eat rice." Perhaps trying too consciously not to make a mistake, many Koreans inadvertently pronounce "director" as "dilector" and "play" as "pray."


When pronouncing certain words, Koreans insist on pronouncing them in a European (German) fashion: they pronounce "genome" as "guenom," "estrogen" as "estroguen," "hallogen" as "halloguen," and "collagen" as "collaguen." Likewise, Koreans tend to mispronounce "aloe" and "oboe" as "aloae" and "oboae." The problem is that with such mispronunciations, Koreans may find it difficult to communicate with others once they are abroad. Indeed, many foreigners often have difficulty understanding the Korean pronunciation of certain words. Yet, we stubbornly stick to such unconventional pronunciations.


Since the Tower of Babel, numerous languages have blossomed on earth. Sometimes, we borrow and adopt vocabulary from foreign languages to enrich our native tongue. Other times, we appropriate foreign languages in our fashion to make them more comfortable to pronounce and deal with. Foreign languages are a barrier to communication to be sure. Nevertheless, we have always managed to find a way to communicate through appropriation, adoption and accommodation.


Kim Seong-kon is a professor of English at Seoul National University and director of the Seoul National University Press. - Ed.








To save our planet from global warming and its harmful consequences, all countries must now do their best to be as environmentally friendly as possible.


China's new commitment in its endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level should serve as a real booster for global efforts to slow climate change. It is high time for each member of the international community, rich or poor, to do its bit to become a green champion.


Speaking at the UN Summit of Climate Change in New York to create momentum for a new global climate pact at Copenhagen in December, Chinese President Hu Jintao assured world leaders that his country will try to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020.


This marks a vital policy shift from focusing only on energy intensity; China now is including carbon management into its national development goals.


For a developing country like China, which is undergoing rapid urbanization and industrialization, it is a hard decision to impose any carbon pollution limit that may make it more difficult to pursue economic growth under old development patterns.


However, China's efforts to pursue energy-saving growth have emboldened this country to assume an increasingly important role in combating global warming.


Though still falling somewhat behind its schedule to cut energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010, the country has been at full throttle to accomplish this self-imposed task that can reduce its energy use by 620 million tons of standard coal equivalent during the period, or cut carbon emissions by 1.5 billion tons.


China's announcement of its midterm goal of mitigating climate change not only reflects growing confidence among Chinese policymakers to successfully marry sustainable economic growth with environmentally conscious efforts.


More important, it sends a much-needed signal to the international community still divided on a new global climate pact.


If a developing country like China can face up to the issue of carbon emissions with concrete accomplishments, what can be the excuse for some developed countries' inaction on cutting greenhouse gases?


And for poor countries, the heartening message is that China's attempts to blaze a trail in pursuing economic growth while addressing climate change may point to a development path they can follow. In particular, developing countries can seek technological and financial aid that industrialized countries have promised.


In the face of such a serious challenge as global warming, joint acts are imperative. Yet, with or without a global climate pact, each country should race against time to go green. And clearly, China is on the way now.









Life is limited, but there are different ways to have one's life extended even after death. Some do so by being remembered by others for the good deeds they have performed when they were alive. A 16-year-old boy, who is fatally ill, has chosen to do so by deciding to donate his heart, liver, corneas, kidney, skin and bones after he dies.


The boy, Feng Shihui, is suffering from the idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura that has depleted his platelet count. He signed the relevant papers with the Red Cross Society of China's Shenzhen Branch, becoming the youngest among the 6,000-plus locals to register as an organ donor in this southern Chinese city.


The boy has set an example of how we should regard life and in what way we can make our lives meaningful even after death.


Traditionally, filial piety was considered the primary duty for Chinese people. They were taught to treasure even a single hair as it is from their parents and to keep their bodies safe from any injury, to say nothing of donating their organs to a stranger. Even those willing to donate their organs after death found their relatives, children in particular, could hardly accept the fact that their loved ones go to another world with bodies incomplete.


This partially explains why only 130 actually donated their organs after death nationwide in the last six years. This makes it impossible for the majority of those in need of organ transplants to grab the last chance of extending their lives.


This country has the largest number of organ transplant operations in the world. But a lack of donors and a national program to organize donations has long been a stumbling block in meeting the ever-increasing needs for organs. Only 10,000 out of 1.5 million patients who need organ transplants annually survive by receiving them.


The Red Cross Society of China, with help from the Ministry of Heath, launched the national organ donation program last month, which began with 10 provinces and regions on a trial basis. A document will be issued soon to regulate the specific work of designating medical institutions to receive organ donations and distribute them in a reasonable manner and to encourage more donations.


Some local Red Cross Societies, with the help of local governments, are considering incentives for organ donors and their relatives. Shandong Red Cross Society is reportedly considering building a special cemetery with stone tablets for donors, where both organ recipients and their relatives can pay respect. The contribution of organ donors should be acknowledged and recognized.


It will take time for the majority of Chinese to change their traditional ideas in the matter. Only when we are willing to help others will we be able to get help from others. We need such a virtuous cycle on organ donation. More people need to learn from the example of the 16-year-old.








The world's poor will bear the brunt of the impact of global climate change. As the planet warms, rainfall patterns shift, and extreme events such as droughts, floods, and forest fires become more frequent. Millions in densely populated coastal areas and in island nations will lose their homes as the sea level rises. In Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, poor people face prospects of tragic crop failures, reduced agricultural productivity, and increasing hunger, malnutrition, and disease. It will become even harder to attain the Millennium Development Goals - and ensure a safe and sustainable future beyond 2015.


For the people of the developing world - even as they strive to overcome poverty and advance economic growth - climate change threatens to deepen vulnerabilities, erode hard-won gains, and seriously undermine prospects for development. At the same time, they fear limits on their critical call to grow their economies, expand opportunity, and develop energy or new rules that might stifle their many needs, from infrastructure to entrepreneurism.


Climate change is one of the most complex challenges of our young century. No country is immune. Alone, no country can take on the interconnected challenges posed by climate change, which include controversial political decisions, daunting technological change, and far-reaching global consequences.


A "climate-smart" world is possible in our time. Yet, as the World Bank Group's new World Development Report argues, effecting such a transformation requires us to act now, act together, and act differently.


We must act now, because what we do today determines both the climate of tomorrow and the choices that shape our future. Today, we are emitting greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere for decades or even centuries. We are building power plants, reservoirs, houses, transport systems, and cities that are likely to last 50 years or more. The innovative technologies and crop varieties that we pilot today can shape energy and food sources to meet the needs of 3 billion more people by 2050.


We must act together, because climate change is a crisis of the commons. Climate change cannot be solved without countries cooperating on a global scale to improve energy efficiencies, develop and deploy clean technologies, and expand natural "sinks" to grow green by absorbing gasses. We need to protect human life and ecological resources. Developed countries have produced most of the emissions of the past, and have high per capita emissions. These countries should lead the way by significantly reducing their carbon footprints and stimulating research into green alternatives. Yet most of the world's future emissions will be generated in the developing world. These countries will need adequate funds and technology transfer so they can pursue lower carbon paths - without jeopardizing their development prospects.


We must act differently, because we cannot plan for the future based on the climate of the past. Tomorrow's climate needs will require us to build infrastructure that can withstand new conditions and support greater numbers of people; use limited land and water resources to supply sufficient food and biomass for fuel while preserving ecosystems; and reconfigure the world's energy systems. This will require adaptation measures that are based on new information about changing patterns of temperature, precipitation, and species. Changes of this magnitude will require substantial additional finance for adaptation and mitigation, and for strategically intensified research to scale up promising approaches and explore bold new ideas.


At this point, the diverse countries of the world have not sufficiently curbed emissions or financed developing countries. We need a new momentum. The current global economic turmoil must not hold us back - rather, it presents an opportunity to think anew. "Green" stimulus funds in many countries may jumpstart the innovation needed to address climate change problems. It is crucial that we reach a climate agreement in December in Copenhagen that integrates development needs with climate actions.


As a multilateral institution whose mission is inclusive and sustainable development, the World Bank Group has a responsibility to try to explain some of the interconnected challenges posed by climate change - challenges in development economics, science, energy, ecology, technology, finance, and effective international regimes and governance - and to build cooperation among vastly different states, the private sector, and civil society to achieve common goods.


The World Bank Group has developed several financing initiatives to help countries cope with climate change, including our carbon funds and facilities, which continue to grow as financing for energy efficiency and new renewable energy increases substantially. We are trying to develop practical experience about how developing countries can benefit from and support a climate change regime - ranging from workable mechanisms for afforestation and avoided deforestation through carbon trading systems, to lower carbon growth models and initiatives that combine adaptation and mitigation. In these ways, we can support the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process and the countries devising new international incentives and disincentives.


Much more is needed. We need action on climate issues before it is too late. If we act now, act together, and act differently, there are real opportunities to shape our climate future for a safe, inclusive, and sustainable globalization.


The author is president of the World Bank.








Competition among countries for greater international financial power is expected to become fiercer although G20 finance ministers reiterated in London their commitment to coordinated action for tackling the economic crisis and agreed on the need for a tougher financial monitoring system.


The latest G20 summit in Pittsburgh will likely be dominated by new contests in three areas: financial regulatory system reform, capital adequacy ratio of financial institutions and the contribution ratio to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


In early June, US President Barack Obama first put forward a program to reform the financial regulatory system, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the stability of the financial system and establishing the central bank's potent monitoring authority. In response, the European Union has also actively pushed for the building of a central bank monitoring system covering the whole region, in an attempt to contend with Washington for a larger say in reconstructing the collapsed global financial order. Meanwhile, Japan, a country that has long advocated a dominant government role in this aspect, appears reluctant to abandon the government's financial monitoring role. Instead, it has proposed to maintain an independent financial policy among different countries and keep intact the existing financial monitoring system.


In fact, the unitary central bank monitoring formula proposed by the US will result in the collapse of the long-established monitoring mechanism respectively enforced by banking, security and insurance agencies. The US also advocates setting up a coordinated monitoring system between its central bank and the Department of Treasury to maintain the absolute authority of the dollar. Accepting the US model means that Japan would completely overturn its domestic financial establishments put in place since the late 1990s. Japan has set up an independent central bank as far as financial monitoring is concerned. At the same time, the world's second largest economy has also set up a multiple monitoring mechanism by non-governmental bank, security and insurance industrial associations.


In the run-up to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, the US and European countries have also successively floated their proposals on increasing the ratio of financial bodies' self-owned capital ratio. They have also advocated revising the Basel Concordat to increase the Capital Adequacy Ratio of those financial agencies engaging in international financial business from the current 8 percent to 12 percent. The reason, they cited, is that the ongoing global financial crisis has exposed capital insufficiency-induced defects of financial bodies in countries throughout the world. Especially, the application for government assistances by Bear Stearns and American International Group in the wake of the outbreak of the US mortgage crisis and the collapse of Lehman Brothers are explicit indications of the potential risks brought about by capital insufficiency. However, Japan thinks otherwise. Tokyo holds that the injection of government funds by the US and European countries into their financial bodies during the crisis will lead to an increased proportion of government capital. This is not what Japan wants to see, given that the over-stretched Japanese financial bodies have long clung on to the low-cost competition strategy and they have not received government fund injection after the crisis broke out. Also, the government needs a nod from the Diet for its fund injection into banks, which, however, would be extremely difficult in the power transition under way in Japan. Consequently, it is no surprise that the Japanese government and central bank officials have expressed opposition to the US and European financial formulas.


Prior to the G20 finance ministers' meeting in London, finance ministers of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India And China) held a meeting where they proposed increasing their fund contribution ratio in the IMF to ensure that their say is commensurate with their gross domestic product. US Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner attended the meeting as an observer and extended his support for a larger voice to emerging economies in the international body. At the same time, Geithner proposed that the EU concede part of its power to emerging economies, a proposal strongly opposed by the European bloc.


Given that the IMF has been one of the US' major instruments in managing the world economic order in the post-WWII period, Washington would by no means easily give up its absolute dominant status in the IMF to emerging economies.


It is well known that the IMF laid down an important principle since its establishment in 1945, i.e. any of its major decisions would become effective only after gaining at least 85 percent of the votes. The original 17 percent of voting power of the US decides that Washington essentially enjoys a veto against any move by the financial body. However, with the emergence of the EU and the euro, European countries have raised their fund proportions in the IMF to 19.458 percent, and surpassed the US level. With the expansion of EU membership, European countries are expected to exceed the US' 20.386 percent fund scale in the North American Free Trade Agreement region.


For the US, the most pressing task is to reduce the EU's capital proportion in international financial bodies in a bid to maintain its long-established advantages. One of the effective ways to this end, in the eyes of the US, is to force the EU to hand over part of its power to emerging economies.


Since the end of the Cold War, the West no longer completely used ideology to classify world countries. And China, with its rising status, has been described as a shareholder of the US. However, the question is, does the world superpower really wants to extend to China a fund proportion in the international financial body in accordance with its national strength, and then proportionately improve the Asian country's voting power?


The author is a researcher with China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.









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