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Friday, September 25, 2009

EDITORIAL 25.09.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month september 25,  edition 000307 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




























2.      BE SOFT, BE SAFE































































1.      JUST IN TIME

2.      SOFT SPOT























































2.      DURGA PUJA









































Although the intention was to downplay the recent Chinese incursions, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik’s comment that the Indian Air Force only has one-third the fleet strength of the Chinese Air Force will further fuel ‘hyperactive comparisons’ between the two countries’ military prowess. If we are going to play statistics, China will come out on top in every department. However, in modern military strategy the size of a combat fleet is irrelevant. A highly-trained but small Army, Air Force or Navy can very well overpower a larger enemy. What matters is the technological edge that one possesses. It is here that the gulf between India and China is shockingly vast. A cursory comparison of the two countries’ flagship defence projects is enough to show where India loses the edge to China. India’s Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) project was launched around the same time as the Chinese Jian-10 fighter aircraft project (code-named Project 8610) in the mid-1980s. The aim of both the projects was to develop an indigenously designed multi-role fighter aircraft to replace some of the ageing fighters in the respective Air Force fleets. Since then China has been able to complete the development of the aircraft, conduct successful trials and induct several squadrons of J-10 fighters in two variants — single-seat and double-seat — into its Air Force. It is currently developing an improved version of the single-seat variant which reportedly made its maiden flight in February this year. On the other hand, the development of the Tejas has hit one snag after another. There have been numerous extensions and the aircraft is still in the process of perfecting test flights. The Tejas was supposed to have been inducted by 2006. If things go according to plan, it could see possible induction by 2012. Meanwhile, China has not only successfully developed another multi-role fighter, the JF-17, in partnership with Pakistan, but is also rumoured to be developing its own fifth generation fighter.

The end result is today the IAF is stuck with ageing fighters. Either they need serious upgrading or complete replacement by better fighters procured from foreign sources. In fact, it is due to this predicament that the IAF’s fleet strength has actually reduced from 35 squadrons to 31 squadrons in the last decade. As fighters such as the MiG-21 and the Jaguar approach the end of their lifespan, unless something is done soon to replace them, the IAF fleet strength will reduce further in the near future. But the process of acquiring new military hardware or developing some of our own has been murky to say the least. While development projects have been plagued by red-tape and lack of accountability, foreign procurement has been mired in corruption and delays. A classic example of this is the Admiral Gorshkov deal: India will now have to pay thrice the original priced for a Soviet era aircraft carrier that is presently undergoing retrofitting.

Apart from taking meaningful steps to streamline indigenous defence production and make defence procurement transparent and accountable, at a macro-level, the country has to channelise far greater resources towards its defence forces. It is a matter of serious concern that around 100 IAF pilots have applied for voluntary retirement because of the lack of growth prospect in their profession. If we are unable to make the armed forces an attractive career prospect for the brightest, they will not be able to attract the best talent available. This is something that can significantly dent our defence capabilities in the long run. The Government is welcome to repeatedly emphasise that China is not an immediate security threat to India, and that it is not New Delhi’s aim to militarily compete with Beijing. Nonetheless, it would be foolish on Government’s part to ignore the deficiencies in our defence capabilities. It must seek to immediately mitigate those irrespective of whether or not there is a perceived Chinese threat.







There is understandable disquiet over the slow pace of resettling the Tamil civilians who were caught in the Sri Lankan Army’s offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, especially during the last days of the war on terror, and have since been living in camps. In the initial euphoria that followed the decimation of the LTTE and the richly deserved death of V Prabhakaran at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army, much was promised by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to not only resettle the affected civilians without any delay but also bring about sweeping constitutional reforms to address long-pending issues of political rights aimed at ending the alienation of that country’s ethnic and religious minority. The demand for a separate ‘Tamil nation’ was not born out of thin air — decades of denial of equal rights and political representation had pushed Sri Lanka’s Tamils out of the national mainstream and facilitated the birth and growth of the monster called the LTTE.

Mr Rajapaksa, an astute politician, is not unaware of the past; indeed, he realises that this summer’s military victory over the LTTE solves only part of the problem. It is, therefore, surprising that his Government should be seen to be dragging its feet on resettling the displaced Tamils and initiating the promised political reforms. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollagama has said that the authorities are busy screening the displaced Tamils for LTTE cadre and to collect any information that may prove useful in locating land mines and neutralising the remnants of the terrorist organisation. He has also said that 80 per cent of the internally displaced people would be screened and resettled by January 2010. Given the enormity of the task — there are more than 250,000 internally displaced people — there is little to complain about the timeframe. But popular perception, which in all probability does not entirely reflect the reality, at the moment suggests that the Tamils are sceptical about the Government’s intentions. If Mr Rajapaksa wants to emerge as a unifier of communities, then he cannot allow this perception to fester. The war ended with the death of Prabhakaran in mid-May. We are now in the last quarter of the year. Perhaps it is time for him to demonstrate his commitment to lasting peace by leading from the front, thus hastening the process of resettling the displaced Tamils.



            THE PIONEER




The “almost reflexive anti-Americanism” that US President Barack Obama spoke of at the UN on Wednesday as a recent global phenomenon has been a consistent feature of India’s discourse for many years. Ambassador Timothy J Roemer’s assurances on Pakistan and terrorism must be music to Indian ears but may not succeed in endearing his country to Indians once the euphoria has passed.

Defying Palmerston’s logic, bilateral relations are as complex as the current furore over austerity. Both paradoxes illustrate the conflict between principle and practice which the Vietnam war slogan “Yankee go home, but take me with you” highlighted. Mr Roemer must bear this in mind when he hears Indians accusing the US of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan or dragging its feet over the sequel to the 123 Agreement and yet grumbling that Mr Obama went to Egypt and Ghana while India had to be content with the Secretary of State and seven months late at that.

William B Saxbe, US Ambassador during the Emergency, commented on the quirk. “When I call on Cabinet Ministers, the President or governors, they all love to talk about their sons, sons-in-law and daughters in the United States and how well they’re doing and how well they like things. The next day I read in the papers the very same people are denouncing the United States as a totally different kind of country.”

India has always been coy about admitting its need for the US. Even when PV Narasimha Rao turned foreign policy round so that the two defence forces held joint military exercises, he avoided explicitly acknowledging the alliance. That was left to Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee who gave the term ‘natural allies’, coined by Gen Sunit Francis Rodrigues when he was Army chief, a deeper cultural and strategic meaning. An India that feels threatened by Pakistan and China, whose domestic stability is challenged by Maoist rebels and whose confidence has been shaken by allegations about the 1998 thermonuclear test, has greater need than ever for America’s friendship.

Military help alone would undermine the very concept of India and what it stands for. The need is for diplomatic support, economic and technological cooperation, and markets and investment to safeguard the growth rate amidst global recession. Economic self-reliance is the ultimate guarantee of India’s freedom.

In turn, the US seeks to sell India everything from pizza to washing machines, as Mr George W Bush told the Asia Society on the eve of visiting India. Just as more troops are necessary in Afghanistan to win the war against the Taliban, the US cannot do without the support of the region’s biggest power, which happens to be the world’s largest democracy, to win the peace.

It would be simplistic to explain Indian reticence about this interdependence in terms of a gulf between Indians and India, between the people and the Government. That may have been true of Asia’s fallen regimes in Seoul, Manila, Saigon and Teheran. It applies to Pakistan where religion makes Pakistanis anti-American which no Government can afford to be. Hence, an enraged mob burned the American embassy in Islamabad to the ground (suspecting the US of bombing Mecca) even though, despite various conspiracy theories about his death, Gen Zia ul-Haq was then as much an American protégé as South Korea’s Syngman Rhee or Iran’s Shah. But in India’s vibrant democracy, the people are the Government. The dichotomy is not between rulers and ruled but inherent in India’s psyche.

When Mrs Indira Gandhi, strident in her denunciations of the ‘Foreign Hand’, wanted to highlight her son Sanjay’s no-nonsense hands-on approach, she called him “very American”. Many such instances can be cited. Surveys in 2005 and 2006, one conducted by the BBC and the other by the Pew organisation, showed India to be one of the few countries that thought the US exercised a positive influence on global security and which welcomed Mr Bush’s second term. The former held that 62 per cent of Indians favoured his re-election while the Pew survey found that 71 per cent of respondents thought highly of the US.

Mr Natwar Singh may have understated the case, therefore, in suggesting to this writer that India is pro-US only because eight out of 10 External Affairs Ministry officials want their sons to go to the US. That may well be so, but so do eight out of 10 urban educated Indians. However, that ambition will not stop them from roundly berating the CIA and blaming American pampering of Pakistan whenever any problem crops up in India. Indian pride would be profoundly hurt to be told that India is hardly a matter of consuming interest for Americans.

Western analysts would attribute this contradiction to ingrained hypocrisy. And, yes, there is no denying that opportunism does play a part in the calculations of many Indians. I am reminded in this context of the CPI(M) mayor who asked the US consul-general to twin Calcutta with San Francisco. Reminded that Calcutta was already twinned with Odessa, the Marxist explained that he needed an official reason to visit his son — at public expense no doubt — who was studying in California. But some might also cite Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Reconciling many contraries, the enlightened Indian can both want the Yankee out and to go with him. But neither expediency nor philosophical breadth makes for a steady and stable partnership.

Mr Sitaram Yechury once claimed India under Mr Vajpayee and Mr Manmohan Singh was trying to be the new Pakistan vis-à-vis the US. Perhaps some Indians nurse that yearning. But the apposite parallel is Japan, especially at a time when India is at last beginning to resist encirclement. The Chinese have already noted that the bilateral agreements on expanding military, space and civil nuclear power generation cooperation signed during Ms Hillary Clinton’s visit are expected to impact on South Asia’s balance of power.

After talking to Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Wednesday, Mr Obama described their relationship as “a cornerstone” of the prosperity and security of both countries. Mr Hatoyama, who sometimes sounds anti-American, called it “a key pillar” of Japan’s foreign policy.

With the compulsions of the Cold War and non-alignment over, both statements should also apply to India-US relations. They probably do, despite the verbal vagaries.







MJ Akbar in his article, “Let RSS learn the wisdom of Dharma” (Byline, September 6) has tried to sermonise the RSS about the virtue of dharma by quoting a shlok from Mahabharat: “Any dharma (way of life, or religion) that violates another’s dharma is not true dharma. It is kudharma or bad dharma. That dharma which flourishes without harming the interest of others is indeed the true dharma”. On the basis of the above quotation Mr Akbar advises the RSS to abandon its political philosophy for the nation in the name of Hinduism. Just on the basis of this one quotation Mr Akbar has jumped to express that view. However, it would have been better had he revisited the original text of the quotation and found out the real meaning of dharma.

In Mahabharat when warriors approached Bhishma Pitamah and inquired as to what they should do since they loved both the Kauravs and Pandavs equally, Bhishma replied that in this war each individual had his own dharma and had to be guided by that. In Bhagavad Gita, in shlok 35, chapter 3, Krishna advises Arjun that it is better to die performing one’s own dharma, even though it is inferior to adopting well-placed and well-practised dharma of others. Dharma by and large is synonymous with one’s duty which differs from man to man. Collectively, the concept of dharma in Hinduism is broad based. It is the way of life, a sustaining force.

Mr Akbar in his article, “Indian Muslims want jobs, not iftar” (September 13) performs his dharma or his duty towards his community — Muslims. Whether giving jobs to Muslims out of the way is in the interest of the nation or not is none of his concern. In this article he propounds the interests of his community passionately. Nonetheless, in his previous article Mr Akbar saw fit to accuse the RSS and the BJP of being anti-Muslim and anti-Christian just because they propound the interests of Hindus.

If Mr Akbar takes up the cause of Muslims, he is called a secular democrat and seen to be in tune with modern times. But if the RSS takes up the cause of Hindus it is branded as communal, anti-democratic and antagonistic to the idea of a modern, democratic and progressive nation. Such double standards are not expected from senior and respected journalist like MJ Akbar. It is strange that when someone speaks up for the majority community he is demonised, but when someone does the same for a minority community he is called secular!








As the countdown for the ensuing Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh has begun, all eyes, including those of political pundits, are now set on how the Congress and the BJP perform. More than whether there is any change of guard in these three States, people want to know if the Congress still has a feel of the pulse of the people. The party is ruling in all the three States and this will be the first time after the 2009 Lok Sabha election that the voters’ mood will be reflected for the Congress-led Government at the Centre.

The Congress-NCP combine had put up a good show in the Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra and the Congress emerged gainer in Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. With the current state of affairs the Opposition is in these States, it should not be difficult for the Congress to retain these States.

However, the Congress does have something to be wary of. As far as recent by-election results go, the party must guard itself against any complacency and over-confidence. It should also ensure proper working of alliances at the gross-root level and avoid any kind of factionalism which can adversely affect its prospects in the polls.

Nothing much has changed for the BJP since the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The leadership crisis continues and may remain so until December when the new team is likely to take over. But the BJP has gained in the recent Assembly by-elections over the Congress, a reason for its leaders to smile that despite disorder at the top, the party still holds ground. All that the BJP wants is to make sure there is no more controversy. The party is focussed on improving its position.

In Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP combine has arrived at a last minute seat-sharing pact. The negotiations are a proof of the party’s delicate handling of its coalition partners. The Congress, after the good showing in the Lok Sabha election, was flexing its muscles while the NCP was bargaining hard. But both need each other.

For the NCP chief Sharad Pawar, it is a do or die battle. If his party fails to put up a good show in Maharashtra, some of his party members may move to the Congress. Already there are demands for a merger with the congress from both the NCP and the Congress. Going by the 2009 Lok Sabha poll result, the Congress-NCP alliance once again should do better than the Shiv Sena-BJP front. The MNS had caused a good damage to the the Sena- BJP in the Lok Sabha election.

Infighting within the BJP in Maharashtra is another reason that can make the way for the Congress-NCP combine easier. State BJP president Nitin Gadkari is at loggerheads with Mr Gopinath Munde who is in good books of both the RSS and the Shiv Sena. The crisis at the BJP’s national level may add to the confusion of the voters.

If the MNS plays spoiler to the Sena-BJP alliance, the newly formed ‘Third Front’ consisting of Dalit groups, CPI, CPI(M), Samajwadi Party and others may mar the chances for the Congress. Despite all these, the expectation is that the Congress-NCP alliance may retain the State perhaps with a narrow margin. In a worst case scenario, independents may come to its rescue. The difference between the Congress-NCP combine and the Sena-BJP front was quite narrow in the last polls. If the Congress manages to field right candidates, it can smell victory. Insiders point out that learning from the Andhra Pradesh experience, the Congress high command does not want to put all its eggs in one basket and create more Jagan Mohan Reddys. The party has wisely kept the choice of the next Chief Minister open.

In Haryana, while the Congress is strong, the Opposition is divided and in disarray. The Congress Government in the State is said to have delivered as the party bagged nine out of 10 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 polls. Then the efforts of the Opposition to come together did not materialise, resulting in a multi-cornered contest.

The Indian National Lok Dal seems to have lost credibility as the party did not win a single seat in either the 2004 or the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP lacks a face of local leadership in the State and its efforts for alliance with other smaller parties also failed. Mr Kuldeep Bishnoi, former Deputy Chief Minister and son of Bhajan Lal, floated his own outfit, the Haryana Janhit Congress, some 18 months ago. His party did well in three by-elections and won Hissar in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. There have been large-scale desertions from his party as he has failed to translate this goodwill in to a solid support base. The BSP, which was trying to find a foothold in Haryana, surprised everyone by increasing its vote-share from 4.94 per cent in the 2004 general election to 15.73 per cent in 2009. But more than that, it continues to be a game-spoiler.

As far as Arunachal Pradesh is concerned, the congress is in an advantageous position as there is no Opposition. Although the BJP too has acquired a foothold in the past few years, it is still weak. There was a time when the BJP had both the MPs from the State but now it has none. The BJP lacks credible leaders or allies at the local level.








In electoral politics, competition is necessary and healthy. In democratic politics, the more voices that are heard the better it is, because it is an indication that diversities are finding their particular spaces, or making their presence felt.

Yet, when competition and diversity are used to set up ‘front’ organisations then the absence of accountability, control, authority and responsibility is scary. While this applies to every corner of this large and complex country, of immediate concern in this particular instance is the spawning of groups and committees in West Bengal, all of them fronts for political parties.

Contested as the affiliation of the original West Midnapore committee has been, namely the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities, the obvious fraternal ties to the Trinamool Congress and to various so-called ‘Naxal’ groups and presumably the Maoists convert it from a spontaneous local initiative into a larger political player. The current fade out of PCPA and its leader Chatradhar Mahato, whose meteoric rise from obscurity startled West Bengal’s political class, is indirect confirmation that a front like PCPA is a hastily constructed device to enable regular political parties to organise and install themselves.

The counter force, namely the People’s Resistance Committee, also claiming a local and spontaneous origin, is widely understood to be a construct of the beleaguered of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The leadership of the committee is less easily identifiable, for it has not produced an alter ego like Chatradhar Mahato, probably for sound political reasons.

The difference between this new crop of ‘front’ organisations and the more conventional ‘mass front’ organisations is one of accountability, responsibility and ultimately, control. Trade Unions, Kisan Sabhas, youth organisations, women’s organisations, cultural organisations are the conventional fronts, along with a host of others representing a variety of interest groups. The new front organisations are different in that and they are custom-made to serve a limited purpose in a specific geographical area.

The mushrooming of committees by insurgency groups, terrorist groups, anti-state actors is tactical, because it provides a façade behind which the real business of the group can be conducted. The need to seed ‘front’ committees by above board, kosher organisations, such as political parties, is sinister.

The question that regular political parties in West Bengal, especially the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M), need to answer is why do they need these frontal organisations?

It has been argued by the Trinamool Congress that the PCPA is not its creature. True. To an extent. There is no doubt that the PCPA has received moral support in its agitation and activities in mobilising hostility to the West Bengal Government led by the CPI(M) from the Trinamool Congress. There is no doubt that the PCPA’s rise coincided with the surfacing of organised Maoist activity in the Lalgarh region, including trademark declarations of ‘liberated zones’, where the police and State administration was forced to retreat. There is no doubt that PCPA has now receded into the background. The movement has been overtaken by the Maoists.

It has been argued by the CPI(M) that the People’s Resistance Committee, also in Lalgarh, is a spontaneous upsurge of the masses against Maoist oppression and terror tactics. By disclaiming ownership, the CPI(M) has distanced itself from the committee without losing the advantage of an operational flexibility that is obviously a benefit of hiding behind a front. It was argued by the CPI(M) in Siliguri, almost a year ago, that the resistance committee, Jana Jagaran Mancha, against the encroaching Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, was a spontaneous upsurge. Thankfully the Mancha was encouraged to fizzle out, because it did produce the sort of ethnic politics that once unleashed becomes dangerously volatile.

It seems that political parties in West Bengal are sheltering behind fronts for a variety of dubious reasons that are also dangerous. Regular political parties and their frontal organisations are bound by rules, conventions and codes. The irregulars are not. Therefore, their actions and activities can be whitewashed as spontaneous reaction of victim communities. In other words, nobody is responsible and no one is accountable for what happens. By creating a distance between the irregulars and themselves, the political parties are clearly operating outside the system, legal as well as social. The argument that the irregulars are sanctified by their victimhood is spurious.

The creation of the irregulars also enables the ‘committee’ to host a number of persons who cannot be openly accredited to regular political parties. These are the gunmen, the musclemen, the underground operatives of the Maoists, who romantically claim to “infiltrate” such formations. No political party in India is either inexperienced or innocent; they all know what goes on behind the façade of a front or committee of victims. They are all equally irresponsible and determinedly so. By encouraging committee formation, the political parties are guilty of subverting parliamentary democratic politics because no front is accountable.






India meets its G20 partners convening in Pittsburgh this week during a sticky time for global trade relations. Brazilians, Canadians, Mexicans, and Chinese are angry with the Americans. The Indians and the Chinese are furious with each other, as are the Europeans and the Americans. Most of this stems from new trade restrictions imposed despite repeated pledges from G20 countries to avoid protectionism.

To quell the anger and gain a constructive focus in Pittsburgh, leaders must recognise how outdated it is to view the world as ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’. A crash course on the global economy is in order.

The largest ‘American’ steel producer is the majority-Indian-owned Arcelor-Mittal, with headquarters in Luxembourg and Hong Kong, and listed on the New York Stock Exchange and five European stock exchanges.

The largest ‘German’ producer, Thyssen-Krupp, a conglomerate with 670 companies worldwide, is investing $ 3.7 billion in a carbon and stainless steel factory in Alabama, which will create 2,700 permanent jobs there.

California’s steel industry consists almost entirely of rolling mill operations, which process imported carbon steel slabs from Brazil, Russia and other countries. The Californian finished products are disqualified from President Barack Obama’s Buy American procurement rules for failing to meet the statutory definition of American-made steel. This illustrates the impossibility, futility and harm of attempting to define producers by national characteristics.

Today, the factory floor is no longer contained within four walls, one roof and national borders. Instead, the factory floor spans the globe, allowing firms to optimise investment and output decisions by matching production, assembly and other functions to the locations best suited for those activities.

Nokia is a Finnish brand but produces most of its components and performs most of its assembly in other countries.

Lenovo is a worldwide Chinese computer brand name but it maintains headquarters in Singapore and the USA, it operates research centres in the USA and Japan, and assembles products in India, Mexico, Poland, and China.

Apple’s ubiquitous iPods are designed in labs in California then assembled in China drawing on labour and components from South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan.

This is true not only for Big Business but many of the goods now considered essential to our daily lives — from roses to screws to coffee.

Trade policies over the past 25 years have generally accommodated this new reality. According to the World Bank, between 1983 and 2003 only three countries (out of 136) increased overall trade restriction, while developing countries were some of the biggest reformers, having reduced their weighted average tariffs by 21 percentage points (from 29.9 to 9.3 per cent). To emphasise how these reforms are self-helping, two-thirds of those cuts were unilateral. Trade has also benefitted from huge improvements in transport and communications.

These gains are often discussed in terms of their impact on producers but the consumer is by far the biggest winner, getting a more consistent supply and better choice of cheaper, better products.

This global factory has changed the old ‘Us versus Them’ characterisation of international trade for good — and for the good. Trade is increasingly the process of importing a good, adding value to it, and then exporting it to another producer further down the production chain. These complicated production and supply chains rely upon the rapid flow of goods and services across borders.

The current economic crisis, however, has tested our leaders’ commitment to these reforms. Political leaders condemned protectionism at the G20 meeting in November 2008 and then again in April 2009. They returned home to yield to vested interests, imposing anti-trade measures that add complexity, cost and delay to internationalised production and supply chains.

Such an approach made no sense when times were good. It is especially wrong-headed when times are tough.

Banning containerised shipping (perhaps the most important technique in 20th century trade) or broadband Internet connections (which have paved the way for millions of call-centre jobs) would clearly be ridiculed.

Yet it is equally ludicrous for Governments to promote ‘temporary’ tariffs to shelter ‘domestic’ industries, or subsidies for ‘local’ producers, or ‘environmental’ regulations that hobble foreign competitors.

World leaders at Pittsburgh need to understand this. The only real stimulus the global economy needs is to continue the reforms that have guided the past 30 years of unprecedented global expansion: Reduce trade barriers and remove the regulations and administrative burdens that prevent people from maximising their potential in the global economy.

Ikenson is Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies and author of No Longer Us versus Them: Trade Policy for the 21st Century. Alec van Gelder is Project Director at International Policy Network








Capital markets in India, like many other parts of the world, have bounced back to stay. They are as integral a part of the financial world as the stock exchanges. Hence it is important for the ordinary investor to understand the logic of investing through capital markets. Not to forget how mutual funds, different financial products, financial market players and regulatory bodies have evolved and emerged over the years. This is critical for strategising investment.

Before the reforms of early 1990s, the capital market was highly marginalised and the main source of finance was from development banks. The increase in capital market activity had an almost parallel stream of stock market scams whose causes have never been fully grasped nor the inefficiency of the capital markets ever totally plugged. No one knows for sure whether it is over regulation in certain areas and under-regulation in others or the lack of transparency which causes it.

Equally, there are certain key elements which have helped in strengthening the Indian capital market over the years. The general trend is with reference to the household sector investment which has taken the shape of deposits and insurance. While roughly about 45 per cent has been in the secondary markets, it only helps to give credence to the favourable disposal of Indian households to the capital market. Interestingly, if one compares the capital market with the global market, it is still a little less than one per cent of the global market turnover. The performance of capital markets in China and Indonesia has been better. In the primary market, the initial slowdown in the activity of the public offering did raise some questions.

But the moot questions remain whether right issues and private investment are the likely directions of future growth. Similarly, if the activity of the venture capital and the private equity is to reduce then the nature of the market response to the emerging futures would have to be seen with greater care. So far as secondary market is concerned, Sensex — which nobody entirely comprehends — remains an important indicator. FIIs are a major contributor to this and in the worst of bad times, they had withdrew around $ 30 billion from the Indian market.

One needs to examine the fundamentals of our economy; do stock markets need FII money? What should the investors do? Should they invest in the market’s risky sectors or should they go for sectors like capital goods. High volatility itself puts focus on the equity route. Debt, which is an integral part of the capital market, was neglected in the past but it continued to find favour with the people, specially when funds from the external agencies dried up. Corporates would also need to look forward to domestic lending sector but the banks seem to have gone coy. The search is for safety and that puts Government Bonds or Municipal Bonds in the sought-after light. Possibly investors have other options such as investing in the derivative market.

It is obvious that the debt markets provide more certain returns. However, raising the funds abroad has become expensive. Infrastructure sector could be a gainer with investments through exchange created bonds. Similarly non-convertible debentures could also be an option. Equity investment will gain favour only if the stocks are stable and long term perspective positive. For debt derivatives investment, one has currency futures, but derivatives do not draw attention from small investors who are not able to participate in the high requirements of derivative instruments. The time has come to consider the launch of a separate exchange for derivatives trading. The opinion on this is still to crystallise.

Other important player in the capital market are merchant banks. They need to look at and possibly expand in areas like rights issues, distribution, advisory and evolution services. Similarly mutual fund institutions, which not till long ago came under tremendous redemption pressure, need to work other strategies. JVs appear to be an attractive choice for them.

At the end of the day, FIIs, often considered a source of hot money, are known to cause serious market upheaval. The time has come to have more sensitive entry and exit norms. Is it possible to allow only certain portion of a fund to enter and exit at a particular time?

Clearly, the season of informed choices and decision making is here.








India has demonstrated that it takes the climate change issue seriously: the national action plan on climate change has spelt out the details of implementation of eight missions and is to soon establish a climate change mitigation authority that will set targets to reduce emissions by 2020. India has a ministry dedicated to promotion of alternative energy and several projects are underway to promote adaptation measures. Far more could be achieved if developed countries deliver the promised financial and technological assistance.

At the New York G20 climate summit convened by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, there was no discussion by developed economies about providing financial assistance to developing countries or transfer of clean technology. The occasion was used to make speeches that were long on promises and short on specifics. US president Barack Obama promised to contribute to a road map to protect the planet's future. But he gave no details. Scientists recommend that an 80 per cent cut in emissions by the developed countries by 2050 is vital to avert the tipping point in climate change. The long-term goalpost might be unachievable under current circumstances but it provides a benchmark to work with. Meanwhile, improved technology might one day make the target achievable.


Together, the US and China account for 40 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions; hence the need for more concerted action. But Obama's climate change legislation for energy reform is unlikely to be cleared by the Senate before the December Copenhagen summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change where members hope to come to an emissions reduction agreement that will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol due to end in 2012. Senators are currently more concerned about health-care reform, financial stability and the size of troops in Afghanistan than environmental issues. The proposed US legislation, however, is not developing world-friendly as it penalises it in terms of trading rights.

Chinese president Hu Jintao has assured the G20 that China will improve its energy efficiency and curb the rise of CO2 emissions "per unit of gross domestic product by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level" but he failed to elaborate how China would achieve this and by how much emissions would be cut. Similarly, although Obama made promises of "a new era of renewable energy promotion and carbon emissions cuts", he did not elaborate if there is a plan in place. That the US and China are presenting a positive and united approach without a specific action plan could mean that the Copenhagen summit will achieve little more than getting the representatives of 192 member countries to visit Denmark at the further expense of the planet.







A few days ago, this newspaper reported how MPs who own infrastructure companies sit on a parliamentary panel set up to review delays in the execution of large public projects with private participation. The matter merits urgent attention since it concerns parliamentary ethics and accountability in governance. Parliament needs to address the issue as soon as possible.

Over the years, the composition of our Parliament has undergone a change. Increasingly, people from diverse backgrounds are entering electoral politics. In the past, professionals like lawyers formed the core of the political class. They saw parliamentary politics as an extension of their role as political activists and an opportunity to contribute to the making of public policy. Few industrialists took the effort or had the time to represent people in Parliament. That has changed. A number of businessmen have contested elections to the Lok Sabha or have got nominated to the Rajya Sabha in recent times. There is no reason to argue that our MPs ought to be full-time politicians. If other professionals, including businessmen, are willing to engage constructively with public affairs, they must be allowed.

However, parliamentarians are expected not just to legislate but also supervise the working of the executive. Parliamentary panels have enormous executive powers and, often, play a decisive role in enforcing transparency and accountability in matters of governance. They have powers to summon senior officials in the government, enjoy access to important files, and influence executive decisions. There is a conflict of interest if the owner of a construction company is part of a House panel that arbitrates in a dispute between the very same company or even a rival and the government. Unfortunately, such examples are not so uncommon now. It's even been said that MPs with business interests lobby to be part of parliamentary panels whose workings have a bearing on their corporate interests.

Parliamentary ethics demand that a clear demarcation be maintained between the private interests of an MP and his role as a people's representative. It is not sufficient that an MP abstains from a House panel when a case that involves his business interests comes up before it. A disclosure clause could help to avoid possible conflict of interest. Such information must be available in the public domain. Clearly, there is a need to have stringent guidelines regarding appointments to parliamentary panels and other executive bodies. MPs could surely use the floor of the House to articulate their expertise on corporate and other matters, but they must keep out of parliamentary committees that could lead to a conflict of interest.









The controversy over whether the Pokhran tests of 1998 were a “fizzle” is nothing new. Prime Minister Morarji Desai reportedly asserted that Pokhran I in 1974 was nothing more than a large explosion of conventional devices, while others asserted the yield then was less than that claimed by our scientists. The two most prominent scientists involved in the 1974 test were Raja Ramanna and P K Iyengar. Interestingly, Ramanna, who was associated as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission with the 1998 tests, validated claims about their success. Iyengar, however, expressed doubts about the claim that the second “boosted fission” device had a yield of 43 kilotonnes.

The only known comprehensive international study of Pokhran 1998 was based on data of 125 seismic stations across the world. This study, carried out by seismologist Roger Clark of the University of Leeds, validated the claims of Indian scientists associated with the test. The major implication of this controversy is that while there are very few demanding that India should immediately conduct further nuclear tests, the government will find it difficult to close options, by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

 Even as this controversy raged in India, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) declared that Pakistan, which according to latest estimates possesses 70-90 nuclear weapons, is set to rapidly expand its arsenal, with work nearing completion on two large plutonium reactors. Pakistan could double its nuclear arsenal, with lighter plutonium warheads within a decade. The FAS study also revealed that Pakistan is ready to deploy the Chinese origin Shaheen II missile, capable of hitting urban centres in distant corners of India and cruise missiles to counter Indian missile defences. It is now well established that the reactors and reprocessing facilities for Pakistan’s new generation of nuclear weapons and its ballistic and cruise missiles are all of Chinese origin. The instruction manuals of nuclear weapons designs given by A Q Khan to Libya were in the Mandarin language!
   Pakistan’s intention to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal was clear when its ambassador to the UN Committee on Disarmament in Geneva recently blocked proposals for the early conclusion of a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons (FMCT). This move came just after the US Military Academy at West Point published a report revealing that three nuclear weapons related facilities – the Wah ordnance factory, the Kamra air base and the Sargodha weapons

storage facility – had been attacked by suspected jihadis. Why is it necessary for Pakistan to build such a huge and potentially unsafe arsenal when its Punjab and North West Frontier Province are vulnerable to attacks by jihadi groups?

The head of Pakistan’s strategic forces command Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai has indicated that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is “aimed solely at India” and will come into play only if an Indian attack either makes deep inroads into Pakistan’s urban centres, or significantly degrades its army and air force. Since neither of these scenarios is plausible, why does Pakistan need such a large arsenal?

   The rationale for Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons was outlined by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto after he decided on January 19, 1972 that Pakistan had to acquire nuclear weapons. Bhutto held that after the Bangladesh debacle in December 1971, it was imperative for Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons to counter the conventional capabilities of a much larger India. Bhutto also noted that while the “Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilisations” had nuclear weapons capability, it was “Islamic civilisation” alone that did not possess nuclear weapons. Bhutto asserted that he would be remembered as the man who had provided the “Islamic civilisation” with “full nuclear capability”. Libyan and Saudi Arabian funding of Bhutto’s “nuclear vision” is well documented, as is Pakistan’s supply of nuclear weapons knowhow and equipment to Iran and Libya.
   The Bush White House revealed that Pakistani nuclear scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al Mukhtar, had extensive discussions in Kandahar, on radiological dispersal devices, with Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. Two associates of A Q Khan, Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood and Chaudhuri Abdul Majeed, were detained for clandestine contacts with the al-Qaeda and Taliban. Mehmood publicly advocated transfer of nuclear weapons to other Islamic countries and echoing Bhutto, described Pakistan’s nuclear capability as the property of the whole “Ummah” (Muslim world).

While General Kidwai, who now controls Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, belongs to a generation of officers commissioned before the fundamentalist General Zia-ul Haq ushered in a new generation of more religiously oriented officers, the control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will inevitably shift to military officers and scientists who tend to regard their nuclear arsenal as an asset of the Islamic world. Pakistan’s nukes might fall not just into the hands of jihadis, but there is also the prospect of cash-strapped Pakistan transferring nuclear weapons, or providing nuclear guarantees to countries like Saudi Arabia, as it seeks more influence and leverage in an oil-rich Islamic world, which is engulfed by rivalry between Shia-dominated Iran and the Wahhabi-oriented Saudis.

The writer is a former high commissioner to Pakistan.







Steve Sawyer , secretary general, Global Wind Energy Council, was in Delhi recently to release a report on the Indian Wind Energy Outlook for 2009. He tells Narayani Ganesh that at least one quarter of India's energy requirements could be met with wind power by 2030:

Is it realistic to say that by 2030, 25 per cent of India's energy requirements would be met by wind power?

That's the projection the Indian Wind Energy Outlook 2009 report makes in its presentation of an advanced scenario, on the premise that by then, there would be opportunities to tap the country's full potential for wind generated electricity. This does not include future potential of similar power generated from offshore wind farms, something that holds great promise considering that India has a 7,000 km coastline.

India has the technology; in fact it is among the leaders and the technology is still evolving. All of the major manufacturers of wind equipment have operations in India. In order to reach full potential it would be necessary to develop offshore technology since along the coast winds are steady and in some places concentration of resources is close to load centres in metros. India ranks fifth in total installed capacity with 9,645 MW of wind power installed at the end of 2008.

Won't high capital costs hike per unit cost to consumer?

With wind, it's a one-time capital cost and almost all costs are capital costs whereas with conventional power plants, it is ongoing. Once a wind farm is set up, there are no further capital costs like buying fuel as in other power plants that have to source coal, gas etc whose costs too vary from one time to the next. In due course it is hoped that wind farm capital costs too will get reduced but first, private financiers have to get convinced.

Around five billion tonnes of CO2 emissions would be reduced cumulatively from now to 2030 that is, amounting to 500-plus million tonnes per year. This is not to do with current emissions; only the projected ones. In climate change negotiations it is important to show that there is huge mitigation potential in India and China but the question is, who will pay for that?

What more policy initiatives are required?

Right now solar energy is four times costlier than wind energy. But certainly it is a good investment, since it generates power as well as employment opportunities. Earlier, Germany's wind energy industry was driven by environmental concerns; now it is driven by the business of creating a large number of jobs. In India, presently 15,000 people are employed directly in the wind industry and 75,000 indirectly. The key is not to look at technology in isolation but to see it in the light of energy security, and its potential for employment, export, emissions reduction potential and saving water. Thermal power stations consume hundreds of millions of gallons of water per day. Wind energy consumes no water.








Forget the Dalai Lama. Forget Arunachal Pradesh. Forget Aksai Chin. The real reason the Chinese are angry with us, Beijing's real chakkar vis-a-vis India is something quite different. And i discovered what it was, many years ago, in the Punjab Club in Calcutta. Though called the Punjab Club, the establishment welcomed people of all persuasions. Indeed, the person whose guest i was hailed from UP and answered to the name of Agarwal.


Special Sunday lunch, said Mr Agarwal, as we heaped our plates with chicken chow mein and mixed fried rice from the buffet. However, when we got back to our table my host frowned. He snapped his fingers, summoning a waiter. Arre, Chhotu, aam ka achaar aur kachcha pyaz kahan hai? he demanded. Where's the mango pickle and raw onions? The missing items were swiftly produced. Beaming with pleasure my host ladled generous dollops of aam ka achaar first on my plate and then on his own, followed by fistfuls of kachcha pyaz. The achaar and the pyaz add a bit of taste to this stuff, no? he said, urging me to tuck in with a wave of his fork. Best Chinese food in the world, he added with relish. It's the haldi and dhaniya they put into it, he explained. And, of course, the achaar and pyaz help. Never mind the still-secret Henderson Brooks report on the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. The real cause of war, was right there on that lunch table in the Punjab Club: chicken chow mein and mixed fried rice, with aam ka achaar and kachcha pyaz.


The so-called 'Chinees' food served in India (as in 'Raju ka Dhaba Brekfass, Launch & Diner Chinees, Muglai, Conti') from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Calcutta to Coimbatore, constitutes the biggest and most damaging culinary slander ever perpetrated by one lot of people against another lot of people in the cooking pot of human civilisation. To begin with, 'chow mein' (not to mention 'fried rice') does not exist anywhere in China, either in their kitchens or in their lexicons. To append the adjective 'Chinese' (or 'Chinees') to this unholy mess is insulting enough. Then to go ahead and eat it with aam ka achaar and kachcha pyaz as accompaniments to give it a bit of zing is to add the ajinomoto of injury to the provocation. Ahh soh!, you could imagine them saying in Beijing, with a sharp hiss of indrawn breath. Flied lice? Aam-ka-achaal? We'rr show you! And they chuck Panchsheel out of the window and go to see Pakistan about a nuclear bomb.


When i moved from Calcutta to Delhi i came across an even grosser violation by India of the LAC Line of Alleged Cuisine that represents the embattled border between India and China: it is called Veg Manchurian. No one is quite certain where Veg Manchurian (and its even more lethal variant, Non-veg Manchurian) comes from. Only one thing is certain: it does not come from Manchuria or anywhere near Manchuria. Some suspect that Veg Manchurian was originally devised in a secret RAW laboratory, using a base of genetically modified kaddu irradiated with an isotope obtained from radioactivated camel droppings. However, this is mere hearsay.


What remains an incontrovertible fact is that Veg Manchurian is touted across the length, breadth, width, height and depth of India as not just a part of Chinese (or Chinees, if you prefer) cuisine, but as the item, the very acme, of not just Chinese food but of all the 4,000-odd years of culture emanating from the erstwhile Middle Kingdom. Tang dynasty, Tong dynasty, Ming dynasty, Mao dynasty, you name it. It can all be summed up in one, succinct, deep-fried pakora of a phrase: Veg Manchurian.


That's the gauntlet that India has flung at the feet of China. And that is what Chinese chakkars are all about. That's what's behind Chinese incursions in Ladakh. And that's what lurks behind the rocket silos of Lop Nor aimed at New Delhi.


Let 'em come. India has not just a credible but an incredible deterrent. In the form of what else? Veg Manchurian. Not to forget the aam-ka-achaar and the kachcha pyaz.







''A vegetarian has very limited options,'' declared a hardcore non-vegetarian friend rather sardonically. To buttress his point, he started reeling off non-veg preparations. ''What does a vegetarian have other than potato, cauliflower and peas?'' he caustically asked. Even as a staunch vegetarian, his arguments in favour of non-vegetarianism convinced me to a great extent. Frankly speaking, non-veg preparations outnumber veggie ones. One is spoilt for choice when it comes to non-veg, whereas a vegetarian often has to choose between a threadbare paneer dish and mixed vegetables, if the chef was feeling creative. Despite sarson da saag and makke di roti, the Mughlai mutton do-pyaza and a succulent beef steak will any day defeat the legendary vegetarian delicacies of Punjab. Can any vegetarian dish have so many diehard followers as butter chicken and tangdi kebab have? Aloo ke paranthe or chhole bhature may be yummy and sinfully tasty, but you can't call them staple food. They are dietary diversions, not mainstream food items. True culinary delights are to be found only in non-vegetarian food. Mughal emperor Jehangir, quite the gourmand, doesn't mention a single vegetarian dish from the subcontinent or Central Asia in his Persian memoirs. But he wrote about 400 mouth-watering non-vegetarian items.

Vegetarians don't really have a dish that wouldn't taste better without the addition of meat. Even kebabs and biryanis aren't theirs. I wonder how there's a dish called veg kebab, when kebab itself is a Turkish word that means 'skewered meat'. Biryani originated from the word bir, which in classical Arabic means meat and yaan, which means 'the tender flesh of a baby camel'. So, when kebab and biryani are predominantly non-vegetarian delicacies, how come we have veg biryani, or the exotic sounding asparagus kebab? What is that, anyway a skewered asparagus? Or worse, an asparagus cutlet? I have yet to try this weird-sounding vegetarian dish, lest i get disillusioned. You can't beat the poetic romanticism of non-vegetarian food. ''Please Sir, God of Death/ Don't make it my turn today, Not today/ There's fish curry for dinner.'' Will any vegetarian poet ever pray like the Goan poet Bakibab Borkar that he has to relish Dum Aloo before death humbles him? I doubt that. And if you're honest, you do, too.









The Congress has barely got off the blocks in the Maharashtra Assembly polls before it has run headlong into controversy. And one which is very much of its own making. By fielding Rajendra Shekhawat, the son of President Pratibha Patil, for the prestigious Amravati seat and denying the sitting MLA and state minister Sunil Deshmukh a ticket, the Congress appears to have shot itself in the foot. In the process, it has also dragged the office of the President into an unseemly controversy. Mr Shekhawat seems to have little to recommend for himself unlike Mr Deshmukh who has won handsomely in both 1999 and 2004. With Mr Deshmukh saying he will contest as an independent, the Congress has a fight on its hands.


This is yet another example of the Congress showing itself unable to consolidate its resounding victory in the Lok Sabha elections. In the run-up to the Maharashtra elections, many Congress stalwarts had floated the ‘go-it-alone’ approach and pressed to jettison the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This, fortunately, was not heeded by the party leadership and a mutually beneficial seat-sharing arrangement has been worked out. The Shekhawat controversy, however, could spread beyond Amravati and be held up as an example of arbitrariness on the part of the Congress and its inability to acknowledge ground realities. With the BJP fighting for its survival, the Congress should have built on its strengths much more than it has done. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena could split the vote in BJP-Shiv Sena strongholds to the advantage of the Congress-NCP alliance.


However, just as in the Congress following the nomination of Mr Shekhawat, the NCP too is facing a fair amount of rebellion. Several candidates who have not got tickets have decided to contest as Independents. These people could be spoilers for the alliance that would otherwise have been on a strong wicket. Electoral compulsions dictate that both the Congress and the NCP should have allocated tickets based solely on merit and winnability. Neither can be seen to give in to pressure, irrespective of which quarter it comes from. The stakes in Maharashtra are very high. The Congress-NCP has the advantage of entering the fray from a position of strength. But much depends on both being able to contain dissensions within and come up with an agenda that builds on its aam admi focus. But as things stand now, it will require the formidable skills of NCP leader Sharad Pawar and the Congress’s central and state leadership to pull things together.







The ‘Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’ and ‘Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution’ has lived up to his title, or at least the length of it. At the ongoing United Nations General Assembly session in New York, the holder of the 22-word title, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi took advantage of being the President of the General Assembly for a year and delivered an hour-long speech as if there was no tomorrow.

He made good use of his visit to the US, his first since he took power exactly four decades ago. In his flamboyant style, he talked of several conspiracy theories like the swine flu might be a military or corporate weapon that got out of a lab.


To which we have a conspiracy theory of our own: why did the ‘Lion of Africa’ roar so much at the Assembly? Because he was angry at not getting a place to mark his territory (pitch his Bedouin tent, that is) even if it were for a few nights. First, the New Jersey town of Englewood denied him the rights to pitch his tent inside a property owned by the Libyans, the Central Park in New York was made off limits and last but not the least was Ratan Tata’s Taj Pierre. Even when billionaire builder Donald Trump offered his estate, the town authorities stepped in.


So when Gaddafi took centrestage, we guess that all he had on his mind was to how to pay the ‘imperialists’ back without launching a missile. So he delivered the final punch with a long speech that put most to sleep. And all because he could not find the right place to sleep.









As someone who lives in the United States but studies healthcare for the poor in India, the current debate on healthcare reform in the US offers some interesting perspectives. The Indian and the US healthcare systems have one thing in common — inequality. The US, of course, is where the whole world comes seeking specialised care, but India too has a number of hospitals that are, by all accounts, world class and remarkably cheap at that. Yet, when it comes to delivering everyday care to the average Joe or Joyita, both systems falter. Take infant mortality for example: the US performs worse than almost every other rich country and India gets handily beaten by both Bangladesh and Eritrea — not the countries we usually benchmark ourselves against.


Yet the two systems are dysfunctional for different reasons. The problem in the US comes from the power of the private healthcare establishment. An oligarchy of large health insurance companies, in collaboration with the doctors’ trade union, the American Medical Association (AMA) decides everything from who should have health insurance, at what price, what treatment regimes should be followed for particular conditions, who can be a doctor and much more. And since both doctors and insurance companies benefit from increased healthcare spending, the result is that care is usually excellent if you can get it, but extraordinarily expensive.


The US, today, spends 15 per cent of its national production on healthcare (compared to a rich country average of about 9 per cent), and is projected to cross 30 per cent of GDP in the next 30 years and 50 per cent soon after that. In other words, it is beginning to strangle the rest of the economy — if 30 per cent goes to healthcare, how does the country pay, for example, for investment or infrastructure? Yet the US is also one of the only rich countries where everyone doesn’t have automatic access to routine care; many people simply cannot afford it.


If the American system is an instance of what private greed does in the absence of real competition, the Indian system represents the anarchy of a hyper-competitive market. The AMA ensures that the supply of doctors grows very slowly by regulating the number of new medical schools. It, thereby, also ensures that doctors get paid much more in the US than any other rich country (all in the name of maintaining quality).


In India, anyone can become a doctor by simply deciding to be one. Near Udaipur, I met a polite and friendly young man who explained that he could not find a job after completing Class 12, which is why he became a doctor. (He proudly showed his certificate — his subjects were psychology, geography and Sanskrit.)


The result is that even in the poorest and remotest parts of India, you have several healthcare providers competing for your business. Prices are typically remarkably low: the average visit to a private provider — based on the data from almost 10,000 visits — costs around Rs 100, which is less than what a US hospital bills for the time of the receptionist who tells you “the doctor will now see you”. The problem is that you quite literally do not know what you are getting: the doctor may not have more than a high school degree, but he is usually ready to treat anything. 


He usually does not tell you what are you suffering from or why he is sending you for a test, though he might check your temperature and take your pulse; then he gives you a shot: in Udaipur two-thirds of the thousands of visits we recorded involved a shot. And lest you think Udaipur is special, a study by Jishnu Das and Jeff Hammer — from the World Bank — found the same pattern in Delhi. We do not know what is in the shot — the doctor does not tell the patient, nor does the patient expect to know. But medical experts in the area think it is either an antibiotic or a steroid or perhaps both. In other words, there is a lot of unnecessary use of antibiotics, which creates resistances that make them less effective when you really need them. The overuse of steroids can, quite simply, kill you.


Despite this, most Indians, including the very poor, get most of their healthcare from the private sector. In our data, only 20 per cent of all visits are to government health facilities, even for the poorest people (under Rs 200 a month per capita). Why is this the case has a lot to do with the way the public sector functions, which deserves a separate column by itself. Here I just want to point out a paradox. In India, where the market rules, and the government spends less than 20 per cent of the total amount spent on healthcare, the policy conversation is premised on the fact that the government is central to the health system. Almost no one talks about how to fix the ills of the private market for health.


In the US, by contrast, the market is anything but free and the government already bears 65 per cent of all healthcare costs (mostly because it pays for the elderly). Yet the right-wing opposition to government provided health insurance for the uninsured is in the name of saving the free market from encroaching socialism. What is it about healthcare that makes it so prone to nonsense?


Abhijit Banerjee is Director, Poverty Action Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology









Of the many issues that torment the human mind, like the refusal to accept the inevitability of death, is the question if life, like us on Earth, exists anywhere else in this colossal cosmos. Many draw comfort by presuming that we are, indeed, unique. However, by the sheer logic of probability, this may not be the case. Also, life may exist elsewhere, but not in the form that it does on Earth.


After all, Earth is but a small planet circling a small star on the edge of a small galaxy, among an estimated 125 billion other galaxies in the cosmos. Many of these are many, many times larger than our galaxy. Despite the famous observation by JBS Haldane — “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose” — human inquisitiveness urges such a search.


The year 2009 may not provide any definitive answers, but the search has assumed higher levels of endeavour. This year has been declared the International Year of Astronomy, a global awareness campaign to “help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe”. It marks the 400th anniversary of two important events in astronomy that irreversibly changed human perception and had a profound impact on philosophy. In 1609, Johannes Kepler, a scientist working in Prague, published Astronomia Nova where he detailed the laws governing the movement of planets around the sun. In the same year, Galileo Galilei used the telescope to monitor the movements of heavenly bodies. In  Starry Messenger, he says: “All the disputes which have tormented philosophers.... are exploded at once by the.... evidence of our eyes.” How this tormented the Vatican and the Church, which finally restored Copernicus into the fold of Christianity four centuries after his excommunication is a different story.


The Kepler Telescope was launched on March 6 this year, designed for a lifespan of three-and-a-half years. Orbiting the sun and pointing in the direction of the solar system’s orbit of the centre of our galaxy, this powerful space telescope began beaming its first images from April 8. It is designed to simultaneously monitor 100,000 stars in search for signals of orbiting planets. If this experiment locates such planets, then further investigations to pick up chemical and other signals, like the presence of life- sustaining gases, will follow.


All this is indeed exciting. But there are formidable challenges. Can the unique combination of various elements and chemicals that create conditions for life on Earth be replicated elsewhere? Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, maintains that six numbers in particular govern our existence and if any of these values were changed even very slightly, things would not be as they are. Bill Bryson in his fascinating travelogue on the history of science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, elaborates that, for us to exist as we do, hydrogen needs to be converted into helium in a precise but comparatively stately manner — specifically, in a way that converts seven one-thousandths of its mass to energy. Lower that value even slightly — say, from 0.007 per cent to 0.006 per cent — and no transformation would take place: the universe would consist of hydrogen alone. Raise the value slightly and the bonding would be so prolific that the hydrogen would have been exhausted long ago. So, with the slightest tweaking of the numbers we would not be here. Are we, therefore, unique?


Further, a planet of our size is likely to be located orbiting a star that is 1,000 light years away. To confirm if life exists, it would take us 1,000 years, travelling at the speed of light, to reach there. This would mean that space travellers who would set out on this journey would have to give birth to 15 generations of progeny, in conditions of zero gravity, while transferring to them the requisite technical skills so that they may report their findings. Perhaps, by the time they reach, the sun that sustains a particular planet may have even died. Of course, there could be other ways of identifying life besides interstellar travel. Huge resources to fund experiments and explorations would be needed, raising questions on transferring resources from meeting the elementary needs of survival, which must, indeed, be accorded the highest priority.


Copernicus, Galileo and so many others faced persecution for challenging the ‘status quo’. Some of the new discoveries may not be palatable. Bertolt Brecht, in his play Galileo, says: “They [rulers] would love it if the sun and the moon stood still.” The age-old philosophical battle between the supremacy of mind over matter may be further challenged by these discoveries that will lead to establishing that mind is the highest form of matter.


The views expressed by the author are personal








As a bookseller of over six years, I am sometimes asked by to-be authors what kind of covers sell. “Hmm,” I say all the time thinking, “Shouldn’t the contents inside be the selling point of your book?” Then I go on to say, “The cover should be classy, subtle.”


In the meantime, I have begun to observe how a buyer reacts to a book cover. Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s The Lost Flamingoes Of Bombay has the gorgeous semi-nude Meghna Reddy in an arty calendar-like pose on the cover, giving the misleading impression that the book is all about sex. I find several readers avoiding the book rather self-consciously as a result. I tell them I had reviewed the book somewhat glowingly and quite often encourage buyers to buy it. Tarun Tejpal’s The Story Of My Assassins shows a scarecrow, making the cover as elusive and cryptic as the title, leaving my poor buyers thoroughly at sea.


One very apt cover is that of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions that has the photograph of a real antique door in Jaipur, all glittered and jazzed up to give the impression of the illusory world of the mythical Mayapuri. There are those beautiful, Indian motifs on cloth covers for translated regional classics.


Then there are books with the name of the author over-riding everything else. Warren Buffet’s Snowball has a smart glossy black cover with a gilded border. Jack Welch’s books have his immensely likeable face on the cover. Similarly, Nandan Nilekani’s Imagining India needs only the face of the man to sell his book.


Vikas Swarup’s Slumdog Millionaire had a much better title and a simpler cover as Q and A. But one supposes that an Oscar makes a world of a difference.


We do judge a book by its cover. I put books on display to be seen from outside the shop. I try to use as bait a mix of the best books, as well as the books with the most eye-catching covers. A bright red book will be my choice over a more subtle cover, and invariably, some attractive children’s books, and some coffee-table books will find pride of place. How else would I lure the unsuspecting reader into my store like the spider and the fly?


Shobha Sengupta owns the Gurgaon-based Quill and Canvas









In theory, India’s first citizen is above the hustle-bustle of politics. Her decisions must be guided by constitutional propriety rather than partisan exigency. Certainly, in practice, in choosing a candidate for the top job, the ruling dispensation will be tempted to choose one amongst its own — or close to its own — for this most powerful of positions. The most realistic measure of a president therefore is: once elected, will she be seen to rise above the fray? The manner of Pratibha Patil’s ascent had raised many questions. But it’s been hoped that as president, she would no longer remain beholden to the party that chose her. It is in this context that we should assess the disquiet over news that the Congress party has handed out a Maharashtra assembly ticket to the president’s son.


In defending this choice, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan claims that Rajendra Shekhawat has not been given a ticket because of his lineage. But Shekhawat is a first-time nominee, and the incumbent he has dislodged as Congress candidate from Amravati is a popular two-time MLA. Shekhawat would not, to put it mildly, be the most obvious candidate for the ticket; it is unlikely that his parentage played no role in his selection. This alone raises the vexed question of dynasties in politics, a trend which the list of Maharashtra assembly candidates only accentuates. The charitable view is that Shekhawat will be ultimately judged by voters, and that his blood-line must not disqualify him. But the other view is that such dynasties represent a moribund party-system unable to hold internal elections and draw fresh blood. The high constitutional position held by a member of this particular dynasty only adds to the worry.


Shekhawat’s candidacy is not without precedent. In the early ’70s, the son of then-president V.V. Giri contested an election. The absence of controversy then, however, does not make the current case any less open to scrutiny. A precedent does not excuse, nor does the past permit. In addition, that was before the current phase of a genuinely competitive multi-party system set in. The Congress candidate from Amravati does disservice to his mother, and to the neutrality of the office she holds. His candidacy is deeply regrettable.







There now seems to be a consensus across the political/technical policymaking establishment that India’s economic recovery needs care more than discipline and, to that end, monetary policy should keep things easy. The finance minister spoke of the need for continuing with an easy money regime, echoing what the RBI governor said earlier. Since these statements come at a time the official measure of cost of living, the consumer price index (CPI) is in double digits and climbing, it is not unreasonable to assume that a certain nuance, absent when monetary policy was hardened last, is informing policymaking deliberations. Put simply, that nuance involves recognising that even if prices of some essentials are increasing, the capacity of short-term interest rates — the main monetary policy variable — to influence these prices is extremely limited. These are supply side issues, more serious in case of some commodities than others, and require short-term (imports, for example) and long-term (better farm to fork supply chains) responses that have nothing to do with the RBI.


The critical question is the vulnerability of this nuanced approach in the face of an attack of political panic, which may be engendered if a few essentials exhibit headline-hogging price trends. If nerves are held then, if arguments linking potato prices and the short-term interest rate are still pronounced as false, India’s economic recovery will have the policy regime it deserves. Monetary policy over the next few months will have to be especially accommodative because the fiscal policy party should ideally be winding down. Coherent tax reform demands that status quo ante be restored vis a vis post-crisis indirect tax breaks. Fiscal reform means cutting down on deficits and therefore removing the economic impetus government consumption expenditure provided over the past few months.


Interest rates therefore will have to stay soft, indeed perhaps get softer, so that private investment, the biggest spur for high growth, can soon do what it was doing between 2003 and 2007. Policymakers must appreciate that

Indian business is far less equipped now than it was in late 2007, when monetary policy was seriously and wrongly hardened, to absorb a rate rise shock. A rate shock now will have not just short-term but also medium-term consequences. And remember, the medium-term goal for India should be nothing less than getting back to 8-9 per cent growth.








In his unpredictability the Colonel remains somewhat predictable. Unsurprisingly Muammar Gaddafi has stolen the show in his first ever appearance at the UN General Assembly. In a speech that was to last 15 minutes, he rambled on for almost two hours, walking off grudgingly only after his own delegation asked him to.


An indication of what was to be expected started from his assertion that swine flu was developed in a laboratory as a military tool. He went on to blast the Security “Terror” Council for not being representative, arguing in very few words that it “should be abolished” as he flung the UN Charter over his shoulder. (One should note that Libya is a non-permanent member on the Council.) The showstopper was his confession, “a sensitive comment”. Gaddafi thanked the US for playing host to the international body, but was willing to relieve it of the burden. Why? Immigration procedures and strict regulations made him feel as though he was at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility and because he and others who had confided in him suffered from “jet lag”.


So what is it about the aging Colonel that has continued to grasp our attention? Is it because he rejects the luxuries of five-star hotels and pushes for a spot where he can pitch his tent? Or is it because of his female bodyguards: an entourage of gun-toting women ready for both combat and the catwalk. Perhaps it is simply because he has endured for so long. For all his ramblings he remains a chameleon, changing to the realities of the given moment. Gone is his title of the “mad-dog of the Middle East”, and now as we search for an appropriate replacement Gaddafi has provided us with ample resources in order to ensure his longevity.










Not schools but education. We are trying to give basic education through Mobile Academic Schools. Teaching basic sciences, mathematics and indigenous languages. Teams involved in the process are specialising in designing courses for the people who are backward, so that they can learn faster. We are taking extra care to improve health facilities as well. For example, wherever we work, we have told the tribals to boil drinking water. It has reduced diseases and death by 50 per cent. Even independent NGOs have said so. Child mortality decreased because we have managed to empower women to an extent. The level of under-development in Bastar and all these areas is worse than, as some indicators suggest, sub-Saharan Africa.” This is a response to a question, but the one questioned was not the HRD or health minister. It was Kobad Ghandy interviewed by the BBC.


The Planning Commission set up a task force on development challenges in extremist-affected areas and a report (in the public domain) was submitted in April 2008. This task force (TF) stated, “If the emphasis of this exploration is on the Naxalite phenomenon it is not because other modes and forms of agitation are less important but only because the method of struggle chosen by the Naxalites has brought the problem to a head.”


What’s the problem? Stated simply, some geographical regions and communities have been bypassed by the growth process. It isn’t that government committees have not examined similar issues earlier. The TF mentions three: report of the home ministry’s policy planning division in the late 1960s, the Manmohan Singh committee on rural unrest in Bihar and Andhra in the mid-1980s, and a committee of senior officials (chaired by V.C. Pandey) in the late 1980s. For the moment, though different figures float around, the TF estimates the Naxalites to be active in 125 districts in 12 states. Beyond general points about marginalisation of SCs/STs/ women, the TF makes two points. First, there has been abdication by government on physical and social infrastructure (health and education mentioned by Ghandy) and law and order. “Of all the things that are known about the Naxalites, their people’s courts are perhaps the most notorious. While the abuses that have been reported about them are not all false, taking that to be the whole story would not be quite correct. The fact is that such informal, rough and ready forums of dispute resolution did in a way respond to the felt need.” The criminal justice system (and the civil one too) doesn’t deliver. Consequently, there is the post-1970s Bollywood route of taking the law into one’s own hands, or resorting to alternative channels like mafia and now, Naxalites. Minimum wages are yet another instance of abdication, mentioned both by the TF and Ghandy.


Second, while abdication is indirect, there is direct harassment of the poor through usurping their land and forest rights. Though statistical analysis done by the TF is not methodologically robust, it shows correlation between Naxalite movements and 10 factors: high share of SC/ST population; low literacy; high infant mortality; low urbanisation; high forest cover; high share of agricultural labour; low per capita food-grain production; low road network penetration; low financial inclusion; and high share of rural households without assets. This is a development cum governance deficit. Later in the interview, Ghandy ducked the question about armed aspects of Naxalism. “I can’t tell you much about that. I don’t deal with that and don’t even know their members. You are talking about development.” TF couldn’t agree more, at least on that part. This is about non-development. “This has appeared in the public perception as a simplistic law-and-order face-off between the official coercive machinery and this more radical extremist political formation. The social consequence results, then, in undermining instruments of social and economic amelioration as well as processes of democratic exchange to resolve persisting issues. This is the crux of the problem.”

In a meeting of chief ministers on internal security in 2006, the PM said, “My approach to the Naxalite problem is that we need a blend of firm, but sophisticated, handling of Naxalite violence with sensitive handling of the developmental aspects. It is in the most neglected areas of the country that Left wing extremism thrives today. These are also the main recruiting grounds for Naxalite outfits. While Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are in the forefront of Naxal-related activities today, many other states remain vulnerable. Chief ministers must personally take in hand what deliverables are possible even while preparing to meet Naxalite violence through effective law and order measures. The real key in fighting Naxalite violence is ‘good’ intelligence. This would involve effective integration of strategic and tactical intelligence, properly leavened with ground-level information available at the level of the police station.”


This was a security approach, but the development approach was mentioned. In a similar meeting in 2009, the PM said, “Left wing extremism has been in vogue for four decades now, but the danger is that over time the nature of the movement has substantially altered. From an ideologically driven movement it has been transformed into one in which the military ethos has become predominant... Quite a few states in the country are affected by left wing extremism, notably Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. As the movement spreads, and becomes more energised and active, we must ponder deeply on how best to effectively deal with it.” Rather oddly, the emphasis on development has disappeared.


A French economist recently asked me, “What has changed between UPA-I and UPA-II? When I came during UPA-I, everyone was talking about Pakistan and external security. Now, everyone is talking about Naxalite violence and internal security.” The ministry of home affairs did indeed create a Naxal Management Division in October 2006, but the number of incidents hasn’t increased dramatically. The ministry’s Annual Report for 2008-09 tells us there were such incidents in 371 police stations in 95 districts and 13 states in 2007. In 2008, there were such incidents in 400 police stations in 87 districts in 13 states. In 2008, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa accounted for 86.39 per cent of violent incidents. In fairness, the home ministry does mention the development aspect. “The government has been following a holistic approach to deal with Naxalite activities, aimed at giving attention in the areas of security, development, administration and public perception management.” But that doesn’t really seem to be the thrust, witness the ad campaign released by home ministry. One reason might be development is perceived to have pay-offs only in the medium-term. However, the TF mentions several development quick-fixes for the short-term too.


The writer is a Delhi-based economist









At his election, American President Barack Obama had reassured a sceptical, jittery Israel that the special bond between the US and Israel would be unshaken. He reiterated as much in Cairo in June, with a speech that mesmerised the Arab world into believing that Washington would, at the same time, recast its role in the Middle East. Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s frequent visits were a mark of Obama’s deep, personal commitment to West Asia, in stark contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush.


So neither Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could refuse to travel to New York for the tripartite meet on Tuesday, although neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians believed that a date for the commencement of peace talks or concessions would be announced, their entrenched disagreements having already torpedoed Mitchell’s last-minute efforts with both sides last week. Meanwhile, Obama’s popularity in Israel and the West Bank kept plummeting.


Only the Americans still showed a sense of desperation to make the meet more than a photo opportunity. It ended up being just that: a cold handshake between Netanyahu and Abbas, with Obama in the background. The meeting was protocol, not political. An inventory of what Obama had hoped for would run: agreement on reopening peace negotiations, with the objective of creating a Palestinian state, and an announcement that he would make to that effect; with that first objective achieved, announcement of a deadline for the Palestinian state; agreement on the principles and processes of the peace talks; a final, unambiguous declaration of confidence-building measures that would certainly include Israel’s settlement freeze and concrete efforts by Arab states for normalising relations with Israel.


Early Tuesday, hours before the meet, news broke that Israel had “secretly” agreed to a partial settlement freeze for six to nine months, exempting however the 2500-3000 homes Netanyahu’s government had already cleared and East Jerusalem. Why this was even considered news is a journalistic mystery since Netanyahu was expected to make the offer, which would anyway fall short of US demands of a yearlong freeze that would


include East Jerusalem. But this “private” Israeli position, as opposed to Netanyahu’s rhetoric-laden “public” stance, was linked to “private” assurances Mitchell apparently got from a handful of Gulf and North African states guaranteeing over-flight rights to Israel, withdrawing travel bans against Israelis and opening interest sections in Israel. None of that would wash, since Saudi Arabia will not grant the same without a peace agreement. And Abbas will not even begin to negotiate without a total freeze.


The most informed and engaged may still be naive. Did Obama miscalculate? Did he make matters worse by raising expectations? Netanyahu, always a public relations expert, was diplomatic enough to deflect attention from the US failure and say instead that the demand for a freeze was costing the peace process “a great deal of time”. But Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, lacking diplomatic tact, was blunt: that the meeting took place despite Israel’s opposition to settlement freeze was its victory. In fact, the US administration looks rather unsettled now, with Mitchell stating that a settlement freeze was not a precondition — contrary to what both Obama and Hillary Clinton had unambiguously declared earlier — and Obama telling the UN General Assembly that negotiations must begin on the most difficult matters, and without preconditions.


Obama has rightly stressed urgency. But he needs to reconsider his administration’s hitherto inflexibility. No US president has as yet managed a settlement freeze from Israel, and Arab intransigency is legendary. Netanyahu will not risk unseating his own government, with its rightwing presence, while Abbas’s authority is dubious and still under threat from Hamas. In fact, Abbas has emerged weaker from the business, after his own tough rhetoric prior to travelling to New York.


Israel is more preoccupied with Iran — as are many Arab states — and the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The Obama administration had believed energetic engagement would do the trick, and the Americans do deserve praise for pressing on with a meeting here, a nudge there, all in their persistent efforts to clear the ground. But the three weeks Obama has given Israelis and Palestinians to find answers for restarting peace talks will not produce a miracle.








Paresh Mokashi, director of India’s Oscar entry ‘Harishchandrachi Factory’, tells ALAKA SAHANI why things are looking up for Marathi cinema


What made you choose the making of India’s first motion film as a subject for your film?


This is the first film ever on Dadasaheb Phalke. When I first read his biography written by Bapu Watve in 2005, I was fascinated with the story of an ordinary man who laid the foundation of Indian cinema. However, I chose to focus only on the period from 1911-13, when he made India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra. I ruled out the idea of a biopic as it covers only the high points of a person’s life. The story of Raja Harishchandra’s making is also that of the beginning of India’s cinematic journey. It encompasses the adventures, the madness, the passion and the character of Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema.


How did you flesh out characters like Phalke, his wife and others, and the milieu for this period drama?


Watve’s book provided some pointers. My research too gave me some insight into Phalke and his associates’ character. Still, I had to use my imagination to portray them. Phalke was known for his sense of humour, which the film has captured. It also showcases his madness, passion and adventure involved in making Raja Harishchandra. However, giving shape to characters like his wife Saraswatibai, who knew how to operate a camera and helped Phalke in editing and shooting, was much more difficult as material on them is very rare. The set posed a bigger challenge. But Nitin Desai stepped in to create that era.


When Shwaas became India’s Oscar entry in 2004, it gave the then-languishing Marathi film industry a new lease of life. Will the selection of Harishchandrachi Factory further strengthen its position?


Shwaas created a wave after it was selected for the Oscars and received the National Award for Best Film. Maybe Harishchandrachi Factory will create another now. But it really depends on the people in the industry as well as the audience to make or break that phenomenon. However, Marathi cinema has always seen plenty of good work, dating to the Prabhat era. V. Shantaram’s films were ahead of the times, and they were classics. Then came tamasha-centric films, but later the industry saw talented directors Jabbar Patel and Amol Palekar deliver meaningful films. For the past five years, the Marathi film industry has been producing interesting films.


With Harishchandrachi Factory, has Marathi cinema moved to the forefront of Indian cinema?


The Marathi film industry has produced a string of good films, like Valu, Tingya and Dombivli Fast, in the recent years. Many people like me, who are exposed to world cinema, are entering the field. They are open to experiment, they bring a finer sensibility and understanding of cinema. All these have resulted in better films. With this, the set rules and stereotypes of Marathi films are fading away. However, Harishchandrachi Factory’s selection just establishes that it’s a good film with a good story, which the jury for selecting India’s official Oscar entry liked. Had the jury been comprised of different members, maybe they would have selected another film. There were nearly 30 entries, and a number of them are good films.


This year, a number of Marathi films have found big producers. Are regional films gaining more ground now?

In the recent years, the volume and quality of Marathi films has increased. If you ask me to name 10 recent Marathi films that I have liked, I can do that. But I can’t say the same about Hindi films. However, the South Indian film industry has always been huge, with big projects and a strong following. The Bhojpuri industry is also churning out films and has a large audience. Compared to them, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi and Bengali films have been economically weak. But the scenario is improving, getting funds is becoming easier, though that didn’t happen with me in the beginning.


Has it been difficult for Marathi cinema to grow under the shadow of Bollywood?


Hindi and Marathi films have their own followings. People who watch Marathi films also watch Hindi but not vice versa. However, there is no clash there. There will always be popular and not-so-popular cinema. However, it’s mainly the audience which creates these distinctions. Often it’s not the subject that decides the popularity of a film but the treatment. Harishchandrachi Factory has broken the language barrier and has already won awards at four national festivals.








The latest disclosures in the Sunday Times by British correspondent Simon Henderson (September 20, 2009), quotes excerpts from the letter written by the Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr A.Q. Khan to his Dutch wife Henny in 2003, when he was under detention and interrogation by Pakistani authorities. These excerpts not only reveal China’s primary role in the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme and the deep involvement of successive governments and army chiefs in Pakistani proliferation, it also impeaches the credibility of US President George Bush, the US intelligence establishment and a number of academics and think-tanks who accepted the official Pakistani version put out in 2004 about Khan being solely responsible for Pakistani proliferation without the knowledge of Pakistani army and its governments. One can straightaway predict that the Pakistani government, the army, and much of the media and academic establishment will immediately denounce the disclosure as fabrication and one man’s unsubstantiated version. Dr A.Q.Khan himself may execute one of his U-turns and disown the letter and its authenticity. There are enormous international, Pakistani and Chinese vested interests in impeaching the contents of the letter.


Henderson has only quoted excerpts from the four-page letter. One does not know whether what he has withheld relate to less important matters or more explosive issues. For instance, there is no mention in the letter about A.Q.Khan’s linkages with the CIA, about which the former Dutch Prime Minister Dr Rudd Lubbers has told several audiences, including the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in Delhi. It is obvious that over the last five years since Khan became the most notorious proliferator, American efforts to get access to him is less than whole-hearted.The Pakistani leadership has been able to deny the International Atomic Energy Agency access to Dr Khan in view of the US and Western interests in covering up the full details of Khan’s proliferation, which included US and Western European permissiveness of Khan’s proliferation efforts during the Eighties. Khan claims that Pakistan helped to put up the Chinese uranium centrifuge plant at Hanzhong in the early Eighties. Most of the equipment for that should have been procured from Western Europe. Recently, Swiss authorities announced that they destroyed a computer recovered from Urs Tinner, one of Khan’s primary contractors, also a CIA informant, which contained a bomb design more advanced than the earlier design supplied by China.


Khan has secured relative freedom to travel within Pakistan and his pension has been raised from 200 to 2500 dollars per month by the Pakistan army. He got a lump sum payment of 50,000 dollars. The leakage of the contents of Khan’s 2003 letter at this stage could as well be his way of warning the Pakistani army and government, US and the international community, that he should be left unharmed since he has already planted his disclosures in bits and pieces in various parts of the world and they will come out if Khan were to meet with a fatal accident. Surely the present disclosures would not have been made without ascertaining that it will not harm Khan at this stage.


From the Indian point of view, Khan’s confirmation of the comprehensive nature and full scope of the crucial China connection in Pakistani weapons’ development is of primary importance. In this country there is a lot of understandable anti-US sentiment that grew in the last six decades of US arms aid to Pakistan. Now Khan has confirmed what had been known in the government and very limited strategic circles since the early Eighties — that China has been arming Pakistan with nuclear weapons which the Pakistanis proclaim are India-specific. Subsequently, they also gave them missiles. It is their confidence in the deterrent shield provided by nuclear weapons-missile combination that makes the Pakistanis confident they can get away with their terror campaign against India.The Pakistan-China nuclear axis is still ongoing.The US has, of late, been trying to befriend and develop a partnership with India.Therefore, in our security calculus, China has to feature as an adverse factor. Keeping the border tranquil and developing trade relations with China, which are all essential, should not lead us to overlook the fact that the Pakistani nuclear-missile threat is a Chinese contribution. Why did this happen?

It started in 1976 when Z.A. Bhutto signed an agreement with China for nuclear collaboration. At that time, China did not join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, denouncing it since it did not permit all peace-loving countries to have the right to possess nuclear weapons. At that time for China, Pakistan was a peace-loving country entitled to have nuclear weapons and India was not. Bhutto considered this agreement the foremost achievement of his life and according to him, it was reached after eleven years of negotiations.


In other words, the talks on Pakistan-China nuclear weapon cooperation started in 1965. According to the book Nuclear Express by American scientists Thomas Reed and Danny Stillman, Deng Xiaoping pursued a deliberate policy of proliferation to Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. Presumably this was part of his anti-Soviet drive in the Eighties. The US, in its negotiations with Pakistan, agreed to look away from the Pakistani nuclear weapons effort with Chinese assistance as a quid pro quo for Pakistani support to the anti-Soviet mujahideen campaign. Western European countries shut their eyes to the export of nuclear technologies by their companies to Pakistan and through Pakistan to China.


For China, India was pro-Soviet and therefore arming Pakistan as a nuclear proxy was justified. The proliferation in North Korea and Iran about which the US and Western countries are so concerned today began when the Chinese let the genie out of the bottle in the Eighties and Pakistan followed up that effort with respect to Iran and North Korea. Dr A.Q. Khan was at the centre of this international proliferation phenomenon. Therefore there was a tacit understanding to cover up his proliferation activities in major dimensions. He had to be made a scapegoat but there was a limit to how far they could proceed against him without his exposing their own involvement. It was 9/11 and the fear of cooperation between Khan and his colleagues and al-Qaeda that necessitated the closing of the proliferation activities of Khan and Pakistani government. Once again, the US was prepared to shut its eyes to the Pakistani army’s involvement provided they cooperated in shutting down the Khan network and took steps to prevent weapons falling into the hands of the terrorists. Khan was not the father of the Pakistani bomb.The responsibility to conduct the test was entrusted to Samar Mubarak Mund, who presumably had parallel access to Chinese weapon technology. A.Q. Khan’s glory lay in the fact that he managed the proliferation network, involving all major powers other than Soviet Union, successfully for well over twenty years andkept his linkages with CIA, and thereby escaped all punishment.


The writer is a senior defence analyst








Jamaat-e-Islami’s Daawat, in its editorial on September 19, writes: “Highlighting the need for austerity is nothing new. Emphasis has been given on austerity in the past too. But, as all these efforts have been for the sake of public consumption and for fooling the people, they have never yielded any positive result. This exercise of show or drama for some time, and that too with no interest and even questionable intentions, has always reached its logical conclusion. The same thing is happening this time.” The paper has criticised talk of austerity on the one hand and “huge amounts being spent on decoration and renovation of government offices” on the other.


Talking of two central ministers’ stay in five star hotels for 100 days, Kolkata and Delhi-based Akhbar-e-Mastriq in its editorial entitled, ‘Stay in Sheesh Mahal of our honourable ministers’ (September 10), comments: “The important thing in this matter is not why these ministers were staying in hotels and how much money was being spent on them by the government or by themselves. The real issue is that a wrong message is going to the country that when it is facing drought conditions and a large number of farmers are committing suicide, why two honourable ministers of the government were enjoying the luxury of five star hotels.” The paper adds: “Fortunately, an example was set by Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee. There is a need for strictly adhering to this example.”


Delhi-based Jadeed Khabar, in an editorial (September 17) asks: “The question is why the area of austerity in government’s non-plan expenditure should be kept restricted to expenses on travels? Why should it not include the grand style of residences of ministers and other political leaders and many unnecessary expenditures?”


Delhi-based Hamara Samaj, however, in a front page signed editorial by the editor, Khalid Anwar (September 16), has come down heavily on the present talk of austerity. It says: “The Congress party has launched an unmindful (jaahilana) campaign in the name of simplicity and control on expenditure for which not only the people of the country but all policymakers with love for this country will have to pay in future if not now. We do not know why control on legitimate expenditure is being termed as an act of wisdom. If the prime minister starts travelling on foot, this can be useful to the extent of publicity for the Congress Party but it can certainly not be beneficial for a country with one-fourth of the world’s population.”


Whispers about the Chinese

Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on September 15 says that “continuing incursions on the border do indicate that the intentions of China are not noble (iraade nek nahin hein). But it is not known why our government is refusing to take any serious notice of these activities and, in fact, the government is contradicting the reports in the media concerning these activities... Recently, a high official of the Indian army had expressed the view that we cannot defeat China. But the question of defeat or victory comes up only in a direct war. Presently the question is if we are able even to foil the Chinese incursions and defend ourselves against the Chinese activities on the borders.”


CJI’s prescription against corruption

The Chief Justice Justice K.G. Balakrishnan’s plea for a stronger law to fight corruption among government functionaries has been commented upon widely. Akhbar-e-Mashriq, in its editorial (September 14), writes: “In the field of economic growth, India is making rapid strides compared to many countries of the world. But with regard to corruption and bribery, it is even now on top of the list.” The paper notes the statement of the CJI that it takes an extraordinarily long time in getting permission for initiating legal proceedings and there being many hurdles in this process. The paper says that what the CJI has said is not only an “eye opener” but it also presents a picture of his helplessness.”


Delhi, Lucknow, Dehradun and Mumbai-based daily Sahafat, in its editorial on September 16 writes: “The statement of Chief Justice Balakrishnan... is correct. The law minister has expressed the view that there is no weakness in the law even though the Santhanam Commission has pointed out the lacunae in Section 311 and the corrupt officials have always used this section for their defence. Law Minister Veerappa Moily has said that there is enough scope for punishing corrupt officials through sections 309 and 310, and he would consult the prime minister in this regard.”







INCIVILITY is the new secondhand smoke. Everyonefeelsimpelledto disdain it, but nobody is willing to do away with it entirely.


Besides,it'sprofitable.Look at South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson.Twoweeksago,hewas ust a loudmouth with the bad taste to shout an insult at the US president during the president's speech to lawmakers.

Since then, he's become a right-wing darling, and $2 mil ioninnewcampaigncontributions have flowed his way. Incivility apparently cuts both ways, though; his Democratic challenger has taken in more than $1.5 million.


Our recent descent into boorishness didn't begin on the political platform but on thestage--notwithourpoliticians but with our stand-up comics. Sometime in the late 1950s, the taste for comedy based on edgy political satire (think Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl) mutated into shtick based on insult (think Don Rickles and Jackie Mason).
People, as it turned out, found t highly entertaining to watch other people being insulted.


It was, in economic terms, the commoditisation of incivility.


It wasn't long before foundering AM radio found a saviour in the proto-shock ock, Howard Stern, who turnedrudenessandtransgressive humor of every sort into a morning staple for millions of Americans. Incivility, the commodity, had found a broad new market, built on the animating insight that people found insults entertaining.


Notlongafterward,conservative activists eager to put together syndication networks that would promote their cause began marketing radio talk shows. They had learned from Stern, and so -- by and large -- right-wing talk radio made itself entertaining by dishing up as many insults per hour as possible. Rush Limbaugh was the avatar of this tendency, pioneering a dynamic fusion of popular culture and movement partisanship. No more patrician-accented William F.

Buckleyesque rep tie elitism fortheborn-againright.Abuse didn't just bring in ratings and dollars; it also got out the vote.


From there, it was just a short hop to our current politics of incivility for all the obvious reasons. From the perspectiveofculturalhistory,you can draw a line from Rickles' Las Vegas lounge act through Stern and Limbaugh and on to Wilson's big mouth.


This explanation of what ails our politics is fine, as far as it goes. But it ignores the far larger, more insidious problem that we face in American public discourse.

It's not that we suffer from an insufficient respect for civility; taken as a whole, our electoral politics always have been essentially uncivil, from the founding of the country to the present day.

The problem is that we suffer from an insufficient regard for the facts.


Without facts there is no argument, and without argument there is no persuasion.


Argument plus civility is dialogue, and that produces compromise,whichiswhatpermits people of good conscience to live peacefully with one another even though they hold different views.

As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihanlikedtosay,"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts."
















The brutal murder of auto component company Pricol’s vice-president (human resources) Roy George by disgruntled workers earlier this week is an almost identical rerun of the lynching of Graziano Transmissions CEO Lalit Kumar Choudhary exactly a year ago. The similarities go beyond the fact that both the murdered executives worked for auto component companies. In both cases, the immediate cause for employee anger, which eventually turned violent, was the laying off of a number of workers. But the problems ran much deeper. In both cases, the laid-off employees were part of unionised efforts to extract higher pay from management. In both cases, but particularly Pricol’s, the firms were not doing well enough to give their employees handsome pay hikes. Pricol, for the first time in its history, made a loss in financial year 2008-09 and recorded losses in the April-June quarter of the current financial year. So, it was far from obvious that the workers had a strong case—if a company is making losses, employees usually receive pay cuts, not demand pay hikes. But in both cases, a group of workers dug in to press for unreasonable demands. And in doing so, they resorted to not working, and encouraged others not to work either, or to work less. This obviously puts enormous pressure on the already stretched balance sheets of struggling companies. Any sensible management would, therefore, take a decision to sack the troublemakers. In the Pricol case, Roy George was murdered even as he tried to mediate between the workers and senior management.


Of course, the first thing to do is arrest the guilty and prosecute them. If, according to reports, the accused are members of a major national trade union—the AICCTE, affiliated to the CPI (ML) Liberation—then the union must take immediate action to disassociate itself and its members from such actions. This is trade unionism in a completely unacceptable form. While workers have a right to organise themselves in a democracy, they do not have a licence to violence, even if they feel genuinely aggrieved. The broader issue that needs to be addressed is a fundamental one about the role of unions and archaic labour laws that prevent hire and fire in today’s modern capitalist economy. It is quite clear that trade unionism is an elitist exercise that excludes a majority of (unorganised) workers in India. And labour laws perpetuate that exclusion and encourage the kind of belligerent behaviour that led to the deaths of Roy George and Lalit Kumar Choudhury. It’s time that the government moved to weaken the entrenched unions by amending labour laws. It can bank on the wider support of unoganised labour when it does so. The future of manufacturing in India—and in some cases, workplace safety—depends on this change taking place.







When Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi arrived in Rome this June, it was with his usual retinue of 40 virgin bodyguards. On an earlier visit to Paris, he was accompanied by a camel. He has been much kinder to New York, but the city hasn’t reciprocated. All he wanted to do was pitch a bedouin tent, while staying over for the UN General Assembly. They wouldn’t let him do this in Central Park. Then they removed the exotic structure, replete with Lawrence of Arabia-style rugs and wall hangings, set up on Bedford land owned by Donald Trump. One hoity-toity resident said, if you have a lot of money and want to show off, you don’t come to Bedford—its people like to keep things to themselves. Even Ratan Tata’s Taj Pierre cancelled a booking for the ‘Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’. Finally, the poor fellow, who had been denied a chance to address the General Assembly through the 40 years in which he has dictated to his country, exploded. At his first Assembly address. For almost 100 minutes, much longer than his scheduled 15.


He had chosen a lavish brown robe for the occasion, which he threw this way and that way with panache as he drove in every point forcefully: George Bush and Tony Blair should be put on trial for the Iraq war; which lab concocted swine flu as a biological weapon? Who killed JFK and Martin Luther King? Oh, and listen India, Kashmir should become an independent Baathist state. His hosts, too, came in for a battering, that the permanent members of the security council were running true to terrorist form! Holding a clutch of speech notes in one hand, he tore the UN rule book with the other. Qaddafi reserved friendly feelings for another General Assembly newbie: Barack Obama, the son of Africa, was called the glimmer in the dark. But Obama’s team couldn’t have striven harder to circumvent all chamber encounters and photo ops between the two leaders, as the US President spoke just before Qaddafi. Even at the G-8 summit at L’Aquila earlier this year, where Qaddafi had accessorised himself elaborately—he seems to share Michelle Obama’s love for brooches—Obama moved out of the photo frame whenever he could. For UN sceptics, the whole farce engineered by Qaddafi and the Iranian President—who heralded the death of single powers and capitalism—was proof positive of the institution breathing its last.








The way that the US dollar has plummeted against some of the other major global currencies, particularly the Euro, has surprised many whose professions mandate that they not be surprised. Except for those whose livelihoods depend on the yo-yo-ing of the ‘majors’, this might be perceived to be a bit of a storm in a teacup.


That the dollar is rapidly moving towards a 1.50 Euro is not likely to get the Hollywood moghuls salivating. Or will it? And should we care?


First, was the dollar weakening unexpected? The direction was not, but the speed and timeframe was. The dollar Index (DX), a trade weighted composite, used as a benchmark for currency trades, has fallen from around 79 levels at end-July to around 76 now. Not that this is a major fall in the context of the movements in the DX over the past six months (see chart); the DFX has fallen from 89 levels in early March 2009, and has occasionally fallen quite rapidly over short periods.


The broad reasons for the weakening of the dollar are more or less clear. First and foremost is the reduction in global investors risk appetite following the increasing evidence of recovery signals, however, weak, and the consequent quest to seek alpha from the enormous funds parked in US Treasury securities.


Although there are no formal figures available, there is increasing evidence of the emergence of a USD carry trade, which builds and leverages on this liquidity to invest in “higher yielding currencies”, mostly in emerging markets.


Is any of this of material interest to Indian policy authorities? Yes. The most direct effect is on the rupee. We had expected the rupee to appreciate based on trade and foreign capital consideration; a weakening of the dollar will only reinforce this trend. If the rupee begins to appreciate rapidly, this will inevitably hurt India’s exports, operating as they already are on weak export markets.


Even worse is that increasing volatility will force them to hedge their exposures, impacting their margins further. The silver lining in this is that the rupee has appreciated less than the currencies of many of India’s export competitors over the past 6 months, imparting a slight competitive edge in the current environment.


A steep appreciation might force the RBI’s hand in the currency markets, to maintain export competitiveness. Other than the RBI’s stated goal of intervening in currency markets to contain volatility, it might be forced to control direction as well. This will lead to liquidity injections into domestic markets, exacerbating the already high levels of liquidity, thereby necessitating sterilisation measures including issues of MSS paper, adding to the already high supply of government securities and pushing up the sovereign yield curve.


The other big effect will be on the prices of commodities that are predominantly traded in the USD, chief amongst them being crude oil. It is no surprise that crude prices have more than doubled from the lows of USD 30 / bbl since end-February, not coincidentally, just before the time when the USD started weakening. (The other notable commodity, of course, as everyone now knows, was gold).


Although we do not think that buildups in speculative positions will drive up crude prices to levels anywhere close to the excesses of mid-2008, a sustained increase even to USD 90 / bbl levels will have significant effects on India. The first will be higher pass-throughs into inflation via unregulated petroleum products prices.


Next will be the pressure on realisations of oil marketing companies through sales of subsidised products, necessitating some oil bonds and other subsidy support, either worsening the fiscal situation or hardening interest rates.


How much might we expect the USD to weaken and how long might this persist? Remember that the weakening of the dollar has been particularly marked against the Euro and the Yen, amongst the majors and by remarkably similar magnitudes over the past three months.


The former was largely due to perceptions of economic recoveries and interest differentials and the latter also had an element of shifts in currency carry trades. It is unlikely that the dollar weakening trend will deepen significantly going forward, since considerations of competitiveness will lead to policy interventions, even if they are informal.


This implies that the drivers of the rupee movements will increasingly be driven more by our external interactions than by the dollar’s directionality. That, however, might change if the dollar decisively changes track with a quicker (and more vigorous) than expected recovery compared to the other major geographies and begins a sustained appreciation.


All of this uncertainty and volatility, though, will be very good for our currency futures markets.


The author is vice-president, business & economic research, Axis Bank. These are his personal views







I was at a lunch some years ago at RBI in honour of Axel Weber, the President of the Bundesbank, when he said retirement costs was one of the biggest problems for Germany. According to him, Metternich set the retirement age in Germany at 65 when life expectancy was only 35 and today after more than 150 years the retirement age was still 65 even though life expectancy had risen to 85 and was rising every decade by 1.3 years. He was staunchly supporting the move to raise retirement age to 67 in an economy with a declining population, generous pension benefits, and rising life expectancy leading to a debilitating fiscal crisis.


Our view on retirement age has not moved much either. At independence India’s life expectancy was only 37.9 years but the retirement age for government employees was set at 55 years.


This was increased in 1962 to 58 but it stayed unchanged for 36 years till the Vajpayee government increased it to 60 in 1998 where it is today. Average life expectancy today stands at 65. In fact in 1950 there were only 20 million people over the age of 60 in India of which only 8 million were in the age group between 60 and 64.


Today there are 91.6 million people over the age of 60 and 32 million of these are between the age of 60 and 64. By 2025 this number will be 158.7 million of which 53.7 million will be between the ages of 60-64. In fact the growth rate of the population over the age of 60 is at 3.8 percent while for the population at large it is about1.8 percent. And our average life expectancy at birth by 2025 will be 70 years. An early retirement age therefore is not only bad economics but is even worse in creating needless dependency within society.


Discussions around retirement are often coloured by suspicion, as those who need to raise the subject, are seen as interested parties and so not impartial. So, what has been the argument for a somewhat lower retirement age? Three reasons are offered—the first has been around the inability of people to be in good enough health to be expected to continue working after 60.


Having devoted their lives to an organisation they have a right to livelihood which the pension payment provides. With life expectancy up even a casual look around suggests people after 60 are in good health and do not want to sit at home idling.


The second argument for an early retirement age emerges out of a mindset of a scarcity economy with slow growth. Population growing rapidly with a stagnant economy—so there are not enough jobs to go around.


The government as a large employer uses retirement to open up jobs for the youth. Unemployment is a bigger concern for government than old age and retirement. However, the facts today are a little different—the economy has a growth momentum and the government is not such a large employer. In fact, as an employer in total the government employs about 18 million people whereas, India every year creates an approximate 12 million jobs.


So, the percentage of government jobs is small and reducing. However, early retirement creates the need to increase the costs to government. A fit person is asked to retire and receive pension and someone replaces him at full cost thus increasing cost to the system substantially.


The third argument for retirement is to find a way to create dignified exits. Senior people whose energy is sapping or whose performance is flagging can retire rather than being forced out by some performance evaluation metric in a dignified manner.


This argument has merit and remains a concern but the time has come for some greater accountability in government. In an organisation like RBI officers are reviewed for retirement on the basis of performance at 50 and then every year after 55 to see whether they are being able to perform at the expected level. This is replicable and cuts the complacency that could creep into senior government officials. But an inability to deal with a few poor performers should not be the excuse to retire the entire cohort.


Looking at how demographics are to evolve in India in the coming years now is a good time to act. Pension payments are up 20 percent from Rs 65 000 crore in 2005 to Rs 100 283 crore in 2009. For central government pension payments have risen from 7.6 percent in 1991 to 10.6 percent of net tax revenues in 2006. Taking our retirement age up to 65, maybe in two quick steps, is appropriate and with a fiscal deficit at an all time high, required. Let’s just do it.


The author is chairman, Asia Pacific, BCG. These are his personal views








The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)—the primary body for space research in India—has done it again. Some months after its inaugural moon mission ‘Chandrayaan-1’, the country’s space agency successfully launched seven satellites in 1,200 seconds with the help of its most trusted workhorse rocket, polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV C-14).


India is only the fifth country to have a re-entry vehicle. It is the only developing country to develop its own remote sensing satellite. India was the sixth country to launch its lunar mission after Russia, US, Europe, Japan and China. In sum, India’s space programme has come a long way since its inception in 1962 with the Indian National Committee on Space Research (INCOSPAR). Its successor, Isro, was set up with Rs 100 million in 1969 and six years later its first satellite ‘Aryabhatta’ was launched. Since then Isro has emerged as one of ‘The Big Three’ Asian space agencies along with China’s CNSA and Japan’s JAXA. Isro’s focus is mainly on communication satellites, meteorology payloads to improve weather forecasting and remote sensing satellites for mapping of national resources. India’s space infrastructure is becoming more sophisticated to reduce its dependence on foreign space agencies as well as to corner a share of the world’s lucrative satellite-launching market. Isro has decided to venture into a more ambitious series of missions which include Chandrayaan-2, around 2011; a mission to an asteroid or a comet in 2015 and a Mars mission in 2019. Also, there are tentative plans to initiate a human spaceflight programme which would cost around Rs 100 billion ($2.2 billion)—not an insignificant sum for an agency whose annual budget is around Rs 40.72 billion, frugal in comparison with international standards.


A good space programme besides catering to the defence and political needs, gives a competitive edge to the economy in both the short and long term.What Isro needs to do is market itself better so that its achievements register beyond the headlines.








India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has once again done its job perfectly, placing the country’s Oceansat-2 satellite as well as six European nano-satellites in orbit around the earth. Originally conceived as a rocket to carry India’s earth-viewing satellites, the PSLV has evolved into a versatile and reliable launch vehicle. Apart from successfully launching a dozen remote-sensing satellites, it has taken the Kalpana weather satellite and the C handrayaan-1 lunar probe into space. The PSLV has also shown it can put multiple satellites in orbit. For a polar launch from Sriharikota, such as the one carried out on Wednesday, the PSLV first travels in a south-easterly direction in order to avoid dropping its spent stages on Sri Lanka. Only after the rocket is well clear of the island does it turn south. If the PSLV flew a southward trajectory right from lift-off, the rocket would be able to carry a heavier payload. But since India is liable under international law for any damage caused by spent stages falling on another country, the Indian Space Research Organisation took the decision early on not to overfly Sri Lanka. In the course of 15 consecutive successful flights in as many years, the PSLV has launched a total of 39 spacecraft.


The Oceansat-1 satellite, launched 10 years ago, was the first Indian earth-viewing satellite configured for watching over the oceans. Data from the satellite have allowed the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services based in Hyderabad to produce advisories for fishermen on where they are most likely to find large shoals of fish. Studies show that such advisories have proved most beneficial. Instruments on the spacecraft have also aided studies on coastal water pollution and sedimentation. The Ocean Colour Monitor on Oceansat-2 will allow such work to continue. In addition, Oceansat-2’s scatterometer, which sends out a radio signal in a narrow beam and detects the echo that comes back, can measure the speed and direction of surface winds over the ocean. Such information can help weather models generate more accurate forecasts. The scatterometer will aid the long-term monitoring of polar sea ice; the melting of the ice as a result of global warming will raise sea levels and inundate low-lying coastal areas. In addition, Oceansat-2 is carrying a GPS-based instrument supplied by the Italian Space Agency, which can provide temperature and humidity profiles of the atmosphere. This information will be invaluable for weather forecasters and atmospheric scientists. At a time of growing concern over climate change, ISRO’s ability to develop advanced satellites to monitor our imperilled planet must be put to good use.






According to the jurisprudential principle of double jeopardy, no one shall be punished for the same offence more than once. But in a way, those who spend long years on death row suffer a kind of double jeopardy. They undergo two separate forms of punishment — the death sentence itself, which looms terrifyingly over their heads, and an extended period behind bars, usually in solitary confinement. In stressing that all convicts sentenced to death have a right to an ea rly decision on their mercy petitions, the Supreme Court has highlighted the callous attitude of the political executive to those on death row. Pointing out that 26 mercy petitions were pending with the President of India, many of which related to cases where death sentences were handed out more than a decade ago, the Court pulled up the Centre for keeping those on death row in a limbo by not deciding on their mercy petitions for commuting their death sentences. In suggesting that those on death row for a long period of time could seek their sentences to be commuted to life, the Court was reinforcing the principle laid down in a series of judgments on this issue — that it is gross injustice to keep people hanging interminably between death and life. This newspaper has consistently held that capital punishment has no place in a civilised society. The innate cruelty of this form of punishment is only magnified many times over in an environment where convicts are made to live endlessly in the shadow of death, a condition that promotes delusions and severe emotional distress, known as the Death Row Syndrome.


India is not the only country where prisoners wait out many years on death row. In the United States, for instance, the complicated appeals procedure that is mandatory before executions are carried out is long drawn. It is estimated that nearly one-quarter of those who await execution in the country die of natural causes. In India, the uncertainty is due to inaction on mercy petitions which, in the Supreme Court’s view, is a result of the desire to further “some larger political or government policy.” Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution, which deal broadly with clemency, empower the Central and State governments to commute death sentences, a power they are expected to exercise fairly and expeditiously. The political executive should take quick decisions on the mercy petitions, exercising its discretion in favour of the prisoner in cases where there has been inordinate delay, thereby keeping in line with the spirit of the Supreme Court’s observations. The judiciary is often told that delay defeats justice. This applies to governments as well.









In an article published in The Hindu on December 24, 2003, co-authored by Hamid Ansari, a respected scholar of West Asia, and this writer, we argued that the only way to attempt to lead Afghanistan out of its present morass was to restore the country to its well-established and widely respected tradition of neutrality. For that country to once again become officially neutral, two things were essential. The Afghans themselves must declare unequivocally th at they will follow strict neutrality in their relations with external powers; and the outside powers must commit themselves to respect Afghan neutrality. We suggested that the Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos of 1962 could provide a model for Afghanistan. Without in any way committing my fellow co-author, who now occupies the high office of Vice President of India, I have attempted below to elaborate the concept, primarily with a view to generating a focused debate on finding a way out of the Afghan crisis.


The July 1962 Declaration on the Neutrality of Laos 1962 was a two-stage affair. Two weeks before that, the Royal Government of Laos had issued an eight point statement of neutrality. The principal points were these. The Laotian people wished to protect and ensure respect for the sovereignty, independence, neutrality, unity, and territorial integrity of Laos. Secondly, Laos would not resort to the use or threat of force in any way and would not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Thirdly, it would not enter into any agreement inconsistent with its neutrality and would not allow the establishment of any foreign military bases on its territory.


In the second stage, 13 other countries, which included all the neighbours of Laos, the permanent members and three other countries, namely India, Poland and Canada adopted a Declaration that, inter alia, incorporated the Laotian government’s declaration of neutrality, and committed themselves to respect and observer Laos’ sovereignty, independence, neutrality, unity, and territorial integrity. Most importantly, they affirmed that they would not interfere directly or indirectly in the internal affairs of Laos. As a document on neutrality, it was almost impeccable.


There are two Afghan specific precedents that provide important lessons for the present situation. These are the Geneva Agreements of April 14, 1988 on the Settlement of the Situation Relating to Afghanistan; and the Bonn Agreement of December 2001, following the ouster of the Taliban regime in Kabul and the victory of the Northern Alliance.


By 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev had decided to cut his losses and withdraw. He was looking for an honourable way out and was not averse to the initiative of Secretary General Perez de Cuellar. After almost six years of going back and forth, the agreements of April 1988 were worked out.


The 1988 Agreements consisted of four documents. Two of them are relevant for our purpose: a Bilateral Agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the Principles of Mutual Relations, in particular on Non-interference and Non-intervention; and the Declaration on International Guarantees signed by the USSR and the USA. In the bilateral agreement on non-interference, the parties undertook, inter alia, to respect the right of the other side to determine its political, social, and cultural system without interference in any form; to refrain from overthrowing or changing the political system of the other side; to ensure that its territory was not used to violate the sovereignty, etc. of the other side; to prevent within its territory the training, etc. of mercenaries from whatever origin for the purpose of hostile activities against the other side. As a document of non-interference and non-intervention, it could hardly be improved upon.


Both the bilateral agreement and the declaration of international guarantees by the Soviet Union and the United States affirmed respect for Afghanistan’s non-alignment. By contrast, the Bonn agreement of 2001 does not contain a single reference to either the neutrality or non-alignment of Afghanistan. There is a request to the United Nations and the international community to take necessary measures to guarantee non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, which has not been acted upon so far.


With the benefit of hindsight, it is not surprising that the Bonn agreement did not succeed in providing stable political governance. Firstly, it was hastily worked out in a few short weeks. Its approach was limited, with a limited objective, namely, to install some governing mechanism to replace the victorious Northern Alliance. Secondly, the process was driven by external players; it was not a solution arrived at by the Afghans for the Afghans. Thirdly, the concepts of democracy embodied in the agreement were foreign-inspired if not imposed. It was not at all clear that the presidential system would work in Afghanistan. No effort was made to create political parties that are the life-sustaining force for democracy anywhere.


After nearly eight years, the Americans do not appear to have reached the stage of frustration and casualties that the Soviets had reached by the time of Geneva agreements of 1988. The Soviets suffered 14,453 dead. The U.S. losses are under 900, but the patience of American public opinion is wearing thin, as is increasingly the case in most troop-contributing countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Brown have recently called on the U.N. for help in organising an international conference to, in essence, work out a plan to facilitate early withdrawal of their troops. Zbigniew Brzezinsky has supported the call. The United States now has set for itself a more limited goal of elaborating an exit strategy.


An international conference is the right approach, but its agenda should be more than just to help the NATO forces organise their exit. Its main focus should be to re-place Afghanistan in its traditional and well-respected policy of neutrality — of non-interference by others in its internal affairs and by it in other countries. This can be done in one conference attended by all the neighbours as well by the permanent members and other influential countries. Or it could be a two-conference affair. The first one would be attended only by Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours. It would adopt a declaration of neutrality along the lines of the Laos declaration of 1962 and/or the bilateral agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan of 1988. There would then be a larger conference, attended by the permanent members as well as other influential countries. The second conference would endorse the declaration of neutrality adopted by the smaller conference and would contain a pledge by others to respect that commitment by Afghanistan and its neighbours. Many issues would come up: what kind of mechanism should there be to monitor compliance by parties with their obligations? Should there be peace-keeping of some sort? Who would deal with complaints of violations? All these questions would have to be settled in the course of negotiations.


The proposed conference would have to settle, once and for all, the definitive boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan. An undefined border is a breeding ground for suspicion and temptation for interference and intervention. Questions of regional rivalry must not be allowed to obstruct the search for a lasting peace and stability in the region.



Henry Kissinger recalled, in an article published in The Washington Post on February 26, 2009, Afghanistan’s neutrality in the 19th century and advocated a multilateral approach. He said the principal neighbours must agree on a policy of restraint. He suggested that the U.S. should propose a working group of Afghanistan’s neighbours, India, and the permanent members of the UNSC to, inter alia, assist in establishing principles for the country’s international status and obligations to oppose terrorist activities.


The conference or conferences could be convened outside the U.N., for example by the P-5, or could be called by the U.N. The U.N. option might be preferable, although big power manipulation can almost certainly be expected. It would be eminently desirable for the Secretary-General to appoint a special representative to carry out the necessary and difficult consultations with all the parities concerned. Diego Cordovez, the personal representative of Perez de Cuellar, visited the region, including Geneva, as many as 18 times. The Secretary-General must politely but firmly decline the offer by other states to ‘assist’ his special envoy by appointing their own special envoys.


External players must avoid all temptation to influence the outcome of any intra-Afghan process. Indeed, ideally, foreigners should not have any access to the venue of any future Loya Jirga.


Would the Taliban permit such a process to take place? They just might, if they perceived it as a purely Afghan process. It is very likely that they will not win many delegates in a Loya Jirga, just as the extremists failed to win significant seats in the Pakistan elections and the separatists did not even dare to contest elections in Kashmir.


These thoughts are offered with a view to channelling the discussions on the future of Afghanistan into a more purposive, constructive, and result-oriented direction. There might be, must be other ideas out there. Let a serious search begin that would at last restore peace, stability, and, eventually, prosperity to the long-suffering Afghan people.


(The author, a former Permanent Representative of India at the United Nations and a former U.N. Under-Secretary-General, is a commentator on international affairs.)










The recent launch of Chandrayaan-1 has inspired many young people and given the nation a sense of justifiable pride in the achievements of the Indian space programme. Amidst the euphoria surrounding such glamorous events, let us recall the gentle colossus who made it all possible — Professor Satish Dhawan. Though Vikram Sarabhai was the visionary, it was Dhawan who lent substance to this vision and built the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) into the vibrant body that it is today.


One of the first and possibly the most important things that Dhawan did was to bring Brahm Prakash from the Department of Atomic Energy to head the newly-formed Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram). At that time, activities at VSSC were fragmented, with different groups working independently on a variety of problems and projects — some of them even competing with each other. Brahm Prakash restructured and welded these amorphous entities into a dynamic structure capable of producing results time and time again. Working in tandem, Dhawan and Brahm Prakash created one of the great technology centres of modern India. VSSC became the birthplace of many subsequent ISRO centres and activities. It was the same Dhawan-Brahm Prakash duo that picked A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to lead the project that developed SLV-3, India’s first launch vehicle, and U.R. Rao to head the team that made the country’s first satellite, Aryabhata. When the SLV-3 put a small 40-kg Rohini satellite into orbit in 1980, India truly entered the space age.


Soon after he took over, Dhawan realised that for ISRO to grow and to deliver on its potential, it was necessary to restructure its links with the government. Against great opposition, he brought ISRO under the Government and created the Department of Space. He also realised that a different structure for the functioning of this new department was necessary. The creation of the Space Commission, a separate book of financial powers and a direct link to the Prime Minister were the specific mechanisms through which Dhawan sought to address the challenges that ISRO faced. The practice of combining the offices of Chairman of ISRO, Chairman of the Space Commission and Secretary for the Department of Space in one person also ensured seamless integration between conceptualisation and funding of programmes with delivery of technologies, launchers, satellites and applications. The setting up of ISRO Headquarters, staffed by young, bright and dedicated professionals hand-picked by Dhawan himself, completed the process of linking ISRO programmes and projects with decision-makers and sources of funds. This particular architecture that Dhawan designed was original and innovative. ISRO’s continuing success is visible proof of the robustness of this design.


Under the leadership of Dhawan and Brahm Prakash, ISRO pioneered a new way of managing complex projects. In this system, the project director presided over a small team of experts whose job it was to coordinate and channelise efforts of independent R&D groups towards realising a common goal, be it a launch vehicle or a satellite. Dhawan also ensured total transparency in project management by involving leading professionals from outside ISRO in the technical reviews of its projects.


From the beginning, Dhawan insisted on a significant role for indigenous industry in the projects of ISRO. Today, hundreds of industrial units, both in the public and private sectors, manufacture a wide range of space-quality hardware for ISRO.


The early days saw many failures. Through all those difficult times, Dhawan never lost faith in ISRO’s capabilities. He took personal responsibility for failure but when success came, he always attributed it to ISRO and his colleagues. Thus, when the first flight of SLV-3 in 1979 failed, Dhawan faced the press. When the second flight succeeded, Dhawan kept himself in the background while Kalam spoke to the press. With this kind of leadership, engineers and scientists in ISRO were never afraid to face honest failures.


As ISRO’s capabilities matured and grew, Dhawan felt the need for a stronger link between the programmes and the development needs of the country. The operational Indian National Satellite (INSAT) and Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) systems were therefore designed jointly with the users. If the user agency was not clear about what it wanted, a programme of joint experiments and studies ensured that the agency’s requirements were defined as clearly as possible so that the technology and its use were closely coupled. Most of what ISRO does so well today – the IRS and INSAT satellites with their associated Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) systems — are outcomes of these carefully thought out processes.


Handsome and elegant in appearance but simple in nature, Dhawan never seemed to realise the impact his personality had on others. He respected and worked closely with workers and technicians in the pursuit of his research interests. Many of them reciprocated his feelings by adoring him and by doing whatever he wanted them to do.


He had a great interest in issues of war and peace, and the role that science and technology could play in resolving conflicts between nations. At ISRO, he set up one of the earliest think tanks in the country to deal with such issues.


Dhawan took an occasional break from the high-tech business of space to study the flight of birds. The Pulicat Lake, Nelapetu and other bird sanctuaries near ISRO’s Sriharikota Range were his natural laboratories. The result was a classic monograph called ’Bird Flight’. In the preface, Dhawan wrote : “I lay little claim to originality and acknowledge my debt to the many distinguished researchers on animal flight who have made the subject a new branch of science. I am no less indebted to the birds…” Many of the drawings of birds that appear in this monograph were sketched by Dhawan himself.


Dhawan loved teaching and research. He often said that he spent his most productive years at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. He always modestly described himself as a teacher and said that the IISc was his first and greatest love. In an interview he gave a few months before he passed away, he was asked about the origins of all the organisational and managerial knowledge that he had used so effectively in ISRO. His reply was that he had learned everything at the IISc. In his eighteen year tenure as director, Dhawan transformed the institution, slowly replacing a feudal academic structure with a modern, democratic departmental system. His idealism and commitment influenced his colleagues in substantial measure. He also brought in fresh blood and set about creating new areas of multidisciplinary research.


What sort of a person was Dhawan? “If I have to choose one word that would define his personality, it would be integrity,” wrote Yash Pal, former chairman of the University Grants Commission. This is how Abdul Kalam and Roddam Narasimha, former director of the National Aerospace Laboratories in Bangalore, sum him up: “Professor Dhawan in his professional career has been engineer, teacher, research scientist, technologist, manager, leader and adviser — often all at the same time! His great human qualities, combining intense personal charm with a deep commitment to social values and an extraordinary objectivity in management, have led several generations of students, colleagues and administrators to efforts that they would otherwise not have taken.”


Today, the 25th of September, is Dhawan’s 89th birth anniversary. It is nearly seven years since he passed away. It is only proper that we remember him and the values he stood for.


There is perhaps no better description of him than what Shakespeare wrote:

“His life was gentle, and the elements

So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world “this was a man!”


(P.V. Manoranjan Rao was a scientist at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for many years.)









The argument that the Pokhran-II thermonuclear (TN) test of May 11, 1998 had either a lower than the officially stated yield or failed altogether has now formed the basis for demanding a new round of tests.


Reiterating their arguments made in a recent article (The Hindu, September 17) at a press conference on September 21, K. Santhanam, former official of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and a member of the Pokh ran-II core team, and Ashok Parthasarathi, former Special Assistant on S&T to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, called for lifting the country’s unilateral moratorium and launching “a comprehensive, well-focused series of TN bomb tests until such bombs are perfected.” It must be emphasised that they have not questioned the country’s capability to build an arsenal with deliverable fission weapons.


The arguments for a fresh round of TN tests towards weaponisation arise from two perspectives: (a) an unsuccessful Pokhran-II test and (b) improving the weapon design even if the Pokhran-II test was successful. While the available evidence — the technical information published by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) — does not show that the Pokhran-II was unsuccessful, there are compelling arguments against the need for resuming testing even if it was so.


DAE employed different techniques to estimate the test yields. The yield values obtained from the other five nuclear explosive tests are stated to be consistent with the original estimate of 60 kt for the May 11 tests — a 45 kt thermonuclear device and a 15 kt fission device that were exploded simultaneously. Of these, the post-shot radiochemical test, an on-site method, is considered the most accurate. Its results were published by S. B. Manohar et al (BARC Newsletter, July 1999).


A TN weapon has a primary fission trigger and a fusion secondary. The radiochemical technique for a TN test looks for signatures of certain radioisotopes, like sodium-22 and manganese-54, produced as a result of nuclear fusion in material samples from the shaft. Dr. Santhanam has argued that, since these could arise in fission as well, detection of these without stating the absolute values cannot be evidence of fusion having occurred.


Fusion produces large quantities of high-energy 14 MeV neutrons whereas fission neutrons have an average energy of only about 2 MeV. But in fission too there would be a small number of high-energy neutrons. However, high-energy neutrons produce these radioisotopes with greater probability than low-energy neutrons. Therefore, while one may see these products during fission as well, fusion would produce these in copious amounts. According to the Pokhran-II measurements, the fission weapon too had produced manganese-54. But the amount in the fusion device is significantly higher and does provide an idea of the comparative yields. DAE scientists have also published the significantly higher gamma-ray activity from fusion products (BARC Newsletter, July 1999). The absolute values and the scale have been withheld for obvious sensitivity reasons, but the qualitative difference in the levels is evident.


Further, from the post-explosion morphology of the test site, Dr. Santhanam has contended that, had a TN test occurred, “the shaft [and the A-frame sitting astride its mouth] would have been totally destroyed.”


This assertion is clearly not correct because qualitatively speaking, it is possible to conduct a 40+ kt TN explosion and still have the site morphology as seen with no cratering.


The crater morphology depends on the depth of burial, the surrounding geology, and the manner of emplacement of the device. In an underground explosion, the confining effect of the material overburden causes the energy to be directed downwards. This has a negative influence on cratering. At the same time, the confining strata are blown upwards by the expanding gas. As the depth increases, the mass of the overburden increases and, therefore, the confining effect increases. As a result a larger and larger fraction of the material thrown upwards falls back and the crater size would begin to decline as less and less material now gets ejected. So one can understand why, for example, the cratering effect of a 1 kt explosion at 20 m may be similar to a 125 kt explosion at 100 m. In fact, at some low enough value, there would be upheaval within but no material would be thrown out and there would be practically no crater.


The surface features caused by explosions at different depths and yields (under similar surrounding geology) can actually be quantified by scaling them to a standard yield, for example 1 kt. Such a scaled empirical relation does show zero cratering for some depth values, beyond which what is known as a subsidence crater results. From this relation, cratering effects for different depths and different yields can be calculated. DAE scientists have worked out such a relationship for Pokhran. Through simulations, yield and depth for the TN device were chosen so that there would be minimum cratering and there would be complete containment of radioactivity (BARC Newsletter November 1998). Indeed, in the Pokhran-II TN test, there were only large fractures on the surface but no crater or venting of radioactivity.


Based on the Pokhran-II tests, the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) assessed the Credible Minimum Deterrent (CMD) capabilities and drafted the Indian Nuclear Doctrine (IND) in August 1999. In fact, according to R. Chidambaram, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), going by the Pokhran-II tests, a TN capability up to 200 kt and a “full capability to provide technological back-up to the Indian nuclear programme” existed. The IND, which had government and military acceptance, is premised on the following: a CMD, a ‘no first use’ policy, and nuclear retaliation against a first strike that will inflict unacceptable damage. Further, in January 2003, the National Democratic Alliance government stated: “The Cabinet Committee on Security reviewed the existing command and control structures, the state of readiness, the targeting for a retaliatory attack and operating procedures for various stages of alert and launch…[and] expressed satisfaction with the overall preparedness.”


Dr. Santhanam argued that, without high-yield (150-350 kt) TN weapons, an arsenal of lower yield (around 25 kt) fission warheads did not amount to a CMD for distances of 3500 km and beyond. In a recent article (The Hindu, September 21), a former DRDO chief, V. S. Arunachalam, and a veteran strategic affairs analyst, K. Subrahmanyam, asked: “Can it be argued that only a 150 kiloton weapon will deter another warhead of a similar yield? Deterrence is not about the damage one causes to the adversary. It is about what the aggressive side will consider as unacceptable.” That is, given the extent of damage a 25 kt fission weapon can cause, an arsenal built up from lower yield fission weapons alone suffices for deterrence. Further, countering the argument of Dr. Santhanam and Parthasarathi that not only the warhead yield but the distance also was a factor, they stated: “It is not infra-dig for a 3500 km range missile to carry a 25 kt warhead. Cost-effectiveness calculations have no meaning since the nuclear war itself has no meaning.”


P.K. Iyengar, a former AEC Chairman, has argued that since TN devices are “compact, light, use less sensitive material, and offer better safety features,” they are better for weaponisation and deployment. “It is only prudent,” he says in his yet-to-be-released book, “that one continuously tests these and upgrades the technology so that it will be foolproof. Declaring a moratorium on testing immediately after the May 1998 test is unfortunate because we cannot test the veracity of the yield and also cannot improve the mechanical design of the device.”


In this context and from the perspective of only a second strike capability, the observations a Chief of Army Staff, General Krishnaswamy Sundarji, made in a 1996 private communication I have had access are pertinent: “I would not accept the proposition that continued open-ended testing would be required to keep our deterrence…For, in minimum deterrence, our weapons are going to attack enemy cities and…not…enemy weapons. Relative superiority of the nuclear weapons of the two sides should not, therefore, make any difference to deterrence…”








This week’s summit on climate change at the United Nations in New York has given a strong boost to the negotiations over a major international treaty, but there remain a number of major obstacles that must be overcome before the crucial meeting in Copenhagen in December. China, India and Japan, along with the private sector, all made positive and significant contributions at the summit.


Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, made specific commitments on curbing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions as China continues its extraordinary economic growth. While the president promised a reduction by a “notable margin” rather than a specific figure, there is no doubt that the cut will be significant. And the environment ministers of both China and India made important and constructive proposals for how their countries will reverse deforestation.


This was the kind of leadership that I had hoped to see at the summit — organised by Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary-General — with developing and emerging countries showing that they can tackle climate change while continuing their efforts to reduce poverty. But we still have a long way to go before we can be sure that a strong agreement is in place for Copenhagen.


In the next couple of years, annual emissions of greenhouse gases are likely to reach a level of 50 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. If we are to have a reasonable chance of avoiding a rise in global average temperature by more than 2{+0}C, annual emissions have to be cut to no more than 20 gigatonnes by 2050.


That means that the 9 billion people who will be living on the planet in 2050 must be producing, on average, no more than about two tonnes of greenhouse gases per year each. At the moment, the rich industrialised countries of the European Union average about 10-12 tonnes per head of population, while the figure for the United States is almost 24 tonnes. China, by contrast, emits about 6 tonnes per head at present. Thus rich industrialised countries in particular must substantially reduce their emissions.


The developed countries must now demonstrate that they have the political will to reach a strong agreement in Copenhagen. In New York Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, outlined how his country will reduce its emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, compared with 1990. This was a positive example that few others matched.


President Obama has already committed to a cut of 80 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, compared with 1990. But the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives sets an interim target for 2020 that is not considered ambitious enough by many other countries. And it is not clear when, or even if, the Senate will pass a comparable act to reduce emissions.


It is these interim targets that should now be addressed by all countries during the coming weeks. If we are to reach the goal of reducing emissions to 20 gigatonnes by 2050, we must be at about 35 gigatonnes by the halfway point of 2030.


That means global emissions have to peak within the next five years and be steadily falling by 2020. And while the commitments by the largest emitters already on the table for 2020 offer significant cuts relative to today’s emissions, they collectively fall 4 or 5 gigatonnes short of what is necessary if we are to be on a realistic trajectory to reach the 2030 and 2050 targets.


Developing countries should also sharply reduce their emissions, but they must be supported, financially and through technology sharing with the rich industrialised countries. Without commitments to such support, the negotiations ahead will prove very difficult. Although the political leaders must devise and implement the right policies to guide national and global emissions trajectories, it is the private sector that will be the main engine in the transition to a low-carbon global economy.


In that respect, it was very encouraging that 181 investors, collectively responsible for the management of more than $13 trillion in assets globally, launched a statement in New York last week to support a global agreement on climate change. The Leadership Forum for business leaders, which ran alongside the summit, also highlighted a tremendous variety of innovative ideas from within the private sector for the low-carbon transition. So there are some reasons to be more optimistic about the prospects for securing a strong agreement in Copenhagen, following the New York summit. But the obstacles that remain are very big and will require an even stronger effort to overcome, starting at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh and continuing during the coming round of treaty negotiations in Bangkok next week.


There must be real vision, leadership and creativity, as well as a mutual understanding of the difficulties of making and implementing domestic policies. But if we can muster the effort, we can, as a world, forge a path towards a more prosperous and sustainable future — for us, our children, and generations to follow.


(Note: Nicholas Stern is chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.)











IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik did not say it in so many words but his frustration was obvious in his statement that the present strength of the country’s air force is inadequate. It is so short in terms of both planes and pilots that leave alone matching up with China – whose air force is about thrice as big as ours – it will have to inch past even Pakistan on the courage and skill of its magnificent airmen rather than the material strength. There has been a steady decline over the years. The IAF’s number of squadrons had fallen to an alarming 31.5 in 2006. The fleet strength increased to about 33.5 squadrons after the induction of British advanced jet trainers “Hawk” in 2008. Even that is inadequate considering that the sanctioned squadron strength is 39.5. Its intended purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is grossly delayed and the flight trials started in Bangalore only on August 17 this year. The Rs 42,000-crore induction will start in 2015 and is expected to increase the squadron strength to 42.5 by 2022.


Many of the planes it has today are aged and unsuitable for being in the service of the world’s fourth largest air force. For instance, MiG-21, which is the mainstay of the IAF, was first developed half a century ago, and barely exudes any confidence. Working on depleted strength not only compromises the country’s security but also tells on the morale of the force.


Even worse is the shortage of manpower. The IAF is short of as many as 1,400 officers. Things are no better in the Indian Army and the Navy, which are short of 11,387 and 1,512 officers, respectively. Obviously, the profession is no longer attractive for the youth. How can it be when there are no avenues of promotion even after 24 or 25 years of service? That is why over 100 pilots of the IAF have applied for voluntary retirement. There is need to take a hard look at their grievances. A country which aims to become a major power of the 21st century needs to have forces in reserve, rather than battling with shortages.








The Punjab and Haryana High Court has rightly ordered the release of five persons who were sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court after the Punjab Police falsely implicated them in the murder of a man who was actually alive. It has directed the state government to pay them a compensation of Rs 1 crore (Rs 20 lakh each) within a month. The quantum of compensation announced by the court is unprecedented and a reflection of the gravity of the crime committed by the men in khaki. A Division Bench consisting of Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Jitendra Chauhan has rightly taken serious exception to the conduct of the Punjab Police and ordered registration of a criminal case against the erring investigating officers and witnesses who fabricated evidence to prove Jagseer Singh dead. The trial court in Barnala has been directed to start proceedings against them for perjury.


At a time when the Punjab Police does not enjoy a kind of reputation it can cherish, the High Court verdict is bound to affect its standing with the people. The duty of the police is to protect people and not to harm them. But the Punjab Police have not learnt any lesson over the years and there has been no improvement in their style of functioning. The Bench observed that because of the thoughtless action of the police functionaries, the five persons in question had undergone a lot of mental torture and hardship. In fact, one of the appellants committed suicide after spending five years in jail.


The Bench did not blame the trial court for the miscarriage of justice. It ruled that the trial court believed the “evidence” brought before it and had no alternative but to convict the five persons. But the Bench did not spare the police for violating the law and subverting the criminal justice system through “meticulous falsehood”. Clearly, no leniency should be shown towards the guilty policemen and witnesses. They deserve exemplary punishment for the crime they have committed. It is only through stringent punishment that the image of the police will improve.







India’s assurance on the eve of the UN climate summit of world leaders that it would be a “deal maker” and not a “deal breaker” reflects a realization that while the US and Europe are getting away despite having brought the world close to a catastrophe by their reckless levels of carbon emissions, it is India and China that are being put in the dock for the deadlock in talks on controlling such emissions. As Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh put it aptly, “we are not part of the problem but we want to be part of the solution.” It would indeed be suicidal to continue to do little to cut carbon emissions on the premise that our per capita emissions are far lower than those of the West. It is time we did something to save ourselves from the consequences of reckless western development which involved high levels of carbon emissions that have ruined the ecological balance and led to global warming.


If India assumes a more pro-active role in the climate change negotiations, it could well play a part in cajoling the West to compensate the developing countries for disaster mitigation. The fact is that for India climate change is an issue because we are on the fast development track and we can benefit from the western experience in terms of what we should not do. As things stand, as a legacy of western recklessness, the Himalayan glaciers are receding, agricultural yields in India are stagnating, dry spells have increased and patterns of the monsoon have become more unpredictable.


The least that we need to do now is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels which are carbon-emitting and to increasingly go in for clean technologies. In that context, the ambitious targets set for solar energy must be relentlessly pursued, other forms of non-conventional energy like geothermal power, wind and nuclear power must be enhanced and forest cover must be increased. There is indeed little point in crying “wolf”. Instead, we should set out on a growth path that becomes a model for the world and is true to our needs.
















A recently appointed Vice-Chancellor of a prestigious university stated in an interview that one of his important goals was that the civil services coaching centre of his institution should enable at least 10 students to join the bureaucracy each year. According to the story, he is enamoured of the idea because he along with 19 others made it to the bureaucracy in 1972, thanks to the Rau’s study Circle, a creditable achievement for a coaching centre. However, can this be one of the important goals of a prestigious university? Alternatively, what does it convey about the leadership of a premier Indian university?


Should a university at all have a coaching centre for examinations of any kind, civil or uncivil? What does this indicate about both university teaching and our centralised testing for various jobs/careers? Why is it that the training at even the good universities does not prepare students for passing entrance examinations? Equivalently, why is it that the competitive examinations do not test the students on the skills that they acquire during their routine studies in a good institution of higher learning?


The problem pervades the entire education system from the schools to the universities. For entrance to the IITs or medical colleges, etc, school students go to coaching centres during their 11th and 12th classes. Regular studies, whether in private or government schools, seem inadequate for preparing the child for the competitive examinations and thereby unduly burden them. This has led to the phenomenon of Kota schools that prepare students for the competitions. Soon schools would come up in “Otak” to prepare the children for entry into Kota schools. Where will the process end? Bright young children lose much of their childhood in this mad race and for what? Anything but learning.


Coaching institutions prepare their students to cram material to answer questions in competitive examinations — learning and understanding are incidental. When IIT and medical students make it to the IAS and go to the training academy in Mussoorie they feel lost because they have little exposure to the social sciences — a key ingredient into training good bureaucrats. These highly talented students with their enormous capacity to mug up pass the civil services examinations, but this hardly implies an understanding of what they had mugged up. Skills needed to be a good doctor or a bureaucrat are at variance with each other. The training at the stand alone professional schools is narrow and it remains so because of lack of interaction with students of other disciplines.


Our universities are unable to promote much learning among their students partly because the training in schools is indifferent and out of the pool of talent available, the best are siphoned away by the stand alone professional courses. Further, students who enroll in colleges and universities, instead of attending classes, spend most of the time preparing for something else. Why do students who work hard at coaching schools do not do so for the degree they enroll for? Degrees hardly represent skills but are passports to getting jobs where the needed training is imparted on the job. Most teaching is insipid so that many students lose interest and exams are soul-destroying. Many teachers are demoralised and go through the motions of teaching but have little interest in knowledge generation or the students.


The competitive examinations largely test the skill to mug up and reproduce. Mug books try to anticipate the likely questions and the successful candidates are those that can sort of predict the pattern of questions and provide standardised answers to them. Why do these examinations not test the logical abilities of the students and their capacity to grapple with difficult problems that have no ready solutions? That would be the real test of capabilities. This is tough and our students do not get this training in the institutions of higher learning.

Our faculty-members who set the question papers have themselves never acquired such skills. They can neither teach this way nor set questions to test such skills.


The real task the institutions of higher learning like the universities or the IITs ought to be knowledge generation. While doing so, they would also build capabilities among those who plan to go into other jobs like the bureaucracy or industry. Talent has to be filtered up so that the best go into knowledge creation. Unfortunately, at each stage there has been a reverse filteration of talent. The best minds (produced in spite of the system) are systematically siphoned off into the jobs that require lesser capabilities since they either pay more or have associated power.


This is a throw-back to the days of the Raj which needed to produce clerks and not thinkers among the natives. Even after 62 years of Independence, we have not thrown away this yoke and restored the pre-eminence of thinkers in society. Civil servants have dominated over everyone else. So, society thinks nothing wrong in fixing salaries of university teachers in relation to the bureaucrat’s salary. The top dog has to be the secretary to the Government of India (the top of the pack of glorified clerks) and the salary of a teacher has to be several scales below that. In fact, the chairmen and members of pay commissions for university and college teachers have been professors but none of them has protested against this preposterous idea and fixed the salaries of teachers in the lower scales. Indoctrination has been such that they have accepted the superior status of the glorified clerks.


Many academics, having failed to get into the bureaucracy or the corporate sector, have come for teaching so that in their hearts they believe they are doing a lesser job and often lack motivation. Good teaching requires commitment. One inspired lecture is worth more than hundreds of insipid or often incompetent lectures that kill the interest of the students. That is why one cannot measure the productivity of a teacher as of a factory worker whose job is to perform routine and repeated tasks. One cannot measure output by how many students pass indifferent exams where little learning is required.


Very few academics and even fewer bureaucrats and policy makers understand this overall picture, and at times identify the problem as one of indiscipline — say, lectures and examinations not being held — but what of the content? Dissent is the basis of knowledge generation and ought to be cultivated systematically in the institutions of higher learning. However, this would be anathema to a bureaucrat and unthinkable to an army general — their training militates against the spirit of a university.


Yet, our ruling elite readily appoints either these worthies as V-Cs or those academics who have these tendencies either because of political convenience or as a reward for their subservience. Search committee members are compliant worthies willing to do the bidding of the political masters in the hope of getting plum postings — a patronage system all the way. Clearly, the role of institutions of higher learning is incidental for the elite class. No wonder, the priorities of the V-Cs are, typically, things that are incidental (like producing civil servants) to the main task of a university. If the future of the nation was not at stake one could laugh it off, and today that is all we are able to do because the rot is deep.


The writer is a professor at JNU, New Delhi.








The other day a query from a nosey journalist popped up on my Twitter.

“Sir, which class did you travel on your recent trip to the US?”


“As a patriotic Indian, born into an ancient civilisation that reveres renunciation and austerity, I travelled ‘cattle class’ as solidarity with the holy cows as well as my middle class bank balance.”

“And how was the experience Sir?”


“Lofty ... uplifting”




“As the plane didn’t get a regular slot for departure, we were taken in a bus to the cargo section… a distance that seemed like halfway to Chicago, and many foreign tourists started clapping, as they thought that it was part of the Incredible India road experience! Then climbing up the stairs, many senior citizens with their arthritic knees found the boarding lofty and uplifting!


“Inside the plane, while waiting three hours for take off, the Captain made reassuring jokes about making up for the delay with the helpful tail wind. On this, many of the pan-masala chewing, desi passengers broke their own tail wind, to contribute towards a speedier take off.”


“And what about in-flight service?” tweaked my ‘Twitter.’


“Oh! Top points on the ‘austerity scale’— the matronly hawai-auntijis quickly switched off the cabin lights as we boarded; and vanished to their resting corner to eat sandwiches and doze off. When I asked about our refreshments, came the sweet reply, ‘Sir, we are now into midnight Chicago time, so breakfast will be surely served’.


By then sleepless with hunger and with babies bawling on top of their lung powers, I turned to in-flight entertainment for succour. It turned out to be so entertaining and innovative; that because of the malfunctioning audio, one could write one’s own dialogues to the scripts of Jodha Akbar and Ben Hur or even lyrics for Lucky Oye Lucky.”


“But I thought, sir, that the best of wines and cuisine are served ?”


“But as conscious-keepers of the nation, the carrier is morally bound to improve your karma count and austerity points. So, when the drinks trolley appears there are only cokes and juices visible on the top, with some red wines tucked inside, lest you ever forget that the carrier is in the red.”


“And finally when you reach the US, you look so starved, emaciated and ‘austerity-ised’ that the chewing gum-munching guy at the immigration counter gives you one look and says, “From the Himalayas, Swami?” and quickly stamps you in. On the other hand, the pampered, fell-fed “Shah Rukh Khans” from first class have to cool their heels for a couple of hours”.


Ever since this Twitter, my phone has been ringing constantly — with many ministers, netas, ticket seekers, babus on CVC list etc. asking for my austerity mantra.


Who knows one day, I might just become a minister or a holy cow.









All of a sudden the air is full of hostile media reporting on China, more imaginative than reflecting actual ground realities. Chinese incursions across the land border have increased dramatically in the last few months. China succeeds in getting references to Arunachal Pradesh suppressed in the Asian Development Bank aid to India. The NSA convenes (then postpones) a high-level meeting (later termed routine) to discuss security issues relating to China. These are only some of the issues splashed across newspapers and seen repeatedly on some television channels.


A former Defence Minister adds to this by calling for a special session of Parliament to debate the emerging serious scenario.


And if all this is not enough, a former Adviser in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) suddenly comes out of hibernation to declare that the Pokhran Tests of 1998, in which he had played a key role dressed in Army uniform no less, were quite simply a fraud as the desired thermonuclear results were not achieved.


Since the very basis of the Pokhran nuclear tests was China centric, this has created another dimension in our litany of inadequacies. To these should be added Chinese machinations around us at sea, more poetically termed “String of Pearls”.


Yet, the facts are somewhat less disconcerting. If the Chinese have come across at some places and painted graffiti on some rocks, someone should ask our own soldiers of the number of times they have done something similarly ‘offensive’.


On Arunachal, China’s position has been well known, even if entirely contrary to our own perceptions and of ground realities to which their own Prime Minister had, albeit indirectly, lent acceptance during his visit in 2006 through his own principles of settling the border dispute on the basis of “settled populations”.


And whether our weapons come out of fission or fusion and their yield is 25 kilo tons or ten times that, the fact remains that one of the former can take out close to half a million people in any medium sized city in China. If this is not a sufficient deterrent, then nothing will be. Our conventional deterrence is also not something that can be easily ignored, some shortcomings notwithstanding.


The scenario at sea is interesting. On the one hand, there can be no denying the fact that the Chinese Navy is going through rapid modernisation, both in numbers and in quality.


Seven classes of ocean going destroyers and five of submarines have been put on line in the last 10 to 15 years;

some of the latter are nuclear powered, a few with nuclear missiles of long range. Every major Indian city comes within the range of Chinese strategic capability.


Chinese maritime doctrine has shifted focus from Taiwan, first to credible operations in the East and South China seas and now to safeguarding the nation’s economic interests which provides the largest canvas for maritime operations since it includes safety of sea-borne commerce and energy supplies.

In short, a much larger profile for maritime power is now prescribed which can see the Chinese Navy operating in the Indian Ocean much more often and for longer periods than hitherto.


To this, can be added the so called pearls, which are the port facilities being built with Chinese assistance in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The assumption is that, when developed, these will be made available as support bases for the Chinese warships.


Frankly, any of these projects could, quite easily, have been executed through any other foreign collaboration (Sri Lanka had initially sought our help). There is no connect between the building of facilities and their usage but the Chinese involvement is seen as sinister. Yet, countries, even weak ones, do not make their ports available as base facilities for other countries quite so easily; certainly, India never did so despite many requests by the Soviets for use of Visakhapatnam, built with their help.


So, the feeling that one or more of these port developments will, automatically, lead to permanent base facilities for the Chinese Navy in this part of the world is somewhat simplistic. Without access to them, permanent presence is not feasible. Even a force with as comprehensive a logistic chain as the US Navy had to find and create its Diego Garcia. The complexities in creating capabilities for blue water operations at sea are not sufficiently understood. These require reach, sustainability and capacity to operate credibly. The first two are a function of numbers, type and size of warships and of logistics vessels.


The last requires a broad spectrum of technologies and platforms, for example, networked forces in all three dimensions in the air, on surface and below the surface, sophisticated command and control through exchange of real time information, maritime domain awareness through several input sources, including satellites and surveillance aircraft and, finally, ability to control the tactical air space, something which only aircraft carriers can provide.


On all these counts, it can be argued that the Chinese Navy will be hard put to match Indian Navy capabilities. With water on three sides and outlying island territories serving as de facto aircraft carriers, our ability to reach where we wish to, remain there for reasonable periods and to operate credibly is unmatched by any other maritime force save that of the Americans. All our efforts should be on ensuring that this equation is not allowed to alter.


The need of the hour is to calmly assess the military balance and respond to the capabilities coming up around us without getting diverted by short-term irritants. Creation of capabilities is a time consuming business and requires focussed attention.


As China matures into a major power, growth of its Navy is inevitable. Its interests for safe movement of trade and energy are no less legitimate than that of any other country. Its presence in the Horn of Africa is not less justifiable than that of ships from Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere.


We must enter into positive interfaces with China at sea consistent with shared interests and there are a host of them, with threats from non-state actors being at the forefront. Maritime engagement is desirable even as we remain prepared for any unforeseens. Running around like headless chickens, to quote a former Ambassador, is not the way to go.


The writer is a former Director General, Defence Planning Staff








As world leaders converge in Pittsburgh for a major economic summit, one of the biggest questions they face is this: How do you begin to replace the millions of jobs destroyed by the Great Recession, now that the worst of the crisis has potentially passed?


Spain thinks it has an answer: create new jobs and save the Earth at the same time.


Green jobs have become a mantra for many governments, but few nations are better positioned — or motivated — to fuse the fight against recession and global warming than Spain. The country, already a leader in renewable fuels through $30 billion in public support, has been cited by the Obama administration as a model for the creation of a green economy. Spain generates about 24.5 percent of its electricity through renewable sources, compared with about 7 percent in the United States.


But with unemployment at 18.5 percent, the government is preparing to take a dramatic next step. Through a combination of new laws and public and private investment, officials estimate that they can generate a million new green jobs over the next decade. The plan would increase domestic demand for alternative energy by having the government help pay the bill — but also by compelling millions of Spaniards to go green, whether they like it or not.


In the long term, the government envisions a new army of engineers and technicians nurturing windmills and solar farms amid the orange orchards and carnation fields of Andalusia and Galicia. In the short term, officials say, the new renewable energy projects and refurbishing of buildings and homes for energy efficiency could redeploy up to 80 percent of the million construction workers here who lost their jobs, as they did around the world, in 2008.


Spain’s ambitious effort is being closely watched by other governments forming their own green-job plans. But the bid for governments to take an ever deeper roll in creating jobs in the private sector — which many leaders gathering in Pittsburgh see as their mission — is also fraught with risks.


Though the Spanish government estimates that the alternative energy sector generates about 200,000 jobs here, about double the number in 2000, critics contend they have cost taxpayers too much money.


In some instances, the government’s good intentions have distorted the energy market. Take, for example, the recent Spanish solar bubble.


Though wind power remains the dominant alternative energy here, the government introduced even more generous inducements in recent years to help develop photovoltaic solar power — a technology that uses sun-heated cells to generate energy. Lured by the promise of vast new premiums over existing market rates, energy companies erected the silvery silicone-panels in record numbers. As a result, government subsides to the sector jumped from $321 million in 2007 to $1.6 billion in 2008.


When the government moved to curb excess production and scale back subsidies late last year, the solar bubble burst, sending panel prices dropping and sparking the loss of thousands of jobs, at least temporarily.


“What they’re talking about now — creating a new sustainable economic model through alternative energy — is going to be exactly the opposite of sustainable,” said Gabriel Calzada, a Spanish economist and critic of the government’s alternative energy policy. “You’re only going to create more distortion, more bubbles. It isn’t going to work.”


In 2007, only one in 20 working-age residents of advanced economies was without a job. By next year, when the IMF expects global unemployment to peak, that number will have jumped to one in 10.


The job market is often the last to recover after a recession. But some economists predict a years-long stagnation in job creation and wages in developed countries, including the United States, Britain, Ireland and Spain.


At the same time, governments are trying to hash out a deal by December that would establish new cuts in emissions by 2020 in an effort to stem global warming. One of the most obvious ways for nations to meet their goals, experts say, is through alternative energy projects.


“This is going to be like the building of the Internet,” said Carlos Mulas-Granados, director general of the Ideas Foundation, a Spanish think tank . “We’re going to use this crisis as an opportunity to rebuild the economy with clean, green growth.”


The multibillion-dollar investment is a gamble Spain is willing to take because it is, more than any other nations hit by the crisis, desperate for jobs. Its unemployment rate is one of the highest in the developed world.


Already, the streets of Madrid and other cities are being dug up and repaved in a short-term government effort to offer temporary work to the unemployed. “And what do we do when the road work runs out?” said Jose Luis Salazar Garcia, 32, installing terra cotta tiles on a Madrid sidewalk in a government-funded job. “There are no other jobs in Spain.”


The country’s answer is to go greener.


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post







For the past 60 years, political spouses have been trying to get off — and stay off — the belittling housewife track. Circumstances have changed dramatically with political spouses’ distinguished degrees and six-figure salaries. The wives of presidents have tackled everything from dysfunction in the health-care system to human rights in Myanmar to, now, the unhealthy eating habits of an entire nation.


But even the most independent-minded spouses can’t shake some traditions. On the long list of such traditions upheld by the East Wing, one of the most curious might be the “spouses program.” That is not so much an official title as it is a kind of bureaucratic shorthand for the luncheons, tours and performances that the partners of world leaders attend during the G-8, the G-20 and other occasions when heads of state gather.


In Pittsburgh Michelle Obama hosts the spouses of the G-20 leaders with an attempt to highlight the administration’s commitment to international diplomacy, show off American art and culture, and avoid those awkward photo-ops that leave the spouses looking like silent props in a mid-20th-century parlor play.


Over the years, spouses have visited a high-tech incinerator in Japan, inspected an earthquake site in Italy and attended a “Harry Potter” party in London.


Yet for all the group photos, friendly chatter and serious conversations about women’s rights, the spouses program still has the ring of a tradition that might as well date from the era of Jane Austen when, after dinner, men retired to the library for cigars and cognac and a discussion of world events — and the ladies went into the parlor to talk about needlepoint.


Tradition generally has meant that anything vaguely controversial, anything that might make another spouse uncomfortable, anything bursting with nightly news appeal, has been left off the table. Visiting spouses don’t generally make requests — too presumptuous.


And the host spouse avoids pushing the envelope with any event that might distract from her husband. A visit to a Pittsburgh homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, for instance, would be considered ripping the proverbial envelope into teeny-tiny bits.


The fundamental rule for the host spouse is simple. “Do no harm,” says Lattimore, who recalls that when Clinton hosted the G-8 spouses in Denver in 1997, she lunched with the wives at a Rocky Mountain resort.


Obama’s goal is to celebrate the city of Pittsburgh over the course of the two-day meeting. The events announced so far reflect the topics she has focused on as first lady: healthy eating, the arts and the education, and support of young people.


She will host a private dinner Thursday at Teresa Heinz’s Rosemont Farm in Fox Chapel, Pa., near Pittsburgh. The dinner at the farm, where workers grow fruits and vegetables and raise cows and chickens, is intended to underscore Obama’s interest in sustainable farming and locally grown foods.


Not all the G-20 spouses are women. Joachim Sauer, the husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a quantum chemist who avoids the limelight. And Nestor Kirchner’s wife, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, holds his former title of president of Argentina. Sauer is not attending; Kirchner will, but he isn’t touring or posing with the spouses.


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post












In the face of India’s export sector employing more than 150 million workers many of whom have lost their jobs, while others have been under threat of job-cut for the period since October, 2008, the announcement of India’s new foreign trade policy on 28 August, 2009 has not only come as a rescue package but has the potentiality of initiating a U-turn in growth profile of the sector if things move in the right direction. Unveiling his first five-year trade policy, the Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma set a target of $ 200 billion worth of exports for the next fiscal, an aim that India failed to achieve in 2008-09 and will not expectedly realise the same in the current year, too, due to global recession in demand and steep protectionist measures adopted by several countries. To bring back India’s exports to growth path, the measures announced in the policy include tax sops, interest subvention and dollar credit for exporters. To beat the demand recession in developed markets like the United States and West European countries, the Union Commerce Minister in his innovative trade policy rightly encouraged the exporters to look beyond these traditional markets. Thus, the trade policy, 2009-14, has decided to add 26 additional markets comprising 16 in Latin America and 10 in Africa and CIS countries under the Focus Market Scheme (FMS).

Incentive to markets under FMS has been increased from 2.5 per cent of export value to 3 per cent, while incentive on products under FMS has been raised from 1.25 per cent to 2 per cent of the value of exports. Apart from extension of dollar credit to exporters, the provision of income tax holiday for more than a year, continuance of duty refund scheme till December, 2010 and enhanced assistance for development of markets will add to the vigour of export policy. The mix of measures including fiscal incentives, institutional changes, procedural rationalisation and efforts to enlarge export destinations have made the new trade policy attractive to the industry leaders. The Federation of India’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has termed the policy as a good blueprint for arresting decline in exports and raising the same to $ 200 billion in the next two years. Similar confidence is also expressed by the Confederation of Indian Industries and the Assocham. Though some disappointment is expressed by the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Federation over the absence of contra-cyclical steps to reverse exports, it has hailed the overall approach of the policy. The impetus of the new policy to labour-intensive sectors like textiles, handicrafts, gems and jewellery is highly appreciated by the apex body of exporters, the FIEO. However, India being basically an agricultural country, the exports from farm sector including plantation products like tea which presently form less than 15 per cent of our total exports should attract the attention of government to achieve a much more exportable surplus.







It was just another day in autumn for many of us, but away from human settlements and consciousness three animals, all Schedule 1 species, died within a short span of time. While a tiger lost its life reportedly due to illness in Kaziranga, an elephant and rhino were shot and killed by poachers. A few news reports were all to create moments of worry for a very few, and soon it was business as usual. The tragic incident, in retrospect, reveals our collective apathy to a crucial issue around us. We have still not connected the dots: they were just three endangered animals, nothing beyond to ponder over. The residents of a fantastically diverse natural environment, which at times is equally fragile, we are yet to realise these mega fauna as indicators of good eco-systems, which support a complex web of life in which human beings share a well-defined slot. Across Assam, the tragedy has unfolded in myriad ways, and the slaughter of wildlife is only a more visible sign. Perhaps more worrying is the degradation of extensive tracts of virgin forests, depletion and contamination of water bodies, and disappearance of green cover to development activities.

To add to the woes, it is extremely difficult to quantify the loss of forests in the last few decades, as maintenance of data has never been a forte of the State Government. Most facts and figures involving protected forests, diversity of flora and fauna, extent of encroachment in Assam are old and were gathered without proper scientific methodology. The result being plans and strategies built around such data have been skewed right from the start. The other major hurdle has been an absolute lack of political will to implement even those plans which could have had some results. One of the areas where it is most evident is encroachment, with thousands of hectares of forest land now under illegal settlers. With an eye on political gains, not a single political party has dared to oppose the encroachers, some of which could actually be illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The inability to enthuse the Forest department personnel by providing them essential support is the other hurdle in conserving the State’s flora and fauna. Failures such as these happen because the powers that be refuse to acknowledge the science-based understanding about the value of clean air, unpolluted water and good soil. For obvious reasons, they would rather not choose them as priority areas even though air, water and soil are the bedrock of human civilisation.








Recently the DGPs and IGPs of the northeastern States held an important panel discussion with top officials of the Home Ministry, Central paramilitary forces and Central intelligence agencies to set up the much-awaited regional coordination centre keeping in view the security related issues of the region that was endorsed by the Union Home Ministry in 2008. The panel discussion was a significant development considering the ensuing meeting of the police chiefs of the northeastern States scheduled to be held in Shillong on October 26 to firm up plans to set up a regional security coordination centre. The meeting was also important following reports of sniffing a big conspiracy by China, Pakistan’s ISI and the United States CIA to create disturbance and instability in the region through the NE insurgent groups operating from foreign soils. So it was really good to see that both the Central and the State governments of the region realised in the long run the grimness of the situation and felt that appropriate action is needed at the earliest. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram endorsed the idea of setting up a regional security coordination centre for the North East. The Centre has already rolled its plan to set up a Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) and a Subsidiary MAC (SMAC). In fact, North Eastern Council (NEC) was set up with its headquarter at Shillong to formulate and implement an integrated development plan for the northeastern region as a whole. Although the council's main focus was on infrastructure and economic development it also had a security component, the Director General of Assam Rifles functioned as the ex officio zonal security adviser to the northeastern State governments. But regrettably, the security function of NEC was seldom activated despite being pointed out by the government.

It is true that the Centre pressed the alarm bells on several occasions following reports that DGFI and ISI have trained their focus on the North East and are working on a game plan to destabilise the region. The Centre identified 15 such groups of the North East, which have intensified their relationship with HUJI and LeT of late. The Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) expressed dissatisfaction with the governments of northeastern States, for delaying the approval of the Task Force report. The Task Force which was constituted with Chief Secretaries of the eight sister States along with Secretary. DoNER, and Secretary, NEC to look into the issues relating to better, sustained and more effective mechanism for spending of the fund for the region’s development.

In fact, ever since independence, the North East witnessed ethnic insurgencies, which have political manifestations and aspirations. What initially began as a home- grown insurgency was sustained in the later years through support in India’s neighbourhood. When Naga insurgency broke out in Nagaland in 1956. Neither the Indian Army nor the political masters had any experience of dealing with such situations. There was no lack of goodwill for the hill tribes of the North East among the policy- makers of independent India, which was profoundly influenced by its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Yet, when the unrest slowly spread to other parts and soon engulfed the whole of the North East, the political leadership was slow to grasp the nature of insurgency and evolve a coherent policy. In the context of NE insurgencies, political initiatives have been taken at two levels, internal and external. At the internal level, negotiations have resulted in accords that granted greater political and economic autonomy to the disaffected tribes. At the external level, political and diplomatic steps have been taken to deny safe sanctuaries to the insurgents in neighbouring countries. For example, movement of insurgent groups have been restricted by increased cooperation between Indian and Myanmar security forces. In 2003 the Royal Bhutan Army destroyed ULFA and Bodo camps, which had been in existence for over a decade in the jungles of southern Bhutan bordering Assam, thus forcing the insurgents to flee. On the other hand, Assam Rifles was raised primarily for deployment in the North East and comprised men from these areas. Over the years, the force earned a well-deserved reputation as ‘Sentinels of the North East’, for its exemplary services in keeping peace in the North East and guarding our eastern frontiers. Some years ago, its composition was changed to that of all-India force and its distinctive character diluted to one of the many pard-military forces. But the Indian diplomatic effort to forge a mutually advantageous security and economic relationship with Bangladesh has been largely unsuccessful. The continued influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh poses a grave threat to India’s security.

In fact, the problem of in insurgency in the North East like other parts of the country is of inter-State and international ramifications and there is urgent need for cooperation between the police forces of the States of the north eastern region and the Central intelligence agencies to deal with security related issues in the entire region. Of course, only regional cooperation will not help matters in dealing with the insurgents based in the north eastern States as regular coordination between the police forces of the north eastern States and West Bengal is also necessary as the militant groups of this region frequently use the North Bengal areas for shelter and transit. The strategic location of the North Bengal area also makes it a favoured route for the militant groups to visit their hideouts in the neighbouring countries. It is a well established fact that majority of the North East based militant groups have their bases in Bangladesh and the North Bengal area has more than a thousand kilometres of border with Bangladesh, which makes the area vulnerable for movement of the militant groups as several recent acts of violence by the Jehadi elements in different parts of India and it is believed by the security agencies that such elements managed to sneak into India from Bangladesh through the international border in North Bengal. Just how precarious the situation in Assam is, can be gauged from the expurgation of demographic statistic for the State in Census 2001. The trimming down of Muslim growth rate figures for entire India by eliminating Assam is like digging a hole to create a mound. That means the situation in Assam itself is so critical that the Government has seemingly given up.

Thus the effort of forming northeastern security coordination is a delayed step in right direction. In fact, despite the herculean effort in the last fifty years, insurgencies in some form or the other continue to linger in many parts of the North East. The causes are as varied as the divergent cultural ethos and the level of development of tribal societies. The nature of insurgencies in the North East has also undergone profound changes in the last fifty years. In the last few years the contours of the emerging Islamic militancy are slowly emerging, which poses greater challenges for the security forces in the years ahead So any solution has to be arrived at not only through political and social means, but also by dismantling the terror infrastructure on foreign soil and sealing the frontier. Local support for illegal migrants also must dry up to control terrorism. Over and above a marked improvement in the quality of governance in the States of North East is imperative to wean away the youth from insurgency.








Governance is to promote strong viable and competitive corporations in an increasingly fiercely competitive globalised world economy. If the current trends of business events are of any indication the fact emerges that rapid changes in the corporate behavioural pattern as well as shifts of economy have, no doubt, posed great difficulty not only to the domestic but to cross-boundary jurisdiction owing to the interplay of a number of reasons – especially emanating from movement of funds and consequently protection of investors’ interest. No less important is the existence of weak coherence in different politico-legal systems, which actually has posed difficulties in the area of business risks management environment. At the same time the very requirement is there to safeguard in the area of appropriate parking of funds for returns in the event of diluted control of the shareholders.

So far as norms related to governance of domestic and Trans National Companies are concerned the hindrances exist via disparity and non-conformity of corporate legal system. That is why this is high time to focus attention on the diverse issues arising oil this score so as to evolve common accepted norms of corporate governance. And in doing so the arena to be kept in view is a multi-dimensional one – political power and corporate control, stakeholders’ role vis-d-vis sustainable development; reassessment of the very codes related to corporate governance.

The art of good governance thus calls for devising strategies through which the various actors/stakeholders come together to solve problems, each taking oil these issues for which they are well equipped and thus contributing in a constructive way to the very governance of the institution. It should not lose sight that corporate governance can be effectively and positively influenced by the government (through laws and regulations); industry associations; market players; supervisors; securities regulators/stock exchanges and of course the auditors. There are also instances where the employees’ union also contributed towards the growth of institutions through positive suggestions/unearthing the hidden dusts below the carpet and the like. In fact better functioning of any institution is simply impossible in the absence of cordial employer-employee relations.

Basically CV means steering of a ship. It also stands for the art of governing a State. In fact government refers to the sum of State institutions and laws and thus can be described as the complex of political institutions, laws and customs through which the functioning of the governing is carried out in a specific political event, whereas the governance has a wider focus. In other words this has reference to what is done by a government and the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development. In fact corporate governance [CG] is a process and structure that is used to direct and manage business; enhance shareholders’ value as well as to ensure financial viability. In a word the very purpose of corporate governance is to build and strengthen, accountability, credibility, transparency, integrity and of course trust. That is why appropriate governance practices protect shareholders, customers, public in general, supervisors and the very employees. OECD has nicely furnished the definition: corporate governance relates to the internal means by which corporations are operated and controlled. Cadbury Report, 1992, nicely describes the same as the system by which companies are directed and controlled. That is why it is accepted universal1v as a system whereby shareholders, who own the company, appoint or elect directors to monitor and protect their interests in the company and these directors, in turn, retain independent auditors to validate the financial results produced by the company wherein these results serve as a report card on the very performance of the directors as well as management. That is to say in order to function effectively all of the parts must not only work but must be in a position to work together. The circle becomes a complete one when independent auditors validate financial results –shareholders evaluate financial results and board performance and then the board evaluates management performance and issues financial results.

The structures, functions, processes and organisational traditions that a board or other decision making body uses must ensure that the mission of the organisation is accomplished. CV may be termed as set of rules and procedures that enable an organisation to meet its objectives, which, in turn, calls for both efficiency in the matter of allocation of resources and legitimacy in the area of exercise of the authority. The significance of CV has thus been felt in recent past by most of the countries and is focussed to address various issues to enhance the returns through increased accountability. CV has actually become the focal point of corporate culture in the process of day-to-day management. Even SEBI addressed various similar issues to protect the investors.

The very mechanisms, as detailed by the Financial Stability Institute (Bank For International Settlements), entail assignment of decision making powers, articulating corporate strategy, providing checks and balances, monitoring potential conflicts of interest, developing an incentive structure, fostering interaction between board and senior management, providing an audit structure and setting corporate values and standards. The question remain as to what extent it is followed in our case!

It is crystal clear that consultation with other stakeholders (formal and informal) is a must. Proper coordination should not be a laggard. One common formal method in such a vital context is done through a professional advisory body. Risk management is the most crucial aspect. In most of the cases reputation risks, fiduciary risks, conflict of interest risks, unfair advantage risks, and non-performance risks pave the way for governance risks.

There is no doubt that these types of business decision making sail through the management skill as well as prudence within the given framework (regulators’ law). It is also a point to note that regulatory compliance mechanisms remain widely diversified so far as legal systems are concerned. It has rightly been observed that these domestic legal systems develop out of historical pull factors and remain based on culture; customs and usage of any society and that similar type of concepts get applied on corporate legal systems. The functions of governance are, thus, far from being small. The governing body must exercise strategic directions. Oversight of the management unit that are responsible for day-to-day programme management is to be located. Evaluation and audit in the true sense of the term helps ensure well developed governance function.

Whether it is called corporate governance or IT governance, urban governance or global governance the same refers to informal means of execution of power and the decision making process taking place outside the State institutions by business corporation or civil society.

(The writer is a faculty member, Indian Institute of Bank Management, Guwahati).








The good thing about the second coming of the UPA government is that long-neglected but critical ministries such as education and law are at last getting a look-in. If Kapil Sibal grabbed the headlines with his pioneering, and at times questionable, attempts to redraw the face of education, his colleague law minister Veerappa Moily is not far behind.

Wednesday’s announcement by the minister that he will ensure time-bound delivery of justice comes as music to the ears of a public that has been held to ransom by a judicial system that is notorious for delays. It might sound clichéd to say, justice delayed is justice denied but in the Indian context it is a sad statement of fact.

If, as the law ministry’s proposed ‘mission document’ promises, we are able to reduce the pendency of cases by bring down the period of litigation to one year from the present 15 years, there will be a huge savings in time, energy and money for the economy. The only losers will be the lawyers! Indeed, that is part of the reason why any attempt at legal reform has made so little headway to date. But to the extent that the government also plans to set up 5,000 new courts, all working three shifts a day, across the country and equip these courts with proper infrastructure, the legal fraternity need not fear they will be losers in the new regime.

Modern societies, moreover, are notoriously litigious. As people become more prosperous and more aware of their rights, recourse to legal remedies is likely to increase. Hence lawyers have no reason to fear legal reform. It is far more important to tackle the backlog of cases — 2.75 crore and mounting — before it becomes too late. The recent unseemly spat between the government and the judiciary on filling up vacancies at the lower levels of judiciary must be speedily resolved.

The proposal to set up an All-India Judicial Service on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service should go some way to resolve the problems of manpower. Using the services of retired judges in trial and high courts and utilising alternate dispute resolution channels like arbitration, plea bargaining, lok adalats and gram nyayalays can also help. All that is needed is a determined minister and in Mr Moily we seem to have found our man.







A record 15 million new additions to wireless subscribers last month has taken the total number of telephone subscribers in the country to close to the 500 million mark. The aggressive new players seem to have galvanised the market with their innovative offerings and very attractive tariffs.

Soon to start number portability, which will allow subscribers to shift to another service provider along with their existing mobile number, and entry of yet more players would cause tariffs to drop even further and thereby make mobile telecom services even more affordable. While this bodes well for subscribers, the telecom companies need to adjust to the rapidly declining call charges. Industry-wide average revenue per user (ARPU) is already down to about Rs 300 a month.

Increased usage and a growing number of subscribers would compensate for only a part of the decline. The industry, therefore, needs to move up the value chain and offer add-on services to continue to grow in value terms as well. However, quality is a concern as the inadequate and somewhat less efficient 2G spectrum they use currently makes provision of content-heavy services difficult. The government needs to auction 3G spectrum quickly and get the defence forces to release spectrum.

The other reason for urgency on this count is the rapid decline in the number of landline subscribers — nearly 86,000 connections were surrendered in August alone. Clearly, the much needed spread of broadband services is likely to be mainly through the wireless mode. The rapidly declining prices of mobile devices would make the spread of broadband services through the wireless mode that much easier.

The policy regime must take note of this and make suitable adjustments as auctioned expensive 3G spectrum could make tariffs steep. The government should use the balance in the universal service obligation (USO) fund to create telecom infrastructure that can be used by the service providers to offer value-added services even in the low income areas. This would help keep tariffs low and thereby encourage greater adoption of broadband services.









Shashi Tharoor’s contention that he was alluding to airlines’ propensity to herd passengers into their planes when he tweeted about the ‘cattle class’ needs no vindication. Everyone knows that economy class seats are pared down to the barest minimum inches per passenger in order to maximise space utilisation.

If any further confirmation of the low regard that airlines have for budget travellers was needed, one need only recall the talk earlier this year of low-cost carrier Ryanair actually mulling some sort of belted contraption that would let them fly passengers standing up, even more like buffaloes being transported in a lorry. The idea of packing in two more fare-paying humans in the space that would cramp even one, was clearly too enticing to dismiss on grounds of unfeasibility or downright cruelty. Now another company has come up with a design that is perhaps not as bizarre as the ‘standing seats’ idea, but is nonetheless equally determined to stuff more people into an aircraft as is inhumanly possible.

This time the designers have taken a leaf out of the military transport manual, and worked out a floor plan that has passengers sitting side-by-side, facing each other in parallel rows like troops, with no room for food trolleys.

In this configuration, airlines can pack in 50% more passengers, though the conceptualisers admit that it would be difficult to seat them this way on long-haul flights. The sweetener to ensure increased volumes would be that passengers would pay less, to compensate for the discomfort, a logic that has also led Mamata Banerjee to reintroduce the unpopular third berth in the aisle of second class trains.

If the idea catches on, soon conventional front-facing airline seats, no matter how narrow, closely-set and uncomfortable, would also eventually become luxuries that people would have to pay more for, along with extra for food, water, and that second piece of baggage. Maybe some bright airline bean cruncher will soon come up with a weight limit for passengers too, with additional charges for being overweight.








The world leaders gathered in Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit will take stock of the impact of the stimulus measures undertaken so far and discuss how to coordinate an orderly exit from those measures. They will need to strengthen international guidelines for capital requirements for large multinational banks and address the perverse financial incentives that led to irresponsible risk-taking in the financial sector. But the most lasting imprint they could leave is to give the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a broader mandate after this crisis is over.

The IMF’s relevance has increased during the crisis. It successfully contributed to a coordinated fiscal and monetary stimulus, which helped avert a cyclical meltdown. Its resources have tripled, enabling it to come to the rescue of countries as diverse as Iceland, Pakistan, and Ukraine, which were cut off from international capital markets.

The G-20 has shown leadership in providing the political and financial backing for these changes, and the IMF has responded swiftly. There is, however, a genuine risk that the political momentum will dissipate as the world economy recovers. It would be a big mistake to let that happen.

The G-20 leaders should authorise the IMF to safeguard international financial stability. All crises of the past two decades had their origin not so much in misguided fiscal and monetary policies, nor in misaligned exchange rates, but rather in the explosive dynamics of financial markets. A strengthened role in ensuring financial stability would be a logical complement to the existing, but too narrow mandate the IMF has for overseeing the international monetary system. The two are clearly interlinked.

A stronger financial stability role does not imply that the IMF would itself become a supervisor. Rather, the Fund should build on work done by the Financial Stability Board (FSB), the multilateral rule setting body established by the G-20. This body comprises ministers of finance, central bankers, and supervisors from the G-20 countries. The IMF can help monitor whether countries follow up on agreed undertakings in the FSB, and alert leaders to gaps in the regulatory framework and vulnerabilities in the financial system that need to be addressed.

But, for effective fulfilment of such a strengthened mandate, the IMF needs strong political backing that countries will follow up on its own advice as well. This has been lacking in the past, as the IMF had insufficient instruments to enforce policy action.

Moreover, G-20 leaders should express their commitment to future policy coordination by, for example, organising a peer-review process in which ministers would hold each other accountable for their economic and financial-sector policies. The IMF would contribute to this process with analysis, focusing on economic interdependencies and spillovers from one economy to another.

Such surveillance can build on the findings of the early-warning exercise, which the IMF has initiated, together with the FSB. This exercise alerts ministers on low-risk but high-impact events, and advises them on appropriate courses of action. The IMF can monitor the follow-up that countries give to policy advice following from these exercises.

Global financial stability must be secured by a better functioning international monetary system. The IMF should analyse how to move from a dollar-based system to a multipolar system. The Special Drawing Right may play a useful role here. A multipolar system may help better address global imbalances than the current dollar-based system, which simply perpetuates large imbalances as countries pile up large dollar reserves. The need for such build-up would lessen if the IMF develops into an insurance-type of institution that has SDR credit lines readily available.

Today’s political momentum should be used to carve out a strong role for the IMF. International policy coordination, which has been effective in averting a financial meltdown, should continue after the crisis, preferably in the form of a peer-review process in the G-20 underpinned by IMF analysis.

But continued political support for the IMF needs to be based on fairness in the institution itself. Quotas and influence in the international financial institutions should be based on countries’ economic weight and the ability to contribute financially. So, the upcoming quota review will have to give a greater weight to currently underrepresented countries, in particular the dynamic emerging economies.

(The writer is Executive Director, IMF)








Economist and planning commission member Raj Krishna used to say that while India’s “knowledge systems” were functioning, its bureaucracy was “knowledge proof”. Had he been alive today he would have agreed that the former contention is too sanguine when applied to NREGA, our flagship rural development programme, whose budget is already Rs 40,000 crore, an amount set to increase if the Congress party honours its manifesto to increase the work entitlement from 100 days per family to 100 days per worker.

Although 6% of the budget can now be used for management and implementation of the programme, it is remarkable that not a single careful, large-scale evaluation of the programme has been conducted that would throw crucial light on the many design and implementation issues that hobble the programme. A few quick state level studies of uneven quality were financed for the rural development ministry by UNDP, but these are buried deep in the recesses of the ministry (apparently transparency and openness are only for the panchayats) and international organisations are too subservient to the host government to share such studies themselves.

The national advisory committee under NREGA-I contained within itself some of the best intellectual resources on the programme in the country, but the committee was sidelined and treated as a nuisance. One would have thought the state governments would have been keen to know how NREGA was doing, but two and a half years into the programme, I was told by a senior official in UP that it was “too early” to evaluate it.

The CAG’s reports have been useful, but the focus has essentially been on compliance with procedural requirements under the Act, many of which need to be simplified anyway, and have not been in a position to go behind reported achievements through verification at the beneficiary level, in the way a social audit can do. (Most of what we know about reality on the ground is through the work of dedicated social activists conducting social audits, and journalists).

A huge question hanging over the programme is how productive NREGA works are. The answer obviously is that some are and some aren’t, but how many of each, and what are the reasons for those that aren’t? Is it primarily because of the “technical deficit” in the availability of diploma level civil engineers required to identify, design, properly locate, and supervise works, or is it just that the technical assistants already engaged are insufficient in number, and too busy measuring work done so that payment can be made according to work norms?

Or, on the other hand, is it the case that large parts of the country are running out of suitable works? In the intensively cultivated, irrigated and plains of the country where there is little scope for watershed development and forestry, and where a great deal of rural infrastructure has already been constructed, much of it under previous rural works programmes, there is increasing evidence from the field that the scope for further works is getting exhausted, given the policy-imposed constraints of a cap on the materials component (40%), non-use of machines, and the need to undertake small works in a scattered manner so as to satisfy maximum distance (5 km) and work-on-demand requirements.

If the programme is indeed running out of works in some areas, the case for adding to the list of eligible works by including, for instance, housing, sanitation, water supply, and school buildings, and for convergence with the works of other departments and programmes, becomes all the more strong. But we have no good case studies of why convergence with works that are already eligible under NREGA such as irrigation, drainage and road building is not taking place.

Is it because NREGA’s accountability and transparency requirements cut off too many avenues for making money (as is often alleged in the field) or just that the prescribed record keeping and paper work is too time-consuming, staff-intensive and costly, and the restrictions on the materials component and use of machines and contractors are unsuited to any but the smallest, labour-intensive projects? Depending on the answers, the guidelines at least for “converged” works may have to be liberalised, once it is accepted that NREGA’s overarching objective is to serve as an employer of last resort by providing productive employment on demand.

Apart from convergence, another issue in the debate is the advisability of moving up the ladder to allow works on land owned not just by the SC/ST/BPL families, but also on land owned by small and marginal farmers. Here again we have no studies on the extent to which the former category of beneficiaries have already been covered through productive projects.

To be representative, studies on these and many other topics would have to be carried out on a fairly large scale through survey research, but just as essential are case studies into a whole host of topics, such as how NREGA has impacted on the political and social dynamics of particular panchayats (including patronage exercised by PRI representatives in choosing works and their location, how effective the gram sabha is, or can ever expect to be, given village power relations, in auditing itself as required under the act, as opposed to being audited by an external body such as an NGO, or an autonomous social audit unit as in Andhra Pradesh).

Case studies require the involvement not just of economists but of management specialists (to review the whole chain of NREGA processes and paper work through techniques such as “process mapping”), engineers, sociologists, and anthropologists, especially the last of these since they seem to be the only discipline willing to spend time residing in villages using the techniques of participant observation. Indeed, NREGA provides a huge opportunity to Ph D students in economic anthropology.

NREGA is a citizen’s programme. Any citizen has the right under the act to walk up to a work site and examine the muster rolls. Any citizen can attend a six-monthly social audit as an observer. With NREGA’s public, on-line MIS, and with the RTI, academia and civil society need not wait on government to help fill the knowledge gap.








Moral relativism is the view that ethical standards, morality and positions of right or wrong are culturally biased and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice. In other words, the truth or justification of moral judgements is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons. According to this philosophy, there is no goodness or badness in the abstract; there is only goodness or badness within a specified context. An act may thus be good for one person but bad for another, or good in one cultural setting but bad in another. However, it cannot be either good or bad per se.

While this may be a really cool functional definition of on-the-spot, in-the-street liberal ethics, it completely militates against every scriptural verdict which holds moral standards as absolute and predetermined by divine dictates and — as far as the layperson’s perspective is concerned — as real as gravity and just as independent of human interpretation, beliefs and needs as the speed of light. But what happens when one great religion maintains a man may have only one wife at a time while another decrees it’s okay to take up to four? By acknowledging the reality of such sweeping moral relativism could we not, in fact, be imperceptibly coarsening our concept of what is and is not acceptable?

Because if that is so then we would also have to accept that human history has not necessarily been one of continuous upward progression, considering such relativism also extends over time. Yet sometimes the opposite seems to be the case: once upon the time the Inquisition would torture and often burn heretics at the stake whereas now the church merely excommunicates them.

At the same time, by accepting moral relativism we would have to say that the abolition of slavery or giving women the right to vote were not examples of rising upward moral values. We think of reformers as ethical exemplars but it looks like we shouldn’t, since they upset a context by reforming what was not regarded as wrong at the given time!

It’s a slippery slope. Some see moral relativism as an obvious truth, others see it as threatening the very fabric on which society is founded. The middle view, on the other hand, demonstrates that morality is a product of personal opinion and has nothing to do with any absolutes. And, personally, do we really need someone to tell us what is good and what is not? If we do, we’re already doomed.







Anil Maghnani of Modern Shares & Stockbrokers is of the view that oil prices need to be watched carefully from here on as there are implications of this for the rest of the commodity space. While he is advocating a buy on dips for LIC Housing Finance, he is advocating a sell on Unitech. Read the full transcript of his chat with ET Now.

We were talking about how the September series has been pretty good, but, today for a change all of the global markets are pointing towards a bit of a soft opening. How would you trade post that? I mean the guess is that the opening would be weak but post that, how would you play the markets today?

I slightly disagree with Nikunj out here. I think this could just be one of those days where it opens down and there is probably low volume, lack of interest and there is no real need on the first day of a new series, which is going to be a long series to sort of pull back the market late afternoon. You got a 3-day weekend coming up, then you got only a 3-day week next week of trading, so there might not be that much interest to start building on positions first thing today. People might just give it a few days because of all the holidays and wait for sometime, so I think this could be one of those boring days where you have to really be stock specific.

Action is not going to be in the Nifty and after a dull opening, it might just stay there for sometime, might not through the day, but, I cannot see a major pull back today. The Dow has fallen 2 days. We probably bounced back yesterday crucially because of expiry. We had no other reason to bounce back and ICICI Bank, which went from 830 to 927 in a freak trade and that’s why the Nifty jumped 30-40 points just that way. That has all been adjusted yesterday itself, so I think I am not expecting too many fireworks even after the opening, may be just a dull sort of day.

I did talk about crude yesterday, so I would not be surprised if there is action in oil marketing. For me, crude is at a very crucial level, 66 is a 200-day exponential 50-week average is there. Any close on a week, suppose it closes below 66, I am actually looking at 57-58 for crude and that’s a big fall, so I think that’s going to be the key for me. If that starts to break further, I think the other commodities could also lose and the dollar could gain. So with all that in mind, I think people might not be so keen on taking too many positions given that we have 3 days off and may be a shortened week next week.









The Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDI) is a not-for-profit institution based in Ahmedabad that teaches entrepreneurship to over one lakh people every year. Its director Dinesh Awasthi speaks to ET about common concerns faced by aspiring entrepreneurs.

Can entrepreneurship be ‘taught’?

Forty years ago, people would ask, ‘can a manager be developed?’ There are similar questions being asked about entrepreneur-building efforts today. However, our interventions have proved that if talent is provided with guidance, training and counseling, entrepreneurs can be developed in classrooms as well.

What are the qualities any aspiring entrepreneur must have?

There are three: knowledge, skills and aptitude. Knowledge without skill is useless. But knowledge and skill must be backed by aptitude, otherwise you cannot survive. And you must be passionately driven by what you do.

Every second person today wants to quit his/her job and turn entrepreneur. Is that even advisable?

Our experience is that not everyone who undergoes our programme becomes an entrepreneur. The average is around 52-54%, and in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, it’s 85%. So everyone cannot do it. At one time, there was supposed to be an inverse relationship between a person’s education and his or her chances of becoming an entrepreneur. But things are now changing. In high-tech sectors like biotech and computer sciences, highly educated people have made a mark. If you have a big idea and the capability to execute it, you can be an entrepreneur. But if you have low tolerance level towards business upheavals or turbulence, entrepreneurship is not for you.

How does EDI train and develop rural entrepreneurs?

We follow the ‘learning by doing’ approach, involving workshops, case studies and ‘hands on’ training. For example, we tell participants to go to the market, ask a vendor ten specific questions, note the answers and come back to us. Trust me; those people have some tremendous ideas. And they’re smart, too. Once, I asked some local volunteers to hand out course application forms in a village. A little later, I sent someone to the market to get peanuts and when he got them I found them neatly wrapped in the application forms.

What can private companies do to promote entrepreneurship?

Private companies can start by developing their vendors and subcontractors. Mentor them, help them grow. And once a week, company executives can spend an hour handholding an aspiring entrepreneur and teach the basics of doing business.

How does a small company get funding in difficult times?


That is a sore point for us. Banks claim money is available, but it is still very difficult for small enterprises to get timely and adequate funding. The irony is that, if you want a Rs 20,000 crore loan, banks will quickly form a consortium to lend you the money, but for a Rs 20 lakh loan they will put you through all sorts of difficulties and charge a high interest rate. Banks simply don’t adhere to RBI norms in most cases. Private venture capitalists are taking interest in innovative ideas but very often, we refer to them as vulture capitalists! Be that as it may, the promise of easy credit that Prime Ministers keep making over the years, still remains a dream.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Thursday’s announcement that an American “moon mineralogy mapper” carried by India’s first unmanned moon mission spacecraft, Chandrayaan-1, had found “evidence” of water on the lunar surface, and India’s launch of seven satellites — the indigenous OceanSat-2 and six nano European satellites for university research — in 1,200 seconds from Sriharikota on Wednesday is likely to lessen the disappointment caused by the death in space of Chandrayaan-1 this August, 10 months after its heady launch. The Indian scientific community in any case viewed Chandrayaan-1 as a remarkable success, judged by the quality of the data the spacecraft transmitted before burning out prematurely on account of lunar radiation. While details are expected to be known shortly, a release from Brown University in the United States, whose scientists were associated with Nasa’s moon mineralogy mapper, which was carried aboard Chandrayaan-1, indicates the presence of water on the moon’s surface. The implications of this for colonisation are considerable. It is likely to unleash a new wave of moon missions by all space powers, as well as possibly set off a renewed hunt for signs of life in outer space. India’s civilian space programme, which began in 1963 with the launching from Thumba of a two-stage sounding rocket, has gained in sophistication and research reach over the years. The programme has also helped to bring the country close to advanced scientific establishments in Russia (the former Soviet Union had helped India launch its first satellites), the United States, France and the European Union. Apart from the unmanned moon probe, the data gleaned from the series of Indian remote-sensing satellites (IRS) is disseminated to countries across the world. Indeed, the IRS system has emerged as the largest constellation of remote-sensing data for civilian use across the world. India is only the third country to develop its own remote-sensing satellites, and also has the ability to launch them itself. The 960-kg OceanSat-2, the country’s 16th remote-sensing satellite, is to study surface winds, ocean surface data, oceanic plant and aquatic life, and other information dealing with coastal management. The IRS satellites are a series of earth observation satellites. The programme was begun to support the national economy in the field of agriculture, water, forests, geology, ecology, weather-mapping, to name a few areas critical to our well-being. All the data is being shared with various countries. As was the case with other areas of advanced scientific and technological research, India’s foray into space was also criticised initially on the ground that a poor country could not afford to waste precious resources on advanced science. How misplaced such censure has turned out to be! As it happens, the Indian space programme is the world’s least expensive. Questions are likely to be raised once again as India’s Mars programme, now in its conceptual stage, gets under way over the next five years, and the manned space programme takes shape around 2020. The reasons for not abandoning them are important to appreciate; in short, to broaden our autonomy in the world.








The results of the recently-concluded by-elections in 13 states must be considered carefully by soothsayers in the Congress and other political parties who had completely written off the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP has done well in Gujarat where it has won five of the seven seats. The Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janashakti Party combine staged a dramatic comeback in Bihar where it was crushed in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections only four months ago. Ms Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party held its own in Uttar Pradesh. In other states also, where the National Democratic Alliance fared badly in the 2009 general elections, the BJP and its allies have proved their detractors wrong. The Congress has managed to win only 10 of the 52 seats in the by-elections held in the last four months.

At the national level the BJP, reeling under an unexpected setback in the general elections, was pronounced to be in the intensive care unit by some analysts, while others were ready with obituaries. The BJP’s tallest leader, Mr Lal Krishna Advani, had been evicted from the political space by the soothsayers. Advising the BJP on what it should do, analysts suggested that the party dump its Hindutva agenda as if there is space only for the single track of the Congress or its variants on India’s political firmament.

Gujarat by-poll results are vital in debunking all these armchair theorists who had portrayed Gujarat as the BJP’s Hindutva laboratory. The current controversy in Gujarat over the encounter of four alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba activists had surcharged the national discourse and the Narendra Modi government was pilloried day in and day out for this encounter that was dubbed as “fake” and “cold-blooded murder by the state government”.

The Union home ministry, that had earlier certified the four as part of the Pakistan-inspired terror organisation, was suddenly back-tracking, with the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, joining the pseudo-secular chorus. Mr Modi and his party in the state were supposed to be on the backfoot within the “crumbling” national structure of the BJP.

In an attempt to deny the BJP a place under the political sun, some analysts had begun to sing a different tune. They said that the victory in Gujarat by-polls is the work of Mr Modi’s charisma and no credit must be given to the BJP. But what about Mr Advani who was pilloried for the BJP’s poor show in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections? Mr Advani is very much visible on Gujarat’s political scene as the BJP’s tallest leader and member of Parliament from Gandhinagar. Surprisingly, none of the analysts considered that angle at all.

Most analysts ignore the complex reality of India. Another reality they miss is that voters can discriminate between an Assembly election and a general election and, hence, vote differently.

Almost every political party with a long history has a core support that is not going to die just because it has lost an election. Writing off any party on the basis of a severe setback it suffered in one election would be ignoring the Indian reality where ideology, history, leading dynasties, power elites, caste, religion and old loyalties criss-cross to create a fascinating tapestry. There are no easy winning formulae or straight cuts on this tapestry.
In addition, we must concede an innate intelligence to the electorate that in a way reflects India’s national cultural quality. A look at the past several elections reveals this native intelligence in action, often surprisingly.
In December 2003, the BJP came to power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and retained Gujarat in the face of a massive propaganda against it. The BJP took the risk of an early parliamentary election on the strength of this popular response. But it lost the gamble.

The BJP recovered midway, between 2004 and 2008, winning Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and retained Gujarat. But its fortunes were reversed in general elections 2009, even in states it had won a few months earlier.


In 1984, the parliamentary elections in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination had reduced the BJP to just two seats in the Lok Sabha. But by 1989, the Congress that had a two-thirds majority in the same House had lost power and the BJP was ascendant — all within five years, and even before the Ram Mandir issue came to the fore.

The party had a successive run of popular support 1989 onwards, till it won power in a coalition in 1998 and repeated it in 1999. The crushing defeat in 1984 did not knock out the BJP’s base, nor did it have to jettison Hindutva to ride back to power in 1999. Those who seek to write-off the party after the 2009 general elections or advise it to abandon its core ideology ignore history.

The BJP, as a party with enormous grassroots support in major parts of the country, including in far-flung Nagaland with a Christian majority, can afford to wait and work for the next chance at power. India has a largely traditional but a changing society where leadership has to be earned through a long period of effort. A quick change in leadership confuses the cadres and throws the party into disarray.

For the BJP, Mr Advani’s leadership is not a flash in the pan. It has matured over decades and it lifted the party out of the despondency of 1984’s two-seat position to the 150-plus success. The five-year interval between 2004 and 2009 may not have brought it to power at the Centre, but it remains the ruling party in several states, winning success even after the 2004 loss in general elections.

Mr Advani gave the party a committed leadership when he quit elective positions in the wake of allegation of Hawala till the court gave him a clean chit. Now, with the by-election results, the BJP and its leaders have shown that the party may have lost one major battle but by winning some others it is very much in the thick and is forcing the detractors to revisit their political wisdom.


Balbir K. Punj can be contacted at [1]










I bumped down in Frankfurt at 10.55 am. A German landing, I thought — unsubtle and punctual.
The sky was clear, an un-German sky, and the colours that assailed me were pink (Deutsche Telekom), yellow (Lufthansa) and gray: cool colours at some remove from Caspar David Friedrich’s ecstatic dusks in forests of Gothic gloom.

Friedrich’s passionate romanticism is under control these days in a Germany that has become reassuring to the point of dullness. Europe’s most powerful nation is electing its leader on Sunday — and nobody really cares.
“Welcome to the most boring German election ever”, former foreign minister Joschka Fischer told me by way of greeting.

That was enough to compel me to write about the miracle of German dullness. It is cause for hope, a commodity the commodity-rich West Asia does not trade in.

The drudgery is also cause for concern: more on that later.

Lest anyone forget, the world spent a goodly chunk of the last century agonising over the German question, ruing the proximity of the Polish border to Berlin, digesting the crime. It’s just 20 years since this country was made whole and, with it, Europe. Now mighty Germany chooses its Chancellor and, for all people seem to care, the election might be for the Würzburg city council.

It’s not true that everything changes so that everything can remain the same. The German demon got extirpated by American tutelage, European convergence and the rule of law.

Modern Germany, the Johnny-come-lately of European powers, settled down. The German frisson faded to a yawn.

Perhaps Bärbel Bohley, the former East German dissident, summed up the experience, and let-down, of unification best: “We wanted justice and we got the rule of law”.

Another protest leader, Joachim Gauck, ran her close: “We dreamed of paradise and woke up in North-Rhine Westphalia”.

Such is the way of adrenalin. It dissipates.

And along comes Angela Merkel, the adrenalin-free Ossi, who has been a Chancellor of unmemorable steadiness, and who, barring an upset, will be re-elected at the head of her Center-Right Christian Democratic Union.

Merkel has been a leader in the image of a settled Germany. Everything about her screams drama over — Brandt on his knees in the Warsaw ghetto; chain-smoking Schmidt (“a politician with vision needs to see an ophthalmologist”) fighting the fight for medium-range US missiles; Kohl clasping Mitterrand’s hand at Verdun and later inhaling unification with unabashed appetite. Every risk-averse fiber in Merkel’s body proclaims the social-market consensus has prevailed, even through financial crisis.

The extent of discord may be measured by the fact that Merkel’s chief opponent is also her foreign minister in the governing Grand Coalition: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Social Democrat leader. He’s a likeable technocrat who always seems to be wondering how he ever ended up as a politician.

None of the above should suggest there’s nothing at stake. There is: a little. If Merkel gets her favoured option — a Centre-Right coalition with the liberal Free Democrats — tax cuts, nuclear power and support for the Afghan mission (Germany has sent more than 4,000 troops) will get a boost. If not, well, more of the same is in order. My sense is most Germans feel market reforms of recent years have gone far enough.

Germans are hunkered down, not unhappy but uninspired. This has been a campaign of astonishing intellectual nullity. I spoke of hope and concern: The former springs from Germany’s absorption of its eastern third and passage into normality, the latter from the country’s numbness.

Nothing — not the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, not the faltering direction of the European Union (once a German obsession, now a sideshow), not financial Armageddon — seems able to stir Germans from contemplation of their navels. This is bad for Europe. The world wanted a boring Germany for a while, but not to this degree, and anyway that time has passed.

Perhaps the Centre-Right option would be a better outcome if only because the Social Democrats need time in the wilderness to resolve their relationship with the Left party. The Grand Coalition is an idea-dampening soporific. Prescription for more than four years is ill-advised.

Germany is in political transition. If the East has been economically absorbed, its political legacy, in the form of the Left Party, has proved inhibiting, even paralysing.

History moves in broad sweeps murky to its hindsight-deprived actors. We can say this: The eruption into the heart of Europe of a German nation state upended the continent from 1871 to 1945 and a full “normalisation” of Germany has taken from 1945 to the present. The long arc has been painful but hopeful.

The demon of instability, German-prodded, moved to West Asia, where another modern nation state, Israel, in turn upended the order of things. Perhaps after 74 years (1871-1945), we will see glimmerings of a new, more peaceful regional order there. Hope is almost as stubborn as facts.

Hope, at least, is what my German years bequeathed me. Unsubtle and punctual bumpings-down now comfort me, like the unique hermetic thud of a heavy German door closing, one made to last and to fit.








A large number of “experts” have written numerous articles after India’s strategic nuclear submarine, Arihant, was launched on July 26, 2009 by Mrs Gursharan Kaur, wife of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Also, nuclear scientists proudly unveiled the “half boat”, or the shore-based miniaturised nuclear reactor, at Kalpakkam on July 29, 2009.

Earlier, in February 2008, the Defence Research and Development Organisation made an unprecedented announcement in the press about the testing of an SLBM (submarine launched ballastic missile).
In my opinion, the unnecessary publicity given to these three events should have been avoided. The nation — in keeping with worldwide practice — should have announced only the commissioning, post-successful sea and weapon trials of the Arihant, which is the first in its class.

Unfortunately, in a hurry to get individual achievements lauded, a lot of premature and needless publicity was given. Hopefully, this project will fructify as planned, without the recent “fizzle” controversy surrounding our 1998 thermonuclear test.

This article tries to explain, in simple terms, the unclassified, but misunderstood mysteries of a nuclear submarine.

Let us begin with the miniaturised reactor (known as PWR or pressurised water reactor, similar to the light water reactors, being imported for civilian power plants after the Indo-US nuclear deal of 2008).

Common sense dictates that a submarine crew living, eating and working within 20 to 50 metres of the submarine reactor needs to be “safe” from radioactive materials, that is, alpha and beta particles and gamma radiation. Hence, the submarine reactor must be safe, simple, rugged and capable of operating in all situations that a nuclear submarine encounters on surface and underwater.

Secondly, it must be silent. This stealth is achieved by ensuring that the number of pumps, specially the PHT pumps (primary heat transfer pumps), that re-circulate the “closed” first loop radioactive water between the reactor core and the steam boilers, are reduced to a minimum or, in some cases, not used at low submarine speeds by having a “convection system” which does the work of the PHT pumps.

Till the ’70s, nuclear submarines used two reactors, each with steam boilers and PHT pumps for redundancy though these added to the radiated noise. But once reactor reliability was established, most advanced nations now use a single reactor for more silent operations. Theoretically, a single reliable PWR reactor, with a single steam boiler and a single PHT pump, would produce the least noise.

The second issue mentioned by “experts” is the reactor life and how the Americans have been operating their ninth generation submarine reactors with 25-year life spans, as compared to the rest of the world. Our “experts” should remember that the world’s first nuclear submarine, the American USS Nautilius, had a reactor core life of only two years. There is no doubt that the Americans are 50 years ahead of India in this regard, but we must understand that a safe submarine reactor requires a combination of metallurgy and enriched Uranium-235 (U-235) to achieve longer reactor life. And this data is a closely-guarded secret for obvious reasons.
Some articles in the Indian media, about using 80 to 93 per cent enriched U-235 in a submarine reactor core, are incorrect. This use of weapon grade U-235, may, under some emergent situations, “convert” a reactor into a fission bomb by making the transition from “critical” to “super critical” stage during operations. We should be happy that our scientists have made a submarine reactor (irrespective of whether it is a few generations behind the Americans and Russians). The important thing here is to see how the reactor operates in harbour and sea trials. Based on this initial experience, improvements can be made to the life and stealth qualities of this reactor.
The third issue mentioned by the “experts” is the reactor power and why we need an SSBN to have higher reactor power to transit at a speed of 30 knots. Reactor power, as indicated, is thermal and not electrical (eg 100 MW is 100 megawatts of thermal power). Most SSBNs need a transit speed of below 20 knots since their task is to avoid contact with enemy warships and submarines and launch their SLBMs when ordered in a second strike.
Given our geographical location vis-à-vis our two nuclear-armed adversaries, an SSBN with a speed of 20 to 24 knots, but with SLBMs of about 5,000-km range, should suffice. It should be noted that SSNs (or tactical nuclear attack submarines), which are required to search and sink enemy warships and submarines, would need higher speeds (over 30 knots, which, depending on the SSN size, would require a single reactor of 160 to 200 MW or two reactors, each of about 80 to 100 MW).

There are a few other factors which decide submarine stealth — improved shock mounts, “rafting” (where the reactor and machinery are not in direct contact with the pressure hull), hydrodynamic hull shape, skewed propellers or the new pump jet propulsion system, “static” electrical machinery, anechoic tiling, silent weapon and garbage discharge systems among others). Similarly, greater diving depths are a combination of metallurgy, pressure hull thickness and frame spacing (steel frames are the inner skeletons which, along with the keel, provide support to the pressure hull.

For example, an expensive titanium-hulled submarine can dive to twice the depth of a modern steel-hulled submarine. Also, in the case of two “similar” steel-hulled submarines, the one with a thicker pressure hull and “closer, thicker frame spacing” would dive deeper, but would pay a penalty in loss of some speed.

Diving depths of submarines are a closely guarded secret, as are noise figures and weapon-firing depths. A nuclear submarine also needs a system to generate oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and other gases to enable human beings to live and operate in demanding conditions underwater. Production of drinkable sea water and the ability to get rid of garbage (food and human waste) are equally important and technologically demanding.
Our scientists and the Navy personnel involved in work on the Arihant have indeed achieved a major milestone.


However, much more needs to be done, and I hope it is done without any unwise and unnecessary publicity.

In addition, India now also needs to begin work on a faster, deeper-diving SSN (tactical nuclear attack submarine) to provide its Navy with a major sea denial capability in the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean. This SSN will require a single 160 to 200 MW reactor and improved stealth and complex metallurgy. We are beginners in the field of nuclear submarines and have a lot of catching up to do before we start celebrating.


Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval
Command, Visakhapatnam








As leaders of the world’s largest economies gathered in Pittsburgh for the Group of 20 (G-20) meeting, people in the world’s poorest countries looked on with a mix of hope and trepidation, wondering whether their needs will figure in the deliberations at all. The G-20 nations could help both the poor and the global economy by fully financing lagging efforts to fight poverty and disease worldwide, and the best way to do this would be to impose a very small tax on the prosperous foreign exchange industry.

The eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals — which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, establishing universal primary education, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases — are meant to be reached by 2015. Morally and practically, the world must try harder to keep these promises. President Barack Obama has made it clear that the United States has, in his words, “a responsibility to protect the health of our people, while saving lives, reducing suffering and supporting the health and dignity of people everywhere”.

Disease takes an enormous toll on economic growth: It sidelines or kills productive workers and causes tremendous suffering. Take, for instance, tuberculosis, an illness that with the right treatment can usually be cured. In 2007, it killed nearly 1.8 million people, more than 600 times the number who have died from H1N1 swine flu. The World Bank estimates that tuberculosis has caused the gross domestic product in some countries to fall as much as seven per cent.

Or consider maternal health. About 530,000 women worldwide die each year from pregnancy-related causes, most of them preventable, and millions more suffer injuries or develop lifelong disabilities. A serious effort to reduce those numbers would bring real economic gains. Improvements in the health of Asian women and children accounted for a significant share of that continent’s economic growth from 1965 to 1990.

Unfortunately, though, there is an enormous shortfall in the level of outside aid needed to reach the goals the world has set. Donor countries, including the wealthiest of the G-20, are providing only 0.3 per cent of their combined income in development aid. Although the donor countries have made commitments to provide more money, they are not giving it fast enough to tackle runaway health problems, including the emergence of drug-resistant pathogens that threaten people across the globe.

The one untapped source that could easily provide the amount of money needed is the foreign currency market, which handles almost $800 trillion in trades annually, all of which is untaxed. A tiny levy of 0.005 per cent on transactions involving the world’s most traded currencies — the dollar, the euro, the pound and the yen — would raise more than $33 billion annually for development, while not hurting the market or affecting the average international traveller.

The tax could be collected automatically by the computer system that handles foreign exchange transactions — so it would be easy to put into place, and impossible to evade. And because not all currencies would be taxed, only the countries whose currencies would be affected would need to consent. France already supports the idea, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has signalled her willingness to consider it.

We have already seen what innovative taxation can do to save lives, with sufficient political will. Since 2005, France and 10 other countries have collected a small tax on airline tickets (in France, it amounts to only $1 to $5 per ticket). And this has, without hurting the airline industry, raised about $700 million — enough to finance three-quarters of the AIDS treatment now being received by the world’s HIV-positive children.
Unitaid, the international organisation that I lead and that manages the money from the airline tax, has also been able to negotiate 50 per cent to 60 per cent reductions in the price of paediatric anti-retroviral drugs in low-income countries.

How should the proceeds of a foreign exchange transaction tax be managed? One model is the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which holds medical programmes in more than 100 countries to high performance standards, and can withhold financing when money is not used properly.

The banking industry has so far managed to keep currency trading untaxed, but this industry, which has so recently been dependent on government aid, has a duty to give back. President Obama has reminded Wall Street leaders about what he called their “obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system and a more broadly shared prosperity”. The same principle applies internationally. President Obama and other G-20 leaders should harness the mighty foreign exchange market in the service of better health for all.


Philippe Douste Blazy, the French foreign minister from 2005 to 2007, is the chairman of Unitaid and a special adviser to the UNSecretary-General on innovative financing


By arrangement with the New York Times








Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, 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 am and ended at 10 pm, 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”. (DeLay became known as “The Hammer” for his enforcement of party discipline in close votes and his reputation for taking political retribution on opponents.)
“I’m being more feminine and a little prissy”, he said, using a word that smacks of uber-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”, he 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 orthopaedic 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 swivelling 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”.


By arrangement with the New York Time










TYPICAL north-Indian idiom designates the lady of the house the “home minister”. Now it would appear the presiding deity at North Block seeks to emulate momma in teaching kids good manners, nay play the part of the Sunday school padre. Alas, despite its name Sunlight Colony is one of New Delhi’s least-dazzling areas, hardly the kind of mount from which to deliver a sermon exhorting Delhi’ites to mend their ways ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Yet for a man who relishes speaking from a lofty pedestal there was little by way of profound perception in P Chidambaram’s chargesheet against the notoriously short of civic-sense populace. Did it require someone as close to the top of the tree as the union home minister to aver that “there’s a general trend in the people to jump red lights, indulge in over-speeding, not stopping at zebra crossings… and roam around in unregistered vehicles”? Any traffic constable could have said that, maybe more. And a woman condemned to commuting in a local bus would have a lot more horrific additions. If the home minister were to try and reform those who set the behavioural benchmark ~ MPs (with or without criminal records), top bureaucrats and/or the moneybags who deem themselves above the law ~ it might have some trickle-down effect. As for 2010 CWG serving as a spur, there are few signs of aam aadmi anxiously awaiting that festival. In other words, the Chidambaram plea will not enthuse the local autowallah to be less of an extortionist than his Chennai counterpart. Amen.

To be fair, the “Super-Czar” of the Indian Police (as home minister he seems to pay attention to little else) also had exhortations aplenty for the men in khaki. The 22 new police stations in the city should “reflect on the crime rate” which he would review every three months (an invitation to burking?), and from where the commissioner would secure the boots on the ground to mount the level of patrolling required to make the people feel less insecure? He had more advice for them but how much of it went home? The track record would suggest the local cops would “rap” better with what one of PC’s predecessors, the ever-earthy Giani Zail Singh, had once declared. Two things must never be lowered, desh ka jhanda, aur police ka danda !!!






NO party manoeuvred the Nepal Maoist government out of power last May; it was Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal who stepped down after army chief of staff, General Rukmandkud Katuwal, whom he had sacked, was reinstated by President Ram Baran Yadav. The Maoists have since boycotted the constituent assembly, delaying the preparation of a new constitution which is to be ready by May 2010. Dahal wants a motion against the President debated and unless this precondition is met the deadlock will continue. The leaders of the “Big Three” ~ United Communist Party of Nepal(Maoist), Nepali Congress and the CPN (Unified Marxist Leninist) ~ met last Sunday but apart from the realisation that there is no alternative to a consensus, nothing concrete emerged. Nepali Congress leaders are reportedly ready to discuss all alternatives ~ Maoist leaders have promised to adopt “maximum flexibility” ~ but are unwilling to drag the President into controversy. Dahal will do the country a great service by forgetting the issue now that General Katuwal has already retired and a new army chief has been installed. But more than the General, his ire seems directed against the President and he is determined to grill him.

Dahal’s threat of launching a third people’s movement to remove the UML-led government led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and install “civilian supremacy” if no consensus is reached by 7 October cannot be taken lightly, the only saving grace being it will be a peaceful one. An already distressed country will be pushed into deeper crisis. But what comes as a bit of a surprise is Dahal’s claim of it being a UN-mandated agitation. Was he speaking on the strength of a UN assurance that no one knows of? Nepal’s politics are still in transition. The objective of the constituent assembly is to rewrite the constitution and unless this is done first the holding of general election will be delayed. Only after that can political leaders talk of “civilian supremacy”. The Maoists are not doing their cause any good with their continued obstructionism.







There have been two notable suggestions, one by the Prime Minister and another by the home minister amidst the current debate on police reform. On 15 September, Dr Manmohan Singh spoke of a ‘new age’ Indian police ~ ‘more professional, better motivated, suitably empowered, well-trained, one who places greater emphasis on technology for investigation and other tasks’. On 14 September, P Chidambaram appealed to Directors-General of Police to resist political pressure and protest against frequent transfers.

While the home minister made a clear admission of the misuse of the police by the political class, the Prime Minister almost acknowledged the government’s responsibility in keeping the police understaffed, ill-trained, and obsolete. While harping on “the fulcrum of the police and policing’’, both presentations blamed the states, the non-Congress ones in particular, for the waning capability and efficiency of the police. Indeed, the speeches were admissions of the failure of the institution and its functioning. Therefore, a non-partisan reflection, rather than a blame-game, is imperative.


THE question is whether such home-truths, uttered by the country’s Prime Minister and home minister, who is at the helm of the internal security set-up, will lead to appropriate follow-up measures. The discourse on police reforms has been on since the sixties, when most states appointed a police commission. The rest followed in the 1970s.  The government examined the issue via the the Administrative Reforms Commission. It appointed a Committee on Police Training in the 1970s. The National Police Commission was formed in the 1980s. Over the past two decades, several committees have studied the NPC report and proposed a model Police Act.
In response to a plea by Prakash Singh, the Supreme Court instructed the Union Government to carry out reforms. In 2007, Veerappa Moily headed the Second Administrative Reforms Commission which suggested structural and procedural reforms much in advance of the NPC recommendations for a better public order.
The 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack and the bomb blasts in Delhi and elsewhere underscored the unpreparedness of the police in carrying out routine and contingent tasks. Justice Punchhi headed the Centre-State Commission to review internal security in its federal context. In its manifesto ahead of the recent Lok Sabha election, the Congress promised to “accelerate the process of reforms’’. Such demands have been raised by civil society groups as well.

The perceived wisdom, the database, the continuing debate and the frequent criticism of the police since Independence call for concrete political and administrative initiatives. There is need for substantive reform of the police as well as criminal justice in the context of India’s multi-partisan polity. This will be more effective than an orchestrated exhortation to the top brass assembled in Delhi. Gross inequities plague the police administrations. Even the IPS fraternity metes out what Mr Chidambaram calls ‘football’ treatment to the ‘fulcrum’, the thana-level cops, on personal, extra-administrative and political considerations.

The advice to the DGPs to protest against their political masters ignores the ominous repercussions. It does not indicate the core and target of dissent, still less the nature of the transfer orders. Since all states, including the ones ruled by the Congress, are guilty of political misuse of the police, the home minister’s suggestion is not feasible. He may have been trying to score a political brownie point.

The countrywide police agitation of 1979 has faded from the memory of the public, the politician and the administrator. The factors that led to the movement and its consequences are worth recall and reflection by the establishment.


Instead of pontification, the Centre should initiate a cleansing operation through a process of police reform. By inserting entry 2A in the Union List in the Seventh Schedule through the 42nd Amendment during the emergency, the Centre has asserted its authority over the police. This particular entry overshadows entry 1 and 2 of the State List, allocating such matters as public order and the police to the states. Beyond the deployment of Central forces in the states, the government must lead by example through reforms in the police and criminal justice system.

The Administrative Reforms Commission didn’t ignore the police in its report. The Centre has appointed a committee on police training. Both developments confirm that the government has to lead by example. Most of the state governments showcase a coalition of national and state parties. Raisina Hill has ceased to be a preserve of one party. North Block will, therefore, have to take the initiative with a clear vision of internal security in the troubled present. There must be a comprehensive approach to policing.

The police, as the Prime Minister said, needs to be modernised, made efficacious, with its ‘fulcrum’ restored. This also implies imparting dignity to police work. This will make for democratisation and equip the police to effectively countenance the growing challenges. In the ultimate analysis, the police will have to serve the people.

The need of the hour is federal cooperation in policing. The Punchhi Commission is likely to come up with more concrete proposals than the Sarkaria Commission on federal approaches to internal security. Whichever party or coalition rules India from the grandeur of the Raisina Hill, it must be aware of the responsibilities of a multi-partisan leadership in the context of the increasingly complex internal security problems.







While the Governor’s approval for the formation of the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) was an anticipated formality, Wednesday’s meeting of the West Bengal cabinet would seem to be notable for the contrived lack of transparency over several topical issues. Chief among them was the CPM-Maoist flare-up in West Midnapore’s Junglemahal. The cabinet interaction was convened in the immediate aftermath of the reported 17 deaths in a gunbattle. Increasingly is the scenario becoming almost as explosive as at Lalgarh. The Chief Minister at least owed his ministerial colleagues a forthright statement on the latest stand-off, instead of an iteration that has raised more questions than it answers. The Maoists, he asserted, were being countered by the joint forces in league with the CPI-M. Which presupposes the party’s involvement in an essentially internal security operation... faintly reminiscent of the Nandigram reprisal. In the context of the CM’s statement, the suspicion of the locals that those killed were hired gunmen of the CPI-M may not be wholly unfounded. The party may have suffered casualties in the process; but there is little doubt that the administration has adopted the lethal strategy of mobilising the cadres, backed by the paramilitary and the state police, against the Maoists. Lalgarh and now Junglemahal may turn out to be more intractable than Nandigram. Despite the hedging by the head of government, the rumblings within the cabinet were resonant enough.

It was resonant no less when several ministers were unusually vocal about the sluggish functioning of the Public Service Commission, the contradictory policies on recruitment, and the prerogatives of the PSC and panchayats. In consequence, recruitment has been delayed by more than a year in many sectors. The parallel procedure confirms the absence of a well-defined policy. The Chief Minister’s feeble response didn’t quite clear the confusion; on the contrary he has hinted at another entity styled “separate commissions”. Regrettably, the matter that called for emergency action was shelved. Four months after cyclone Aila devastated the Sundarbans, the cabinet couldn’t decide whether to bring up the proposal on embankments. If the purchase of land is the impediment, it needs to be processed and cleared as urgently as that for the elusive industry.











A plan with the specifics apparently in place is bound to bring hope to a near-hopeless situation. And the backlog of cases in India’s courts is near-hopeless: even the prime minister has said that the country has the highest number of unresolved cases in the whole world. The Supreme Court has, reportedly, 52,000 pending cases, the high courts have 40 lakh and trial courts have 2.7 crore cases waiting. The Union law minister, Veerappa Moily, has plans to set up 5,000 more courts working three shifts a day in the next three years in order to cut down the backlog of the lower courts. This would also reduce the period of each litigation from the average of 15 years to one year. Beginning with gram nyayalayas that would make justice more accessible to the rural population, Mr Moily has plans of giving judges a time limit to deliver their verdict, of smarter handling of cases whereby similar cases can be clubbed together for faster disposal, of giving judges laptop computers and bringing information technology in general to the service of justice to increase speed and efficiency. All of it sounds possible, and so heartening that it seems astounding that nobody ever thought of it before.


Mr Moily could not have forgotten that courts need judges. As of August 2009, there were 3000 vacancies for judges. The minister appears to have planned to requisition retired judges to run the new courts, but that sounds more like a desperate measure than a solution. Whether willing and able retired judges would be able to fill the 3000 seats is a question that need not even be discussed. That so many judges need to be recruited suggests that the problems in India’s justice system run too deep to be solved by the magic mushrooming of triple-shift courts across India. Fast-track courts, for example, did not do too badly once they got off the ground, but they have not lessened the case pile. The internal check-and-balance system that the judiciary prefers to go by is obviously failing to produce results. It is impossible not to see inefficiency, corruption, a lack of professionalism and resistance to accountability as the source of the problems that are rapidly getting out of hand. The case pile is not a new problem. It goes on building up, although successive chief justices and prime ministers keep saying that something must be done. If even a fraction of Mr Moily’s plan succeeds, it will be of enormous relief to many.








Where Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, is concerned, Pakistan seems to be taking two steps backward for every step forward. Shortly before countries began congregating for the United Nations general assembly in New York, Pakistan came out of stupor and allowed the Faisalabad police authorities to lodge two successive first information reports against the JuD chief. This is the first time that the Anti-terrorism Act has been invoked against the JuD leader, who is also a prime suspect in the Mumbai terror attack. Unfortunately, there is not a whiff of Mumbai in the charges levelled against Saeed, who has been accused of preaching jihad and soliciting funds for it. Like so many other times before, the legal ambiguity neither makes it imperative for the government to throw the suspect behind bars nor for the JuD leader to become a peace-monger. The exact nature of Saeed’s ‘confinement’, to which both Pakistan’s prime minister and interior minister have testified, continues to be uncertain. To compound confusion, there have been reports of the JuD chief being a prominent guest at the iftar of the army top brass in Rawalpindi. Even more strangely, the Pakistan president continues to vouch for his commitment to bring Saeed to trial at international conferences.


Pakistan’s recent step against the JuD chief is, perhaps, an exigency measure that was needed to push India to the table at the forthcoming foreign-secretary level meeting in New York. Pakistan had made similar efforts prior to the prime ministers’ meet at Sharm el-Sheikh. It is unfortunate that Hafiz Saeed has been allowed to become the sole determinant of India-Pakistan re-engagement. Pakistan’s determination to stall Saeed’s trial is only matched by India’s insistence on it as a precondition to take the talks further. While Pakistan thinks any action against Saeed would be interpreted as a sellout to India, the latter feels it cannot be seen giving Pakistan the advantage by allowing it a leeway on Saeed. The refusal of the United States of America to stoke the fires in Kashmir or to dictate the speed of the bilateral talks may have given India the confidence to pressure Pakistan to move faster on the terror trials. This is, undoubtedly, necessary. But holding the entire peace process ransom to the fate of one particular terror suspect will do a greater service to the terror machinery than to peace.









Crying over spilt milk or over who had spilled it more than six decades after the event is, according to one view, a sure sign of decadence. To compare the partitioning of the country and the grisly, tragic consequences thereof with spilt milk, others will say, is offensive to the limit. Whatever that be, the ripples caused by Jaswant Singh’s otherwise-pedestrianly-written book will not easily subside; the publishers are still minting money.


Spice has been added to the proceedings by the happenstance of transferred zeal. It is the Congress, and not the Bharatiya Janata Party, which should have exploded with anger over Jaswant Singh’s holding Jawaharlal Nehru primarily responsible for the creation of Pakistan. To Congressmen, the charge is nothing less than lése majestè. How unfair, they were not allowed the pleasure of expelling the blackguard, he was not a member of their party.

The BJP, however, swung into action, but not because the Jodhpur princeling traduced Nehru. That was all right. He had no business though, the Hindutva school of thought will argue, to bracket, along with Nehru, the great Sardar from Karamsat. Public memory is short; political parties too go through mutation. Big chunks of the ideological descendants of Vallabhbhai Patel moved away from the Congress even as the Nehru-Gandhis were taking over the party, lock, stock and barrel. They now constitute Narendra Modi’s hardcore constituency. There was actually no greater preacher of Hindu revivalism than Kanhaiya Lal Munshi, Patel’s close mentor and immediate successor as Union home minister. Jaswant Singh was most indiscreet; he had to be sent to the gallows.


Thanks to his indiscretion, an occasion has at least arisen to revisit some old myths. One such is that the Congress had all along envisaged free India as a federal entity where residual powers will repose with the federating units. In the party’s early phase, its leaders, of course, used to gush along these lines. Even the 1942 Quit India resolution spoke of an India which, once rid of alien rulers, will emerge as an arcadia of a federation; the residual powers were to rest with the provinces, the Centre will only enjoy powers delegated to it.


There is such a thing as appearance’s sake. For, simultaneously, the Empire of India the British had set up, stretching from the borders of Burma at one end to those of Afghanistan at the other, bewitched the English-educated affluent gentlemen who led the Congress since it founding. The mystique and majesty of the imperium — the concentration of all authority in the hands of the viceroy and governor-general representing the Crown —bowled them over. They were determined to inherit that majesty, in toto; transfer of power by the British meant acquiring the prerogative to govern the country entirely according to their own lights. They had a further aspiration: the administrative system of post-independent India should be the mirror image of the Congress’s organizational structure, where decision-making was concentrated in the hands of the cabal designated as the working committee. Members of this committee loved to call themselves the Congress high command; independent India, too, should be ruled by such a mightily high command.


The 1940 Cabinet Mission’s plan for a three-tier federation —provinces, groups and the Centre — was, therefore, a big letdown for the Congress leadership. This was not what it wanted. The proposal to have groups at the intermediate level of administration left Congress leaders cold. Besides, all subjects other than foreign affairs, defence and communications were to be vested with the provinces. It was explicitly stated that the provinces would retain all powers and jurisdictions other than those credited to the Union.


While the details of the arrangements were to be worked out by a constituent assembly, it was understood that it must adhere to the broad scheme outlined in the Cabinet Mission plan. The provinces were to be arranged into three groups: A) consisting of the then existing provinces of Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, the Central Provinces, Bihar and Orissa; B) tucking in Sind, Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province; and, finally, C) to consist of Bengal and Sind. Any province could, by a majority vote in its legislature, move out of the group it was assigned to, but only after an initial period of 10 years and at 10-yearly intervals thereafter.


The Cabinet Mission did not concede Mohammad Ali Jinnah his Pakistan. But what he got was enough; he was sure of controlling Group B and reasonably confident about Group C. He accepted the plan; his sole reservation was regarding the composition of the interim government where he demanded parity of representation with the Congress. The Congress leadership, on the other hand, hemmed and hawed. Yes, formally the integrity of India was preserved. There was to be a Union government over which the Congress would presumably be able to establish command. But it would be in exclusive charge in only three spheres: foreign affairs, defence and communications, with powers to raise finances to the extent the compliance of responsibility in these spheres called for. The grandeur of the imperium was sadly missing. Apprehension overtook the Congress ‘High Command’: the chances were that Groups B and C would always be dominated by the Muslim League which was bound to create problems, one after another, for the Union.


The prospects need not have been that bleak. The speculation was that Group C, comprising Bengal and Assam, consisted of almost the same number of non-Muslims as Muslims. That apart, given the class character of the League leadership and the nature of issues that were of central concern to the Muslim masses in both Bengal and Assam, the Muslim League could only hope to have a tenuous hold on Group C. Had the Congress not spurned in 1937 the invitation from A.K. Fazlul Huq to join the Krishak Praja Party and form a coalition government in Bengal, the League might have never gained a foothold in that province.


But the Congress leaders had reached their decision. Over a period of 15-odd months they engaged in interminable sessions with British minister and the viceroy over the interpretation of this or that clause in the Cabinet Mission Plan. A great quantity of the discussions centred around the proviso which allowed a province to opt out of the group to which it originally belonged after a time span of 10 years. The Congress insisted on the option being made available from the very beginning; they were anxious, to rescue the North-West Frontier Province — then under Congress rule largely because of the charisma of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan — from the clutches of Jinnah. While the ping-pong game of talks and yet more talks was going on, a press interview by Jawaharlal Nehru put the fat in the fire: the Congress, he hinted, might use its clout in the constituent assembly to ignore the directive of the Cabinet Mission in the matter. The Muslim League was furious, Jinnah went back to his demand for Pakistan. The Direct Action resolution and the Great Calcutta Killings, followed by even more frightening mayhem, vitiated the air. Patience wore thin on all sides. An exhausted Wavell was replaced as viceroy by get-down-to-business Mountbatten. Nehru and Patel agreed that, notwithstanding Mahatma Gandhi, they would be satisfied with a truncated India if that would deliver them from Jinnah. They thereby reneged from their earlier pledge to stand by Frontier Gandhi and his khudai-khidmadgars. What was, at the moment, of immensely greater importance to them was the establishment of a free India with a firm central authority and no nuisance of groups challenging that authority.


The Congress leaders got their imperium — even though reduced in scale — and Mohammed Ali Jinnah got his Pakistan, which coupled Groups B and C with some modifications. But Group C did not stay with Pakistan. It emerged as Bangladesh within a quarter of a century. History has, seemingly, a habit of now and then revising itself.








Sometimes one wonders if the turmoil we see around us is there because, having reached the bottom of the pit, a correction is pushing itself into the public space, confronting the status quo on corrupt practices, exclusive, exploitative governance and plain malfunction. Wherever you look, the scene leaves much to be desired. Trains are filthy, the new buses already look as though they have been to battle and back, the taxis rattle and smell of stale sweat, streets are potholed and sidewalks are littered with rotting muck. The ineptitude of civil service agencies is overwhelming, governments are in denial, and all this is topped by arrogant babus and pompous politicians desperately trying to shield and protect their ivory towers.


The attempts of party spokespeople to defend the indefensible are fast taking the form of a tragicomedy. Parliamentarians and bureaucrats are gradually facing the brunt of the citizens’ anger over the former’s freebies and endless perks without the delivery of goods and services. In turn, these ‘rulers’ of India are feeling threatened by the demand that they vacate their cushy, secure government accommodations set on many acres of garden, give up their subsidized electricity, their free gardeners and drivers, the use of official cars for private work, their constant defence of their continuing failures, repetitive explanations for things not happening according to plan, and much more. Watching the players enact this final scene, an endgame in a manner of speaking, one hopes to see that flicker of light on the distant horizon that may lead us out of this suffocating morass.


Whether it is the political and bureaucratic state of denial about the reality of the gameplan of our neighbours, the putrid nonsenses uttered by men and women who have failed to govern with transparency, to ensure the dignity of everyday living for all Indians, or the endorsing of corrupt deals and the turning of a blind eye when politicians break the laws of this land with impunity, Indians stand bewildered and ashamed by what their nation is being put through. A small band of people has managed to hold a great civilization to ransom as it feathers its own nest, and disconnects itself, each passing moment, from the truth and reality on the ground.



The time has come for the press, particularly the electronic media, to ask their political guests straight and hard questions. Call in Pranab Mukherjee and ask him why he needs to live in a palatial house when all he does there is sleep at night. The politicians and bureaucrats have large offices with endless unnecessary staff, starting with peons who carry their briefcases for them and then sit outside the door gossiping and politicking, to personal assistants, deputy secretaries, joint, assistant and full-time secretaries, all of whom have their secretaries, and at the end of the day, the backlog is humungous. They entertain officially in five-star hotels or at Hyderabad House. Why then is valuable real estate being put at their disposal? All parliamentarians should move into apartment blocks within a gated and secure area along with all their gun-toting protectors, and thus free our city and streets from the overarching arrogance of power.


Many garages and ‘servants’ quarters’ (I am surprised that the holier-than-thou general secretaries are not appalled by that description) in these sprawling premises are rented out to tradespeople who then are compelled to work free for the ‘master’ of the house, who doesn’t even observe the minimum wage rule instituted by the government he or she serves. They make the law with one hand and break it with the other. Ministers should pay personally for their upgrade to club class. When that happens, we shall be talking business.










Is inflation really going down? These days every morning we read and hear about the “inflation rate going negative.” Yet in the market we all face sharply increasing prices of grocery items and vegetables. These two are just not reconcilable. Are the traders cheating us? Is the government putting up false information about inflation?

In a world of growing population and reduced land, water and other resources, one is yet to find any solid reason for prices to go down over time, though in very short periods of 2-3 weeks that may happen for one or other reasons such as perishability, non-availability of storage or immediate transportation.

Over the last two decades in India agricultural productivities are depleting. The race between price and production is led by the former. With the advent of food processing, use of cold storage and WTO’s regulations, etc, there are other build-in costs, raising the prices further.

The government, putting out Wholesale Price Index as a representative indicator of inflation, is misleading the consumers. WPI, if any, represents an average based on 1,800 wholesale price quotations for about 435 commodities in trade. The commodities include all products, starting from minerals to steel, food items to television sets, tobacco to transport.

The basket includes 98 primary articles, 318 manufactured products and 19 fuel and energy sources as well as lubricants, with respective weights as 22, 14, and 64 percentages. Strangely, the entire basket of food items has a weight of only 15 per cent, whereas all the consumer durables, non-food items and minerals together shine with a weight of over 70 per cent!

Moreover, out of the 435 commodities, almost 100 of them are either no more in trade, or have lost their relative importance in trade, or not in production at all. Some examples are pagers, scooters, country-made liquors, raw food items and so on.

It is an international phenomenon that while the prices of food are going up, that of consumer durables and even some intermediate goods have been going down. No wonder the declining Wholesale Price Index reflects just this.

WPI is announced with a lag of about six weeks. How does it help the consumer? In the past, WPI used to serve some purposes for  investment decisions in a centralised planning system.

What a consumer wants is information about consumer prices on a current week basis. The Labour Bureau releases an alternative price index known as Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is very rarely referred by the government while talking about inflation. These prices also include costs of transportation, storage, marketing, taxes and other charges including retailers’ margins. Hence they are more representative to reflect costs to the consumers. But unfortunately, the delay in CPI announcement is about four months, making it utterly useless as a price warning for consumers.

CPI is compiled for three categories of workers as agricultural workers, industrial workers and rural labourers. Information on consumer prices are being collected from 78 markets spread all over the country. Five such markets from Karnataka are Bangalore, Hubli-Dharwad, Mysore, Madikeri and Belgaum. In this index, food and beverages have a weightage of around 48 per cent, clothings 8 per cent, fuel 6 per cent, and the rest being on miscellaneous items (including medical care, education, transport, etc). These seem to represent consumer purchasing behaviour more accurately. The CPI has been consistently showing strong increasing trend over the months and weeks and in July 2009, it indicated an average inflation rate of 11.9 per cent.

Committees after committees sit over this matter on improving information on price rises, but with very little to recommend or to be implemented. For want of follow up actions, these reports perhaps wait for next reports. Government agencies should realise that if any price information is not transmitted on time or even before time, it has no value, except for official recording.

Country as a whole has over 51 million tonnes of food grain in government stocks, not to mention about additional stocks with private hoarders and stockists. The world prices of food are declining. Therefore, governments can easily venture in to unloading their food grain stocks, and take advantage of declining world prices.

Secondly, we require strong consumer movements, asking for transparency and governance in (i)  public distribution system, (ii) government’s acceptance of true picture on price rises, (iii) both the government and private stockists and distributors declaring their stocks on a weekly basis, and (iv) the follow up actions. The pressure from consumers must be kept up till such time when, BPL card holders get quality food grains, and all other consumers get the food at right prices.

The only other alternative to any failure of state and public administrative actions would be the law or judiciary taking actions hammering the food administration machinery to be answerable to public demands and aspirations.









We are driving on the wrong side of the road!” screamed my five-year-old daughter as soon as we drove out of Bangalore airport. When she heard us laughing, she remembered that in India left is right and right is wrong!

“Why aren’t there any stop signs or speed limit signs or school zone signs?” was her perpetual question as we drove along NH4 towards Chitradurga. There were more questions about road safety in the next couple of hours. How would people know what speed is safer on different roads if there aren’t any signs indicating that? Why aren’t there any ‘side walks’ here? How would you know you are approaching an intersection? How come vehicles overtake from both sides? Wouldn’t there be cops to catch those who violate traffic rules? Why do they allow a lot of cattle right in the middle of the road, where traffic treads heavily?

By the time we reached home, the conclusion she had drawn was that it’s a challenge to drive in India and not safe at all. This was 10 years ago. The only consolation then was that there weren’t as many vehicles on roads as in USA; so the roads weren’t as dangerous as my little girl thought and the accident rate was not as high. Ten years down the line, it’s a totally different story now.

The number of vehicles has gone up multi-fold and so is the accident rate. Thanks to IT and BT for pulling up our economy as the fastest growing one in Asia. But where are the traffic signals/rules that need to be in place to make the traffic flow smoother and safer? Not only do we need traffic signs displayed according to the rules, we need to educate the drivers and the public on a regular basis until it becomes part of our personality to care for road safety. With ever-increasing vehicle numbers on the road, this is the main thing; not  the swine flu as portrayed by the media in the recent past.

In fact, the panic that has been created by the so called ‘swine-flu deaths’ is what made me think about road safety. Since April, this pandemic has been talked about day in and day out and has left none in India who doesn’t know about it. I wish the media would take up the road safety issue with the same intensity and spread awareness.

Once people are educated about the dangers of current traffic situation, we will reduce the injuries and deaths due to road accidents and have less ghastly deaths than any flu can inflict.








When the "family of nations" gathers, expect a mad uncle or two to show up. Sure enough, the 64th session of the UN General Assembly this week was blighted by the participation of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.


In 1993, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, writing about how cities had resigned themselves to outlandish, unacceptable behavior by segments of their populations, coined the phrase "defining deviancy down." The UN General Assembly established its reputation for "defining deviancy down" in 1974, when it invited Yasser Arafat to speak.


On Wednesday, Libya's costumed colonel denounced the UN's structure, noting disdainfully that the tyrannical majority is partly constrained by the UN Charter; and ripped up a copy. After 90 minutes of blather, he finished by complaining that the General Assembly was "like Hyde Park Corner - we just speak, and nobody implements our decision."


Later, Ahmadinejad took the podium to pronounce that it was unacceptable for "a small minority" to "dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks." This cabal - guess who he meant - sought to "establish a new form of slavery and harm the reputation of other nations." He then demanded to know why the "crimes" of the "Zionist regime" received unconditional support from "certain governments."


Out of the 192 Assembly members, let it be recorded that a few, including Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, the United States - and Sweden, according to Israel Radio - dissociated themselves from this odious message by not having representatives present in the chamber while he spoke.


Of course, a bigger test for the international community comes on October 1 when the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, meet with Iranian diplomats to try once again to sway the mullahs to abandon their quest for nuclear weapons. Iran will continue to play for time, knowing that China, but now Russia perhaps less, opposes punishing economic sanctions.


By year's end, it should become apparent once and for all whether the civilized world has the will to stop an Iranian bomb.


IT WASN'T all Hyde Park Corner at the General Assembly.


President Barack Obama delivered a substantive address devoted partly to peace "between Israel, Palestine and the Arab world."


For Israelis, it was a painfully measured speech - one sentence for us, and one for the Arabs.


Still, he advised Arab states to publicly back a peace they claim privately to support.

He said the goal of peacemaking was to end "the occupation that began in 1967" by establishing a contiguous Palestinian state. Palestinian advocates took this to mean that the president wanted an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines. He said no such thing.


Radical Palestinians interpreted Obama's advocacy of "a Jewish State of Israel" as negating the Palestinians' claim to a "right of return." We agree.


Relative moderates among the Palestinians were perturbed that Obama wanted negotiations to resume without preconditions. Mahmoud Abbas had been holding out for a total settlement freeze. Yet by speaking of "settlements" in the generic sense, without reference to strategic settlements blocs, the president was inadvertently encouraging Abbas to dig in his heels.


UNSURPRISINGLY, Obama found it politic not to mention that Hamas controls Gaza and has designs on the West Bank. Palestinian disunity was the elephant in the room.


Palestinian elections are supposed to take place in 2010. Paradoxically, unity augurs ill because among the Palestinians, rejectionism has historically trumped conciliation. At the same time, the continuing fragmentation of the Palestinian polity makes genuine conflict resolution a theoretical goal, at best.


Given the inhospitable venue, we did not realistically expect Obama to take moderate Palestinians to task for their unwavering insistence on the "right" to settle Palestinians en masse in Israel proper; nor did we expect him to call on them to budge from their demand for a pullback to the 1967 boundaries. We also did not realistically expect the president to say that Palestinian demilitarization is the sine qua non of any resolution.


But Obama must at least say these things privately to the Palestinians if the prospect of lasting peace "between Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world" is to be fulfilled.










Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged pleased from the three-way summit in New York this week. In an interview with Haaretz correspondent Natasha Mozgovaya, Netanyahu boasted of his diplomatic achievements: "[Obama] said something we had been seeking for six months, that we have to meet and begin the diplomatic process without preconditions."

Netanyahu was encouraged by the fact that the U.S. president gave in on the demand for a total freeze on settlements and by the agreement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the summit despite the conditions he had set for renewal of talks with Israel not being met.

In the interview, Netanyahu quoted Obama's remarks about Israel as a Jewish state and Obama's praise for the removal of roadblocks in the West Bank, describing them as a manifestation of support for the government's policies. At the same time, Netanyahu does not take seriously Obama's statements that the continuation of settlements is not legitimate and that the establishment of a Palestinian state will end the occupation that began in 1967. Netanyahu described these statements as a recycling of old American formulas, "which previous governments in Israel adopted."


Netanyahu ignored Obama's public scolding of both Israelis and Palestinians, and the warning that the American president's patience would run out if the diplomatic freeze persisted.

It is only natural for Netanyahu to accentuate the points of agreement with Obama and attempt to soften their disagreements. That is the way of politicians, especially prime ministers in Israel, who depend on American support.

But Netanyahu's joy of victory is worrisome. The prime minister went to the summit and is returning today to Israel without having renewed negotiations with the Palestinians. His meeting with Obama and Abbas did not produce agreements or practical results that give hope for a solution to the conflict. Rather, it only sharpened the differences and increased the lack of faith between the peoples.

Netanyahu is having trouble persuading others that his declared support for a two-state solution was anything more than lip service, intended to get rid of American pressure; that his call for negotiations "without preconditions" is anything other than an attempt to stall for time with useless talks.

Netanyahu sees the renewal of talks as a safety valve for international pressure on Israel, and is using it as a reason for his demand that Western leaders bury the Goldstone Commission report on Operation Cast Lead. At the same time, he has entrenched himself behind hawkish positions on the essential issues and insists that the development of the settlements continue.

Netanyahu talks about peace, but identifies with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's position that an arrangement based on a two-state solution is impossible.

By presenting Obama as a weak president, who folded in the face of Israel's refusal to freeze settlements, and Abbas as refusing peace, Netanyahu is signaling to his political base in Likud and the right-wing parties. However, he risks missing the opportunity presented by Obama's election for a renewal of the peace process and a solution to the Israel-Arab conflict.

In presenting the expansion of the settlements as an achievement, Netanyahu is working against Israel's interests in ending the occupation and dividing the land. His momentary "victory" might be the country's loss.









The holiday issue of Yedioth Ahronoth featured a three-page interview with Ehud Barak, headlined "I'm at the wheel." I read the full story, and could not find this quote anywhere. Given the pedantic nature of the two interviewers, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, it is hard to believe they used a direct quote they did not hear with their own ears.

In practice, it makes no difference even if we assume he did not make that quote, or if he said it off the record. Every line of the interview is full of Barak's self-glorification as commander in chief of the government's policies. Of all of the members of Netanyahu's cabinet, the interview said, it was Barak who pushed for renewing negotiations, and he has no regrets. "We have a rare opportunity, he told us," add the interviewers.

The fact that Barak did a swing through Washington a few days before Netanyahu's arrival, and met with U.S. President Barack Obama, is evidence enough that Netanyahu and Barak are in full sync. But it was Barak at the wheel, navigating the path to the Washington summit, who told Mitchell: "George, you cannot leave the region before you broker the agreement ... If you don't nail down all the issues, Netanyahu might decide there is no reason to go." This is supposedly what drove Mitchell to stay.


Barak is usually super-sensitive and guarded when he is being directly quoted. He had a bad experience with Olmert, who hauled him over the coals after Haaretz quoted him saying he favored ending Operation Cast Lead. Olmert called him into his office for a dressing-down. Given how the relationship with Netanyahu has developed, this is bound not to reoccur.

Barnea and Shiffer quote Barak as saying, "I find Bibi [Netanyahu] has a responsible understanding of reality. I do not expect him to relinquish his beliefs. But so long as Israel and Bibi are heading with President Obama toward a settlement, I am with him." He does not hide the fact that his relationship with Olmert was not all milk and honey. In any event, the interviewers gained the impression that Barak had a bellyful of Olmert.

The two former prime ministers have developed unique bonds of trust. "Bibi and I share a mutual, intensive, and businesslike working relationship. I can declare to the Israeli people that our defense is in sure hands, sometimes heavy hands, but most importantly, not haphazard hands." What exactly is the nature of their relationship? Who leads and who is led? Unclear.

Yet it is strange that just before the summit, Netanyahu declared that the Iranian bomb is an existential threat to the State of Israel, whereas Barak, the defense minister, said the opposite: that Iran does not constitute an existential threat to Israel. In the old days, these sorts of contradictory statements on such a critical subject would be cause for breaking up a government or at least firing a minister. But these two know how to live with one another. Their bureaus and their spokesmen don't fire off shots at each other.

Barak aims any barbs at his own party. "I am not part of the trend among Labor toward a purist stance that ponders how the world ought to be," he states. Barak does not intend to abandon his beliefs as long as Israel is heading toward an agreement. While Barak is quoted in Washington as saying the Palestinians are going to again miss an opportunity for peace, Haim Ramon said in a televised interview that Netanyahu is more afraid of the young Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely than of Obama, and that this government will lead Israel nowhere.

Netanyahu and Barak remind me of the TV series "The Odd Couple." They belong to ideologically distant parties, but they have found a common language uniting them against the real enemy - Tzipi Livni. If Barak leaves Netanyahu, he has no political base; his party has 13 seats, he's fed up with it, and it's fed up with him. If Netanyahu leaves Barak, he would be dependent on Kadima and Livni. So the two need each other. Netanyahu did not like Barak's statement regarding Iran, but did not berate him. Conversely, Netanyahu threatened that any minister who did not vote in favor of the Israel Lands Authority Law would be dismissed post haste, and Barak folded. They maintain their political friendship in a way that reminds you of the joke about how porcupines mate: carefully. Netanyahu needs Barak, because the latter grants him legitimacy, as someone who heads a consensus government, not a right-wing government.

Israeli leaders live in harsh solitude, especially at times of fateful decisions, and over time they develop dependence on dependable associates. Netanyahu, and his entire family, always harbored a deep reverence for Barak, for his intelligence and for his military authority.

Aside from that, for the sake of his own political interests, Netanyahu prefers that Barak stay in the tent and pee outward, not vice versa. Even if Barak lets the reader think he is the one at the wheel.









Those poor, wretched Jews of America. And all the other Jews around the world, for that matter. How will they manage to get through Yom Kippur when their clocks are still set on daylight savings time? How will they fast without fainting?

The Haredi and religious wheeler-dealers have driven the public here crazy for years, saying that it is impossible to fast when daylight savings time is in effect. It's too hard and it's even inhumane, they've said, and therefore it is incumbent on the state to take action and switch out of daylight savings time prior to the onset of the fast.

It is true that all of the Jews in the world (except for Israel) will be fasting Monday according to daylight savings time. It is true that they are not even dreaming of complaining. But here in Israel we have an "achievement" to mark. Standard time will go into effect on Sunday, so as to make life easier for those fasting.


This "achievement" was notched by Haredi and religious go-getters in 2005. They took improper advantage of their political clout in Knesset in order to abuse the secular and also to put themselves above the commandments. For is it not explicitly written in Leviticus, "Howbeit on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement ... and ye shall afflict your souls?"

If so, who appointed them "to ease?" In a Knesset debate four years ago, MK David Azoulay of Shas and MK Zevulun Orlev of the National Religious Party made an attempt to tamper with summer time at its starting point, too.

They wanted to begin daylight savings time only after the Passover seder and not at the beginning of April, as is customary, because "by the time we reached the part where the afikoman is stolen, the kids will have already fallen asleep."

In other words, the sleep habits and afikoman games of Azoulay and Orlev's grandchildren were supposed to dictate the clock by which the people of Israel lives its life. Is this not insanity?

Fortunately, they gave in on this bit of lunacy, but did not agree to concede the "easement" on Yom Kippur. And so it is that in hot Israel, winter begins earlier, 35 days before Europe, the U.S. and Canada, and this is perfectly absurd.

This year, the absurdity does not reach its highest heights, but in the future there will be a situation where Yom Kippur begins earlier, in the first third of September, such that standard time will be moved two months earlier than other countries.

Haredim and religious Jews with whom I've spoken cannot manage to comprehend why the Knesset go-getters fought this war. They say that the Haredim and religious suffer the most from curtailing daylight saving's time. There is nothing easier about the fast, they explain, because no matter what you do, it still lasts 25 hours.

But the early start of the fast makes it harder to properly prepare for this special day. Because you have to eat lunch with the entire family, and after that the pre-fast meal, and many people want to go to the Western Wall, and there's not enough time because the afternoon services begin at 4:30 P.M.

This problem also exists on Fridays, they say, because Shabbat begins early, and the change also makes it harder to take excursions on the Sukkot holiday because it begins to get dark by 5:30 P.M.

If so, I ask, why did the wheeler-dealers fight for it so hard? They answer, "We are talking about grade-D wheeler-dealers, who do not understand subjects, who are looking for publicity, who in the end screwed over their own crowd."

Curtailing daylight saving's time by 35 days will cost the Israeli economy tens of millions of shekels through added electricity expenses and lower productivity.

Working hours will be less comfortable, and lighting and air conditioning hours lengthier, because beginning next week, when we wake up in the morning to go to work, the sun will already sit higher in the sky, and when we return home it will already be dusk.

Evidently, the Haredi and religious members of Knesset don't care, either, that the earlier onset of darkness causes many more car accidents and more casualties. Shortening the number of hours of light also does harm to the quality of life of the public at large, because we can no longer take walks in the park with the youngsters or go swimming in the sea.

In another, poorer country, a special law was legislated in 2005 extending daylight savings time "in order to save energy." It happened in the United States, and the law extended daylight savings time such that it begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November.

Poor American wretches. They are compelled to save energy, whereas here there is money growing on the trees and we don't have to save anything. Let them save, so that they can send us aid grants.

Another dismal conclusion is that the public is living an illusion that there is a secular majority in the Knesset. Although secular people constitute 80 percent of the legislature, the 20 percent are having a good time at the expense of the majority. They are always in the coalition and always managing to squeeze and to achieve at the expense of the secular donkey whatever their heart desires, even the very movement of the clock's hands.

We are now at the height of the Days of Awe, during which we should ask forgiveness from God and also from our fellow man. Meaning that the Knesset go-getters now have the opportunity to ask forgiveness from the people of Israel, to recognize the error of their ways, and to cancel the insanity of curtailing daylight saving's time.








The first signs of fall are here, and even the fig tree will soon shed its leaves. Fig leaves have from time immemorial had an important task - to hide shame and genitalia. The more ashamed we feel, the greater our need to cover up.

Which of us has never accepted the task of being a fig leaf? I have done so, unfortunately. I was sure I would save the country. But not only did I not save it, I'm afraid that I betrayed my mission.

Yet who am I, a faded leaf, in comparison with much larger leaves, which are able to cover the nakedness of an entire nation? Our president is a good example of this kind of leaf.


Shimon Peres will always serve as a character witness for any prime minister; he will always vouch for their honesty. A while back, he spread Ariel Sharon's vision of peace throughout the world, and then that of Ehud Olmert, and now he is doing the same for Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres knows something about them that no one else knows, that even they themselves do not know: No seeker of peace can be compared to these, who have made up their minds to go down in history as peacemakers, and Netanyahu is the greatest of them all.

But even Peres, who is one of the largest leaves, is not a leaf that can cover everything. That status has been reserved for someone else - the former president of the Supreme Court. What did they not say about Aharon Barak in his day? Who did not affix a crown of thorns to his head? They maligned him for his "judicial activism," for having said that "everything is justiciable," for his "constitutional revolution" and for his intervention in matters that were none of his business, especially security affairs. Who did not sentence him to the stocks?

But now that the Goldstone report has been published, they are making all necessary arrangements to release him, to pick or tear him off the fig tree to serve as a leaf, and to place him at the head of the struggle against Goldstone and his commission. There can be no more welcome initiative than this. After all, the occupation has been alive and kicking and growing fat for 42 years under the auspices of the Israeli legal system. The world respected Barak and his rulings; even Goldstone respected them.

So what was so bad about the days when we were judged by the judges, when Barak sat in judgment and judged the nation? And why did people breathe a sigh of relief here when they were finally rid of his punishment, which was in fact a reward? And how did we imagine we would manage without him, when there is only the other Barak left to cleanse us of the vermin? And he merely leafs through the pages - so as not say, sneers at the job.

I have a relative who is a justice on the Supreme Court of an important and friendly nation. He visited Israel this month and we met, as we usually do. He, too, is one of those who admire Barak - Aharon Barak. "You don't have a clue," he said, "what a bargain you have lost, and what damage you do to yourselves abroad when you weaken the courts from inside." In other words - my words - those who did not want the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem will get the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

A few months ago, I was approached by the Foreign Ministry, which asked whether I would be prepared to go to Egypt for a meeting with intellectuals. I thought about it and turned the offer down. I do not want to tell it in Gath, but I also have no interest in serving as a certificate of legitimacy in Cairo.

When I was young, I moved to the left, and I more than once saw the left with its backside exposed, wetting itself and crying like a baby. But I never once heard it asking the right to diaper it.









September 26, 1969 - 40 years from tomorrow - was one of the most important dates in Israel's nuclear history. On that day, during a protracted tete-a-tete meeting between Golda Meir and Richard Nixon, nuclear ambiguity was born as a joint Israeli-American policy. Nixon was the first American president to realize that Israel had gotten the bomb and accept it. The understandings that were reached during that meeting have, for better or for worse, determined the unique nature of Israel's nuclear program ever since.

The meeting between Meir and Nixon was enveloped in dense fog. Part of the meeting took place in the Oval Office and the remainder, apparently, during a walk on the White House lawn. Both leaders jealously guarded the privacy of their meeting until the day of their death. It is known that both jotted down their impressions of the conversation and the agreements that were reached, but these notes were so sensitive that they were apparently never sent to any state archive.

Nevertheless, a little is known. A memorandum written later by national security adviser Henry Kissinger revealed that the president had stressed during his meeting with the prime minister that the Americans' primary concern was that the Israeli government not publicly unveil or test a nuclear weapon. In other words, what was critical from Nixon's point of view was not what Israel did, but the degree of publicity it gave its deeds. So long as it did not carry out a test or make any public statements, he would not put a spoke in Israel's wheel.


Contrary to the views of senior officials in his administration, including then-defense secretary Melvin Laird, Nixon was also opposed to using Phantom jets as a means of pressuring Israel over its nuclear policy. This was not only because he believed such pressure would be ineffective, but apparently also because he honestly and truly believed that a nuclear Israel was in line with American interests. Granted, he never said as much publicly. But familiarity with his realist approach reveals this stance as a concrete example of his comprehensive strategic outlook - what was known as the Nixon Doctrine, which he put forth during his speech in Guam in July 1969.


Nixon also saw the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in a different light than did most of his senior officials. His attitude to the treaty, like that of Kissinger, was more measured and less universal. It is true that within two weeks of his swearing-in ceremony, Nixon instructed that the treaty be sent to Congress for ratification. But in classified directives, he stated explicitly that the United States should not pressure any state to join the treaty.

As for Meir, she had long disagreed with the way David Ben-Gurion (and later Levi Eshkol) handled the nuclear project. In the early 1960s, she stated emphatically: "With regard to Dimona, we must tell the Americans the truth and explain why."

This brings us to the intriguing question of whether Meir indeed told Nixon the truth during that meeting. We do not know for certain, but it maes sense to speculate. Nixon himself may have offered a hint to solving the riddle. In 1992, in an interview with Larry King on CNN, he revealed that he had known for certain, for years, that Israel had nuclear weapons, but he refused to reveal how he knew.

Since then, both sides have viewed the ambiguity deal as a brilliant and "cheap" solution, politically speaking (since the fact that it was kept under wraps meant it was not necessary to sell it to anyone), to a political reality that they found untenable. The American visits to Dimona, and their political message, turned into a farce in 1969. Ambiguity seemed infinitely preferable to a double lie. Clearly, no one at the time expected the Nixon-Meir understandings to last and to form the basis of a long-term nuclear order.

Today, there is a more critical view. What was a brilliant and cheap deal back then has become a prolonged and troublesome burden over the years, a Catch-22 from which it is difficult to see how to escape. The ambiguity deal made the Israeli nuclear case unique - a program reliant on a doctrine of secrecy that is inappropriate for a democratic regime.

The understandings between Nixon and Meir have left Israel's nuclear project in a chronic state of nonlegitimacy both at home and abroad. At home, it is not possible to tell the truth, with the result that the entire public discourse about Israeli national security leaves a great deal to be desired. A quotation "from foreign sources" does not bear the same weight as stating the truth as it is. And abroad, our actions are seen as having been conceived in sin, while America's support is viewed as an expression of double standards, even though that is not the case.

The time has thus come for Israel and the U.S. to find an appropriate and responsible way to renounce the Nixon-Meir trap.

The writer, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, is the author of the book "Israel and the Bomb."








The "Campaign of the Lost," the MASA-Jewish Agency advertising campaign that asked Israelis to identify young Jews in danger of assimilation and connect them to the MASA program, was stupid. The explanation that it was directed at the Israeli public was absurd. MASA wrongly engaged in a kind of noisy marketing that is not appropriate when serious Zionist endeavors are at stake. It was both ineffective and counter-educational. In preferring "spin" to a serious public presentation of its case, MASA emulated an Agency task force that planned a few years ago to encourage aliyah by "selling Israel" through slick marketing, a nonsensical idea luckily aborted before a lot of money was wasted. Similarly, some Israeli authorities plan to improve the country's international image through a "rebranding" campaign. These are futile efforts that come at the expense of dealing seriously with urgent needs - admittedly, a much more difficult undertaking.

But MASA's misguided PR stunt should not cause Zionist leaders and organizations to retreat from an essentially correct, substantive message: The large number of out-marriages (a term I prefer to the bland "intermarriage," and surely to the Nazi term "mixed marriage") means a loss of Jews. The causal chain is clear and statistically deterministic: Marrying a non-Jew, which of course is the right of every Jew as an individual, reduces Jewish influences on one's offspring and increases the probability that they will disengage from the community. Efforts to draw children and grandchildren of out-marriages to the Jewish people should be heightened, but success is likely to be limited, and significant losses are sure to occur.

Contrary to classical Zionist thinking, Israel is not a secure haven for Jews in the physical sense, nor is one needed for most Diaspora Jews. Negating the justification of life in the Diaspora is incorrect, both in the normative sense and in terms of realpolitik. Thriving Jewish communities outside Israel that interact intensely and also compete with Israel, bolster the vitality, creativity and likelihood of survival of the Jewish people. But it is Israel, with its well-entrenched Jewish identity and identification, that is a safe haven against assimilation, even if the nature of what it means to be Jewish changes over time here.


Therefore, aliyah remains an important means of strengthening the Jewish people as a whole, though its modes should change to suit modern conditions. This includes "partial aliyah" - that is, facilitating multiple residences - something proposed by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute when I served as its founding president.

This brings us to the really serious mistake resulting from the MASA campaign: Diaspora leaders who attacked it did not limit themselves to criticizing the marketing blunder, but struck at the very foundations of Zionism by vociferously denying the seriousness of the loss of Jews caused in the Diaspora by assimilation and out-marriages, and by refusing to recognize the effectiveness of MASA-like programs and, of course, aliyah, in tempering this dangerous reality. Therefore, while the new chairman of the Agency was right to halt the campaign, Zionist leaders should have strongly criticized the denial of the truth by some strident Diaspora leaders and insisted on the validity of MASA's main message. Not doing so constituted a clear loss of Zionist nerve.

This is not the first instance of glaring Zionist loss of nerve. Last June the Agency's board of governors voted to separate the chairmanship of the Agency from that of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Though I agree with the desire of the Diaspora leadership to oust most of the Israeli apparatchiks who are active in the WZO, they chose the wrong solution. Instead, the "Jewish Agency for Israel" should have been remodeled into the "Jewish People Agency," which would be entrusted with strengthening the life of Jewish people worldwide, with Israel at its core. That new body's mission should include major efforts both to reduce assimilation and attract offspring of out-marriages to the Jewish people, and to encourage aliyah in ways that will not significantly weaken the vitality of Diaspora communities. This requires fusing a revamped Jewish Agency and WZO, rather than separating them.

Zionist leaders worldwide should have insisted on such a quantum leap, which is essential if the Agency is to facilitate the long-term thriving of the Jewish people. But, again, Zionist nerve failed.

Loss of nerve is a major cause of the decline of civilizations, movements and states. Further loss of Zionist nerve must be avoided at the peril of endangering our future. Zionism should be reenergized. Only in that way will it fulfill its mission of strengthening the Jewish people worldwide and of Israel as their core state, including through activities such as MASA and encouraging aliyah.

The writer is a professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.









At least three times in his life, Richard Goldstone has gone against prevailing wisdom in taking on challenging jobs. Two were in apartheid South Africa - and he was brilliantly successful in both. The third, his Gaza inquiry, has brought down the coals of hell upon his head.

During the first three decades of apartheid, many judges were appointed because of their loyalty to the Afrikaner government. One result was a decline in the quality and status of South African courts. In response, the government sought to appoint some liberal lawyers of quality. Most, however, were reluctant to join the bench because it meant applying apartheid laws.

Some accepted: Goldstone, who made his name as a barrister in nonpolitical commercial cases, became a Supreme Court judge in 1980. The next year, far from merely applying the law, he handed down a judgment that struck at the heart of a basic apartheid law - the Group Areas Act, which had split the entire country into different areas where people of different races were respectively compelled to live and work, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people of color.


Goldstone ruled in favor of an Asian woman appealing against eviction from her home, and said she first had to be provided with alternative accommodation. His startling judgment ended such evictions.

His second challenging job came in 1991. Apartheid was winding down and the country was beset by violence, in which thousands were killed. A mysterious "Third Force" of government agents was rumored to be behind the killings. President F.W. de Klerk asked Goldstone to head a commission to investigate the terrible violence. Goldstone accepted - and ran it like no other commission before: Over three years, he issued 47 reports, revealing horrendous details about murder squads set up and funded by the government.

Gaza has been Goldstone's latest challenge. He again accepted a mandate from a poisoned source: the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. I have no doubt that he acted with the best of intentions, as he has his entire life, first in South Africa and then in the world, to ensure justice be done. But I also believe that this time, his decision is open to question.

First, Goldstone underestimated the Human Rights Council's malevolence toward Israel. Most members harbor deep hatred for Israel, and wish for no less than its destruction. Goldstone should have been warned off by the refusal of several people before him to accept the job, including former Irish president Mary Robinson.

Second, he accepted the council's mandate, even though it had declared in advance that Israel was guilty of war crimes in Gaza. It is not enough that the council's chairman later said the mandate could include Hamas: Apart from the fact that this statement does not bind the council, his findings on Hamas will mean little or nothing in practice because the organization is not a recognized government and is beyond international action. Israel is the council's target and Goldstone has delivered it. His report has more strength because he is a Jew and enjoys international status.

Third, rejecting objections, he allowed Prof. Christine Chinkin to remain a member of his four-person commission even though, back in January, she had already publicly found Israel guilty, referring to its "prima facie war crimes" in Gaza. Goldstone thus seriously, even fatally, undermined the commission's credibility, and in doing so raised questions about his own good sense.

Fourth, the nearly 600-page report includes many pages of descriptions and allegations of Israeli oppression at home and on the West Bank. That is valid if the intention is to provide a context for Israel's actions in Gaza. But then it must be done properly, with careful research and assessments for a fair presentation of the mix of history, religion, culture and politics that make up the complex situation, including both good and bad. The report does not show that knowledge and understanding; instead, time and again, it's Israel that is bad, bad, bad.

Fifth, the report follows the usual line pursued by members of the council and Israel's other enemies - treating Israel as though it were a unique source of evil instead of examining Gaza in the light of experience elsewhere, in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, where the military has taken on terrorists in a civilian setting.

Richard Goldstone is now under savage attack from many in the Jewish world. Right-wingers have gone berserk, with outpourings of hysterical condemnation. More measured criticism has come from Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the UN, who said there were "very serious concerns about many of the recommendations in the report," and U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, who criticized the report for its "cookie-cutter conclusions" about Israel's actions, while it limited its comments on "the deplorable actions of Hamas to generalized remarks."

But Kelly also urged Israel to further investigate IDF actions in Gaza. And that indeed is what Israel should do. I believed last December and still do that Israel was justified in going into Gaza. But I remain uncertain and uncomfortable about exactly what Israel did and why it did it. Was white phosphorous used over civilian areas? If so, why? What about the early killing of scores of policemen? What about reports that rescue parties were blocked from reaching the wounded, civilians carrying white flags were killed while fleeing and human shields were used? Why were journalists kept out?

The IDF says emphatically that it behaved correctly, but it is not enough for it to investigate itself. An independent investigation is needed - and the obvious person to head it is former Israeli Supreme Court president Aharon Barak, who would give it strength and status, at home and abroad. Israelis need it for their own moral peace of mind, or if wrong was done, to recognize and to address it. Israel needs to be certain that it can tell Goldstone and other critics that their accusations are skewed and unjustified.

Benjamin Pogrund, a former South African journalist, first reported on Richard Goldstone 48 years ago.









Israeli criticism of the Goldstone Commission report ignores a basic fact: The pattern of action taken by Israel in the Gaza Strip had already been determined the day after the Second Lebanon War. Indeed, in the summer of 2006, it became clear once and for all that Israeli society would no longer be prepared to face a war of choice that exacted victims on its side. That is, Israel wants military victories, but it refuses to pay the human price they entail. Hence, a sober decision - the result of cold, political calculation - was made to conduct a campaign to punish Gaza with no Israeli losses.

There is not a single Israeli, especially among those who have themselves been soldiers, to whom the lives of young people in uniform are not dear. However, the practical meaning of this decision was that a heavy price would be paid by the entire Palestinian population, indiscriminately.

Therefore, there is no need for an Israeli commission of inquiry into Operation Cast Lead, because there is nothing to investigate: The entire matter is as clear as the noonday sun. Since Hamas operates from within population concentrations in one of the Western world's most crowded areas, it would be impossible to reach it without harming civilians. Indeed, had a decision been made to preserve civilian lives, it would have been necessary to adopt a completely different mode of action, perhaps involving commando operations deep into enemy territory, and these are always very costly in terms of soldiers' lives.


Instead, Israel's political and military leadership decided to use tremendous firepower that lacks the ability to distinguish between a combatant preparing to launch a rocket and a child playing in the yard. To this end, a new moral doctrine was also formulated. This doctrine - from the school of Prof. Asa Kasher and Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin - is known today in everyday Israeli language as "a license to kill."

And, indeed, all the decision makers knew in advance that a terrible catastrophe would ensue in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces carried out precisely the instructions it received from its spiritual teachers, its commanders and the government itself. The army did not intend to kill civilians with malice aforethought - it just bombed, eliminated and flattened anything that seemed necessary for purposes of reconnaissance, maneuvering and advancement. Since every building could have served as a cover for Hamas people, the targets were unlimited.

This, for example, was what happened on January 16 in the case of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, three of whose daughters were killed and whose niece and two other daughters were injured, when a tank opened fire on the family's home. The commander of the Golani Brigade force suspected there were armed men on the roof of the house, directing sniper fire in the area. Even though he saw nothing definite, and the silhouettes could have belonged - and did belong - to members of the household, he ordered the tank to fire. The shelling was not proceeded by fire from light weapons, or warning shots in the air. Rather, a shell was immediately fired, at the heart of the target.

According to the rules and norms determined prior to the fighting, there was nothing amiss regarding the actions taken by the Golani force commander. From his perspective, all the houses were legitimate targets, because it would have been possible to carry out reconnaissance efforts against our forces from any of them.

It is clear that there was no prior intention to harm noncombatants, but the disaster that befell the Abu al-Aish family was an inevitable and foreseeable outcome of implementing the zero-risk principle. This is one example among many demonstrating how cheap the price of Palestinian lives was in Israeli eyes. The price, however, was not determined in the field, but rather was embedded in the parameters determined for the operation at its outset, by the top echelon of Israel's leadership. Here, too, everything is clear: The responsibility lay not with the junior and intermediate command levels, but rather with those who shaped the new combat norms and approved them. Therefore, the entire problem is first and foremost a moral one, and the Israeli political elite cannot evade taking responsibility for it.


The Goldstone report was inevitable. Even if it is not balanced, even if it does not take Hamas into account properly - it has sounded a harsh warning signal by expressing the international public's attitude toward Israel after Gaza. The bottom line is that Operation Cast Lead has contributed another brick to the wall of delegitimization that is gradually closing in on the Jewish state. Even if no Israeli is brought to court in The Hague in the near future, the moral stain will not be erased and the repercussions are yet to be seen.

Zeev Sternhell is an emeritus professor at the Hebrew University, and winner of the 2008 Israel Prize for Political Science









Prior to their mass exodus following Israeli independence in 1948, there were an estimated 150,000 Christian Arabs in Palestine. Now there are approximately 50,000 Christians in the West Bank, most of them Greek Orthodox, and another 1,000 in Gaza. There are also 125,000 in Israel, but they include not only Arabs but also Russian immigrants and Jewish converts. For the approximately 10,000 Protestant Palestinians split between Israel and the West Bank, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is integral to their religious worldview. Most of them, particularly the Lutherans and Anglicans, view the conflict through the liberation theology borrowed from Latin American Marxist movements. But for as many as 1,000 other Protestant Palestinians who are the proteges of American Baptist missionaries, the conflict is refracted through the lens of American millennialism. The result is a rapidly growing number of Palestinian Christian Zionists.

As a grassroots resistance movement steeped in the New Testament narrative, liberation theology made sense in the face of Israeli settlements, limited Palestinian opportunity and Arab nationalism. The person who first articulated this theology-based social movement in the Palestinian context, Rev. Naim Ateek, made headlines in the late 1980s, during the first intifada, when he suggested that the Hebrew Bible "in today's language, [is] Zionist and racist," and argued that the New Testament nullified the divine covenant with the Jews. On the eve of the second intifada, Ateek, whose ministry is based in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem, characterized the leaders of Israel's government as latter-day "King Herods" who "crucify" Palestinians. Four years later in a booklet published by his Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Ateek argued that suicide bombers are "the product of [Israel's] own making ... [and] could be [seen as] a legitimate way of resistance."

For Palestinian Christian Zionists who embrace Israel's activities and financially support aliyah, Ateek's words are heretical. These Christians have found a new meaning in their role in the land, by forming proselytizing missions to convert the Jews. Most espouse an End Time theo-politics borrowed from Christian millennialism that shares much with the religious Zionism formulated by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. They not only believe that the return of the messiah hinges on Israeli territorial maximalism but also - like most American Evangelicals - believe that Jews have a special biblical role as the chosen people. According to Pastor Steven Khoury, it's the job of the Jews to return to the land and convert to Christianity, while it's the job of Christians to help bring that about.


The most influential figure for this group is Khoury's father, the Jerusalem-born pastor Naim Khoury, who in 1968 converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Baptist Evangelical Christianity. Since then, he claims to have drawn in more than 400 congregants, spread across five congregations in the West Bank. Khoury and his son were trained as pastors in Atlanta, Georgia, a hotbed of conservative Christian fundamentalism. They brought back with them what historian Richard Hofstadter famously called the "paranoid style in American politics" - characteristic of the anti-government frontier experience, as well as the deterministic ideas of an imminent apocalypse central to early Puritanism. It is at this intersection of Americanism and millennialism that Palestinians like Naim Khoury find comfort and meaning in the conflict. In the face of Palestinians' unanswered prayers for peace, the Christian Zionist story about the centrality of the Jews as the Chosen People appears undeniably true: The only escape for the Palestinians is the Rapture (that event when "Yeshua" summons them to heaven just prior to Armageddon). For Palestinian Christian Zionists like Khoury, "There is no peace [and there] will be no peace .... There will only be peace when Christ returns. It's very close."

Because their beliefs are antithetical to both Islam and Palestinian nationalism, Naim Khoury and his followers live under constant physical threat. The pastor's church has been bombed 14 times by what he calls "extreme Hamas fundamentalists," and he has been shot. Khoury defends his Zionism as not his ideas, but those of the Bible, which he reads literally. "There is no Palestinian theology," Khoury says, "There is one Bible." But Khoury told me that as an Arab, he is more often perceived by his American brethren as aligned with the forces of Satan in the post-9/11 conservative Evangelical geopolitical worldview than as a partner in faith.

Naim Khoury is not a lone leader. Shmuel Aweida, a pastor at a Messianic Jewish church in Haifa, is a self-proclaimed Palestinian Zionist who identifies as wholly Israeli and somewhat anti-Arab. He admits that he sometimes wishes he had been born Jewish, but to his chagrin, he is an "Arab who loves Israel ... [and] God's plan of salvation. He chooses Israel."

Both camps of Protestant Palestinians read the Bible through politics and politics through the Bible. While Ateek's nationalist project champions active resistance, the unproductive effort toward a Palestinian state has led some, like Khoury and Aweida, to fatalistic messianism. What makes the Palestinian Zionists unique in the annals of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the way in which American millennialism, seemingly against all odds, has convinced a small group of Palestinians to identify with the other side.

Tristan Sturm is a Ph.D. candidate at UCLA and a fellow at the Hebrew University. He is co-editor of the book, "Mapping the End Times," to be published by Ashgate in January.









Leaders of the Group of 20 are in Pittsburgh this week for their third meeting since the financial crisis erupted a year ago. It is likely to be a positive gathering, with the leaders from the developed and large emerging economies sharing credit for avoiding the economic abyss. It will take a lot more than that, however, for the meeting to be a real success.


The previous two meetings were about projecting the ability and willingness to work together, which was a laudable goal last November when the markets were paralyzed and the global economy was in a tailspin, and, in April, when economies worldwide were still slumping badly. To quell panic generally, the G-20 leaders needed to show a united front. To ease specific fears that they would repeat the mistakes of the 1930s when protectionism prolonged the Great Depression, they needed to assert a commitment to open trade.


They succeeded in ensuring that conditions did not worsen because of actions they took or failed to take, but they did not confront the causes and cures of the financial crisis. In fact, they were successful largely because they stuck to the side effects of the crisis, like the harm to emerging markets, while avoiding the thorniest issues, like the dangers posed by too-big-to-fail institutions. Serious disagreements, like the proper size and role of fiscal stimulus, were papered over.


The question now is whether the G-20 can start to reach consensus on such vexing and divisive issues. If not, regulatory reform efforts of individual nations will be hobbled because nearly every pressing matter — cleaning up toxic assets, regulating derivatives, downsizing large and interconnected firms — has an international component. If reform efforts are hobbled, there is little hope of avoiding a repeat of the financial crisis.


The signs, so far, have been mixed at best. The leaders are likely to agree on the need to impose higher capital requirements on banks and other financial firms. That is important as a general statement, but real reform will require an agreement on substantial increases in capital levels, as well as on how capital will be measured and how the new rules will be enforced.


A consensus is also expected on how to regulate pay for financial industry executives. Skewed compensation incentives clearly drove some of the reckless risk-taking that led to the crisis. But pay reform is just a stopgap. It’s more important to enact reforms to ensure that banks can no longer engage in primarily speculative activities or other excessively risky transactions that lead to outsize paydays. Such reforms would include curbing the use of leverage and of opaque derivative trades to boost gains.


The G-20 is also expected to reach an agreement on ways to correct the crucial long-term issue of global imbalances that created the conditions for a global upheaval. In brief, the United States must reduce its budget deficit and boost household savings. China must invest its reserves in its own social safety net and thereby increase consumption, which would inevitably involve revaluing its currency.


But the leaders must not allow that to obscure more pressing concerns: The United States must clarify where it stands on open trade, having shaken faith in its stance by its recent imposition of tariffs on imports of Chinese tires. Large nations in the G-20 must commit themselves to continued government support of the world economy, including investment in poor countries and more stimulus spending for their own economies.

The United States appears to have little appetite for more stimulus spending, even though unemployment is rising. The commitment to stimulus in Europe, particularly Germany, has long been too weak, putting undue pressure on economies that have been willing to do more to boost demand.


The time has passed for consensus for the sake of consensus. It’s time for reform.








With President Obama chairing the session and 13 other leaders around the table, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday intended to strengthen the fraying rules that are supposed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.


It was a good-news moment. But also a reminder of the past limits of the Security Council’s will and effectiveness. In defiance of its orders, North Korea has tested two weapons and Iran continues to churn out nuclear fuel.


The resolution commits all member states to a long list of worthy goals, including ratification of the test ban treaty and adoption of stronger national controls on nuclear exports. But some of the countries around the table will have to do a lot more to prove that they mean it.


The resolution commits all United Nations members to enforcing current sanctions on Iran and North Korea. But those measures were seriously watered down — for political and economic reasons — by Russia and China. Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvedev, now says that he might be open to tougher measures on Iran if negotiations fail to bear fruit. China continues to oppose tougher penalties that may be the only chance for constraining Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.


The resolution set a practical target by urging states to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years. The Security Council broke some new ground by warning that any member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that secretly develops a weapon and then withdraws from the treaty — North Korea’s route — will still be held responsible for its violations.


We wish the Security Council had called for states to end rather than minimize the use of highly enriched uranium — a potential bomb fuel — in medical research. And the resolution only encourages, rather than requires, governments to consider whether a state seeking to buy nuclear technology has accepted intrusive United Nations monitoring.


Fortunately, there will be opportunities to fine-tune these goals. A conference on nuclear security is scheduled for next April, and two weeks later the United Nations will review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which has been weakened by Bush-era neglect and Iranian and North Korean violations.


We applaud Mr. Obama for highlighting the nuclear dangers out there and pressing the world to address them. He still has a tough sell at home. He is far from the votes he needs for the Senate to ratify the test ban treaty. Some 150 countries have ratified it. But the treaty cannot take effect until other major holdouts — including China, India, Pakistan and Israel — also ratify it.


Washington’s failure gives them an all-too-convenient excuse. Mr. Obama will have to work hard to rally broader support.







Earmark spending — those thousands of customized budget items that Congress tailors as boons for favored contractors — is hardly the biggest dynamic driving the record federal deficit. But as President Obama warned in March, earmarking without competitive bidding requirements can be a “most corrupting” abuse of the budget process. Witness Jack Abramoff, the superlobbyist sent to prison after milking dodgy contracts from compliant lawmakers.


An important step forward in earmark reform is being disputed in the annual appropriation bills, with the Senate opposing the House’s new mandate for competitive bidding in the case of for-profit contractors. Traditionally, lawmakers preferred to target particular favorites and not their competitors for the taxpayer largess.


The for-profit sector does not get all the earmarks; most flow to state and local government agencies, universities and other nonprofit entities. Still, for-profits do well, scoring about half the $2.7 billion in 1,102 earmarks tucked so far into the $636 billion Pentagon spending proposal for next year.


Prodded by scandal, both the House and Senate have made progress in transparency with new requirements that lawmakers disclose which companies benefit from their earmarks. This at least allows voters to spot deeply grooved patterns of campaign donations from most-favored contractors to grateful benefactors.


The introduction of some competitive bidding is the logical next step that Senate Democratic leaders should join the House in implementing.


Senate opponents argue that for-profit contracts can involve high-tech research and development too narrow for easy open bidding. The House feels as though a larger principle is at stake, and its new mandate should be put to the test. If Senate leaders prevail in their opposition and strip competitive bidding from the final spending bills, the House should show them up by still requiring this important step forward in proposals originated by House members. House leaders have this separate power and are vowing to enforce it.







We’re sure that somewhere a marketer is already designing the campaign for Moon Water — available, of course, in attractive, biodegradable containers. Scientists analyzing data collected by three spacecraft have discovered that there may be a fair amount of water — or hydroxyl, which is one hydrogen atom short of being water — on the Moon, albeit spread out in millimeter-thin layers on or near the surface.


This will take some re-imagining, especially after those pictures from the Apollo missions that showed a spectacularly dry, dusty and oasis-free place. It is also a place where temperature swings are extreme, which means it should be inhospitable to a volatile compound like water. These new findings suggest that there is water lurking not only in permanently shadowed craters near the lunar poles but also elsewhere on the lunar surface.


If a decision is made to build a new space base on the Moon — and space enthusiasts differ on the value of doing so — it may be able to extract some water and oxygen from the soil. As for where the water comes from, scientists suggest it may be created when protons in the solar wind collide with the Moon’s surface and trigger reactions that produce water. Forty years ago, there was evidence of water in the lunar soil samples brought back by astronauts. At the time, scientists dismissed the possibility. The Moon was too dry, and they assumed that the samples had been corrupted by Houston’s moist air.


That’s what comes of living on a truly wet planet.










Always there is the illusion of the easy path. Always there is the illusion, which gripped Donald Rumsfeld and now grips many Democrats, that you can fight a counterinsurgency war with a light footprint, with cruise missiles, with special forces operations and unmanned drones. Always there is the illusion, deep in the bones of the Pentagon’s Old Guard, that you can fight a force like the Taliban by keeping your troops mostly in bases, and then sending them out in well-armored convoys to kill bad guys.


There is simply no historical record to support these illusions. The historical evidence suggests that these middling strategies just create a situation in which you have enough forces to assume responsibility for a conflict, but not enough to prevail.


The record suggests what Gen. Stanley McChrystal clearly understands — that only the full counterinsurgency doctrine offers a chance of success. This is a doctrine, as General McChrystal wrote in his remarkable report, that puts population protection at the center of the Afghanistan mission, that acknowledges that insurgencies can only be defeated when local communities and military forces work together.


To put it concretely, this is a doctrine in which small groups of American men and women are outside the wire in dangerous places in remote valleys, providing security, gathering intelligence, helping to establish courts and building schools and roads.


These are the realistic choices for America’s Afghanistan policy — all out or all in, surrender the place to the Taliban or do armed nation-building. And we might as well acknowledge that it’s not an easy call. The costs and rewards are tightly balanced. But in the end, President Obama was right: “You don’t muddle through the central front on terror. ... You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.”


Since 1979, we have been involved in a long, complex conflict against Islamic extremism. We’ve fought this ideology in many ways in many places, and we shouldn’t pretend we understand how this conflict will evolve. But we should understand that the conflict is unavoidable and that when extremism pushes, it’s in our long-term interests to push back — and that eventually, if we do so, extremism will wither.


Afghanistan is central to this effort partly because it could again become a safe haven to terrorists, but mostly because of its effects on the stability of Pakistan. As Stephen Biddle noted in a recent essay in The American Interest, the Taliban is a transnational Pashtun movement active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a complex insurgency trying to topple the Pakistani regime.


Pakistan has a fragile government with an estimated 50 or more nuclear weapons. A Taliban conquest in Afghanistan would endanger the Pakistani regime at best, create a regional crisis for certain and lead to a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda at worst.


A Taliban reconquest would also, it should be said, be a moral atrocity from which American self-respect would not soon recover.


Proponents of withdrawal often acknowledge the costs of defeat but argue that the cause is hopeless anyway. On this, let me note a certain pattern. When you interview people who know little about Afghanistan, they describe an anarchic place that is the graveyard of empires. When you interview people who live there or are experts, they think those stereotypes are rubbish. They usually take a hardened but guardedly optimistic view. Read Clare Lockhart’s Sept. 17 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get a sense of the way many knowledgeable people view the situation.


Amidst all the problems, the NATO coalition has a few things going for it. First, American forces have become quite good at counterinsurgency. They have a battle-tested strategy, experienced troops and a superb new leadership team. According to the political scientists Andrew J. Enterline and Joseph Magagnoli, since World War II, counterinsurgency efforts that put population protection at their core have succeeded nearly 70 percent of the time.


Second, the enemy is wildly hated. Only 6 percent of Afghans want a Taliban return, while NATO is viewed with surprising favor. This is not Vietnam or even Iraq.


Third, while many Afghan institutions are now dysfunctional, there is a base on which to build. The Afghan Army is a successful institution. Local villages have their own centuries-old civic institutions. The National Solidarity Program was able to build development councils in 23,000 villages precisely because the remnants of civil society still exist.


We have tried to fight the Afghan war the easy way, and it hasn’t worked. Switching now to the McChrystal strategy is a difficult choice, and President Obama is right to take his time. But Obama was also right a few months ago when he declared, “This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. ... This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”








So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?


If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.


The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.


Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin — as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.


Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.


So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”


It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.


How do we know this? First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living — a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.


Second, the best available economic analyses suggest that even deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would impose only modest costs on the average family. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.


By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.


So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?

Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really. It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.


Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.


Thus, last week Glenn Beck — who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of

the G.O.P. — informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey

would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.


But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar — and similarly false — claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.


A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior. But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides — and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.


So here’s the bottom line: The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.









YESTERDAY, President Obama presided over the United Nations Security Council meeting that passed a resolution seeking to strengthen the international commitment to limiting the spread of nuclear weapons. A week ago, he announced that the United States will not deploy — at least, not in the foreseeable future — a missile defense site in Central Europe, including powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland.


Is there a link between the two events? I believe there is. Yet initial comments by many political figures and journalists have for the most part ignored this key relationship.


Instead, many are asserting that canceling the Eastern European missile defense was simply a concession to Russia, which must now reciprocate with a concession of its own. But President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia had already said last November that if the United States made changes to its missile defense plans, his nation would refrain from countermeasures like deploying its own missiles. Soon after President Obama’s decision was announced, this position was reaffirmed.


Many of President Obama’s critics in the United States insist that he “caved in” to Russian pressure, virtually leaving America’s NATO allies to fend for themselves. There is nothing behind this argument other than the old stereotype of “bad Russia,” a Russia that is always wrong.


Consider the merits of the case. Russia’s leaders have been saying for some time that the fear of Iran developing effective long-range missiles in the near future was not grounded in fact. Now, after a thorough review by intelligence and defense officials, the United States government has come to the same conclusion, holding that Tehran is perhaps at least five years or even a decade away from such capacity.


The initial reaction by some politicians and commentators in Poland and the Czech Republic is no less odd. They seem to enjoy the role of a spoiler in relations between other countries and Russia. Voices of realism and caution are routinely rejected, and the opinion of their own citizens, who by and large have no use for radars and missiles, is brushed aside.


In Russia, President Obama’s decision has been well received. It also met with support in Europe, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy of France lauding it. The Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, called it “a chance to strengthen European security.” Indeed, if the president’s decision is followed by further serious steps, it will provide an opportunity for us to strengthen global security as well as reach a new level of cooperation in ridding the world of nuclear danger.


At their meeting in Moscow in early July, Presidents Obama and Medvedev reaffirmed the relationship between strategic offensive weapons and missile defense. The two nations continue arms reduction talks and, judging by cautious diplomatic statements, they seem to be on course to complete them by Dec. 5, when the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — which I signed with President George H. W. Bush in 1991 — is due to expire.


This week’s United Nations meeting marks the next stage of progress. It is vital that other nations come away from the meeting believing that America and Russia are moving toward verifiable nuclear arms reductions, and that by the time the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference is held at the United Nations next May, they will have made progress toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.


Unless they show the world they are serious, the two major nuclear powers will be accused, again and again, of not keeping their word and told that if it is acceptable for 5 or 10 countries to have nuclear weapons as their “ultimate security guarantee,” why should it not be the case for 20 or 30 others?


It is vital that the two presidents themselves monitor the negotiations closely, sometimes plunging into minute details. I know from experience how difficult it is to deal with such technical details on top of constant political pressures, but it is necessary to avoid misunderstandings that could undermine trust.


Some questions that will need to be clarified are evident now. The American secretary of defense, Robert Gates, has said that the SM-3 missiles that are to be used under the new missile-defense plan could later be perfected to intercept long-range intercontinental missiles. Yet he has also raised the possibility of cooperating with Russia on missile defense. To me, these two ideas seem incompatible. The sooner such issues are cleared up the better.


As I see it, there is only one way to move forward: Washington should agree to the Russian proposal for a joint assessment of missile threats. Let the experts from both countries have a frank discussion that would reveal which threats are real and must be dealt with, and which are imaginary. This would help to avoid misguided projects like the Polish-Czech missile shield, and could help move us from a state of mutual deterrence to a goal of minimum nuclear sufficiency for self-defense.


This is a big agenda. Realistically, it would take two or three years of intense negotiation. But Russia and the United States must set big tasks for themselves. What is needed is nothing less than a change in the strategic relationship between the two major nuclear powers — in their own interests and in the cause of world peace.


Mikhail Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union. This article was translated by Pavel Palazhchenko from the Russian.








LAST week President Obama announced his decision to discard plans for antiballistic missile shields in Eastern Europe in favor of smaller interceptors on ships and planes. But the key issue is not where the United States should place its defenses. The problem is that medium-range missiles exist at all. In all the confusing debate on this topic, Mr. Obama has overlooked one simple option: outlaw these missiles altogether.


Granted, that seems unlikely to happen. Yet that’s what the superpowers did in 1987, when President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. The treaty required the two countries to destroy ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. It remains the only treaty to have eliminated an entire class of nuclear arms systems.


Now Presidents Obama and Dmitri Medvedev of Russia together should urge all countries to sign the treaty. In other words, we should transform it from a bilateral treaty into a multilateral one.


To be sure, no treaty can prevent countries like Iran and North Korea from developing such missiles if they really want them (as they do now). Arms control is never that potent, and bad actors, by definition, act badly.


But still, a global treaty signed by more than 100 states would stigmatize the testing and developing of such missiles. And that would be a good start.


After all, the world’s a whole lot better off with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even with its non-signers and violators, than it would be otherwise. In 1963, five years before the signing of that treaty, President John F. Kennedy predicted that by 1975 there would be 15 to 20 nuclear-armed states. A generation later, we’re nowhere near that dire forecast.


We now need a new taboo against testing, developing and deploying medium-range missiles. What was permissible needs to be become deplorable.


The good news is that Presidents Obama and Medvedev, in proposing a global intermediate nuclear forces treaty, would head off a common criticism of the nonproliferation treaty — that big powers are allowed such weapons while little ones are not.


The big boys banned these weapons from their arsenals with the treaty 22 years ago, even after the United States had tested and developed the Pershing II and the Soviet Union the SS-20, along with sundry short-range missiles.


In contrast to most arms control issues, in this case the prescription is simple: Open the treaty to all countries, and urge them to sign it. The hard work has already been done by the Reagan and Gorbachev teams. All the language is written, the terms defined, the verification provisions established or easily modified. What took seven years on the bilateral treaty would take only a few hours to flip into a global one.


Finally, proposing such a treaty would give the American and Russian presidents a welcome (photo) opportunity to propose something jointly. Even conservative arms control skeptics in the United States and Russia would have nothing to gripe about, since their countries gave up these weapons more than two decades ago.


Weapons of mass destruction carried aboard ballistic missiles constitute a dire threat, and getting rid of them entirely would make the world a bit safer. That’s one point on which everyone in the fractious debate over missile defense should agree.


Kenneth Adelman was the director of the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1983 to 1987.








Close attention should be paid to a remarkably frank report authored by General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The report speaks of the growing influence of India in the affairs of Afghanistan and the potential that has to "exacerbate" regional tensions. He also said that Taliban fighters in Afghanistan were being aided by "elements of some intelligence agencies" – and he pointed specifically at our Inter-Services Intelligence Agency and the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as seeking to undermine US interests and destabilize the government in Kabul. There is little that is ever clear in the smoke-and-mirrors world of espionage , but we may assume that the intelligence services of any number of nations are at work in Afghanistan, and should be disappointed if our own intelligence services were not, because that is their job. Notwithstanding this, the extent of Indian involvement in Afghan affairs is considerable. India has pledged $1.2 billion for reconstruction projects in Afghanistan that include roads and bridges, schools and power transmission lines and a swathe of 'grassroots training'. The pledge is being redeemed across the country as new projects are completed and inaugurated with a 'Made in India' stamp on them. It would be hard to find any project in Afghanistan with our own makers-mark on display. Somewhat disingenuously in the light of General McChrystal's analysis, the Indian external affairs minister, S M Krishna, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, has warned against external interference in Afghanistan and downplayed the rampant fraud that has tainted the recent election. He accused our intelligence agencies of aiding and abetting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

All of this is aggregating in the mind of General McChrystal as a sense of concern on several levels, one of which is the potentially destabilizing effect that activities by a range of agencies in Afghanistan could have on Pakistan. He sees Indian political and economic influence increasing in Afghanistan and the current Kabul government as pro-Indian. He does not say that it is anti-Pakistan - but what is unsaid may be as significant as that which is. It is also of concern because of the complexity of our relationship with America and the cooperation we have with it in the pursuit of militants and the unpopular drone strikes. The general notes that the Afghan insurgency is supported from the Pakistan side and repeats the oft-made allegation that elements of our security services support the Taliban for their own reasons. Conversely, the ISI have worked closely with the Americans in the capture of key Al Qaeda figures and we may also assume that there is an exchange of intelligence prior to drone strikes. The general has every right to be concerned, and for our part we need to have a tight rein on our own intelligence services as well as staying alert to machinations to the east.









Once more we have seen discord over the question of when Eid should have been celebrated. Indeed the issue has flared up into a full-fledged political row, with the federal railways minister demanding the removal of the chairman of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. The dispute involves the question of when the new moon was sighted. Many in the NWFP celebrated Eid a day ahead of the rest of the country. To add to the confusion a small group in Lahore also followed the Saudi calendar and marked Eid on that day. There were bitter fights, some ending in blows, as clerics who argued that the Ruet-e-Hilal decision must be followed attempted to prevent ANP workers and others from offering Eid prayers. This is all rather unseemly. It detracts from the harmony and sense of peace that should mark one of the most important occasions on the Islamic calendar. The federal government has so far refused to get involved and has not backed the remarks by the railways minister, Ghulam Haider Bilour, a senior member of the ANP, that the Ruet-e-Hilal chairman is a remnant of the Musharraf era. The chairman, Mufti Munibur Rehman, has struck back, asking what authority the secular ANP has in matters of religion.

It is quite absurd that a matter as simple as spotting the crescent can assume such ugly proportions. There are predictions that the fallout could hit PPP-ANP relations. Opponents of the alliance already seem to be rubbing their hands in glee. Beyond the political, many ordinary people too have been distressed by the chaos and the failure to celebrate a united Eid. In practical terms the divide creates issues for families who live in different towns and must decide which order to follow. The time has come to find rationality. Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries seem able to use science to predict the date of the new moon and announce Eid well in advance. Much angst is avoided as a result of this simple, and sensible, measure. The example set by the Saudis in using the modern ability to predict the cycle of the moon can be emulated and an end put to the chaos over Eid that we witness each year.









Even on a calm day the sea can be tempestuous and unpredictable to those who don't know it and for eight young men last Wednesday it became their killer. They had gone to Gadani Beach to celebrate Eid along with thousands of others. There were six lifeguards on duty and they are reported to have persistently warned people not to go into the sea. They managed to save eight young men, risking their own lives to do so. We cannot expect six lifeguards to control a crowd in its thousands, and no blame for these deaths should be laid at their door.

The blame lays squarely on the shoulders of the dead and the rescued, not their rescuers. They acted with an irresponsibility that is so typical of our casual attitude to both personal safety and the safety of others consequent on our unthinking actions. Safety is the very last thing on our minds as we drive the wrong way down a dual carriageway; refuse to wear helmets while riding motorbikes – or leap into the sea without wondering if swimming is a useful skill to acquire. Our rescue services are often rudimentary at best (although the 1122 service in Punjab is setting benchmark standards) and limiting access to the Karachi beaches clearly not a viable option. Perhaps now is the time to look closely at developing a health-and-safety segment of the national curriculum in the hope of educating a future generation into a more responsible frame of mind.









All the great Muslim rulers of our past whom we look upon as our heroes were either Turks or Afghans, from Mahmud Ghaznavi to the last of the Mughals -- Caucasians all of them, who, in successive waves of invasion and conquest from the colder climates of the north, made themselves masters of Hindustan.

For 800 years -- from 1192 AD. when Muhammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain (in present-day Haryana) to the establishment of British rule in Bengal in the 18th century -- every ruler of Hindustan of any note or merit was of Caucasian origin. In all this vast expanse of history, the lands which now constitute Pakistan could produce only one ruler of indigenous origin who could lay claim to any ability: Ranjit Singh, Maharajah of Punjab.

We, the inhabitants of Pakistan, may claim in moments of (misplaced) exaltation that we are descended from those early warriors. But this is a false claim. We are now more sub-continental than Central Asian. Just as empires and nations rise and fall, races too do not remain the same over time. The Mughals were a hardy people when they marched into India under Babar. After 200 years of unbroken rule their dynasty -- descended from the great Taimur -- had become degenerate and soft.

We may name our missiles Ghori and Abdali -- although Abdali is somewhat inappropriate, considering that Ahmed Shah Abdali in his repeated invasions brought much suffering to Punjab -- but this is a throwback to a past far removed from our present. Comfortable thought or not, Ranjit Singh's kingdom of Punjab is more relevant to our present-day conditions than those distant days of glory and conquest.

The challenge thus posed is a daunting one. For 800 years we have produced no ruler of native ability. But if Pakistan is to come into its own, if it is to throw off the mantle of failure of the past 60 years and forge a new future for itself, then its native sons and daughters have to create something new: capacity and ability where none have existed before -- except in the solitary example of the one-eyed king of Lahore, Maharajah Ranjit Singh.

We are going to get no infusion of fresh blood from beyond the high mountains. No Ghaznavi or Ghori is coming to rescue us or establish a new kingdom. We are on our own. It is for us to make something of Pakistan or disfigure it. The kingdom of heaven is here; redemption is here; salvation is here.

The very enormity of this challenge should teach us some tolerance. We expect miracles from our rulers -- the Ayub Khans, the Yahya Khans, the Ishaq Khans, the Zardaris, the Gilanis and no doubt the Sharifs -- without pausing to reflect that what we expect from them is nothing less than a reversal of history. We expect them to be the heralds of a miracle: the creation and expression of native talent and ability.

Not that it can't be done or will never happen. But at least we should be aware of the extent of the challenge. We have to create something wholly new, something which in Punjab, the Frontier, Balochistan, Sindh, has not existed except in the dim annals of pre-history. There may have been native rulers of ability in times past but we know little of them and even if they did exist they did so before the advent of Muslim rule in India.

And even if we pride ourselves on our Muslim past, let us not forget that by the time the British arrived in India and set about establishing their empire, the Muslims of the sub-continent had declined to an inferior position. They were no longer a master race. So much so, that they were reduced to demanding from the British special safeguards, such as separate electorates, to protect their status and position.

Consider the irony of this. Once the Muslims, a tiny minority, had ruled India. Now they were afraid -- or their leading lights were afraid -- that they would be swamped by the Hindu majority, fearful that in a united India what they considered to be their just rights would be denied them, that they would not be able to hold their heads above the water.

This philosophy of fear -- and there is no point in denying that it was that -- was dictated by circumstances. After Ottoman defeat in the First World War, Turkish nationalism found expression in the idea of a Turkish republic confined to the Turkish heartland: the Anatolian plateau. The idea of empire was no longer feasible. Mustafa Kemal realised this, his vision clearer and sharper than most of his countrymen. In India, Muslim nationalism found expression in the idea of Pakistan. Jinnah's greatness lay in helping achieve this idea.

But there was one vital difference between Turkey and Pakistan. The Anatolian plateau was the solid centre of the Ottoman Empire, what the Turks called their true home. The centre of the Muslim empire throughout the 800 years of Muslim dominance in India was central India, around Delhi. But Indian partition and the birth of Pakistan meant retreating from this centre and creating a new nexus of existence on the western and eastern marches of the sub-continent. Pakistan thus arose on what used to be not the centre but the peripheries of Muslim power in India.

This was a new challenge: of creating a new locus of existence where none had existed before. Muslim kingdoms had existed in South India. They had of course existed in North India. But there had never been an independent Muslim kingdom in the areas now constituting Pakistan. And, to repeat the point made earlier, there was in Pakistan no tradition of outstanding native ability: no native ruler of Multan or Lahore, Peshawar or Bannu, Hyderabad or Thatta, Quetta or Kalat, who could be cited as some kind of a role model.

We had roads and bridges, canals and waterworks, a judicial and an administrative system, the trappings of democracy, the concept of elections and political parties, but, apart from the one example of Ranjit Singh, no tradition of native ability. The idea of being Turkish had always existed in the Turkish mind. The Muslim faith was part of this idea but it wasn't the whole of it. Pakistan was a wholly new invention and it was a reflection of the difficulties besetting the idea of Pakistan that our leading figures declared, very early on, that Islam was the basis of our nationhood.

Indeed, we made religion a fallback position, seeking refuge in its dialectics when more attention should have been paid to temporal problems. The discontent arising in East Pakistan was proof that temporal problems needed a temporal solution. Today it is the same in Balochistan whose grievances are crying out for something more than the usual palliatives.

The fight against the Taliban may yet prove our salvation. It is putting us through a formative experience. We were not willing to take on this fight, using all the mental resources at our disposal to avoid it. But this struggle has been forced on us by circumstances. The Taliban had become a domestic headache. To this was added external pressure from the American presence in Afghanistan, forcing the Pakistan army to shed indecision and adopt a decisive course of action.

What does the idea of Talibanism tell us? That it is a foreign importation and as such alien to our soil and condition. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar just don't fit into the idea of Pakistan. But thanks to our own misunderstandings and follies we had allowed this alien concept to take root in our soil.

Hopefully things are changing. Pakistan has to be an autonomous concept, sufficient unto itself and free of alien viruses. The struggle is not over. The idea of Pakistan is yet in the making but it will come into its own, never to falter or indeed wither, when we realise that the historic task before us is to turn the mediocrity of our ruling class, including the confusion that often besets the military mind, into a vision springing from the needs of our own society.








Earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a one-day summit on climate change and invited nearly 100 world leaders to participate in the run-up to the anticipated new 'climate deal' in Copenhagen this December. In his opening address, the UN Secretary-General warned the participants from around the world: "Failure to reach broad agreement in Copenhagen would be morally inexcusable, economically short-sighted and politically unwise. Now is the moment to act in common cause."

The summit was a day before the annual UN Assembly, which is otherwise an opportunity for countries to make promises with no intention to keep them, and our President to spend some time in New York.

The effect of man's rapid industrialisation and unending consumption of natural resources has seriously damaged our earth's ability to repair any damage to itself. Greenhouse gases unleashed all over the world trap ultraviolet rays from the sun within the earth's atmosphere, changing climate patterns around the globe. What's expected is nothing short of the greatest challenge faced by our species.

Rapidly melting glaciers in the Himalayas threaten the water supply of nearly one-sixth of humanity. Lack of water here and elsewhere in the world will mean facing food shortages as arable land is lost to draught or desertification. Continuing industrialisation and urbanisation have already brought the energy crisis to the doorstep of our country, and climate change is sure to take it to others. The destabilisation of the Delicate Balance of Nature will increase in incidents of natural epidemics and increase disaster risks. The degradation of the ecosystem will mean the loss of a livelihood to millions and, as a result, will see forced population migrations (we are already witnessing this phenomenon in rural Sindh).

According to this Islamic Republic's own assessment of the impacts of climate change, found in the Initial National Communication on Climate Change issued by the Ministry of Environment in 2004, glaciers are expected to melt faster and less snow is expected to form in the mountains where our freshwater comes from. This will change the flow of our rivers and the entire system which depends on them. Our country's breadbasket is going to be affected. The increase in temperature will also put heat stress on crops, including 'severe stress' on our cash crops: cotton, wheat and sugar. Any effect on crop yields will have the obvious effects on our food supply and agriculture sector. It will also wreak havoc in rural society, where families have no other means save the fruit of the soil that they till. The communication also expects that deforestation, coupled with shifting water resources, will cause landslides. The fragile ecosystems, flora and fauna sustained by what remains of our forest resources are also under threat. Changing water resources and crop patterns are also expected to result in mass migrations as rural populations follow better climactic conditions.

Even though Pakistan is not responsible for global climate change it will be one of the countries worst affected by it. Worryingly, far too many people still harbour the incorrect notion that, because Pakistan is not responsible for climate change, it has no reason to do anything about it. According to this line of thought, since climate change is due, largely, to the industrialisation of western countries, it is these countries that should come to the aid of those who are suffering from their actions.

According to the 2005 World Bank assessment on how climate change is affecting Pakistan, an estimated 20,000 infants die prematurely each year because of our polluted air. An estimated 45 million respiratory diseases are reported annually. Every year, the failing environment and the inefficiencies it creates cost the exchequer an estimated $6 billion. In other words, climate change or not, environmental degradation means we experience a national tragedy of the scale of the Oct 5 earthquake on an annual basis. The environment and climate change are simply not issues that can be ignored. One would be mistaken if they thought that the government was doing something about these issues.

According to the environment chapter in the 2009-2010 Economic Survey issued by the Ministry of Finance, Pakistan's response to the challenges of poor air quality has been (i) the implementation of an air quality monitoring system in five cities; and (ii) the presentation of a road-map to implement Euro-II quality standards on automobiles (other countries have advanced to the protection of an Euro-IV quality standard and Euro VI is set to be implemented by 2014). To meet the challenge of poor quality water (responsible for 60 per cent of Pakistan's already high infant mortality), (i) the Ministry of Environment has prepared a National Drinking Water Policy; (ii) a National Sanitation Policy has been launched (where it is hoped that all Pakistanis will have access to sanitation facilities by 2025); and (iii) apparently water filtration plants are to be set up. Several programmes have been implemented to increase Pakistan's forest cover. We were recently inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of trees planted in one day (we broke the record set by India earlier this year, and the trees planted were actually replacements for the hundreds of thousands of acres of mangrove forests lost due to environmental degradation). And, to tackle climate change, the government set up a task force.

Given the challenges of climate change and the threat environmental degradation poses to the lives and property of millions, our government's response to climate change is simply not up to the mark.

This is tragic because, more than anything else, a thoughtful and well-executed response to climate change is a great opportunity for Pakistan to lead the new 'green' global economy. Strategies to implement adaptation and mitigation measures can bring jobs and arm our workforce with the vocational skills that can be exported to aid other countries facing the challenges of climate change. Conservation measures in water and electricity (and especially electricity since conservation is the single largest source of electricity in Pakistan at this moment) can also generate a new economy and create tens of thousands of new jobs.

Frankly, I would prefer my tax rupees be put into combating climate change to pretending to provide security. Investing in military adventures, a foray into a war on terror and even the bomb has not made this country and its people any richer or more secure. It's now time to invest in something that will.

The writer is an advocate of the high court and a member of the adjunct faculty at LUMS. He has an interest in urban planning. Email:











The joint petition the federal government and the provinces filed in the Supreme Court on Sept 19 for the suspension of the Lahore High Court decision to fix the sugar price at Rs40 per kilogram made the front pages of the newspapers. Another item, also concerned with prices, the reported the setting up of a technical subcommittee by the NFC to deal with the issue of determination of the Gas Development Surcharge. One had to Google-search newspapers to find this item. The former relates to an unrealistic ex-mill price and the latter to an unrealistic wellhead price.

In public perception, the millers processed sugar at relatively lower cost, despite higher sugarcane prices due to a short crop, and the feudals in Parliament prevented timely import of raw sugar. Then the millers in Parliament and outside colluded to delay import of sugar and soft-pedalled the releases until the time they were able to say that the free market cannot have two prices and the import price, now quite high, would have to be the ruling price. Instead of taxing the windfall profits to subsidise the consumers, the government added to its subsidy bill and fiscal woes by borrowing, and lowering the GST.

Pakistan's first gas field was discovered at Sui in Balochistan. Since 1952, it has fuelled businesses and homes in Punjab and Sindh and Pakhtunkhwa (the NWFP). It reached Quetta only in 1980. The Balochs neither got gas, nor the full benefit of their major resource. A wellhead price was fixed which, according to the recent World Bank-/ADB-sponsored Balochistan Economic Report was "absurdly low." Many gas fields have been developed in other provinces, but the wellhead price of the new fields is far higher than Sui's.

The main point in the sugar petition, overseen by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in the Council of Chief Ministers, is that the price fixed by the LHC "makes the very business of manufacturing and selling of sugar confiscatory and expropriated [sic] thus infringing on the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 18 of the Constitution." The Article states: "Subject to such qualifications, if any, as may be prescribed by law, every citizen shall have the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation, and to conduct any lawful trade or business." But the said Article also has a proviso, which escaped the attention of the enthusiasts: "Provided that nothing in this Article shall prevent –

(a) The regulation of any trade or profession by a licensing system; or

(b) The regulation of trade, commerce or industry in the interest of free competition therein; or

(c) The carrying on, by the Federal or a Provincial Government, of any trade, business, industry or service, to the exclusion, complete or partial, of other persons."

The petition says that the price of Rs45 per kilogram fixed by the federal and provincial governments and the suppliers is "better regulated." It is of no consequence to them that the regulator, the Competition Commission, finds such collusion inappropriate.

The petitioners include the Punjab government, known for its solidarity with the judges and its initial crackdown on "hoarders" to implement the decision in letter and spirit. It now stands by the same "hoarders" to tell the court that coercing them to offload their hoards in the market will lead to their disappearance. If an industry can compete neither nationally nor internationally, the free-market principle requires that it must close down rather be provided crutches by the government. If it must operate as a monopoly, then it is best left to the government under Clause (c).

The petition goes on to say that the LHC price would inflict huge losses in the form of subsidy on sugar imports by the federal government, and on domestic output by the provincial government. Without this subsidy, the sugar mills will close down and the sugarcane growers will be seriously hurt, both of course represented disproportionately in the petitioning governments, except the government of Balochistan. The LHC price would also "scare away sugar dealers," who are an important component of the trading classes traditionally supporting the PML-N.

If there is merit in the argument, which is the prerogative of the honourable court to decide, then its application must be universal, across-the-board and without discrimination. But the petitioners have double standards.

In the case of the wellhead price of gas, under the Natural Gas (Development Surcharge) Ordinance, 1967, the federal government fixed a prescribed price for gas companies and the price for the consumers, a task now performed by OGRA. The difference between the two was mopped up as GDS and used for the development of new gas fields. The same concept would be applied to finance the pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan.

Article 161 (1) of the Constitution says: "Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 78 the net proceeds of the Federal duty of excise on natural gas levied at well-head and collected by the Federal Government, and of the royalty collected by the Federal Government, shall not form part of the Federal Consolidated Fund and shall be paid to the Province in which the wellhead of natural gas is situated." Article 78 requires all revenues to be part of the Federal Consolidated Fund. The royalty and excise duty were thus decided in the 1973 Constitution and as such are not NFC issues. Payments of royalty, excise duty and GDS are made to the provinces under the Pakistan Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Rules, 1986. Thus GDS is not an NFC issue either.

The wellhead price is the most important component of the prescribed price, which also includes excise duty, maintenance cost, depreciation and fixed rate of return for gas companies (7.5 per cent for Sui Northern and 17 per cent for Sui Southern). To determine the wellhead value, the federal government has divided the country into various zones in accordance with the risk involved and investment required. The value increases with the risk. For instance, Pakhtunkhwa is designated as Zone 1 due to the highest risk to investment.

As the investment made in the Sui field has been more than recovered, its effective wellhead price is zero. Compared with the more expensive fields discovered later in Sindh, the difference between the prescribed price and consumer price should be the highest. However, it is affected by the fact that gas from Sui is supplied to Punjab and Pakhtunkhwa through Sui Northern, which entails high transmission and distribution costs. Sindh, supplying gas closer at home through Sui Southern, has far lower transmission and distribution costs.

Nevertheless, any rational weighting of the factors involved would yield the lowest weighted average wellhead price for Sui. This also means that Balochistan contributes the bulk of GDS. As GDS is distributed on the basis of production, which in the case Balochistan has declined overtime from from the highest to about one-fourth, the share of Balochistan has declined proportionately.

While Balochistan does not get the benefit of a low wellhead price in terms of GDS, it is penalised in terms of royalty, which is fixed at 12.5 per cent of the wellhead value. Gas-related receipts are the major revenue source in the small budget of the Balochistan government. Within the gas-related revenue, GDS is the largest component. Will the prime minister in the Council of Chief Ministers take up the case of the wellhead price of gas from Sui as forcefully as the case of the ex-mill price of sugar?

The difference between the two lies not in merit, but the capability of the protagonists to project power.

The writer teaches at FCC University, Lahore. Email:







Catapulted to the ludicrous US lecture-tour circuit, with reported payments of as much as 300,000 dollars per lecture, the ex-four-hat-wearer of Pakistan is not really a star performer: his only right of passage to that distinguished circuit, which will take him to 17 America states over a period of 40 days, is his eight-year performance in Pakistan on behalf of his American masters. His elevation is indicative of the new American resolve of not leaving their employees in the cold once their expiry date has arrived; there is now a post-expiry reward which will allow the likes of Musharrafs to pay for a house in London and live happily thereafter.

As one looks more carefully at the arrangements for these lectures, one is more than convinced of the identity, or at least the direction, from where the secret hand emerges in the US lecture circuit: the venues of his lectures are as diverse as state and private universities (Trinity University, San Antonio, Tex) and private, for-profit organisations (MPFS Speakers Series, the Baltimore Speakers Series, etc.), which claim to provide intellectual entertainment to their subscribers and which thrive on a mix of sensationalism and celebrity cult.

The US lecture circuit is a well-known heterogeneous entity that has previously arranged lecture tours of such figures as Salman Rushdie, Collin Powell, and Madeline Albright. One telltale sign of the same hand writing the paycheque behind the façade of diverse and geographically dispersed locales of the lectures is the near-identical websites of the local organisations hosting him: The website of the St Louis Speakers Series is identical to that of Baltimore Speakers Series which, in turn, is just like the St Louis Speakers Series!

So what is it that made the ex-dictator a favourite speaker in the United States? Surely, it is not his non-existent academic career, notwithstanding the various honorary degrees bestowed on him during his four-hat stint in Pakistan as the chief executive, army chief, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and president of of Pakistan. It could not be his non-existing eloquence, broken grammar, or poor English. For a sample, see his response to a question after his lecture at the Cornell University, New York. He was asked a question regarding science and technology in Pakistan--a question that seems "planted" with the aim of giving an advantage to Musharraf to brag about his performance. The question was obviously asked by a person of Pakistani origin: "I wanted to know if you can address the audience and talk about your vision for Pakistan's future in science and technology within the educational contact…" His response was: "Yes, exactly; it is very close to my heart what you have said….Because this is knowledge-driven world today and that is the important what you have asked…In the telecommunication industry, three years back Pakistan has 600,000 mobile telephones…"

A quick look at the career of this opportunist can lead to some insights: driven by ambition, he found the best opportunities in life anyone could hope for: a blunder by Nawaz Sharif led to his overtaking the country through a military coup which was condemned by all Western powers, including the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union, but all of these countries made a U-turn when the general signed on the dotted line after Sept 11, 2001. For the next seven years, he remained their strong ally; he killed and displaced thousands of Pakistanis, destroyed every single institution in the country, including the judiciary, and broke all rules in the books.

Given this background, it is surely not those who have decided to give the ex-dictator these extra dollars for a comfortable retirement in his newly bought house in London, but the sheer lack of competence of Pakistani politicians who allowed this to happen. It is the lethargy, incompetence--or both--of people like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, who endlessly issue statements but take no affective action. If these politicians had any substance to their words, they would set up a mechanism to expose the general's misdeeds at every place where he is to appear during the next forty days. Surely, they have enough resources and followers in the United States to send a handful of people who can at least distribute flyers at these public forums and expose the dreadful acts of the man with blood on his hands. Surely, there is someone in their circle of influence who can see wisdom behind taking these last steps to bury the hopes of all hopeful would-be dictators. Surely there must be some thinking minds in the otherwise barren political landscape of Pakistan who can see the need to chase out the phantom of this man from our lives.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:









Is this another sign of our disarray that we cannot even celebrate one Eid throughout the country? Some would argue that this is not a new problem; that the NWFP has always followed its own religious drumbeat. Fair enough, but why has no government been able to resolve this?

The current NWFP administration has gone a step forward. It has decided to adopt the stance of local ulema on Eid and its representative in the federal cabinet has decided to attack the head of the official moon-sighting committee.

This is farcical and some way out must be found. Use science or let us decide to follow Saudi Arabia. If we can coincide lunar calendars with that country to celebrate Haj on the same day, why not Eid? Other religious occasions are also shared, like the birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). They too are based on the lunar calendar. The same formula can be followed for all other religious occasions. Let this not be another thing we ignore until it hits us again next year.

And, there is no shortage of issues we refuse to face up to. The recent death of a Christian man in Sialkot jail has again brought to the fore the way we apply the blasphemy law. The problem is not the law itself. Sensibilities of all religions must be respected. The problem is its application.

There has not been a single successful prosecution of anyone on the charge of blasphemy yet many have lost their lives and others suffered emotional and physical torture. It has often been shown, after the fact, that either the charges were the result of a personal grudge or the person concerned was a lunatic. Rumour and hearsay also play a part as the Gojra tragedy has shown. How many more people will die, how many families will be destroyed before we do something about it?

A simple way out is to initiate prosecution of the accused before arrest. Anyone who has a complaint about blasphemy should bring it to the notice of the police and the prosecution agency. If they believe that there are sufficient grounds to move forward, a complaint may be lodged before the district and sessions judge and the normal procedure set in motion.

By following this method, the accused would be given a legal opportunity to defend himself or herself in a court of law. No arrest would have taken place and the possibility of abuse in the police station or the jail would have been avoided. If the court then holds that blasphemy has indeed taken place, the accused can be punished. If not, then the accuser and the prosecution branch can be held to account for lodging a false complaint.

I am no Islamic scholar but my cursory understanding is that lodging a false allegation of a serious offence such as blasphemy or even adultery is seen very negatively in Islam. These charges, if proven, merit severe punishment, including death. They cannot and should not be made lightly. The Pakistani Penal Code has some punishment for false complaint, but these must be as draconian as those prescribed for the offence itself. Only then can unnecessary harassment be minimised.

The fact many of these laws were enforced through executive fiat by the dictator Zia are a black mark against them, but this is not the only argument to get rid of them. Our laws must adhere to strict standards of justice that are also in consonance with the immutable laws of Islam. Anything less defines us as uncivilised.

It is a matter of shame that we do not do enough to stop the persecution of our religious minorities. It is true that this happens in many countries of the world. India is a very bad example where Muslims are not the only ones that suffer pogroms like the Gujarat massacre. Christians have been burned and killed in places like Orissa.

But the Indian state, while doing a poor job of protecting minorities, does not condone it. Gujarat massacre cases are still being pursued in Indian courts and at least a part of the media is not giving up on them. It is unlikely that much will come out of it, but it is important as a matter of principle for the state and society to do declare evil as evil. Administrative action must follow to give teeth to intent and that is yet to happen in India. It may never happen but the state must be seen to do its legal and moral duty.

In our case, the media has done a fair job of highlighting cases of religious prosecution, but the state is lagging behind. Just in the last decade, there have been many cases of minority targeting. Besides Christians, the Ahmedis have also suffered. The state has not followed up with the zeal that it should. How many cases do we know of people being punished for indulging in acts of violence?

More importantly, how many people inciting violence have been prosecuted? We have laws that expressly forbid creating hatred among religious communities and yet, there are people who do it every day. Not in private conversations but through the amplification of their venom on mosque loudspeakers. How many such people have been held to account?

We are fighting a tough battle against terrorism in Malakand, the tribal areas and parts of the NWFP. Our soldiers are displaying tremendous courage and many are dying to save the country. But, it is important to analyse why we have reached this sorry pass. Part of the reason is that we allowed people preaching hatred to go unchecked for too long.

It is now accepted wisdom that the likes of Fazalullah in Swat gained prominence through the FM radio. They were spreading venom and preaching violence, but the state did not take notice and allowed this cancer to grow. Now we are paying for it in blood. Our army has turned the tide but at an enormous cost.

This could have been avoided by improving governance, providing justice and making sure that purveyors of hate were kept in check. Our principle failure is neglect, because we allow a problem to grow until it becomes a monster. Then, we scramble to gather all elements of national power to fight it. It makes a great deal more sense to be vigilant and stop evil the moment we see it.

We are repeating this mistake again all over the country. People are spreading hate and inciting violence without any check. The state not only has capacity problems but it lacks will to enforce the law. And indeed courage because taking on some of these messengers of hate has consequences. Yet, if we don't fight them now through the force of law, we will have to fight them with a gun later.

The only way to create and maintain rule of law is through zero tolerance. Enforcing a minor law avoids bigger crimes. This is a lesson that our state and society has to learn.










He came, he saw, he got subdued. This is what happens with popular political leaders or popularly elected civilian rulers of Pakistan. Read 'she' in case of Benazir Bhutto. The overwhelming establishment of the Pakistani state subjugates any free will or desire to bring about a real change in the economic and political makeup of the country. The founders of this all-pervasive establishment were Ghulam Mohammed, Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan. Ayub was made the commander-in-chief in 1951, became the defence minister in 1955 while being in uniform and then appropriated complete political power by declaring the first martial law in 1958. Ably served by the protege of the Indian civil service and watchfully guarded by the inheritors of the north-western command of the British Indian Army, the establishment of the state first got us rid of the hope for an equitable society, then the possibility of living together with East Pakistan, and finally from any likelihood of creating even a bourgeois democratic polity.

After 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's promise couldn't fully realise either due to his appetite for absolute power and wish to eliminate all opposition or compromising his party programme by giving in to landed elite. He leased out draconian powers to security agencies to curb his political opponents. Eventually, bureaucracy held sway in running the affairs of the state. The landed elite did to Bhutto's PPP after 1971 what Unionist Party feudal lords had done to Jinnah's Muslim League after 1946. Whatever mistakes he made, Bhutto was undoubtedly a popular leader. The establishment that Bhutto was wooing for years betrayed him. It struck. Now it was General Ziaul Haq and the likes of Ghulam Ishaq Khan who determined the destiny of Pakistan. I cherish repeating with a vengeance that Zia's rule dug up the very foundations of Pakistani society and weeded out anything that was good in our soil.

After Zia's death, a fragile democracy was restored with instability and intrigues marring the efficient functioning of state affairs. Benazir Bhutto, the popularly elected leader after Zia, was sent packing in much less than two years. The establishment could not put up with her popular face and the possibilities a democratic dispensation may offer to the common people in the long run. Nawaz Sharif was the only alternative. Like elder Bhutto came from the folds of Ayub Khan's regime, Nawaz Sharif came from the heart of General Zia's establishment with both military and civil bureaucracy reposing their trust in him vis-a-vis Benazir Bhutto. But after each having their turn twice and never able to finish the full tenure ever, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif were both living in exile after 11 years of the civilian interlude, owing much to their own doing besides the antics of the omnipotent establishment. General Pervez Musharraf ruled Pakistan for almost nine years with the help of a coterie of generals and pet politicians. The ghosts of Ghulam Mohammed, Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan hovered above us all that long.

The politicians of today, treasury and opposition alike, will find it impossible to overpower the civil-military establishment even if they wish. The reason is simple. The wealth they have amassed and the means they have employed to amass such wealth weakens them. It is not kosher these days among the liberal circles of Islamabad to criticise the government. It is seen as being anti-democracy and anti-civilian rule. But politicians need a lot more resolve, vision and character if they want to strip the establishment of its undesired powers.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: harris@spopk .org









TALL claims by the political leadership and economic team of the Government notwithstanding, the fact remains that the state of the economy was far from satisfactory, requiring focused attention of the authorities to take tangible steps for its revival and growth on a sustainable basis. This has once again been highlighted by the Asian Development Bank in its latest update on Pakistan’s economy, which projects dismal growth rate of 3% even for the next year as well.

There is no doubt that the country was under extreme pressure due to internal and external shocks – intensified war against terrorism and extremism and global recession. But it is also a fact that some friendly countries were compensating the losses to some extent and at the same time the remittances by overseas Pakistanis have increased significantly. Under these circumstances, the management of the economy should not be as difficult as is being portrayed by the policy-makers. Ironically, our emphasis has all along been on external resources and the present Government has broken all records in obtaining loans worth $11 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a short span of time. It is all the more regrettable that we use hefty loans and hard earned remittances on bridging budgetary deficit and have so far not come out with any worthwhile plan to utilize them on productive programmes. Similarly, rulers after rulers have pursued the same hackneyed approach of resorting to easy revenue generation by increasing unjustifiably the prices of oil or putting more burden on those who are already paying more taxes than their capacity to pay. Prime Minister Gilani takes pride in almost doubling the support price of wheat in one go (which has made lives of the poor miserable) but he is not willing to take money out of the pockets of the big landlords, who are avoiding taxes for decades. Property mafia and stockbrokers are also minting money but the Government lacks the courage to make them pay proportionate taxes. It is because of the moribund vision of our leaders and planners that the axe ultimately falls on the poor and on the annual development plan, the size of which is slashed repeatedly during the year. It is time we think beyond personal or group interests and do something to secure economic future of the country, which is key to political sovereignty.









PAKISTAN has always tried to sensitise the international community especially the United States about implications of Indian presence in Afghanistan but its concern has not received due attention. Now alarm bells have been rung by no other than the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, who has warned that India’s increasing influence in Afghanistan is jeopardising the US efforts to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda extremists. In an assessment submitted to President Obama on Wednesday, he has also suggested scaling back of the Indian influence in that country.

The latest assessment by the US commander strengthens the belief that Americans generally plan and execute strategies in haste without doing necessary homework. There are no two opinions that New Delhi was encouraged and supported by the United States to gain a foothold in Afghanistan and increase its political, economic and strategic influence there. This was in line with the US policy of giving India greater say in regional affairs without realizing its grave consequences. The latest example is that of the pressure that Washington exercised on Pakistan forcing it to go for a review of the decades-old Afghan Transit Trade Agreement with the clear objective of promoting Indian interests in Afghanistan. Similarly, Pakistan has been pointing out that there was no justification for a large number of Indian Consulates in Afghanistan as these missions were serving for stirring up trouble in Balochistan, FATA and Swat. There is another dimension of the situation — if Taliban or ordinary Afghans are not ready to accept presence of American or NATO troops on their soil then how can they tolerate questionable existence of Indians in their homeland. While urging Pakistani authorities to exercise greater vigilance in thwarting Indian designs, we would urge Obama administration to pay heed to the assessment of its own general and dissuade India from meddling into the internal affairs of Afghanistan and Pakistan.








US President Barack Obama used his first UN address making a clarion call for world unity to tackle stark challenges saying the US cannot face them alone. He referred to global problems including nuclear proliferation, war, climate change and economic crisis and said in this scenario all nations bore responsibility for addressing them.

Though on the face of it, the address by President Obama sent a message of conciliation and cooperation yet we would like to point out that most of the burning issues facing the world today including Palestinian problem, Iraq and Afghanistan, human degradation and environmental pollution are the creation of US alone as hardly any other country had contributed much that worsened the situation that we are in today. He was forthright in admitting that no world order, which elevates one nation above others, could succeed in tackling the world’s problems yet people around the world expected him to openly admit the follies committed by his predecessor in Afghanistan and Iraq. World leaders would be sceptical to have faith in what the President of the only superpower stated that his country was back as a team player on the international stage. That was why his speech received warm but not effusive applause, a sign perhaps that in the face of real world problems the expectations surrounding the President are gradually being adjusted to reality. There is no doubt that the United States is militarily and financially a strong player in the present-day world and it influences policies of most of the developing countries and international institutions including the UN, World Bank, IAEA, WTO and so on. Unless and until it changes these policies of dictating its viewpoint on international issues and gives due consideration to the thinking of other countries, USA would continue to come under criticism and not receive total global cooperation. We would therefore emphasise that the United States alone will have to first address the issues that it created by withdrawing occupation forces from Afghanistan and Iraq and move decisively for the settlement of lingering disputes of Palestine and Kashmir. That would give it a clean slate, remove the causes behind terrorism and send a loud message the world over that it really was serious to usher in an era of global cooperation.










Was the 1998 nuclear explosion at Pokhran a dud? Yes, if one were to go by the publicly expressed views of K Santhanam, one of India’s most respected scientists. “Santi”, as he is known to friends, served long stints in the country’s defense production establishment before moving on as Director of the “non-officially official” defense think-tank, Delhi’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. To the shock of the Manmohan Singh government, a fortnight ago Santhanam went public that the Pokhran-II explosions did not - as has been assumed all this while - generate a thermonuclear device, but simply a low-yield blast, estimated at around 25 kilotons. As a similar bomb took the lives of around 140,000 people at Hiroshima and a further 80,000 at Nagasaki, such a yield would appear sufficient to deter any other nuclear power from attack.
However, to the section of India’s nuclear and missile scientists represented by Santhanam, even a (currently estimated) weaponised yield in excess of 60 kilotons is but a firecracker. They point out that the (then) USSR detonated a 65 megaton weapon, and are looking at producing nuclear bombs in the low megaton range rather than remain stuck at the kiloton stage. For this, they want at least six or seven more nuclear tests, and Santhanam’s revelation seems designed to generate public opinion in favour of such a course. While Santhanam himself has been more involved in production rather than research, the country’s senior most weapons scientist, P K Iyengar, has also demanded more tests. Interestingly, few are talking of the “Pakistan threat” as the reason behind such a call to scrap the Vajpayee government’s 1998 “voluntary” moratorium on nuclear testing. Few believe that the Taliban will take over a country that is developing a vibrant civil society, and which has so many linkages to the outside world, especially to China, the US and the Middle East. Instead, attention has been focused on China, with no less a personage than the Chief of Army Staff publicly musing that India’s biggest threat came from China (and by implication, not from Pakistan). This remark was followed by a barrage of reports in the Indian media about Chinese incursions on the Line of Actual Control. A few journalists even wrote of army casualties, reports that were promptly denied. Finally, the Manmohan Singh government stepped in, vigorously denying reports of tension on the Sino-Indian border, and even threatening prosecution against journalists who wrote otherwise. Thus far, this over-the-top response to news reports has not yet taken place, although the Union Home Ministry has “leaked” to the media that a First Information Report (FIR)) will soon be filed against journalists of the “Times of India”, the newspaper group that is leading the reportage on the “China Threat”.

According to those friendly with the two major Communist parties, both of whom are close to China, the rising decibel level of reports on the “China threat” has been motivated by a “US lobby” eager to divide the continents two billion-plus powers. However, in reality, the US under Barack Obama is coming very close to China, and hence seems unlikely to engineer a rash of reports against that country.

More likely, the gap in conventional and other military capabilities between India and China is annoying several within the defense establishment, who would like to see higher investment in the procuring of weapons and deadly technologies. Of course, such a move would be of immense benefit to more than a few, for Defense has long been a prolific source of political funding. And because foreign orders generate more kickbacks than orders executed in domestic government facilities (for some reason, the Indian private sector has been almost totally shut out of defense production), at present nearly 83% of the country’s critical technologies and equipment are foreign.

The record of government agencies in defense production has been dismal. Despite the expenditure of billions of dollars, as yet the country’s “indigenous” jet fighter and battle tank are yet to become operational. Once a scientist is put to work developing a new weapons system, she or he can be sure that the entire working life will be spent in that effort. Most projects are now in their third or even fourth decade, with little effort at accountability. A perusal of the promises made by government defense production units will show how often these have been broken. Notings can be found dating back to the 1970s that the induction of a new weapons system is “imminent”. In the 1990s,once again, a note will be put up about the “imminent” operationalisation of a system that is unlikely to ever see the light of day! Of course, a large part of the blame falls on politicians, who are ever eager to import equipment, for reasons that are obvious. An example is the junked Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Gorshkov”, which has been unable to put out to sea for a decade, and yet is being bought by India for $3 billion. Had half that money been spent on building a new shipyard, an aircraft carrier could have been built there for less than $1 billion.

Should India go in for the massive expansion in defense purchases and production that seems to be on the way, it would not be the first. In the 1960s,even though the USSR had far fewer missiles than the US, John F Kennedy ordered a massive buildup of missiles, eventually crossing into the thousands. The cause for this was Nikita Khruschev’s ill-advised effort to station nuclear systems in Cuba. The resulting tension almost led to a nuclear exchange, thus prodding the otherwise cautious Kennedy towards a furious expansion of missile capacity. This was soon matched by the USSR, which finally collapsed as a result of the economic cost of such a buildup of systems that were never used, and indeed were never intended to be used. What Iyengar, Santhanam and others seek is a huge increase in both numbers and effectiveness of the Indian nuclear deterrent. However, they are being countered by those who say that the ability to kill “a few hundred thousand people” is enough to deter any other power from launching a nuclear attack. These experts claim that there is no need to go the way of the US and Russia,which together have enough weapons stockpiles to destroy the world several times over Santhanam’s statement comes at a time when Hillary Clinton and her friends such as Strobe Talbott are seeking to even “cap, roll back and eliminate” the Indian deterrent, a pipe-dream that those who regard Europe and the US as the entire globe often have.

Not even North Korea will give up an asset that it has developed, and with which it can resist efforts at forcing it to surrender its nuclear capability. As for ran, while that country’s leaders publicly claim that they are “opposed” to a bomb, such a stand will probably continue only so long as Iran lacks one. The reality is that the P-5 (France, the UK, Russia, the US and China) have by their unwillingness to share - much less dilute - their 1945-era privileges set an example that India, Israel, Pakistan and now North Korea are following.
Meanwhile, what of the “dud” bomb? Given the Manmohan Singh government’s emphasis on economic development, it is unlikely that India will go in for further tests, especially at a time of economic crisis. Unlike Europe in the period before 1945, the major countries of Asia have shown that they are willing to scratch, but unwilling to risk an actual war. And this is as it should be. The enemies of today are disease, poverty, fanaticism and illiteracy. None can be fought by a 10-megaton bomb. In times past, the open outcry by top scientists against the establishment would have fired up the nation.

These days, it is all “Roti, Kapra Aur Makan”. India has collectively shrugged at the Pokhran reports. And so long as it is assumed that rational people are in charge of states, rather than people such as Mullah Omar, even the ability to kill 400,000 people will be sufficient to deter others from attack. This, at least, is what the Manmohan Singh government seems to think, as it ignores Santi’s bomb.









Historically military muscle of the nations has generally remained subjugated to their political powers but the prevailing global scenario is beginning to present a 360 degree different picture to the past. In today’s powerful countries the military leaderships have slowly and gradually tightened their grip on state affairs of US, India and Israel. Political bosses of the said countries have started realizing that their runaway intelligence agencies (CIA, RAW and Mossad) are busy in derailing the political systems because of their own heinous agenda and covert designs. Conflicting political and military interests of this Troika (India- US – Israel) might play havoc with the already turbulent world.

To begin with, it’s an open secret that the CIA has become a Frankenstein with a criminal network spread all over the world. From toppling anti US governments to carrying out cold-blooded target killings, its bloody track record can put to shame the worst criminals in entire world. Following commentary on the ruthless American war machine by well known American writer John Kaminski in an article “Why We Need Martial Law” is thought provoking. “As an American, I am terribly ashamed of my country for the horrific things it has done, both to people around the world and its own citizens”. The above two paragraphs sufficiently cover the true American thinking about the future of US or we can say that clash between political and military leadership has now started. The recent economic crunch has dealt hard blow to American economy which ultimately may lead to her disintegration. CIA and former President Bush have tarnished the image of US particularly after 9/11. American double standards with regards to Muslim world are no secret. Although saner elements in US, India and Israel are inclined towards establishing peace, those at the helm of affairs have different agendas to follow. India always claims to be a secular state and the largest democracy, but the reality is totally opposite to it. Indian society is facing acute ethnic problems and her democratic system is far from being true democracy.
Her basic democratic structure revolves around feudalism, capitalism, extremism, criminology and corruption. The nerve centre at capital is being ruled and supported by morally degraded elite, opportunists and extremists groups of so called secular democratic country. Fanatic elements of political and government institutions have taken Indian to a brink of collapse. India happens to be one of the few countries in the world which do not have cordial ties with any of their neighbours. It is interesting to note that other two countries falling in same category are US and Israel. Nexus of this troika has put the world peace at stake and is pushing it towards a possible nuclear conflict. One more commonality can also be noticed that the unholy troika is being ruled by extremist Christians, Jews and Hindus. Though pretending and presenting themselves as custodians of true democracy and champions of human rights, the stories of their brutalism can be read and heard every where. Millions of Japanese, Vietnamese, Christians, Sikhs, Arabs and non Arabs’ Muslims have become the victims of their barbarism.

The violation of human rights with regards to minorities, murdering innocent men, women and children through extra judicial killing, bombing Muslims in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and in Kashmir are few examples of their joint treachery. However the Troika’s main agenda remains usurping Central Asian resources, containing China, targeting Pakistani nuke programme and maligning her security forces, unrest in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Mutiny, grabbing Nepalese energy resources and occupying Arab’s land by Israeli. India being the American Watchdog in South Asia, is constantly fomenting terrorism in the region always creating hurdles in normalization of bilateral relations with Pakistan Hindu extremists have strong hold on armed forces and intelligence agencies too. In fact such fanatic elements do twist the government policies according to their own desires.
They by pass instructions, overlook orders, stage covert actions against neighbouring countries violate policies and pressurize the government to design policies in the light of their extremist thinking. In south Asia Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka remained major targets countries for India. New Delhi interference in the shape of sabotage activities in FATA and Balochistan is no more a covert operation only. LTTE of Sri Lanka, Dalai Lama Movement and BLA of Pakistan are being supported by India. US are providing her unconditional support to India in launching terrorism in the regional countries.

In this connection Chiefs of Indian Armed Forces also started playing active role in the commenting, dictating and advising elected government in framing policies concerning Pakistan, China and Sri Lanka. Recently Naval Chief Suresh Mehta and Gen Deepak Kapoor gave statements o the media which were contrary to their government policies. Indian Army Chief’ while addressing the news conference did not endorse his Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh point of view at Sharmul Sheikh in connection to normalization of relations with Pakistan. Naval chief too tried to dictate over Harpoon missile. The question is why Pakistan should try to modify the old version of Harpoon missile once it is already in possession of latest technology. The statements of Navel and Army Chiefs came when confusion and panic on Indian government polices are at a peak. Hindus fanatics in the intelligence agencies and armed forces never liked to resolve burning bilateral issues. For example Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh failed to sustain extremists’ pressure and thus changed stance over Sharmul Sheikh Stand.

Probably, both the chiefs appeared in the media on direction of extremists Hindu and tried to sabotage the congress’s peace efforts to improve bilateral relations with Pakistan. Earlier too, in Jun 2009 Military Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor had been told to mind his language and “keep shut”. Such strict censure was conveyed to him after a series of comments that had driven the civilian government against the wall. Indian Services Chiefs need to be told to shun politics and not try to hinder the peace process between two countries. The serious deterioration in relations between Pakistan and India continues due to negative role of Indian intelligence agencies and her rogue armed forces. The indicators are that power hungry Indian and American military top brass have now starting thinking that economic crises of US and ethnic problems of India might only be resolved after taking over the governments and changing of political seen.

In short US and India need to be serious in resolving regional affairs. Political leadership should also be mindful that conflicting political and military interests with in the same government would prove fatal for their unity.









As the end of Ramadan draws nearer, Muslim believers are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a three-day religious holiday following the holy month. Scholars advise believers to continue fasting for six days during the month of Shawwal to bedeck the rest of the year with the bounties and blessings of Ramadan. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have observed fasting on special days and recommended that his followers do the same.
Among these special days are the six days of the month of Shawwal, the first 10 days of Zhul-Hijjah and the month of Muharram. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a close companion of the Prophet, reported him as saying: “Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be rewarded as if he had fasted the entire year.” Muhammad ibn Ýsmail as-San’aanee said: “It should be noted that the reward for fasting [the six days of Shawwal] will be given to whoever fasts them, whether separately or continually, immediately after Eid or during the month.”According to As-San’aanee, if the 30 days of Ramadan fasting are added to the six days of fasting during Shawwal, it amounts to 36 days. Each virtue is rewarded 10 times according to Shariah, which means a believer who fasts these 36 days will be considered to have fasted for 360 days, which almost equals the days of a year.

The Prophet Muhammad is said to have observed fasting on special days and recommended that his followers do the same. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, a close companion of the Prophet, reported him as saying, ‘Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be rewarded as if he had fasted the entire year’. It is highly recommended to fast six days of the month of Shawwal, as this is a meritorious act which results in abundant reward. While some scholars are of the opinion that these six days of fasting must be completed in a continuous order right after the end of Ramadan, many others say it is not required to fast six days continuously without any interruption. According to the second group, one can fast in accordance with convenience any time during the month.

Ahmet ªahin, a theologian, said Shawwal points to the launch of preparations for the Muslim pilgrimage. “This month is referred to as the month of pilgrimage in the Holy Quran. Those who have an intention to go on a pilgrimage complete their preparations during this month and get adequate information to fulfill their pilgrimage without any deficiencies. Believers also do not forget that Shawwal is a month during which they fast for six days. Those who fast for six days during this month after a complete fast in Ramadan are as if they have spent the whole year in complete fast,” he stated in one of his columns for the Zaman daily. ªahin also said believers are not obliged to observe Shawwal fasts without interruption. “Fasts during this month can be observed with interruptions. Those who missed Ramadan fasts for one reason or another can also make up for their missed fasts during Shawwal. If they have the strength and time, they can observe the six Shawwal fasts,” he added. Mehmet Paksu, a theologian and a columnist for the Bugün daily, commented on the blessings of fasting for six days during Shawwal. “Firstly we should compensate for our missed fasts. Those who have no missed fasts should observe voluntary fasts during Shawwal.”

He also added that those whose health permits it ought to make up for their missed fasts as soon as possible after the end of Ramadan. “It will be easy as your body is disciplined to fast. If your health does not permit it, then you may prefer to fast during the short winter days,” Paksu remarked.








We sometime say a word ‘wrong’ not knowing what does and how will it impacts to the generations, for all times to come. It is u-turn from the Indian intransigency and usual way of hatching and fomenting troubles, let alone a root cause of attitude and outlook problem. Mr. Singh deserves a lot of praise for being realistic in saying “Between Jinnah and Nehru the differences got so bitter as to actually become a factor in the country’s vivisection.

The Congress led by Nehru, was the political party that agreed to Partition; then later as the occupant of the seat of authority, and as the head of government of the day, he (Nehru) was clearly guilty of failing totally in his duty of preventing the bloodshed of millions of innocents. The fratricidal killing was of such unprecedented dimension that the blood that then soaked our land till today (continues) to entrap Hindu Muslim relation into congealed animosities…How criminally short sighted. That is why Gandhi till the last had continued to plead for ‘independence first Pakistan after’ that Jinnah would not agree, but then sadly, neither did Nehru nor Patel go along with the Mahatma”.

In any controversial debate acknowledgement is the first step in the molding of opinion or perception. If take more rational view, it appears that Jaswant initiative have tacit approval of the government. If it is, then it is clear that Indian government wants to change its previous culture after fully weighing what all it wants to transform. During the last two decades it has totally switched over to the new cultural patterns and a similar major shift was also being hinted at in the political wisdom as well. If both the countries demonstrate such an acumen and courage by taking one more step forward with firm resolve to make a radical departure from their outdated India or Pakistan eccentric mindset, most of the problems would be solved. That is why it is said that if you are part of the solution, you are part of the problem as well.

His book amounts to going to square one to set the record straight. Such an approach is a positive move in the right direction, seldom displayed by Indian leaders. Pakistan has been praying and calling upon the New Delhi to reciprocate gestures of ‘right sense of direction’. Sub-Continent will march towards its ‘Golden Age Era’ by reviving the bonhomie of the past. Its grandeur and magnificence could be restored, if our leaders’ sacrifice by showing flexibility and sense of accommodation. If France and UK can become allies after 100 years of war, nothing is impossible. We have suffered for a long time. It is not too late if we look back and take a more rationale look on our beaten track, provided we remember the golden universal principle, ‘Do Good and have Good’ or ‘Live and let others live’.

Let us make a new start from Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland, Tamil Nado and Baluchistan even. Let the glory of Nepal, Sikkim take a new lease of life. Let us exterminate all the naughty idioms from our politics. India would be a paradise again when its leaders acknowledge that one wrong has set many strategies on the self-destructive course of actions. This book may prove a great achievement and a landmark event in the fractured and mutilated history of Indo-Pakistan. Had some of the Indian politician realized what price the people of this sub-continent are paying with their blood and souls by any degree of self-introspection, the issues like Siachen and Kashmir much of the troubles would have been averted.

By painting Nehru and Patel, in their true colors, no wrong has been committed. It amounts to heal some disease with the panacea of poison, as its true anti-dote. The role of these two leaders in the independence of the India cannot be denied to, but much disillusionment prevails, that will certainly recede after Singh’s scholastic work. His study will help to set new era of change like Charles Dickens’ described in his famous book ‘A Tail of Two Cities’ - how Europe leaped out of Medieval Age. His novel reveals how the blunder of one of the French Empresses. She offered monetary compensation to the parents of a child who was crushed under her chariot, triggered a chain of riots/upsurge leading to French Revolution - over-hauled the entire feudal system in the Europe. The chain of subsequent events paved way for the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution. Jaswant Singh could become a pioneer and harbinger of this transformation, provided he succeeds in bringing a positive change in the outlook of Indian leadership in future.

When somebody does some wrong, it may do good to others or many. The fact is that such a master stroke results into multiple effects at different time, in different set of events and at different political stages. Each group or individuals value such initiatives or moves through his own prisms of judgment – depending upon the rewards or repercussions, they reap or suffer. Similarly, motives are the prime factor that determines the final outcome.

In the past the Indian government has been playing the confidence game through Islamic fake identity hoax or ploys. If Singh tried to replay the same, then it amounts to acting more as a Kashmir Singh than Jaswant. In the history of Indian freedom struggle leaders like Shaikh Abdullah and many other Congress Ulemas did in the past.. Acknowledged Singh has shown remarkable courage to reciprocate historical facts, but other realities, like Junagadh tragedy, Hyderabad Deccan’s wheeling dealing, Congress - Muslim league’s intriguing past demands candid explanation. The fact that Muslim played a glorious part in the freedom of India but most of it still lies buried under the debris of Indo-Pakistan hostilities for any reason or rhymes.

Mr Singh’s book can stir up a passion storm, if Indian government shows their willingness to bring about a remarkable change through their actions. But such a change demands sincerity, objectivity, firm resolve for a change and firm faith in the golden principle of ‘doing good to reap good’ and ‘live and let others live’ to make India a living paradise once again.









On Oct. 1, the United States and other great powers will restart talks with Iran, a new round in a long and so far fruitless effort to stop Tehran’s march toward nuclear weapons. This may be the most important diplomacy President Obama has attempted — a test of his policy of “engagement” with adversaries, with war and peace in the balance.

The negotiators have been here before. In earlier rounds, the Iranians made vague statements about world peace, said they needed more time to consider UN Security Council demands that they stop enriching uranium and then, after several months, quit returning the West’s phone calls. (According to one diplomat, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana placed call after call to Tehran and got no answer).

This time, though, the Obama administration and its allies say they’re determined to prevent a repeat performance. “We are not willing to be played,” said a top US official involved in the talks but not authorised to speak publicly. How will the US and its allies make this round different? First, by insisting on action, not words. Iran will have to slow its work on nuclear technology in some tangible way — if not the full enrichment freeze the West has been asking for, something else. “The measure of [the negotiating process] is that it affects their nuclear clock,” the US official told me. Second, the negotiators will set a deadline for Iranian action: the end of the year, with no wiggle room. “The end of the year means the end of the year,” the official stressed.
That remorseless nuclear clock is very much on the administration’s mind. US officials say they believe Iran could achieve “breakout capability” the ability to quickly build a nuclear weapon in one to three years.
There’s also an Israeli clock. When Iranian leaders say they’d like to remove Israel from the map, Israelis a sensitive people when it comes to their existence take it literally. Israel-watchers believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give the great powers until next summer or fall to get results. After that, the likelihood of an Israeli military strike against Iran goes up. Is the Israeli threat real? Nobody knows. But the US and its allies are using it to concentrate everyone’s mind, like the prospect of a hanging.

The October talks are designed to enable the Western powers to start a clock of their own: action from Iran or else “crippling sanctions,” in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s words. That message isn’t directed only at Iran but to the players who have been reluctant to impose sanctions in the past: Russia, China and the European countries whose banking, insurance and oil companies would lose business as a result. On that front, there are signs that more nations are seeing things our way. Germany, once balky, has joined hawkish France and Britain to support tougher measures. Even Russia, officially opposed to sanctions, is keeping its options open. President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that he could imagine circumstances in which more sanctions would be needed.

Obama’s decision to scrap missile defense projects in Poland and the Czech Republic appears to have brought the Russians a little closer on the Iran issue, although the administration insists that wasn’t the reason for the move.The problem with sanctions, though, is that nobody knows whether they will work. The Iranian regime, now thoroughly in the hands of hard-liners who don’t rely on the business class for political support, seems to care even less about the damage wrought by sanctions than it did before. “They just don’t give a damn,” said Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. But when sanctions are the main tool in your toolbox, sanctions are what you use.

The Obama administration has been waging Iran diplomacy on other fronts. The Security Council is likely to pass a US-backed resolution stating that countries that violate UN rulings on nuclear proliferation (as Iran has) will lose their right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. The point is to strengthen the argument for more sanctions and show Iran that it’s running out of friends. Also, the US and Israel believe they have won Russian agreement to hold off on selling advanced antiaircraft missiles to Iran. Netanyahu reportedly made a secret trip to Moscow to warn that those missiles would force Israel into a “use it or lose it” situation: strike at Iran’s nuclear installations now or lose its chance forever. The Russians backed off for now.

The October talks will draw controversy over whether they help legitimise the Iranian regime. Obama’s GOP critics, stepping up their overall critique of his foreign policy as too soft, will accuse him of making concessions to Iran, just as they accused him of making concessions to Russia on missile defence. Obama aides say these aren’t concessions, they’re decisions based on the US national interest. The legitimacy of Iran’s regime, they add, will be determined on the streets of Tehran, not in a European conference room. Those are defensible positions.

But there’s nothing wrong with concessions if they lead to greater results in return. The confrontation with Iran is moving into a critical period. To Iran’s nuclear technology clock, and Israel’s existential threat clock, add a third clock: Obama’s promised results clock. The clocks are running. — The Los Angeles Times










President Barack Obama of the United States of America has called upon all countries of the world to cooperate in building a world with a shared responsibility. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly President Obama said his country was not in a position to solve all the problems of the world. He, however, did not specify about his country's multiple involvement in different parts of the world.

Also his call for global cooperation came in contrast with the US president at the same time calling for sanctions against Iran for its presumed nuclear ambitions. He failed to agree with the Russian president about joining him in imposing sanctions against Iran with which Russia has strong economic ties. In another meeting on the sidelines of the UN session with the newly elected Japanese prime minister, Obama re-emphasised the traditional ties between the two countries although the new prime minister was elected on a platform that spells change of its US-centric foreign policy.

More vexing questions, like the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks and the Afghan War, were not touched upon in his speech. Despite the president's new approach, the resolution of such issues that have lingered for decades may very well continue. After all, it is not only a question of sincerity and approach; global problems are also multi-dimensional in their complexity.


Although the US president's speech has been welcomed worldwide as a paradigm shift from the "pre-emption" doctrine of his predecessor, there are many other difficulties involved with US foreign policy that are vexing to many. The Muslim world, for example, feel the Palestine issue needs immediate resolution. And Afghanistan, as some analysts strongly feel, may very well be "Obama's Vietnam."










Durga Puja, the greatest religious festival of the Bangalee Hindus, began yesterday across the country. For five days, the devotees offer prayer to the goddess through chanting of the Chandi, a scripture devoted to the unique creation who happens to be the quintessence of all virtues as embodied by various gods and goddesses. She, therefore, represents the power to kill the demon representing the dark and evil forces. Through her worship, the devotees try to conquer the demon in man and imbue themselves with the virtues that have sustained mankind.
 True to their nature, the Bangalee Hindus have imagined the goddess Durga both as mother and daughter - mother, because she, they believe, protects them from evil forces as well as natural furies; daughter, because her yearly return evokes a sense of paternal feeling for the married girl not allowed to visit her parents' home at other times. This kind of identification owes its origin to the myriad qualities and special power wielded by gods and goddesses in pantheistic religions.


This admixture of celestial power and homeliness is what has provided the Durga worship's uniqueness. It challenges people to destroy the demon within and make an enlightened approach towards all things around them. It is because of this, the inner message transcends beyond the religious confines and inculcate social values to elevate it on the plane of universality (sarbojanin). Any celebration becomes worthwhile when it breaks the narrow community barrier and holds aloft the finest virtues in man. The festival surrounding the Durga Puja amply testifies to this fact. Shubha Bijoya to all.










The Congress austerity drive seems to be going down rather well, with our trustful, unsuspecting, easily impressed, gullible billion believing that crores will be saved by these seemingly severe strict and stiff measures adopted by Rahul, forced upon Shashi, inflicted on Krishna and followed by the rest of the fawning, flattering fellows and fellees that the grand old party of India is made off. "How did you enjoy your train journey, my son?"  "Somebody threw a stone at the train, mama!" His mother, "Mama mia! Give me the phone! Security, from now on place the army along the whole railway route my son takes, yes, yes call the troops from the Pakistan border, take them off the China border too. Also book the whole compartment when he travels, no, no book the whole train!" Her son, "Gee thanks, ma!" And as Shashi Tharoor is clicked sleeping wearily on his palms in the economy section like a schoolboy returning tired in a cramped school bus, the airline's minister reads about Tharoor twitting about the 'cattle class' he's got to travel in, he picks up the phone and calls his airline, "Have all economy class seats replaced by those in business class in all the Cochin-Delhi flights! Yes, yes, I said all! That's ok spend the whole government bail out grant! Also see the same food in business is served in economy with the same silver cutlery and the same number of airhostesses waiting on the passengers!" Krishna leaves his suite in the five star hotel and personally goes through his requirements for his new official bungalow. "Twenty servants for me and my family, fifteen maids for my wife and children, six drivers, three for me and three again for me when the first three go on leave, also see whether we can fly down an English butler, get two in case one gets Deli-Belly and yes, yes, air-condition the servants quarters and also the garages! I like my cars cool inside and outside!" Admirals, generals and police chiefs have suddenly fished out their old official Ambassador cars. "I have to go to the airport!" shouts the admiral looking at his old black ramshackle model, "Arrange a convoy behind!" Asks his aide, "A convoy sir?" as the reply comes, "Yes, three Ambassador cars, one when this break downs and the other when the second breaks down! Also get the ship mechanics off our naval destroyers and have them follow in two jeeps; to get the cars started in case the third Ambassador breaks down. In case I miss the flight have a ship ready to take me to the nearest port from where again arrange a convoy to take me to Delhi!" Like I said the Congress' austerity drive seems to be going down rather well with our trustful, unsuspecting, easily impressed, gullible billion believing that crores will be saved by these seemingly severe strict and stiff measures adopted! "Rahul, did you meet a lot of people in the train?"
"None mother, they are all walking or using bullock carts because there is no place in trains or planes for them!"
"Mama mia! Now the whole country is believing in austerity...!" 












LABOR'S post-war foreign minister H.V. Evatt would be appalled at the state of the UN, the organisation he worked so hard to form six decades ago. Kevin Rudd nailed it on Wednesday in New York when he spoke of global institutions that are "increasingly dysfunctional (in) nature, that are either out of their depth, insufficiently empowered, or reduced to a negotiating stalemate by the politics of the lowest common denominator." Plainly, the Prime Minister understands the limits of multilateralism and the the shortcomings of the UN and the International Monetary Fund. Like the UN itself, Mr Rudd believes, correctly, that the IMF has become too large to be effective.


As a rule, there is good reason to be deeply suspicious of the inertia and "one-size fits all" resolutions of cumbersome multilateral forums. The global financial crisis, as Mr Rudd told the UN, demonstrated the need to reform the institutions of global economic governance. As a brand new, smaller body that has not acquired the bureaucratic bulk of the IMF, the G20 proved effective in responding to the crisis. It drew heads of government from developed and developing economies together to cut through the main problems and make decisions designed to work in the real world, not just on paper.


In asserting Australia's presence on the international stage, Mr Rudd addressed the weakness of another multilateral body, the 189-member Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As he said, the treaty played a crucial role limiting the spread of nuclear weapons in the past, but it is now under challenge.


As he also said, much will depend on the ability of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference next May. In an effort to reinvigorate global consensus and chart a practical way forward, Mr Rudd, in conjunction with Japan, established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament last year, chaired by former foreign minister Gareth Evans.


However well-intentioned, nobody should be too starry-eyed about the potential of multilateralism to deal with the most potent threats to world peace. These are the nuclear weapons and brazen posturing of North Korea, which abandoned the NPT in 2003, the prospect of Iran's unstable regime acquiring nuclear capability and the danger of Pakistan's arsenal falling into the hands of the Taliban.


Multilateral forums, by their nature, tend to become mired in argument and achieve little. In defending their nuclear programs, rogue states point to the arsenals of nations such as the US and Britain. Such moral equivalence, however, pays no heed to the real threats confronting the world. Frankly, Britain's decision to build three Trident nuclear submarines instead of four is more about symbolism, and will not make one iota of difference to world security.


What is needed is not more multilateral discussion but multilateral resolve. Through a mix of carrot and stick, nations such as Iran and North Korea need to be pressured into abandoning their programs. Incentives need to be reinforced by iron-clad sanctions, by all nations including Russia, China and European states, on the raw materials and technology that have allowed them to further their ambitions. Mr Rudd's drive to make multilateralism more effective is commendable. Nuclear disarmament poses a much sterner test of the process, however, than the global financial crisis.








IN their masterful, election-winning campaign against Work Choices at the last federal election, Julia Gillard and the ACTU were successful in misrepresenting the ill-fated reform as a lose-lose deal for workers. It would surprise some, in that case, to learn that in the dying days of Work Choices, employers were able to sign up 122,000 employees to individual contracts.


While some low-paid, unskilled staff, many of them university students working part-time, found themselves worse off, many workers prospered under individual contracts. The unions' campaign played up the abolition of weekend penalty rates and leave loadings. But the unions, and Ms Gillard, conveniently ignored the fact that most employers built such entitlements into their workers' new, higher, salaries - in addition, in many cases, to an extra five or 10 per cent bonus rise. That's why contracts were so popular in many industries. It also explains why examples of workers seriously disadvantaged under Work Choices were thin on the ground.


Nor is it surprising that some skilled workers in areas of high demand are finding they are missing out under one-size-fits-all award modernisations. The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union claims apprentice electricians face a pay cut in real terms of 12 to 23 per cent. At the height of the boom, tradespeople scored six-figure salaries in rapidly growing mining centres in the growth states of Western Australia and Queensland.


Whatever the hip-pocket benefits of contracts for many workers, however, the Howard government under-estimated public sensitivity to industrial relations changes, especially its early removal of the "no disadvantage" test. By the time it restored the safety net, the damage had been done and workplace reform and the government were on a hiding to nothing.


The abiding lesson from the exercise was that to reform industrial relations successfully, governments need a gradual approach that explains the benefits and takes voters with them. The Hawke/Keating governments achieved it with their prices and incomes accords, paving the way to a decentralised system.


The union movement claims the final figures for new contracts under Work Choices showed employers rushing to lock staff into deals in order to avoid new good-faith bargaining obligations under Labor's system. Yet there is no evidence of mass-coercion or brain-washing. A more realistic view would be that the figures reflect a grassroots vote of confidence in contracts, flexibility and the fact that many workers were capable of securing themselves a good deal.








WITH the prospect of a second wave of swine flu to come, we are not out of the sty yet but it seems in spring Australia has managed the disease we warned against in autumn. While the World Health Organisation declared swine flu a global pandemic in June, fewer than 5000 people have been hospitalised with the H1N1 virus in Australia. This is not an insignificant number, and the deaths of more than 170 people from swine flu across the country, including 10 children under 15, are tragic. But it is not the apocalypse we were told to expect. In hindsight, the May warning from Queensland's chief health officer that people should stockpile supplies to avoid risking infection in public places seems a little over the top. The good news is we are ready for any repeat, with enough doses of a new vaccine for everybody who wants it. This in itself is a major public health achievement, and a credit to the scientists at the CSL company.


But there are many lessons to learn before Australia is ready for the next flu season, particularly by state and territory bureaucracies. As Adam Cresswell reported in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, Australia's health system was caught wrong-footed. In Victoria, which bore the worst of the early stages of the outbreak, the bureaucratic response was slow and inflexible, with unrealistic restrictions put on testing. It was a similar story in Queensland and in other states, where some hospitals did not recognise swine flu when they first saw it. A national containment strategy failed from the start, demonstrated by NSW officials allowing 1800 passengers on a cruise liner to get off and go home in May, despite two passengers who turned out to have the disease, being onboard. And the national pandemic plan all but ignored general practitioners, the doctors who people visit when they first feel unwell - infecting others in the process. Supplies of surgical masks, gowns and gloves for GPs were in short supply, and a month late.


It was not good enough. We need to have preparations in place that all health administrators understand, ones that include systems to assist the sick without them going to the GP when they are most infectious and that set out an agreed timetable on when to close the schools and create emergency accommodation in hospitals. Australia is blessed by a serum industry capable of quickly creating a vaccine for swine flu - but this does not exempt administrators from knowing how to recognise, and reduce, the risks of an imminent pandemic.









UNTIL very recently most Victorians would probably have struggled to name Lisa Neville as the state's Community Services Minister. But Ms Neville has rapidly moved from being one of the lowest-profile members of the Brumby Government to one who is in the news almost daily, and it is not the sort of exposure she might have wished for. The Public Advocate, Colleen Pearce, and Ombudsman George Brouwer have each drawn attention to abuses, errors and neglect by the Department of Human Services or by institutions overseen by the minister, and Ms Neville's responses have not been reassuring.


Yesterday The Age reported comments by Ms Pearce about conditions in some state-monitored care homes, which she described as shameful. Ms Pearce, who has a statutory obligation to ensure that the rights of the disabled and other people with special needs are upheld, said that for years the Government had ignored reports by the Office of the Public Advocate about the plight, in particular, of women in supported residential services.

The content of those reports, as described by Ms Pearce, is shocking. She spoke of women who in order to get basic necessities would ''often provide sexual favours to get them and then feel really abused by that. It is not uncommon for us to hear about women either trading cigarettes for sex or else being raped.''


The minister's response, reasonably, was to ask for details of such allegations, which at the very least concern the personal dignity of those in care and the obligation of those who care for them to ensure that it is respected. If the allegation is of rape, it should be referred to the police, and a police investigation of a complaint of rape in one home is under way. Ms Pearce concedes that it is difficult to collect hard evidence of such allegations, but that admission hardly lets the minister off the hook.


Two years ago The Age reported allegations of abuse in the state's care homes, including inadequate feeding and hygiene standards, improper reporting of deaths and mentally ill patients performing sexual favours to obtain drugs and alcohol. At the time, the Office of the Public Advocate told Age reporters that it had notified health authorities of almost 900 allegations of abuse and neglect in residential services. Then, as now, the allegations most often concerned pension-level homes, in which residents give most or all of their pensions to the owners.

The question is why so little appears to have changed. Given the mental and physical frailty of many of the individuals concerned, both Ms Pearce and Ms Neville make obviously valid points: hard evidence is not easily collected, and the relevant facts in each case need to be known before action can be taken. The difficulty in discovering the facts, however, is hardly an excuse for doing nothing, and Ms Neville should explain why the Public Advocate's investigators apparently feel they have been talking to a brick wall. Surely she and the Department of Human Services do not think the investigators have been making it all up?


Beyond the allegations of specific abuses, Ms Pearce and Ms Neville also disagree on the Government's response to general conditions prevailing in supported residential services. In 2006 the Government announced a $40.4 million plan to reform the sector, and in September 2007 Ms Neville announced a review of supported residential services. The Government, she said, had an ''unprecedented commitment'' to protecting the welfare of supported residential services residents by identifying gaps in the system. Ms Pearce, however, argues that the Government's reforms do not address fundamental problems that may exacerbate abuse in care homes, such as the lack of privacy in shared rooms.

Nor is the Public Advocate the only senior public official to report longstanding failure on the part of the Department of Human Services in oversight of supported residential services. As The Age reported earlier this week, Victoria's Ombudsman, George Brouwer, found that the department had repeatedly failed to respond to serious complaints about Moara Shira Lodge in Cobram, and asked Ms Neville to consider revoking the home's licence. It would be easier to accept the minister's assurances of the Government's resolve to tackle abuses if the sorts of complaints referred to by the Ombudsman and the Public Advocate were diminishing over time. That, however, is not the case.

Source: The Age









BY definition in a secular society, few things are universally recognised as sacred. Remembrance of the war dead is one of them, however, which is why every city and nearly every town has a war memorial that is held in special reverence, as are the ceremonies conducted at them. In larger institutions such as Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial, these do not only happen on Anzac Day or Remembrance Day but every day, with a bugler playing the Last Post each evening.


It is no surprise, then, that the Australian War Memorial's decision to seek commercial sponsorship for its nightly Last Post ceremony has appalled many people. The memorial's director, Major-General Steve Gower, announced this week that because of budget cuts sponsorship had been accepted from the telecommunications company TransACT, and accordingly the company's logo now appears on the lectern used in the ceremony. He did not disclose a sum, but Veterans Affairs Minister Alan Griffin confirmed that the memorial faced an overall budget cut of $1.3 million. Mr Griffin appeared to endorse the sponsorship decision, saying that a strength of the memorial's management was its ability to link the community and corporate Australia - ''but the thing is to make sure it doesn't go too far''.


Well, it has gone too far. As the memorial's website proclaims, it combines ''a shrine, a world-class museum and an extensive archive''. These are three distinct things, and what may be acceptable for the second is not necessarily acceptable for the other two, especially the first. If the reduced budget makes it difficult to retain the services of a professional bugler, the memorial's management should seek cuts in other areas instead of sullying the ceremony with a sponsor's logo.

Source: The Age








HE DUCKED some major issues of substance, but Barack Obama got the tone exactly right in his maiden speech to the United Nations General Assembly. With the world as his audience, he reversed eight wayward years of Bush administration unilateralism, signalled that a chastened United States was returning to the multilateral architecture of diplomacy, and demanded that other nations bear more of the burden. Tackling intractable global problems could not solely be America's endeavour, he said. "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone."


Fine, realistic, challenging stuff. It should reinforce international goodwill towards Obama at time when his young presidency is looking increasingly embattled at home, with his popularity slumping under the continuing impact of a staggering economy, an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan and a debilitating struggle to get his health reforms through Congress. Significantly, he had very little to say about Afghanistan in this, his widest-ranging foreign policy speech since becoming President - understandable, perhaps, given thathis Administration is reassessing its strategy there before deciding whether to increase, maintain or start a draw-down of its military commitment.


Among the four priorities that Obama did list, along with climate change and world poverty, are two - Middle East peace and nuclear non-proliferation - that have been centre stage in this week of hectic diplomacy. Developments on both fronts have shown the importance of America's role, and the limits of its power and authority. Obama, who was to chair a UN Security Council summit on disarmament and nuclear security overnight (Sydney time), yesterday reiterated his commitment to negotiate arms reductions with Russia and pledged to push the US Senate to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty. As yet, however, he has been unable to get Russian or Chinese backing for tough new sanctions to discourage maverick regimes in North Korea and Iran from the nuclear weapons path.


As for the Middle East, it was arguably a diplomatic success of sorts that Obama earlier this week persuaded the Israelis and Palestinians to enter into early negotiations, "without preconditions", on the "permanent-status issues" of security, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. But in reality, it looks like an Obama surrender to Israeli obduracy. The US demand for a "freeze" on Israeli settlements is replaced by a call for "restraint". For the Palestinians, the "no preconditions" clause apparently means the modest concessions they won through previous peace talks are wiped off the slate. Some deal.









THE Ombudsman's finding that the Board of Studies should release raw HSC marks and subject cut-off marks to students is the right one: there is no reason other than bureaucratic convenience to keep HSC candidates in the dark about the raw marks they attained in the examination. They should be told in detail, too, how those marks were scaled into their final scores.


The fact that raw marks are scaled is well known, as is the fact that the formulas and the processes which produce the final mark are complicated. But don't expect a clear explanation. A senior Board of Studies bureaucrat told the Ombudsman in evidence that ''there is an argument that we should explain better how we transform the raw marks … It would be quite a challenge for us to do it in a way that was in plain English.''


Scaling is needed to make final marks comparable from one year to another, and from one subject to another. To eliminate what it sees as needless worry, the board has turned it into what the Ombudsman describes as a black box: raw marks go in at one end, and final marks come out at the other, but as for what goes on in between, no one outside the board is allowed to know. To those who ask, ''But what if a mistake is made?'', the board answers only, ''Trust us.''


The board has said it will not release raw marks because they would only be misleading. Certainly, if people do not understand the process, the experience of having a raw mark scaled down to a lower final mark will seem baffling, possibly unfair and certainly suspicious - despite all the professionalism of markers and board personnel intended to ensure the opposite.


Will, as the board appears to fear, releasing candidates' raw marks give them the opportunity and motivation to contest the final mark - to kick up a stink and waste board resources in pointless challenges? Quite possibly. It comes down to a question, though, of how best to uphold the board's integrity. We believe transparency is more likely to boost public confidence than the present policy of keeping candidates in the dark.


The HSC is a public examination, and all results should be available to candidates. It is worrying that the Ombudsman found the board went to considerable, and highly questionable, lengths to keep the marks secret. The culture of secrecy runs deep in NSW. Constant vigilance is needed to ensure this oppressive instinct is kept in check.













It is a year since a white paper declared the Ministry of Defence's determination to improve the way vulnerable veterans are identified and supported. The probation officers' survey that we report today suggests how far there is still to go before a real joined-up system of support can be said to exist. There are more ex-soldiers in prison, on parole or serving community sentences than actually serving in Afghanistan. And in a significant number of cases the mental scars of active service appear to be an important contributory factor. The scandalous statistic that nine out of 10 prisoners have some form of identifiable mental health problem is already well-known, and it would be a surprise to find a different profile among ex-soldier inmates. But people who have been asked to fight and perhaps to die for their countries deserve particular care and support afterwards. It is plain from the work of the National Association of Probation of Officers (Napo) that this is not happening.


The Ministry of Justice initially suggested that it could not monitor veteran numbers in prison because of data protection and, despite the information commissioner's firm denial that there was any such difficulty, has still failed to produce any statistics. One MoD study has suggested it could be as high as 17%. Yesterday a justice department spokesman suggested there should be no distinction in treatment between veterans and other inmates with mental health difficulties. There are two reasons why this is the wrong approach.


Although the probation officers' survey relies on a snapshot, the findings are so pronounced that it must be taken seriously. It found a high level of post-traumatic stress among soldiers who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan, a high level ("virtually all") of alcohol abuse, and significant drug abuse. The most common conviction probation officers identified was for domestic violence. Studies in the US suggest there is a clear link between post-traumatic stress disorder and a propensity to harm partners. This is not new: it was identified in Vietnam veterans 30 years ago.


Treating post-traumatic stress is the key. But if the correlation is not made by the criminal justice system, the right treatment may not be available. The Napo survey found that few of the probation service's clients had received counselling when they left the armed services; nor had they been identified as veterans either when they were arrested or when they entered the court system. Plainly, the promise in the 2008 white paper to "improve the way the vulnerable are identified … [and provide] an informed safety net of specialist support services" is a long way from being fulfilled. Among the casualties of conflict in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan are women in British cities.


The larger issue is the continuing responsibility the Ministry of Defence has for veterans. "We will recognise," promises the white paper, "when particular sacrifices have been made, by reciprocating with special treatment where needed and for as long as it is required." The support and compensation for those with terrible physical injury has in the past failed to measure up to the sacrifice. How much harder for those with mental damage that is not readily identified, perhaps recruited from troubled backgrounds and suddenly deprived of the institutional support and extended family of the armed forces.


There is not one easy solution: pre-release psychological assessment requires a period of sobriety that soldiers back from active service do not necessarily welcome. It is hard to differentiate between problems caused by experience in conflict from those arising from childhood experiences. But when a young man or woman can join up at 16 without any qualification except a minimum physical fitness, and then be exposed to great physical and mental danger, the country owes them a debt of care that cannot end when they walk off the camp for the last time.






"From this foul drain," Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of Manchester, "the greatest stream of human industry flows to fertilise the whole world." Even as it littered the north with slums and satanic mills, the industrial revolution fostered an appetite for ideas which found expression in literary and philosophical societies, where the discussions inevitably mixed beauty and truth with the latest technological wheezes for turning muck into brass. Manchester, Leicester and even tiny Whitby all had societies that survive in some form, but it is Newcastle's Lit & Phil that retains the most visible presence, thanks to a 150,000-volume library which is housed in a splendid building on the course of Hadrian's wall. Although a private member's club, it is a very public institution, and one that becomes even more open today, with the conversion of the Georgian lecture rooms – in which Joseph Swan demonstrated his electric light bulbs in 1880 – into a new exhibition space which will link local history to wider themes. The first offering is a reappraisal of Newcastle's 1960s power broker, T Dan Smith, who transformed the city's landscape and ended up being jailed for fraud. That might raise a few eyebrows, but then so too, no doubt, did the Lit & Phil's decision to admit women as early as 1804. The membership roll meanders from George Stephenson of the Rocket to Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, via the tea-sipping premier Earl Grey. A society founded on faith in progress has never stopped evolving with the times.







The stakes are rising. A stolen election has ruptured Iranian society, creating the most profound political crisis since the regime was founded. Barack Obama's extended hand is starting to tire and he badly needs success. Meanwhile, the whirring centrifuges spin Iran ever closer to the threshold of being able to manufacture a nuclear bomb. Next week the five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany and the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, will sit down with Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, for the first time in a year. They have said they expect a serious response to their demands to halt Tehran's nuclear programme, but have yet to receive a commitment that the topic is even on the agenda.


Mr Obama is attempting to muster support for another round of sanctions that would shut off the supply of fuel to Iran, which, despite being one of the world's biggest oil producers, lacks the ability to refine it. Yesterday China, which began supplying petrol to Iran this month, said it would not support tougher sanctions, saying they would not work. Recent hints that Russia would support sanctions, in return for Mr Obama's decision to scrap the missile defence programme in eastern Europe, are just that – hints. There are no indications yet of a change in Russian policy towards Iran, a country it describes as a good neighbour.


The risks of all this are clear. If Iran refuses to discuss its nuclear programme, to answer the International Atomic Energy Agency's mounting questions, and defies a security council demand to suspend all sensitive nuclear activities, the US will revert to a more traditional posture which contemplates the use of force. No one will be happy, except Israel and Dick Cheney perhaps, that Mr Obama's liberal dreams of changing the way superpowers behave will have been shattered by a regime that enjoys even less legitimacy at home than it does abroad.


Iranian negotiators should realise that their centrifuges are reaching their highest trade-in value. Push it any further, and Iran will not have an internationally monitored production line of enriched uranium to feed its nuclear reactors. Instead of international finance and trade, it will attract blockades and bombs. The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may be tempted to use a fresh international crisis to shore up a domestic reputation battered by the bloody events of the summer. But that is a tactic, not a strategy. The long-term survival of the Islamic republic will depend on its ability to show pragmatism both at home and abroad. It has shown it before – in 2002, when it suspended its enrichment programme – and it is even more important that it shows it again.








Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama made a strong diplomatic debut on the international stage Tuesday, pledging that Japan will reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels. The pledge was made in a speech delivered in English at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, held just six days after his ascent to the premiership.


On Monday, Mr. Hatoyama had met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and expressed his idea of creating an East Asia Community, although the two leaders made no concrete agreement on this matter.


At the climate change summit, attended by leaders from more than 140 countries, U.S. President Barack Obama called on developed nations to lead efforts to combat global warming while stressing the importance of emerging nations playing due roles. He also said the United States will double the generation capacity of renewable energy sources, including wind power, in three years and push projects to capture carbon pollution from coal-burning plants. Earlier, he had announced a U.S. emissions target of returning to 1990 levels by 2020.


Mr. Hu said China will endeavor to cover 15 percent of its needs with energy from nuclear power and renewable sources by 2020, and to reduce "by a notable margin" carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product from the 2005 level, again by 2020. He also called on developed nations to assist emerging nations in the latter's efforts to combat global warming.


While both Mr. Obama and Mr. Hu made important points, Mr. Hatoyama's speech appears to have had a stronger impact. He is to be commended for making clear Japan's readiness to assist developing countries. Besides setting the emissions target, he declared that Japan is prepared to provide more financial and technical assistance to developing countries, especially vulnerable countries and island nations, in their efforts to solve the problems of climate change.


The "Hatoyama Initiative" includes new and additional public and private financing for developing countries; development of rules to facilitate recognition of developing countries' emissions reductions, especially those achieved through financial assistance, in a verifiable manner; and establishment of a framework to promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies while ensuring the protection of intellectual property rights.


The possibility of a conflict between developing and developed countries should not be ignored. Developing countries call for 40 percent emissions cuts by developed countries. But the latter think that emerging nations such as China and India should set numerical targets for emissions cuts. Japan's emissions account for only 4 percent of global emissions while the U.S. and China together are responsible for 40 percent.


Mr. Hatoyama clarified that Japan's commitment is premised on agreement by other major economies on ambitious targets. Still, his pledge of a 25 percent emissions cut and assistance to developing countries could become a catalyst to move negotiations forward toward a global framework for efforts to fight global warming from 2013 — after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.



Less than three months remain before the start of the 15th conference of parties (COP15) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen to discuss the post-Kyoto framework. Japan should continue efforts to make the negotiations successful.


To achieve this, Japan first needs to make strenuous efforts to meet its own obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. It has to reduce emissions by 6 percent in the 2008-2012 period from 1990 levels, yet its emissions in fiscal 2007 were 9 percent above 1990 levels. The target set by Mr. Hatoyama means that Japan must cut emissions by 30 percent or more from current levels.