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Friday, October 2, 2009

EDITORIAL 02.10.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month october 02, edition 000313, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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























1.      PARTY TIME





6.      SUCH A SHOCKER -













1.      DOCTORED?


































2.      UPWARD HO!

































































































3.      USING BOTH OARS...!













1.      IN PRAISE OF ... SILBO
































The report, based on exhaustive investigations, published in The New York Times on how the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is alive and kicking in Pakistan, how its cadre continue to receive weapons and training, how the linkages between this Islamic terrorist organisation and the ISI remain undisrupted, and how little or nothing has changed at the ground level in that benighted country despite all the bunkum we hear about international pressure, American coercion, and lofty promises by Islamabad to mend its behaviour, only serves to underscore what India has maintained all along, especially since 26/11. The ghastly terrorist strike on Mumbai on November 26 last year, preceded by equally shocking jihadiattacks in cities across India, were manifestations of Pakistan’s policy of promoting cross-border terrorism. That nothing has changed between then and now demonstrates Islamabad has not given up this policy. Indeed, it was never expected to do so, although the West, more so the US, eager to mollycoddle Pakistan in the misplaced hope that it would contain jihadi attacks on their countries and civilians, insisted that Islamabad was willing to turn a new leaf. Towards this end, everybody has reached for his chequebook; US President Barack Obama has written out a cheque for $ 1.5 billion and promised to pay the same amount every year for the next five years. The Pakistani establishment, of which the Army is an integral part, is understandably jubilant: Through the expedient means of attacking India with the help of blood-thirsty jihadis, it has managed to extort billions of dollars which will now be used for feathering the nests of corrupt Generals and politicians, funding terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, and acquiring weapons to be used against India. This has been the pattern ever since America began providing ‘aid’ to Pakistan; this will remain the pattern till such time the Pakistani state as we know it exists.


Therefore, it makes little or no sense to protest against American aid to Pakistan — Washington, DC is fully aware of how Islamabad spends the money that is provided to it under the guise of strengthening democracy and aiding social development. Numerous audit reports prepared by official American organisations have shown how money is stolen by those in power, including Generals, how it is used for expanding the jihadi network, and how both conventional and non-conventional weapons have been acquired by diverting civilian aid. Yet, there has been no cut-back in American aid; on the contrary, the quantum has increased by leaps and bounds with each passing year. If the Pakistani regime’s pledge to fight terror and disband the jihad factories that exist on territory under its control have proved to be hollow, America’s concern about Pakistan’s export of terror has been shown up to be no more than bogus. In this situation, India must act unilaterally and take all steps that are in its national interest. There is no reason why we should be bothered about American interest; the US can fight its own battles, we will fight ours on our terms and conditions. Tragically, the UPA Government is seen as lacking in political courage and determination to do that which is right for India. The Prime Minister has made India’s foreign policy hostage to American policy and is eager to please the US Administration, irrespective of the cost which the nation has to pay for his folly. Pakistan has every reason to smile.







The tragedy at Thekkady Lake in Idukki district of Kerala wherein a Kerala Tourism Development Corporation boat carrying 76 people capsized, killing 42 tourists, reflects the criminally indifferent attitude of the authorities towards safety measures at tourist spots. The subject merits far greater concern than what it receives at the moment in order to prevent disasters such as the one at Thekkady in future. It is a cruel irony that on one hand the Government of India and the respective State Governments leave no stone unturned when it comes to promoting tourism in this country, while on the other, they don’t even have the faintest of clues as to what constitutes safety measures that should be ensured at tourist spots. For example, the ill-fated tourist boat at Thekkady did not have any emergency provisions: No lifeguards, no life-jackets, and no emergency rubber dinghies. When one of the survivors asked the KTDC caretaker on the boat as to why there were no safety measures on board, the latter simply replied that there had been no accidents in the past two decades at Thekkady.

With adventure tourism in India set to take off in a big way, it goes without saying that the standard safety measures that are associated with activities like bungee jumping, white water rafting, paragliding, water skiing, etc, must be ensured. That apart, our traditional tourist spots and associated activities too could use a significant dose of safety checks and implementations. For, it takes only a second for an innocuous, leisurely boat ride to turn into a full-blown tragedy. Our magnificent temples and historical monuments have too often been witness to totally avoidable stampedes in which several people have fallen victim. In 1998, at the Qutub Minar in Delhi, 25 school children died in a stampede that was caused due to a power outage that had plunged the circular staircase of the monument into total darkness. Even at our famous tourist beaches safety arrangements are Spartan at best. The number of lifeguards usually present is too less to impose orderly conduct that could save countless lives in case of an emergency. From all this it is quite clear that for authorities in this country associating safety measures with tourism is an alien concept. Hence, what is required is a complete overhaul in our thinking vis-à-vis promoting and maintaining tourist spots. Along with telling people about how exciting tourism options in the country are, we should also concentrate on making sure that such options are 100 per cent safe. Unless we make safety a priority, tragedies like the one at Thekkady will continue to shame us. It is the duty of the tourism authorities to ensure that those who vacation at our tourist spots return home with fond memories.


            THE PIONEER




In a globalising, information technology-driven world, the image of Mahatma Gandhi that we recall every year on October 2 — and quietly forget afterwards — appears to be a little misplaced and odd. When the Mahatma positioned the age-old Indian invention, the charkha, against the global colonial power of his day, he was laughed at. Nonetheless, more than half a century later, and on the heels of this year’s Gandhi Jayanti, some global events continue to disturb us.

In New York, international leaders are working on a deal to tackle climate change. In Pittsburg, the birthplace of the smoke stack industry in America, heads of 20 nations are reviewing their stimulus packages that helped prevent total economic ruin. In the rugged mountains near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the elusive Osama bin Laden continues to threaten the world once with his devious plots.

The other day, the UN Security Council mandated that every nation signing the NPT block nuclear proliferation even as Iran and North Korea cocked a snook at it and a nuclear scientist in Pakistan revealed how the secrets of the ‘Islamic Bomb’ were shared with rogue regimes with the explicit knowledge of Islamabad. Many global leaders fear that jihadis tormenting them and their countrymen would get a finger in the nuclear pie and blackmail secular societies into giving up their way of life.

In this world of mass communication and best-seller books, author-commentator Arun Shourie has dug up an interesting fact: Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and his autobiography each sold only a few thousand copies. How could it be that a man who led an entire nation to defeat the mighty British empire with just his walking stick and his spinning wheel and had succeeded in uniting the people of this diverse land in one mass movement had so few readers of his books? The answer may lie in the way he lived, walking the talk all along. He was both the messenger and the message.

What is the message of his simple spinning wheel to the increasingly complex technology-driven world that we live in today? That development has to be eco-friendly to be sustainable. The evangelists of climate change are now emphasising on the age-old wisdom that man needs to be in harmony with the bio-system which sustains him and not rape it through rampant industrialisation.

The New York meeting of Environment Ministers of various countries is now considering how we could limit our sins on the environment and get back to a cleaner world. But Gandhi’s spinning wheel in the early 20th century was laughed at for challenging the fundamentals of industrialisation, the massification of the economy and the centralisation it promoted in political institutions including Government.

In futurist Alvin Toffler’s first book The Third Wave, there is a chapter forecasting that the world will go back to Gandhi and his cottage industry, though a little differently from what the Mahatma had envisaged. In his book The Power Shift, Toffler talks about how the 21st century would reshape the world — de-massification, de-expertisation, etc, as knowledge is within the reach of everyone.


One may wonder how Gandhi in the early 20th century envisaged so prophetically the risks to our environment, the danger of mass manufacture, mass culture and a centralised Government which were then the buzz words for industrialisation (smoke stack industries that Toffler refers to). Most likely it was because he deeply believed in the Hindu philosophy of living in harmony with nature. His concept of ahimsa was derived from respect for nature reflected in the right of every creature to live. His humanitarianism was rooted in the blessing: Loka samastha sukhino bhavantu.

Gandhi’s secularism was also rooted in the Hindu perception that all religions, through different paths, lead to the same Truth. In walking the talk, the instrument of action that he fashioned to deal with colonialism — as with all that is evil — was called satyagraha: A political statement that put Truth in the forefront and made it the basis of all action and his own life. Gandhi saw in Sri Ram that personification of Truth and in the prince’s exile the suffering that every devotee of truth must be ready to undergo to uphold dharma. It is a tragedy that those swearing by him politically and who have captured his Congress are upset any time you mention the name of Sri Ram. There can be no greater hypocrisy than our present-day Congress leaders marching on to Gandhi Samadhi on October 2 that has the Mahatma’s last words, Hey Ram, carved on it.

The second half of the 20th century saw large tracts of rain forests in Brazil converted into pasture lands for the wagon loads of cattle that would finally be slaughtered to feed the voracious demand for beef in North America. Its environmental impact came to light much later. Now even American medical experts are saying that red meat from those slaughterhouses pose a great health risk to the people.

When we in India call for cattle protection we are laughed at by the self-styled secularists. Voices against conversions by the Church through deceit and force are termed as attack on Christianity and ‘secularism’. The neo-secularists conveniently forget that Gandhi had relentless fought against the evangelical practices of Christian missionaries. They also forget that Gandhi made cow protection a part of his socio-economic agenda.

Today we have hypocrites who make a show of austerity and claim to speak in the name of Gandhi, who lived a simple life and yet was high-thinking. These politicians criticise anyone mentioning Sri Ram, yet march to Raj Ghat on October 2 to the chants of Ram dhun, to honour a man who described his political philosophy in a single word: Ramrajya. All this makes one sad on this day when we remember the ideals of the Mahatma.







Islam, as a religion of peace and brotherhood, has been misunderstood by its own followers, especially the ones residing in the Indian subcontinent. As a result, they have made little progress in various fields as compared to others. Indeed, Muslims are to blame for the sorry state of affairs in which they find themselves.

Mohammed, as the messenger of Islam, the great visionary of his time, laid great emphasis on ‘seeking knowledge’. Muslims generally believe that this message of the Prophet simply means intoning the verses of the Quran . But this is a misinterpretation of the Prophet’s message, the credit for which should go to the so-called caretakers of Islam who seem determined to keep their brethren as well as non-Muslims in a state of utter confusion.

It precisely because the Prophet knew that such confusion would arise among his followers that he gave them his message that Muslims must not confine themselves just to the reading of the verses of the Quran but also strive to gain worldly knowledge as well so that they, like others, could excel in different fields of knowledge.

But the misinterpretation of the Prophet’s message has led to misconception. Misconception that hampers progress in different fields and makes people stereotypical, as is the case with the Muslim community. This misinterpretation of the Prophet’s message, which has been imprinted on most Muslims’ psyche, has done more harm than any good to the community.

One of the main reasons for the continuation of this misinterpretation is that Muslims have made it a rule to intone the Quranic verses in Arabic, no matter whether or not they understand them in letter and spirit. They tend to forget that Arabic is not the language of Muslims living all over the world. The only reason they are able to read the verses in Arabic is because they have been taught to read them as a custom. But when it comes to interpreting the content of the verses, most of them find themselves totally helpless. If they go through the Quranic verses in the form of translations in the language they are well versed, they can get rid of the myriad of misconceptions by extracting the original messages hidden in them.

A better understanding of the holy Quran will strengthen Muslims the world over, and open the path of progress for the Muslim community as well as others.








The succession race set off by the sudden death of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy, after he was killed in a chopper crash in the Nallamala Hills on September 2, seems to be settling down for the Congress as the ‘stop gap’ Chief Minister K Rosaiah has during the last one month found ‘good’ support for his candidature. Besides the Bania community, though not an influential caste in Andhra Pradesh and to which Mr Rosaiah belongs to, most of the senior leaders from the State including former Chief Minister N Janardhan Reddy, former Minister G Venkataswamy, Working Committee member K Keshav Rao, former Union Minister Renuka Choudhury and AICC secretary V Hanumantha Rao have openly come out in support of Mr Rosaiah. After all possession is the nine points of law and Mr Rosaiah is no exception to it.

Andhra Pradesh is a classic example of how ambition and political miscalculations could make a stable State unstable. Four months ago, the Congress Party led by YS Rajasekhar Reddy won the Assembly election with a comfortable majority while the Opposition parties were sidelined in the State. Recently he steered the party with a whopping 33 Lok Sabha seats in the general election. It was evident that YSR took a tough approach to the problems in the State and did not allow dissidence to disturb him in his five-year rule, more so because he enjoyed a good rapport with the Congress high command. There appeared no other aspirant to the chair of Chief Minister as long as YSR lived. Now that there is a vacuum many ambitious candidates, including YSR’s only son Jaganmohan Reddy, have moved to the centrestage staking a claim.

No doubt the party was shocked under the tragic circumstances in which YSR died. The immediate sympathy for him was very much visible in the State. Seventy of the MLAs handpicked by Reddy had promptly supported the candidature of Mr Jaganmohan Reddy to succeed YSR while the Congress’s central leadership was in two minds. But the problem for the Congress would not have reached such proportions had the leadership chosen a successor immediately. It was the signal from Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily that Mr Rosaiah would only be an interim Chief Minister that other aspirants got enthused. If the Congress wanted to choose someone else, it should done so without more ado. Or else this “interim” word should not have been used.

The fact that the Congress high command is still dithering to take a decision in this regard has landed the State in a political mess. It becomes obvious when the Chief Minister’s writ does not run because of the uncertainty that he will continue or not. Mr Rosaiah is yet to occupy the Chief Minister’s chamber in the Andhra Pradesh Secretariat as he did not want to do so for just a few days. While local Congressmen thought that a decision would be soon announced in this regard, the Congress high command wanted to make sure emotions simmered down.

However, things are not going according to its plan as the ambitious Reddy is not willing to wait any longer. Backed by Rajya Sabha MP Ramachandra Rao, Mr Jaganmohan Reddy has become a “young man in a hurry.” On the other hand caretaker Chief Minister Rosaiah is facing trouble in dealing with his own colleagues as some of them are hardcore supporters of Mr Jaganmohan Reddy and do not want to accept Mr Rosaiah’s leadership. They don’t even attend the Cabinet meetings. Some MLAs have gone up to threaten the high command that if Mr Jaganmohan Reddy is not brought as the Chief Minister soon, they will resign.

Some of his supporters are indulging in vandalism and even burnt the effigy of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The sporadic violence that started in Khammam is spreading slowly to other parts of the State. Though the party has suspended few of his supporters, unless a decision is made quickly, Andhra Pradesh will go out of control.

But can the Congress afford to lose the majority Reddy-dominated vote-bank by not paying heed to the demand of Jaganmohan Reddy supporters?

Apparently there was a proposal to work out on a ‘package’ by bringing him to the Centre, thus in turn keeping him away from the State politics, but Mr Jaganmohan Reddy does not seem keen on accepting this. With Jaganmohan supporters giving ultimatum that a Congress Legislature party meeting should be convened within next few days, the indiscipline in the State party is growing and so is factionalism.

The Congress has put all its eggs in one basket in Andhra Pradesh. There are not too many options before the party leadership. If the high command decides to let Mr Rosaiah continue then it should act quickly and end the uncertainty so that the Chief Minister can function properly. Or else, as a senior Congress leader said, “Without YSR, the Congress will be back to its old status of a dissidence-ridden, factionalism-oriented, pro-Telengana party in Andhra Pradesh.”








A sign was needed that the Govern- ment of West Bengal is resuming work after months of drifting towards wherever political countercurrents took it. The arrest of Chatra- dhar Mahato, the Lalgarh leader of the People’s Committee against Police Atrocities, fronting for the Maoists, during the Durga Puja break is presumably a sign.

Does the arrest signify anything? Does it signal that West Bengal will now take tough steps to deal with the countercurrents? In other words, will the West Bengal take back control, exercise its authority, expand its power and so create the conditions necessary for a political fight back by the CPI(M)?

That the West Bengal Government and the CPI(M) have gone ahead with the arrest all on their own, at least formally, is evident. The delayed and predictably negative reaction of Left Front partner, the Forward Bloc, condemning the impersonation of the arresting officers as journalists is an indication that undercover operations must not antagonise sensitive sections, like the media. Since politics in West Bengal is all about conveying to apparently gullible voters the idea that each political party is holier than the rest, the reaction was dull because it was so entirely routine.

Now that Chatradhar Mahato has been bundled into custody, the West Bengal Government has to figure out what happens next. If action is what it has decided upon, then it cannot stop just at this point. The big one, who is still on the prowl, is the Maoist leader Kishenji. Can the West Bengal Government pick him up? Or can it at least ensure that he cannot move around freely inside the State? That is, can West Bengal make it unsafe for the Maoist leadership to mastermind operations within its boundaries?

Having argued that PCPA is a front for the Maoists, wittingly or unwittingly, the West Bengal Government cannot turn complacent now that Chatradhar Mahato is in the bag. If it is committed to restoring law and order and more importantly, normalcy, in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia then it does need to make some visible impact on first containing the Maoists and then pushing them out of the State.

The war on terrorism, which is what direct action against the Maoists in West Bengal would amount to, requires the CPI(M) to make up its mind about the risk it can take, rather than constantly worrying about the degree of risk it can safely afford to take. It is pointless to question the capacity of the West Bengal Government, specifically its police, over handling the action, efficiently in an all out anti-Maoist offensive. Because, the coercive power of the State, of which West Bengal is one part, is far greater than that of the scattered Maoist leadership and cadre. It would be silly to compare the capacity of the Maoists to create carnage with the power of the State to defend itself even on internal security matters, because there is no revolution or even a dangerously strong counter movement underway.

Therefore, West Bengal’s Government and by extension the CPI(M) has to decide on the direction in which it wants to travel. Politically, the small but active presence of the Maoists in West Bengal and their claims of association with peasant resistance/unrest has undercut the CPI(M)’s credibility as a Left party. In fact, the CPI(M)’s image has taken a beating because an alternative Left presence has questioned its credentials. That questioning has fed the Opposition’s relentless campaign to protect the interests of what is fashionably described as “refugees of development,” such as resisters to land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram.

Because the alternative Left has been critical of the policy of development pursued by the CPI(M) via the West Bengal Government’s enthusiastic support to national and international investors, the policy and its advocate Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has suffered politically. By challenging the industrialisation policy of the West Bengal Government, the alternative Left has facilitated the parliamentary opposition, namely the Trinamool Congress, to cash in on the State Government’s failures and the CPI(M)’s faults.

In terms of policy, the difference between the Trinamool Congress and the rest of the parliamentary parties, including the CPI(M), is small. Till Ms Mamata Banerjee, despite her shrill opposition to laws that enable State Governments to acquire land, actually has a political showdown with the Congress at the Centre over this one issue, her credentials remain a matter of inference.

Therefore, should the CPI(M), in defence of its status as the largest Left party in India, decide to take risks to defend its carefully considered economic and investment policy, which is per se not anti-private investment or even controlled foreign investment, it ought to make a beginning by curbing, if not ejecting the Maoists from West Bengal. If the CPI(M) allows Banerjee to arm twist the Congress at the Centre over security action against the Maoists it could hasten the Marxist decline in the state.

The need to convert the shadow play into a direct political fight between two political sides, namely the CPI(M) and the Trinamool Congress, is urgent. Currently the fight is distorted by the shadows that the West Bengal Government and the CPI(M) are busy chasing — ‘save land’ committees, anti police committees. As the arrest of Chatradhar Mahato has revealed, there was no spontaneous protest, leave alone the uprising, that he had threatened. If Mahato is a paper tiger, the sooner the Maoists are tackled the better it will be; for then the political fight will be a straightforward play for power.








Apropos of “Deconstructing China” by Chandan Mitra (Cutting Ed, September 20), Sino-Indian relations are not our only neighbourhood problem.

With Bhutan and Maldives, we have friendly ties. With every other neighbour, New Delhi has constant or intermittent conflict. Bangladesh, which owes its release from Pakistan to India, is from time to time antagonistic. It was during Hasina Wazed’s prime ministership in 2003 that BSF jawans were killed, tied to poles like hunted animals and handed over to Indian border guards. Nepal, officially a Hindu state until recently, had offered, through its King Tribhuvan in 1950, to join the Indian Union. Yet it has not been a uniform friend of India since. Not many years ago, New Delhi had gone to the extent of imposing a temporary blockade against it. Now it is a semi-Maoist country.

In 1987, India sent its Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka to protect the Tamils from Sinhala oppression. Yet IPKF was soon seen hounding the Tamils. In the bargain, New Delhi was perceived by both the Sinhalese as well as the Tamils as an enemy! In the end Rajiv Gandhi was killed by the LTTE. In Myanmar, neither are we able to help Aung San Suu Kyi nor are we friendly with the Army generals in power. No week has passed over the last six decades when the Indo-Pak conflict has not been in the news.

At the time of Independence, the then Ministry of External Affairs was unaware of the complexities of the Sino-Indian border. Nor did it have a map of the area preceding 1924. The agreements, or the records that were available, reflected the results of Anglo-Russian border politics. Depending on the occasion, each resorted to a forward policy or a defensive posture. Both powers played expedient cards; the areas did not belong to their mother countries. China was a weak third party while Tibet was used by the representatives of the two imperial powers as a convenient pawn.

The Chinese diplomats, most of the time, made the excuse that ‘our country is at present in an enfeebled condition’ and, therefore, cannot commit. They remained present at conferences when they liked but never signed. The 1913-14 agreement at Simla, they felt compelled to initial but failed to sign. The Tibetans agreed or conceded when they had to in the expectation that the British would release them from the bondage of the Chinese. Had the Ministry of External Affairs been aware of this hotchpotch legacy, New Delhi led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru would not have cheerfully conceded to China’s overlordship of Tibet in 1950. It would have insisted, as a pre-condition, that the Sino-India border should be demarcated. Instead, with Hindi-Chini bhai bhai as the slogan, the Government of India played around with forward policy now, withdrawal then. The seriousness of the situation did not dawn even in 1959 after the Longu clash. As late as August 20, 1962 Nehru casually declared, before embarking on a flight to Colombo, that he had asked his troops to throw the intruders out from Indian territory. For all these years since, the Government of India has not put its act together. Two months ago, our chiefs of the Navy and the Air force publicly stated that we cannot cope with China. Since then the Government has not hesitated to announce the landing of airplanes on the Sino-Indian border in readiness to land a large number of troops.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s presence in India has been an irritant in Chinese eyes. In the totality of circumstances, that could not be helped. But where is the need to make a periodical demonstration of his presence. Why allow his proposed visit to Tawang? Apart from annoying Beijing, India may be implying an unwitting confirmation that the Tawang Tract belonged to Tibet, in turn to China!

It is still not too late to settle the dispute. Here I would recall the interview that the legend of Singapore Lee Yuan Kew gave to Farid Zakaria on the CNN last year. Himself an ethnic Han, Lee clearly opined that the contemporary Chinese priority is economic and not territorial expansion. Apart from Lee’s wisdom, his contention makes eminent sense. Before the industrial revolution, land or territory was the major source of wealth. Mining, farming and fishing were what mattered. With the advance of large-scale manufacture, the development of technology and the growth of international commerce, 10 acres of commercial land can conceivably yield more profit than 100 or more acres of agriculture.

To illustrate, Germany and Japan were both left with much less territory after World War II than they had in 1940. Yet both achieved economic miracles in the post-war years. Today territory is strategically important to a country for linking provinces or for securing borders. If we understand the minimum strategic requirements of China, a give and take process can help to arrive at a settlement. As Chandan Mitra has written, when Prime Minister Vajpayee visited Beijing in 2003, he had come close to the conduct of conclusive negotiations.






Media outlets from around the world are discussing Iran’s new missile tests. It is clear that the Islamic Republic is continuing to develop its missile arsenal. What capabilities have Iranian missiles reached by now?

On September 27 and 28, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps conducted a series of military exercises code-named ‘The Great Prophet IV’, in the course of which Iranian officials revealed they had conducted a series of missile tests. The Iranian media reports that the military tested the Fateh and Tondar short-range ballistic missiles and multiple rocket launchers on the first day of the exercises, and test-fired Shahab-3 and Sejil missiles, their most powerful ballistic missiles, on the second.

Experts have many questions about the Sejil missiles. Many of them believe that a separate Sejil project does not exist, and that Iran periodically launches its Shahab-2 and Shahab-3 missiles disguised as Sejil or Sejil-2 to mislead observers.

The Shahab-3 missile is capable of striking targets in Israel, Asia Minor, the Balkans, and Russia. Today, it is the most powerful missile in Iran’s arsenal.

Iran also has many short-range missiles (with ranges of up to 300 kilometres) both guided and non-guided, which could be used against both targets behind enemy lines and on the battlefield. Terrorists use some Iranian unguided missiles with a range of up to 30 to 40 kilometres to attack Israel from adjacent areas.

The missiles with a range of more than 300 kilometres that are being developed in Iran are primarily based on the technology of the old Soviet R-17 missile, which is known in the West as the Scud. At one time, Iran bought them from Libya and North Korea. Iran used upgraded Korean R-17 versions to develop its medium-range ballistic missiles.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards received its first ballistic missiles in 1985. Before long, Iran started firing them at Iraqi cities in response to the latter’s attacks during the Iran-Iraq war. Scud-B missiles were launched intensively during a 52-day period in 1988, which came to be known as “the war of the cities”. At that time, Iran launched 77 Scud-B missiles against Baghdad, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Tikrit.

Later on, Iran used Scuds to develop its Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles, with a range of 350 kilometres and 750 kilometres respectively, and began designing its Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of over 2,000 kilometres.

Iran used the Shahab-3 missile to develop the Safir carrier rocket, which put the first Iranian satellite Omid into orbit. Iran is believed to be working on an intercontinental missile as part of this project.

Iran relies extensively on technological assistance from foreign countries in developing its missiles, primarily on China and North Korea. In addition to technological assistance, China supplies Iran with CSS-8 ballistic missiles with a range of up to 180 kilometres. With China’s help, Iran has been very successful in upgrading its missiles. Thus, the Nazeat-10 tactical missile, which has been a part of Revolutionary Guards’ arsenal since 1996, has been upgraded so that it can hit targets up to 300 kilometres away (its former range was 163 kilometres) and renamed the Fateh-110A.

The Iranian missile programme was one of the most important official justifications for the US plan to deploy its missile defence shield. The reality of the Iranian missile threat and the resources necessary to counteract a potential strike are crucial issues in the long-standing discussion on the missile defence shield.

Russia has repeatedly suggested considering the possibility of deploying missile interceptors in the direct proximity of Iran’s borders, for instance, in Turkey, Kuwait, and probably Iraq, as an alternative to a third missile defence positioning area in Europe. This would make it much easier to intercept missiles launched from Iran, and would not pose a threat for Russia’s nuclear missile power and the global nuclear balance.

The United States has recently changed its position on missile defence. The Obama Administration is now planning to deploy sea — and ground — based missile interceptors in Europe. They will be capable of destroying medium-range missile warheads but will not threaten Russian ICBMs.

Russia is also concerned about protecting itself against the threat of medium-range missiles. Considering possible changes in Tehran’s policy, Iran’s missiles may endanger its security. In these circumstances, consolidation of national air defence and cooperation with other countries in building a common European security system, including missile defence, seem to be the only reasonable options for all parties.

The writer is a military affairs columnist based in Moscow.







IF proof was needed of the failure of the governmental system in the country, it would be the official data collated by independent researchers that has revealed that not a single hectare has been added to the area irrigated by canals in the country in the past 15 years. This is despite the fact that a massive sum of Rs 130,000 crore has been spent on new and ongoing dam and irrigation projects.The implications are very serious.


Firstly, it clearly implies that the thousands of crores that the country is spending each year on big irrigation projects are not leading to any additional irrigated area. Secondly, the real increase in irrigated area is mostly coming from the use of groundwater which has become the lifeline of irrigated agriculture.


Thirdly, this raises serious accountability issues. It also means that instead of spending money on irrigation projects, the country would benefit more if money was spent on the adequate repair and maintenance of the existing infrastructure, taking measures to reduce siltation of reservoirs and at the same time concentrating on harvesting rainwater, groundwater recharge and on rainfed areas. This would mean lesser costs and a reduction of the ecological impact of dam and canal construction.


The reasons for the dismal performance of irrigation systems are well known — siltation of reservoirs and canals, lack of maintenance of irrigation infrastructure, promotion of water intensive crops, diversion of water to urban areas and for industrial use. Yet another reason is political.


Irrigation projects are favourites of politicians as they help them reap votes and, perhaps, keep the contractor- cumbuilder lobby happy, all at the cost of the taxpayers. The report should encourage the government to confront the issue and take ameliorative action to save the huge drain of tax- payers’ money.








 AS the country approaches the first anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist attack, there is disquieting news from Pakistan. A detailed investigation by The New York Times reveals that the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba not only continues to plan more attacks against Indian targets, but that it has, if anything, become stronger in the past year.


The article confirms the suspicion of Indian investigators that former members of Pakistan’s military and its Inter- Services Intelligence trained the gunmen who launched the attack in Mumbai. It is more than likely that the trainers were not really retired, but serving personnel. Designating them as retired is a technique of ensuring plausible deniability. Such personnel, for example, led the tribal raid against Jammu & Kashmir in October 1947.


India’s options are stark. First, and foremost, it must do everything within its power to foil any new attack. A great deal has been done, but even Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram will agree that gaps remain in our shield. In such matters, understandably, there is absolutely no room for failure.


At the same time New Delhi needs to address the larger issue of persuading Pakistan to institute a more thorough crackdown on the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba. This is a task in which it must also recruit the world community, especially the United States which is about to inaugurate a major military and civilian aid programme to Pakistan.








SKIPPER Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team have disappointed millions of Indian cricket fans by failing to qualify for the semi- finals of the Champions Trophy. From the time it was known that three key players — Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh — were not fit to play, it became apparent that it was going to be a tough task for India. But to have rested our hopes for qualifying on Pakistan beating Australia was pathetic.


The Indian team has won close to six titles and series this year, but at the real competitions it has come a cropper. People have still not forgotten the flop show at the World Twenty20 in England this summer.

India’s exit in South Africa also again raises the issue of the harm that the IPL Twenty20 cricket could be doing to the national One Day International side.









IN 2007, a remarkable book was published. It is based on a document that records a meeting of national leaders like Nehru, Kripalani, Vinoba Bhave, JP, Rajendra Prasad, Maulana Azad, and many others, at Sevagram, in March 1948. Edited by Gopal Gandhi, it is a document that, perhaps, is the most comprehensive summary of the various ideas of India refracted through the prism of Gandhi’s life and thought.


Gandhi had been assassinated barely six weeks ago. The question that was uppermost in the minds of these leaders was an obvious one, and the book takes this question for its title: Gandhi is gone. Who will guide us now? At the outset, all the assembled leaders agree that there was no one single individual who could fit into Gandhi’s shoes.


But as they begin to discuss various issues, what becomes clear to today’s reader of this text is that though the problems confronting India remain more or less the same after more than 60 years, the moral and intellectual fibre that equips humans, especially public men and women, to confront these has diminished to an all- time low. A few examples would illustrate the point better.



On 18 March 1948, Nehru is about to arrive at Sevagram. There is visible presence of security personnel at the venue. Kripalani objects to this forcefully, but in doing so displays an intellectual sophistication and sensitivity that is extinct today. He begins by objecting to the presence of uniformed police with guns by arguing that this goes against the principles of non- violence.


Doing things in this way, he goes on to argue, is “ completely crude and uncouth”. Gandhi’s ashram ought to have “ a certain tradition, a propriety and decorum”. The arrangements, he says, show no decency or discretion.


He comments on the barbed wire strung around the ashram for purposes of security and says that this betrays a lack of “ aesthetic sensibility”. He wants his views to be conveyed to all concerned. There is no record of whether Kripalani’s views were conveyed to Nehru, but after arriving at the venue and in course of addressing the gathering, Nehru directly confronts the issue of security, but does so with great precision and foresight.


He says that Gandhi was unique because he had the ability to forge “ connections between issues and material objects”, and had a vision for the entire country and desisted from reducing fundamental issues to “ separate little categories or niches”. That is why his impact was so fundamental.


“[ W] e need to consider why the ideas that had so much pull in Bapu’s hands do not have the same power in ours”, he asks.


He, then, identifies two central strands of Gandhi’s thought that were under direct threat, namely, communalism and non- violence. But he admits that the way in which governments worked, there were inherent limitations and it was imprudent to expect the government to solve all problems. The inability to confront fundamental issues becomes a threat to even those in government, even if they hold the highest offices. He says: “ I am part of the government. I live in Delhi. And night and day I have to live under guard. If I go out, there are soldiers in front of me and more following behind. This is no way for a human being to live; it is deeply disturbing, having to live in a cage. This is more of a prison for me than Ahmednagar or the other jails ever were… If this goes on I will go mad — I am not sure how long I can endure this.” Six decades after these words were uttered, people have learnt to live with violence, communalism and endure politicians, not to speak of the politician’s favourite mascot, his gun wielding security.


Even on questions of economic and politics models to emulate, there are differences evident between Nehru and others. These are articulated forcefully, but with utmost civility.


Even the caustic Kripalani seems the epitome of mildness compared to the levels of cynicism and invective evident in Indian public life these days.


Nehru argues that the whole world seems to be moving towards political and economic centralisation. He unfolds his vision of empowering the central government but also finding ways in which to combine the merits of centralisation and decentralisation.


This provokes Kripalani into a “ fierce” reaction.



The vision, breadth and prophetic nature of what Kripalani said is so relevant to our times that it merits reproducing in its entirety: “ Without decentralisation, democracy is an empty falsehood. Centralisation brings bureaucracy. Bureaucracy and technocracy are both equally the enemies of democracy. And where there is no democracy, there is no non- violence. We shall tell Jawaharlal Nehru that if he is interested in real democracy, he will have to give up his craving for centralisation”. Yet, despite these finely expressed differences, there is also a lot in common between Nehru and Kripalani.


Nehru perceives Gandhi’s great strength in connecting less important issues with fundamental ones.


Khadi, therefore, was not merely a question of economic self- sufficiency, but was attached to the whole question of independence.


Nehru feels that India remains free only if the political class is able to defend Gandhi’s fundamental ideas.


Kripalani echoes Nehru’s reading of Gandhi. His portrayal of Gandhi in this text is laced with humour and well- meaning sarcasm. He saw Gandhi as an alchemist who could turn old ideas into revolutionary ones. Kripalani, the professor of history in the 1920s, saw no great merit in the idea of the spinning wheel.



But he was won over because “ that old man made a connection between the spinning wheel and revolution, so I had to take up spinning”. Kripalani’s reading of Gandhi was sharp and precise. In a memorable phrase, he argues that Gandhi had a vision that led to the demolition of facts.


Referring to the Dandi March, he says: “ You might expect a man of this kind of bullock- cart mentality to travel by bullock- cart at least; but he went on foot. What he manufactured on the seashore at Dandi was not salt but revolution”. If Nehru’s words betray admiration for Gandhi’s vision, while at the same time an anxiety for losing sight of that vision, Kripalani’s candour also hides within the web of words a deep admiration for Gandhi. It is not a cosmetic or ritualistic admiration.


It is one that is born out of an understanding of the Gandhian project, but not being at the same time a prisoner of the Gandhian mystique.


These men and women were the real architects of many ideas of India.

These ideas could be debated, questioned and interrogated. Just as Gandhi could also be questioned and debated.


We now only have, what Rajendra Prasad called while closing this meeting at Sevagram, cold memorials for Gandhi, not life- giving programmes.


The writer, who teaches politics at the University of Hyderabad, is working on a book on Mahatma Gandhi










THE US and India are pushing Pakistan to take action against the Quetta Taliban Shura and Lashkar– i- Taiba respectively. Both are old demands that have acquired urgency in view of new ground realities.


The Obama administration is facing Congressional elections next year and wants to notch up some concrete successes in Afghanistan so that public opinion at home can be deflected from insisting on “ pulling the boys out and bringing them home”. But this is not possible until Pakistan’s national security establishment stops viewing and protecting the leaders of the Afghan Taliban as potential national assets for precisely such an eventuality in which the Americans tire of fighting in Afghanistan and leave Pakistan to clean up the mess, just as they did in 1988 when the USSR vacated the region and a bloody civil war followed for nearly a decade. Pakistan is also concerned that the US- NATO high command in Afghanistan is not sufficiently inclined to consider Pakistan’s legitimate concerns regarding the influence of anti- Pakistan elements in the US- supported state and government structure in Kabul, including the developing influence and impact of India in Afghanistan.


In much the same manner, India is not relenting on its position that the composite dialogue for conflict resolution with Pakistan cannot begin formally or via any back channel until Pakistan’s national security establishment visibly cracks down on the Lashkar and disbands it for all time to come so that another Mumbai cannot happen again.


But this is not possible until Pakistan’s national security establishment stops viewing the Lashkar as a potential asset to be used to pressure India into settling its disputes with Pakistan. The notion of “ composite dialogue” was first mooted by India in 1997 but not a single dispute has been resolved on its basis either because India remains intransigent and is given to dragging its feet or because Pakistan tends to get frustrated and ends up provoking conflict in India.


GENERAL Stanley McChrystal, the US- NATO commander in Afghanistan, has now formulated a slightly different approach to the question at hand. He has stuck to his guns about the pressing need for Pakistan to ditch the Taliban Shura and go into Waziristan in pursuit of the Afghan Taliban and Al- Qaeda terrorists who are making life hell for US- NATO troops.


But he has also taken note of some

Pakistani concerns about India’s rising influence in Afghanistan and advised New Delhi to close down some consulates in southern Afghanistan where there is no development activity by India. Pakistan has long accused these consulates of fueling the Baloch insurgents as well as the Pakistani Taliban.

But this is not sufficient to get Pakistan on board. Discernable progress needs to be made on the India- Pakistan conflict- resolution front and much trust needs to be built before Pakistan’s national security establishment will forego its “ assets”. Indeed, even General McChrystal’s advice to India to shut down a couple of consulates in Afghanistan is not likely to be heeded until and unless it becomes a part of a step- by- step mechanism in the composite dialogue to resolve issues between India and Pakistan.


Meanwhile, the US- NATO military command has held out the threat of targeting


the Afghan Shura in Quetta by means of its drones. The US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has backed this assessment. Together, they have built up suitable international media flap to facilitate this action if the need arises. India has done much the same thing. It has leaked the Indo- Pak dossiers on the involvement of the Lashkar and built up considerable international opinion demanding a unilateral Pakistani crackdown on the group. But Pakistan has not succumbed to such pressure. Indeed, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, has stated rather forcefully that drone attacks on targets in Balochistan will “ not be allowed”. This statement is quite different from the usual protests by the Pakistani government and military establishment regarding the use of drones in Waziristan. The implication here is that Pakistan’s military would dare to knock out the drones over Balochistan! Therefore the situation is precipitous on both Pakistan’s eastern and western borders. What is the way out?


FIRST, the Obama administration must stop sending conflicting signals about its Af- Pak strategy. General McChrystal cannot be seen asking for a troop surge in Afghanistan even as other American officials in Washington wring their hands in despair about the rising public pressure to “ bring the boys home”. This strengthens the spine of the Taliban in the region and also confirms Pakistan’s fear that it will have to retain its Pashtun “ assets” in order to protect its longterm interests of seeking a “ friendly” Afghanistan on its western border.


Second, General McChrystal must lean on the Karzai regime — which is struggling for legitimacy after thebotched up presidential elections — to democratise Afghanistan by compromising and sharing power with elements of the Taliban and Pashtun commanders so that Al- Qaeda can be isolated and crushed. Third, the US must nudge India into unconditional conflict- resolution mode so that Pakistan’s eastern border can be stabilised and secured peacefully.


At the end of the day, the Indo- Pak paradigm impacts on the Af- Pak paradigm rather than the other way round.


That is why it is important to resume the composite dialogue unconditionally.


The Congress has returned to power flushed with victory. Mumbai did not figure as an issue in India’s last election.


India’s prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, made some solid and sensible commitments at Sharmal Sheikh.


There is no reason to be defensive about opening peace talks with Pakistan.


India’s fear of another Mumbai can only be dissolved by building trust and resolving conflict with Pakistan and strengthening the hands of its civilian leaders. Indeed, there is an unprecedented civilian consensus across the government and opposition and media in Pakistan on the need for enduring peace with India. This is the best time to move forward with courage and wisdom.


The writer is the editor of Friday Times and The Daily Times ( Lahore)










AIR Chief Marshal P. V. Naik on Thursday announced that several airstrips along the India- China border in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh would be upgraded for improving troop mobility.


But he refused to connect this — upgrading airstrips in Arunachal, Ladakh and the western sector bordering Pakistan — with any fresh threat from China. He simply said the redevelopment plan of these “ advanced landing grounds” was long overdue.


“ The government has granted us permission now,” Naik said. “ Our preparedness is not adversary specific. Instead, we put emphasis on capability development. We believe in seeing first and the farthest with various advanced sensors and radars. We need to reach first and the farthest. We also need to hit hard and accurately,” he added.


The airstrips would augment the IAF’s air maintenance in the border region. They will be on the lines of the three new ones — Daulat Baig Oldi, Fukche and Nyoma — already built in Ladakh.


On whether a repeat of the 1962 Sino- Indian


war was possible, he said: “ I don’t think it is possible now.” At a separate media briefing in the afternoon, defence minister A. K. Antony said: “ We cannot compare the capabilities of the two countries. We cannot compare our ( defence) expenditure with theirs. But we shall continue to do what has to be done.” “ We will continue our dialogue with China. Then again, we will also continue to strengthen our capabilities to defend ourselves,” he added.


Naik also said the IAF was committed to a greater role in the government’s fight against Maoists, but sought permission from the defence ministry to fire at the Left- wing extremists if air force helicopters or crew came under attack.


“ We have sought permission from the government to defend ourselves during evacuations.


Pending that, we are undertaking tactical measures to safeguard the security of our personnel,” he said.


The air force has a greater role to play in the offensive against Naxalites. “ We have to overcome land obstacles in Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh. We use unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance in the Maoist areas,” he said.


But he also had a word of caution.


“ In our country, it would be difficult to distinguish between good and bad guys. A decision needs to be taken at the highest level before we go in for the attack mode,” he said.








THE Union cabinet has decided to amend the mega power policy. The move will give a major boost to mega power projects, especially those functioning in the private sector.


The change in policy will facilitate the purchase of electricity by states which control the power distribution system themselves, from mega power projects.


“ The existing condition of privatisation of distribution by power- purchasing states would be replaced by the condition that power- purchasing states shall undertake to carry out distribution reforms as laid down by the ministry of power,” a statement from the government said.


States such as Kerala are yet to privatise their power distribution systems even after repeated directions from the Centre.


Earlier, to purchase electricity from private mega power projects such states had to approach through public sector enterprises in the sector. Critics of the Centre’s policy say the amendment would help private monopolies in the sector.


Citing the example of the BSES in Delhi, Kerala state power minister A. K. Balan said the Delhi government had to directly subsidise the Reliance company to provide power to the people at a cheap rate.


“ The change in the mega power policy would lead to corruption and anarchy.


The Centre wants to protect certain private players in the sector,” Balan said.


The cabinet has also removed the condition requiring inter- state sale of power for getting mega power status.


The Centre extended the benefits of the mega power policy to supercritical power projects to be awarded through the international competitive bidding route with the mandatory condition of setting up an indigenous manufacturing facility.











Sixty years is not such a long time in the broad sweep of history. But for China and its people, who just celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party's rise to power, it has been a transformative experience. Mao Zedong, who was instrumental in founding the People's Republic of China in 1949, would probably have some difficulty in recognising today's China where capitalism, albeit a state-sponsored one, rules.

While China made dramatic strides in education and health under Mao, there were also disasters of massive proportions. Amartya Sen had once famously observed major famines do not occur in democracies. He cited the example of India where famines such as the one in 1943 in British India disappeared with the establishment of democracy. In contrast, China had the largest famine in recorded history during 1958-61, when nearly 30 million people died.


Much of China's high growth and prosperity over the past decade or so can be traced to Deng Xiaoping's policy of reform and opening up which began in 1978. Deng's economic reform really gathered momentum in the 1990s setting the stage for the present combination of a commanding heights state guiding a capitalist economy. In the last 20 years China has become the world's factory floor, lifting an estimated 300 million people out of poverty. From an Indian perspective there are many things to admire, particularly the emphasis China has placed on education, health and labour-intensive industry.

Despite, or perhaps because of, China's dazzling growth, problems remain. Economists have noted that inequalities have been increasing in China since the 1990s and the population is getting restive. Chinese police records suggest that incidents of social unrest have also multiplied nine-fold between 1994 and 2005. Last year, law professors, businessmen, farmers and even some government officials put their names to a document called Charter 08. It asked about China's future and whether it would "embrace universal human values" and build a "democratic system".

These are some of the questions that China's leaders will have to grapple with in the near future. There are limits on how long people will be satisfied with Leninism-plus-consumerism, as a commentator puts it. Chinese citizens, while incredibly proud of their country's achievements, are to varying degrees alienated from the Communist Party and its rigid ideology. This process is only going to get accelerated as China becomes more open and integrated with the world. With a middle class that is continually growing and thinking beyond borders, the aspirations of Chinese citizens will increasingly match those of people in the rest of the world. How to respond would be the real challenge for the Chinese government.







An alliance between India's biggest mobile phone operator Bharti Airtel and South Africa's flagship telecom firm MTN would have created an entity with $20 billion in annual revenue and 200 million wireless subscribers spanning continents. The dream was to build the world's third largest wireless operator. But more than just regulatory hurdles punctured it.


Even as people speculate about what made MTN play runaway bride at the altar, South African authorities deny playing spoiler. But the fact is that they insisted at a late stage on dual listing: companies maintaining separate sets of shareholders while joining operations and sharing profits/losses. This wasn't allowed under Indian rules.

The demand became a deal-breaker, having turned a business transaction into a subject of political hardball just before a looming deadline for ending talks. Dual listing demanded India's nod to capital account convertibility and change of company law. It was unlikely these could be hastily pushed through to facilitate one deal. An interim arrangement was thought possible, via Bharti-MTN's two-way acquisition of equity stakes, while the authorities concerned reflected on their respective positions. But the deal's nixing raises questions about the stated official backing for it, Pretoria's in particular.

Though it's not the end of the world for Bharti or MTN, there are lessons here. Commercial entities are doubtless rooted in specific nations and cultures. But we live in a world of growing economic integration. A Bharti-MTN tie-up would have scored a big goal for South-South cooperation, spectacularly signalling the rising clout of emerging markets. South Africa's insistence on MTN's "national character" was, therefore, not only off the mark but also out of sync with the spirit of the transaction. The deal's aim was to create a win-win situation for both firms through the expansion they needed to beat market saturation and to increase competitiveness. South Africa's stand is also baffling given that another national wireless carrier had earlier given controlling stakes to a British firm.

India, on its part, will need to rethink rules on taxation, company law and the exchange rate regime for easier facilitation of cross-border deals involving capital inflows and outflows. If Indian firms are to dream big, an enabling regulatory framework will have to support the kind of bold acquisitions they'll look at to spread their wings. Thanks to globalisation and the consequent unshackling of corporate vision, trade, investment and labour can't but seek to go beyond frontiers. Governments will increasingly be called upon to both keep pace and smoothen the road.








The 2009 drought is a wake-up call about the uncertainty of monsoon behaviour in the emerging era of climate change. It brought home the point that weather prediction will be increasingly difficult. Our climate management strategy must be based on the premise that the frequency of drought, flood, unseasonal rains and high temperature will increase. This year, Assam, which normally only faces floods, was almost the first state to declare drought. Global warming will make the Indian monsoon more variable and less predictable. We must do everything possible to strengthen the Indian meteorological department and climate change research.

Another urgent need is a "weather information for all" programme that involves setting up mini agro-met stations in each block with basic instruments to measure temperature, rainfall, wind speed and relative humidity. We should train one woman and one male member of every panchayat as climate risk managers. Well versed in data collection and interpretation, they can assist farmers to take timely location-specific decisions. We should aim to train half a million climate risk managers over the next three years.


Proactive steps are needed to strengthen our coping capacity to meet the impact of drought, flood and sea level rise in coastal areas. We should prepare to deal with monsoon failure and acute water and energy shortage by building weather-resilient water, food and livelihood security systems. Drought, flood and good weather codes based on inter-disciplinary analysis will be needed. The drought code can indicate how adverse impact can be minimised through crop life saving techniques, water conservation and efficient use. The flood code should indicate steps to revive farm and other livelihood activities when flood recedes. A good weather code would indicate methods of maximising the benefits of a good monsoon, to build up substantial grain reserves.

We must meet the challenge of ensuring food and water security for not only 1.2 billion human beings, but also over 500 million cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry etc. Usually, farmers sell their cattle at a low price during severe drought. During 1979's drought, i had proposed ground water sanctuaries, which can be opened up when essential to run cattle camps and raise fodder and food crops. All programmes should factor in that women suffer most because of their role in collecting water, fodder and fuel wood and in taking care of farm animals.

As essential is to promote community food and water security systems involving establishment of local level gene, seed, grain and water banks by rural and tribal families. These can be operated by local self-help groups overseen by the gram sabha. This way, we can link conservation, cultivation, consumption and commerce as an integrated chain.

Whenever monsoon behaviour is likely to be irregular, it is essential to designate in every agro-climatic region areas that are 'most seriously affected' (MSA) and areas with adequate soil moisture to raise a crop, that is 'most favourable areas' (MFA) from the point of view of agriculture. In MSA areas, immediate relief will have to be provided and steps taken to revive agricultural operations as soon as there is adequate rainfall. Contingency plans and alternative cropping supported by seed banks will be necessary. Like grain reserves for food security, seed reserves are essential for crop security. In MFA areas, steps should be taken to promote additional production through programmes like free supply of fertilisers.

We have been fortunate this year to have over 50 million tonnes of rice and wheat in the godowns of the Food Corporation of India and other government agencies. But we still do not have modern grain storage facilities to the necessary extent even in the Green Revolution heartland that feeds our public distribution system. This neglect of post-harvest technology and safe grain storage is inexcusable. I have been pleading for at least 50 ultramodern grain storage structures at 50 different locations, each capable of storing a million tonnes of foodgrain. A national grid of grain storage structures will help prevent bith panic purchase and distress sales.

I hope 2009's wake-up call helps destroy complacency and indifference among policymakers. Our population is growing; per capita availability of arable land and irrigation water is shrinking. The frequent suggestion for food imports ignores the fact that agriculture is not just a food-producing machine but is the backbone of the livelihood security system for over 60 per cent of our population. Importing food under such circumstances will have the same effect as importing unemployment and misery for farm women and men.

Recall the Nobel committee's words while presenting the 1970 peace prize to Norman Borlaug: "He has helped provide bread for a hungry world. We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace". The secret of Borlaug's success was reflected in his last words on the night of September 12, 2009. Earlier, a scientist had shown him a nitrogen tracer developed for measuring soil fertility. His last words were: "Take the tracer to the farmer". This lifelong dedication to taking scientific innovations to farmers set Borlaug apart from most farm scientists. Let us emulate his example.

The writer is chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation.






Dominic Emmanuel , spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, was given the National Communal Harmony award recently. Emmanuel, a founding member of the Sarvadharam Sadbhav Sansad (Parliament of Religions), has been involved in promoting inter-faith dialogue through articles, books, radio programmes and films. Dominic Emmanuel , spokesperson of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, was given the National Communal Harmony award recently. Emmanuel, a founding member of the Sarvadharam Sadbhav Sansad (Parliament of Religions), has been involved in promoting inter-faith dialogue through articles, books, radio programmes and films. Michel Lemme spoke to Emmanuel:

As a priest, what is your experience of communal harmony in India?

Being a priest in India is very exciting, challenging and fascinating. I've always been interested in inter-religious dialogue. I feel it is an urgent need in this country.

Religious conversion is a sensitive issue here. Do you think Christianity in India needs to find a balance between inter-religious dialogue and spreading of the gospel?

Dialogue within Indian culture is a very old story. The ground reality of India itself takes us automatically into dialogue with other religions; there is no escape from that. Right-wing fundamentalist groups have raised the issue of conversion in the recent past. Their argument is we are luring the poor into conversion. That's an unacceptable argument. Tell me one country in the world where Christians are not working with the poor and the oppressed? Also people get converted not only from Hinduism to Christianity, there are thousands of Christians who have become followers of Hindu gurus. Conversion is a natural process that has gone on in human society all the time. Helping the poor and the needy is the most important mission of the Church. That's why we should not be scared of people who blame us for conversions, because for all you know they may be only trying to stop us from working for the poor.

During the 2008 communal violence in Orissa, India was chided on the international stage for the inadequacy of its response to the riots. What's your perspective on Indian secularism?

India is very secular, but not in the western sense, where religion has no place in state affairs. For us, secularism is defined as equal respect for all religions. I feel that in India secularism is in practice both in the government and society. As for Orissa, it has to be said that law and order issues are the responsibility of the states, not the Centre. However, the central government could have been a little more serious about the riots there.

Relating to the politics of secularism in India, do you support the demand of SC reservations for non-Hindu Dalits?
Yes. I've been part of the campaign of Christians asking for Dalit status, so that they can obtain some advantages from the government. They say Christianity doesn't believe in the caste system, and yes it is true, we don't believe in the caste system. But you can't just wish away something that has existed for the past 3,000 years.







Thanks to TOI i've been going places. Or at least, my column has. It's like one of those wandering tribes of Israel: you never know where and when it's going to pop up next. Many blue moons ago, the column used to appear every Thursday on this page. Then it shifted to Sunday on what was then the Comment page. For a while it stayed put. Then it moved, bori and bistar, back to the edit page, first every Saturday, and now Fridays.


What's the matter with the fellow? Can't he sit still for a moment? Got ants in his pants or what? Can't he make up his mind whether he's coming or going? The problem is that the TOI is in a quandary. The Old Lady of Boribunder is like a society hostess organising a sit-down dinner who discovers while making the seating arrangements that through some unaccountable oversight an unreconstituted weirdo has got onto the guest list. Where in the midst of the otherwise civilised and genteel company is one to accommodate a fellow so lacking in couth that he's likely to use the tablecloth to blow his nose into, drink up the contents of the fingerbowl believing it to contain soup, and slurp his after-dinner coffee from the saucer into which he's poured it from the cup in order to cool it? Let's cancel the whole sit-down thing and do a buffet instead. Heck, let's just take everyone to McDonald's.


You can see TOI's problem. It's like if a venerable aunt whom you don't want to displease had after a shopping expedition in the Kitschnagar Handicraft Bhandar foisted upon you as a gift a ceramic sculpture of indeterminable species a cross between a deranged duck, a malign cockerel and a psychotic platypus and expected you to put it on display somewhere in your home, when you knew the only place for it was in the storage space reserved for the raddiwala's weekly takeaway. What do you do? Stick the damn thing in a dark corner, where with a bit of luck none of your guests will spot it, particularly small and susceptible children who are liable to burst into tears at the sight.


And what happens? The next day the cook you've had for 10 years gives notice, your neighbour's kid hits a sixer through your living room window smack into your 32-inch TV, and the dog poos on the carpet right in front of the kitty party gathering. The culprit is obvious: Auntieji's gift, which has created bad vaastu in the house. Take the wretched thing down and stick it in some other inconspicuous nook or cranny where hopefully it won't feng the shui out of your home? Which is what you do. And the following day you get a summons from your ITO demanding your personal appearance along with the past five years of filed tax returns, and discover that what you'd thought was vibhuti under the Guru's picture is actually fungus caused by seepage. Vaastu strikes again. And all because of that jinxed creature, whatever it is. Where can you put it where it'll do the least harm?


That's been TOI's dilemma. Market research showed that no matter where, on which day of the week, they put me, circulation figures dropped with a thump. Suraiya's column? Every Sunday? Let's cancel TOI every Sunday, take the Hindustan Hangama instead. Very sensibly, TOI took evasive action. Let's shift the fellow's column from here to there, and then to when. That way, readers will be taken by surprise when it does appear, and won't be able to guess when not to buy the TOI.


The strategy has been only partly successful. Through a process of eenie-meanie-mina-mo, or throwing random darts at a calendar, readers can still have a stab at predicting my appearance, and the consequent stoppage of TOI for that day. There's only one way to prevent this. I should appear only once a year, including leap years, on a particular day: the 367th on the calendar.







When people hear the name Rakhi Sawant, they associate a certain degree of quality and integrity with it. These are the same folks who hear music when you scratch a plate with a fork and who stand and click photographs when they witness a terrible automobile accident. Now, it's not a closely-guarded secret that Rakhi Sawant, like many celebrities whose faces are splattered across our screens, is not a traditional star but someone you can categorise as a shock-star.


Shock-stars do and say things that jolt the average complacent viewer so much that witnessing their antics on TV becomes a form of guilty pleasure that you can't resist. And a 'reality show' is the golden ticket that gives a thick-skinned ambitious individual the opportunity to become rich and famous in very little time. The late Jade Goody is a name that comes to mind when you think of international shock-stars. However, desi shock-star Rakhi Sawant has done one better.

She is now part of a show called 'Pati Patni aur Woh' where five 'celebrity couples' will embark on a challenging and learning experience while we, the viewers, get to see the goof-ups and predicaments they get into trying to take care of the particular baby allotted to them. Sure, the producers of the show would be expecting young parents, especially mothers, to empathise with and maybe even feel properly represented by these struggling-in-more-than-one-way celebrities. The show is apparently intended to capture all the stages of parenthood, from being pregnant to raising teenagers. I might be getting it wrong as a guy, but i'm pretty sure wearing an 'empathy belly' and walking around for a week doesn't quite replicate the experience of pregnancy.


And since the show aspires to bring in all facets of pregnancy to the forefront, perhaps the producers of the show should have devised some ingenious method to duplicate labour pains too. A friend who is a recent mother once, reluctantly, agreed to let the newly appointed nanny carry her baby girl for a while. Minutes later, she almost had her heart sliced when she saw her baby slip out and fall from the nanny's grip. Fortunately, the baby was fine, but it makes one wonder about the parents who let their babies turn into props on such reality shows and even advertisements. I once watched a segment on television where it was shown that chimpanzees are so protective of their babies that they wouldn't even let a tiny bird near them. And to think, Charles Darwin said we evolved.






All religions and great saints have upheld ahimsa as the greatest dharma. Ahimsa was also one of the most effective means by which M K Gandhi helped liberate the country from foreign domination.

The word ahimsa is derived from the Sanskrit verb 'hims' which means to kill, to injure, or to hurt. The absence of these violent tendencies is ahimsa. The practice of non-violence calls for an understanding of violence and its cause. The principal cause of violence lies in the ignorance of the true nature of the Self that is characterised by happiness, peace and completeness.

This ignorance results in insecurity, selfishness, hatred, aggression and competition. Ignorance propels a person to resort to violence to fulfil his egocentric needs. It is for this reason that scriptures advice: "Do not harm any living being." Why, because i do not want to be harmed. I should not do unto others what i do not want done unto me. In this way, ahimsa becomes a universal law necessary to safeguard the order of the universe.

Violence occurs at three levels: in deeds, words and thoughts. Absolute non-violence at the level of deeds is impossible because some amount of violence might be necessary in order to survive in life. Even chores such as eating, cooking, walking and cleaning involve sacrificing minute life forms. Therefore, practice of ahimsa at this level would mean to reduce violence to the bare minimum. The more we increase our needs and the more extravagant we are, the more the violence. An awareness of this would require one to cut down one's needs and live a simple life as much as possible. In Gandhi's case, the loincloth he wore symbolised this concept.

With respect to food, opting for vegetarianism would be an expression of ahimsa. Even that involves destroying plant life. We can hurt others even through words. This is subtler than violence through deeds. Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: "Speaking words which do not inflict pain, which are sweet, truthful and also beneficial, constitute austerity of speech". These conditions automatically check violence at the level of words.

Subtler than ahimsa at the level of words is that at the level of mind. Nursing hurtful thoughts for others is violence, too. When entertained for a long time, violence is bound to find an outlet through words or deeds. Words and deeds are generated in the mind, and this is also where violence in thought occurs. So the first step is to check violence in the mind. One way of doing this is to constantly replenish the mind with positive thoughts. If, for instance, the mind is full of anger, hatred and jealousy for someone, we could flood the mind with feelings of forgiveness, tolerance and accommodation, to flush the mind of violent tendencies.

Ignorance of the true nature and glory of the Self result in violence at the level of mind, words and deeds. Therefore, knowledge of the Self is ahimsa in the true sense of the word. Practising ahimsa in mind, word and deed paves the way for attaining to knowledge of the Self.

Implementation of ahimsa calls for sensitivity towards fellow beings, animals, insects, and plants and towards entire Creation. Awareness of the need of others and a proactive effort to fulfil them requires the sacrifice of one's own needs. Not only is ahimsa the greatest dharma, it is the only dharma.


By Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati

Today is Gandhi Jayanti.







The completion of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States opened the external gates to an atomic revival in India. However, the recent statements by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the future of India’s civilian nuclear programme indicates that the domestic locks holding back such a renaissance remain in place. The official mindset remains firmly mired in the combination of suspicion and vision that became the mainstay of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) following decades of foreign sanctions. At the heart of this mindset lies a fear that any change in the present nuclear system will endanger the three-stage thorium reactor programme that has become the DAE’s presiding theology. This fear has led to a reluctance to allow the private corporate sector to enter into the business of building and running reactors. If the latter proves too successful, the DAE seems to believe, interest in the thorium programme will fade.


Dr Singh spoke of the thorium cycle, still at an early stage of development, providing potentially 470,000 megawatts of electricity by 2050. In comparison, the Kirit Parikh committee report on energy policy gave 275,000 MW as its most optimistic projection for nuclear power production by that year — and it also assumed a completed thorium cycle. The impression is of a speech designed to talk up a programme whose completion still invites plenty of scepticism and downplay the immediate need to allow private capital to scale up existing, proven nuclear power technology. If this is the state of present official thinking about nuclear power in India, then the “global nuclear renaissance” that Dr Singh spoke of may miss his own country.


The danger is that the country’s nuclear future will depend on a wing, a prayer and a very delayed timeline. Even if the thorium cycle is mastered, not even the DAE believes it will be ready before 2020. But India’s power needs are immediate. The first Singh government added little to India’s already inadequate power generation capacity. While a handful of new nuclear reactors are expected soon, these reactors will empty the coffers of the only company at present allowed to finance them: the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. This is why a private sector role is not a choice but a necessity. And it is this role that should be at the heart of a forward-looking Indian nuclear power policy.







Jihad, it turns out, is also good business. Collection boxes are reportedly brimming over for the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba after the Mumbai blasts last November. In true capitalist tradition, money is chasing terrorist outfits with established performance. And as track records go, the Lashkar and its various avatars are way up there: the Red Fort carnage (2000), the Parliament attack (2001), the Diwali blasts in Delhi (2005), the Varanasi temple bombings (2006), the Mumbai train explosions (2006), the capture of the Taj and Trident hotels (2008). This is the murderous curriculum vitae it claims only for India. Sundry other atrocities abroad are footnotes.


It’s the chicken-and-egg question: foil the attacks and stem the money tide or clamp down on the finance so that the terror abates. India, with the backing of much of the the world, can lean on the Lashkar’s promoter group, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the other fat cats in West Asia and Europe, but what of the millions of small investors across the subcontinent? The retail segment is mostly driven by sentiment. They dig deeper into their pockets when they see the Lashkar stock scorching the ticker. That means more, and more outrageous, outrages.


Corporate battlegrounds offer a couple of solutions. Engineer a coup in the Lashkar boardroom (take out its key commanders) or mount a hostile takeover through a proxy outfit (set up our own jihadis to infiltrate the Lashkar network). Neither seems to have worked yet.


So we’re back to the tried and tested formula: keep our eyes and ears open and pray a new worst does not happen next week.








Jihad, it turns out, is also good business. Collection boxes are reportedly brimming over for the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba after the Mumbai blasts last November. In true capitalist tradition, money is chasing terrorist outfits with established performance. And as track records go, the Lashkar and its various avatars are way up there: the Red Fort carnage (2000), the Parliament attack (2001), the Diwali blasts in Delhi (2005), the Varanasi temple bombings (2006), the Mumbai train explosions (2006), the capture of the Taj and Trident hotels (2008). This is the murderous curriculum vitae it claims only for India. Sundry other atrocities abroad are footnotes.


It’s the chicken-and-egg question: foil the attacks and stem the money tide or clamp down on the finance so that the terror abates. India, with the backing of much of the the world, can lean on the Lashkar’s promoter group, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the other fat cats in West Asia and Europe, but what of the millions of small investors across the subcontinent? The retail segment is mostly driven by sentiment. They dig deeper into their pockets when they see the Lashkar stock scorching the ticker. That means more, and more outrageous, outrages.


Corporate battlegrounds offer a couple of solutions. Engineer a coup in the Lashkar boardroom (take out its key commanders) or mount a hostile takeover through a proxy outfit (set up our own jihadis to infiltrate the Lashkar network). Neither seems to have worked yet.


So we’re back to the tried and tested formula: keep our eyes and ears open and pray a new worst does not happen next week.









The mess that is Maharashtra is perhaps best exemplified by the Mahim Dadar constituency in the heart of  Mumbai. Considered the fortress of the Maharashtrian middle class, once famous for the assembly line of cricketers thrown up by the neighbourhood, it is now symbolic of  the deeply fragmented polity of  the state. Contesting in the Assembly elections here is a popular regional TV star who has just joined the Shiv Sena against a ‘defector’ who switched overnight to the Congress from the Sena and was ‘rewarded’ with a ticket. Also in the fray is the X factor of  the elections, a candidate from Raj Thackeray’s MNS. Three Sainiks in direct conflict in a constituency which the Sena hasn’t lost in over 20 years: can there be a better example of  how Bal Thackeray’s legacy is now splintered?


The predicament of the Sena mirrors that confronting other parties as well. Sharad Pawar’s NCp is facing a rebellion from within in its own bastion of  western Maharashtra. The BJP, too, is badly factionalised, with no centralising force holding the party together. The Congress’s plight is typified by the Amravati constituency where the son of  the President of  India has been rather embarrassingly given a ticket at the expense of a sitting minister. And, a large section of the local unit is supporting the rebel. As for the so-called third front, it’s just a bhel puri of parties who will be available to the highest bidder should there be a hung assembly.


Why has a state which was once acknowledged to be the most stable in the country suddenly become a recipe for political chaos? Till 1995, Maharashtra had seen almost uninterrupted Congress rule. There was only one brief  interlude in 1978 when Pawar broke away from the parent party to form an alliance government, which lasted for barely a year. Politics in Maharashtra was the preserve of the Congress’s Maratha leadership, and there was little real challenge to this dominant party system.That Congress’s dominant party position was only challenged in the early 1990s. The coming together of the BJP and the Sena created the basis for an alternative political force. The mishandling of the 1992-93 Mumbai riots gave the saffron alliance the opportunity it was so desperately looking for. Riding on the crest of a Hindutva mini-wave, the alliance was able to win power in 1995 for the first time. But the alliance’s social base was limited, and it’s no surprise when four years later the Congress and the NCP forged another coalition government.


But neither of the two coalitions was able to build on a legacy of progressive governance. If the saffron alliance was destabilised by the spectre of  Bal Thackeray’s version of ‘remote control’ politics, the Congress-NCP governments have been emasculated by coalition pressures.


In an era of  powerful CMs as CEOs, it should then come as no surprise that Maharashtra is beginning to lag behind the ‘single window’ states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. A once power surplus state today faces load shedding of  10 to 12 hours in rural areas and 3 to 6 hours in urban pockets every day. A state which prided itself on its agrarian revolution has seen more than 40,000 farmer suicides since 1995. Even without a drought, food production has fallen by 24 per cent in 2008-09. While the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik ‘golden corridor’ still is an industrial powerhouse, the per capita incomes in Marathwada and Vidarbha are comparable to the ‘Bimaru’ states of north India.

Unfortunately, instead of recognising the magnitude of the crisis, Maharashtra’s politicians have become disconnected from the masses. Each party has become the private property of a handful of families, with little space for any new entrant.








On September 29, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that India would produce 470,000 MW from nuclear energy by 2050. At present, the country produces about 4,000 MW from N-sources, which is less than 3 per cent of the country’s power.


The leap from 4,000 to 470,000 MW is a huge one. For that matter, even the country’s declared intention of generating 20,000 MW from N-sources by 2020 is ambitious. The success of the PM’s ‘nuclear renaissance’ dream is far from certain. In the end, it is more likely that India’s energy future will be decided by less conspicuous people, not politicians.


The first among them are the scientists who are tasked with achieving what no other country has: a three-stage nuclear cycle. This means starting with N-reactors that use uranium as fuel, and ending with reactors that use mainly thorium as fuel.


It sounds like a good idea, since India has about a quarter of all the thorium in the world. The technology to do this is being developed – reportedly with some success — by Indian scientists.


Till then, uranium remains central. Even if it works, uranium still remains critical — it needs uranium to get the thorium cycle started. The problem is, India has almost no uranium. Until recently, its existing reactors were operating at around 50 per cent of full capacity due to fuel shortages.


Now, four new reactor units are scheduled to begin operations by the end of the year. The lifting of the N-embargo means we can consider importing for now. However, the Indo-US N-deal has still not become fully operational. If it gets linked to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the imports could hit roadblocks. Meanwhile, domestic production of uranium remains mired in difficulties. The few proven reserves are of poor quality and located in very remote areas. And people in all those areas are up in arms against mining.


The best quality uranium in the country discovered so far is in the West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya. This deposit was found in 1984. Now, 25 years on, Meghalaya has finally decided to allow pre-project development in the area. The protests from a coalition of groups that fear the health and environment impact of the mining have started.


Unless people’s fears are addressed, these will grow. The Indian-State, never popular with those margins, may succeed in forcing its way in, but might find its nuclear fuel coming at the cost of internal insecurity.


There is no doubt the country needs to mine its own, domestic sources of uranium for security reasons. Is consensus impossible?


More crucially, there is no doubt that the country needs energy. But is so much dependence on nuclear energy necessary?









The Man Booker prize shortlist last month prompted much talk about the prominence given this year to historical fiction. Commentators rushed to announce a contemporary obsession with history. Is this really the case? Are we stuck in the past?

A cursory look at the winners' list reveals many historical novels through the years, from J.G. Farrell's The Siege of Krishnapur (1973) to Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty (2004).

The inaugural winner, P.H. Newby's Something to Answer For (1969), is set in 1956 during the Suez crisis. Indeed, the novel that was crowned the Booker of Bookers in both 1993 and 2008 -- Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (1981) -- is a book that centres upon the ways in which history forms nations, individuals and cultures.


One could argue, in fact, that winners not concerned with history are anomalous.


Sometime during the later 20th century, historical writing became marginalised. Writers thought writing about history was something only romance novelists did. It has only been in the past 20 years or so that historical fiction has regained its gravitas. Some of our most celebrated novelists have rarely, if ever, written of contemporary life. This is consistent with the heightened status of `history' within popular culture in Europe and the US during the past couple of decades. Documentaries, drama, historical video games, films, reality history shows, genealogy, museum development and historical tourism suggest a society with an open, flexible approach to the ways in which history is presented and experienced.


The author of Wolf Hall and this year's Booker favourite Hilary Mantel recently recounted her physical reaction to visiting Ralph Sadler's house: "It was then that the shock of the past reached out and jabbed me in the ribs. They were as alive as I am; why can't I touch them?

Grieved, I had to stuff my fingers in my mouth, fish out my handkerchief, and do what a novelist has to do: unfreeze antique feeling, unlock the emotion stored and packed tight in paper, brick and stone."


Mantel highlights something oxymoronic about our encounter with the past; both physical and conceptual, ghostly and frozen. This sense of the actuality and the materiality of the past, somehow linked with place, but nostalgically, mournfully, tragically distanced from us, suggests that the encounter with the past is what makes us human, and the desire to somehow raise the dead is what brings us to historical fiction.


Writing in 1850, Alessandro Manzoni argued that novelists were different from historians because they give "not just the bare bones of history, but something richer, more complete.

In a way you want him to put the flesh back on the skeleton that is history". This is key, I think, to understanding fiction about the past.


However, the tension between the bones of fact and the fictional flesh can be problematic, as Leon Garfield argued: "Often you have to suppress what you actually know, and do it in a way that doesn't seem as though you're doing it, and you can only do that, I find, by being very subjective in your writing."

The historical novel writer is forced to acknowledge the innate fictionality of what they are doing and the way it suffuses everything, even the so-called `facts'. Mantel also points out the crucial emotional power of history on the individual, something most historians find problematic. Deploying the potential effect of the past on and in the present is what historical novelists do, rather than investigating its effects, which they leave to historians.


Guardian The Man Booker Prize will be announced on October 3











Imagine the misfortune that befell Air India’s pilots. While they were reeling under the spectre of pay cuts, they were suffering from headaches, stomach ailments, migraine and toothaches. For that is what they have been claiming as reasons for going on “sick leave”, sickness that miraculously vanished when they finally called off their strike on Wednesday. This is a farce and everybody knows it. The pilots, spoilt and overpaid, had struck work in protest, not out of pain. Yet, they feigned illness to avoid the technical repercussions of being on strike; some have even produced doctors’ certificates. What does this say about the standards of our medical profession?


A doctor who takes the Hippocratic Oath swears to “preserve the purity of my life and my arts”. The trust that is reposed in doctors’ certificates is based on the special place these “arts” hold in any society’s psyche. But at a time when false medical certificates are available for a fee, when doctors do not think twice before noting down an illness for a pleading patient, that trust is being called into question. Such brouhaha over a signed piece of paper might seem exaggerated. So what if somebody bunks a day of class or work? But the forged certificates end up hurting the genuinely ill who are looked upon with suspicion. Worse, they shine a harsh light on the noblest of professions and the body meant to regulate it.


Tasked with maintaining standards of medical education, granting permission to new colleges, and recognising/ derecognising doctors, the Medical Council of India is a self-regulating body. Like the Bar Council of India and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, it is based on the assumption that the technical requirements of a profession are best understood by those professionals themselves. But there is a fine line between a self-regulator and a lobby. The Bar Council hardly ever punishes errant lawyers, nor does the Medical Council usually go after doctors who put their signature on false certificates. It is good that the Air India management has called the pilots’ bluff, asking them to report to the airline doctor for certification of their illness. But the matter goes beyond the management. The MCI must step in, and take to task those doctors, and all others, who leave their imprint on blatantly false medical certificates.







Once again, Bharti Airtel Ltd and MTN have failed to pull off plans to create the third largest mobile services company. On Wednesday, after the markets closed in India but not in South Africa, Bharti announced that the proposed $23 billion transaction had been abandoned. In this instance, the stumbling block was the South African government, which, through a wholly owned investment corporation, is the biggest shareholder in MTN, with a 21 per cent stake. But walking through the issues of the case, it is clear that there are lessons here about the interface of politics and business.


The crux of the issue was the Jacob Zuma government’s reluctance to cede control of MTN for reasons of very populist politics. MTN has been branded as a symbol of South African pride, a manifestation, as it were, of the rainbow nation built post-apartheid. Zuma’s politics is much more stridently nationalist than his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki’s, and so ceding control of MTN to a “foreign” entity became politically contentious — never mind that the merger made sound business sense, with a potential to net 200 million subscribers in 24 countries. Telecom is a sector where consolidation of a subscriber base is vital, and now, with the abandonment of merger plans, it will be interesting to see how Bharti goes about surveying its options in other emerging markets.


The development, however, shines the light on how governments perceive their role in matters of business. Do they see themselves as guardians of the “national” character of businesses? Or do they instead play an enabling role in allowing these businesses to reposition themselves in ways that benefit their balance sheets, and serve the local economies by creating value and jobs? New Delhi in this case played an enabling role, with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee assuring South Africa that India would, at a later point, look favourably at the issue of full capital account convertibility, and thereby address the possibility of dual-listing of MTN post-merger. In the telecom sector globally, the merger could have been a game changer. But as a country that also has seen business impacted adversely on account of political concerns, will India mine the Bharti-MTN episode for ways to nuance its own interface with business and industry?










North Calcutta is an intricate mesh of lanes and by-lanes, winding their way round usually dilapidated, often big, houses — uninviting to the uninitiated, but repositories of history, or almost. More labyrinthine than Manna Dey’s memoir Jibaner Jalsaghare (Memories Come Alive), the north is acknowledged to have more character, as, say, residents of Madan Ghosh Lane nonchalantly live with, their locality intimately, and inextricably, linked to the history of Indian cinema. All thanks to the nonagenarian just nominated for the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for 2007 albeit, as his own legendary stoicism would bear out, an award here, an honour there would make little difference to his legacy.


Dey’s ancestral house, 9, Madan Ghosh Lane, however, has had musical precedents — in his elder brother, Pranab, and, more famously, in his blind uncle, Krishna Chandra Dey (“Kana Keshto”), who laid the groundwork for the legend his nephew would become. That legend is well-documented, having dominated Bombay’s playback arena for more than two decades in the last century, with a discography exceeding 3000 songs. Dey also boasts a formidable non-film repertoire. But a life defined by music, wherein he uniquely bridged Hindustani classical music with the popular, makes it easy to overlook that Dey was also a serious wrestler in his youth and almost became a lawyer out of filial loyalty.


Dey began with Tamanna in 1943 and had his first hit in Mashaal (1950), with an S.D. Burman solo, in a career that would see him record a duet with Bhimsen Joshi as well as bequeath generations of Indians “Yeh Dosti” (Sholay). That near-anthem of youthful bonding finds its sad denouement in his latter-day Bengali hit “Coffee Houser Shei Addata” (That Coffee House Adda) — an elegy on times and friends lost. Things do change; it’s a legacy that perpetuates our existence and efforts.








China’s ruling class — communists who are celebrating 60 years of absolute power with a panache that comes from presiding over an almost superpower — need to be analysed far better by India’s chattering class. As was demonstrated recently, fear-fuelled flag waving is a terrible substitute for cool-headed comprehension. But here’s the good news for comrades across the Line of Actual Control: if you felt some members of India’s bourgeoisie are thinking rather poorly on the China issue, note that all members of India’s communist organisations are thinking very creatively on the same subject. Please consider this a gift from our free society on the occasion of your revolution’s anniversary.


There’s so much confusion in the China-India discourse in both countries that this gift should be properly explained. Let’s start by considering a hypothetical situation. Assume that a former Central public sector unit (PSU), which had been privatised amidst shrill protests by India’s communists, hired an American engineering company for a key project. Assume that an industrial accident happened in that key project when the American engineering company was executing the work order. Assume that a large number of workers died in that accident.


How would India’s communists and its communist trade union leaders have reacted? One, demand the arrest of engineers, managers of the American company working on the project. Two, demand that the CEO of the American company be brought to justice. Three, if one and two are not done then threaten to launch a nationwide agitation against India’s capitulation to ruthless American capitalism. Four, issue strong press statements in Delhi that argue the tragedy is symptomatic of the price India is paying for its blind acceptance of neo-liberal economic policy and its US-centric foreign policy. Five, produce long think pieces, published in People’s Democracy and in the bourgeois press, about how the tragedy ties in with characteristics of America’s global political and economic designs, of which the India-US nuclear deal, opposed by India’s communists, was such an eye-opening example.


Now, let’s consider a real situation. A few days back, an ex-Central PSU, Balco, which was privatised amidst shrill protests by India’s communists, suffered an industrial accident in a key project that was awarded to a Chinese engineering company, Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation (SEPCO). There have been reports about Chinese engineers leaving the site and about the local SEPCO office being no longer functional. There hasn’t been a clear statement from SEPCO’s local senior management or its Shandong headquarters about the tragedy. Is SEPCO stepping up to acknowledge some measure of responsibility? (Balco’s private management also has responsibility.) We don’t really know, even though lives have been lost and workplace safety questions loom large.


In this real situation, what have India’s communists and communist trade union leaders said? For symmetry, let’s break up the response into five points just as we did for the hypothetical situation involving an American engineering contractor. India’s communists have said: One, nationalise Balco. Two, nationalise Balco. Three, nationalise Balco. Four, nationalise Balco. Five, nationalise Balco.


This is what the gift from our communists to China’s communists is all about. If an American company is involved in an industrial accident, then it is the fault of India’s ruling class who suck up to America’s ruling class. If a Chinese company is involved in an industrial accident, then it is the fault of India’s ruling class who, because they suck up to America’s ruling class, adopt policies like privatisation.


We, members of the Indian bourgeoisie, don’t want our communists to launch nationwide agitations or to fulminate against global political economy every time an industrial tragedy involving a foreign company makes news. All that does not help, whether the company is Chinese or American. No one should demonise Chinese enterprise en masse because of the Balco tragedy. It will be terrible and stupid if the Balco tragedy feeds into the uninformed part of the Indian discourse on China.


But here’s what puzzles us about India’s communists. Okay, all of you really, really like China’s communists. That’s perfectly alright; this is a free country. But don’t you also really, really like Indian workers; indeed don’t you say you exist for them? What if an Indian worker who has survived an industrial accident in a project that was being executed by a Chinese company asks the following questions?


One: what is more important for those fighting for India’s working class: strengthening China’s communists in the “fight” against global “imperialism” or interrogating a company that happens to be Chinese? Two: is pretending there’s no Chinese connection better than probing allegations that some (though by no means all) Chinese companies compromise engineering quality so as to offer lower prices? Three: why is “low quality for better profits” a huge issue when an Indian company does it (as some, though by no means all, do it) but not so when Chinese companies doing business in India are involved? Four: is it true that the working class operates under far more restrictions in China than it does in India? Five: if it is true, as it seems to be, then isn’t the Indian communist approach to the China issue even more puzzling for India’s workers than it is for India’s bourgeoisie?


If I were a member of the China-based senior management of the Shandong Electric Power Construction Corporation I would now be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the communist takeover. I would be in the middle of an eight-day celebratory holiday. A holiday made special because our communists have transformed our country, and anyone sensible would have to agree to that. But I wouldn’t have forgotten India’s communists. They have made this holiday special, too — for me and for our communists.








Kamal Nath, Union road transport and highways minister, has proposed that any land acquired by NHAI be returned to the original land holders if project work is not initiated within five years. This proposal differs from the provisions of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, which says that the land acquired for a private project will vest in the government; it does not revert to the original land holders. Land acquisition for projects is a controversial issue, and it is useful to examine the various proposals.


There are three major objections to the Land Acquisition Act, 1984. First, the type of projects for which land may be acquired compulsorily. Second, the amount and mode of compensation to the owners of the land. Third, the rehabilitation of the owners as well as others whose livelihoods are affected by the acquisition. These issues are addressed by the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and its companion Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill.


Currently, land may be acquired for “public purpose”, which has a broad definition. It includes land needed for

village sites, town or rural planning, land for residential purposes for the poor, for development (including

education, health or slum clearance) or if it is needed by a public sector entity. The act also permits acquisition for use by a private company for any work that is “likely to prove useful to the public”. This clause has been interpreted broadly to include employment creation.


The amendment bill specifies that land may be acquired only for three purposes: strategic defence requirements; infrastructure projects (roads, rail, bridges, power, ports, etc); and for a company if 70 per cent of the land is already purchased through market mechanisms. This last condition is contentious. One argument is that land is just one more resource for an industrial concern. Just as they acquire other resources (raw material, capital, etc), they should purchase the required land. After all, no industrialist wants to go back to the days when IPOs were priced by the government; if that is abhorrent, why should land identification and pricing be done by the government? On the other side, the argument is that the government should facilitate land for industrialisation. The land market in India is very inefficient, and titles are not clear in most cases. It is not practical to expect private companies to identify a large number of small land holders, check titles and purchase land.


Second, compensation for the land acquired is computed based on recent sale of similar land in the vicinity. This computation results in low payment on three grounds. One, the recorded sale price is often well below the actual market value of land as transactions under-report the sale price to lower stamp duty and registration costs. Two, the compensation paid does not include any price rise due to change in land use; as agricultural land is priced significantly lower than commercial or industrial land, the farmer whose land is acquired gets paid the price of agricultural land and does not share in the gain. Three, the price of land usually rises in the neighbourhood of a new industrial or commercial project; however, the person whose land has been acquired does not get any benefit from this price rise.


The amendment bill changes the manner of computation of prices. The land price will be the higher of (a) value specified in the stamp act; (b) the average of the top 50 per cent of sale price in the vicinity; and (c) the average of the top 50 per cent of the price paid for purchasing land for the project (the 70 per cent part). The last part addresses the issue of the under-reporting of sale price. The amendment also requires the price to be computed based on the intended use of land. That is, in the case of acquisition for a commercial project, the compensation will be based on the prevailing price of commercial land. The manner of compensation has also been changed: 20-50 per cent of the compensation has to be as shares or debentures of the project. The seller may choose to take the entire compensation as cash. This mechanism is to provide a share in future growth of the project (though there is confusion between shares and debentures).


Third, the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill identifies all persons affected by the acquisition, including land owners, tenants, landless labourers and traders and craftsmen in that area. It sets minimum norms for resettling and rehabilitating them. Though that bill has several lacunae, it is the first law to address the issue of displacement.


These two bills address several of the major problems related to land acquisition. It is important to resolve the contentious issues and have a fair and comprehensive law in place.


The writer is at Parliamentary Research Service, New Delhi (











The weakening of the American dollar in international markets and stronger foreign capital flows to India in recent weeks suggest that in the coming year the rupee could witness pressure to appreciate. Allowing the rupee to appreciate could be a way out of the policy dilemma of the Reserve Bank of India concerned with low growth and rising inflation. Preventing appreciation could, on the other hand, lead to either higher liquidity, if intervention is unsterilised, or to the familiar difficulties of sterilisation.


Despite the US being the epicentre of the global financial crisis, the dollar strengthened in the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis. This somewhat surprising development has been explained by the increase in risk aversion of investors from around the world who preferred the relative safety of US treasury bills. In the last six months the dollar has weakened. It moved from $1.26 to the euro in early March to $1.47 in the last week of September. This weakening is being seen as the end of the phenomenon of the “flight to safety”, or the “dollar as a safe haven”.


As the risk appetite of global investors has increased in recent months, India has witnessed a return of foreign inflows. Both FDI and foreign portfolio flows have been strong. As the Indian economy grows at a relatively faster pace than the world economy and as the long-run growth prospects of the Indian economy remain strong, India can be expected to attract capital inflows.


The global weakening of the dollar and continued capital inflows can put pressure on the rupee to appreciate. What should be the RBI’s response?


One option is to do nothing and allow the rupee to appreciate. This would offer the RBI a way out of its current policy dilemma. It is currently faced with rising inflation and an economy just recovering from a big shock. If it were to raise interest rates, in response to inflationary expectations, it would be increasing the cost of borrowing for businesses and households. While the economic situation has improved compared to last year, it is too soon to make credit more expensive. GDP growth is still below the decadal average of 7 per cent. The growth rate of non-food bank credit (seasonally adjusted month on month) has certainly recovered from the post-crisis sub-10 per cent levels, but remains in the range of 15 to 18 per cent, and much below the pre-crisis level and the RBI target of 20 per cent. Business cycle conditions thus suggest that it is too soon for the RBI to raise interest rates.


What will rupee appreciation achieve? Most importantly, it will reduce the prices of goods which are either imported or priced at import-parity prices. While food prices, especially of fruits and vegetables, have risen the fastest, this is a supply management problem that can be addressed separately. If the concern is about prices of manufactured goods rising, these can be reduced by having a stronger currency. The exchange rate pass-through in India is both significant and quick.


But what about the effect of appreciation on exports? An appreciation of the rupee could hurt exports, which are already suffering a huge contraction.


Rupee appreciation would make our exports more expensive for foreign consumers, who would consume less Indian goods as a consequence, and the export sector may have to adjust to cater more to the domestic market. But where should the demand contraction to contain inflation come from? If interest rates are raised, it is domestic consumers whose demand contracts, whereas if the currency appreciates, it is foreign consumers whose demand contracts. For the Indian consumer who gets imports cheaper, and does not have to tighten her belt (which she would have to, were interest rates to be raised), rupee appreciation is preferable. For Indian companies whose raw material costs go down and who will not have to pay higher interest costs in already difficult times, a stronger rupee will be a better option.


The other response option to the pressure on the rupee to appreciate could be to prevent rupee appreciation. In this case, the RBI would buy dollars. Remember that India does not have a case for building foreign exchange reserves further as we sold barely 10 per cent of our foreign exchange reserves in the crisis. So the sole purpose of buying dollars would be to prevent rupee appreciation. This would lead to an increase in the monetary base. One option would be to leave the intervention unsterilised. This may raise concerns about higher inflation. To sterilise its intervention, the RBI would sell government bonds. But the RBI is already selling large amounts of government bonds thanks to the government’s borrowing programme. Its capacity to sell more bonds is limited as banks are already holding more than 27 per cent of their deposits as government bonds. And the government’s borrowing programme for the second half of the year will also require the RBI to sell more government bonds.


A more likely scenario is that there will be a partial sterilisation of its forex intervention and the consequent expansion in the monetary base will push the RBI to raise the cash reserve ratio (CRR). Raising the CRR in the present conditions will make bank credit more expensive. Through this strategy India could thus end up with some unsterilised intervention, excess liquidity, a higher CRR and more expensive bank credit. By pegging the rupee to the dollar, a weakening currency, the effective exchange rate will depreciate and thus push up inflation.


In summary, a pressure on the rupee to appreciate would be a positive development. It offers the RBI an easier option as it can avoid raising interest rates until business cycle conditions change further. Under this option, the brunt of demand contraction will not be borne by Indian industry or households. The crucial question will be whether the RBI can resist pressure from the exporter lobby.


The writer is a senior fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi







All human beings, however great, are children of their time, and have their cultural and personal limitations. Gandhi was no exception, and is open to legitimate criticism for some of his beliefs and actions. There are however several areas where his contribution was remarkable and continues to remain highly relevant.


First, in a globalising and rapidly changing world, identity becomes a matter of concern to many. ‘Who am I?’ ‘What do I stand for?’ ‘What are my moral anchors?’ are some of the questions that human beings ask. Some think that identity is primordial and fixed, while others believe that it is infinitely pliable and we can become whatever we choose. Gandhi’s response was much more sensible. For him human beings are rooted and members of particular cultural and political communities, by which they are deeply influenced. They are also however reflective beings who can criticise their inheritance, learn from their experiences and refashion themselves. Identity for Gandhi is both inherited and recreated. It is not a substance but an ongoing process of self creation, not a prison but a creative resource. No wonder, he called his autobiography My Experiments with Truth. As he said, we “grow from truth to truth”, and that journey never ends.


Second, globalisation brings different cultures together. This raises the question as to how we deal with cultural differences. Some see these differences as challenges or threats, and turn inward. Others embrace them with abundant enthusiasm as if cultures were consumer goods. Gandhi’s response was more measured and mature. Every civilisation, culture or religion is unique, and represents a distinct vision of human possibilities. It has its treasures as well as its blind spots. Cultures therefore benefit from a dialogue with each other. A culture that turns inward or isolates itself from others denies itself the conditions of its growth. Others are our conversational partners, and it is as much in our interest as theirs that they should continue to flourish.


Third, like Tagore, Gandhi was deeply troubled by European ideas of nationalism and patriotism, and provided an alternative way of thinking about one’s relation to one’s polity. Nationalism glorifies an abstract entity called India or Britain. It values territory more than people, and thinks little of sacrificing millions to defend a piece of land even when it is uninhabitable. Patriotism is a bit better, but not by much. It centres on the state rather than people, is militaristic, and exclusive.


Gandhi placed people at the centre of politics. Rather than talk about nationalism and patriotism, he talked about prajaprem — love of one’s people. This is very similar to Tagore’s idea of swadeshchinta — an anxious

and loving concern for the well-being of one’s community. A country is nothing more than its people. And its people are made up of concrete living individuals. These individuals should be at the centre of one’s concern. Gandhi never lost sight of this. It is striking that when he was invited to unfurl the flag of independent India, he declined the honour and preferred instead to spend his time in violence affected areas. True ‘patriotism’ lay in healing wounds, in wiping away every tear from every eye, not in flag waving military parades and war mongering. Since one loves one’s people, one wants them to be the best they are capable of, and is critical of their failings of character and conduct. It is striking that no one was more critical of Indians than Gandhi, for him the sign of true love.


Finally, Gandhi’s life had a rare grandeur. He conquered one desire after another including his famous love of food and sexuality. He even eliminated fear of death, and walked unarmed against angry men full of revenge and hatred. When Madanlal dropped a bomb at one of his prayer meetings , Gandhi carried on regardless, and chided the audience for being frightened of ‘a mere bomb’. He walked unarmed in Noakhali and other areas affected by communal violence, and dared his enemies to do their worst. It is almost as if he had transformed fear of death into love of it, in the hope that his death would achieve what his life had not.

In a very important sense, the supreme courage that he showed at the end of his life was there at the very beginning. When he was in South Africa, he was struck by the cowardice and sense of inferiority of the Indian community. He repeatedly urged them to “rebel against ourselves”, and told them that “those who behaved like worms should not blame others for trampling on them”. Building up a nation of proud, brave and self-confident people remained his life-long objective.


Gandhi’s life is a story of immense courage, moral transparency, and experimental vitality. “My life is my message”, he remarked on many occasions. The story of how a timid, diffident and moderately talented Mohandas Gandhi transformed himself by sheer will power into Mahatma Gandhi is a source of inexhaustible wisdom and inspiration.


The writer is a political theorist at the London School of Economics









The International Commission on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (ICNND) is holding its South Asia regional meeting in Delhi from October 2-4 , 2009. The Commission is co-chaired by Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign minister and Ms Yoriko Kawaguchi, the former foreign minister of Japan. It has thirteen commissioners from China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, UK and US. The Indian Commissioner is former National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra.


Since the four US statesmen, George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn wrote their articles in the Wall Street Journal in January 2007 and 2008 pleading for a nuclear weapons-free world, the concept is being widely discussed in the western world. It has been further reinforced with President Obama’s Prague speech in which he pledged his support to a nuclear weapons-free world. And that support has been reiterated in the latest Resolution 1887 of the UN Security Council presided over by President Obama and attended by heads of state and governments, on the issue of nonproliferation. Resolution 1887 refers, in its preamble, to the “conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goal of the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons...”


Article six of the NPT states: “Each of the parties to the treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and nuclear disarmament and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” These formulations are being held forth to project NPT as an important milestone on the road to a world without nuclear weapons though President Obama has wondered whether he will see that world in his lifetime. The four US statesmen accept that, on this road of arms control and nonproliferation with reference to which they have advocated further steps, they are unable to see the mountain top of a nuclear weapons-free world.


According to a recent article by the two co-chairs, the Commission envisages building up momentum for various arms control steps such as CTBT, FMCT and mutual reduction in arsenals between the two major powers upto 2012. This is also to meet the expected demands of the 2010 NPT Review conference. Thereafter, they envisage, upto 2025, the reduction of arsenals to truly minimum numbers and development of agreed nuclear doctrines dramatically limiting occasions for the deliberate use of nuclear weapons.Thereafter will come the stage to move towards a world without nuclear weapons


The reality is that the NPT, while paying lip service to nuclear disarmament, was specifically designed to freeze

the status quo in favour of the possession and further proliferation of nuclear weapons in the hands of five declared nuclear weapons powers. While the original NPT was for a duration of 25 years, and it was argued that nuclear weapons were a Cold War necessity, after the end of the Cold War, the NPT was extended unconditionally and indefinitely, thereby vesting them with legitimacy as weapons for those five nations. If they were legitimate for them, so were they for others who had not undertaken the NPT obligation. So will they be for those who renounce the NPT obligation according to due procedure. The present crisis in proliferation is to be traced to the deliberate legitimisation of the weapons in 1995.


No weapon which is considered legitimate is likely to be given up. No legitimate weapon can be prevented from proliferating. For the last six decades there has been a sustained effort at building a mystique around nuclear weapons and defending their legitimacy. India’s attempt to include the use of nuclear weapons as a war crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court was voted out. In today’s world, killing a few hundred people is a war crime. But killing hundreds of thousands is not, if a nuclear weapon is used to sanctify the killing. That world can never stop proliferation nor eliminate nuclear weapons. The perceived success of the NPT was more due to skillful alliance management than due to the effectiveness of the treaty. Yet the weapons have been held forth as the bond which held the alliances together. On the utility of nuclear weapons as the primary instrument which generated deterrence and spared the world a nuclear war, the former US Defence Secretary Robert McNamara wrote in an article in the May/June 2005 issue of Foreign Policy that launching a nuclear weapon against a nuclear adversary would be suicidal. He said he had never seen any US or NATO nuclear war plans that concluded that initiating the use of nuclear weapons would yield the US or the alliance any benefit. His statement to this effect has never been refuted by NATO defence ministers or senior military leaders. Yet it was impossible for any of them, including US presidents, to make such statements publicly because they were totally contrary to NATO’s established policies.


President Reagan and the Soviet general secretary declared, in a joint statement in 1985, that a nuclear war could not be won. Except for the first use of nuclear weapon against Japan in an asymmetric situation, the weapon has not been used in active hostilities. Chemical weapons were used by both sides in the first world war causing hundred thousand casualties and a much larger number of wounded. But the impact of chemical weapons on the war itself was marginal. After the war, the Geneva Protocol was signed in 1925 pledging no first use of chemical weapons.Though both sides in the second world war had very large stockpiles of more lethal weapons, they were not used partly due to a sense of mutual deterrence and partly due to the realisation that the weapons were not effective instrumentalities to win the war. In 1993, chemical weapons were eliminated through a treaty.


Given the nature of nuclear weapons, the ranges of their missile delivery systems and their reach, in a nuclear war the entire territories of both combatants will become battle fields. Given the compulsion to use them or lose them, it is unrealistic to envisage controlled escalation or regulated firing of missiles. Is a nuclear war fightable in a militarily meaningful sense and victory achievable? If not, nuclear war is very much like a jihadi suicide bomber’s undertaking. If this is realised, then much of the mystique and aura surrounding nuclear weapons will be blown away and the process of delegitimisation of the weapon can begin as it did with the Geneva Protocol for chemical weapons. That requires a change in the mindset of the western strategic establishments for which, at present, there are no signs. They can appoint a commission of former strategic force commanders of the eight nuclear weapon states and ask them to deliberate and reach a conclusion on the fightability of a nuclear war in the meaningful military sense. Will the ICNND dare to do it?


The writer is a senior defence analyst









So, in the end, MTN lived up to its firmly acquired reputation of being the runaway bride. But the collapse of the proposed Bharti-MTN merger wasn’t simply about the bride. In fact, it had more to do with the bride’s father, in this case the South African government, which, through its wholly-owned investment corporation, held a 21% stake—making it the single largest shareholder—in MTN. And, as we know well in Bharat, when politics is involved in the business of business, outcomes are not always rational or optimal. MTN is viewed by the South African government as a ‘national champion’ of sorts, furthering the goal, in particular, of ‘black empowerment’ in the sphere of business. The relatively new government of President Jacob Zuma is arguably more left wing and nationalist in its orientation than the preceding Thabo Mbeki one, so allowing MTN to be acquired by a foreign company would have been difficult to digest and then sell to the core constituency. The fact of the matter was that for this deal to work, in practical terms, Bharti would have had to acquire complete control over MTN. Perhaps the only compromise the South African government could have thought of was dual listing, which would have enabled MTN to still have a South African character. Of course, everyone involved was well aware that dual listing is not permitted for an Indian company in the absence of rupee convertibility. Much as though the government should aspire to convertibility, it could not have changed policy for a single deal. In any case, dual listing hasn’t worked very well in the past and just a few select companies around the world function successfully with a dual-listing system. Overall, dual listing was just a cover for the South African government’s nationalist interests in MTN.


It is now unlikely that any serious bidder will spend effort to acquire MTN anytime soon, not until the South African government clearly signals its intent to stop interfering in the business of MTN. Sunil Mittal and Bharti have, however, been burnt twice over. In hindsight, it seems unwise for Bharti to have tried this acquisition, given the inherent problems. But Bharti has its own compulsions. The telecom market in India, at least in the voice segment, is highly competitive and quite saturated. Margins are, therefore, pretty low and falling. In the medium term, Bharti would have correctly assessed the need to look for markets abroad. MTN, with its huge network across emerging African countries, was a good bet from a business point of view. Now, Bharti will have to look elsewhere, probably in another emerging market. Also, having wasted so much time on MTN, Bharti would now be well advised to look at boosting its revenue stream from new business segments in India. Data services are an obvious value-add to voice, but for those to develop as a market, we need 3G rollout very soon.







The failure of the Bharti-MTN deal has put the issue of capital account convertibility back in policy debate. One of the biggest factors in the deal falling through appears to be Bharti’s inability to agree to the condition of dual listing. Dual listing, per se, is not as optimal a solution as the South Africans were touting it to be. But the broader issue is capital controls that India has in place. In the past, rules have been changed when one or the other big corporation requires them to be different simply to go about doing its legitimate business. But now, the need for a simpler regime is much more. The rapid expansion of the business interests of Indian companies has pushed India’s de facto capital account convertibility far beyond what the de jure capital controls regime in India appears to allow. While the Bharti-MTN deal hit legal constraints, many businesses are able to work around the legal restrictions, or exceptions have been made, which is why the de facto integration with the world is much larger than the de jure version. The real costs of keeping our capital account closed are usually much more than suggested by this aspect. They mean higher cost of capital for Indian companies; they effectively result in discrimination against smaller firms; and they result in a large number of inefficiencies and costs in working around capital controls such as legal fees, financial services as well as markets moving offshore.


The opportunity cost to growth is not usually visible if we only look inwards at our own country. It is only when we look at what countries like South Korea, which started with the same per capita income as ours was at independence, have achieved by liberalising their capital accounts—high growth for many decades—that our decades of lost growth become starkly visible. The case for greater capital account openness, despite the occasional crisis it could bring, has normally been much more academic before the Bharti-MTN episode. Now, it has become clear to all that India’s closed-economy legal framework was standing in the way of the progress of corporate India. At the same time, as the post-Lehman days revealed, India is far more open than is often argued. This means that while we are exposed to the risks of openness, we are not taking steps to improve regulation and functioning of markets under the illusion that our capital controls protect us. It is time to move faster on opening up the capital account, not only to facilitate the growth of Indian corporates, but also to improve regulation and make our financial environment safer.








The day after any failed deal is always a sour one. But not for the stock markets this time around as the shares of both Bharti and MTN have soared on Thursday, after they abandoned an alliance that makes business sense now, more than ever. The two companies have the chance of course to revive the talks later but without the coming together of several factors that too seems unlikely to go anywhere; even though the first cut remarks have blamed the current failure on the pace of regulatory changes.


It is also worth considering if the talks would have succeeded if dual listing were allowed by India’s finance ministry.


At heart of the Bharti MTN deal is the race to emerge at the top of the telecom markets in the emerging

economies sweepstake. In the sweepstakes two markets are critical—India and Africa. The Indian and Chinese markets are mutually exclusive. So that leaves the African market as the prized catch.


Already the world’s largest telecom company Vodafone that established itself in Africa, Japan’s NTT DoCoMo too has moved in there and with Tata is ramping up its presence in the Indian market. Both China Mobile and China Unicom have pushed their presence in Europe and again Africa. The world it would seem is getting pretty limited for expansion.


In this cross continental sweep Bharti is about the only telecom leader that has not shown any inclination to expand overseas, till last year. The model it followed was based on targeting the white spots in the Indian market which made enormous sense as the nation went from one telecom milestone to the next. The 3G auctions would be the next chance for the company to stamp its pre-eminent position in the domestic market. In fact the abandonment of the MTN adventure can now give Sunil Mittal’s company the space it needs to bid aggressively for the 3G licences. This too will cost money and the Bharti war chest will come in handy here. The available dates for the 3G spectrum auction within this financial year was getting limited till last week as companies pursuing expansion plans were not sure they could cough up the sum needed ( Rs 3,500 crore of reserve price per bidder, per circle) to bid competitively. It is this perception that has driven up the price of Bharti shares on Thursday making it the best performer among all Sensex stocks. Analysts have already termed it a relief rally. They point to the fact that Bharti has underperformed the Sensex by 20%, since May 25 when the company announced it had renewed talks with MTN.


But this would still leave Bharti without any footprint outside India, an unusual situation for the world’s sixth largest telecom company. Here too, latest figures for subscriber addition released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India shows the rate of addition of new subscribers has eased off for Bharti, while both Vodafone and Reliance Communications have added at a faster clip to move their market share to 18% and 19% respectively. Bharti’s market share is unchanged at 32%.


In this picture, the tie-up with MTN makes enormous sense for Bharti. It makes sense for MTN too. The two companies have each crossed the 100 million customer base, this year itself—Bharti from within India and MTN from about 21 countries of which the two largest outside South Africa, its home base, are Nigeria and Iran.


Bharti can of course at this stage go for an organic growth in Africa and the Middle East but that would mean taking on each of the global giants including MTN in every market, the reverse of Alexander’s march. But it would be as bruising a battle as the Greek fellow faced. For MTN too the prospect of an organic expansion is limited. No wonder just a few hours after the announcements of the deal being jettisoned, analysts say the deal is neither dead nor buried.


The other aspect of the telecom sector is its technology. As each company establishes itself in any region, it asserts the right to impose its technological standard. This is reflected in the battle for switch from 2G to 3G and Wimax standards as this creates an entry barrier for new entrants. Not just Bharti and MTN, but all companies know this can scupper any expansion plans and hence they need to ramp up volumes substantially before the next technological thrust.


But obviously these are only proximate factors, showing the necessity but not making a compelling reason for the companies to come together. If that had been so, the deal would have been signed. The absence of permission to list the shares of both companies on the Johannesburg and Mumbai stock exchanges would not have halted the deal. Because at its core what would have been this year’s largest global cross-border deal is not really a coming together of the two companies but an acquisition. But none of them was sure who would have yielded control. As of now, Bharti holds most of the aces, including a bigger market, better access to banks and a more supportive government. Unless MTN recognises that, the deal is unlikely to be signed soon.








The fallout of Bharti-MTN has put a big perceptional question mark on India’s prospects of doing business in Africa. After all, the conclusion in India is that the deal fell through because of the reluctance of the South African political establishment to show the green flag to one of India’s most prestigious companies. This may indeed send the wrong signals to all prospective Indian investors interested in Africa.


But it would be unfair to judge India’s prospects for closer economic cooperation with Africa based on this one single experience. This is because Africa’s record on promoting investment and trade has been commendable in many ways even though the continent is home to a large number of low income countries.


Most recent numbers show that, despite the global crisis, total FDI flows to Africa have gone up by 27% to a record $88 billion in 2008 taking up the total FDI stock to $511 billion. The surge has pushed up Africa’s share of global FDI from 3.5% in 2007 to 5.2% in 2008.


Indeed most of the increase in FDI in 2008 was contributed by the growth in cross-border mergers and acquisitions which more than doubled from $8 billion in 2007 to $21 billion in 2008. Some of the largest cross-border deals include the acquisitions of the South African Standard Bank Group Ltd, the Deveon Energy Group of Equatorial Guinea, the Ghana Telecommunication Company, the DRC Resources of Congo, Alstom SA, and the Banco de Fomento of Angola. Most of these deals involved MNCs from Europe and Asia.


The enthusiasm for investments in Africa can be judged by the large number of green field FDI projects being started on the continent. Numbers in fact show that the green field projects more than doubled from 381 in 2007 to 821 in 2008. Most of the projects were natural resource based and some of them fell after the fall in commodity prices towards the end of the year. Another sector that has gained prominence in the FDI flows was agriculture, mainly on account of the investments made by countries like China, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya in Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania. In fact South Africa is one of the six developing countries which have planted more than one million hectares of GM crops with help from global companies. The enthusiasm to encourage FDI has prompted government across Africa to sign a large number of bilateral investment treaties (BIT). The 12 new BITs signed in 2008 has increased the total number of BITs signed by African countries to 715 which is around 27% of such treaties signed across the globe so far.


Africa’s thrust on attracting foreign direct investments have enthused Indian investors too. This has prompted Indian FDI investments to Africa to go up from the low level of around $38 million before 1990s to $63 million in the first half of the nineties. It then accelerated to $734 million in 1996-2002 and further to $1570 billion in 2002-06. This has helped push up Africa’s share of India’s total FDI outflows from just 8.6% in the early nineties to 13.5% in the most recent period.


Most of the Indian FDI in Africa has been boosted by the global plans of Indian companies. For instance Tata Steel has invested $1.5 billion in a joint venture in Cote d’lvoire to secure iron ore for the Corus steel plants. Similarly the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Co-operation has invested $300 million to produce phosphoric acid in Senegal. Estimates also indicate that 118 Indian companies have invested around $825 million in Tanzania during 1990-2006.



Apart from natural resources the regulatory regime is also an important factor that has helped improve the attractiveness of Africa as a business destination. The most recent Doing Business Report of the World Bank group shows that as many as 16 odd African countries were ranked ahead of India on the ease of doing business. These include South Africa (34), Botswana (45), Tonga (52), Namibia (66), Rwanda (67) and Tunisia (69), all of which were far ahead of India which was ranked 133.


Yet another factor that has improved the attractiveness of doing business in Africa is the buoyant international trade. The pick-up in growth in the region has boosted both exports and imports. While the share of Africa in global merchandise exports has gone up from 2.4% in 1993 to 3.1% in 2007 that of imports rose from 2.1% to 2.6% during the period. But it is not that prospect of doing business in Africa is not without any hurdles. A recent FICCI study has identified trade credit, language barriers, lack of institutional mechanisms and low brand identification of Indian products as major hurdles to promoting trade and investment relations. But the overall gains made are indeed significant and one derailed deal should not make too much difference.







Whether or not dual listing was really the reason for the failure of the Bharti-MTN deal, the fact is that, globally, dual listing has not worked well even in countries that allow full convertibility. The problem is that dual listing is too complex. Dual listing companies (DLCs) are effectively mergers between two companies in which they agree to combine their operations and cash flows, but retain separate shareholder registries and identities. It is a way for a company to have two equal listings in different markets, by creating ownership structures of two holding companies. Dual listing structures have a long history—Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell way back in 1903 and Unilever in 1930. However, over the years, the importance of DLC has diminished as it has become easier and cheaper for investors to trade in foreign markets. In fact, from 1980 to 2000, there were seven DLCs, but six of them were disbanded because of lack of investors’ interest. Two prominent dual listed companies are Royal Dutch Shell in the UK and Netherlands, and Rio Tinto Group in Australia and the UK. There are theoretical advantages to DLCs. They preclude the need for mergers, companies can save on capital gains tax that results from conventional mergers. Difference in tax regimes may also favour a DLC because cross-border dividend payments are minimised. Companies may also prefer a DLC as it reduces the risk of investment flow-back, which could depress the price of the stocks in their own market. However, the fact that most cross-border mergers do not take the dual listing route suggests that the existence of two separate companies result in less equity market liquidity than would be the result for a single and larger company.


In theory, DLCs look attractive also because cross-border mergers require various forms of official approvals and DLCs can preserve the existence of each company. Then there’s the argument that a DLC will have better access to capital if it maintains listings in each market; since local investors are already familiar with their respective companies. But the reality is that complexities put off investors. In the long run, managerial efficiency is affected.







In the course of this week, two major boat tragedies — the first in Bihar and now in Kerala — have claimed over 100 lives. In Bihar, at least 60 persons, including 34 children drowned when a boat sank in the swollen Bagmati river. In the tourist resort of Thekkady on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, more than 40 people died in an accident that involved a State Tourism Corporation’s new double-decker boat. Evidently, both the tragedies could have been averted if only the established safety norms had been followed. Such tragedies, however, are not new to the subcontinent, or even to the South East Asian region. Several Commissions of Inquiry and expert committees have time and again pinpointed the basic norms to be observed when boats carry passengers. This applied equally to a ferry service across a river and tourist rides on lakes. Some of the fundamental norms of safety relate to and include the number of passengers taken on board, the safety gadgets and trained rescue personnel to be ready at hand in the vessel, the dos and don’ts for the passengers, and the imperative of ensuring that they indeed adhered to the rules. Unfortunately, these are honoured more in the breach.


In the Thekkady tragedy — the Kerala government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the accident — groups of tourists from other States including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, and West Bengal were involved. Preliminary reports indicate that when a sizable section of the tourists on board moved to one side to catch a glimpse of the elephants moving around the lake, the boat capsized. As it happened to be a Kerala Tourism Corporation boat, lifeguards and safety gadgets were available. But the tourists were not wearing the life jackets on board — apparently, nobody had insisted on their doing so. Since the accident took place at least seven kilometres away from the boathouse, it took time for the rescue boats to get into the act. Bad weather compounded the problem; some passengers could still be rescued. It does not require an enquiry commission or committee to pronounce what went wrong and what should be done to avert such disasters. It is a simple question of implementing the safety norms that have already been worked out and circulated. Just as it requires the enforcement agencies to implement the rules, passengers must also take the prescribed safety precautions seriously, and cooperate with the authorities as well as the ferry operators. Non-government organisations could pitch in and launch an awareness campaign which should go some way in securing better compliance of the safety norms by the boat operators and users alike.








It was inevitable that regulatory reform of the financial sector should figure high on the agenda of the Pittsburgh G20 summit. The financial sector crisis emanating primarily from the United States that turned into a global economic crisis was basically a systemic failure that the regulators failed to foresee. When Lehman Brothers was allowed to collapse, its implications across the global financial system were not fully clear to the regulators or the Wall Street. Aggress ive intervention by governments and central banks saved the day but it was obvious that the financial sector regulatory apparatus in the U.S. and other developed countries needed to be urgently revamped. The G20 decided on a set of reforms that will discourage excessive risk-taking by banks and compel them to hold substantially more capital than at present. Although the thrust of the revamp initiative is directed at the U.S., countries such as India have more than an indirect stake in the outcomes, given the global ramifications of the move. The crisis had frozen inter-bank lines of credit, leading to an unprecedented squeeze in the credit markets. Trade finance has been severely curtailed, resulting in a dramatic fall in global trade volumes. In any case, given the high degree of integration among financial markets, almost all regulations, though framed by national regulators, have a global impact.


The G20 agreed to back new standards for remuneration to the executives in banks. In a move meant to curb incentives for risky behaviour by bankers, a significant proportion of bonuses is to be paid in the form of deferred compensation. Regulators will be empowered to limit the share of profits paid out in bonuses and dividends. Larger banks will be subjected to stricter standards. Rules such as these are overdue, but surprisingly even in the U.S., where these are needed most, there is no sense of urgency to adopt them immediately. One reason could be that the worst of the economic crisis has ended and this has led to complacency. In the U.S., banks that survived the crisis with very generous support from the government are declaring huge profits. Fortunately, the U.S administration is alive to the need for enhanced regulation, including the setting up of a new consumer financial protection agency. Banks in India are better regulated than their counterparts in the developed countries and state-ownership of a large segment of the financial sector has helped. Regulation should ensure a smooth transition by all banks to the adoption of the Basel II capital adequacy norms.










Russia’s apparent hardening of stand on Iran has been widely interpreted as a “reward” for United States President Barack Obama scrapping missile shield plans for Eastern Europe. Moscow, however, is abuzz with speculation of a wider chess game being played targeting the nuclear programme of not only Iran but also Israel.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week hinted that Moscow could go along with the new U.S.-lobbied United Nations sanctions on Iran’s nuclear programme. “As to all sorts of sanctions, Russia’s position is very simple, and I stated it recently. Sanctions rarely lead to productive results, but in some cases sanctions are inevitable. Ultimately, it is a matter of choice,” Mr. Medvedev said after his meeting with Mr. Obama on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York.


The White House greeted Mr. Medvedev’s words as a U-turn in the Russian stance on sanctions. National Security Council point man on Russia Michael McFaul said the U.S. and Russia had moved “a lot closer, if not almost together” in their objectives on Iran’s nuclear programme. “I cannot improve on what President Medvedev said. He could not have been clearer,” Mr. McFaul said.


The western media rushed to the conclusion that Moscow had embraced Washington’s tough line on Iran in a trade-off for the cancellation of the U.S. plans to deploy missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, which Russia regarded as a major security threat.


However, the focus of Mr. Medvedev’s remarks was very different. Even as he admitted the possibility of further sanctions on Iran, he made clear that it should be an act of last resort. A source in Mr. Medvedev’s delegation said that before Russia agreed to discuss further sanctions on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must provide enough grounds to believe that it was after nuclear weapons.


“Our task is to create a system of incentives that would allow us to resolve the problem of peaceful uses of nuclear energy by Iran, but will stop it from building nuclear weapons,” Mr. Medvedev told Mr. Obama. At a meeting with Pittsburg University students a day later, the Russian leader again called for offering Iran “positive incentives” to pursue a just peaceful nuclear programme and open up all its facilities to international oversight. “If we fail in this, then we will discuss other things,” Mr. Medvedev said.


His emphasis on the need to “create incentives” clearly implied that these have been lacking so far. In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly last week, Mr. Medvedev indicated what should be done to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. “One of our most urgent tasks today — I would even say a superurgent task — is to establish a zone in the Middle East that is free of WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) and the means to deliver them.”


Without mentioning Israel by name, Mr. Medvedev noted: “In order to progress, all of the region’s nations must take an active stance on this issue and demonstrate their willingness to ensure real progress in establishing a nuclear-free zone.” In fact, the Russian media have speculated that nuclear disarmament of Israel could be at the core of the new U.S.-Russian understanding on Iran.

Citing unspecified “back-room briefings,” the Argumenty Nedely weekly wrote in its latest issue that under pressure from the U.S. and Russia, Israel gave two pledges that paved the way for the complex deal between Russia and the U.S. involving the missile shield and Iran. It allegedly promised to refrain from attacking Iran.


Israel is also said to have agreed to cooperate with IAEA, U.N. nuclear watchdog, and eventually sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would entail giving up its nuclear weapons. This would clearly be conditional on Iran dropping its threats to wipe out Israel and renouncing any ambition to acquire nuclear arms. The paper claimed that Iran had already promised to stop anti-Israeli rhetoric.


Russia’s contribution to the deal was twofold: it promised not to supply top-of-the-line air defence systems to Iran and to step up pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. Moscow skilfully played a trump card it had held up its sleeve for several years — supplies of deadly air defence missiles, S-300PMU-1, to Iran under a 2005 contract. In combination with the short-range, anti-aircraft missile system Tor-M1 that Russia sold Iran earlier, the S-300s would enable it to beat back any Israeli or U.S. attack. It could also make Tehran more intransigent in talks over its nuclear programme.


In the past few weeks, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu travelled to Russia for Iran-dominated talks. Following the talks, Mr. Peres said he had secured a promise from Mr. Medvedev that Russia would review its decision to sell the S-300 missiles to Iran. Mr. Medvedev later said the Israeli leaders had promised him that they would not attack Iran.


“We are a peaceful country and we are not going to mount any strikes against Iran,” Mr. Medvedev quoted Mr. Peres verbatim last week. As part of the deal, Washington reportedly offered to guarantee Israel’s security against Iranian missiles by deploying U.S. Navy Aegis ships equipped with SM-3 interceptors in the Mediterranean under the revised missile shield for Europe. Interestingly, Mr. Obama’s foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski sensationally suggested that the U.S. missile shield could also guarantee Iran against an Israeli attack. In a recent interview, he said the U.S. should tell Israel that its jets would be shot down if they flew over Iraq on their way to attack Iran (




The four-corner deal theory sounds too fantastic to be true, but some facts on the ground point to the growing realisation in Washington that sanctions cannot guarantee a nuclear-free Iran.


Earlier this year, Washington’s chief nuclear arms negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, called on Israel to sign the NPT ( This would require Israel to declare and give up its nuclear arsenal. The demand is in line with Mr. Obama’s commitment to universal nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons-free zones. But it also takes care of Iran’s long-standing complaint of double standards on Israel’s nuclear weapons.


Last week, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1887 moved by the U.S., which calls upon all states that have not signed the NPT “to accede to the Treaty as non-nuclear-weapon states so as to achieve its universality at an early date, and pending their accession to the Treaty, to adhere to its terms.”


A few days earlier, the IAEA meeting in Vienna adopted a resolution expressing concern at Israel’s nuclear weapons. It also called on Israel to accede to the NPT and to put its entire nuclear programme under IAEA inspections. It was for the first time in 18 years that the U.N. nuclear watchdog censured Israel, and even though the U.S. and its western allies voted against, Mr. Obama’s new nuclear disarmament policy clearly impacted the outcome of the vote.

Even though the world has known for decades that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, the U.S. until now provided diplomatic cover for Israel, neither acknowledging nor denying its nuclear status. However, the pressing need to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions is now forcing Washington to treat the two cases on an equal basis. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates is on record stating Iran’s motivation in trying to acquire nuclear weapons was self-defence.


“I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent,” Mr. Gates said at Congress confirmation hearings in 2006. “They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf.” Even though Mr. Gates later tried to disavow his statement saying he was speaking still as a “private citizen,” similar ideas were articulated by other voices in Washington.


“If you’re really serious about a deal with Iran, Israel has to come out of the closet. A policy based on fiction and double standards is bound to fail sooner or later,” Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Riedel, who till recently was a senior director for the Middle East and South Asia on the White House National Security Council, was quoted by the Washington Times in May.


This position would be in line with Mr. Medvedev’s call for creating “incentives” for Iran before resorting to sanctions. As for his admission of the theoretical inevitability of sanctions, it probably had more to do with the Russian leader’s desire to make a polite gesture towards Mr. Obama to support the new climate of cooperation between Russia and the U.S. as the two countries explore new avenues in dealing with Iran.











Pencils, pens, reed-pens — these and other styluses, were his constant companions. He bought them, received them, lost them, made them.


And he used them, with telling effect, unceasingly. Right from when mis-spelt ‘kettle’ in his Rajkot school until a few hours before his death when he penned what has come to be known as his ‘Last Testament’.


If his working hand were to be imagined, it would be at the spinning wheel or, in the act of writing.


Writing in different scripts, mostly in ‘his own’ Gujarati, and then in Devanagari or in the Roman, with scripts like Bangla, Tamil and Nasta’liq Urdu, following experimentally.


One hundred volumes of his Collected Works contain some 17 million words in nearly 50,000 entries — letters, articles, telegrams, notes and transcribed speeches.


Using diverse pieces of paper including, famously, the backs of incoming envelopes, he had strong writing instruments and used strong inks. Dark blue was the colour of ink generally used as were, less frequently, green and a kind of purple. He advised his grandchildren to write in ink rather than in pencil, for the lead can be faint and rub off, which would be, he said, unfair to the reader.


Economy marked his writing — whether in terms of words used or writing materials. But Gandhi clearly liked the process of writing. And he became an adept in it.


There is a famous photograph, much reproduced, of him writing with his pen firmly-held.


No one quite knows that pen’s brand of make. A restraint unimaginable in our times has kept the manufacturer of that pen from unveiling its identity.


Then there is the less-known sketch by Feliks Topolski of Gandhi writing with concentration, as an attentive Pyarelal peers at the evolving text. The artist gave that sketch to my father, Devadas Gandhi who published it in The Hindustan TimesSketches of Gandhiji.


Satis Chandra Dasgupta, Gandhi’s foremost associate in Bengal, was a chemist. A pupil of Acharya P. C. Ray, Satisbabu was passionate about pens and indigenously produced inks. To him, Gandhi writes on 8 September, 1924:


I have written this with your pen. The first you sent me I prized very much and always kept it with me. In the gaol, I lent it to Indulal. It got spoiled. He sent it out for repairs. The friend whom he entrusted with the precious charge lost it. Krishnadas has therefore given me the one I am using…


Gandhi, like others, used the ‘pen’ as a metaphor as well. As for instance when Deshabandhu C.R. Das died, in 1925:



June 17, 1925


When the heart feels a deep cut, the pen refuses to move. I am too much in the centre of grief to be able to send much for the readers of Young India across the wire...


And, later the same month, to comment witheringly on a Raj pronouncement.


July 18, 1925


Lord Birkenhead’s pronouncement is deceptive in a double sense…I am an economist of speech, pen and thought. When I am ready, I shall speak freely…


Young India, 23-7-1925


The literal ‘pen’ having been lost, perhaps stolen, he took to using a reed-pen. A decade later, in a letter to his distinguished Andhra colleague, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, he describes the improvised stylus he is using at the time, and the circumstances surrounding the scene:


December 19 1934


Dear Dr. Pattabhi,


This is village paper. The ink is village-made, and the pen is made of village reed…


Yours sincerely,


M. K. Gandhi


Incidents of Gandhiji’s Life, p. 224


He writes to his Quaker friend, Agatha Harrison, the very next day.


Not that the fountain pen had become taboo; far from it. When Jawaharlal Nehru went to meet the Mahatma in the Noakhali region on 27 December 1946, he presented him a fountain pen. If the company which made that pen knew this, it might have been tempted to advertise the fact. ‘We help Bapu write’! But perhaps it may not have, for the firm may have learnt of the Mahatma’s general attitude to advertisements and advertising.


In the afterglow of the Dandi Salt Satyagraha, in May 1931, M. Rebello & Son wrote to Gandhi for permission to use an image of his on roofing tiles. Gandhi replied on 31 May 1931, tersely:


I have your letter of 22nd instant. I have no copyright in my portraits but I am unable to give the consent you require.

If a manufacturing group wants to use the Gandhi image on an object of sale, it would do well to recall what Gandhi told Rebello & Son. And if that firm feels that no copyright law now binds it, let it ask itself if a copy-duty does not.


(Gopalkrishna Gandhi is Governor of West Bengal.)









Every September, the world’s leaders gather at the United Nations to reaffirm our founding Charter — our faith in fundamental principles of peace, justice, human rights and equal opportunity for all. We assess the state of the world, engage on the key issues of the day, lay out our vision for the way ahead.


But this year is different. The 64th opening of the General Assembly asks us to rise to an exceptional moment. We are facing many crises — food, energy, recession and pandemic flu, hitting all at once. If ever there were a time to act in a spirit of renewed multilateralism, a time to put the”united” back into the United Nations, it is now. And that is what we are doing. Action on three issues of historic consequence show the way.


First, leaders of the world are uniting on the greatest challenge we face as a human family — the threat of catastrophic climate change. Last week, 101 leaders from 163 countries met to chart the next steps toward December’s all-important U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen. They recognised the need for an agreement all nations can embrace — in line with their capabilities, consistent with what science requires, grounded in “green jobs” and “green growth,” the lifeline of a 21st century global economy.


We at the U.N. prepared carefully for this moment. For two and a half years, ever since I became Secretary-

General, we have worked to put climate change at the top of the global agenda. Today, we have entered a new phase. Last week’s summit sharply defined the issue and focused attention in capitals the world over. To be sure, the issues are complex and difficult, especially those of financing adaptation and mitigation efforts in poorer countries. Yet leaders left New York committed to clear and firm instructions for their negotiators: seal a deal in Copenhagen.


Japan issued a challenge, agreeing to cut emissions 25 percent by 2020 if other nations follow. President Hu Jintao spoke about all that China is already doing to reduce energy intensity and invest in “green” alternatives. He emphasised that China is prepared to do more under an international agreement, as did U.S. President Barack Obama. The road ahead requires more hard pushing. Negotiators gathered for another round of U.N. talks on September 28 in Bangkok, and we are considering a smaller meeting of major emitting and most vulnerable nations in November. We need a breakthrough in this make-or-break year.


We saw another turning point, on another issue of existential importance: nuclear disarmament. Finally, the assumption that such weapons are needed to keep the peace is crumbling. At a special summit called by the President of the United States, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that opens a new chapter in the U.N.’s efforts to address nuclear proliferation and disarmament. It raises prospects for an expansion of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, next May, and offers hope for bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force. It sets forth the initial contours of a legal framework for action against misuse of civilian nuclear technology for military purposes and reflects an emerging consensus, seen in meeting after meeting, that the time has come to increase pressure on nations failing to respect these principles.


Nations united on a third front, as well. Though some may speak of “turning the corner to recovery,” we see a new crisis emerging. According to our recent report, “Voices of the Vulnerable,” the near-poor are becoming the new poor. An estimated 100 million people could fall below the poverty line this year. Markets may be bouncing back, but incomes and jobs and incomes are not. That is why, earlier this year, the United Nations put forward a Global Jobs Pact for balanced and sustainable growth. It is also why we are creating a new Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System, giving us real-time data and analysis on the socio-economic picture around the world. We need to know precisely who is being hurt by the financial crisis, and where, so that we can best respond.


That is also why, next year at this time, we will convene a special summit on the Millennium Development Goals. We have only five years to meet the targets for health, education and human security that we set for 2015. At the various G20 summits over the past year, including the latest in Pittsburg, the U.N. has stood firm to speak and act for all those being left behind.


Rhetoric has always been abundant at the General Assembly, action sometimes less so. Yet listening to the world’s leaders speak, last week, I was struck by their passion, commitment and collective determination to turn a page from a past of countries divided by narrow interests to nations united in the cause of a global common good. From confronting climate change to creating a world without nuclear weapons to building a more equitable and sustainable global economy, I saw a sprit of renewed multilateralism with the United Nations at the fore. No nation alone can deal with any of these challenges. But as nations united, the United Nations can. — Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi


(The writer is Secretary-General of the United Nations.)









In Barcelona, Catalonia, bullfighting has been in trouble for ages. And the economy hasn’t helped. Ticket prices are akin to opera’s. Fights are expensive to produce. The number of bullfights plummeted across Spain this year.


But Jose Tomas still draws enormous crowds. For aficionados, he is the last best hope for toreo, as bullfighting is called. Reclusive, a matador of unearthly fearlessness and calm, steeped in history and mystery, he retired in 2002, at 27 and the height of his fame, only to return unexpectedly five years later in Barcelona for what turned out to be the first sellout in 20 years at the 19,000-seat Plaza Monumental, this city’s beautiful old brick-and-tile bullring.


Sunday he was back, for another special occasion: perhaps the last bullfight ever in Catalonia.


Over the last three decades or so, dwindling interest among young Catalans has combined with pressure from animal-rights advocates and from Catalan nationalists to cripple toreo in Catalonia. Across the region’s four provinces, bullrings have closed; Barcelona’s is the only one still active.


Now a referendum before the Catalan parliament would end bullfighting here altogether. There has long been talk in this part of Spain about a total prohibition on toreo. Fans have played it down. But this time, even aficionados think a ban is likely to pass.


So Sunday’s corrida — the term refers to an afternoon’s regular card of three matadors and six bulls — was more than just the last bullfight of the season. It was possibly the end of an era. And Jose Tomas (Jose Tomas Roman Martin, but everybody knows him by his double-barrelled first name) had come, in what seemed almost like a last-ditch attempt, to lend his box office appeal and artistry to the anti-ban side.


Artistry, that is, to aficionados. There is the art of the ritual, ancient and colourful, with its sequence of movements, firmly established but, because the bulls always vary, different each time and entailing a kind of balletic grace on the part of the matadors, who are judged not least by whether they can make the bulls look graceful, too. Bullfighting is a matter of Spanish cultural patrimony, fans say. Europe may wish to come together around common social and economic interests, but national cultures must be respected, and toreo represents cultural diversity.


Opponents see it otherwise, of course. A dozen or so animal-rights protesters stood outside the arena Sunday, holding aloft handmade signs splattered with red paint.


Up the street, at La Gran Pena, a bar favoured by aficionados, Isabel Bardon, the bar’s owner, balanced a tray of beers while navigating a swarm of patrons, some craning their necks to see the retired matador, who was smiling for photographs beside older men smoking thick cigars. “It would be bad news for me and my business,” she speculated about the ban’s possible approval.



It might be, who knows. What’s clear is that during the early years of the last century, Barcelona had no fewer than three bullrings. It was a mecca for aficionados. There were more corridas here from the 1920s to the 1960s than in any other Spanish city.


But Catalan nationalists began to spread the notion that toreo was an imposition on Catalonia by Franco’s fascist regime, which promoted it, like flamenco, as a patriotic symbol. Opposition to bullfighting became a declaration of separatism by other means. Animal rights came along and fuelled the nationalists’ agenda.


That the issue remains, above all, political is demonstrated over the border, in the Catalan region of southern France, where bullfighting is embraced as fiercely as it is opposed in Spanish Catalonia, for exactly the same separatist reasons, in that case because it is banned in Paris.


“At a point when Europe is becoming bigger and more multicultural, Barcelona is becoming smaller and more Catalan,” is how Robert Elms, a British travel writer who has lived here, saw the situation. He had come to see Jose Tomas and remarked, before the corrida, how the dark but magical city he once knew has become a shiny, designer-label hub that nonetheless looks increasingly inward.


“It’s vanity,” he said “That’s the only word. Vanity describes an insecure culture.” The possible ban on bullfighting, he added, is akin to a law here requiring schoolchildren to receive much of their education in Catalan, not Spanish.


Paco March nodded at the mention of that connection. A Barcelona native, he is the bullfighting columnist for La Vanguardia, the city’s second biggest newspaper. His 15-year-old daughter is called a fascist by her classmates, he said, because she has a picture of a torero pasted into her notebook.


“I feel rage that in the name of democracy,” March added about the pending referendum, ``a minority of opponents of toreo could erase the rights of another minority, aficionados, who are enjoying what is in this country a legal spectacle that expresses deep truths about life and death taken to their extreme.”


Aficionados talk this way. They point out how bullfighting makes death plain and visible at a time when most people, those who can do so, choose to put distance between themselves and the reality of it. Some of these same people condone factory farming by eating meat, but they condemn bullfights. Or they go to bullfights in places like Portugal, where the bulls are not killed by matadors.


They’re killed afterward, offstage, so nobody has to watch.


To matadors, that’s truly unfair, because it denies them their duty to the bulls, with whom they have fought, and spares them the particular vulnerability they are meant to experience at this point in the bullfight.


Whether or not you buy this argument, it would be a mistake to conclude that an end to bullfighting here portends its prohibition across Spain. While nearly three-quarters of Spaniards say they have no interest in bullfighting, they’re loath to have foreigners tell them what they can or can’t do. This is why Spain has consistently resisted pressure from the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights to end toreo. What will end it, if anything, is public indifference, competition from cheaper entertainment like soccer and video games, and the passing of a generation of aficionados. And so, in the failing light of a warm early autumn afternoon, amid the bursts of flashbulbs and chants of “Torero!” and “Ole!” Jose Tomas appeared at least one last time in Barcelona, the standard-bearer for an afflicted art. He orchestrated his usual series of hair-raising passes with the bulls. Like Roger Federer, he makes every action look impossibly slow and stylish.


“This artful corrida to end the season may have been the last in this plaza,” lamented El Pais, the Spanish

newspaper, the next morning. “What a shame if politicians banned bullfighting here.”


March, the bullfighting writer from La Vanguardia, put it more bluntly. “We want to be different from the rest of Spain by not killing bulls,” he said. “But we’re just killing off our own culture.” — © 2009 The New York Times News Service








The number of people being tested for HIV more than doubled in dozens of countries last year, improving detection of AIDS and contributing to a major surge in those being treated.


The ranks of people taking antiretroviral drugs in the developing world rose by more than a million to surpass 4 million people globally, the United Nations reported on Wednesday in its 2009 progress report on HIV and AIDS.


The vast international effort on AIDS, financed by the United States, European countries and other donors, also ensured that growing numbers of children with AIDS, who had largely been left to die quick, unheralded deaths in past years, also benefited from the life-saving drug therapies. Their number rose to 275,700 in 2008 from 198,000 just a year earlier. And the portion of mothers who got medicines to prevent them from infecting their babies with HIV also rose markedly, to more than half those in need, in the parts of Africa hardest hit by the disease.


“In the space of one year, you’re seeing a huge ramping up of AIDS services,” said Mark Stirling, regional director for the United Nations’ efforts against AIDS in eastern and southern Africa. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service












India’s early exit from the 2009 Champions Trophy was the second such at International Cricket Council-run tournaments this year. Defending champions at the T20 world championships that they had won back in 2007, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team were eliminated in the preliminary stage of the 2009 edition in England. Whether or not this is a pattern is hard to judge from two performances, but there is no doubting that it has been a deeply disappointing show at the Champions Trophy in South Africa. The tournament itself saw fancied teams fall by the wayside early — India joining hosts and pre-tournament favourites South Africa and Sri Lanka on the sidelines — but there is no getting away from the fact that overall, the Indians performed well below par. Of course it has to be remembered that three key members were not in the squad, hampering Dhoni’s hopes considerably. Few teams can afford to lose a batsman of Virender Sehwag’s calibre or an important member of the pace attack like Zaheer Khan, both not included because of injuries, and hope to put up a strong challenge. Worse was to follow when powerful middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh broke a finger at practice and pulled out of the tournament. Still, a team boasting the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni himself was expected to give a better account than it eventually managed.


Adding to the Indians’ woes was the weather, and having lost the first match to arch-rivals Pakistan, a great deal depended on the game against Australia. That match never got a chance to finish with heavy rain washing out proceedings. It was a setback the Indians could not recover from, and though the closing league game did produce a win, it was too little and too late. Looking back, it was the defeat at Pakistan’s hands that really undid Indian hopes and broke a billion hearts. That defeat was a direct outcome of India’s biggest problem here — desperately bad bowling. Ishant Sharma was not two years ago the spearhead, the fast young tearaway who had the Australians hopping on their pitches. Today he looks a shadow of that man. Harbhajan Singh, another key member of India’s attack, was completely off his game in the first two matches. Ahead of them, only Ashish Nehra was able to deliver, not just line and length, but also wickets. Till leg-spinner Amit Mishra was drafted, Nehra was virtually carrying the burden of the attack by his own, and no international team hoping to beat top-quality opposition can afford to have so many bowlers go off the boil at the same time. Finally, the extremely compact format of the Champions Trophy this time with just the top eight teams in contention meant that every match would be a vital one. So it turned out to be with India crashing out of contention on the basis of just the loss to Pakistan. With Australia arriving for a seven-match ODI series at the end of the month, there is very little time to work on the obvious loopholes the team here was hampered by, but given the nonstop nature of modern international cricket, Team India’s think tank has no choice but to dissect this failure — it cannot be finally called anything but that — find solutions, and implement them quickly.









This is a year for body counts; not the body counts of the dead we listed in Vietnam but the body counts of the half-dead and the half-alive. Foeticide machines are eliminating millions of unwanted girl children. Dr Sabu George has estimated that within a few years, foeticide in India can match the statistics of the Holocaust. We are among the leaders in infanticide in the world. Yet we proudly claim that India is also the surrogacy centre of the world, where bodies are rented out. The womb as real estate is now a full-time operation. We have Africanised huge sections of India. We are so poor that we are moronising huge sections of our future population for lack of adequate protein intake. Our development projects have created the perpetual litany of displacement. Between the displaced body, the surrogate body, the foeticised body, India is the embodiment of a new body politic.


The starved body, the skeletal body meets the body of desire in the middle class body of sexuality, consumption and waste. Imagine the middle class as a separate society. It emerges like a huge rapacious mouth destroying forests and land in its wake. Desire always stumbles. The farmer who discovers pesticides and technologies creates an epidemic of suicides we barely comprehend. The new body politic is a paradoxical society. It stands distant from condoms but celebrates foeticide. It talks of stability but the everyday violence of urban India, the prose of atrocity dominates every line of our life.


To the idiocy of a civil society that consumes its own children, we can add the stupidity of nation state that repeatedly sanctions Army action against its own people. It is this sadness, this brutality of our body politic that we need to confront. We need to rethink the body and summon back the man who reinvented the nation through rethinking the body.


Mahatma Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth were experiments with the body. The truth of the body was a testimony to the integrity of the body politic.


We need to clarify two things at the start. We need not freeze the body of his thought to the charkha. We need not rely on Gandhians either, who as a wag put it, lie between the indentured and the dentured classes. Someone added, with the new Mont Blanc pen there are also the debentured Gandhians to consider.


The Gandhian body was not a reactive body. Gandhi’s idea of work, prayer, fasting were based on the body as a set of experiments in ethics and philosophy. A rethinking body dreamed alternative visions of the body politic. The body was a perpetual state of hypothesis, working through the truth of energy work, politics and waste. The body became in that sense, embodiments of these truths.


To reflect on the body needs no research grants for experiment but only a way of conducting body talk. One need not wait for prophets like A.P.J. Kalam or Nandan Nilekani or Sam Pitroda. One can live one’s truth through one’s body. Such an attitude does not overplay the prosthetic body as a solution but sees the body emphasising its own strength and limits. The patient, the farmer, the citizen all become scientists responsible for their body. This was the message of Hind Swaraj and My Experiments with Truth.


Reading them again, one realises that it is not technology that is the focus of discussion. It is the philosophy of the body and what comes out profoundly is the idea of walking, the metaphor of the path and the symbolism of the journey.

A walk is a way of exploring territory and space. Walking is a form of reflection in practice. Walking is a search for a path, a pathway. Walking is the physical equivalent of storytelling, of defining a narrative through touch, sight, and smell. There is no special walk the talk, the satyagrahi does it all the time. A walk is politics and when you walk away you secede or rebel. Walking is a way of exploring, discovering without destroying. It combines curiosity and wonder but with a sense of the poetry of limits. A walking body celebrates the cosmos seeing connections, making discoveries which enchant the everyday. A walk defines the limits of a body. It is an embodied cartography defining a livable universe. You own up to what you can walk to.


The sheer physical nature of the walk, the sense of rhythms merges into the spirituality of the journey. Seeking as philosophy is the search for the pathway. Ethics is a choice of roads and the decision to walk one particular way. The roads not taken are not the ones you are unaware of but those you have walked in the mind.


Walking provides a way of defining community. A community is a walkable radius of life. What is walkable is live-able. You walk to work, to school, to the library. Walking becomes an index of autonomy and welfare. In fact, in a potent way, Swadesi and Swaraj were theories of a world defined through walking. Walking as practice creates the rhythms of understanding, the variations of time a society needs. Walking as a form of dwelling allowed a sense of home. The sadness of Gandhian thought lies in the absence of walking as a key narrative marking all his texts. More than khadi, it is the idea of walking, the ethics of pathways that one needs to recover.


The locality and community of Swadesism is the crops you grow, the responsibility you accept, and the society you own up to. It is world defined in terms of walking. A vocation to use a pun is a walk of life. Swaraj is the poetry of walking through owning up to the other walks of life. The parikrama of one demands the padyatra of the other. Walking creates connectivity.


Each walk is a dialect creating communities of translation. Sadly we ignored the walker and in ignoring walking we face forced migration, forced displacement, and we ironically call them the march of history. Gandhi’s message was simple. The tyranny of the forced march as history or progress needs to be reclaimed through walking. It was as simple as that.


Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist









America's policy on Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. Barely six months after unveiling his AfPak strategy, US President Barack Obama is assailed by a host of indications that it is not yielding the expected results. The confluence of three important developments has cast his predicament into sharp relief: the controversial presidential elections in Afghanistan; the grim strategic review by the US military commander in Afghanistan; and the deepening domestic divide on military commitment to Afghanistan.


Mr Obama has said that he is thinking hard about the assumptions underpinning the current policy. His candour is to be welcomed; but unless his administration undertakes a more searching examination of its approach, it is only likely to reinforce past failures.


Consider the elections in Afghanistan. Even before polling had commenced, American and European officials were voicing their concerns about the possibility of widespread electoral fraud. Whilst their apprehensions might have been genuine, there is little doubt that these also reflected a burgeoning mistrust of President Hamid Karzai. Indeed, these statements came after months of tension between Washington and Kabul, including some theatrical confrontations involving American vice-president Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Mr Karzai was well aware of the administration's ill-concealed desire to see him out of office. In consequence, he opted for an unsavoury embrace of the likes of Rashid Dostum and Mohammed Fahim.


Washington's attitude after the elections has been no better. Nobody, including Mr Karzai, denies malfeasance during the elections. The question is of scale. American and European officials have suggested that but for the rigging Mr Karzai would neither have obtained an 18 per cent lead on his nearest rival nor crossed the 50 per cent mark to avoid a second round of polling. It strains credulity to believe that hundreds of thousands of votes could have been rigged in favour of a Pashtun candidate, however powerful, when the top brass of the Afghan security and intelligence set-up is dominated by Tajiks. The US continues to grumble about the legitimacy of Mr Karzai, but has settled into a sullen acquiescence of the election's outcome.


This attitude is unlikely to help and could well be counterproductive. A recurring theme in America's long history of military interventions has been the intractable problem of dealing with the local ally. Although the government may have initially been propped up by the Americans, it tends gradually to distance itself from the latter - not least to bolster its own domestic standing and to avoid being tainted by the military excesses of foreign forces. The Americans tend to view such behaviour as ungrateful and grow critical of the local government. This in turn leads the host government to display its independence more vigorously. This spiral of mistrust has plagued numerous American interventions, most notably in South Vietnam.


Unless the Obama administration adopts a more mature approach in dealing with the Karzai government, its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan will prove ever more difficult. Such an approach would begin by recognising that Mr Karzai cannot solely be blamed for the ills of his administration. Take the much discussed issue of corruption. The venality of the current regime is evident, but it stems to a considerable extent from the highly centralised structure of the government - one that was imposed on the country by the Western coalition in 2001. Similarly the inefficiency of the governmental apparatus is in no small measure due to the coalition's unwillingness to adequately bankroll the efforts in Afghanistan. The recently completed strategic review by General Stanley McChrystal repeatedly underscores the need for "responsive and accountable governance". This is undoubtedly a key requirement, but it cannot be accomplished without a better working relationship between Washington and Kabul.


The McChrystal review also indicates other problems and blind spots in American strategy. It admits that American forces are not adhering to the basic principles of counter-insurgency operations, and calls for a more population-centric approach. The need to "protect" the people from the insurgents has been a mantra of American counter-insurgency since 2006. Clearly it is easy to repeat such platitudes, but rather more difficult to implement them. Excessive reliance on firepower not only continues to inflict civilian casualties, but has undermined the legitimacy of Western forces in eyes of the Afghan people.


Equally problematic is America's refusal to come to terms with Pakistan's role in the Afghan insurgency. The review acknowledges that the "insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan", and that the senior leadership of the insurgent groups are based there. But it goes on to assert that the "existence of safe havens in Pakistan does not guarantee failure" and that Afghanistan needs Pakistan's "cooperation". Little is mentioned about how this might be secured or why Pakistan would extend such cooperation. Indeed, there is no discussion on dealing with the Pakistan end of the insurgency.


What's more, the review excessively privileges Pakistan's interests and perceptions in Afghanistan. The observation about India's increasing presence in Afghanistan inviting "countermeasures" from Pakistan has received some attention. This is entirely in keeping with the larger, specious assumption that unless Pakistan's concerns vis-a-vis India are allayed, it will not move against Taliban. Interestingly, Iran's role too is viewed through the prism of Pakistan's "strategic interests". The review also alleges that Iran's Qods Force is training sections of the Taliban - an absurd claim that betrays ignorance about the history and nature of relationship between Tehran and the Taliban.


Notwithstanding these issues, it is unlikely that Mr Obama will either drop the current strategy or turn down the military's request for additional troops. Having talked up and committed himself to the conflict in Afghanistan, it would be politically unwise to execute a swift volte face. But it is not clear that persisting with the current, flawed approach can be anything more than a holding operation.


From India's standpoint, this is highly unsatisfactory. Not only has Washington quietly dropped the idea of a "big tent" approach involving the major regional actors, but is increasingly viewing their efforts solely from the perspective of Pakistan's interests and desires. It may be time for New Delhi to start thinking seriously about a regional approach to Afghanistan outside the American framework.


Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







America’s policy on Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. Barely six months after unveiling his AfPak strategy, US President Barack Obama is assailed by a host of indications that it is not yielding the expected results. The confluence of three important developments has cast his predicament into sharp relief: the controversial presidential elections in Afghanistan; the grim strategic review by the US military commander in Afghanistan; and the deepening domestic divide on military commitment to Afghanistan.


Mr Obama has said that he is thinking hard about the assumptions underpinning the current policy. His candour is to be welcomed; but unless his administration undertakes a more searching examination of its approach, it is only likely to reinforce past failures.


Consider the elections in Afghanistan. Even before polling had commenced, American and European officials were voicing their concerns about the possibility of widespread electoral fraud. Whilst their apprehensions might have been genuine, there is little doubt that these also reflected a burgeoning mistrust of President Hamid Karzai. Indeed, these statements came after months of tension between Washington and Kabul, including some theatrical confrontations involving American vice-president Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Mr Karzai was well aware of the administration’s ill-concealed desire to see him out of office. In consequence, he opted for an unsavoury embrace of the likes of Rashid Dostum and Mohammed Fahim.


Washington’s attitude after the elections has been no better. Nobody, including Mr Karzai, denies malfeasance during the elections. The question is of scale. American and European officials have suggested that but for the rigging Mr Karzai would neither have obtained an 18 per cent lead on his nearest rival nor crossed the 50 per cent mark to avoid a second round of polling. It strains credulity to believe that hundreds of thousands of votes could have been rigged in favour of a Pashtun candidate, however powerful, when the top brass of the Afghan security and intelligence set-up is dominated by Tajiks. The US continues to grumble about the legitimacy of Mr Karzai, but has settled into a sullen acquiescence of the election’s outcome.


This attitude is unlikely to help and could well be counterproductive. A recurring theme in America’s long history of military interventions has been the intractable problem of dealing with the local ally. Although the government may have initially been propped up by the Americans, it tends gradually to distance itself from the latter — not least to bolster its own domestic standing and to avoid being tainted by the military excesses of foreign forces. The Americans tend to view such behaviour as ungrateful and grow critical of the local government. This in turn leads the host government to display its independence more vigorously. This spiral of mistrust has plagued numerous American interventions, most notably in South Vietnam.


Unless the Obama administration adopts a more mature approach in dealing with the Karzai government, its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan will prove ever more difficult. Such an approach would begin by recognising that Mr Karzai cannot solely be blamed for the ills of his administration. Take the much discussed issue of corruption. The venality of the current regime is evident, but it stems to a considerable extent from the highly centralised structure of the government — one that was imposed on the country by the Western coalition in 2001. Similarly the inefficiency of the governmental apparatus is in no small measure due to the coalition’s unwillingness to adequately bankroll the efforts in Afghanistan. The recently completed strategic review by General Stanley McChrystal repeatedly underscores the need for "responsive and accountable governance". This is undoubtedly a key requirement, but it cannot be accomplished without a better working relationship between Washington and Kabul.


The McChrystal review also indicates other problems and blind spots in American strategy. It admits that American forces are not adhering to the basic principles of counter-insurgency operations, and calls for a more population-centric approach. The need to "protect" the people from the insurgents has been a mantra of American counter-insurgency since 2006. Clearly it is easy to repeat such platitudes, but rather more difficult to implement them. Excessive reliance on firepower not only continues to inflict civilian casualties, but has undermined the legitimacy of Western forces in eyes of the Afghan people.


Equally problematic is America’s refusal to come to terms with Pakistan’s role in the Afghan insurgency. The review acknowledges that the "insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan", and that the senior leadership of the insurgent groups are based there. But it goes on to assert that the "existence of safe havens in Pakistan does not guarantee failure" and that Afghanistan needs Pakistan’s "cooperation". Little is mentioned about how this might be secured or why Pakistan would extend such cooperation. Indeed, there is no discussion on dealing with the Pakistan end of the insurgency.


What’s more, the review excessively privileges Pakistan’s interests and perceptions in Afghanistan. The observation about India’s increasing presence in Afghanistan inviting "countermeasures" from Pakistan has received some attention. This is entirely in keeping with the larger, specious assumption that unless Pakistan’s concerns vis-a-vis India are allayed, it will not move against Taliban. Interestingly, Iran’s role too is viewed through the prism of Pakistan’s "strategic interests". The review also alleges that Iran’s Qods Force is training sections of the Taliban — an absurd claim that betrays ignorance about the history and nature of relationship between Tehran and the Taliban.


Notwithstanding these issues, it is unlikely that Mr Obama will either drop the current strategy or turn down the military’s request for additional troops. Having talked up and committed himself to the conflict in Afghanistan, it would be politically unwise to execute a swift volte face. But it is not clear that persisting with the current, flawed approach can be anything more than a holding operation.


From India’s standpoint, this is highly unsatisfactory. Not only has Washington quietly dropped the idea of a "big tent" approach involving the major regional actors, but is increasingly viewing their efforts solely from the perspective of Pakistan’s interests and desires. It may be time for New Delhi to start thinking seriously about a regional approach to Afghanistan outside the American framework.


Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi








On November 5, 1931, Mahatma Gandhi along with other delegates to the Second Round Table conference was invited to a garden party at the Buckingham Palace. The invitation specified that guests should wear "morning dress". Gandhi and Mahadev Desai went to the gathering in their "usual dress". As Gandhi came out, he was asked about his lack of proper attire by reporters. Mahatma Gandhi is supposed to have said, "His Majesty was wearing enough for the two of us".


Its textual veracity notwithstanding, if anyone could have said this it could only have been Gandhi. This was not just a quick and sharp repartee but a political retort at a time when the English textile industry was reeling under the impact of Gandhi’s call of swadeshi.


So was Gandhi a humorous man? He was capable of great deal of laughter and self-deprecating wit. His humour, like his life, was sparse, economical and in some ways very English. He was taken to inspect the Balilla, where young Italian boys were being trained in Nazi military parade, and he reportedly quipped, "You look quite well-fed"; something only a man who knew the virtues of fasting could have said.


Gandhi cut an interesting figure for the cartoonists of the world, with his lanky frame, bald head, toothless smile and idiosyncratic preferences like goat’s milk. And yet, all his caricatures look alike — simple lines, a face in profile, with his round, rimmed glasses. The cartoons capture the essentials, but are rarely funny, except when he is shown in the clothes of a late Victorian gentleman that he tried to play for a while.


It was very difficult to deprecate Gandhi, except when he chose to do it himself. This failure to mock at Gandhi came from the fact that he was given to transparency and honesty. Caricature requires hypocrisy from the subject of caricature. It requires certain superciliousness. Gandhi was neither. And to make the job of the cartoonist more difficult, he had a lightness about his own experiments and idiosyncrasies.


Gandhi did not have the inclination or the time for humour in the usual sense of the term.


When Charlie Chaplin sought an interview with him, he politely asked "who this distinguished gentleman was". Needless to say that during the meeting he spoke to the maker of Modern Times about spinning and the charkha.


Gandhi was truly free only inside the prison. That was leisure time when he read, wrote, spun and had long, sometimes idle conversations with his fellow prisoners, like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu.


Those long months and years were filled with laughter and the kind of bad, almost unpalatable, cooking that only Gandhi was capable of — the only time Sarojini Naidu allowed him near her makeshift kitchen was in the prison.


Humour was not the leitmotif of his life. It was search for equanimity. As India erupted in a frenzy of self-destructive and macabre violence, Gandhi became a lonely, brooding, sad man. He searched within himself, hoping to find the inner-voice that would show some light and dispel the darkness that enveloped him and the country. As he increasingly gave himself up to Ramanama, the self-deprecating humour also disappeared.

We are trying to reinvent Gandhi for our times, sometime we do it a la Munnabhai. Gandhi as an apparition is what we want, devoid of his deep spirituality, his unnerving moral politics and guilt-inducing simplicity. And in so doing, we have managed to do what the best cartoonists could not do. We have turned him into a caricature, devoid of any transformative potential. He has became a floating symbol that could sell anything from computers and gym equipment to Congress’ new-found love for its past austerity and a new limited edition Mont Blanc pen.


As an empty symbol, he becomes available for consumption. His memorabilia can be auctioned and bought. But we want nothing of his politics that challenges the basic features of a consumption society. How would he respond to his new avatar?


Gandhi was once asked, "What do you think of the Western civilisation?" He is reported to have said with a chuckle, "That would be a good idea". That probably would be his response to the possible new Disney movie on Gandhi.


Tridip Suhrud is an academic based in Ahmedabad. He has translated Narayan Desai’s four-volume


biography of Gandhi ,My Life Is My Message.










THE New York Times report that former officials of the Pakistan Army and the ISI trained the 10 Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists who massacred innocent people in Mumbai on November 26 last year is no surprise for India. New Delhi had been maintaining since the very beginning that the LeT men involved in Mumbai mayhem were trained in Pakistan by ISI and Army personnel. India found out even the names of those who trained the Mumbai attackers. New Delhi provided comprehensive dossiers to Islamabad after thorough investigations so that Pakistan could prosecute the masterminds of 26/11 like Hafiz Saeed, A. R. Lakhvi and Zarrar Shah. But so far no concrete action has been taken to bring the guilty to book. The way Pakistan has been handling the Mumbai attack case shows that Islamabad is doing all it can to ensure that these elements remain unharmed.


Pakistan President Asif Zardari’s initial reaction, describing the guilty as “non-state actors” on whom Islamabad had “no control”, was aimed at hiding the role of the Pakistan Army and the ISI in 26/11. But this could not be possible, as the fact that the ISI and other Pakistani agencies have been neck-deep in promoting terrorism is too well known. The ISI had been actively involved in the creation of almost all the terrorist outfits, including LeT, operating from Pakistan. This has been part of Pakistan’s policy of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy and decision to persist with its proxy war against India.


The so-called ban imposed on the terrorist organisations has no meaning as these reappear with another name as it happened in the case of LeT, now called the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. The terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan remains intact with the number of training camps having gone up to over 60 since 26/11 despite Pakistan having promised to the world more than once that it will not allow any territory under its control to be used for terrorism. Why is the world community, particularly the US, keeping quiet? Pakistan must be bluntly told that if it does not simply destroy all kinds of terrorist infrastructure, including the training camps and communication networks, the world community will have to think of taking the necessary steps in the interest of peace and stability in South Asia.








THE Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index has crossed another milestone in its upward journey that began six months ago. It has been a swift comeback rally with the last 1,000 points added in just 16 trading sessions to push the Sensex past the 17,000-mark. The upturn has rewarded investors who did not sell in panic last year when faced with a global meltdown. While the number of such investors riding the financial storm may not be large, others who reinvested around March this year, when stock markets the world over had bottomed out, must have recovered their losses and even made profits.


Three factors are driving up stock prices. First, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and hedge funds are parking huge amounts of dollars in the Indian equity markets. According to the official data, they have pumped in Rs 13,000 crore since the second week of September and there is yet no sign of the flow of dollars coming to an end. Second, the US Federal Reserve has kept the interest rate between zero and 0.25 per cent. FIIs and hedge funds are lapping up the easy money and deploying it in gold, commodities and equities. Third, stock markets across the world have gained substantially since March, thanks to positive data about the strengthening of the economic recovery. Corporate results have been better than expected in India and the filing of advance tax indicates the positive trend will continue.


It is the retail investor who generally blunders in making entry and exit decisions. Anyone buying stocks at this time will put himself at greater risk than the one who entered the market in March or April. The latest figures show that retail investors and Indian mutual funds have turned wiser after burning their fingers last year and have been seeking the exit door since the Sensex crossed 16,000.







THE news that singing maestro Manna Dey has been chosen for the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award for the year 2007 should be music to his admirers. A perfectionist to the core, whenever his flawless voice has touched a song it has become a classic. His immortal film songs like Ae mere pyaare watan, Ae meri zohra jabeen and Zindagi kaisi yeh paheli have delighted listeners, cutting across time and age. Manna Dey, who belongs to an era when film music was sublime and soothing, truly deserves the highest award for his life-long achievement.


Born Prabodh Chandra Dey, the singer’s tryst with Hindi film music began with the movie Tamanna in 1943. Since then his inimitable voice has graced innumerable films spanning decades. Melancholy, chutzpah, love and its pain, his voice has mirrored an entire gamut of emotions. Trained by his uncle, the legendary singer of his times, K C Dey, and Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan, his forte lay in raga-based compositions, and versatility has been his hallmark. Romantic duets, qawaalis, folk compositions, playful songs — his repertoire has been wide-ranging and included all possible genres. He could blend classical notes with popular music with ease. Having sung many Bengali songs, he is equally comfortable with Rabindra Sangeet. Honours are not new to Dey who has won many national awards. He is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan.


While many may feel that the award has come to him rather late in the day, the singer has expressed no rancour, rather he is “extremely happy and honoured” with the recognition. Having bid adieu to film music, he proclaims: “the old must give way to the new”. His aficionados, however, would anyday choose to tune in to his eternal songs that have a life of their own.
















President Asif Zardari’s address at the U.N. General Assembly reiterating his priority for the resumption of composite dialogue with India and seeking a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues, including Kashmir, has again opened a window through which possibly a permanently workable solution to the J & K imbroglio can be worked out between India and Pakistan.


I am more than optimistic now, notwithstanding the brooding presence of 26/11 in all communications between the governments of India and Pakistan, because of the recently announced Gilgit-Baltistan package by Islamabad. It needs to be emphasised that since April 28, 1949, Pakistan has had administrative control over this region, and it was governed through Pakistan’s presidential ordinances.


This admission that a good part of old J & K is under the occupation of Pakistan and the Gilgit area is now to be directly under the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Council coupled with Pakistan having ceded hundreds of miles area in Aksai Chin permanently to China is a clear admission by Islamabad that all talk of part of J & K on its own side of the LoC was an independent state was nothing but a concerted move to malign India as if India was forcibly occupying the whole of J & K. It deceived no one but quite a few years back that was the understanding of quite a number of international community members, facilitated, no doubt, by the reluctance by our Foreign Office for years not to highlight it at international fora. Much less were they aware that the Gilgit-Baltistan part of erstwhile J & K was directly under the Pakistan Government’s control. But such was the unexplained attitude of our Foreign Office that it preferred to take all this blame on the misplaced assumption that this will strengthen the case of India to be able to retain the whole of erstwhile J & K.


It is only later that gradually and mostly because of the representatives from the Gilgit-Baltistan area that it became open knowledge that Pakistan, which in public expressed so much support for independent J & K, had put under its tutelage the area without even the pretence of formal democracy and self-rule. Such was the disdain of Pakistan for the sensitivity of J & K people that it has permanently ceded thousands of sq miles to China in Aksai Chin which goes against the proclaimed desire to maintain the integrity of the whole of J & K as one unit. In a practical sense, these acts obviously were (though not expressed openly) a silent recognition by Pakistan that it would be agreeable to settle the J & K question on the basis of the existing factual boundaries with the LoC being made a permanently soft border and with more friendly ties of trade and travel between the two sides of the LoC.


Much has happened since 26/11 which has put further pressure on Pakistan, accentuated by the US debacle in Afghanistan, to genuinely take some effective steps against terrorists, the Taliban. This as well as the army involvement in Swat and Pakistan’s quiet acceptance of Taliban leader Mehsud being killed by a US drone (but no doubt with complicity from the Pakistan government) has opened a route through which a mutually acceptable solution to J & K could be found between India and Pakistan.


Some people in India have justifiably voiced their criticism at this sham of democratic set-up for GilgitBaltistan. The Government of India has obviously taken the usual official line to protest against Pakistan seeking to incorporate the Gilgit-Baltistan region on the obviously technically correct argument that as the whole of J & K (which included the Gilgit-Baltistan region) acceded to India in 1947, the action of Pakistan is illegal. Speaking purely in legalese, this official position is incontestable. As a matter of fact, Mr Alstair Lamb, the internationally known jurist, who had been briefed by Pakistan to opine on the accession by Maharaja to India, has said that the accession is legal. He has gone further to say that the announcement of Pandit Nehru that there will be a plebiscite subject to conditions approved by the UN General Assembly was only obiter and had no legal sanction, because India’s Independence Act only empowered the ruler of the state to decide on the question of accession and the Maharaja having acceded unconditionally, the validity of accession cannot be called in question by invoking a subsequent statement of Nehru.


No, I am not so cut off from practical realism as to advocate India’s claim over the whole of J & K because of the validity of the Instrument of Accession. Both in India and Pakistan we have to realise and accept practical realities and the acceptable formula. For India to lay its claim to the whole of Kashmir is as unrealistic as is for Pakistan to insist on a plebiscite — which can only be voting for India or Pakistan. The Hurriyat and other groups in J & K should also realise that the question of independent J & K , outside India and Pakistan, is a non-starter.


Is it not clear to even a novice in the political domain that no government in Pakistan or India can agree to give up the territory of J & K which at present falls under its respective jurisdiction, and no government either in Pakistan or India can survive if it acts differently? That is the ground reality, which constraints not only the governments but also any honest appraisal of the matter.


But this does not mean that India can underplay the sentiments and aspirations of the people of J & K, especially of the valley, which has been in a state of turmoil and has raised many uncomfortable questions of violation of human rights in the state. Consequently, it is incumbent for all political parties in India to commit before the public their agreement that only subjects such as defence, foreign affairs, currency and communications as were ceded by the Instrument of Accession will be Central subjects. All other subjects will be within the jurisdiction of J&K. Article 370 will continue and, therefore, the Centre will have no jurisdiction over any other subject unless the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly so permits by a resolution.


The Central government should withdraw all the Central legislation which the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly had authorised it earlier. (In practical terms, this would not create a void because these are normal pieces of legislation like the Municipal Act and the Industrial Act which the state government itself will have to provide for proper governance).This exclusive autonomous power to legislate has already been given to certain areas in Assam and Meghalaya decades ago by a constitutional amendment. Can one hope for some such silver lining in India-Pakistan relations, clouded as they are at present by the 26/11 syndrome?n


The writer is a retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi.








ABOUT a quarter century ago, when we were in the process of settling down after marriage, we didn’t have a washing machine. A guest, who came to stay with us for a few days, asked me whether we had one. After getting a positive reply he asked about the brand. “Anguri,” I replied. “Anguri?” he asked with a big question mark and mysterious smile on his face.


Next morning when he brought his dirty clothes for washing, he asked about the location of the washing machine. I told him to hand over his dirty clothes to our maid servant, whose name was Anguri. I could see the same smile on his face again.


After a few months we bought a washing machine, but I never seriously thought about it until recently when I read a news item from the Vatican stating that it had found that the washing machine has done more to “liberate” the women than even the contraceptive pill. In an editorial published in its official newspaper to commemorate the International Women’s Day, 2009, the Vatican stated that washing machine has liberated women from tiresome household chores. “Put in the power, close the lid and relax”, was the catch line of the editorial.


These editorial comments forced me to think about the plight of crores of Indian women living in the rural areas who wash truckloads of clothes everyday. I could also not understand why these rural women used to “beat” the clothes with a cricket bat-like wooden stick, “thapi”.


When I was going through a tense period, one day suddenly I found something very different that brought the smile back on my face. While surfing the TV channels, I found a woman singing a song. The starting lines instantly attracted my attention:


“Saara din TV utte sundi main gaane Machine aape dhondi te sukaundi Kapde.” (I listen to songs on television the whole day, the machine washes and dries up the clothes.)


For the first time I realised that washing machine has not only liberated the “Angrezi” women, it has also emancipated the “Desi”, too. The body movements, facial expressions and gestures of the singer were a testimony to the great feelings of that “relaxed” Punjaban.


Over the years, like most of the urban husbands, I have learnt the art of “putting the powder and closing the lid,” and my wife has learnt the great art of “relaxation”.


I don’t think I’ll ever be able to know the Vatican’s views on men’s liberation as no day is celebrated as men’s day.








Mahatma Gandhiji would have completed 140 years on October 2, 2009, had he been alive. He had always expressed his desire that he would live for at least 125 years with his regular exercise, simple living and high thinking.


On January 30, 1948, Gandhiji succumbed to bullets fired by a communal fanatic. Though he had always opposed “partition of India”, unfortunately he was held responsible for it.


Coming from a modest family, Gandhiji completed his graduation at his birth place, Porbandar, in Gujarat and proceeded to England to be a Barrister at Law. Gandhiji had never shown any spark as a student.


After his return to India, Gandhiji moved to Bombay and started his practice at the Bombay High Court. Those days his earnings were meager. On one day he was invited to South Africa by a Muslim merchant to conduct his civil matters.


Being a Barrister, Gandhiji was entitled to practise in any court in the countries occupied by the British empire. While in South Africa Gandhiji was agonised to see discrimination by the white people against the black, including some Indians.


One day Gandhiji was thrown out of a train with his bag and baggage by a British traveller, though he had reserved his berth in the first class compartment. This event proved to be the first turning point in Gandhiji’s life. From then onwards, Gandhiji resolved to fight injustice in a peaceful manner.


When Gandhiji started the non-violent, he was ridiculed by all sections of society. Everybody felt that it would be impossible to fight the mighty British empire through a non-violent struggle by non-cooperation. He was determined to succeed in the movement.


Gradually, black people extended all possible support to Gandhiji and it became difficult for Britishers to rule or carry their day-to-day affairs without cooperation of the black people. General Smutts, who was in charge of South Africa, was left with no other choice but to negotiate with Gandhiji.


After learning about various stories of atrocities, General Smutts decided to ensure justice for Gandhiji and his supporters.


The House of Commons agreed with the suggestion of General Smutts and ultimately Gandhiji succeeded in his first non-violent peaceful struggle in South Africa. He was in South Africa for a few more years. He made several experiments through his Tolstoy Farm and decided to come back to India. By then the story of successful struggle of Gandhiji had reached various parts of India.


After his return to India, Gandhiji resolved to join politics. He went to Pune and met Lokmanya Tilak — the most formidable leader. He was with Tilak for two days and he felt that he was standing at the foothills of the Great Himalayas. He then met another eminent leader — Gopal Krishna Gokhale, from Pune. He felt Gokhale was like the slow flowing river of Ganga. Anybody can have a dip and purify himself.


Gandhiji was thoroughly impressed with the approach of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and accepted him as his “political guru”. At the outset Gokhale advised Gandhiji to first get acquainted with India, Indian people and their abject poverty. Accordingly, Gandhiji started his all-India tour.


While Gandhiji was touring Bihar, he witnessed atrocities on the downtrodden committed by rich landlords in their farms. This event proved to be the “second turning point” in the life of Mahatma Gandhiji. Then and there he resolved to free these people from the clutches of landlords.


Gandhiji advised people to take up constructive programmes. These included sanitation, primary education, spinning and weaving that would give some financial relief to the poor people.


Gandhiji was opposed to partition of the country. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister of India because of Gandhiji’s suggestion. Sardar Patel and some leaders gave their consent for partition. They were extremely worried over killings and atrocities. Barrister Jinnah was once a Congress leader. His ego was hurt and the Britishers took advantage of the situation. He became the spokesman of the Muslim League and was instrumental in partition. His role suited the Britishers, who were interested in weakening and dividing India.


During 1946-47 Gandhiji went to Naukhali (now in Bangladesh) and started his mission to establish peace.


Gandhiji always believed in peace, non-violence, discussion and dialogue. He had a great faith in moral values. He was a staunch believer in God. Though Gandhiji is no more, his philosophy of peace and non-violence is the need of the hour as the present world is filled with hatred.


It is not the nuclear or hydrogen bombs which could save the world, but the philosophy of Gandhiji that could save the world. Even his message to live with nature is relevant with the growing threat of global warming.


The writer is a former Cabinet minister and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission








WHAT better way to celebrate a birthday than to take to the world stage? Last week, Hu Jintao became the first Chinese president to address the U.N. General Assembly, a privilege seemingly reserved for the U.S. president and colorful despots such as Moammar Gadhafi.


The People’s Republic, which turned 60 on Thursday, has evolved from tin-pot polity to powerhouse. And among the spectacular transformations China has undergone, its dramatic turnabout in how it relates to the world stands out.


China began as a pariah state, rejected by and hostile toward the world community. Marxism shaped its view of international organizations as the “instruments of capitalist imperialism and hegemonism,” and for decades China had little to do with them.


Fast-forward to last week, when Hu proclaimed the “important role” of the United Nations and entreated the international community to “continue our joint endeavor to build a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity.”


Today, China has joined every major international organization to which it is eligible and signed more than 300 international treaties. It even has had a hand in creating new regional groups. “They are acting like the new us,” a U.S. official told me.


They prepare, send huge delegations to summits and carefully cultivate diplomatic capital. And this is not just lip service. In many cases, China’s engagement with global entities such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund has prompted Beijing to bring its conduct in line with international standards.


The next step, though, is an important one. Now that China is fully engaged and has earned considerable clout, what will it do? Will it increasingly abide by and support international standards? Could it eventually become a genuine leader for the global common good, with the risk and sacrifice that often entails?


Beijing sends mixed signals. On the hopeful side, we see China’s leadership on the North Korean nuclear issue — playing host to many rounds of the six-party talks, producing draft agreements and now, for the first time, enforcing U.N. sanctions against its nominal ally. And although it once objected to the whole idea, China now has 2,000 of its citizens in U.N. peacekeeping operations.


China also has done an about-face since the 2003 SARS debacle, when it covered up the outbreak and deceived international health officials. This time, it is sponsoring international conferences on swine flu and vaccinating millions of its people. In the economic realm, the stimulus package Beijing enacted in response to the global meltdown was huge — exactly the scale that the IMF and the U.S. recommended.


Of course, every nation acts in its own interests, but in all these cases, China also promotes the broader safety and prosperity of the world.


However, other areas show the zero-sum side of China’s international engagement. On climate change, China is one of the big bumps in the road on the way to a binding treaty at the Copenhagen summit in December.

Thankfully — as it is now the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide — Beijing is going gangbusters on efficiency standards and renewables. But unless those domestic ambitions can be turned into specific and verifiable international commitments, there will be no deal, and the world will continue toward climate calamity.


There are other concerns. Chinese companies are signing billion-dollar energy contracts with Iran just as the international community is trying to ratchet up the pressure on the Tehran regime over its nuclear ambitions. And Beijing is still holding out against tougher sanctions as the U.S., France, Britain and even Russia push forward.


Also, China’s human-rights conduct does not live up to international standards, and, often to ensure access to natural resources, it supports and shelters dictators who abuse their people. Its concerted efforts at industrial espionage undermine international law, and its no-strings-attached development assistance, while doing some good, is setting back anti-corruption efforts.


The Chinese say it is unfair to expect a still-developing China to shoulder so much international responsibility. But the forces of globalization that made China the major power it is today are the same ones breeding threats that only nations acting in concert can address.


China has come a very long way in two generations. Let’s hope that the next 60 years see China’s growth into a model citizen and stalwart supporter of the international system — for its own sake and for ours.


 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post







THE worldly philosophers” was economist Robert Heilbroner’s term for such great economic thinkers as Adam

Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter. Today’s free-market economists, by contrast, aren’t merely not philosophers. They’re not even worldly.


Has any group of professionals ever been so spectacularly wrong? Pre-Copernican astronomers and cosmologists, I suppose, and for the same reason, really: They had an entire, internally consistent, theoretically rich system that described the universe.


They were wrong — the sun and other celestial bodies save the moon didn’t actually revolve around the Earth, as they insisted — but no matter. It was a thing of beauty, their cosmic order. A vast faith was sustained in part by their pseudo-science, a faith from which such free thinkers as Galileo deviated at their own risk.


As it was with the pre- (or anti-) Copernicans, so it is with today’s mainstream economists. Theirs is an elegant system, a thing of beauty in itself, as The New York Times’ Paul Krugman has argued. It just fails to jell with reality. And unlike the pre-Copernicans, whose dogma posed a threat to those who challenged it but not, at least directly, to anyone else, their latter-day equivalents in the economic profession pose a clear and present danger to the well-being of damned near everyone.


The problem with contemporary economics, at least with the purer strain of free-market economics associated with the University of Chicago, is not simply that it failed to predict the near-collapse of the world financial system last year.


The problem is that it believed such a collapse could not happen, that all risk could be quantified by mathematical models and that these quantifications could help us correctly price just about everything. Out of this belief arose the banks’ practice of securitization, which put a value on all manner of mortgages and enabled buyers to purchase and swap them with the certainty that such transactions reflected an accurate judgment of the value of the properties and the risks associated with them.


Except, they didn’t. So long as economists insisted that they did, however, there really was no need to study such things as bubbles, which only a handful of skeptics and hopelessly retro Keynesians even considered possible. Under mainstream economic theory, which held that everything was correctly priced, bubbles simply couldn’t exist.


The one economist who has emerged from the current troubles with his reputation not only intact but enhanced is, of course, Keynes. Every major nation, no matter its economic or political system, has followed Keynes’ prescription for combating a major downturn: increasing public spending to fill the gap created by the decline of private spending. That is why the world economy seems to be inching back from collapse and why the nations that have spent the most, China in particular, seem to be recovering fastest.


But Keynes’ vision has yet to reestablish itself among economists, who, like the Catholic Church in Galileo’s time, aren’t about to change their cosmology just because the facts demonstrate that they happen to be wrong.

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post







The American nose in general crinkles at the reek emitted by what must be considered as the most foul-smelling word in that nation — ‘socialism’. The American way of life takes for granted that free trade is the sole pathway to material advancement. The American dream is to take advantage of a system that allows anyone with will and ability to claw up the ladder of material success. The capitalist ethos, of necessity, must not acknowledge the truth that all men are, in fact, not created equal as far as physical, mental and environmental attributes are concerned. Thus those who are less empowered to achieve material success have nowhere else to turn, which explains the relatively high percentage of Blacks and Hispanics who languish at the bottom of the economic ladder in the US. It is startling indeed to learn that America, the El Doredo of every immigrant and the richest nation in the world, contains over forty five million people who cannot afford health insurance. Since the materialistic cult ensures that nothing comes for free in that country, not only is a huge segment deprived of proper health care when sick, but also even insured families in certain cases are driven to abject penury because their scheme did not cover specific areas. Little wonder that reforms in Health Care had been one of the chief issues in the 2008 Presidential Elections.

Past US Presidents had avoided health care reform issue precisely because it reeked of ‘socialism’ and was thus political dynamite. But Barack Obama, who had spoken of “an opportunity to turn the page on politics of yesterday’s health care debates,” appears determined to grasp the bull by the horn, despite the furore his reform plans have raised. Through far reaching changes in the system of health insurance that will incorporate both Government and private intervention, he aims at making health care affordable for every American. Expected to cost 50-60 billion dollars a year when fully phased in, Obama proposes to pay for his plan with savings in the system as well as through tax cuts on the more affluent. It is this aspect of his plan which has caused furious opposition, with Middle America fearing that what they will gain in lower premiums they will lose by paying higher taxes. Detractors also argue that universal health care will create a nationalised system much like that of Canada or UK which will reduce quality of health services, never mind that these are the most costly in the entire world and beyond the reach of the low income bracket. Clearly, to a large segment of Americans, the concept of ‘social welfare’ is an anathema if it involves the tax payer’s money, though it has no objection to the US going to war using the same!







Though it is among one of the most exotic species, bhot jolokia (Capsicum Chinese) has never got the due which it so rightfully deserves. For long its cultivation has been confined to the kitchen gardens. Nor were any attempt made to cultivate it commercially. The demand for the neglected bhot jolokia increased manifold following the discovery that this chilli variety is the hottest of all about two years back. Measuring 1,001,304 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), bhot jolokia was finally regarded as the hottest chilli. Coming out of its long oblivion the demand for bhot jolokia went up by leaps and bounds. In fact now bhot jolokia figures among the tastiest pepper in the world. Taste apart different experiments on the multiple uses of this chilli species have raised its demand. The Defence Research Laboratory, Tezpur has found out that this chilli can be used effectively to control unruly crowds. Taking a step further the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) is conducting trials on grenades stuffed with bhot jolokia to make a powerful yet non-lethal bomb. Now this chilli is also being used to chase away wild herds of elephants from human habitations.

Considering the diverse use of bhot jolokia, the State government has taken a step in the right direction to cultivate bhot jolokia in a big way. As a beginning the chilli will be cultivated on a 300-hectare land. Along with it the government is also planning to promote cultivation of bhot jolokia in Golaghat and Baska districts under the Technology Mission for Horticulture Development. With the conditions ideal in the State for bhot jolokia cultivation, the authorities should come forward and make the farmers aware about the benefits they can derive by taking up the cultivation of this exotic species of chilli. Proper training needs to be imparted to the farmers on the scientific way of cultivating this variety of chilli. The export potential of bhot jolokia is quite high as a number of foreign buyers have evinced their interest in it. Considering its demand, commercial cultivation of bhot jolokia can bring in good dividends to the farmers and the State alike. To make it feasible the authorities should assist the farmers to identify the markets and make the necessary linkages. If cultivated in the right way bhot jolokia would provide livelihood to the farmers as an alternative crop.








The Transplantation of Human Organs, Act, 1994 was enacted by the Parliament during 1994 and came into force on February 4, 1995 in the States of Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra and all the Union Territories. Thereafter it was adopted by all States except the States of Jammu & Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh, which have their own legislations to regulate transplantation of Human Organs. The main purpose of the Act is to regulate the removal, storage and transplantation of human organs, preservation of human organs, regulation of hospitals conducting the removal, storage or transplantation of human organs, functions of appropriate authority, registration of hospitals and punishment/penalties for offences relating to aforesaid matters. In order to make the organs transplantation more transparent and patient friendly, Cabinet has approved the proposals of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to amend the provisions of the Act and also for imposing stringent penalties on persons/hospitals violating the provisions of the Act.








Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary as usual is being celebrated on October 2 and that seems to be the only day when people, including our august VVIPs, remember the Father of the Nation. Of course in the election times various parties appropriate Gandhi’s name for electoral gains. Many of our young generation may not even have heard the name of Gandhi. Yet for us, the old- timers the name of Gandhi was almost synonymous with India. At that time people could not imagine India without Gandhi. People recognised Mahatma as a sage and epitome of peace. It was due to his unique non-violent movement that India finally won freedom. He sacrificed his whole life for the welfare of the people of India. Yet today he has not got due recognition which he richly deserves.

In Gandhi’s philosophy we find a unique combination of politics, ethics and sociology. He called himself a “practical idealist”. He was an idealist on account of his theoretical views, as he believed in an ideal that was completely spiritual. But he was also a practical philosopher who always tried to put his ideas into practice. He tried to show that society and state could very well be shaped in accordance with his philosophical and religious views. According to social philosophy the very origin of society lies in man’s conscious effort to transcend his egoistic ways, that is, to rise above his selfish interest. Thus Gandhi was able to find out the very basis of society which lies in non– violence and self – sacrifice. In that case there must be harmony between our personal considerations and the good of society.

For him in a society there cannot be any opposition between “individual good” and “social good”. “Work” is very necessary for man and it is the basis of social organisations. Even the modern sociologists admit that ‘labour’ which is not different from ‘work’ is the basis of all social organisations. Gandhi wanted every man to be treated as equal. He thought of certain ways for preventing and eradicating social inequality – the doctrine of “bread labour" is one of them. He said that in order to live man must work. It is essential for even- man to realize the dignity of labour and man can choose for himself the work that he can do. Social life has to be a life based on love and willing cooperation and so the doctrine of bread labour can be socially beneficial only when individuals take it voluntarily. Gandhi said that society must be based on morality. As a staunch believer in the theory of Ahimsa, he did not want any violent struggle against any class. He believed that society must be based on love and trust and not on any struggle. According to him class struggle breed distrust and hatred and these forces would have a disastrous effect on society.

Gandhi introduced the doctrine of trusteeship of the rich people. Though he was not in favour of capitalism, he also stated that the capitalists also have an element of essential goodness in them, that every man has. The capitalists should be made to realise that the capital in their hands is the fruit of the labour of the poor men. Then they would realise that they should use their money for the welfare of society and not for personal comforts. Then the capitalists would function as the trustees of the poor and would keep the money in trust. This would guarantee both economic solidity and economic equality.

Gandhi was practical enough to realise that complete economic equality is an unattainable ideal, because men do differ in their capacities and talents. Therefore according to him the economic basis of society must lie in love and trust. This would prevent economic exploitation. He recommended the cultivation of a strong moral sense and love for others. He also thought that over- emphasis on industrialisation prevented the growth of a moral society. Many kinds of evils, both at social and political level arise due to this attitude. International evils like exploitation of undeveloped countries, war among nations, colonial expansion etc arises due to excessive dependence on industrialisation. Moreover, by substituting machines for human labour industrialisation creates unemployment problem. But the strongest reason against industrialisation is that it makes life mechanical and seeks to reduce man to the status of machines.

Gandhi wanted to establish a society where peace and happiness will reign supreme. He said that in an ideal society duties are distributed among men and women according to their capacities. The work assigned to one is not inferior to the work assigned to the other. Man is by nature physically strong and so he can do hard work to support his family. Women by nature are loving and therefore they are to play the role of a mother and caretaker. Marriage for Gandhi is a means for realising a spiritual life.

Gandhi’s political views are different from other political theories in so far that even politics is subordinate to ethics and religion. It is thought that there is nothing wrong in politics – everything is considered to be necessary for achievement. But Gandhi introduced morality in politics. His political views were strictly in accordance with his religious and metaphysical beliefs. He was a deeply religious man and for him Truth is god. He said “I don’t care for God if He is anything but Truth” Satyagraha remained Gandhi’s political weapon. He said that for the realization of the ideal state political freedom is one of the essential pre-conditions. That was why he launched a non-violent movement to free India from foreign domination. The word he used for political freedom was Swaraj Traditionally the word means “self–rule” – but Gandhi used the word in a deeper sense. His meaning of swaraj includes its usual meaning and something more. He said “As every country is free to eat, to drink and to breathe, so is every nation free to manage its own affairs, no matter how badly”. In his view, if a country gets ‘self-rule’ and a few powerful ones control everything and neglect the poor masses, it is not swaraj of Gandhi’s dream.

The idea of political freedom raises the question regarding the relation between individual and the State. The question has become important, as in recent times sociological theories have emphasised the primacy of community and the sociologists have said that individual apart from community has no value. Gandhi, without undermining the importance of society assigns the individual a very important place. Gandhi said that in a sense the individual is more basic than the society or State, since not only he is prior to the State, but he is also the unit around which social and political organisations are built. For him the highest goal of life is moral; conscience or ethical consciousness has to be developed in all individuals. He said that it is the duty of the individual to put moral pressure on the State through non-violent non -cooperation, whenever the State is found to be indulging in misdeeds. A purely moral individual should not talk about his rights; he should talk only about his duties, according to Gandhi.

He also advocated decentralisation of power for the promotion of individual initiative. Centralisation cannot be maintained without resorting to force or violence. Hence Gandhi recommended “Village republic” as the ideal form of decentralised political and social system. The ideal system which can give maximum opportunity for the individual initiative is the “Panchayat system”. Gandhi wanted the States to have ideal government. The aim of such a government should be to concentrate on means for bringing about a good, peaceful and happy state, in which every individual would get equal opportunity. His idea of the ideal state is the idea of the village republic and the villages should be self-contained.

In this kind of socio-political set up Gandhi is moved by the notion of sarvodaya, which etymologically means “betterment of all”. Sarvodaya has some similarity with Utilitarianism which believes in the “greatest good of the greatest number” and which is based on Hedonism. But Sarvodaya is more comprehensive and it is based on love. In Gandhi’s non-violent society there will be no need of police, army or law courts. But he realised that it is not possible to have a non–violent society all at once. So till there are imperfections, police and law courts would be necessary.

It is obvious that for Gandhi truth, love and non-violence are the main factors in an ideal society. He was not happy with a fractured India; he wanted freedom for a united India. His views demonstrate that he was a visionary and he dreamt about a Ramrajya. He visioned a Utopia, which cannot be actual. But in this terror –infested world Gandhi’s philosophy has become more than relevant. If we could follow his theories on ahimsa, truth and love the world would have been an ideal place to live, where peace and happiness would rule supreme. He was more a moral philosopher than a politician, and as he himself declared he was a practical idealist.








Non-violence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed”,said Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of Indian nation. He not only led India to independence but also inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the globe. Gandhi’s novel mode of mass mobilisation and non-violent action brought down colonialism, strengthened the roots of popular sovereignty, of civil, political and economic rights and greatly influenced many freedom struggles and inspired leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyi. Recognising the importance of non-violence in the life of global community, the UN General Assembly, on 15 June 2007 resolved to observe October 2 the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, as the International Day of Non-Violence to popularise the Gandhian ideals desiring to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence among the nations.

Everybody has a desire for peace. The establishment of the UN in 1945 at the end of the most devastating war in human history was an embodiment of this universal desire. Mahatma Gandhi articulated a vision of peace in which justice is an inherent and necessary aspect. The concept of peace has been linked to the wide idea of development, assuming that development is not the classical pursuit of wealth. Peaceful development can be a set of many different elements such as good governance, religious freedom and secularism, healthcare, education, gender and caste equality, disaster preparedness, economic, the rule of law, human rights, environment and other socio-political concerns.

Gandhi drew his ideals from a diversity of religious scriptures, particularly the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible and the Koran. His philosophy and creed was based on satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence) and swadeshi (nationalism). Here, the Sanskrit term ahimsa is translated as ‘non-violence’. However, it is not encumbered in the original transcript by the negative construction and connotation of the English word. It is commonly understood as non– injury to living beings or dynamic harmlessness. It is an important tenet of religions which Gandhi applied to politics by his non-violent satyagraha. For him ahimsa is the means and satya is the end. It was his conviction that ahimsa is ‘the law of life’ and ‘the progressive recognition of the law and its application in practice’ is the fundamental distinctiveness of human from the beast. The history of man is the story of steady progress from cannibalism towards greater realisation of ahimsa and further progress towards ahimsa is the destiny of man.

Gandhi presented non-violence in a new form and shape before the world. The form of his non-violence is not escape or exile but resistance. He marched forward using non-violence as the best weapon to encounter immorality for morality, inhumanity for humanity and injustice for justice. His objective was to create a society based on the principle of non-violence, where man’s freedom would be safe and mankind would be free from repression and tyranny, and thereby peaceful social life is ensured. As practised by Gandhi, nonviolence is a total philosophy of life, the realisation of which makes self-purification imperative. It is the moral weapon to replace the man made weapon. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of mass destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.

He wanted non-violence to be the spirit of life and to fuse it in all relations- familial, social, political, economic and educational. In his view, a person who is non-violent at home, with neighbours, or in society but has no sympathy and respect towards others is not truly non-violent. It is the quality of non-violence that we love those who hate us, not merely loving those who love us. The application of non-violence is a prerequisite for total development, including the personality of a man. In a world of increasingly beset by violence and terror, the value of spirituality as propounded by Gandhi is of paramount need today.

The absence of violence brings lasting peace. Peace is visible when there is freedom, equality, justice, good governance, and the protection of human rights. Between the two directions of peace- negative and positive, the former is the total absence of violence, that is, the state has a set of socio-political structures to put down violence and to provide security of life and property of the individual and the communities, while the latter places global justice as the central concept of peace stressing on the full enjoyment of the entire range of human rights of all people and the sovereignty of nations. The concept of non-violence is thus a universal phenomenon covering a wide area of social and political life. Its ultimate goal is the harmonious co-existence of all life forms in the universe.

The UN resolution is a reflection of the international community’s collective yearning for peace and the recognition of the relevance of Gandhi’s ideals and methods in today’s world which is confronted with ever growing terrorism and violence. Today, more than any other time in history, peace seems remote and has become the most unattainable commodity in the world. Violence assaults our world on every hand. Personal violence, domestic violence, religious violence, ethnic violence and national violence has escalated to unprecedented proportions. Our epoch is characterized by startling advances in science and technology on the one hand, and escalating social conflict and disruption on the other. In a world full of strife, anarchy, terrorism, separatism, regionalism and apartheid, the gospel of non-violence summons us to be loving, tolerant, forgiving, selfless and compassionate and to disseminate its message through education and awareness.










The importance of political spouses cannot be underestimated, especially these days. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has added a touch of savoir faire to French


President Nicolas Sarkozy’s normally abrasive manner, Michelle Obama has added a glam quotient to the US President’s somewhat professorial air, and conversely, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s motor-mouth pronouncements and other shenanigans have had a deadlier fallout without a spouse to deflect them.

Even the US First Lady delivered a snub by proferring only a chilly handshake instead of the now-customary peck on the cheek to Berlusconi at the G-20 meet at Pittsburgh. Now the focus turns to British premier Gordon Brown’s dour inarticulation that fails to enthuse the party faithful or potential voters. No wonder then that he has called in his (only) secret weapon, his wife Sarah, to take on those baying for his blood at the Labour Party conference.

She has overtaken comedian Stephen Fry to become the most followed Briton on Twitter with some 800,000 subscribers — surely, to the envy of own chief twitterer Shashi Tharoor — and seems to have a Carla-Michelle type effect on the British public, who seem charmed by her elegance and confidence as a political player.

If this had been India, perhaps Brown may have been tempted to harness this growing popularity by nominating her for the top job, keeping the power behind the throne for himself, but unfortunately Britain does not take such an indulgent view of such arrangements, unlike India. Still, Sarah Brown’s example should not be ignored by singleton politicos in this country and elsewhere, especially those who are naturally shy and happier working and number-crunching in backrooms rather than facing obstreperous crowds. A suitable wife can go a long way in politics.







The only downside to the government’s decision to close all cases against the Bofors-scam accused, Ottavio Quattrocchi, is that it would take away a chunk of India’s contribution to the global fiscal stimulus at a time of still tentative global economic recovery.

India has been spending money on a global wild goose chase on a scam that is now more than two decades old and has been investigated to exhaustion by law enforcement agencies under political dispensations that had every incentive to bring the guilty to book — with little result to show, except for substantial claims on assorted official expense accounts. It’s time the government disengaged itself from an entirely fruitless exercise and dropped these cases, and diverted the material and human resources currently consumed by the Bofors investigations and cases to something more this-worldly.

It is one thing to keep alive a political metaphor for corruption — and we do not have one more powerful than Bofors — and quite another to keep spending public money and resources on the project. Apart from money and manpower, what India stands to waste by persisting with an investigation and prosecution that lead nowhere is global goodwill as well.

The point is not really that various courts have refused to find anyone guilty of receiving kickbacks in the purchase of 155mm howitzers from the Swedish company in the eighties. Nor is the point really that the alleged kickback amount of Rs 64 crore now seems petty change given the scale of scams that have come to light in subsequent years.

What is more germane is our systemic ability to move ahead with life, after taking a tumble. The Indian army has reportedly been cannibalising its Bofors guns, which did sterling duty in the Kargil war, because of our establishment’s inability to procure spares or even new, substitute field guns from Bofors or its successor entity. What has come in the way is the decisionmakers’ fear of being smeared by the taint. Winding up ever-winding legal proceedings in the Bofors case should pave the way for putting ghosts of the dead past where they belong, so that the living can live, their guns blazing, so to speak.








The BSE sensex has crossed the 17,000 mark, as shares rise on a deluge of liquidity. Since the big governments are unanimous that this is not yet time to withdraw the stimulus, cheap money and surplus liquidity would continue to drive equities even though they look expensive on the traditional price-to-earnings valuation measure.

Increasing the supply of shares through divestment by the government and companies that have less than 25% public shareholding should help absorb this excess money and check the possibility of an equities bubble. Short-term interest rates are close to zero in most of the developed world including the United States, making investment in money market funds almost futile.

Those funds are now beginning to move to equities as the global economy recovers and risk appetite improves. In fact, the low cost of funds in the US has even encouraged talk of the dollar now being the currency of choice for carry trades — investors borrow in low interest rate currency to invest in high-yield ones. However, despite the risks of cheap money fuelling bubbles, neither central banks nor governments are likely to act till the time they are sure that the global economy can roll along without the stimulus, ensuring in the process that the liquidity-driven party continues for a while.

In such a situation, over the short-term, an increased supply of shares can help check runaway prices. A number of private companies have already lined up initial public offers to raise money. The government should also move quickly to disinvest in state-owned companies to take advantage of the good market condition. It should also firm up its proposal that requires listed companies to have at least 25% public holding.

Of course, as we have argued, the rule should provide flexibility, a reasonable multi-year window for one, to companies to increase public holding to the proposed minimum of 25%. However, the government can provide companies some incentive to encourage them to comply with the norm quickly. This could be in the form of breaks on income tax for companies that issue fresh shares and on capital gains tax for promoters who dilute their stake on an accelerated basis to bring public holding in listed companies to at least 25%. The public good of hampering stock market bubble should be worth the cost, not to speak of the tax yields from sustained growth.








If you asked a modern economic historian like me why the world is currently in the grips of a financial crisis and a deep economic downturn, I would tell you this is the latest episode in a long history of similar bubbles, crashes, crises and recessions that date back to the canal-building bubble of the early 1820s, the 1825-1826 failure of Pole, Thornton & Co, and the subsequent first industrial recession in Britain. We have seen this process at work in many other historical episodes as well — in 1870, 1890, 1929, and 2000.

For some reason, asset prices get way out of whack and rise to unsustainable levels. Sometimes the culprit is lousy internal controls in financial firms that over-reward subordinates for taking risk. Sometimes the cause is government guarantees. And sometimes it is simply a long run of good fortune, which leaves the market dominated by unrealistic optimists.

Then the crash comes. And when it does, risk tolerance collapses. The crash is followed by a flight to safety, which is followed by a steep fall in the velocity of money as investors hoard cash. And that fall in monetary velocity brings on a recession. This is the pattern of this recession, and that we have been here before.

But if you ask the same question of a modern macroeconomist — for example, the extremely bright Narayana Kocherlakota of the University of Minnesota — he might says that he does not know, and that macroeconomic models attribute economic downturns to various causes. Most, he points out, “rely on some form of large quarterly movements in the technological frontier. Some have collective shocks to the marginal utility of leisure. Other models have large quarterly shocks to the depreciation rate in the capital stock (in order to generate high asset price volatilities)...”

That is, downturns are either the result of a great forgetting of technological and organisational knowledge, a great vacation as workers suddenly develop a taste for extra leisure, or a great rusting as the speed at which oxygen corrodes accelerates, reducing the value of large things made out of metal. But modern macroeconomists will also say that all these models strike them as implausible stories that are not to be taken seriously. Indeed, according to Kocherlakota, nobody really believes them: “Macroeconomists use them only as convenient short-cuts to generate the requisite levels of volatility” in their mathematical models.

This leads me to ask two questions: First, is it really true that nobody believes these stories? Ed Prescott of Arizona State University really does believe that large-scale recessions are caused by economy-wide episodes of forgetting the technological and organisational knowledge that underpin total factor productivity. One exception is the Great Depression, which Prescott says was caused by real wages far exceeding equilibrium values, owing to President Herbert Hoover’s extraordinary pro-labour, pro-union policies.

Likewise, Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago really does appear to believe that large falls in the employment-to-population ratio are best seen as “great vacations” — and as the side-effect of destructive government policies like those in place today, which lead workers to quit their jobs so they can get higher government subsidies to refinance their mortgages. (I know; I find it incredible, too.)

Second, regardless of whether modern macroeconomists attribute our current difficulties to causes that are “patently unrealistic” or simply confess ignorance, why do they have such a different view than we economic historians do? Regardless of whether they have rejected our interpretations and understandings or simply have built or failed to build their own in ignorance of what we have done, why have they not used our work?

The second question is particularly disturbing. After all, economic theory should be grappling with economic history. Theory is crystallised history — it can be nothing more. Someone observes some instructive case or some anecdotal or empirical regularity, and says, “This is interesting; let’s build a model of this.” After the initial crystallisation, theory does, of course, develop according to its own intellectual imperatives and processes, but the seed of history is still there. What happened to the seed?

This is not to say that the macroeconomic model-building of the past generation has been pointless. But I do think that modern macroeconomists need to be rounded up, on pain of loss of tenure, and sent to a year-long boot camp with the assembled monetary historians of the world as their drill sergeants. They need to learn from Dick Sylla about Alexander Hamilton’s bank rescue of 1825; from Charlie Calomiris about the Overend, Gurney crisis; from Michael Bordo about the first bankruptcy of Baring brothers; and from Barry Eichengreen, Christy Romer, and Ben Bernanke about the Great Depression.

If modern macroeconomists do not reconnect with history — if they do not realise just what their theories are crystallised out of and what the point of the enterprise is — then their profession will wither and die.

(The author is professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley.)







The competitiveness of our economy in general and industry in particular hinges on a system of taxation which, through its progressive approach, optimises revenue consistent with stimulating industrial activity and consequently growth in our economy. The tax system should be fairly efficient while effecting revenue mobilisation in response to growth. And the tax system is efficient if it is income elastic so that revenue grows slightly faster than GDP. How does India fare in this regard? How far has revenue increased in response to reform in tax system in the post-liberalisation period?

Let us first begin with direct or corporate tax. The post-liberalisation period has witnessed a significant change in the structure and composition of taxes levied on corporates. We have come a long way from the earlier regime wherein direct taxes were exorbitant and suffered from multiplicity of rates. There has been a sustained move towards lowering of tax rates. The corporate tax rate has come down from 40% in 1994-95 to 35% in 1997-98 and is 30% at present. The number of tax slabs has also been reduced to three.

Preliminary investigations indicate that yield from corporate tax has increased in the post-liberalisation period. The decline in tax rates has improved compliance which together with a rise in growth rates has made a positive impact on revenue mobilisation. The yield from corporate tax with respect to GDP has gone up from 0.9 % in 1990-91 to 1.7% in 2000-01 rising to 4.3% in 2008-09.

Besides, during the economic upswing of 2003-2007, when economic growth was in the vicinity of 9%, the corporate tax to GDP ratio doubled from 1.9% in 2002-03 to 4.1% in 2007-08. However, tax collections as a proportion of GDP have remained steady in 2008-09 even as ongoing economic slowdown has affected manufacturing output.

Corporate data reaffirms that tax reform has also not made a major dent in government revenues. This is evident from the fact that the share of corporate tax in profit before tax of corporates has been fairly stable, hovering around 20-25% during most of the post-liberalisation period. In fact, the ratio of corporate tax to profit before tax, as per data available with CMIE, declined from 24.9 % in 1990 to 21.6 % in 2004-05 rising marginally to 22.3% in 2007-08. Here it may be noted that corporate tax-to profit-before tax is much higher for foreign companies than for the Indian private sector. This may be because the tax rate on foreign companies is much higher at 42.23 % as compared to 34% (including surcharge and education cess) for Indian companies.

Another fall-out of the reform process is that tax collections have exhibited a certain amount of buoyancy in response to a rise in GDP. This becomes apparent as the elasticity of corporate tax collections — measured by the ratio of percentage change in corporate tax revenue to percentage change in manufacturing GDP at current prices — has surged from 0.8 in 1990-91 to 1.3 in 2005-06 rising to 2.3 in 2006-07 and 2007-08 indicating an increase in revenue mobilisation in response to growth. However, latest comparisons show that buoyancy has gone down to 1.06% in 2008-09 due to economic slowdown. Similarly, elasticity of indirect tax collections has also dropped in 2008-09 as compared to the previous year.

In fact, in the case of indirect taxes, the revenue from Union excise duty as a proportion of GDP has experienced a fairly secular decline even when the economy was doing well: from 4.3% in 1990-91 to around 2.6% in 2007-08.

Similarly, the share of customs duty collections has also declined from 3.9% to 2.2% during this period. And the figure has dropped to 2% for 2008-09. This has happened even though the peak rates of both customs and excise are hovering around 10% and 8 %. Indeed, the country is moving towards a regime where direct taxes are contributing more to revenue as compared to indirect taxes.

Indeed, a fall in tax rates has led to a pick-up in yield in direct taxes to a little over 4% of GDP as compared to around 1.4% in mid-nineties. However, this is much lower than the 7-9% prevailing in most developed countries. Besides, the high incidence of excise burden — 25% to 30% of retail price — constrains demand. There is considerable scope for further raising tax yields and improving the elasticity of tax collections. This calls for further reforms in our tax system.

There is a need for moderating the tax rates and bringing it on par with countries such as Norway, Sweden, Malaysia, Thailand, etc., where the rate of corporate tax is around 25-30%. It is in this context that the proposed reduction in corporate tax rate to 25% with removal of exemptions, as suggested by the draft Direct Tax Code put up for public debate, assumes special significance.

There is a need for broadening the tax base and bringing more people into the tax net rather than nudging the same people to pay more. While the reform process has led to some broadening of tax base due to an increase in the number of assessees, the revenue realised is not appreciable. Presently, there is a heavy reliance on corporate taxes which have a share of 35% in total tax revenue. The services sector, which has a share of around 56% of GDP contributes a meagre 10% of total revenue with many services outside the tax net. Agriculture income is also tax-free. As a result, the revenue foregone could exceed 50% of aggregate tax collections.

The lower yield from indirect taxes, particularly excise, is also a matter of concern as customs duty rate is seen more as an instrument of protection than that of revenue generation. Hence, improvement in revenue productivity of domestic excise collections by ensuring better tax compliance through improved tax administration deserves consideration. The implementation of GST would also augment revenues by plugging leakages. A transparent long-term taxation policy is also needed to help investment planning.

Clearly, there is considerable scope for raising yield and improving the elasticity of tax collections. The time has come to move further in the direction of a simple, neutral and efficient tax system which encourages capital formation in industry even while ensuring a steady revenue stream for the government.

(The author is senior economist, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Views are personal.)








Delivering a speech at an institutional gathering recently on the topic of ‘Rethinking religions’, Arun Shourie, MP, said that by the middle of this century religion would be very different. That its present form would be completely unrecognisable, given the changes brought about by an emerging information society. “Religion as we know it will not be the same in 50 years. There has been a rapid democratisation of the world. The world is a much smaller place. The pronouncements of religions can therefore not remain the same,” he said. More importantly, he maintained that some notions central to religion would not survive the future: “You have to stay with the times or you’ll be left behind.”

One wonders if Mr Shourie had also been sitting in the audience listening to himself would his jaw have dropped? For if there’s one thing we all know that doesn’t change, it’s religion. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc, have lived comfortably through many technological and other intellectual upheavals in the past such as the Renaissance, printing and the industrial revolution, for instance, and have emerged even more stubborn and ossified if anything afterwards. Sure, peripheral elements change — heretics are no longer burned at the stake, sati is outlawed, fundamentalism goes on rampage — but “notions central to religion” not surviving, say, the Internet, is laughable.

That’s because the central notion of all religions, concepts that are cold-welded to the first few pages of any scripture, is that there is a God who is the creator of all things including us, that we have a duty to love and worship Him and that He stands for everything which is good. These things have so far reliably demonstrated a sure-fire ability to endure millennia.

On the other hand, consider Parsis. More and more members of these modern-day descendants of migrants who fled persecution in Iran more than 1,000 years ago, are turning to new technology to keep their ancient Zoroastrian religion alive and kicking. “Websites, blogs, on-line directories and matchmaking portals are being used by the close-knit but scattered and shrinking community to stay in touch and true to the 3,500-year-old faith,” reports AFP. In fact, they’re doing exactly the opposite of what Mr Shourie fears: they’re staying with the times for fear of being left behind. It’s what all religions have always done in order to keep the faith.







South Africa’s minister for trade and industry Rob Davies feels that it is important to conclude the Doha negotiations of WTO as a development round even if it takes some more time. In a recent interview with ET NOW, Mr Davies said only a fine balance between key issues like agriculture and services would lead to success of the Doha round. Excerpts:

How will South Africa ensure that the development flavour of the Doha round is not ignored?

We believe that conclusion of the negotiation process, if indeed we are in the end-game, has got to be on the basis of the development mandate. Commercial demands of the rich world should not gain precedence over the development demands of the developing world and the least developing countries in particular. In general, we need to achieve what we agreed to in Hong Kong — a balance between the level of achievement in agriculture and the rest of the negotiating agenda. I think those are the real challenges and those are the real issues. If there is going to be some conclusion, then there has got to be some serious willingness to address those challenges and concerns.

How long would it be before the Doha round is concluded?

We are not forecasters. Neither are we demanders of a particular date. For us, the key issue is how the round concludes — whether it concludes as a development round or not. I know there are ambitions to complete the round next year. Frankly, there have been many, many deadlines in the past and all of them have been missed.

What are the key outstanding issues that need to be resolved to wrap up this round of trade negotiations?

Well, there is a list of outstanding issues that have not been resolved. They start with the issue of special safeguard measures (SSM). I think here we have the legitimate demand of the poor farmers in the developing world against commercial ambition from commercial agriculture. For us, the balance has to be tilted in favour of the needs and interest of poor farmers. Then, there is this question of ensuring the balance between the level of ambition in agriculture, NAMA (industrial production) and services.

Is the situation now very different from that last year when we were said to be close to a deal?

Our view is that the negotiations that broke down in July 2008 will not restart in December because there was a lack of effort. It wasn’t effort per se, but the large differences over critical issues that prevented an agreement. The commercial ambitions of the rich world were too high and what was offered in terms of the development reforms was too modest. We will have to see if there has been any change now. But the endgame cannot be about simply scrambling to find a conclusion that would benefit some developed nations. The major gains would be systematic reforms that would benefit other African countries, the cotton producers, the least developed countries and so on. And there is a limit to the price that we can ask our constituencies to pay for.

What are the priorities for South Africa?

We were in the Uruguay Round as a developed country. This was the arrogance of the apartheid regime that chose to describe us as a developed country. As a result we took the obligations of the developed countries. When we look at our applied tariffs and the average tariffs compared to the other members of the WTO, we are in a very vulnerable space. The application of the Swiss formula with co-efficient of 22 would mean that something like 25% of our tariff line will take a cut of 30% or more to the applied rates. Well, that’s the level of adjustment that no other country would be required to make.


How is the three-way co-operation between India, South Africa and Brazil working out?

We recently had a very successful meeting of CEOs of the South Africa with India’s minister for commerce and industry Anand Sharma. We agreed that we need to push forward much more earnestly and energetically with a number of investment possibilities, and two-way investment. We have very significant Indian investment in South Africa and we have growing investment presence of the South African companies here in India.







The $6.3-b Mahindra Group, seems to be on a roll. While the automotive sector has notched up its highest-ever sales in the domestic market in September, tractor sales have been able to shrug off a disappointing monsoon. ET NOW caught up with Anjanikumar Choudhary , president — farm equipment sector, M&M to figure out the road ahead. Excerpts:

Has the disappointing monsoon impacted your tractor sales?

Well, September has seen a growth of around 59% over the previous year month-on-month. Therefore, I really can’t say the monsoon has had any impact. But the fact is that September had a Shradh period. This year, we had Navratras and Dussehra. So, it has been a kind of preponement of the festival demand which boosted sales. Overall, we have grown by around 59%. Cumulatively, the growth is about 42%. The drought is likely to have a slightly bearish effect. But October still looks very good, because of Diwali. Till August, the domestic market grew 15%. Perhaps, this fiscal, we will see a growth of 6-8%.

Nearly 90% of your sales are done on a financing basis. How is that panning out?

I can’t say there has been any significant improvement in terms of disbursals, nor has there been any significant drop in interest rates. Two things, however, seemed to have helped the offtake. One, the number of people buying tractors on cash, which used to be as low as 10% in the past, seems to have gone up to 25% or 30%, largely led by a significantly improved cash flow into the hands of farmers. Still, credit does play a major role. And I would say, there has been no deterioration as far as disbursals are concerned. We are fortunate that we have Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services, which is part of the group and certainly supports both our auto and tractor sales.

You have grown by 59% due to higher demand. Is there any supply constraint?

Well, we are beginning to see some tightening of supplies, But more importantly, we are seeing a hardening of material costs and prices. Already, we have seen something like 1.5-2% increase on the average cost of materials for tractor. As per my colleagues’ forecast, we should be seeing a rise of 4-5% in material costs in the rest of this financial year. This, of course, will mean that the industry may need to consider looking at prices.

We have already seen some sort of price hikes, including bi-commercial vehicle manufacturers. Do you see any pressure to hike prices? Is the market ready to absorb price hikes and how soon they can come in?

Well, first, it’s an extremely competitive market and we will be very reluctant in taking price increases. It’s very competitive. If material costs keep going up, I am afraid, all of us will need to look at prices and margins. When will that happen is something very difficult for me to forecast. And I must rather not give a speculative kind of date. But certainly, the bottom line is that material prices are hardening, which may need a relook at pricing.






The $6.3-b Mahindra Group, seems to be on a roll. While the automotive sector has notched up its highest-ever sales in the domestic market in September, tractor sales have been able to shrug off a disappointing monsoon. ET NOW caught up with Rajesh Jejurikar, COO, automotive sector, M&M, to figure out the road ahead. Excerpts:

You have seen robust sales in September. What have been the key contributors?

Yeah, first I would like to say we are delighted with September numbers. It is our highest-ever sales figure in the domestic and the overall sector. So, in domestic, we have done 27,400 vehicles and the total including exports has been 28,200. The other thing, I would like to highlight is that our utility vehicle portfolio, which is the core of our business, has grown by 37% in September. This is a continuation of what we have done in the past few months, where the three brands, Scorpio, Bolero and Xylo, in this portfolio and the pick-up range, are doing extremely well. It is really this portfolio, which has led this growth for us, and when we look at the total sector, the growth has been 12%.

Do you expect the demand to continue?

Well, we expect October to be good as well because the festive season is on right now. As supply side is not so good, there are shortages. This month we have had some key shortages, and outsourced for 3-wheelers as well as tyres for some of our products.


There is also fuel-injection pump shortage. A lot of the products are actually short, given the sudden spurt in demand. So, shortage is a sort of inhibiting factor right now, but the demand seems to be very good.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




India’s early exit from the 2009 Champions Trophy was the second such at International Cricket Council-run tournaments this year. Defending champions at the T20 world championships that they had won back in 2007, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team were eliminated in the preliminary stage of the 2009 edition in England. Whether or not this is a pattern is hard to judge from two performances, but there is no doubting that it has been a deeply disappointing show at the Champions Trophy in South Africa. The tournament itself saw fancied teams fall by the wayside early — India joining hosts and pre-tournament favourites South Africa and Sri Lanka on the sidelines — but there is no getting away from the fact that overall, the Indians performed well below par. Of course it has to be remembered that three key members were not in the squad, hampering Dhoni’s hopes considerably. Few teams can afford to lose a batsman of Virender Sehwag’s calibre or an important member of the pace attack like Zaheer Khan, both not included because of injuries, and hope to put up a strong challenge. Worse was to follow when powerful middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh broke a finger at practice and pulled out of the tournament. Still, a team boasting the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni himself was expected to give a better account than it eventually managed. Adding to the Indians’ woes was the weather, and having lost the first match to arch-rivals Pakistan, a great deal depended on the game against Australia. That match never got a chance to finish with heavy rain washing out proceedings. It was a setback the Indians could not recover from, and though the closing league game did produce a win, it was too little and too late. Looking back, it was the defeat at Pakistan’s hands that really undid Indian hopes and broke a billion hearts. That defeat was a direct outcome of India’s biggest problem here — desperately bad bowling. Ishant Sharma was not two years ago the spearhead, the fast young tearaway who had the Australians hopping on their pitches. Today he looks a shadow of that man. Harbhajan Singh, another key member of India’s attack, was completely off his game in the first two matches. Ahead of them, only Ashish Nehra was able to deliver, not just line and length, but also wickets. Till leg-spinner Amit Mishra was drafted, Nehra was virtually carrying the burden of the attack by his own, and no international team hoping to beat top-quality opposition can afford to have so many bowlers go off the boil at the same time. Finally, the extremely compact format of the Champions Trophy this time with just the top eight teams in contention meant that every match would be a vital one. So it turned out to be with India crashing out of contention on the basis of just the loss to Pakistan. With Australia arriving for a seven-match ODI series at the end of the month, there is very little time to work on the obvious loopholes the team here was hampered by, but given the nonstop nature of modern international cricket, Team India’s think tank has no choice but to dissect this failure — it cannot be finally called anything but that — find solutions, and implement them quickly.








On November 5, 1931, Mahatma Gandhi along with other delegates to the Second Round Table conference was invited to a garden party at the Buckingham Palace. The invitation specified that guests should wear “morning dress”. Gandhi and Mahadev Desai went to the gathering in their “usual dress”. As Gandhi came out, he was asked about his lack of proper attire by reporters. Mahatma Gandhi is supposed to have said, “His Majesty was wearing enough for the two of us”.

Its textual veracity notwithstanding, if anyone could have said this it could only have been Gandhi. This was not just a quick and sharp repartee but a political retort at a time when the English textile industry was reeling under the impact of Gandhi’s call of swadeshi.

So was Gandhi a humorous man? He was capable of great deal of laughter and self-deprecating wit. His humour, like his life, was sparse, economical and in some ways very English. He was taken to inspect the Balilla, where young Italian boys were being trained in Nazi military parade, and he reportedly quipped, “You look quite well-fed”; something only a man who knew the virtues of fasting could have said.

Gandhi cut an interesting figure for the cartoonists of the world, with his lanky frame, bald head, toothless smile and idiosyncratic preferences like goat’s milk. And yet, all his caricatures look alike — simple lines, a face in profile, with his round, rimmed glasses. The cartoons capture the essentials, but are rarely funny, except when he is shown in the clothes of a late Victorian gentleman that he tried to play for a while.

It was very difficult to deprecate Gandhi, except when he chose to do it himself. This failure to mock at Gandhi came from the fact that he was given to transparency and honesty. Caricature requires hypocrisy from the subject of caricature. It requires certain superciliousness. Gandhi was neither. And to make the job of the cartoonist more difficult, he had a lightness about his own experiments and idiosyncrasies.

Gandhi did not have the inclination or the time for humour in the usual sense of the term.
When Charlie Chaplin sought an interview with him, he politely asked “who this distinguished gentleman was”.


Needless to say that during the meeting he spoke to the maker of Modern Times about spinning and the charkha.Gandhi was truly free only inside the prison. That was leisure time when he read, wrote, spun and had long, sometimes idle conversations with his fellow prisoners, like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mahadev Desai and Sarojini Naidu.

Those long months and years were filled with laughter and the kind of bad, almost unpalatable, cooking that only Gandhi was capable of — the only time Sarojini Naidu allowed him near her makeshift kitchen was in the prison.
Humour was not the leitmotif of his life. It was search for equanimity. As India erupted in a frenzy of self-destructive and macabre violence, Gandhi became a lonely, brooding, sad man. He searched within himself, hoping to find the inner-voice that would show some light and dispel the darkness that enveloped him and the country. As he increasingly gave himself up to Ramanama, the self-deprecating humour also disappeared.


We are trying to reinvent Gandhi for our times, sometime we do it a la Munnabhai. Gandhi as an apparition is what we want, devoid of his deep spirituality, his unnerving moral politics and guilt-inducing simplicity. And in so doing, we have managed to do what the best cartoonists could not do. We have turned him into a caricature, devoid of any transformative potential. He has became a floating symbol that could sell anything from computers and gym equipment to Congress’ new-found love for its past austerity and a new limited edition Mont Blanc pen.

As an empty symbol, he becomes available for consumption. His memorabilia can be auctioned and bought. But we want nothing of his politics that challenges the basic features of a consumption society. How would he respond to his new avatar?

Gandhi was once asked, “What do you think of the Western civilisation?” He is reported to have said with a chuckle, “That would be a good idea”. That probably would be his response to the possible new Disney movie on Gandhi.


Tridip Suhrud is an academic based in Ahmedabad. He has translated Narayan Desai’s four-volume
biography of Gandhi, My Life Is My Message.








WE awoke on Tuesday morning to the house shaking. Earthquakes in this part of the world usually last for a minute or two. But this time the house shook for five minutes. The children and I left our beds and ran outside to the clearing in front of our house, where our neighbours had already gathered. Then just, as suddenly as it had started, everything became quiet, and we went back inside.

I packed up my three boys and drove them to school. Just after I’d dropped them at the gate and was heading to my office, I turned on the radio. The announcer was talking about cars floating like toys in the parking lot of the Pago Plaza shopping centre and warned that the tsunami’s second and third waves were expected to hit us on Tutuila Island in less than an hour’s time. Instinctively, I swung the car back toward the school. I just wanted to get to my children.

The road was jammed with traffic and, at the school, frantic parents were calling out their children’s names. Teachers urged us to remain calm. Our children, they said, had been evacuated to the highest point on the school grounds, and we could pick them up there.

On my way, I heard hymns. Some children were singing, while others were praying and crying. I saw one of my sons and told him to go look for his brothers while I did the same. After 15 minutes he ran to me and said everyone was at the car, and I quickly ran there, too.

My 10-year-old was in tears. “Mom, I don’t want to die”, was how he greeted me. My only thought was to drive to the highest accessible point on Tutuila — the village of Aoloau. The drive up, usually five minutes, took 20; it seemed everyone was heading there. We stayed in Aoloau for three hours, listening on the car radio to updates on the rising death toll. People had died. People were missing. Two radio stations had been lost. The only one still transmitting was the religious station. We listened to prayers as we watched waves gathering momentum below in the distance.

Meanwhile, people living across the street from where we and many others were gathered outside our cars brought coffee and bottled water, and soda for the children.

I decided to return home. It was becoming too chaotic where we were, and the exhaust from cars and trucks climbing the hill was choking. We had to drive higher to turn the car around. As we climbed, I was amazed by the hundreds and hundreds of people atop Aoloau — the island’s entire population of 62,000, it seemed.
Our house is at least six miles from the coast, and I decided we would be safe there. We got home around 11 am. We ate breakfast, then took a nap; I wanted the children to be as calm as possible.

The photos posted online were overwhelming. Villages lay devastated. Cars had been washed into buildings, boats onto roads. And water was everywhere.

By 6 pm, everything was still. No wind moved the trees. I responded to email messages from friends in New Zealand, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Michigan — an outpouring of concern for our island. I heard the bells ring for evening prayer. Our prayer was one of gratitude that our family and neighbours were safe. But our hearts were with — are still with — those who cannot say the same, who would sleep for the first time that night without a son, a daughter, a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt, a cousin. Their loss is our loss.
My cousin named Samoa, in Modesto, California, contacted me on Facebook to ask if I would pick up Opi, his 64-year-old father, who lives on the mountain above the coastal village of Leone, and bring him to my house.


So I loaded the children into the car and drove over there. But Opi could not think of leaving his beloved Leone. I listened intently as he told the story of his day.

Opi starts every morning by walking through the village. “The quake hit as I was stretching at the gas station”, he said. “I warned Noelle to lock up and leave as soon as she could. I knew there would be big waves because the quake shook for a good five to six minutes”. As he left Noelle’s store, he waved to four old women weaving mats in a small fale — a Samoan thatched-roof shelter — across the street. “Go home!” he told them. “There’s going to be a wave coming soon”. But the old women just laughed and called out: “Have faith, Opi! God is good!”

When he got up to his house, he heard a crash, as if something had fallen from the sky. Looking down toward the village, he saw the gigantic wave advancing onto the land. He ran toward the fale to get to the four women. But as he passed the dispensary, he realised how strong the wave was, and knew that no matter how fast he ran, they would not be there.

“Still, I couldn’t stop running”, Opi said. “I just wanted to see them one more time. These women are always there at the fale. Every morning I do my rounds of the village, they are always there. Waving at me and I wave back at them”.

Before he even reached the village, the water was already up to his waist. “I knew the fate of those women”, he said. “I just wish I could have done something more. I could have gone over to them and taken them away from the fale with me in the first place. But the waves hit so fast. One minute I was waving at those old women and the next minute, they were gone”.

I asked Opi if he wanted to come with us. “No, this is where I belong”, he said. “I need to be here. There’s so much to do down here tomorrow”.

Opi then hugged us and told us to return home. But the boys wanted to see Leone. The first thing that hit us was the stench. Then, we could see the devastation: cars stuffed in houses, buildings broken in half and filled with debris. The post office there was in ruins. All the houses along the coast were flattened by debris. “And I saw a shoe that must have belonged to a baby, Mom”, said one of my sons.








This is a year for body counts; not the body counts of the dead we listed in Vietnam but the body counts of the half-dead and the half-alive. Foeticide machines are eliminating millions of unwanted girl children. Dr Sabu George has estimated that within a few years, foeticide in India can match the statistics of the Holocaust. We are among the leaders in infanticide in the world. Yet we proudly claim that India is also the surrogacy centre of the world, where bodies are rented out. We are so poor that we are moronising huge sections of our future population for lack of adequate protein intake. Our development projects have created the perpetual litany of displacement. Between the displaced body, the surrogate body, the foeticised body, India is the embodiment of a new body politic.

The starved body, the skeletal body meets the body of desire in the middle class body of sexuality, consumption and waste. Imagine the middle class as a separate society. It emerges like a huge rapacious mouth destroying forests and land in its wake. The farmer who discovers pesticides and technologies creates an epidemic of suicides we barely comprehend. The new body politic is a paradoxical society. It stands distant from condoms but celebrates foeticide. It talks of stability but the everyday violence of urban India, the prose of atrocity dominates every line of our life.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Experiments with Truth were experiments with the body. The truth of the body was a testimony to the integrity of the body politic.

We need to clarify two things at the start. We need not freeze the body of his thought to the charkha. We need not rely on Gandhians either, who as a wag put it, lie between the indentured and the dentured classes. Someone added, with the new Mont Blanc pen there are also the debentured Gandhians to consider.

The Gandhian body was not a reactive body. Gandhi’s idea of work, prayer, fasting were based on the body as a set of experiments in ethics and philosophy. A rethinking body dreamed alternative visions of the body politic.


The body was a perpetual state of hypothesis, working through the truth of energy work, politics and waste. The body became in that sense, embodiments of these truths.

To reflect on the body needs no research grants for experiment but only a way of conducting body talk. One need not wait for prophets like A.P.J. Kalam or Nandan Nilekani or Sam Pitroda. One can live one’s truth through one’s body. Such an attitude does not overplay the prosthetic body as a solution but sees the body emphasising its own strength and limits. This was the message of Hind Swaraj and My Experiments with Truth.
Reading them again, one realises that it is not technology that is the focus of discussion. It is the philosophy of the body and what comes out profoundly is the idea of walking, the metaphor of the path and the symbolism of the journey.

A walk is a way of exploring territory and space. Walking is a form of reflection in practice. Walking is the physical equivalent of storytelling, of defining a narrative through touch, sight, and smell. There is no special walk the talk, the satyagrahi does it all the time. A walk is politics and when you walk away you secede or rebel. It combines curiosity and wonder but with a sense of the poetry of limits. A walking body celebrates the cosmos seeing connections, making discoveries which enchant the everyday. It is an embodied cartography defining a livable universe. You own up to what you can walk to.

The sheer physical nature of the walk, the sense of rhythms merges into the spirituality of the journey. Ethics is a choice of roads and the decision to walk one particular way. The roads not taken are not the ones you are unaware of but those you have walked in the mind.

Walking provides a way of defining community. What is walkable is live-able. You walk to work, to school, to the library. Walking becomes an index of autonomy and welfare.

In fact, in a potent way, Swadesi and Swaraj were theories of a world defined through walking. Walking as practice creates the rhythms of understanding, the variations of time a society needs. The sadness of Gandhian thought lies in the absence of walking as a key narrative marking all his texts. More than khadi, it is the idea of walking, the ethics of pathways that one needs to recover.

The locality and community of Swadesism is the crops you grow, the responsibility you accept, and the society you own up to. It is world defined in terms of walking. Swaraj is the poetry of walking through owning up to the other walks of life.

Each walk is a dialect creating communities of translation. Sadly we ignored the walker and in ignoring walking we face forced migration, displacement, and we ironically call them the march of history. Gandhi’s message was simple. The tyranny of the forced march as history or progress needs to be reclaimed through walking. It was as simple as that.


Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist








America’s policy on Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. Barely six months after unveiling his AfPak strategy, US President Barack Obama is assailed by a host of indications that it is not yielding the expected results. The confluence of three important developments has cast his predicament into sharp relief: the controversial presidential elections in Afghanistan; the grim strategic review by the US military commander in Afghanistan; and the deepening domestic divide on military commitment to Afghanistan.

Mr Obama has said that he is thinking hard about the assumptions underpinning the current policy. His candour is to be welcomed; but unless his administration undertakes a more searching examination of its approach, it is only likely to reinforce past failures.

Consider the elections in Afghanistan. Even before polling had commenced, American and European officials were voicing their concerns about the possibility of widespread electoral fraud. Whilst their apprehensions might have been genuine, there is little doubt that these also reflected a burgeoning mistrust of President Hamid Karzai. Indeed, these statements came after months of tension between Washington and Kabul, including some theatrical confrontations involving American vice-president Joe Biden and Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mr Karzai was well aware of the administration’s ill-concealed desire to see him out of office. In consequence, he opted for an unsavoury embrace of the likes of Rashid Dostum and Mohammed Fahim.

Washington’s attitude after the elections has been no better. Nobody, including Mr Karzai, denies malfeasance during the elections. The question is of scale. American and European officials have suggested that but for the rigging Mr Karzai would neither have obtained an 18 per cent lead on his nearest rival nor crossed the 50 per cent mark to avoid a second round of polling. It strains credulity to believe that hundreds of thousands of votes could have been rigged in favour of a Pashtun candidate, however powerful, when the top brass of the Afghan security and intelligence set-up is dominated by Tajiks. The US continues to grumble about the legitimacy of Mr Karzai, but has settled into a sullen acquiescence of the election’s outcome.

This attitude is unlikely to help and could well be counterproductive. A recurring theme in America’s long history of military interventions has been the intractable problem of dealing with the local ally. Although the government may have initially been propped up by the Americans, it tends gradually to distance itself from the latter — not least to bolster its own domestic standing and to avoid being tainted by the military excesses of foreign forces. The Americans tend to view such behaviour as ungrateful and grow critical of the local government. This in turn leads the host government to display its independence more vigorously. This spiral of mistrust has plagued numerous American interventions, most notably in South Vietnam.

Unless the Obama administration adopts a more mature approach in dealing with the Karzai government, its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan will prove ever more difficult. Such an approach would begin by recognising that Mr Karzai cannot solely be blamed for the ills of his administration. Take the much discussed issue of corruption. The venality of the current regime is evident, but it stems to a considerable extent from the highly centralised structure of the government — one that was imposed on the country by the Western coalition in 2001. Similarly the inefficiency of the governmental apparatus is in no small measure due to the coalition’s unwillingness to adequately bankroll the efforts in Afghanistan. The recently completed strategic review by General Stanley McChrystal repeatedly underscores the need for “responsive and accountable governance”.


This is undoubtedly a key requirement, but it cannot be accomplished without a better working relationship between Washington and Kabul.

The McChrystal review also indicates other problems and blind spots in American strategy. It admits that American forces are not adhering to the basic principles of counter-insurgency operations, and calls for a more population-centric approach. The need to “protect” the people from the insurgents has been a mantra of American counter-insurgency since 2006. Clearly it is easy to repeat such platitudes, but rather more difficult to implement them.

Excessive reliance on firepower not only continues to inflict civilian casualties, but has undermined the legitimacy of Western forces in eyes of the Afghan people.


Srinath Raghavan isa Senior Fellow at theCentre for Policy Research, New Delhi









ON the face of it there is small cause for misgiving over the proposal to devote one-third of the personnel of each of the several central intelligence agencies to anti-terrorism monitoring/ preventive activity. After all, “intelligence failure” is the standard explanation (excuse?) offered after every breakdown in the security mechanism that results in outrage, bloodshed and fear. And since there are various angles to terrorism ~ finances, political support, external sponsorship, underground links, religious fundamentalism, socio-economic disparity etc ~ the bringing to bear of the specialties of each of those agencies could contribute to a more comprehensive “snoop” network. Yet the laying down of a one-third commitment seems so typically bureaucratic, and just a replication of the finance ministry’s blanket 10 per cent in expenditure-reduction that experience confirms is only notionally effective. It would make greater sense if each intelligence service had a unit that dealt with terrorism, the number of personnel depending on the extent of the duties required to be performed. Getting bogged down, or impressed, by numbers is akin to the police contending that adequate security arrangements were made for an event because several hundred cops had been deployed. Quality rather than quantity is what will make the difference and coordination between the intelligence agencies and the regular police remains critical.

What is also desirable is a training institution dedicated to preparing personnel for a highly focused task. Monitoring terror groups, establishing who they are contacting, perhaps even infiltrating them is a task calling for much more than routine police training and experience. In fact there is scope for “specialising” even within the terror-snoop outfit. For a range of reasons not many officers would like to limit their career to a single specific role, so all the more necessary it is that a core of specialists is created to lead the way. Those “leaders” must be adequately compensated; since the promotion avenues will be limited, the normal formula for salaries/perks cannot apply. Any dedicated training centre would also have to cater to officials from the state police forces. At the cost of repetition, active and committed involvement of the state/local police is a prerequisite to effective counter-terrorism operations. The Centre just cannot “go it” alone.






SOME time ago, Discovery India, a tourism journal, adjudged Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong, 75 km from the capital town of Shillong, as the “cleanest village” in Asia. So far no country or village has challenged this, so, naturally, it stirs curiosity about how a nondescript village happened to achieve this distinction, something that should serve as a role model for others. The truth was not hard to find. According to reports on the village, posted on the web, a villager confided that they had simply inherited this characteristic from their ancestors and maintaining cleanliness was a daily ritual. The first thing kids are taught is how to collect litter and dispose of this in bamboo garbage bins kept conveniently at different places, a la Singapore. Plastic bags are banned. So obsessed are they with cleanliness that when a vehicle or passengers at the village bus stand dirty the area, villagers soon arrive with brooms and sweep the place clean. Better still is that every house in the village has a toilet. And for those on the move the village runs a public toilet at Rs 2 per user. Anyone found commiting a nuisance in public is fined Rs 500. As importantly, every villager can read and write.

Those who have visited the village have spoken of the houses being surrounded by flowers and greenery, an environmentalist’s delight. If Mawsynnong matters to the government, it can well sell it on the tourism circuit and find a new source of income by improving the road leading to the village, now already an attraction. Leave alone villages, even most hill state capitals in the North-east have much to do in terms of cleanliness despite the existence of town committees and municipalities. Realising this, perhaps, the Asian Development Bank recently sanctioned funds for an upgradation of some of these. If properly used, there should be no room for complaint nor regret.






THE national as much as the state governments are at sixes and sevens in trying to countenance the Maoist challenge. Within 72 hours, Mr P Chidambaram has effected a flip-flop on the deployment of the army in states along the Red Corridor. And West Bengal’s DGP, Bhupinder Singh, exults that the tribal leader, Chatradhar Mahato, is now “singing like a canary”... after a beleaguered administration’s expression of dubious ingenuity. Three days after the Union home minister hinted that the army would be called upon to assist the civil authorities in countering the Maoists, he has assured Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand that there is no such proposal. The double-think must be viewed in the context of the strident demand for military support from across the spectrum ~ the BJP’s Chhattisgarh, the BJD’s Orissa and the CPI-M’s Bengal.

The last incidentally can even flaunt its experience, having been the base of Operation Steeplechase against the Naxalites in the early seventies. However forbidding the extremist challenge, any such mobilisation is fraught with risks. The short point must remain that the army doesn’t exist for internal policing. The north-east and J&K, border regions both, are different propositions. To seek the army’s help testifies to the helplessness of internal policing and the failure, if not total absence, of governmental measures to contain the Maoist disaffection.

The intensity of that disaffection deepens in Bengal in the wake of the arrest of Mahato, the tribal ~ not Maoist ~ leader. That prized catch on Mahashtami must remain open to question. It isn’t only the Maoist who has condemned the arrest as professionally unethical. For the police to masquerade as mediamen is to be grossly unfair to the ethics of journalism, and fraught with risk for genuine scribes operating in the troubled region. Once contact was established and Mahato was given the date, time and place, locating the hideout ought not to have been difficult in this day and age of advanced technology. He is an expelled Trinamul activist, and has been afloat in the murky waters since last November when the police, in a hamhanded operation, reckoned that tribals and Maoists are synonymous. Indeed, as a tribal leader he has been a pointman of the Maoists, at least to the extent of channelising tribal disaffection, ever since Lalgarh exploded. That said, it must be acknowledged that the CID’s recourse to perceived ingenuity is a testament to the professional inadequacies of the administration as a whole.







LONDON, 1 OCT: Banish the chocolate bars and lock up the gobstoppers ~ letting your children eat sweets could turn them into serial killers, according to psychiatrists.

The surprising claim is made by researchers who found that children who ate sweets and chocolate every day were more likely to be violent as adults.

The finding is based on analysis of almost 17,500 participants in the 1970 British Cohort Study, which showed that 10-year-olds who ate confectionery daily were significantly more likely to have been convicted for a violent crime in their early 30s. 

Psychiatrists from Cardiff University found that 69 per cent of the participants who had convictions for violence had eaten sweets and chocolate nearly every day during their childhood, compared to 42 per cent who were non-violent. The researchers say they controlled for other factors, such as social deprivation, and the link between eating sweets and later violence remained.

The Independent






Man’s claims to progress become open to question with increasing violence and killings. Indeed, the destructive power of violence has reached shocking levels. On his birth anniversary, Mahatma Gandhi’s message of non-violence still rings a bell of sincerity and hope

According to the World Health Organisation’s report on violence and health, in the year 2000, 1.6 million people lost their lives in violence, including 500,000 cases of homicides. The 1997 World Health Report speaks of an average of 65 killings in the USA each day and more than 6000 injuries in inter-personal violence.
In India, during the 1980s, more than 200,000 people died and 20 million more suffered injuries. If so many deaths and injuries are caused by violence in a decade, and assuming that one such death/injury causes distress to about 10 family members/close friends, then about 200 million people are likely to be distressed by the decade-long internal violence in the USA.

WHO’s recent report has quoted a 1992 study which found that the yearly cost of gunshot wounds in the USA is $ 126 billion, a sum much higher than the UN estimates of the extra money needed in a year to meet the basic needs of the world’s population. The 20th century was the most violent century ever seen in history, with the past decade witnessing the worst forms of violence.


According to the World Report on Violence and Health, conflict-related deaths increased from 1.6 million in the 16th century to 6.1 million, 7 million and 19.4 million in the next three centuries. The 20th century witnessed as many as 109.7 million conflict-related deaths, or more than a million per year on an average. (Study by RL Siward). If the indirect impact is also included, then 191 million people are estimated to have lost their lives (directly or indirectly) in the 25 most serious instances of collective violence in the 20th century. Sixty per cent of those deaths occurred among people not engaged in fighting (RJ Rummel’s study).

In the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the estimated deaths varied from 500,000 to a million. Not much is known about the number of casualties in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1998 and 2001, though recent estimates have suggested that over 2.5 million people may have been killed.
An important feature of the post-World War II era is that much of the violence has taken place in Third World countries, although in many cases it was linked to superpower rivalries. In other words, the most powerful countries, having witnessed the devastation that can be caused by modern warfare, were able to shift the costs of their rivalries to the poorer countries.

Not that there have been no peace talks and initiatives in the world in recent years, but these appear to be increasingly hollow and lack sincerity in the context of the acquisition of highly destructive weapons as well as the increasing rivalries and tensions.

Gandhi’s message of non-violence is firmly rooted in trying to remove the fundamental causes of violence ~ inequality and greed. Gandhi said, “It is the fundamental law of nature, without exception, that Nature produces enough for our wants from day to day: and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in the world, there would be no man dying of starvation.

“The rich have a superfluous store of things which they do not need and which are, therefore, neglected and wasted; while millions starve and are frozen to death for want of them. If each retained possession only of what he needed no one would be in want and all would live in contentment.

“Civilization in the real sense of the term consists not in the multiplication but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants, which promotes real happiness and contentment and increases the capacity for service. One can reduce one’s wants by perseverance, and the reduction of wants makes for happiness ~ a healthy body and a peaceful mind.” (India of my Dreams).

The most important aspect of the message of non-violence, as spread by Gandhi, is that it is deeply attached to justice and equality. A peaceful world can only be built on the foundation of justice and equality, but when injustice prevails, then the means to fight and remove it should be non-violent. Capturing the power and the spirit of non-violent struggle Gandhi wrote, “I seek entirely to blunt the edge of the tyrant’s sword, not by putting up against it a sharper edged weapon, but by disappointing his expectation that I would be offering physical resistance. The resistance of the soul that I should offer instead would elude him. It would at first dazzle him and at last compel recognition from him, which recognition would not humiliate him but would uplift him.”

Speaking optimistically of his vision of a future world he wrote, “The world of tomorrow will be, must be, a society based on non-violence. That is the first law: out of it all other blessings will flow. An individual can adopt the way of life of the future ~ the non-violent way ~ without having to wait for others to do so. And if an individual can do it, cannot whole groups of individuals? Whole nations? Men often hesitate to make a beginning, because they feel that the objective cannot be achieved in its entirety. This attitude of mind is precisely our greatest obstacle to progress ~ an obstacle that each man, if he only wills it, can clear away.
“Equal distribution ~ the second great law of tomorrow’s world as I see it ~ grows out of non-violence. It implies not that the world’s goods shall be arbitrarily divided up, but that each man shall have the wherewithal to supply his natural needs, no more.” (The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, pp 458-60).


FOR Gandhi, religion was clearly a place for peace and there was absolutely no room in his thinking for religious differences turning violent. He wrote, “I believe in the fundamental truth of all great religions of the world. I believe that they are all God-given, and I believe that they were necessary for the people to whom these religions were revealed. And I believe that, if only we could all of us read the scriptures of different faiths from the standpoint of the followers of those faiths we should find that they were at bottom all one and were all helpful to one another.” (Harijan 16/2/34, pp 5-6)


Linking wider issues with our everyday lives, Gandhi said, “If one does not practise non-violence in one’s personal relations with others and hopes to use it in bigger affairs, one is vastly mistaken. Non-violence, like charity, must begin at home. (Harijan, 28/1/39, p. 441)

“The alphabet of ahimsa is best learnt in the domestic school, and I can say from experience that, if we secure success there, we are sure to do so everywhere else.” (Harijan, 21/7/40, p. 214)

Gandhi’s experiments in non-violence were cut short by an individual’s bullet, but these experiments should continue for, as the Mahatma said, “We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of non-violence.” (Harijan, 25 August 1940).








In politics there are no permanent enemies or friends; the game is only about permanent interest. It is good that the Congress has finally acted on this simple truth in order to take control of the just-elected Siliguri municipal corporation. Its critics may charge the party with deserting its ally, the Trinamul Congress, and winning power with the help of its Leftist enemies. For a rebuttal, the Congress has only to recall the historic handshake between the dogged anti-communist president of the United States of America, Richard Nixon, and China’s chairman, Mao Zedong. The Congress-communist handshake in Siliguri may be a small affair in comparison. But it does reconfirm the unreality of seeing politics in absolutist terms. The Siliguri decision suggests that the Congress in West Bengal is at last getting its act together. Its abject surrender to Mamata Banerjee over the seat-sharing talks for the Lok Sabha polls, and the bypolls thereafter, demoralized its activists and supporters. The way India’s biggest national party was forced to accept humiliating terms set by a regional party did not augur well for the alliance between them. For the party’s leaders and supporters in West Bengal, this was no recipe for reviving the Congress in the state. It cannot be in the Congress’s interest to see the anti-Left alliance benefit only the Congress.


Predictably, Ms Banerjee has cried foul over the “betrayal” in Siliguri. The Siliguri episode may not be the beginning of the alliance’s end. But Ms Banerjee has only herself to blame for this rupture. Her peremptory ways apart, she seems to be as keen to fight the Marxists as to marginalize the Congress. After a long time, the Congress has an opportunity to rebuild the party in West Bengal. It would be suicidal for it to let that hope be smothered by a bullying alliance partner. Fortunately for its leaders, the assertiveness demonstrated in Siliguri has not come a day too soon. Next year, 82 municipalities, including the Calcutta municipal corporation, go to the polls. The assembly elections follow in 2011. Another surrender to the TMC in Siliguri would have left the Congress even weaker for the bargains over seats in these polls. But the realism shown in Siliguri can also help the Congress redraw its strategies in other states. It could rethink, for example, if Mulayam Singh Yadav should remain a permanent enemy in Uttar Pradesh.








With the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall coming up in a week, Europe might want to remind itself that Angela Merkel grew up on the other side of the wall. She is a Protestant physicist from the communist east, and this is proving to be a very solid muddle. With a mix of doggedness and pragmatism, she has managed to hold on to her chancellorship in Germany for a second term. She was Germany’s first female chancellor in 2005, and many in the Chancellery had begun calling her Mutti or Mummy behind her back. But will Mummy morph into some sort of a Germanic Iron Lady, now that she has got rid of her former coalition partners, the Social Democrats, and taken on the Free Democrats? The Social Democrats have had their worst drubbing since World War II, but Ms Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats, have suffered too. But the German two-vote electoral system allows for contradictory bedfellowships to form at different levels of the political system. The voters can vote somebody in while voting his or her party out, through a split between the local and national levels of representation. Ms Merkel’s strength is her ability to adapt her centre-right position to whoever she finds herself in power with. So many hope that Merkel II is going to be more liberal with the economy than Merkel I, after being unshackled from the Left. But left, right and centre are not that clear-cut in the way she governs. Pulling Germany out of its worst economic crisis since the War would mean being cautious with the tax-cutting promises being pushed by her new partners.


So which is the real Angela Merkel? At the recent G20 meeting, she had stolen the Left’s thunder by leading the demand for capped bonuses and for closer regulation. Although tax-cuts have been the campaigning feather for both the Christian and the Free Democrats, fighting high unemployment and curbing public spending will have to be high on the Merkel II agenda, however ‘free’ from the Left she may have made herself now. In her eclectic new style of centrism, Ms Merkel now forms a natural triumvirate with Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, looming over what now appears to be the pan-European demise of the Left. For New Labour and Gordon Brown, this might be the space to watch, with Ms Merkel a redemptive role model in the kind of trust she (more than her party) continues to inspire in the Germans.









From a media perspective, there are three markedly different ways of assessing the politics of an Indian state. There is, first, the worm’s eye view of events; there is the view from the discreet vantage point of the regional capital; and there is, finally, what may be called the Google-Earth detachment. Readers of these pages will be familiar with the first two approaches in viewing West Bengal. What follows is an exploration of how the present churning in West Bengal is being seen from a distance. The perception may suffer from the over-generalizations of a foreign correspondent’s report. However, since all decisions relating to the state aren’t made by those familiar with local nuances, it may be instructive for West Bengal to gauge its image in the wider country.


A convenient starting point may be the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year. In the aftermath of its disastrous performance, the central committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) issued a sombre statement on June 22. The party, it admitted, “has suffered serious reverses”, having won only nine seats (its allies won a further six) in West Bengal. While noting that the 5.33 per cent popular vote it secured throughout India was only 0.33 per cent below what it polled in 2004 (but had yielded only 16 seats compared to 43 in 2004), it expressed “concern about the erosion in the Party’s support base in West Bengal and Kerala”. At the same time, it put on a brave face, pointing out that the Left Front in West Bengal secured around 1.85 crore votes and in Kerala the Left Democratic Front had polled 67.17 lakh votes. Its conclusion was characteristically blasé: “Though there is some erosion, the main base of the Party is intact by and large in these two states.”


Setting aside the details of the anticipated debacle in Kerala, where election results invariably follow a see-saw pattern, the central committee can be accused of being wilfully disingenuous in its assessment of West Bengal. True, the popular vote for the Left Front slumped only nominally, from 1.88 crore to 1.85 crore. However, in the context of the turnout and an enhanced electorate, its support fell by a staggering 7.42 per cent — from 50.72 per cent in 2004 to 43.30 per cent in 2009. The CPI(M)’s own vote share fell from 38.57 per cent to 33.10 per cent. More important, the Left Front lost nearly every seat in what is loosely called the FM belt around Calcutta. There is ample evidence to suggest that a substantial body of Muslim voters switched over to the Congress-Trinamul Congress alliance and contributed to the Left Front defeat. The ruling coalition just about managed to save face by winning a clutch of seats in the Jalpaiguri-Cooch Behar belt of North Bengal and successfully defending its strongholds in the outlying districts.


The electoral transformation of a state that has been a Red stronghold for the past 32 years — the LeftFront won a majority of seats in every Lok Sabha and Assembly election since 1977 — is calculated to have traumatic consequences. Left rule in West Bengal was qualitatively different from other states in India. It was based on the principle of ascending control: loosest at the very top of the social pyramid and rigidly suffocating at the base. Other ‘bourgeois’ political parties that run state governments operate primarily as electoral machines and build fledgling networks of patronage. They leave day-to-day governance and development projects to the bureaucracy. The CPI(M) politicized almost every aspect of administration in West Bengal. It empowered its local committees, particularly in semi-urban and rural localities, to work as a parallel administration, overseeing all government work including policing. The process began in 1978 during Operation Barga but gradually engulfed every institution, including the arbitration of local disputes. Education was a particular casualty of political control: the CPI(M) insisted on controlling every appointment, from the peon to the vice- chancellor.

The CPI(M) control of local administration proved politically rewarding. The party also became a permanent election machine, blessed with the ability to deliver votes through means both fair and foul. Dependant on spontaneity (the proverbial ‘wave’) and the charisma of individual leaders, its opponents were in no position to match this streamlined machinery of harnessing votes.

A structure based on over-intrusiveness could endure as long as electoral success was guaranteed. The undivided Congress always had a vote share of nearly 40 per cent — impressive, but never enough to take on a united Left. After 1997, a divided Opposition made the task of the Left very much easier but also added to its complacency and arrogance. The excesses of Nandigram and the perceived over-zealousness of the chief minister in Singur revealed chinks in the CPI(M) rural base. Muslims ended up being particularly agitated and the ultra-Left, a euphemism for Maoist fractions, entered into a tactical alliance with Mamata Banerjee to settle scores with the main enemy. The TMC-Congress alliance ensured a level playing field in electoral arithmetic. The chemistry of an all-India election did the rest.


The immediate effect of the Left Front defeat is that the structures of control are fast unravelling. Many of those who sided with the CPI(M) because it was locally convenient have switched sides and others, including a section of the police, are negotiating their safe passage. The Maoists have taken advantage of Mamata’s political umbrella and the indulgence of the left-leaning intelligentsia to both settle scores with the CPI(M) and build bases in outlying areas. A section of Muslims with a sectarian agenda is eyeing a post-CPI(M) dispensation as being favourable to a brand of politics that West Bengal hasn’t witnessed for a very long time. For the moment, the minority community is either with the Congress or the TMC. But will its sectarian fringe don true colours after the assembly election of 2011?


The Left is in a state of paralysis for two reasons. First, the more ideological of the comrades have realized that large contingents of the party’s foot-soldiers were mercenaries and fair-weather friends. They are relieved at their departure but also recognize the damaging impact of these desertions on the party’s election machinery. Secondly, the Lok Sabha election was a personal defeat for the development politics of the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The verdict has made it abundantly clear that State-facilitated industrialization will be thwarted by the general opposition to land acquisition. The beneficiaries of Operation Barga, it would seem, are loath to abandon their attachment to land in just one generation.


To the outside world, these developments are alarming. Since 1967, West Bengal has acquired a reputation for being obstreperous, mindlessly militant, over-politicized and even violent. The impressions may have been based on stereotypes, but they were real and contributed immeasurably to the state being left out of India’s growth story. For a brief period, it seemed that the chief minister was reinventing West Bengal. Now that seems like an illusion. With Mamata trying to outdo the CPI(M) in being cussed and difficult, there is a feeling that the run-up to the assembly election will witness a rash of agitational politics and spiralling violence. To cap it all, as the CPI(M) loosens its control, there is the additional threat of Maoist violence and the growth of Muslim communal politics.


West Bengal may be on the cusp of momentous political change and the end of Left dominance. But the process of change is likely to be very damaging. At least that is what it seems from the outside.








The dangerous, immature and contradictory foreign policy of Pakistan has begun to unravel in a terrifying manner. It spells trouble for the region, and is manifest in the form of unprecedented terror and unfathomable lies. Much like a rogue state, nothing it says can be trusted. Each day produces yet another chapter of reckless games played with nuclear ‘toys’, condoned till very recently by America, until the superpower realized that it had created a ‘monster’, allowed it to grow and assume menacing proportions.


The resultant horror is now beginning to threaten democratic processes across the region and the world. The United States of America needs to make a clean break from supporting its ally under the present terms, and it will have to dismantle the dangerous nexus that has developed over the last decades. The repercussions of ‘climate change’ could be a cakewalk compared to the extent of nuclear proliferation that the US has not been able to check or control.


Spinning out of control, this fast-changing truth will affect the entire world, and not merely Asia and South Asia. China has been striving for political supremacy in the region by providing economic assistance and building infrastructure such as roads, ports and suchlike for the poorer Saarc nations. This is something that India should have taken a lead in. To put it in a simple manner, the mandarins in South Block continued to play ‘Big Brother’, and succeeded in alienating India’s neighbours.


India now finds itself in the unhappy situation of being a recent ‘partner’ of the US, something that has angered our neighbours who, in retaliation, have silently aligned themselves with China. Surrounded on all sides, sharing our borders with nations that do not trust us completely, we will need to undertake enlightened and transparent measures to heal raw bruises.



Many questions pop up. Will the US restructure its position and politics in Asia and in South Asia? Will the Indo-US partnership antagonize Asia and South Asia against India? Has the faith been broken or is it damaged? Are there any fresh strategies? With China and India being the two emerging economic powers, is the US feeling insecure about its future? Will it therefore continue to play one nation against the other? Or will these nations unite and create an inclusive blueprint to alleviate poverty?


Internally, lawlessness continues unabated and in some instances with the state government’s approval. The Uttar Pradesh government defied a Supreme Court order to stop building memorials and statues. The people watched even as nothing was done to stop the violation of a court order. There was even some talk that if any action were to be taken against the concerned chief minister, it might make a hero of her. Hence, it would be better not to take such a risk. A much smaller, and weaker, response was that corrective action has to be taken to honour the order of the highest court of the land. Are we then allowing anarchy and corruption to replace governance and integrity?


As world leaders debate climate change and the destruction that has led to the dire reality, we in India want to ruin the few remaining tracts of forest land in a desperate bid to fast-track illegal projects. Whether it is mining, or the felling of trees to build a highway, the story remains the same. Are we just posturing on international fora or do we really mean business? Are we playing a game of contradictions that creates huge openings for corruption? Does our management of politics and elections depend on raising resources for numerous individuals so that they can make it to the higher echelons of power through illegal and unwarranted means? We need a radical change in the collective mindset if we are to think of solutions that can protect our future.













The current crisis has precipitated a significant downturn in world foreign direct investment (FDI) flows which, over the past year, has spread to all sectors and regions. Last year marked the end of a growth cycle in international investment that began in 2003 and reached a historic high of nearly $2 trillion in 2007.

The subsequent decline in FDI was at first quite modest and affected primarily developed countries. However, since late 2008, it has further accelerated and is now affecting many developing countries as well. UNCTAD’s most recent estimates are that global FDI declined by 14 per cent in 2008. This year, we expect an even sharper fall: recent UNCTAD figures show global FDI inflows down by 44 per cent and mergers and acquisitions by 76 per cent. In developing countries, inward FDI has declined by 39 per cent so far in 2009 and by more than 40 per cent in transition economies.

The unfolding crisis has affected firms’ investment decisions primarily in two ways: First, it has impacted their capabilities to invest because of declining corporate profits and lower availability and higher cost of finance. Secondly, the propensity of companies to invest overseas has been affected by gloomy economic prospects.


Although FDI flows to developing countries continued to grow in 2008, this year has already started to reveal a different picture. Many advanced-economy transnational corporations (TNCs) are reviewing their strategies of searching for efficiency gains by locating in countries with cheaper factor productivity and resource inputs to production. So-called efficiency- and resource-seeking FDI in developing countries has therefore been negatively affected by the recession in advanced economies.

The spread of the crisis to developing economies has also reduced opportunities for firms in search of greater global or regional market share — so called market-seeking FDI. UNCTAD’s World Investment Prospects Survey 2009-2011, confirms the negative outlook for 2009. It shows that 85 per cent of firms are reporting that their investment plans have already been significantly affected and that 90 per cent have a pessimistic or very pessimistic outlook for global FDI prospects this year.

The crisis is opening new opportunities for developing countries in at least two respects. First, developing-country firms looking for outward FDI opportunities could take advantage of low asset prices to expand their international operations into markets and assets formerly out of reach. Second, as the world economy recovers, FDI flows will resume at a strong or even stronger pace for countries that have reformed their investment framework.

The policy response to the crisis is therefore crucial to creating favourable conditions for FDI and maximising its potential contribution to development.

Among the looming global risks that may affect TNCs’ investment plans, one concern is a rise in protectionism by home-country governments. Just as liberalisation of investment regimes in the 1990s helped many countries to attract investment which contributed to economic growth and development, so policymakers need to maintain a renewed commitment to an open environment for international investment.


In addition to private capital flows, many developing countries depend on foreign aid to support investment. In the context of the current crisis, they lack the financial resources to successfully compete with the stimulus and rescue packages put in place by advanced and emerging economies, which now amount to more than $5 trillion. Developed countries should therefore take steps to help developing countries deal with the crisis.

Two immediate responses include an increase in aid flows to developing countries, and introducing a temporary moratorium on official debt repayments. In this respect, I am happy to note the recent decision by the IMF to reduce interest repayments to zero on outstanding concessional loans until 2011.

The current crisis has also exposed the need for an enhanced global framework for financial regulation and supervision. The interrelated effects of financial and investment decisions in a global market on the activities of the real economy have become all too apparent. International regulatory reform is thus necessary to reduce the scope for excessive leveraging and risk-taking, and to ensure comprehensive oversight of the finance sector.









There is a certain snobbery among intellectuals. Because they proficient in a particular field, they exhibit élan with such ease that we must forgive their pride. It’s simply their practiced expertise that makes them the exponent.

A famous singer will delight over the accoustic flexibility of his voice. An acclaimed writer will extend perception beyond the discernment of the reader. The sculptor will whittle the piece to his imagination and imprint the acceptance as unenthused before.


They signify evolved minds coupled with talent and leaning of a kind only intellectualism can capture. How do these souls reach there, whilst the rest of us mundane creatures appear puzzled? Just as brave warriors reach the battlefield, politicians foray into mass manipulation, as do the yogis scale the Himalayas.

What then is important? Timing! Mozart received early recognition, but his restlessness got him very little monetary benefits for his prodigious talent. Jane Austen begot literary acclaim, but none reached her personally, because she chose to write under a pseudonym. Michelangelo garnered an elite place for himself during Renaissance when art and culture flourished.

Talent is appreciable when time and acceptance of it is specified to be right. Common people make for the appreciation of any highly skilled work or ability. This philosophy seems a little contradictory. One may ask how expertise and talent can be adjudged by the common man. Well, therein lies the quandaries of the likes of Mohammed bin Tuglaq and his experiments with coinage! What is not acceptable to society is not talent.
Politicians may not be talented, but, sinuous, crafty in the art of influencing the masses. In the way they whip up mass hysteria and singular following of ideology. Politicians make news and then debate over their ability or ineptitude of having brought on the situation and belie the screaming media effectively, pulling all strings.

Shashi Tharoor has a long way to go before he learns the ropes of being a politician. It’s the goose and the gander story. Witticism may go well in diplomatic circles but will pale in the domestic arena amidst the passé. Intellectualism has already been greatly impoverished by political misrepresentation. What is left must be garnered for the future. Very few have the understanding of web language. Besides who is looking to be amused when most are hungry for a square meal? Not until the cows come home.








The onus has always been on kidnappers to prove that their hostages are alive and well. Yet this week, the government of Binyamin Netanyahu paid Hamas to do just that.


Rather than tell Hamas that unless it could prove Gilad Schalit was in good condition there was nothing to negotiate, Israel agreed to release 20 Palestinian women prisoners in exchange for a recent video of the captive soldier.


The official spin is that these Palestinian ladies are not accomplished terrorists. Yet each and every one of them tried to kill, or help someone else try to kill Israeli soldiers or civilians. They are members of Fatah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Some, like the knife-wielding Bara'a Malki, are juveniles serving short terms. Others such as the 47-year-old Zohar Hamdan, were caught smuggling suicide bomb belts.


Forget those stereotypes about Jewish business acumen. This was a bad bargain.


In paying for this "sign-of-life," Israel has also certified that Hamas's counterintelligence operation is superb. Clearly, our intelligence agencies don't have a handle on where Schalit is being kept - even though it's probably a relatively short drive from the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.


Discharging the women inmates is phase one of a deal that could see the staged release of 1,000 terrorists, including key operatives behind some of the most heinous bloodbaths carried out by the Palestinian "resistance." If things go smoothly for Hamas, it will have essentially achieved the objectives put forth the very first week Schalit was taken prisoner three years ago.


The main stumbling block to total Israeli capitulation is, apparently, the security establishment's insistence that the 1,000 terrorists be confined to the Gaza Strip. Assuming further elasticity of Israeli principles, a steadfast Hamas politburo will have triumphed over two consecutive Israeli cabinets loaded with savvy ex-generals.


WHILE PAYING Hamas's price will end the Schalit family's ordeal, it will also have two perilous repercussions: Some of Hamas's most able "engineers" and tacticians will resume their careers; and the movement's standing within the Palestinian polity - and in the international arena - will further solidify.


Palestinians assert that Israel is holding 9,000 prisoners. If one Israeli soldier can buy 1,000 prisoners, how many will it take to deliver the other 8,000?


From Hamas's vantage point, all this could not come at a better time. The Islamists, under Egyptian auspices, may soon sign a "national unity" pact with Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, paving the way for West Bank and Gaza elections in 2010. Hamas will then reasonably campaign as the "resistance" faction that can "deliver" Israeli concessions.


It is true that the Abbas "moderates" have shown no sign of wanting to come to an agreement with Israel - not with the Olmert-Livni government, and not with Netanyahu's. Fatah refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state; Abbas's maximalist negotiating demands would have a militarized Palestine face a truncated Israel confined behind the 1949 Armistice Lines. Strategic settlement blocs would have to be abandoned. The cost of making peace on Abbas's terms would be acceding to the demand for millions of Palestinians to "return" to Israel proper.


Nor has Abbas prepared his people for the idea of coexistence. In fact, though he egged Israel on to rout Hamas during Operation Cast Lead, now he's exploiting the Goldstone Mission's findings, leading the bandwagon to have Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin labeled "war criminals."


With all that, Abbas does proclaim his backing for a two-state solution. He does not advocate portraying the Palestinian conflict with Israel as part of the global jihad. Hamas, in contrast, will not even entertain the prospect of Israel's right to exist. And its theoreticians are unregenerate anti-Semites.


WE DO not presume to know the depth of suffering felt by Gilad Schalit and his parents, Noam and Aviva, dignified and indefatigable advocates for their son's freedom. But the government's responsibility extends to the entire House of Israel.


Much as we Israelis welcome a sign of life from the soldier whose fate is so much in our hearts, it is the government's duty to pursue his freedom mindful of the many other lives at stake down the road.








Amidst the major developments of the last few weeks surrounding Iran and the opening of the UN General Assembly, the Quartet - representing the US, the UN Secretariat, the EU and Russia - issued a new policy statement in New York on September 24 about the state of Israeli-Palestinian contacts that was extremely disturbing. Surprisingly, it has received little if any notice in the mainstream media.


As usual, the Quartet meeting in New York that issued the statement was held at a very senior level - including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with the US special envoy George Mitchell, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, and Tony Blair, the Quartet representative.


At the outset, the statement discarded the principle of reciprocity, which not only is closely associated with the diplomatic principles advocated by Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, but is also a fundamental axiom of international law. Astoundingly, the Quartet called on both parties to "act on their previous agreements and obligations - in particular adherence to the road map, irrespective of reciprocity (emphasis added)..."


The road map was issued in March 2003 by the Quartet, which was formed by the Bush administration to provide European states with a formal peacemaking role in exchange for gaining their support for the Iraq War.


But the original road map was "performance-based" - movement from one stage to the next was contingent upon the fulfillment by both Israelis and Palestinians of their respective responsibilities. Now this critical element appeared to have been removed. True, the erosion of the road map was helped by past Israeli governments that plunged into permanent-status negotiations before the Palestinians fulfilled their obligations. But it is the new formal position of the Quartet that provides the final blow to the road map's carefully structured conditionality.


In general, the Quartet wanted to provide its own multilateral stamp of approval on President Barack Obama's UN address from September 22. It is to be remembered that Obama's remarks were unusual in their exceptionally long and detailed treatment of the Arab-Israel conflict: Roughly one-tenth of the speech was devoted to the issue of Israel and the Palestinians - far more than any other conflict in the world. He specifically proposed the establishment of "a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967."


In doing so, Obama adopted language that was not balanced out by an equal reference to UN Security Council Resolution 242, which appears in the Quartet road map and did not call for a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines.


OBAMA'S PUSH for the 1967 lines is also evident in his language during his UN address that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."


In April 2004, president George W. Bush sent a letter to prime minister Ariel Sharon stating that it was unrealistic to expect that Israel would withdraw from its large "population centers" in the West Bank. This acknowledgement of the settlement blocs granted a portion of the settlements a degree of legitimacy that Obama's formal remarks denied.


It also led Bush to accept the fact that Israel was not going to withdraw to the 1967 lines and was entitled to "defensible borders." The Bush letter, moreover, received massive support from both houses of the US Congress in June 2004, providing it with bipartisan backing (including Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Hillary Clinton). Given the language Obama used at the UN - and the Quartet now backed - it is not surprising that his administration has not openly committed itself to the 2004 letter.


The Quartet statement also goes out of its way to back the Palestinian Authority's new plan for building the institutions of a Palestinian state over the next 24 months - which was drafted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. On the one hand, the Fayad Plan appears to address Israel's call for bottom-up peacemaking by tackling head-on the lack of sufficient self-governing bodies on the Palestinian side. On the other hand, it is a program that leads the Palestinian Authority seven-eighths of the way to an independent Palestinian state, leaving ambiguous how the Palestinians get to the finish line. What it leaves open is the possibility of a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians or by someone else.


For example, during July the EU's Javier Solana lectured in London and said that if the peace process was going nowhere, the international community should consider recognizing a Palestinian state under a UN resolution even without Israel's consent. He called for a fixed deadline for future negotiations. The Fayad Plan could prepare the groundwork for such international action by providing the Palestinians with the main legal preconditions for recognition: the exercise of effective governmental control, the capacity to engage in foreign relations, and a defined territory.


The last criteria for statehood is the most problematic. According to Solana, after the UN Security Council proclaims the adoption of a two-state solution, it will also adopt further follow-up resolutions regarding the highly contentious issues of refugees, Jerusalem and borders. In short, the Solana plan is an imposed solution, using the UN Security Council as its main instrument, which will decide the issue of Israel's future borders and those of the Palestinian state.


There is an Israeli belief that the Solana plan would not have been floated without consulting high-level US officials. It is difficult to substantiate this argument on the basis of the public record alone. Yet, given the changing language on borders used by the Obama administration, as well as the Quartet's policy statement, this line of argument cannot be dismissed. With the principle of reciprocity jettisoned, there will be a straight path to Palestinian statehood in two years, regardless of whether the Palestinians are fulfilling their obligations under the road map or the Oslo Agreements from the 1990s.


ISRAELI DIPLOMACY is heading for unchartered waters, having to balance between negotiations with the Palestinians and the possibility of a new muscular multilateralism at the UN, led by the Quartet. What is clear is that if the Palestinians understand that they will receive a Palestinian state on a silver platter in two years time - that will additionally be based on the 1967 lines - then why should Mahmoud Abbas bother to negotiate or make a single concession?


Under such conditions, the Palestinians are likely to prefer advancing the campaign to delegitimize Israel, by increasingly turning to the International Criminal Court and other UN bodies. At the same time they will insist that the Obama administration put its own peace plan on the table that prejudges the outcome of negotiations by detailing future borders. An alternative that has been raised is an Obama side-letter to the Palestinians on borders that neutralizes Bush's past guarantees.


The only way to block this drift in diplomacy is for Israel to be very firm about its positions. It cannot accept any negotiating process with Abbas that allows the Palestinians to multilateralize Israeli-Palestinian differences while negotiators sit across from one another.


Finally, Israel should be insisting on protecting its rights that have been recognized in the past in UN Security Council Resolution 242 and in the bipartisan-backed Bush letter, rather than just letting these past guarantees slide away amidst the current rhetoric about ending "the occupation that began in 1967." Otherwise, Israel will be forced to accept a process whose terms of reference only protect the interests of the Palestinians and leave the State of Israel increasingly exposed.


The writer is the president of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. He is the author of The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West.


















The establishment of a state commission of inquiry to investigate the Goldstone report's allegations of Israeli war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza is the only appropriate response the Israeli government can make.

Anyone who thought after the operation or who still thinks today that it is possible to dismiss charges that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and perhaps even crimes against humanity, without a serious, independent investigation is deluding himself. The internal probes the Israel Defense Forces conducted could assist an objective inquiry, but they cannot replace it. The gravity of the allegations necessitates a probe by a state commission of inquiry because this is a matter "of vital public importance," as the Commissions of Inquiry Law puts it.

The Goldstone report stressed that only an independent investigation could prevent a complaint from being filed against Israel in the International Criminal Court in The Hague by a prosecutor acting at the Security Council's behest. It is possible that Israel could prevent the case from being transferred to the ICC by diplomatic means, first and foremost America's veto in the Security Council. But even if the United States backs it, the suspicions of disproportionate harm to Palestinian civilians who were not involved in terror will continue to weigh on Israel's moral image and international standing.


An external investigation is needed not only because of the fear that Israeli ministers and army officers will be arrested overseas, but also because of Israel's own domestic interest in investigating what happened and whether it was justified. The Israeli public deserves and needs to know whether IDF soldiers, their officers and their political overseers acted legally and morally during the Gaza operation. It is also important for a body outside the army to lay down rules on what is permitted and forbidden during military operations conducted in a civilian environment.

A commission of inquiry whose members are appointed by the Supreme Court president and which is chaired by a current or former Supreme Court justice will enjoy both local prestige and international recognition. The commission of inquiry into a 1982 massacre in two Beirut refugee camps - which was headed by then-Supreme Court president Yitzhak Kahan and whose members included a future Supreme Court president, Aharon Barak - helped Israel defend itself against the charge that it was directly responsible for the massacre.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak oppose an external investigation into the events of Cast Lead, viewing this as a no-confidence vote in the army and its probes. Instead of examining whether there is any justice to Goldstone's accusations, they are waging a diplomatic battle against him.

But they are wrong. Only a commission whose members are not appointed by the government will be trusted both at home and abroad. A governmental inquiry committee, or any other body whose members are appointed by the premier or defense minister, will not enjoy the necessary degree of local and international confidence, even if it is granted real investigative powers.


Only a state commission of inquiry headed by a jurist with an international reputation can address the Goldstone report with the requisite seriousness, clarify the suspicions of war crimes and lay down rules for the future. The government must authorize the establishment of such a commission, thereby demonstrating that it has nothing to hide and no one to protect.







"If all the talk, rumors and leaks about the impending war are not a ploy, then this government is going out of its political mind." That line comes from the opening of an article headlined "Bloody Poker" in Haaretz on May 14, 1982, in which the writer warned the government about the danger of a large-scale military operation in Lebanon. But prime minister Menachem Begin and defense minister Ariel Sharon, a highly thought-of leadership duo, ignored the warnings and three weeks later invaded Lebanon and embroiled Israel in a bloody war that went on for years, during which high school students about to enlist sang a song that went, in rough translation, "Fly us off to Lebanon / There we'll fight for Sharon / And come back in a coffin." That war begat Shi'ite power, brought Hezbollah to Lebanon and turned Iran into the most dangerous of Israel's sworn enemies.

The Iranian regime doesn't speak of two states for two peoples or of a construction freeze and removal of outposts. It speaks about wiping Israel off the map. It doesn't even pretend that the nuclear weapons it is developing and its long-range missiles are for self-defense. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may look like a peanut vendor, but that's misleading. He has far more satanic power than meets the eye, and he makes it abundantly clear that his aim is the destruction of Israel. His holocaust will not be "a Zionist fiction."

Quite naturally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are preparing for the worst. The media is full of items about a preemptive Israeli strike. But Iran isn't Iraq, which built its French reactor almost overtly, making it an easy target for the Israel Air Force in 1981. In Iran, everything is underground, with reinforced concrete roofs and walls 2.5 meters thick, and there are dummy targets as well. It is incumbent upon our intelligence organizations to know what to hit and what special kinds of ordnance are required, ordnance we may not even possess. And it goes without saying that any large-scale operation of ours will bring a hail of missiles with half-ton warheads or more on Israeli cities, and rockets from Hezbollah's stockpiles.


Just in case we haven't yet grasped the point, Iran chose Yom Kippur to carry out a well-publicized exercise, launching its latest missiles, which, as was very evident, are far from being makeshift Qassam rockets.

Whatever message Israel is putting out, Netanyahu knows that this country does not have the capability to wipe out Iran's nuclear capability in one strike, so the government is gathering intelligence for itself, the United States and Europe to learn what it can about the death machine Iran is building. Presumably, on his recent secret trip to Russia Netanyahu passed on information about Iran's project. Most of Israel's moves are aimed at creating a situation in which the United States will serve as the spearhead in sanctions or military action against Iran.

Some observers, including this writer, didn't like Netanyahu's speech in the UN General Assembly. But in retrospect, it was a well-crafted political gambit; first and foremost the fact that he spoke in English, addressing directly, without the intercession of interpreters, the people who will decide what is going to happen in Iran. The chance to speak came like a gift from heaven, enabling him to spotlight the Iranian threat, its scope and meaning for the world.

In this country, his brandishing of the Nazis' blueprints for Auschwitz was not very well received, but since the Holocaust is not perceived today as something possible, his act served as a fitting reply to Ahmadinejad's lies and plans to launch a holocaust of his own against us. Netanyahu's move was a sophisticated one when considering the timing and forum; it was the opposite of David Ben-Gurion's dismissive "Um Shmum" attitude toward the world body. The use of the Holocaust was jarring but appropriate. He showed the world what it means when one UN member state threatens to liquidate another.

Using his powers of expression, Netanyahu lowered the importance of the Palestinian issue. Moreover, the Palestinian delegation walked out of the auditorium when he spoke, at a time when negotiations and the prospect of living side by side in peace are on the horizon. In any case, the Iranian menace and the world media's focus on the danger that Israel will attack Iran serve to minimize the local dispute, especially in view of U.S. President Barack Obama's initiative for imposing sanctions on Iran in the future.

As an outstanding orator, Bibi did a good job in getting the sane countries to focus on Iran. Whether he is made of the leadership material to drag the country into an independent military operation against Iran is a pointless question. Iran is a threat to the sane world. Europe, the Arab states and Obama, as the leader of the world, have a problem. We must not isolate ourselves from the whole world, but operate as part of the international community, and not by any means go it alone.









Some people say the Israel Defense Forces is the best army in the world. Some claim this may once have been true, but it has become fat and rebellious. There is no argument about one thing: The IDF is the country's strongest pressure group. If the army wants something, it gets it no matter what. The cost and circumstances are unimportant. It wanted another NIS 1.5 billion and received it yesterday.

Every year the cabinet conducts the traditional debate over the defense budget. The General Staff prepares for it for weeks. On the appointed day, a delegation of 20 senior officers joins the cabinet meeting equipped with sophisticated laptops. They dim the lights and show colorful PowerPoint presentations, classified films and frightening intelligence assessments, accompanied by red arrows all aimed at the heart of the country.

They explain to the ministers that the threat surrounding us is growing. It's always growing. Even after the peace with Egypt, even after the peace with Jordan, even during the Iran-Iraq war. At one time the threat came from Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, then from the maneuvers by the Syrian army, and later from Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Now Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is providing the greatest scare tactic of all - nuclear weapons.


The officers spell out all the threats, and the chief of staff mentions to the cabinet, by the way, that "it will be your responsibility if our requests are not approved." And the ministers sit shrinking from fear, willing to give the chief of staff their own salaries if he'll only stop.

The latest maneuver - adding NIS 1.5 billion to the defense budget two and a half months after the Knesset passed the state budget - was easy pickings. After all, the officers were facing a panic-prone prime minister and a finance minister who wouldn't dream of opposing his master. Only four months ago, Yuval Steinitz demanded a cutback of NIS 3 billion in the defense budget; how is it that he is now defending the additional funds?

According to the report by the Brodet Committee, which examined the defense budget, the IDF should have cut its budget because economic growth this year will be less than 1 percent. But not only did the army fail to institute cutbacks, it received additional funds. That's exactly what we were afraid of - that the additions proposed by the Brodet Report would represent a level from which the only way to go was up.

The defense budget will be NIS 48.6 billion this year and 53.2 billion next year - the highest in the country's history. In such a huge budget there is tremendous flexibility - many development and long-term plans that can be postponed if you want NIS 1.5 billion for a specific purpose. But the army wants it all: to carry on with all its projects, to buy the most expensive plane in the world, to maintain extraordinary service conditions that let members of the regular army retire and receive pensions at age 42, to continue with the luxurious defense delegations in New York, Washington, Paris, Brussels and Berlin, and not to reduce, God forbid, the large number of defense attaches all over the world - a work rota for those close to the plate.

Anonymous defense sources said this week that the budget addition stems from a "dramatic development." That's the method: frightening and unexplained words to cause panic in the cabinet and the entire House of Israel. Only two weeks ago Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that "Iran does not constitute an existential threat to Israel." Only two weeks ago he said "I'm opposed to panic." But now that's exactly what he's doing.

Barak sometimes speaks in lofty words about the importance of social affairs and welfare. Occasionally he sheds crocodile tears about the bitter fate of the weak and poor. But in fact he harms them time after time. In order to get the NIS 1.5 billion there must be budget cuts on learning centers for weak students, extra hours for students with difficulties, daycare centers for young children, as well as centers for youth at risk and single mothers. There must be cuts on research and development, professional training, business mentoring, immigrant absorption, policing the cities and health care.

When the cabinet approved the Brodet Report, the army promised to submit an efficiency plan to save NIS 30 billion over 10 years. The plan was supposed to be acceptable to the treasury, approved by the National Security Council and submitted to the cabinet in November 2007 - but it was never submitted. In early May, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi promised to submit within four months a consensual plan to raise the IDF retirement age. After all, there is no reason why an economist in the Defense Ministry's Kirya compound in Tel Aviv should retire on a budget-funded pension at 42. He can continue working until 67, like every other economist. But the four months have passed, and Ashkenazi hasn't brought any plan to the cabinet.

The IDF and Defense Ministry are turning us into a laughingstock. The rules of proper administration and budgetary discipline do not apply to them. They take the whipped cream and cherry from the public pie and leave the worst parts for social affairs and welfare. Instead of a country with an army, we have an army with a country.








All the rivers, we are told in Ecclesiastes (which is read on the Sabbath during Sukkot), run into the sea, yet the sea is not full - at least not yet. But all this is set to change, as the sea will surely overflow its shores pretty soon due to world climate change. Merchant ships are navigating the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia and Canada for the first time in history.

So is the end of the world at hand? At the sight of eternal mountains of ice melting and crumbling, even the last hold-out ecological-holocaust deniers are starting to stammer, and the world, with its last remaining strength, is trying to save itself from itself, before this planet becomes just another planet. No statesmen and women today who don't place global warming at the top of their agendas and that of their constituencies are worthy of their titles.

No utterance by the government nowadays fails to include a reference to greenhouse gases and the urgent need to curb their emission, to bottle the polluting genie inside the smokestack, to turn back the wheels of industry and transportation, even as they move forward. More than 100 heads of state gathered in New York last week for yet another emergency conference on the subject. Who wasn't there? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that's who.


Of all people, he - who is considered an expert on terrorism, by himself at least - should know by now that oil pipelines are the blood vessels of global terror, and as long as the flow's configuration is not changed and alternative energy - solar, wind and water - is not developed, the dark side of the globe will expand at the expense of the illuminated side. Democracies will go on licking the oily boots of corrupt tyrannies, in whose yards most of the gushing wells are to be found. No longer are there barriers separating political-security issues, which we still set above all our other concerns, and ecological issues, which we still relegate to the lowest levels.

But Bibi didn't bother to be there, as if he were trying to prove once more that Israel isn't part of the whole, as if this country were an island unto itself. But being an island isn't a way out - islands will be the first to be flooded over when the sea level rises.

You'll say he was busy and had to stay at his nearby hotel. But U.S. President Barack Obama also had a problem or two on his plate, and the German chancellor had the climax of a general-election campaign waiting for her at home.

You'll say Israel is a small country - what can it contribute to a forum like that? But Denmark is also small, and that's where all the world's leaders will gather in December to forge a new agreement on emissions. Will Copenhagen have the privilege of hosting Netanyahu? Probably not.

True, Israel is a small country, but as a polluter it's quite big. And every country, without exception, has to look at itself as an America, China, India or Brazil, responsible for the well-being of Earth and humankind.

Israel's leaders, who actually enjoy traveling the globe and partaking of its fullness, are not people of today's wide world. They are people of yesterday's world, in their dug-in positions, in their wars - the next war is always the last war - and in their environmental policies.


They are ready, of course, to share the world's sorrow, as long as they are at the center of the world, at the center of the sorrow. And if not, let the world go to perdition, along with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.








GENEVA - There was not much excitement here yesterday as the talks took place around a table in an 18th-century villa outside the city, wherein representatives of Iran sat with representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany. The city of reformist Protestant preacher John Calvin has already been the site of dozens of peace conferences and conventions, which have attempted to bring about a restriction of conventional or nuclear weapons; events that in their day were described as "historic" and "decisive," but which led up to additional confrontations, conflicts and wars.

The talks really are important. This is the first time in many years that senior representatives of the U.S. administration are openly meeting for talks with senior representatives of Iran - and not only in a multilateral framework, but in private talks as well. That is no small matter. Up until nine months ago the previous administration refused to talk to Iran, and the only language used encompassed threats to impose additional sanctions and hints about a military attack.

This change of course was brought about by U.S. President Barack Obama, who declared his willingness to talk to Iran in the hope that it would agree to postpone enriching uranium. Obama changed his country's policy, without preconditions, but thus far Iran has not responded with a gesture of its own. On the contrary, the victory of the extremists in the most recent elections headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the suppression of the opposition and the strengthening of the status of the Revolutionary Guards do not bode well for anyone looking for moderation and compromises from Tehran.


But in the balance lie not only political disputes and contradictory interests, but historical grudges and cultural gaps as well. The United States and its partners in the European Union have clear issues they want to discuss with Iran: its nuclear program and curbing its support for extremist organizations in the Middle East, first and foremost Hezbollah and Hamas. But Iran, which in previous centuries was exploited and humiliated by great powers, now wants something else, something more abstract. Iran wants to be respected, to have its status recognized, to have everyone understand that it considers itself the successor of an ancient civilization. But even if it receives from the United States and the Western countries the amount of respect it is convinced it deserves, and a full appreciation of its history, this will not be sufficient to solve the crisis.

The roots of the crisis are political. Through its behavior over the past 25 years, Iran has been proving that it is stubbornly and unremittingly trying to achieve military nuclear capability - and that it is willing to take risks. It is possible that Iran will not assemble the bomb and will make do with "nuclear vagueness," but it is clearly doing everything possible - using deception, cunning and denial - in order to achieve the capability that will enable it, if it so desires, to possess nuclear weapons. Iran is not far from its goal; it's a matter of a few more months, or maybe a year to a year and a half. Iran has apparently made a strategic decision to march down the nuclear path at any price.

During the past five years, it has often been said that the international community is giving Iran a "last chance." But this time, the feeling is that this really is the last chance. If Iran agrees to a compromise, the world, and mainly Israel, will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Such a compromise has already been proposed in the past: Iran will enrich a small and symbolic amount of uranium on its own territory, and will receive the rest of its needs from Russia or France, who will make sure uranium will be used there for only declared peaceful purposes and not for nuclear weapons.

The talks ended with a decision to conduct another round later this month, which means neither side is interested in torpedoing the dialogue. But the extent to which Iran is willing to stop enriching uranium remains unclear. If it refuses, the number of options for the United States and Israel will be narrowed down to two, each of them difficult. Ostensibly there is a third option: A failure of the talks will lead the United States and Europe to impose tougher sanctions against Iran. But that is not a realistic option, nor will it help. The Iranian leadership has already proven that punishment will not deter it. Moreover, Russia and China will apparently continue to reject any decision that attempts to impose tough sanctions against Iran, especially those aimed at harming its soft underbelly: the oil industry, which is Iran's largest source of revenue.

Therefore, in case of failure in Geneva, one of two options will remain: a military operation to cause interference and delay, and perhaps to prevent Iran entirely from possessing nuclear weapons; or acceptance of nuclear weapons in the hands of the ayatollahs in Tehran.







After his triumphant United Nations visit and trilateral New York summit, the verdict apparently is in: Benjamin Netanyahu is the heavyweight diplomatic champion of the world, defeating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by a knockout and U.S. President Barack Obama on points. How do we know? Well, we are told, the preeminent goal of the second Netanyahu premiership is now within reach, namely urgent and unconditional permanent-status negotiations with the Palestinians on all issues, with active American shepherding.

Really? Does Netanyahu really want, at the earliest opportunity, to be negotiating the 1967 borders, land swaps, settlement evacuation, and the sharing or dividing of Jerusalem, while there are Palestinians and Americans in the room? I don't think so. So what did he think he was getting himself into?

The much derided and scorned Obama team actually has pulled off one of the more difficult moves in diplomatic choreography. They now have a tricky interlocutor, in this case Israel's leader, enthusiastically embracing their target (endgame two-state negotiations) as his own.


This does not mean we have entered the home stretch, or that a two-state deal is now a foregone conclusion. Netanyahu will no doubt pursue new exit strategies, but several of his more cherished diversionary tactics already have been neutralized, and Israel's prime minister is barely even aware he has been mugged.

Not that this exercise has been cost-free for the Obama administration. A price has been paid, both in the squandering of newly earned goodwill with the Arab and Muslim worlds and in appearing to Israelis to have blinked first. Still, neither of these is irreversible.

Let's be honest: The general assumption when Netanyahu returned to the prime minister's office was that he would do everything to avoid being cornered into negotiating the core two-state issues. That was understandable, given that his opening positions, on territory or Jerusalem for instance, fly in the face of U.S. and international consensus and previous Israeli precedents. And so he did.

The initial rabbit Netanyahu pulled out of the hat to avoid the core Palestinian issues was called "Iran first." That was politely yet firmly rebuffed by a well-deployed counterargument from the Americans. The Iran file becomes harder, not easier, to manage if the Palestinian issue is neglected or allowed to deteriorate further.

Next came the "normalization first" canard: The Arab states must take tangible steps toward normalizing relations with Israel if Israelis are to have faith in a renewed two-state effort. This one showed more promise. Alas, as Nahum Barnea reported last week in Yedioth Ahronoth, when Israel's government takes a meaningful settlement freeze off the agenda, there can be no serious push for Arab gestures.

Finally, we were served the Netanyahu specialite de la maison: "economic peace first." If the Israeli official spin machine had its way, we would all be googling listings for the Nablus cineplex and marveling at the West Asian economic tiger of Palestine's West Bank archipelago. That is not happening either, some overly rosy puff pieces notwithstanding. For one thing, the case rests on flimsy foundations - severe restrictions remain on Palestinian freedom of movement, access to land and resources, and the economy remains precarious.

Just as important, the Obama team, while encouraging economic progress, has consistently insisted that interim confidence-building measures must begin with a full settlement freeze. A clear principle has been established: A prerequisite for a gradual peace effort based on mutual confidence-building measures is a comprehensive settlement freeze now; the alternative is permanent status now. So here we are, with Benjamin Netanyahu on the fast-track to endgame two-state negotiations.

This is an Obama achievement secured with consummate Obama style. He has wrong-footed an opponent without fanfare, without vitriol, and quietly reframed the terms of debate to his liking. Of course, Netanyahu may and probably will continue to seek diversions and escape routes, but his opening moves have all been foiled. It seems Obama cornered Netanyahu rather than the other way around.

However, the problem with this analysis is in its framing. Is the U.S.-Israel relationship really a zero-sum game about who can more effectively hoodwink the other? Israel must desist from making it so. The United States and Israel have certain independent and shared interests. If the latter exist only with a neoconservative, Fox News, and pro-settler evangelical America, then we are in serious trouble. And in truth, such a narrow definition of shared interests is incorrect.

America and Israel are both served by a United States that is stronger, not weaker; more credible, not less; whose message of hope and tolerance resonates louder in the Middle East and elsewhere, not softer. Israel does not have a spare America. Israel and America are also both served by maintaining their partnership and by America's ability to continue to stand by a long-time regional ally. That is why President Obama refers to securing a two-state solution, to ending the occupation that began in 1967, as a strategic interest for America and Israel alike.

We could count down the days to January 2013 and pretend that Obama is fatally naive or politically weakened (or both) - despite polls showing him to be more popular at this stage of his presidency (with 56 percent support) than either Ronald Reagan (53 percent) or Bill Clinton (42 percent) - but that would be a fool's game.

The truth, inconvenient or otherwise, is that the absence of a sovereign and viable Palestinian state devastates American interests, and that should matter for Israel and the U.S.-Israeli strategic relationship.

Daniel Levy is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the Century Foundation.








Two weeks ago, Jonathan Freedland suggested on this page that "maybe Israel just needs to acknowledge Palestinian pain" (September 18), encouraging Israel to undertake a gesture that "may just unblock a peace effort which desperately needs unblocking."

Having drunk from the fountain of Israel's so-called new historians for over 20 years now, Freedland thinks the history debate is settled. Israel is guilty as charged - even though he may still think the moral foundations of a Jewish state are justified.

For Freedland, recognizing the pain of the other would have a healing effect on all sides. He dismisses Israeli fears that recognition of responsibility for the refugee problem would open the floodgates to a mass return of Palestinian claimants, and bring an end to Israel as a Jewish state. His Palestinian interlocutors, he tells us, have assured him they are not after Israel's demise, just an official apology.


Should Israel take Freedland's advice? If Israel could unburden itself of the guilt Freedland and his Palestinian sources attribute to it and obtain peace in exchange, it might be a price worth paying. But a closer look at this argument shows a strange cocktail of naivete and misinformation.

First, Israelis have already acknowledged the pain. From school textbooks to official historiography, from academic works to popular film series, the sorrow and the pain, the tragedy and the truculence of the 1948 war are in the public domain. What Freedland does not know - or refuses to accept - is that the historical debate about facts and causal correlations is still far from over, and any serious scholar who's escaped the facile temptations of propaganda will offer a very different picture from the one on which the demand for an apology rests. Even Benny Morris, the erstwhile hero of the new historians, has rewritten the same account of the refugee problem at least four times in the last 22 years - and his latest version looks very different from the first.

There will be more nuanced assessments in the future. Governments should not be made hostages to the present contentiousness of history. Peace must recognize reality and offer a better future. The past cannot be changed. Leave it to historians to assess, not for politicians to bargain over.

Freedland evokes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission model of South Africa, only to claim that it is less important to discuss how things are done and more important to ensure that they are done. But how things are done does matter. If his premise is that the Palestinian narrative is beyond scrutiny, then such a commission will only succeed in working out the minutiae of introducing Palestinian propaganda into Israeli textbooks, and in coming up with elaborate ways to muzzle historians who may presume to question what the commission will define as truth, and what Palestinians consider a precondition for reconciliation. In short, Israel sacrifices truth and the Palestinians concede reconciliation.

Freedland incidentally omits that Israeli officialdom has already "acknowledged the pain." In his speech at the Annapolis conference in November 2007, prime minister Ehud Olmert did just that.

When referring to the "pain and deprivation" suffered by refugees, he said: "We are not indifferent to this suffering. We are not oblivious to the tragedies you have experienced." Is this not enough? If not, what more is needed?
Apparently, Freedland wants an official apology, too, as a basis for negotiations. Once Israel becomes unburdened of the injustice committed, he reasons, and Palestine's honor is restored, an equitable solution will be found. Palestinians, he promises, will be content with the apology and will not ask for their refugees to "return."

But this is naive. International law ensures that, once Israel's government takes responsibility for the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees, it will not escape a cascade of class-action suits intended to force Israel to repatriate refugees. An international community that castigates Israel for defending itself, as the Goldstone report just did, will surely bring Israel to an international tribunal, have it condemned and then isolate it until such a time that it complies. Such an admission will forever deny Israel's veto right on the refugee issue and therefore doom any peace deal.

Freedland may not see all of this, because, presumably, he thinks the burden of guilt is with Israel alone. That is why he only remembers to suggest, in passing, and at the very end of his column, that Palestinians too should engage in a similar act of contrition. But can they? Will they? Judging by the dearth of Palestinian scholarship even remotely resembling the Israeli self-flagellation inaugurated by the new historians in the 1980s, the lack of freedom and critical inquiry among Palestinian scholars, the militant devotion of its intellectuals to their national cause, and the glorification, among Palestinians at large, of terrorists past and present who have attacked civilians and killed innocents, it is hard to see how this could ever happen. And an Israeli endorsement of the Palestinian narrative will forever forestall the process of the introspection long overdue on the Palestinian side.

But history shows us that Palestinian demands are rooted in a grievance culture of victimhood, not in facts. Israel should not apologize for an injustice it did not commit and for which it does not bear primary responsibility. And it should certainly not offer comfort to its enemies before any claims- past, present and future - on final-status issues have forever been put to rest.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is the director of the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels and the author, most recently, of "Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb" (Profile Books, 2009).








The overwhelming consensus among Israel supporters is that the speech by Benjamin Netanyahu last week before the UN General Assembly was brilliant, even downright Churchillian. And if the chief objective of the prime minister was to rebut Holocaust deniers and the damning UN report on this past winter's military incursion in Gaza, then his persuasive oratorical skills earned him an "A."

If, however, the premier had broader and loftier aims - to move largely biased global news consumers away from any ongoing perception of Israel as an "intransigent occupier"; to work to end the 60-year diplomatic rejection of the Jewish state by too much of the world; to demonstrate that he is a leader with a positive plan for peace; and to convince the fence-sitters that now is the time to take action against Iran - then Netanyahu fell short of the mark.

What could he have done differently?

From a communications point of view, Netanyahu first needs to update and to tailor both his delivery and his content to a worldwide audience whose members live on the Web, have collective attention deficit disorder and are allergic to history lessons. After all, it was he who quipped that most TV viewers don't remember what they had for breakfast. The real prize should be capturing more of the middle ground, where people see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the ultimate stalemate, in which both sides are to blame.

Netanyahu may have a black belt in PR, but breaking this deadlock in perceptions requires acknowledging that the game has changed since he roamed the UN halls as ambassador back in the 1980s. In order not just to fit in with the times, but also to put the Ahmadinejads in their place, Bibi needs to boost his own likability and frame Israel's position in a way that makes its policies, even if they are not always worthy of support, at least more understandable.

This starts with attitude and tone, and while it may be exasperating to face the hypocrisy and double standard of the UN, Netanyahu spent too much valuable time on two issues (Holocaust revisionism and Gaza investigations) better relegated to Jewish organizations and Israel Defense Forces spokespeople. Moreover, he let his anger spill over into his delivery, making his remarks sound strident, which can only feed into negative stereotypes about Israel.

How about changing speeds and inflection, and offering some genuine hope and cautious optimism, if not a little humor, in place of more browbeating and scolding? For example, when Netanyahu referred to the UN Human Rights Council as a "misnamed institution if there ever was one," he effectively showed just how far a little subtlety and irony can go.

Appearance also counts for a lot, especially when more people are watching than reading. For that reason, Mr. Prime Minister, you need to lose the comb-over, as well as some weight. On less formal occasions, you should loosen the tie, or maybe leave it at home. And while you're at it, drop the arrogant Abba Eban-like pronouncements regarding "my people." Instead, renew yourself as in days of old! You're the former commando and diplomatic sex symbol. Why concede the photo ops to a shirtless Sarkozy or Obama playing hoops? That could be you, too!

In terms of substantive content, Netanyahu missed out on several opportunities to increase the chances of a favorable response to his exhortation, "Say yes to a Jewish state." Steps in the right direction should have included: expanding his passing reference to the rights of women, gays, minorities and political opposition into being the ultimate litmus test for freedom today and thus arguably making it the most compelling distinction between Israel and its enemies; painting a future picture of how peace can finally provide the economic prosperity Palestinians deserve and transform the Middle East; and detailing conciliatory steps he is willing to take today to rejuvenate peace talks (his reference to two free peoples living in peace was the only line that actually got applause).

In short, he should have aimed for both the headlines and the high ground. Speaking of which, instead of showing German blueprints from the 1940s, imagine the effect of formally doing something at the UN that Israel has always been willing to do, although too few realize it: namely, to hold up signed letters stating that the government of Israel hereby extends diplomatic recognition without any preconditions to each and every one of the 18 Middle Eastern states with which it still has no diplomatic ties, coupled with Israel's commitment to a secure two-state solution with the Palestinians. Letters to the effect that, "We recognize you, you recognize us and then everything is on the table." Rather than just combating ugly revisionism, the headlines and blog posts could read: "Israel's Bold Move." Or, "Arab States Reject Israel's Olive Branch." Or "Bibi Offers Carrot and Stick to Neighbors."

To put the icing on the cake, the premier could have continued to surprise and do the unexpected, even in small ways. He could, for example, have included a few words in Arabic rather than just in Hebrew, departed from his prepared text to comment on the timing of the Palestinian representative's walking out during his speech, and finally expressed appreciation for the Obama administration's efforts to broker a peace.

There is no cure-all, and it's easy to second guess, but, yes, better public relations could do much both to improve Israel's standing in the too-antagonistic international community, and to show that the true intentions and motivations of the Islamic Republic of Iran are beyond reasonable doubt. Israel can always use a dose of support like that in the court of public opinion, especially if it pursues a military option to counter the nuclear threat from Iran.

Marco Greenberg is a communications strategist who most recently served as managing director of the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. He is also a former press officer of the Israel Mission to the United Nations.








Yesterday, Israel's Arab public marked the ninth anniversary of the "events of October 2000." At that time, Arab citizens protested the state's policies with respect to Palestinians in the occupied territories - as well as the ongoing discrimination they themselves face - and when police opened fire on the crowd, 12 demonstrators and one resident of Gaza were killed.

No indictments were ever filed against any of the policemen involved, and all the cases were closed by the attorney general. Worse still, none of the recommendations of the official commission of inquiry, headed by then-Supreme Court justice Theodor Or, concerning ways to close the gaps between Jews and Arabs in many different realms in Israel, were ever implemented by the government.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee held a general strike yesterday, October 1, and organized a large procession in the town of Arabeh in the Galilee, where two of the victims lived and were killed. Events were also held in other Arab locales, to protest the closure of the cases and the non-indictment of any police, the policy of house demolitions, and the increase in racism, hatred and incitement against Arab citizens, both on the part of the Israeli establishment and the Jewish public.


The past decade has been perhaps the tensest period since 1948 in the relations between the Jewish majority and the state, on the one hand, and the Palestinian public in Israel, on the other. The message Arab citizens are trying to express through their outcry is directed at the leaders of the State of Israel and the country's Jewish majority - as well as the international community. They are protesting a reality that continues, six decades on, to perpetuate their inferior status - both on the material level and in terms of their recognition as a national minority - and to exclude them from the decision-making process, thus undermining their legitimacy as citizens and harming their basic rights as an indigenous national minority with a culture, language and history of its own. The protest is also intended to send a sharp and clear message to anyone who aspires to advance plans for "transfer" or the encouragement of emigration, a message declaring that the Palestinian Arabs have been here and will be here forever.

It is critical that relations between the Arab public and the state not be allowed to deteriorate further. Of all parties with the power to act, it is the government that must take responsibility and initiate a process of significant and fundamental change. The first step in this direction should be to replace the discourse of control, supervision and power with a democratic discourse. In this way, it will be possible to build a culture of true partnership and establish equal citizenship.

The situation whereby a minority is oppressed by a majority, which is represented by the state, is like a magnetic field, attracting feelings of anger, pain and frustration. But it also constitutes fertile ground for the development of creative means of struggle and protest. In this context, it is worth learning from the successes of cooperation between the minority and members of the majority in South Africa, and the civil rights movement in the United States. In those places, members of the oppressing majority stood up against representatives of their own group and supported the blacks' just struggle.

Members of the Jewish majority must join and support Arab citizens' struggle and see it as their own as well, both for humanitarian reasons and out of a shared concern for a common future. They must also act to raise awareness of this issue among their own people.

The events of October 2000 marked the start of a period of escalation in the hostile attitude toward the Arab public. Yesterday's annual commemorative events should be leveraged to start a process of redressing the historical injustices suffered by that public, and of grappling with its national and civic aspirations. This process requires courage and perseverance. Anyone who is endowed with these qualities is invited to participate in this process.

Ali Haider, an attorney, is co-executive director of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel.









Nancy Zimpher, the new chancellor of the State University of New York system, needs to conduct a thorough and public investigation of the corruption charges that have emerged at the Binghamton University campus. Those charges took on a troubling significance this week. Binghamton dismissed a longtime instructor who had accused the athletic department of pressuring her to show preferential treatment to students from the school’s notoriously troubled basketball team.


Binghamton, the academic jewel of the 64-campus state university system, has been on a slippery slope since it jumped from the casually competitive world of Division III college sports to Division I, which can have a win-at-all-cost attitude. This often leads to recruiting athletes who are not prepared for college and who cannot remain eligible to play without grade padding and preferential treatment.


Binghamton got the national visibility it had hoped for earlier this year when its basketball team was selected to play in the N.C.A.A. tournament for the first time. But that basketball success came at too high a cost.


The Times’s Pete Thamel reported on Thursday that Binghamton had recruited several transfer students with histories of academic or legal problems and that three players had been arrested — and that one of those had fled the country while on bail. In addition, the athletic department is coping with a federal sexual harassment complaint against two of its employees.


Sally Dear, the recently fired instructor, taught human development at Binghamton for 11 years. She told The Times several months ago that the athletic department had repeatedly pressed her to make exceptions for players in her class. She has since said that other faculty members had been approached to change grades but were afraid to speak for fear of being fired.


Binghamton’s administration contends that it investigated the claims and found them to be untrue. But the one-page summary of the inquiry provides only the sketchiest account of what the investigation might have entailed. For her part, Ms. Dear maintains that she was never interviewed. Fortunately, Chancellor Zimpher recognizes that the matter cannot end here. Only a credible, independent investigation can get to the bottom of what happened at Binghamton.







A report by the European Union on last year’s brief but nasty war between Russia and Georgia confirms what we have long suspected: everyone is to blame.


Georgia is to blame because its blustering president, Mikheil Saakashvili, initiated a foolhardy attack into South Ossetia; Russia because it bullied and goaded Mr. Saakashvili and then used the attack as an excuse to invade Georgia; the United States because it tacitly encouraged Mr. Saakashvili for far too long; and Europe because it did nothing at all.


None of that may be surprising. But the report is still worth reading as an anatomy of a post-Soviet mess that was allowed to fester for too long — and could erupt again unless all sides show a lot more sense.


Unfortunately, neither the Russians nor the Georgians seem interested in learning anything. The Georgian government continues to insist — despite the report’s findings — that the Russian invasion was already under way when it decided to send in its own troops. Georgia’s ambassador to the European Union said that if the investigators didn’t think Georgia’s citizens deserved protection “then that’s a matter of opinion.”


The Russian government insisted that the report had vindicated its actions, but it rejected the finding that its army used disproportionate force and accused the European Union of a continuing bias.


What these governments should be paying attention to is the report’s real bottom line: Everybody lost. More than a year later, an estimated 30,000 people, mostly ethnic Georgians, are still displaced. Georgia is divided. Russia’s recognition of the independence of two rebel provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, poses a lasting obstacle to better relations with the West.


The only way to repair the damage — and head off another fight — is for both sides to clean up their acts. The Kremlin will have to stop looking for ways to provoke Georgia and abandon, once and for all, its imperial ambitions. Georgia’s leaders need to figure out that their best chance of recovering their lost provinces is by making the idea of a union with a democratic Georgia, one respectful of minority rights, a lot more attractive.


The United States and the European Union also need to learn that heading off conflicts before they erupt is a lot easier than trying to pick up the pieces afterward.







President Obama may not have a comprehensive climate change bill in hand when negotiators meet in Copenhagen in December to try to produce a new agreement on global warming. But the message to major emitters of greenhouse gases in this country — from the executive branch, from the courts and we hope soon from Congress — is increasingly clear: One way or another, emissions are coming down.


On Wednesday, Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry introduced their long-awaited bill to impose nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions. And — as both a backstop and a goad to Congress — Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, issued proposed rules that would regulate emissions from power plants and other large industrial sources.


Both the Senate bill and the E.P.A. proposal would cover about 14,000 power plants, refineries and other large facilities that, together, produce more than 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.


President Obama, Ms. Jackson (and this page) would much prefer a broad, market-based legislative solution carrying the imprimatur of Congress. Such an approach would set overall targets and let emitters figure out the best way of meeting them; the regulatory option would require an agency of limited resources to police a huge chunk of the economy on a case-by-case basis.


But by endorsing regulation, Mr. Obama is leaving no doubt that he will do what it takes to protect the environment. It also means that if Congress fails, his negotiators won’t go to Copenhagen with an empty suitcase.


The Senate bill is largely modeled on the climate bill that passed the House last summer, and in some respects it is an improvement. It would mandate heavy investments in new job-producing, clean-energy technologies. At its heart is a provision that seeks to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, a more aggressive target than the House bill’s 17 percent.


Its mechanism for doing so is a cap-and-trade system that would place a steadily declining ceiling on emissions while allowing emitters to trade allowances or permits to give them flexibility in meeting their targets. The point is to raise the cost of older, dirtier fuels while steering investments to cleaner ones.


The Senate bill also avoids some of the House bill’s worst vices. The House version, for example, would restrict the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate emissions from stationary sources — the very authority Ms. Jackson has just invoked.


Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Kerry and the Senate leadership face a very tough slog to reach the magic filibuster-proof number of 60 senators. Moderate Democrats from industrial states who can normally been counted on fear that the bill would raise energy costs to local businesses to unacceptable levels. Though these fears are greatly exaggerated, some horse trading will be necessary. What cannot be traded away are the mandatory limits on emissions that are the core of the bill.










WHEN Justice John Paul Stevens retires from the Supreme Court, probably at the conclusion of the new term that begins on Monday, an era will end, but a window will open.


That is because Justice Stevens is the last remaining member of the court to have served with Justice Potter Stewart, an Eisenhower appointee who retired in 1981. When Justice Stewart gave his papers to Yale, his alma mater, he stipulated that the files from his 23-year Supreme Court tenure would become available only when none of his fellow justices remained on the bench. Whether Justice Stewart’s papers are particularly illuminating remains to be seen; even Paul Gewirtz, the Potter Stewart professor of constitutional law at Yale Law School, has no idea what is in them. But many active players in Supreme Court affairs — or at least active followers of the court during that consequential mid-century period — are still around, and it is reasonable to suppose that more than a few will make their way to the Sterling Memorial Library here to see for themselves.


Unless life expectancy expands significantly during the next half-century, that will not be the case by the time the papers of the court’s most recent retiree, David H. Souter, open to the public. Justice Souter announced in late summer that he had given his papers to the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, where they will remain closed for 50 years.


Given David Souter’s well-known penchant for privacy (he once said that television cameras would enter the Supreme Court only by rolling over his dead body), his decision is perhaps not surprising. But it is too bad. He served on the court for 19 years, a period that included most of William H. Rehnquist’s tenure as chief justice and the consolidation of conservative power under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. No one who argued a case, brought a case or even read a case during those years — unless it’s one of today’s law students, swinging by Concord during an Elderhostel trip to New England to see the changing leaves — is likely to be examining Justice Souter’s files in 2059.


(One exception might be Savana Redding, the middle-school student whom school officials strip-searched on a quest for concealed Advil. In June, Justice Souter wrote the court’s majority opinion declaring that the search, which turned up nothing, was unconstitutional. Ms. Redding will be 70, the age that Justice Souter is now, when she can view the case file.)


Recognizing that my own chance of ever seeing Justice Souter’s files is less than slim, I tried to persuade myself that I didn’t really care. (I had already had my fun with Supreme Court files, writing a book in 2005 based on Justice Harry A. Blackmun’s papers.) But then I thought of all the Supreme Court mysteries I would like to solve with the help of the memos and drafts that I assume this longtime diary keeper would have preserved. In the interests of space, I will mention just one of these mysteries, from the court’s last term.


It is the surprising outcome of the big Voting Rights Act case, in which the court had undertaken to decide whether Congress exceeded its authority in renewing the requirement for some states and jurisdictions, mostly in the South, to obtain federal approval before making any change to a voting procedure, however minor. This “preclearance” provision, Section 5 of the act, was the key to the law’s effectiveness over three decades in expanding and preserving minority voting rights.


The court’s opinion, by Chief Justice Roberts, ducked the constitutional issue on the ground that the small Texas sewer district that brought the case might be entitled to “bail out” of the law and so might have nothing to complain about. This was an implausible outcome, to put it mildly, because the statute’s text actually made the sewer district and other small jurisdictions like it ineligible to escape the law’s provisions.


Chief Justice Roberts has won praise in some quarters for a statesmanlike, “minimalist” solution to a hot-button constitutional problem. I have strong doubts as to whether the praise is deserved. My belief is that he would have gone as far in the direction of declaring Section 5 unconstitutional as he could have and still hold a majority.


The court surely did not accept this case for argument (as opposed to simply affirming the law’s constitutionality, as the Bush administration had urged) in order to decide whether the Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 was entitled to bail out. I suspect that a member of the once-eager majority, perhaps Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, got cold feet, and that one or more of the liberal justices, maybe even Justice Souter, brokered a deal that allowed the court to extricate itself from a tight spot. My evidence for this theory? Along with evidence for any other theory, it will be locked in a vault in Concord, N.H.


Linda Greenhouse, a former Supreme Court correspondent for The Times who teaches at Yale Law School, will begin a regular column on the law later this fall at








THE top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is right to warn that efforts to rebuild that country depend on winning the “struggle to gain the support of the people.” And few issues do more to stoke the resentment of ordinary Afghans than the tens of billions of dollars of foreign aid from which they have seen little or no benefit. They see legions of Westerners sitting in the backs of S.U.V.’s clogging the streets of Kabul and ask themselves what exactly those foreigners have done to improve their daily lives.


Eight years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. And by some estimates 40 percent of international aid leaves the Afghan economy as quickly as it comes in — going to pay Western security contractors, maintain back offices in the West and pay Western-style salaries, benefits and vacations — while as little as 20 percent of that aid reaches its intended recipients. Compounding this problem, the salaries of imported civilian workers are orders of magnitude higher than those of their Afghan peers. Some employees of the United States Agency for International Development, for instance, earn more than 300 times the monthly pay of an Afghan teacher.


Yes, when it comes to large-scale projects like building roads and hospitals, Western contractors have to take the lead because Afghan companies are years away from having enough experience. But there is a way for the Afghan government to recoup some of the billions of dollars of aid flowing to those contractors and being recycled back to the West: tax it.


Foreign contractors and corporations working in Afghanistan do not pay income taxes there; and if they do pay taxes at all, it is to their home governments. America and its European allies could easily give up claims on taxes from their citizens working in Afghanistan and instead condition contracts so that the workers and the companies that employ them pay Afghan taxes. The loss in tax revenue suffered by Western countries would be trivial compared to the good will this would engender among Afghans. Right now the government’s tax revenues total a paltry $300 million. Taxing foreign technical assistance alone — an estimated $1.6 billion annually — could double this revenue.


And this would require little sacrifice from the 70,000 or so foreigners working in Afghanistan. Afghan taxes are quite low, with the highest bracket set at 20 percent, while technical advisers from Western development agencies can earn $9,000 to $22,000 per month and private contractors can earn even more. With Western unemployment rates high, it is unlikely that having to pay a relatively paltry amount of tax to Afghanistan would deter contractors or corporations from taking on lucrative work there.


The money isn’t the only issue: because it is dependent on foreign aid for about 90 percent of its budget, Afghanistan is fiscally and politically unaccountable to its people. The government needs to build a taxation bureaucracy or it will never develop many of the abilities critical to governance, like budgeting and allocating resources. Since the taxable Afghan population is now tiny — most citizens are either desperately poor or operate within the large black market economy — the quickest path to developing a working revenue system is by taxing the foreign workers and companies.


New tax revenues from foreign contractors should be used, above all, to pay down a substantial portion of the cost of building up the Afghan National Army, which is $1 billion to $2 billion annually. Foreign contractors have a vested interest in helping the army develop, as it will eventually provide the security that will allow them to continue enjoying their lucrative contracts after Western forces eventually withdraw.


While they face risks, contractors in Afghanistan are also faring quite well financially. It’s time they returned some of that wealth to the Afghan people.


Peter Bergen is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. Sameer Lalwani is a research fellow there.








Stocks are up. Ben Bernanke says that the recession is over. And I sense a growing willingness among movers and shakers to declare “Mission Accomplished” when it comes to fighting the slump. It’s time, I keep hearing, to shift our focus from economic stimulus to the budget deficit.


No, it isn’t. And the complacency now setting in over the state of the economy is both foolish and dangerous.


Yes, the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration have pulled us “back from the brink” — the title of a new paper by Christina Romer, who leads the Council of Economic Advisers. She argues convincingly that expansionary policy saved us from a possible replay of the Great Depression.


But while not having another depression is a good thing, all indications are that unless the government does much more than is currently planned to help the economy recover, the job market — a market in which there are currently six times as many people seeking work as there are jobs on offer — will remain terrible for years to come.


Indeed, the administration’s own economic projection — a projection that takes into account the extra jobs the administration says its policies will create — is that the unemployment rate, which was below 5 percent just two years ago, will average 9.8 percent in 2010, 8.6 percent in 2011, and 7.7 percent in 2012.


This should not be considered an acceptable outlook. For one thing, it implies an enormous amount of suffering over the next few years. Moreover, unemployment that remains that high, that long, will cast long shadows over America’s future.


Anyone who thinks that we’re doing enough to create jobs should read a new report from John Irons of the Economic Policy Institute, which describes the “scarring” that’s likely to result from sustained high unemployment. Among other things, Mr. Irons points out that sustained unemployment on the scale now being predicted would lead to a huge rise in child poverty — and that there’s overwhelming evidence that children who grow up in poverty are alarmingly likely to lead blighted lives.


These human costs should be our main concern, but the dollars and cents implications are also dire. Projections by the Congressional Budget Office, for example, imply that over the period from 2010 to 2013 — that is, not counting the losses we’ve already suffered — the “output gap,” the difference between the amount the economy could have produced and the amount it actually produces, will be more than $2 trillion. That’s trillions of dollars of productive potential going to waste.


Wait. It gets worse. A new report from the International Monetary Fund shows that the kind of recession we’ve had, a recession caused by a financial crisis, often leads to long-term damage to a country’s growth prospects. “The path of output tends to be depressed substantially and persistently following banking crises.”


The same report, however, suggests that this isn’t inevitable: “We find that a stronger short-term fiscal policy response” — by which they mean a temporary increase in government spending — “is significantly associated with smaller medium-term output losses.”


So we should be doing much more than we are to promote economic recovery, not just because it would reduce our current pain, but also because it would improve our long-run prospects.


But can we afford to do more — to provide more aid to beleaguered state governments and the unemployed, to spend more on infrastructure, to provide tax credits to employers who create jobs? Yes, we can.


The conventional wisdom is that trying to help the economy now produces short-term gain at the expense of long-term pain. But as I’ve just pointed out, from the point of view of the nation as a whole that’s not at all how it works. The slump is doing long-term damage to our economy and society, and mitigating that slump will lead to a better future.


What is true is that spending more on recovery and reconstruction would worsen the government’s own fiscal position. But even there, conventional wisdom greatly overstates the case. The true fiscal costs of supporting the economy are surprisingly small.


You see, spending money now means a stronger economy, both in the short run and in the long run. And a stronger economy means more revenues, which offset a large fraction of the upfront cost. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the offset falls short of 100 percent, so that fiscal stimulus isn’t a complete free lunch. But it costs far less than you’d think from listening to what passes for informed discussion.


Look, I know more stimulus is a hard sell politically. But it’s urgently needed. The question shouldn’t be whether we can afford to do more to promote recovery. It should be whether we can afford not to. And the answer is no.








Let us take a trip back into history. Not ancient history. Recent history. It is the winter of 2007. The presidential primaries are approaching. The talk jocks like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and the rest are over the moon about Fred Thompson. They’re weak at the knees at the thought of Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, they are hurling torrents of abuse at the unreliable deviationists: John McCain and Mike Huckabee.


Yet somehow, despite the fervor of the great microphone giants, the Thompson campaign flops like a fish. Despite the schoolgirl delight from the radio studios, the Romney campaign underperforms.


Meanwhile, Huckabee surges. Limbaugh attacks him, but social conservatives flock.


Along comes New Hampshire and McCain wins! Republican voters have not heeded their masters in the media. Before long, South Carolina looms as the crucial point of the race. The contest is effectively between Romney and McCain. The talk jocks are now in spittle-flecked furor. Day after day, whole programs are dedicated to hurling abuse at McCain and everybody ever associated with him. The jocks are threatening to unleash their angry millions.


Yet the imaginary armies do not materialize. McCain wins the South Carolina primary and goes on to win the nomination. The talk jocks can’t even deliver the conservative voters who show up at Republican primaries. They can’t even deliver South Carolina!


So what is the theme of our history lesson? It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as “The Wizard of Oz,” of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.


But, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by this story. Over the past few years the talk jocks have demonstrated their real-world weakness time and again. Back in 2006, they threatened to build a new majority on anti-immigration fervor. House Republicans like J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, both of Arizona, built their re-election campaigns under that banner. But these two didn’t march to glory. Both lost their seats.


In 2008, after McCain had won his nomination, Limbaugh turned his attention to the Democratic race. He commanded his followers to vote in the Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton because “we need Barack Obama bloodied up politically.” Todd Donovan of Western Washington University has looked at data from 38 states and could find no strong evidence that significant numbers of people actually did what Limbaugh commanded. Rush blared the trumpets, but few of his Dittoheads advanced.


Over the years, I have asked many politicians what happens when Limbaugh and his colleagues attack. The story is always the same. Hundreds of calls come in. The receptionists are miserable. But the numbers back home do not move. There is no effect on the favorability rating or the re-election prospects. In the media world, he is a giant. In the real world, he’s not.


But this is not merely a story of weakness. It is a story of resilience. For no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P. They are enabled by lazy pundits who find it easier to argue with showmen than with people whose opinions are based on knowledge. They are enabled by the slightly educated snobs who believe that Glenn Beck really is the voice of Middle America.


So the myth returns. Just months after the election and the humiliation, everyone is again convinced that Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and the rest possess real power. And the saddest thing is that even Republican politicians come to believe it. They mistake media for reality. They pre-emptively surrender to armies that don’t exist.


They pay more attention to Rush’s imaginary millions than to the real voters down the street. The Republican Party is unpopular because it’s more interested in pleasing Rush’s ghosts than actual people. The party is leaderless right now because nobody has the guts to step outside the rigid parameters enforced by the radio jocks and create a new party identity. The party is losing because it has adopted a radio entertainer’s niche-building strategy, while abandoning the politician’s coalition-building strategy.


The rise of Beck, Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest has correlated almost perfectly with the decline of the G.O.P. But it’s not because the talk jocks have real power. It’s because they have illusory power, because Republicans hear the media mythology and fall for it every time.










The apex court, in its detailed judgment on the actions of November 3 2007 by former president Pervez Musharraf, has stated that they could not be condoned. It has also said that while Article 6 remained on the statute books, parliament could not even think of validating them. The stern verdict will add to the pressure on parliament to bring Mr Musharraf to book for his misdeeds. The court has also delivered a firm message against military takeovers, condemning the 'law of necessity' used by courts in the past to justify them.

We do not know if the court ruling will have any meaning in real terms. Over the past month we have seen the pressure to try Musharraf die away, primarily as a result of external pressure. Politicians know that it may be impossible to defy this. But the court's words may act as a moral reminder of what is right and what is wrong. There can be no doubt at all that in terms of legality and ethics that Pervez Musharraf should be made to answer for his crimes. The court has reminded us of this in no uncertain terms. One of the reasons for the sense of disarray we face today has been the failure to uphold the rule of law. This has created the chaos we see everywhere. Rulers, often backed by courts, have escaped punishment for all kinds of misdeeds. The message that has gone out as a consequence is clear: there is one rule for the people, a different one for the powerful. The question now is if there is sufficient courage anyway in Islamabad to break with our past and to do the right thing.







For an agency that has struggled to maintain its credibility globally in recent years, the debacle of the Afghan elections has done nothing to restore the UN's tarnished image. We now spectate the fall from grace of a man who has a distinguished background as a public servant, diplomat and UN staffer at the highest level ousted for his determination to expose the fraud that has characterized the Afghan electoral process from top to bottom. Peter Galbraith has told the BBC that his dismissal has sent "a terrible' signal" to the world in general about the UN. Galbraith alleges that he was removed from his post because of a dispute with his superior Kai Eide about how to handle the fallout from the elections; and specifically how to address the problem of self-evident fraud – fraud on a scale that could require a re-run of the elections. He says that by not addressing the fraud problem the UN had failed in its Afghan mandate. Galbraith wanted to present the evidence to the Afghan Election Complaints Commission for further investigation, but Kai Eide "did not want this information disseminated".

The credibility gap now goes right to the top of the organisation; this is not some localized fault-line that can be easily glossed over with a little diplomatic mumbo-jumbo. In a statement on Wednesday, the office of Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nation no less, said that the Secretary General thanked Galbraith…"for his hard work and professional dedication. The secretary general has made this decision in the best interest of the mission. He reaffirms his full support for his special representative, Kai Eide". It would appear that hard work and dedication is a passport to an early retirement in the arcane protocols of the United Nations. It would also appear that a willingness to turn a blind eye to the elephant in the dining room made of over a million fraudulent votes – close to a quarter of the total – will guarantee you a long-service medal and the eternal gratitude of your purblind boss and the Mayor of Kabul.









The prime minister's approval for a six per cent increase in the power tariff does not come as a complete surprise. Conjecture regarding the raise had been heard for several weeks, despite somewhat half-hearted denials from some ministers. But nevertheless, the increase in the bills, just as consumers were hoping the end of summer would bring at least some reduction in the amounts they cough up for the erratic supply of electricity they receive, will come as a shock. What is all the more galling is that the raise comes in response to an IMF demand that the Rs132 billion annual subsidy to the power sector be done away with. When the deal with the IMF was reached some months ago, we all knew it would bring hardship. We are now experiencing this in practice.

The users at the very bottom end, consuming less than 50 units per month have been spared. But this means the many who use somewhat more, but can still barely make ends meet each month, will suffer. So too will the middle class who must stretch wage cheques thinner and thinner to meet growing costs. So where will the cuts come? There is no comprehensive study on this. But the findings that do exist suggest the poorest sections spend almost all they have on buying food – that most fundamental of human needs. This means little or nothing is left over for education or healthcare or the other necessities of life which raise humans to levels above that of mere animals. There are suggestions too that when money is tight, those even in somewhat higher income groups cut on spending on women and girls. In many families women do not receive healthcare because it costs money. Many other women cut back on food for themselves and their daughters to save what they can and feign health even when they are sick for similar reasons. Everywhere we hear too of families whose sons attend more expensive private schools but whose daughters go to relatively mediocre ones.

The cost of more expensive living is then often borne by those who are already disadvantaged in our society. There are of course other stresses and strains on families. We hear regularly of rising suicide rates. Financial difficulties are increasingly cited as a reason. The impossibility of meeting living costs has also been a key factor in the rapid rise in madresshas and with it the growth in extremism. The power tariff rise will add another Rs38 billion to government coffers between October and December. But perhaps someone sitting in an office where decisions are made will consider what these successive rises in the rates of utilities mean for ordinary citizens and the costs they place on a society where despair and desperation continues to grow.









The Kerry-Lugar bill, just passed by the US Congress and expected to be signed soon by President Obama, leaves an odd taste in the mouth. After wading through its tortuous prose, Pakistan seems less an ally than a rogue state straight out of the pages of science fiction.

A convicted rapist out on parole would be required to give fewer assurances of good conduct for the future than Pakistan is required to give in order to receive assistance under this legislation.

And for this the Pakistani nation is expected to go down on its knees and thank the US for its unbounded munificence. If this is American friendship, hostility sounds like a better option.

For many Pakistanis Hussain Haqqani is less our man in Washington than our suspect in Washington. To think he stood guardian of our interests when this package was being put together. Pakistan is not tough enough to afford his services. He would be doing everyone a favour, except of course himself, if he returned to his teaching job in Boston.

This bill implies -- nay, explicitly states -- that Pakistan has been a nuclear proliferator; and that parts of its territory are safe havens for terrorist networks. Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are listed as such groups. Quetta and Muridke are listed as bases of terrorist operations.

Kerry-Lugar requires the US President to "develop a comprehensive interagency regional security strategy to eliminate terrorist threats and close safe havens in Pakistan, including by working with the government of Pakistan -- to best implement effective counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts in and near the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the FATA, the NWFP, parts of Balochistan and parts of Punjab."

Doesn't this language suggest that the US President is also president of FATA, the NWFP, parts of Balochistan and parts of Punjab? This is not wounded sovereignty but ceded sovereignty. And for what? A few pieces of silver.

US military spending in Afghanistan every year is close to 60 billion dollars. Kerry-Lugar foresees 1.5 billion dollars a year to us, for five years. This is being hailed as a strategic partnership. Sounds more like the cheapest rent-a-nation contract in modern history.

This at a time when the Pakistan army is doing a better job of fighting terrorism in Pakistan than ISAF forces are doing in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistani casualties in this struggle far exceed anything suffered by the US. While the US is thinking of getting out of Afghanistan -- and American generals are openly saying that at current troop levels the fight against the Taliban is un-winnable -- the Pakistan army, in a remarkable turnaround, is rediscovering a new (and welcome) resolve against terrorism.

Pakistan should be commended for this achievement. Instead it is being asked to blacken its face and be grateful for doing so. Have the geniuses who make up the government of Pakistan read this bill? Has the Foreign Office studied it?

The US Secretary of State is furthermore required to certify that Pakistan has made progress on matters such as "ceasing support, including by any elements within the Pakistan military or its intelligence agency, to extremist and terrorist groups, particularly to any group that has conducted attacks against United States or coalition forces in Afghanistan, or against the territory or people of neighbouring countries."

These are unexceptionable aims. Pakistan should have nothing to do with supporting terrorist networks. But all this was in the past and if it is the past we are revisiting would it not be appropriate for the US Congress to offer a word of apology for the US's own role in the 1980s in making heroes out of the 'mujahideen' -- the precursors of the Taliban and from whose midst was born Al Qaeda?

Afghanistan's present troubles can be traced to the US decision in 1989 to wash its hands off Afghanistan after Soviet forces left. Already there is no shortage of signs pointing to US weariness with the present Afghan war. Shouldn't the secretary of state also certify that the US again will not cut-and-run from Afghanistan?

This is less an assistance programme than a treaty of surrender. The Simla Accord signed after our defeat at the hands of India in 1971 did not reflect such depths of humiliation. Yet President Asif Zardari and our man in Washington are hailing this exercise as a diplomatic triumph. If this is a triumph, the word disaster would have to be redefined.

Yes, President Zardari is an elected president. Yet that doesn't stop him from being a clueless figure. He may be a great one for cutting business deals. But he is out of his depth in international waters. That in itself would be no great disability -- no president, Pakistani or American, being required to be a Nobel laureate -- provided he had good advisers. That precisely is where the rub lies. The people closest to Zardari don't make up for his weaknesses. They rather duplicate and magnify them.

It is a safe bet that President Zardari has not read Kerry-Lugar and never will. It is a taxing document and the prose is not easy. But he is a victim of his own insecurities --the reputation which dogs him -- and it is these insecurities which make him a pawn in others' hands.

Gen Pervez Musharraf post-Sep 2001 succumbed to American diktat and pressure at the sound of Colin Powell's telephone call. Powell was the civilized face of the Bush administration, the least threatening person in what came close to being a diabolical cabal. Yet it was Powell -- not Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld -- before whom Pakistan's commando-general crumbled.

Musharraf at least had the excuse that the US was in a fearful mood and ruin threatened Pakistan if it did not go along with American wishes. Zardari has no such excuse. Pakistan, after the army's success in Swat and the cordon thrown around Waziristan, is now on a firmer wicket -- the mists of equivocation and vacillation having long since evaporated. But Kerry-Lugar makes it appear as if Pakistan has nothing to hold on to and is ever so grateful for any crumbs thrown in its direction. Zardari and company are agreeing to its terms in the full possession of their insecure senses.

But, say official hailers, Kerry-Lugar triples civilian aid to Pakistan. They are right but on terms and conditions that amount to a ten-fold increase in national humiliation. Pakistan needs all the assistance it can get. It needs to be close friends with the US. After all, fighting Talibanism is testing all our resources -- and our resolve. But we don't have to walk through filth and slime to get such assistance.

By fighting terrorism we do no favour to the US. Talibanism and Al Qaeda are anathema to our founding principles. Iqbal was one of the greatest theoreticians of modern Islam -- whose interpretation of religion outraged traditional mullahs. Jinnah was a modernist who would not have understood what Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar stand for.

Standing up to Talibanism terrorism means safeguarding the idea of Pakistan. This is a chance to reinvent ourselves as a nation, to go back to first principles. But Kerry-Lugar, insofar as it reads like a charter of dictation, demeans and diminishes the struggle we are engaged in.

It suggests that Pakistan is a recalcitrant partner, needing to be disciplined and cajoled. It makes it sound as if we are being led unwillingly to the water and would not do what we are doing but for the silver pieces offered us by the US Congress.

It makes us look criminal, in our eyes and in the eyes of the world. It is a certificate of juvenility and if we had any self-respect we would have nothing to do with it. No need to act emotionally. All that is required is a polite no thank you to America. Far from landing us in any trouble it will raise our stock worldwide. And if we remain firm in our resolve to fight terrorism, it is the world which will beat a path to our door.

But for this we need something better than the pathetic team at the helm which is merely adding to our woes. Will Prime Minister Gilani have someone read the small print of Kerry-Lugar to him? Will the National Assembly wake up? And will the PML-N get its act together? Coming days are crucial.









With the passage of the "Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009" in the US Congress on Wednesday, September 30, 2009, Pakistan has formally entered the status of a client state. The term client state, understood in its broad meaning, is synonymous with terms such as "satellite state", "puppet state", "neo-colony", and "vassal state". In the post-WWII era, this term was used for states ruled by dictators and supported by either the United States or the Soviet Union. During the Cold War era, these states included Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua up until 1979, Cuba up until 1959, and Chile under the regime of General Pinochet, South Vietnam, and Iran up until 1979. In its contemporary usage, a client state does not have to be a state ruled by a dictator, more often than not, it is a proxy democracy which is economically dependent on a more powerful nation. This economic dependence has now been formalized in the "Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009", which will be signed by President Obama in the near future. Once signed by him and formally accepted by the government of Pakistan, the government of the United States of America will "earn the right to monitor" Pakistan in a variety of ways under Sec 302 of the Act.

There will be a number of contradictory claims and counterclaims in Pakistan during the days and weeks to come about the specifics of the act, the amount Pakistan will receive, and other little details, but it is the main feature of this act that needs to be discussed, not its offshoots. The main feature is the simple fact that Pakistan has formally surrendered a big chuck of its sovereignty to another government. This means that it is no more the people of Pakistan who will be deciding what their children will study in schools, what projects their government initiates in social sectors, what kind of policies their government should have regarding the Taliban and the Al Qaeda, but another government, through the willing cooperation of a client government in Islamabad.

The act binds Pakistan to America in realms of its national existence in a manner and to the extent that has never existed before. It is no more the people of Pakistan, but a few politicians and their chosen "experts" who would make policies for Pakistani nation for domestic as well as foreign affairs. It is the US Senate that has determined that "security-related assistance to the government of Pakistan should be geared primarily toward bolstering the counterinsurgency capabilities of the government to effectively defeat the Taliban-backed insurgency and deny popular support to Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations that are based in Pakistan."

Furthermore, there are general as well as specific provisions related to how funds will be used under this assistance. The details to which these conditions apply are simply equivalent to loss of all freedom as the word is understood in international politics. For instance, it is the government of the United States that has now earned the right to dictate to its client government in Pakistan that funds it is providing must be used for (i) "the implementation of legal and political reforms in the FATA;" (ii) "economic freedom", and (iii) "investments in people, especially women and children"; (iv) vocational training for women and access to microfinance for small business establishment and income generation for women". The Bill envisions the creation of an American University in Pakistan, on the pattern of similar universities in the Middle East (see Senator Kerry's companion report on the bill)! So, welcome to the long list of American clients.

Reminiscent of the Government of India Act of 1858, the "Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009" gives the government of the United States the moral, economic, and political role of civilizing the natives of Pakistan by determining the kind of education, social assistance, military and civil programs this country should have. Instead of the viceroy, it is the Secretary of State who will be submitting periodic reports to the US President on progress made on this mission. Section 5(b)(1)(A) of the bill requires that "none of the amounts appropriated may be made available after the date of the enactment of this Act for assistance to Pakistan unless the Pakistan Assistance Strategy Report has been submitted to the appropriate congressional committees in accordance with subsection (j)."

In general, the so-called assistance to be provided to Pakistan under this act, relates to the following broad categories: "(A) Civil liberties; (B) Political rights; (C) Voice and accountability; (D) Government effectiveness; (E) Rule of law; (F) Control of corruption;(G) Immunization rates; (H) Public expenditure on health; (I) Girls' primary education completion rate; (J) Public expenditure on primary education; (K) Natural resource management; (L) Business start-up; (M) Land rights and access; (N) Trade policy; (O) Regulatory quality; (P) Inflation control and (Q) Fiscal policy." Taken together, this leaves hardly anything outside American control and influence.

Pakistani people now stand at real cross-road. If they take the road set by this Act, they can look forward to handing over their children to the Americans in the years to come, to make them what they want to make in their own image. This road to Washington will clearly turn the qibla of this nation and within one generation, all that has accumulated in the spiritual and intellectual realms through a millennium of slow and organic growth of a civilization, will be Americanized.


The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:









The UN summit on climate change last week saw a number of world leaders of developed countries lay out their commitments to combat climate change. In part, the summit was an attempt to get the ball rolling ahead of UN climate talks scheduled to be held in Copenhagen this December.

Environment activists have pinned their hopes on these talks yielding a progressive international agreement on combating climate change but it seems that cracks are appearing in their plans.

The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) seeks to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous interference in the globe's climate system. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC shares this objective but strengthens it by legally binding industrialised nations to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the 39 industrialised nations committed to trimming their emissions by an average of 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. This December's talks in Copenhagen includes the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the UNFCCC and the fifth Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 5) to the Kyoto Protocol and are the place where a framework for climate change mitigation beyond 2012 is meant to be worked out.

The Kyoto Protocol was by no stretch an ideal document. For one thing, it was not ratified by the United States – one of the world's largest polluter, historically and per capita. Some argued that the reductions industrialised countries were committing themselves to were not enough.

Others pointed out that less developed countries were likely to suffer climate change disproportionate to their actual emissions. Still more said that the UNFCC and Kyoto Protocol did not recognise that industrialised countries owe a moral obligation towards the disproportionate suffering of less developed nations. Failure to address these concerns has been one of the reasons the outcomes future talks is still uncertain.

The central moral issues raised by climate change and as yet unanswered by the international community are (i) that developed countries are historically responsible for the vast majority of emissions that have led to climate change and, as a result, developed countries owe it to the people of less developed countries to aid and finance their efforts to adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change; and (ii) developing countries who are catering to the basic needs of their growing populations should not be denied the opportunity to industrialise just because it will add to the destruction to the environment already carried out by developed countries. For example, why should India, the majority of whose population is near the poverty line, not be allowed to invest in energy technology to provide for its people when its per capita emissions are negligible (0.3 tons of carbon per annum) compared to countries like the US (six tons per annum) and Canada (5.6 tons per annum).

These are moral issues because the fact it that climate change will disproportionately hit the developing world and, especially, the majority poor in the developing world. There will be food and energy shortages, increases in epidemic diseases and the number of natural disasters and mass human migrations, and these will be borne primarily by the poor living in developing countries.

Whatever the shortcomings of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol, both will stand the test of time as a mark of when mankind decided to put up a serious defence against climate change. They will also stand out as introducing to the world the potential of the clean development mechanism (CDM). Under the Kyoto Protocol, industrialised countries were set limits, or "caps", of how much greenhouse gas emissions they could produce. The CDM grants investments in cleaner technologies "carbon credits" – the hypothetical equivalent to the amount of pollution, expressed in tons of carbon, not emitted as a result of the cleaner technology – that can be traded on an international energy market and purchased by polluters of offset their caps. Hence the phrase "cap-and-trade" associated with the Kyoto Protocol.

Because a dollar spent on pollution reduction goes much further in developing countries that it would in, say, energy efficient Sweden, CDM incentivises international business to invest in improvements in environmental technology in wide variety of products in developing countries. Environmentalists hope that this December's talks yield the promise of an even more effective "cap-and-trade" mechanism that could act as an economic self-corrector of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, despite expectations, some have begun to wonder whether the hopes of a progressive international agreement in December are already being unravelled. US President Obama told the UN Summit last week of his administrations various initiatives in the environment and a "green" economy. Chinese President Hu Jintai said that his country would establish mandatory national targets (note, not targets set by an international agreement) for the reduction of emission-intensive energy sources (China relies heavily on coal-based energy to provide to its rapidly growing population). He vowed to cut CO2 emission per capita by 2020. The Prime Minister of Japan also ambitiously pledged to reduce his countries emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 but said the commitment was conditioned on the willingness of other industrial powers to sign onto similar commitments.

What some commentators take from statements like these is unwillingness on the part of large industrialised countries to agree to internationally binding commitments. The major drawback – given the impending challenges of climate change – of not having such an international agreement is that the international community is shying away from the moral issues raised by climate change. Cap-and-trade may well be a cornerstone of future climate talks, but what is also happening is that some countries do not want to agree to restrict their citizens' emission-heavy practices (the US continues to produce Humvees and Iceland and Qatar are the most energy intensive economies) for the benefit of the poor in developing countries. Nor do countries want to compensate for their historical emissions. Take Bangladesh and the Maldives, for example. Neither have had a significant role in global greenhouse gas emissions, but both are going to suffer sea-level rise.

Bangladesh is being forced to consider climate change as a security issue as it predicts as many as 18 million people will be displaced by seawater. The Maldives has begun searching for real estate to eventually more to once their Island nation is submerged. Surely industrialised countries owe it to nations like these to contribute towards their costs of adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Pakistan will also be attending this December's talks in Copenhagen. It remains an opportunity for this Islamic Republic to take a role of leadership on the issue of internationally binding emission reductions as a means of making the international community wake up to its over-arching moral obligations. This is certainly an area where Pakistan can rally support from other developing countries to speak with one voice on the historical and international responsibilities industrialised nations have towards the poor of developing countries. At the same time, some commentators have suggested that the talks in Copenhagen be allowed to flounder. According to them, not having an international agreement now and working towards one in the near future is better than having a weak international agreement. Either way, the Copenhagen talks are eagerly anticipated a test of resolve of the international community and an opportunity for Pakistan to lead the debate on aspects of climate change.

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 US House of Representatives has reached a consensus to continue to direct US aid flows to Pakistan by approving a five-year support package of 1.5 million per annum going to 2014. The good news is that this money is meant to be primarily used for education and infrastructure. Any external support aimed at improving Pakistan's education sector is, of course, always welcome. The issue, however, is to ensure that the aid is actually spent on the selected sector. The aid utilisation trends in Pakistan have historically been far from impressive.

Outright corruption and mismanagement have often resulted in development aid being largely misspent. Since the Sept 11 attacks, the problem has grown: since the donors are now channelling aid to Pakistan in a bid to curtail militancy they have started to use aid as a leverage to make the government agree to counter-militancy measures rather than ensuring that it is actually spent on the relevant sector. If these new approved funds from the US are to make any contribution to the Pakistan's education sector, this trend for sure has to be checked.

Aid in general is a controversial subject in development literature. While there are clearly arguments for the developed world enjoying the comforts of a good life to try to contribute towards improving living conditions for millions in the poor countries, the practice is not that easy. Aid is hardly ever given for purely altruistic reasons. Political and strategic interests of the donors always play a critical role in the amount of aid that they channel to any country. These political and strategic interests also determine which actors they fund within the chosen countries. Of course, there are differences among donors where some bilateral donors are known to be less political than others but the US is not one of them.

In any case, the increased security concerns in Pakistan has meant that more western donors have felt their security interests links to Pakistan, and as a result have been increasing their aid portfolios for Pakistan. The education sector has also greatly benefited in paper from these increased aid flows. However, in practice it is very difficult to see how this aid has made any difference to the Pakistani state education system. There is clearly something amiss with the way aid is being utilised in Pakistan, especially in the education sector.

The answer to this is not difficult either. The problem is because donors have increased their aid flows to Pakistan due to concerns about militancy, they become less concerned about ensuring that the government actually spends the money on the education sector. Rather, they prefer to use this aid money to negotiate other anti-militancy measures with the government. Thus, as long as the Pakistani government agrees to carrying out the next round of military operations or any such counter-militancy measures, the donors feel less pressured to actually ensure that the aid money meant for education or other sectors is actually being used for that purpose. The primary concern of the donors remains to keep the Pakistani government involved because the donors are desperate to stay engaged with Pakistan for the counter-militancy programmes. They therefore don't want to pressure the government to deliver on the social-sector front too much as they might end up offending certain parties and then being told to withdraw their portfolios.

Seen from the Pakistani perspective this is a very advantageous position. The fact that the donor is keen to stay engaged with a country is a good thing as it gives Pakistani government a lot of negotiating power. However, this could only be a strength provided the government at the Pakistani end was sincere in utilising the aid money for the right purposes. Pakistan's tragedy is that even the present government is no different than the Musharraf government when it comes to ensuring efficient utilisation of aid funds. There are no signs that the corruption under this government is checked or that the government has special commitment to reforming education sector. In such circumstances additional aid to education sector in Pakistan will only help make the people at the top comfortable rather than actually improving the conditions of the Pakistani schools. However, what is important to remember is that these choices are in Pakistan's own hands. If only the leadership of the time was to think of the long-term individual and collective interest rather than pursuing short-sighted gains, increased aid flows to Pakistan could become a blessing.

The writer is a research fellow at the Oxford University. Email:









For a situation that appears so benign on the surface, too many people ask what will happen next. Almost no one is convinced that this government will complete its tenure or that President Zardari will survive in office for a full five years. Where does the scepticism come from and why this air of uncertainty?

Part of the context lies in our history. Civil governments have seldom completed their tenure, the only exception being Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's five years in office. And that happened after 13 years of military rule and the loss of East Pakistan. Others, whether in the 50s or in the decade after Zia's death in 1988, fell within three years.

This is a sobering legacy and it came to pass not only because secret agencies aligned to the military were plotting their downfall. They were, particularly in the early 90s, but the enabling conditions were provided by the political class itself.

There was bad governance and uninhibited corruption by those in power. And those left out, resorted to opposition with a passion, raising hell in the parliament and in the media and mobilising the street for popular disapproval. Under these conditions, it was difficult for any government to survive.

Do any or all of these conditions exist today? Going by general sentiment in the country, governance is poor if not pathetic, and the odour of corruption is everywhere. From dodgy land deals in Sindh to looting of state owned entities, from shady power projects to manipulating government concessions and permits for profit, the spectre of corruption haunts the landscape.

This perception -- and it is important to call this a perception because it is based on media stories that have been vehemently refuted -- fulfils one condition for making a civil government unstable. It also appears to be an important reason for questions regarding the president's future and the bandying about of the so-called minus-one formula.

On a more substantive level, there is also an ideological difference within the power establishment regarding relations with the United States and India. The government and particularly the person of Mr Zardari are seen to be too deeply in the US camp. The charge is that he is virtually giving in to every American demand not only at the cost of sovereignty, which is a psychological construct, but national survival.

The sniping on the Kerry-Lugar bill, which many in the government see as a success of Pakistani diplomacy, is an example of this divergence. The reporting conditions attached to it by the US Congress are perceived as giving Americans a fatal ingress into the affairs of the country. According to this point of view, they not only commit the government to following US dictates on the fight against terrorist groups but seek to interfere in our domestic issues by laying guidelines on conduct of the armed forces.

A particular sore point is the condition regarding nuclear proliferation. The wording of the bill targets supplier networks and requires cooperation from the Pakistani government in stopping them. The common perception, however, is that this allows the US or international agencies a direct access to our nuclear sites.

These perceptions about the real or purported purposes of the Kerry Lugar bill have raised temperatures considerably and heightened tensions between ideological groups in the power centres. More disturbing, in the public mind, have been the stories regarding stationing of thousands of marines in Islamabad and the arrival of the notorious Blackwater agents into the country.

A strong perception is building up that Americans, both government and private agents, are poised to physically take over our nuclear programme and indeed take control of the government. What is damaging for Mr Zardari particularly and by extension for the government is the perception that it is complicit in this arrangement. In other words, to put it bluntly, there is a growing feeling that Zardari and co are ready to hand over the country to the Americans as long as they remain in power.

Stories regarding the so-called Quetta Shura have also added fuel to the proverbial fire. Irresponsible statements in the US that it may consider bombing Taliban hide-outs in Balochistan have further upped the ante. There is little doubt that if this happens, the relatively nascent anti Americanism in the country will publicly erupt and the ideological group that sees a deep rooted American conspiracy in everything will feel vindicated.

There is of course another point of view represented by many in the government; that we need American help to stabilise our economy and build our military to fight terrorist groups. As regards the conditions in the Kerry-Lugar Bill, it is said, they apply more to the American government. And if the US national interest so dictates, the required certification will be made whatever the situation on the ground.

It is also argued that there is no truth to the stories regarding stationing of the marines and the arrival of Blackwater agents. Nothing beyond the normal security arrangements is anticipated or will be allowed. Lastly, that the government is building bridges with the US in national interest not for any individual agenda. It is the pre-eminent super power in the world and having it on our side help us more than it harms us.

The India question also mixes into this debate. President Zardari and the PPP government are seen by some to be ready to give in to all Indian demands. It is alleged to have little interest in resolving the Kashmir dispute and has been too proactive in admitting Pakistani complicity in terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The counter argument that tension with India does not serve our national interest is seen to be defeatist.

Thus, both on a substantive level and in popular perception, President Zardari and the PPP government are seen to be incapable, corrupt and ready to barter away national interest. The question is, are these reasons enough for a change to come about?

Two things are missing and helping Zardari and the government stay in office. One is the role of the other major contender for power, the PML (N). Mr Nawaz Sharif would love to see the end of Zardari and the PPP but it is not willing to take its opposition to such a level that it allows the system to collapse.

Two, there is no obvious mechanism for the removal of Mr Zardari or the PPP government. The army has neither the desire nor are the circumstances propitious for it to consider intervening. Within the system, there is no possibility of the President's impeachment or the government losing its majority in the parliament. Its lack of performance, perception of corruption and being too close to America does agitate the people, but this is not likely to translate into its removal.

Does that mean that possibility of change does not exist? The short answer would be yes but there is the unexpected, the wild card. It could come through judicial review of the beneficiaries of National Reconciliation Ordinance. This Pandora's Box is yet to open.








"No one smiles in Karachi any more. No one trusts anyone. There is apathy, bleak apathy. People are ready to pick a fight all the time. They feel helpless and exploited. But at the same time the same people spare no chance to swindle and cheat. Corruption is rampant. Education is worthless. I feel worried, depressed and very sad."

This is Zafar Ahmed, an engineer by training and now involved in a computer networking business in Canada. His sample may not be completely representative, but it largely holds true for middle- and lower-middle-c