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Monday, October 5, 2009

EDITORIAL 05.10.09

October 05, 2009                                

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month october 05, edition 000315, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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





































  5. ...but Deng is the leader to celebrate - By Ezra F. Vogel



























  3. THE SIREN…!




























The Congress's desire to reward Mr Somnath Chatterjee with a suitable sinecure is understandable. As Lok Sabha Speaker between 2004 and 2009, Mr Chatterjee was unconscionably prejudiced. His attempts to censor Opposition and media
criticism, with the larger aim of protecting the UPA Government, are well-documented. After the Left Front withdrew support from the Manmohan Singh Government, Mr Chatterjee turned rebel and refused to quit as Speaker, as asked by his party, the CPI(M). Instead, he allowed the Congress to survive a contentious vote of confidence, tainted by charges of bribery. If Mr Chatterjee's dissent against Mr Prakash Karat had been principled and aimed at a reordering of the Marxist worldview or an upholding of British parliamentary tradition, it would have been unexceptionable. He was, however, no conscientious objector. Essentially, he wanted to hang on to the privileges of the Speaker's post. In the period after the vote of confidence, Mr Chatterjee lost that crucial attribute that makes or breaks a politician: Credibility. He became a nowhere person — shunned by his party, hanging on to the coat-tails of the Congress, and unable to convince the BJP and other Opposition parties of his neutrality or supposed statesmanship. He
made much of not being re-nominated by the CPI(M) for the Lok Sabha election, announced he was retiring and would be writing his autobiography.

Yet, nothing that Mr Chatterjee says or does can ever be taken at face value. He has refused to walk away from the charmed circle of New Delhi and live a secluded life in one of his many palatial properties in Kolkata. Instead, his friends in the Government have been pushing for some sort of reward for 'services' rendered. It was first suggested that Mr Chatterjee be sent to the Rajya Sabha as a presidential nominee, in the 'eminent persons' category. This would have been most unorthodox, as veteran, multi-term parliamentarians don't usually use this route to seek an entry into the Upper House. It is reserved for achievers — in the arts and sciences, in public life — who are not everyday politicians. When there was protest against this proposal, a new scheme was thought up. The Government decided it wanted him to head a one-man commission to "de-codify parliamentary privileges". No doubt, this office would have come with the usual pomp and allowed Mr Chatterjee Cabinet-level perquisites. Yet, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mr LK Advani, pointed out, the task of clarifying privileges could easily be taken up by a parliamentary committee. There was no need to invite Mr Chatterjee to impose himself yet again as an ombudsman.

As it seems, this is not the end of the matter. A job for Mr Chatterjee is still a quest for the UPA Government. Reportedly, he does not want to become a State Governor, but is willing to consider a foreign posting in a city or country of his choice. In his heart of hearts, he is also hoping that electoral reverses in West Bengal will force the CPI(M) to take him back. There is a polite phrase for such a phenomenon: Delusion of grandeur. Frankly, Mr Chatterjee's desperation and — dare one say it — lust for office are a national embarrassment. He should go quietly into the night, perhaps taking the newly-introduced Duronto Express to Kolkata.






The gruesome killing of 16 people in Bihar's Khagaria district in what appears to be a land and caste dispute is a stark reminder that not all parts of our country can boast of living in the 21st century. Journey a few kilometres from any metro or second-tier city and reality hits us. There are sizeable parts of India that are far removed from the swanky malls of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or Kolkata, or the liberal outlook that one would normally associate with the residents of a cosmopolitan city. In these places it is as if time has stood still for generations. Differences in caste and creed are still considered paramount. Feudalism, having taken on a more sophisticated character, is very much alive and kicking in our villages. As a result, prejudices and a false sense of honour rule the roost. People belonging to different castes, though living side by side, seldom mix and are suspicious of each other. In this India, even the concept of the country emerging as a superpower and making praiseworthy strides in the field of science and technology is alien. Perhaps it is only by juxtaposing what happened in Khagaria with India's Chandrayaan Moon mission that one can get a true sense of the contradictions that besiege our society. There is spectacular advancement in some parts of the country while elsewhere life continues to be frozen in the past.

As global India — the India that we would like the world to see, the India that is the talk of the international community — marches along the path of economic and industrial progress, there is a danger that we may lag behind in the one area of development that perhaps matters the most — social. Unless and until we as a society are not able to rid ourselves of the prejudices that continue to haunt us and replace them with a strong sense of justice and equality, all our progress and development will amount to naught. For this we need to bring about a change in our own mindsets. We need to focus on the commonality of our multiple identities, including linguistic and regional. We need to make those living in the other India realise that they too are a part of a 21st century, strong, emerging nation. But most of all, we need to make all our people, irrespective of who they are and in which India they reside, dream of a better life for themselves and their children. This can only be possible if we enact policies keeping in mind the social development of the people, more so in rural areas. But far too often have social welfare schemes been politicised, diluting their desired impact. It is precisely because of vote-bank politics that such schemes, instead of actually helping the backward sections of the society achieve parity with others, further deepens social differences. Till the time we as a people rise above selfish interests and petty politics there will remain two Indias — one constantly conflicting with the other and stifling our own potential.



            THE PIONEER




Despite India's constant protests regarding the misuse of American aid by Pakistan, US President Barack Obama recently urged "sustained and expanded" support for Pakistan at an international meeting. The objective ostensibly was to 'strengthen' Pakistan to defeat terrorism. Mr Obama said, "The violent extremists within Pakistan pose a threat to the region, to the United States, and to the world. Above all, they threaten the security of the Pakistani people." This, in spite of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's candid admission that under his regime Pakistan had misused US military aid to arm itself against India.

There are two forces leading men and nations. One is self-interest and the other fear. For obvious reasons the US President is motivated by self-interest as any patriotic leader should be. However, he is besieged with two problems that he inherited from his predecessor: Iraq and Afghanistan. American jubilation at the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq has been replaced by despair. The people of Iraq have neither been won over, nor have the last of anti-American forces been vanquished. As of June 18, this year 4,315 US military personnel had died in the Iraq since 2003. Whereas 29,395 is the number of US servicemen who have been wounded in hostile action in that country.

Currently, the US Defence Department says it is spending about $ 4.5 billion a month on the conflict in Iraq, which translates to $ 100,000 per minute. The objective of the war in Iraq has changed several times over. First, it was about weapons of mass destruction that the Saddam regime was purportedly harbouring. But after Saddam's capture and subsequent execution, the objective of the war effort was changed to exterminating the Al Qaeda, something which still is nowhere near accomplishment.

Similarly, the US war effort in Afghanistan was aimed at dismantling the Taliban led by Mullah Omar and hunting down Osama bin Laden. Here too the US is nowhere near achieving its goals. Its efforts to purchase loyalty either in Iraq or Afghanistan have not succeeded. As far as the official figures go, the US has spent $ 642 billion on the military effort in Iraq and another $ 189 billion on Afghanistan.

There is an old saying that it is better to have a wise enemy than a foolish friend. Of course, it is not for India to advise the US how it should handle its relations with Pakistan. But it should know that no matter who is in charge in Islamabad, it is the ISI and the Pakistani Army that are the real centres of power. And these two institutions are against wiping out the terror infrastructure that operates both in Afghanistan and India.

This is because terrorism ensures the primacy of the ISI and the Pakistani Army in Pakistani society. Whatever Pakistani politicians say, it doesn't seem to matter to the ISI or the Pakistani Army or to the fundamentalists in that country. Pakistan raised the Frankenstein of fundamentalism for its own strategic interests. But the monster today has a mind of its own.

The bonhomie that we often see between Indian and Pakistani leaders is a farce. So are Pakistan's repeated pledges to crack down on anti-India terror groups. Every time the issue is brought up Pakistan makes a show of moving against the terrorist. But in reality all this is for US consumption, so that the latter continues to fund its 'anti-terrorism' drive.

Whatever be the composition of the Government in Islamabad, it is a puppet in the hands of the US. The real problem is that the US does not care what Pakistan does with its financial and military aid as long as its own security is not compromised. It is least bothered about whether or not Pakistan is using American aid to fund terror activities against India or arming itself to counter India's military prowess.

Using groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed to spread terror in India has been Pakistan's policy for quite sometime now. Tough statements by our leaders over the years have amounted to nothing. Not even once has Pakistan responded positively.

On the other hand, when our own security agencies act tough against terrorists there is no dearth of human rights activists to cry foul. What is even more incredible is that some Government leaders even sympathise with terrorists for their own selfish political interests. The truth is that unless we make the cost of terrorism prohibitive, not only for the terrorists but also their supporters, the menace of terrorism is going to plague India for a very long time.

This can be done only by using force and by having strong anti-terrorism laws. The Government has to decide what comes first, Indian citizens and our secular, democratic way of life or the terrorists and their supporters.

In the name of people-to-people contact, dialogue, or peace talks vis-à-vis Pakistan we have been taking one faltering step after another. And in return we have been rewarded with countless terror strikes that have killed hundreds of Indian citizens. What is the use of these conciliatory steps when they lead not only to the terrorist attacks but also to other problems such as proliferation of fake currency? Machiavelli had said, "A man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous." This is quite applicable to a country like ours.







It's difficult to sidestep the evangelical burrows like Jesus Calls or The Prayer Show while browsing channels for your favourite morning entertainment capsule or news show on television. These are essentially 'time shares' purchased by foreign or inland missionary organisations from television owners with susceptibility towards Faustian pacts. But we could hardly burn their desire for revenue at the stake of unprofitable morality. It may be futile to argue that the visibility of the tele-evangelists increased since the UPA Government's ascension to power in 2004. With its second coming in 2009, their clout is only likely to be bolstered. Private television channels are commercial enterprises.

Could the same, however, be said about Doordarshan? India's national broadcaster is expected to reflect the Government's laissez faire policy on religion. No other country reminds itself too often about secularism. Thus it is curious to see some channels of Doordarshan featuring tele-evangelists like Ms Joyce Meyer. DD Marathi, DD Punjabi, DD Gujarati, DD Assamese, DD Oriya, DD Malayalam and DD Tamil telecast her half-an-hour morning/evening shows ranging from once a week to daily.

Ms Meyer is controversial in her own country for her lavish lifestyle and financial non-transparency. What kind of financial dealing has taken place between Ms Meyer and Doordarshan is best left to one's imagination. DD's package is apparently meticulous, which includes dubbing and subtitling in the respective regional languages. This militates against the ethos and principles of constitutional secularism. Evangelism is not coeval with giving space to Christians. There is no objection to showing Christmas and Easter, interviews of their religious leaders, or discussing the pressing issues before the Christians of India. Many people would enjoy the serialisation of Bible, as Doordarshan tried to do in 1992, but could not progress beyond the story of Able and Cain.

DD Bangla (where Ms Meyer has no footing) telecasts an inspiring 10-min programme every morning titled 'Amrita Katha' (Immortal Words). It features, on rotation basis, scholars of all creeds — Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism — who discuss the moral and ethical message of their religion. But it's not good news to allow evangelism, which has been at the heart of much social discontent in India, on our national broadcasting service.








There is an air of boyish adamance about Barack Hussein Obama; he still looks the pugnacious upstart who had dared the system and got away with it. It is that spirit of challenge, the desire to tame the untamable, which guides many of his policy pronouncements and his actions. Above all he likes to grand stand, and to subject others to his will. It is with this in view that he must have planned an agenda setting week in New York and Pittsburgh.

But in his posturing he makes one fundamental mistake.He is no longer the candidate who had dared. Then, his gumption was endearing. It built him up to a cult status hero, a global icon, really. He could tilt at the windmills and would still have been applauded for it. Later day historians may judge some of his actions, as a candidate, as indeed such.

But he is now the system; he personifies the establishment. Technically speaking, he occupies the throne of the mightiest empire on the Earth. In this position there is no one left whom he could shake a fist at. Yet, he feels compelled to do so; partly out of habit and in part because he in turn is now being dared domestically — look at the number of grey hair which signal his daily challenges.

He cannot claim any great credit for the economic revival that is slowly beginning to take shape in the USA. The credit for it should go to the sure-footedness of the Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke, who was a George Bush appointee and whose economic stimulation plans were well underway during the Bush presidency.

On the other hand, Mr Obama's health care initiative has drawn flak from many quarters and the public opinion is deeply divided on the issue. So there is not much which could be a source of joy to him domestically. At least for now.

That should be worrying for a man who wishes to carve his name in the same tablet of history that celebrates Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.

Moreover, a year from now the countdown to the next presidential campaign would start and given the lack of outstanding performance on the domestic issues so far, Mr Obama must be nervously wondering about his future and his legacy.

Hence his week-long focus on international affairs, where his aim seemed to have been to lace his moves with a veneer of conciliation and an advocacy for peace. Eventually it may serve as a gateway to the Nobel Peace Prize. It is still too early to see any definite pattern or a calculated gameplan towards that goal, but there are some green shoots that seem to point in that direction. Moreover, for the second term-seeking Barack Hussein Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize would definitely be a great booster for his re-election.

It is no wonder therefore that he is pursuing the peace agenda in West Asia, planning to pull out troops from Iraq, perhaps Afghanistan too, and is pushing stubbornly ahead with his proposal for the nuclear disarmament. There were messages enough on each of these in the course of his speech to the UN General Assembly.

He spoke at length on the West Asia issue, and showed his impatience at the lack of progress so far. Though, just a month ago, he had called Afghanistan a war of necessity, yet he said almost nothing on it in his speech at the UN. Is it a sign that he is pondering a way out of Afghanistan? But the biggest surprise was in the manner in which he pursued the issue of nuclear disarmament.

Pointing an admonishing finger towards Iran and North Korea he thundered, "If the Governments of Iran and North Korea chose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating arms races in both East Asia and West Asia — then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced."

These are brave words indeed. Whether they will make Iran and North Korea cringe and run for cover remains to be seen. But it is certain that omission of Pakistan from a paragraph where it should have figured prominently is going to gladden its Army and encourage the ISI further.

Judged by any standard, Pakistan's record as a proliferator is unparalleled in the world. It has put the pursuit of nuclear weapons far above regional stability or the security of its people. And it has consistently defied the international law. In sum, it has broken, repeatedly and brazenly, each and every of the commandments that Mr Obama read out at the UN. Yet, he chose not to mention Pakistan in the list of countries that he is putting on notice. Instead, the US has decided to triple its annual aid to Pakistan!

But lean and hungry-looking Obama wasn't equally benevolent towards India, neither with his money nor with his attitude.

In that same speech to the UN, while talking of NPT, he says; "Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences." A similar message was conveyed later in the UN Security Council Resolution 1887.

Despite India's brave response rejecting this imposition, the chances are that India may fall in line in the course of next 12 months — if not in letter on NPT then definitely in spirit at least. Our compliance could also extend to other matters such as the Comprehensive Nuclear Test ban Treaty and Fissile Material Cut off Treaty.

But compliance on non-proliferation matters may just be the beginning and the ensuing pressure on India a negotiating technique to seek accommodation on other issues. In international affairs nothing comes coated in a mono-chromatic hue. Every approach is a means towards many ends.

Even as we put up pro forma resistance to signing on the dictated line of CTBT and FMCT; the US may well use that opportunity of negotiations to leverage its agenda regarding Afghanistan. It might mount great pressure to get us involved in a security role there so that American soldiers can return home in flesh and blood, rather than in body bags. Already, there are hints enough of its intent; look at the way its media has started playing up in recent days the good role that India has played on the developmental side in Afghanistan. This applause could prove to be dire for India, and its soldiers, if it were to get sucked into the Afghan quagmire.

The writer is a former Ambassador.







At the G20 meeting in Pitts- burgh, US President Barack Obama and several European leaders threatened Iran that it had better stop developing nuclear weapons right away or else they would act decisively. Let's call this the 'Or Else' factor.

The Western countries revealed that they knew all about a secret Iranian nuclear facility which showed how thoroughly that regime had lied and concealed its weapons' project. Yet there's something strange here: Why didn't Mr Obama mention this during his UN speech? By behaving this way he forfeited a great opportunity to build support base for real action. True, he's moving forward, but slowly and — after nine months in office — without material effect.

Mr Obama's strange approach to international relations neutralises the 'Or Else' factor. Iran is defiant, acting as if it's the more powerful side before which the West must cower. The more extreme the regime's behaviour, the more it shows — especially to Iran's primary audience of Arabs and Muslims — who's stronger, braver, and winning.

The 'Or Else' factor is supposed to be a major part of diplomacy: Sponsor terrorism, attack your neighbour, ignore our interests, and we'll make you pay. Well, that's sure out of fashion. In fact, Iranian and Syrian officials help kill American soldiers in Iraq, the US Government knows about it, and does nothing.

This is where credibility comes in. but you destroy your own credibility by apologising for past actions (and promise never to be tough again), pledging not to do more than timid allies permit, expressing sympathy for the other side (in West Asia politics, kindness is considered weakness and empathy a sign of cowardice), and showing reluctance about the use of force.

There is a saying that a real collision occurs when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. In Obama versus the Islamist regime, it is a case of the reluctant force stopping short of meeting an object which is immovable precisely because it isn't challenged.

Just look at the international community's recent record:

Hamas fires missiles at Israel, Israel retaliates, world condemns Israel.

Hizbullah fires missiles at Israel, Israel retaliates, world (through the UN) promises to restrain Hizbullah, Hizbullah threatens UN forces, world backs down.

Yet even if Mr Obama was far more effective (that is, scary for America's enemies rather than its friends), the Iranian regime would behave this way. After all, it was founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who was convinced he had the deity on his side.

Khomeini, who seized power in 1979 and died in 1989, was explicit in exhorting Iranians to defy America and the West. He assured them that if they did so, the Great Satan would back down. On one occasion he expressed this by saying, "American can't do a damn thing," to hurt Iran. The hostage crisis, and President Jimmy Carter's restraint, seemed to prove him right.

True, in 1988, fearful that the United States might attack Iran to protect Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs in the Iran-Iraq war, Khomeini backed down and ended the conflict. Anything short of such a credible threat probably won't work.

Iran's current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad styles himself as Khomeini's disciple. He believes — and he's shown it — that if he is very aggressive the West won't take him on. So far, he's been proven right.

That success was a central element in the decision of Iran's spiritual guide, Ali Khamenei, to back him for another term in office.

To foreign observers, the stolen election and demonstrations make the regime look weak; to Iran's rulers, having successfully stolen the election and put down the demonstrations makes them feel strong.

Mr Obama is treating Iran as if it is a generic country: Offer talks and benefits or sanctions and punishment. But Iran's Islamist regime is not just another country but rather an ambitious, ideologically guided regime that thinks it is winning and its enemies won't confront it.

That regime is not going to respond to Mr Obama's treatment, especially lacking the 'Or Else' factor's credibility.

Iran will first examine the level of new sanctions — if any — and find them not so frightening. It will look for ways to get around them, probably with Chinese and Russian help. It will then say: Bring it on!

Do your worst! Make my day! Punk, do you feel lucky?

And then, what's the US going to do? Go to the UN, where action will be delayed — both by Mr Obama's caution and the constraints of a divided Security Council — and any tough response whittled down further?

Thus, unless Israel attacks, a year or two or three will go by with Iran surviving the sanctions. And the day will come when the regime has nuclear weapons. This is Mr Ahmadinejad's game plan and it seems a reasonable one from his standpoint.

Mr Obama is trying above all to prove that he isn't the Big Bad Wolf of international relations — he doesn't just apologise for but greatly exaggerates the errors of past American diplomacy — and daily expresses his determination not to threaten to, "Huff and puff and blow your house down." Whether their regime is made of straw, mud, or bricks, the Iranian dictators can thumb their nose at him, give him the finger, and not tremble the least bit.


he writer is director of the GLORIA Center and editor of the MERIA Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader and The Truth About Syria.








The Pioneer recently ran a piece by Anuradha Dutt ("Criminal Slaughter," September 23) about smuggling of cows from India into Bangladesh. Anuradha Dutt has questioned how it could be done so easily, since "these bulky animals are difficult to overlook in the course of their journey." One answer: "The laissez faire attitude of the Congress, socialist and Communist parties to the vital issue of protecting these gentle creatures." Her argument is compelling, and having just completed an investigation into this criminal enterprise, I would add two more: Corruption and jihad, South Asia's two great scourges.

Early this year, two men contacted Bikash Halder, my Indian representative who works with me to stop Bangladesh's ethnic cleansing of Hindus. They said they had important information, so we arranged a late-night clandestine meeting in Kolkata with the two, 'Rahul' and 'Samir'. Rahul began by saying how he previously did unspecified work for intelligence agencies that involved frequent trips between India and Bangladesh. Whatever it was, however, it did not bear fruit, and the agencies dispensed with his services; but he stayed in the area and like Samir bought a house near the Bangladesh border. "After 10 pm you can see everything," they said; specifically, cattle going out of India in exchange for arms and Islamists coming in, and members of the West Bengal Police involved in the transactions.

In fact, Rahul said that the smugglers were jihadis (something he claimed to know from his earlier forays) whose success depended on corrupt Indian officials. Both men were so insistent that they invited us to spend the night with them and see for ourselves. While I had commitments outside West Bengal and eventually had to return to the United States, Halder took them up on their offer this summer.

He travelled to the Bongaon and Basirhat sub-divisions of North 24 Parganas where he met our informants. Since Samir told us in Kolkata that he could see the illicit activity from the back of his house, Halder went to their homes and waited with them for nightfall. Shortly after 10 pm, he confirmed what they reported in Kolkata: Cattle being taken brazenly from India to Bangladesh. It was not Halder's first encounter with cattle-smuggling.

"It is a usual matter in the India-Bangladesh border area," he said, adding that the proceeds from "cattle-smuggling are the main support for jihadi activities." He also uncovered evidence of what he termed "an industry" that floods India with Islamists, arms, and other contraband. "Smugglers are linked to militias on both sides of the border," Halder said. These arrangements make the police, who are supposed to enforce the law, nothing more than paid armed escorts for those who are breaking it.

He already knew that the West Bengal Police were involved in cattle-smuggling, but his observations from the back of Samir's house and subsequent investigations showed more extensive complicity. "I have seen the following scenario. Top to bottom, security personnel take bribes. Some agents of both Indian and Bangladeshi agencies are involved with smuggling, and both of them shelter jihadis coming into India."

He also uncovered evidence of financial ties between higher level authorities in the West Bengal Police. "I know it personally," he insisted. "Every local police station in West Bengal has a person called a 'Dak Master', who collects the bribes." Much of that, he said, comes from brokers who bring in Bangladeshis illegally, often with the help of BSF personnel. "Frequently, I have faced those incidents," he said.

In 2008, we observed the same BSF complicity in the tiny town of Panitanki on the India-Nepal border. A bridge over the Mechi River allows people and vehicles to cross freely. As a steady stream of trucks, covered wagons, and men carrying large packages entered India, my Bengali colleagues would point to one and say 'arms'; to another and say 'drugs.' "That one has counterfeit bank notes," one said, "a big smuggling business.

The illegal activity was so open that even I became adept at identifying the contraband. No one seemed concerned even though the area is notorious for smuggling and a known entry point for Islamist and Maoist terrorists into India. No one checked any packages or stopped a single individual — until I pulled out my camera. As we passed a pile of sandbags, two soldiers emerged and brandished their rifles and demanded I put away my camera. I protested vehemently until they threatened to confiscate it.

In exchange for putting it away, I asked them to let me cross the bridge into Nepal. They demurred, insisting that as an American I needed a Nepalese visa to cross, even though third country nationals frequently take rickshaws or other conveyances into Nepal. But they let me walk to the border in the centre of the bridge where it became clear why the soldiers did not want me taking pictures. The flow of contraband was heavy, continuous, and open. We also saw people running across the dried river bed on either side of the bridge, many carrying large parcels.

While our enemies do this for a principle, these officials do it for nothing more than money: Changing the demographics along the border, compromising India's security, and throwing away one of its greatest legacies in its reverence for life.


The writer campaigns for minority rights in Bangladesh.







Thanda matlab… no, not the popular jingle from a cola advertisement. In Uttarakhand, it means something more basic. The salubrious climes of the mountains, which offer a cool haven to heat and dust-stricken tourists from the plains, is itself in need of some comfort. Throughout the summer, bottles of cold drinks and mineral water are sold at dhabas, khumtas and tiny shops in far-flung towns and village bazaars, which does not seem odd at all. Except, strangely, the only consumers of this is not the tourists and other travellers alone. The local populace has increasingly become a major consumer of bottled water in the State.

And this consumerism has been driven more out of a crying need than a desire to show off in front of tourists. The summer season has been relentless and many of the water reserves have dried in this region. There is just not enough water in the water pipelines and those who still partake of it run the risk of getting jaundice or diarrhoea.

Before summer reaches its peak, all major traditional water resources, which once used to overflow, dry up. The region which lies in the shadow of the Himalayas and rivers like the Ganga and the Yamuna is faced with water shortage today. Two decades ago rivers, ponds and natural water resources used to very naturally fulfil the needs of the people. Today the situation is grim and the signs have been apparent for about a decade now.

Underlying this is the slow but now visible forms of environmental degradation. Areas under forest cover have shrunk, population has grown and towns have spread, bringing with them the inevitable spread of the concrete jungle. Traditional sources of water, gadehras, streams and ponds, which Uttarakhand used to abound in, have simply dried up or been cemented in this unrelenting march of development.

The level of water is decreasing in the low-lying areas. There is simply not enough moisture now retained in the soil. While earlier digging a few feet underground would cause water to spring forth, now one needs to dig more than 20 feet. Mahesh Pandey, a social worker, says, "Many tributaries have become nullah, whereas the levels of Yamuna, Ganga, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Ram Ganga and Kosi are regularly falling."

For the local communities it is back-breaking work to fetch water and is getting increasingly difficult so in a compromised environment. The problem is typical of many mountainous regions. A woman spends several productive hours of her day in fetching water for cooking from far-flung areas. On an average in one trip she is able to cart between 10 to 20 litres of water in canisters or earthen pots which would suffice for a medium-size family.

That in turn becomes a gruelling trek and very often villagers prefer to store this water for cooking and cleaning purposes, leaving the drinking water needs to be met from a more modern source — that of packaged drinking water.

The Government's water management is ineffective and does not have any long-term programme to address the water crisis issue. The undulating surface means that even from existing sources water has to be transported from pipelines. According to Uttarakhand Government figures, there are 950 such villages where no water could be provided without lift programme. Very often the water being brought through pipes from sources far away is polluted. In Pithoragarh, the water from Thuligarh source caused nearly 80 per cent of the population get jaundice according to the local hospital figures.

Over the years, the local people have organised movements to demand safe drinking water from the Government. In Pithoragarh district, after the dreaded illness took its toll, there has been a move to source water from a nearby water fall, Birthi. Almora district, where the local populace was dependent on the Kosi river for their water needs, has been experiencing a decrease in the water level. Here local communities have raised the banner to demand that water be sourced from another source, Pindari glacier in Bageshwar district. But these are small battles which are sometimes resolved to the satisfaction of a particular local community. Yet, there is a big picture that is missing and this falls squarely in the ambit of governmental action.

Ironically, subsequent Governments in the State have only paid lip service to the problem. The winners are clearly the cola companies and packaged water manufacturers who are making big money.









THERE is an element of absurdity in the Indian Air Force seeking to combat the Communist Party of India ( Maoist), or Naxalites. Barring the early phase of the Naga insurgency in the 1950s, the IAF has not been used against domestic insurgencies.


Even the long Kashmiri uprising, which is backed by money, material and personnel from Pakistan, has not seen the use of the air force for either combat roles, or even liaison or transport purposes.


Equally absurd is the statement attributed to the Maoist leader Kishan ji who has called on the IAF not to hit at the Naxalites, because they were " citizens and patriots." We can accept that " citizen" claim, but as for patriotism, we would have to really stretch its definition to cover a group that is waging an armed struggle to overthrow the democratic, secular and socialist republic of India.


It is true that the extent and virulence of the Maoist insurgency poses a major security headache to India. But though the Prime Minister has been terming it as the " gravest internal threat" that India faces, he also acknowledges that we need to do much more to eliminate it. Barring the recent Lalgarh operation in West Bengal, most anti- Naxal actions have been desultory affairs, in part because the government had retained the option of holding negotiations with the Maoists. However, of late there has been a flurry of activity and there are indications that the government plans more sustained and tougher action against them.


Tackling the Maoists requires a multidimensional strategy and security is only one of its facets. Maoism is flourishing in the remoter reaches of the country, many inhabited by poor adivasis. There has been little or no development in these areas and the only governance that is known comes from the kangaroo courts of the Naxalites. So, along with a security campaign, the government needs to push governance and development. At the same time, it needs to reach out to those rebels who wish to come back into the mainstream, as indeed many have done in the past 30 years.


All this cannot be achieved by an ordinary process. It will require the best and the brightest in the government to spearhead the push. But that can only happen if leadership comes from New Delhi in the form of a coordinated strategy worked in tandem with the affected states.







NOW that the standoff between faculty members of the Indian Institutes of Technology ( IITs) and the human resource development ministry has finally been amicably resolved, perhaps it is time we asked the following questions: What was the hullaballoo all about; and what if the salary issue rears its head again? The IIT faculty had made it clear early in the agitation, which began on August 18, that it was not just about the salaries; it was primarily about autonomy and also the 40 per cent cap on promotions. However, we find that at the end of the dispute, HRD minister Kapil Sibal seems to have agreed to the demands on the promotions, while the salary issue has been left untouched.


While this is a welcome development and will make all the IITs — perhaps India's only global technology education brand — get back to work, the issue about remuneration could become a sticky point. In this case, the IITs faculty members do have a point.


Lecturers and professors at IITs and other top professional institutions — chosen as much for their skill and proficiency as for their ability to shape some of the most brilliant technical minds of the country — would necessarily have to be kept on a different, perhaps higher pedestal than the teaching faculty in most other branches of learning. This is because they may find lucrative employment in the field of their specialisation elsewhere.


An easy way of attracting high- quality talent to education is to encourage faculty to officially work with corporations that specialise in their area of interest, with the institutes themselves getting a percentage of the money thus earned.


If the government's policies reflected a little bit of this flexibility, perhaps our IITs could get even better teachers that have the ability to churn out far better and more well- rounded students ready to take on the world.










HOW LONG will this continue? To what extent will the Thackeray family usurp and function like the Censorship Board? In the present milieu, why did it become necessary for Karan Johar to seek and agree to follow the censorious advice of Raj 'Censorship' Thackeray? Is this the real state of affairs in India? Does 'social censorship' override legal censorship?


In the past apologies had come from Amitabh Bachchan. Michael Jackson paid a visit to Bal Thackeray, Deepa Mehta's Water found a watery grave even before filming in Varanasi. After release, film theatres have been targeted in Gujarat over films Narendra Modi did not agree with. Social censorship has become easier and more dominating than legal censorship.


The latest addition to social censorship is over Karan Johar's Wake Up Sid. At places, the film described the famous city by its old name (Bombay) instead of the new one (Mumbai). The new one is ostensibly the name of the old village of centuries ago. The actual new city of Bombay has known no other name than Bombay until now. A statement made by Raj Thackeray objected that the film used the word "Bombay" (which it has been for several recent centuries or decades) instead of Mumbai (which was, allegedly, the name of a pre-Bombay village) to describe the city.


The film itself has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bombay/Mumbai controversy. It is not a political statement. It is the story of a rich person's son who finds himself out of favour for insolence to the family and looks to find a job of his choice. But, the use of the word 'Bombay' enraged Raj Thackeray, the Sena and their friends. May be, it didn't enrage them. Divisive politics has become emotionless in the hands of its patrons. But Raj Thackeray made sure that until he was appeased by apology and compliance, the film was in jeopardy.



It was not Thackeray who went to Johar's house for making a request for removing the word ' Bombay' from the film. It is Johar who came in the contrite proverbial sack cloth and ashes to seek forgiveness and leave pre- censorial justice to Raj. The latter was insistent, uncompromising and self satisfied that a great wrong had been committed.


The solution was a disclaimer apologising for the use of Bombay instead of Mumbai. Thackeray so ordered, Johar had no choice but to obey. If he had not followed these prescriptions, protests would have been organised in Mumbai — even elsewhere in Maharashtra.


He was the selfappointed custodian of Maharashtrian rage. Film theatres would have been picketed, the post- release prospects of the film would have been blighted. The loans on the film would have mounted. Pirated versions would have finished off the commercial prospects of the film.


State censorship is bad enough, but politicised social censorship is ' nasty, brutish and short'. In India, various legal forms of censorship exist — under the Indian Penal Code, Customs Act, Criminal Procedure Code ( which has ban provisions), local statutes and so on. The incidence of censorship is high. The list is endless: Salman Rushdie's book, Taslima Nasreen's novels, the film Black Friday . The celebrated Raj Kapoor was taken to court for the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram . Many TV films were liberated into broadcast or circulation by the Supreme Court and other courts including Aakrosh on Gujarat violence, Chand Bujh Gaya on rioting, Anand Patwardhan's Ram Ke Nam and his documentary In memory of Friends on Bhagat Singh, the TV serial Tamas by Bhishma Sawhney, Ore Ore Gramathile on casteism and many more.


The courts have been vigilant for free speech — including cinema and TV speech.


Earlier, the Supreme Court in the celebrated Romesh Thapar case ( 1950) suggested that precensorship was prima facie invasive of free speech. We are concerned here with speech before publication, distribution or circulation.


However in KA Abbas's case ( 1971), the court allowed pre- censorship in cinema because of the nature of the medium. The only form of legal censorship permissible is by, and under, a law which is reasonable and within the constitutional categories of public order, the sovereignty and integrity of India, defamation, decency, morality, contempt of court and incitement of offence.


But the exercise of this power has not been given to Raj Thackeray, but to the film Censorship Board set up under the Cinematograph Act 1952 which was upheld in the Abbas case.


The principles to guide the board are the very same as the limitations that are in the Constitution.


The film is reviewed by experts under the Cinematograph ( Certification) Rules 1983. The process is rigorous including viewing. There have been misgivings that the board has been over- bearing, angular and conservative.


But, the complaint is that it goes over the top.


The view of the board is final. It can be challenged as it was in the case of Bandit Queen and other films. But some deference has to be shown to the board.



The Supreme Court went one step further. In Shankarappa's case ( 2001), an argument was made that if the film was released there would be a law and order problem. The court rejected this facile objection.


Such factors were taken into account by the board. It was the duty of all authorities to follow the board's decision.


The court went on to say: " It is for the State Government concerned to see that law and order is maintained.


In any democratic society there are bound to be divergent views. Merely because a small section of the society has a different view, from that taken by the Tribunal, and choose to express their views by unlawful means would be no ground for the executive to review or revise a decision of the Tribunal. In such a case, the clear duty of the Government is to ensure that law and order is maintained by taking appropriate actions against persons who choose to breach the law."



The government could review the decision of the board. But it could not disobey it. There can always be protests about a film, but not threatening violence.Criticism is maximally permitted.But it can never be blackmail. Don't see the film if you do not want to.


The legal censor is the Censor Board, not Raj Thackeray.Or any one else. To allow Raj Thackeray the right to pre- censorship defies both democracy and the rule of law and signals the end of governance.


So far, our Constitution has been India's framework of governance. Unlike other new constitutions, India's constitutionally directed governance has succeeded where others have failed.


Social attitudes and pressures will always exist. But for social censorship to topple legal governance is an invitation to chaos.


A curious tail piece: The High Courts of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras are chartered and not amenable to simple statutory changes. So, even after Mumbai replaced Bombay for all other purposes, the High Court of Maharashtra is still called the " High Court of Bombay". Beyond that, if this is how constitutional governance is gazumped in what was Bombay, and is now Mumbai — I cry for you.


The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer








FOR THE government and indeed for the Congress party, the biggest challenge on the international front lies not in the NPT, CTBT or getting a seat on the Security Council. It is the Commonwealth Games that are due to begin in New Delhi exactly a year from now. The CWG is the biggest sporting event to be held in the country since the 1982 Asian Games. When New Delhi won the bid for the CWG in 2004, India had hoped to use the games to showcase the country's economic progress in much the same way that China did during Beijing 2008.


Unless a miracle is pulled off, the games are doomed to become an international sporting disaster which, in an ironic twist to the tourism ministry's " Incredible India" campaign, will end up showing just how incredibly slothful the second fastest growing economy in the world is.


Besides a loss of face, forfeiting the games could impact India vastly on the international front. Now that another Gandhi Jayanti has come and gone and Rahul Gandhi has exceeded his wildest expectations by persuading his partymen to spend a day with a Dalit family, there are ministers and Congress leaders who believe it's time Rahul shed symbolism and got down to serious business by taking up the challenge of ensuring the successful conduct of the CWG. That sets my mind back to the 1980' s.


Then, as now, we were running woefully behind schedule. An international commitment that the Indira Gandhi government had given in 1976 to host the 1982 games was ignored by the Janata Party government which thought it was no big deal if India forfeited the games. When Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980, she had just about two and a half years to get the then overgrown village that was Delhi into shape for the Asian Games. She sidelined Vidya Charan Shukla, then chief of the Indian Olympic Committee ( the post is now occupied by Suresh Kalmadi), appointed a Special Organising Committee with Buta Singh as its chief and appointed her son Rajiv Gandhi as a special invitee to the SOC. Things began to move at a rapid pace with Rajiv taking special care to ensure that nothing was lacking and no effort spared.


He assigned his close aide Arun Singh to monitor the progress of all facilities on a day to day basis and brought in people known for their competence into key areas.


Sankaran Nair, Indira Rajiv Gandhi Gandhi's security chief, was made secretary general of the SOC. Jagmohan was brought back from Goa where he was Lt Governor and given a key charge and so were KP Singh Deo, Kiran Bedi, HKL Bhagat, Air Vice Marshal HL Kapur and others. They were assisted by a volunteer army of thousands.


Rajiv himself visited the stadia, the games village and other sites daily and held meetings, often twice or thrice a day. I remember once he took me along on one of his inspection tours. It lasted nearly eight hours during which time we visited the Asiad Village, the indoor stadium on the Yamuna banks near ITO, the swimming complex at Talkatora and the main venue, the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. His efforts bore fruit and the ninth Asiad was a spectacular sporting success and an organisational triumph for India.


Long before Obama made it a catch phrase, Rajiv showed us " Yes We Can". But now there is a real danger that this time next year, as a nation we would have collected a lot of eggs on our face. This week, Mike Fennel, the CWG federation chief, will meet Manmohan Singh in New Delhi to tell him that India stands the risk of being branded a pariah on the international sporting stage. That's why I wholly support the ministers who feel only Rahul can save the games. He should step in, induct his young Congress colleagues, including ministers, many of whom aren't doing enough because the senior ministers refuse to allocate any meaningful work to them.


They are all incredibly gifted young men whose talents are wasted in the council of ministers.


Admirers of the young Rahul feel that he should, as his father did, get rid of the fellows who have been lining their pockets in the name of the CWG, and lead the team. I am sure they will deliver. We can still put up a spectacular show that will make all Indians proud.









FOR close to a decade, Narendra Modi's bearded visage has been like a red rag to the Congress bull.


The sight of him makes the Congress' blood boil and Modi's close aides in turn say he sleeps better after every verbal skirmish with the khadi brigade.


Dinsha Patel is a senior Congress leader in Gujarat and a Union minister but he obviously was not aware of protocol requirements which dictate that at all functions involving the President of India, the local chief minister must necessarily be consulted. Patel, who heads the Sardar Patel Memorial Trust, wanted to keep Modi out of a Presidential function in Ahmedabad.


But Rashtrapati Bhavan was finding it difficult to accept Patel's plea unless the state government concurred. Modi's office insisted not only on his presence on the dais but on his being seated next to the President since the blue book says that on visits to the states, the President must be flanked by the governor and the chief minister. Patel was thus consigned to one of the corner seats.


Modi may be in trouble with the courts rapping him for his shameful handling of the post- Godhra riots, but it seems every time he finds himself down and out, the Congress comes to his rescue. By harping on the Ishrat Jahan encounter during the recent byeelections, the Congress walked into the trap he laid. Modi ended up winning five of the seven assembly by- elections. Modi's strategy has always been simple: invoke Gujarati pride.


A message from Sonia Gandhi was read out at the Ahmedabad function last week in which Sonia said that Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru never had unbridgeable differences.


It was of course a travesty of facts. So when his turn came to speak, Modi left red faces all around him by saying that " the history of independent India would have been different had Sardar become Prime Minister instead of Nehru." The sight of President Patil squirming in her seat couldn't have escaped Modi, but again, what mattered to him was Gujarati pride.









BUREAUCRATS being bureaucrats, it is perhaps inevitable that they see opportunity beckoning in virtually every official file. Groaning under the austerity measures that have forced them to forsake the morning drive to the golf club in the official white Amby and fly cattle class instead of first class, they suddenly see a ray of hope that could put their lives back on five- star track. A letter sent by a Union minister from Kerala to his senior in the ministry, seeking a Rs one crore grant from the ministry's discretionary funds to an organisation in his home constituency for some social celebrations set them thinking. A quick audit was done of all the money that various ministries distributed during the last two years to NGOs and such like, working primarily in the areas of health, environment, women and child welfare, culture etc.


It was found that the Centre gives Rs 5,000- 6,000 crore every year to such organisations across the country. The babus needed no convincing that less than half of the funds given as grants to these organisations reach the actual beneficiaries, the money being spent mostly on establishment and administrative expenses. Unlike charity, austerity need not necessarily begin at home, they argue. A file has now been moved to the finance ministry detailing a few examples of the misuse of such grants and a proposal has been mooted for the slashing of the grants by half, which could save the government up to Rs 3,000 crore.


The government would ideally lap up the recommendations and implement them right away, since most NGOs are headed by left wingers who are otherwise very vocal critics of its policies. But there is a catch. Sonia Gandhi is very much a patron of several NGO causes and is on very friendly personal terms with the heads of many. If the recommendations win the seal of approval from finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the NGO sector will keep their fingers crossed and hope that Sonia will intervene and save them.














Rio de Janeiro beat out Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo to win the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Notwithstanding Barack Obama's personal appearance at Copenhagen, where the International Olympic Committee met to vote, Chicago was eliminated in the first round which goes to show that political influence isn't everything. Indeed, the USP of Rio's campaign was that Latin America had never hosted the Olympics.

Rio's successful bid for the 2016 Olympics will come as a boost to India's hopes of holding the Games. India has on several occasions expressed its interest in bidding for the 2020 Games. It would do India's image a world of good if it could successfully bid for and host an international sporting event such as the Olympics. But even making a strong bid for the Olympics will require the kind of organisation we seem to lack at the moment.

Within India Delhi is the obvious choice as the venue, having hosted the Asiad in 1982 and playing host to the Commonwealth Games next year. But the preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games don't inspire much confidence. With exactly a year left for the Games to begin, there is a danger that several projects associated with the Games might not be completed on time.

A Comptroller and Auditor General report has said as much. Work on 13 of the 19 sports venues are behind schedule, and the design for the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium the main venue of the Games is yet to be finalised. These would be sending wrong signals to the world about India's capability to host an event of the stature of the Olympics. If India is to have any chance to make a winning bid for the Olympics, it has to put up a stellar show in hosting the Commonwealth Games. Only then would it stand a chance to host the 2020 Games, for which the bidding process will begin in 2011.

We need to realise that the Olympic Games are not just about staging a world sporting event; it's about projecting soft power as well as investing in infrastructure for long-term gains. India could learn from China and the way it went about bidding for and then hosting the 2008 Olympics.


The Chinese government, for instance, pumped in $40 billion to develop Beijing, building new highways, a vast subway network, the world's biggest airport terminal and a showpiece stadium. But before India can even think of bidding for the Olympics it has to get its act together for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. If it doesn't, India can kiss goodbye to any hopes of hosting the Olympics.







The BJP manifesto for the Haryana elections reflects the confusion in party ranks about what it is and what it wants to be. Hardly in a position to influence the political outcome none of the major regional outfits wanted an alliance with the BJP the party has adopted an agenda to please the most conservative sections of the population.

Besides a few populist measures, the manifesto promises to "ban western music and obscenity on display in the name of culture by enacting a law". And, yes, the party will encourage and rejuvenate ancient Haryanvi culture, festivals, sports and melas. No doubt, Haryanvi culture needs to be encouraged even though culture is most likely to flourish when it is free of governmental interference.


But that apart, why does the BJP want a ban on western music? And how does the party plan to define "obscenity in the name of culture" against which it is hell-bent on enacting a law? If we go by the recent activities of fraternal saffron organisations like Sri Rama Sene and Bajrang Dal, the implications of the BJP's vision for Haryana are ominous. These groups believe that all activities, public and private, presumed to be of "western" origin ought to be opposed. So, pubs should be closed down, Valentine's Day celebrations must be attacked and unfamiliar music banned.

Can the BJP, a political party that aspires to gain office, support such a view of culture? Not many in today's India are likely to identify with the sangh parivar's vision of the West as the fountainhead of evil. Ours is a young country and Indian youth don't share the parivar's fear of or disdain for western influences. They welcome all forms of entertainment, irrespective of their origin, and prefer celebration to disruption. Unlike their elders, they are far less concerned about the 'purity' of their Indianness. If the BJP wants to tap the youth it needs to recognise their likings and aspirations, which are anything but those championed by parivar groups.

Any study of the influence of western music or western popular culture on its Indian counterparts is bound to show up how vain the search for cultural purity is. Is the BJP, then, going to take a leaf out of the Taliban's book and ban all music, or at least all popular forms of music? It needs to rethink its ideas of culture and nationalism if it wants to expand beyond a narrow conservative section of the electorate.







The late 1960s and early 70s were witness to an unusual sight: a wave of revolutionary protests by young people all over the world. What made this revolutionary militancy remarkable were two factors. One, that it was independent of the ideologies and social structures of different countries. Two, it was expressed not by an oppressed class or the deprived masses but by a privileged section of youth with the best education that its society could provide. In other words, it was the very group of men and women society had selected as its potential leaders which had risen in open and, at times, violent revolt.

Naxalism was the Indian manifestation of a worldwide phenomenon. Like other violent student movements, it, too, fed on developments in mass communications which permitted young protesters all over the world to instantly identify with each other, lessening feelings of isolation and confirming the rightness of their revolutionary stance. Depending on local conditions, privileged youth in each country that had risen in rebellion searched for dispossessed masses in their own societies who might welcome revolutionary liberation. In India, the Naxals zeroed in on landless peasants.

Psychologists tend to relate revolutionary protest of youth to the young person's struggle for a cohesive sense of identity at a stage of life that demands, among others, the support of a vigorous peer group and an ideology that can attract total commitment. It is true that youthful revolutionary movements with strong ideological underpinnings like Naxalism derived their virulence in part from the emotional upheavals associated with this phase of life.

It is also true that much like a scaffolding that can support a crumbling building, Naxalism provided some young people suffering from identity confusion and its associated mood swings the framework of a convincing world-image and the use of new symbols and slogans ''China's chairman (Mao) is our chairman'' that were needed to achieve a cohesive sense of self and identity. One must further admit that there are ageing Naxalites who, like ageing hippies, cling with desperate determination to their youthful division of the world, as black or white. Now in their late fifties or sixties, they continue to maintain the 'all or nothing' quality that characterises youth, loath to let go of a phase of life that endowed them with rare verve and freshness of vision.

It would, however, be wrong to reduce Naxalism merely to a well-studied phenomenon in the psychology of youth without a psychological understanding of the historical moment that provided some of our best young people a focus for their protest.

The 1970s was a time when it was clear to the highly educated sections of our youth that the older generation had failed to live up to its ethical ideals, whether of Gandhian Ram Rajya or Nehruvian socialism. The patrimony passed on by the older to the younger generation in a society is not only its material development, its power plants, industries, roads, military might, state of environment and so on, but also its moral compass and ethical goals. Naxalism, then, was an attempt at the recovery of ideals that an older generation had surrendered at the altar of economic and political expediency. The Naxals succeeded in tapping into the guilt of parents in betraying their own youthful ideals.

The reaction of the older generation to the evoking of guilt was varied. At one extreme was rage, played out in many families as fierce conflict, especially between fathers and sons, which found collective expression in calls for the annihilation of the 'Naxalite menace' of the society's children. At the other end was the older generation's nostalgia for its own idealistic youth during the freedom movement, and the first years of independence. These fathers saw their Naxal offspring as 'delegates' who would complete the unfinished agenda of their own lives.

Besides forging a link with the older generation, based on the latter's guilt, the Naxals were successful in tapping into the transient unrest and disaffections of young people, especially students, which are otherwise expressed in banal ways of dissent bordering on criminality: taking drugs, ragging, breaking university rules, ignoring traffic laws and so on. They elevated the normal unrest and protest of youth into the realms of heroism and martyrdom by holding aloft images of the struggle of an unarmed or poorly armed 'people' against the hyper-armed might of an oppressive 'state'.

However, once the violent struggle took on its own momentum, the empathy for the 'people' in whose name the revolution was undertaken was soon lost. The 'people' were reduced to mere objects of history, 'collateral damage' in terms of the other, militaristic end of the spectrum of violence. This loss of empathy, sensed by both the older generation and sympathisers among the youth, snapped psychological bonds that had nurtured the Naxals. Bereft of the recognition of their identity and emotional sustenance provided by parents and peers, their individual pasts emptied of human ties, the Naxals were thrown back into the isolation and arid intellectualisations of their own sub-groups. The road to evermore violence, paved with oversimplified and obsolete ideologies, was open.

The writer is a psychoanalyst and novelist.






The opposite of comedy is not tragedy. Comedy has a happy ending, while tragedy has an unhappy end. But despite this structural difference, comedy and tragedy have a fundamental common factor: both are life-affirming. Comedy even comedy that relies on gallows humour is pro-life, in that it has the capacity to laugh off everything including death itself. Less obviously, tragedy too is life-enhancing: Romeo and Juliet must die in the end, but in their doing so love becomes both universal and immortal. If comedy is the bright dazzle of noon, tragedy is the sombre grandeur of sunset; both add light to our lives.

So what then is the opposite of comedy (or of tragedy)? And the answer is pornography. The many avatars of pornography have one thing in common: they are all life-denying, or life-diminishing, as opposed to the erotic which is always a celebration and an enhancement of life. The difference between the pornographic and the erotic is illustrated by the difference between the naked and the nude. The naked human form is an object of negativity: of contempt, scorn, cruelty, pity; it is a reduction of life to animal existence. The nude, clothed in an adoration of light and shade, is a subject of life-affirming sensuality which worships the body as the receptacle of the human spirit.

The comic and the erotic make for excellent bedmates; the pornographic is deeply incompatible with both. The pornographic is a four-letter word scrawled on the wall by a semi-literate vandal. The comic-erotic is the same four-letter word, deliberately misspelt as 'FCUK', on a designer T-shirt. The pornographic is the blunt instrument of an exposed erection; the comic-erotic is Mae West's famous line, "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

The pornographic diminishes and ultimately denies the life force of the sexual impulse; the comic-erotic glorifies it. To use a political analogy, pornography is like a totalitarian state: remorselessly drab, one-dimensional and monochromatic, tolerating no shades of hidden meaning. The comic-erotic, sexually loaded with double meanings and puns, is like a rowdy, raucous democracy, full of irrepressible life.

A recent example of the unbridgeable divide between the pornographic and the comic porn vs corn is Sasha Baron Cohen's latest film, Bruno, which was released in the West in July this year, but which the Indian censor board for once rightly will almost certainly ban in this country. Cohen began his controversial career as a professional imposter who would scandalise British high society by gatecrashing it as a boorish intruder.
When he was finally exposed, in 2006 he turned his talent for mimicry into making a film called Borat in which he impersonated a rabidly anti-Semitic untoilet-trained and foul-mouthed Central Asian who visits the US ostensibly to make a documentary film about American life. Though often gross and full of lavatorial and politically incorrect humour, Borat was genuinely very funny, the comedy lying in the fact that the real-life people interacting with Cohen-Borat were unaware that he was playing a part. This created a genuine and often hilarious comedy of errors.

Cohen's latest film, however, in which he impersonates a homosexual Austrian fashion designer is a total disaster. Anally obsessed, it's about as much fun as being given or giving an enema. So how did Cohen a master comic go so wrong with Bruno? He fell through the trapdoor of pornography, which replaces the double entendre the double meaning of the comic (or the erotic) with the single-point agenda of obscenity for its own sake: the four-letter word as mindless graffiti instead of clever T-shirt. The fatal flaw in Bruno as in all pornography is not that it is morally objectionable. Pornography, along with Bruno, suffers from a far more serious defect: the terminal disease of inducing boredom in the audience.

The opposite of life is not death; it is boredom. As the opposite of corn is porn. And Bruno proves it.







A colleague and good friend, who is a regular user and self-confessed connoisseur of ink nib pens, asked me the other day, as he saw me scribbling with a gel pen, ''You don't ever use an ink nib pen?'' With his question, suddenly the vision of an old forgotten pen with a green body and silver cap flashed past my eyes.


I remembered it after decades. The feeling was like meeting an old friend after a long time. I had used that ink pen since my tenth board exam, through all the exams i had taken thereafter, until entering the job market. I used to believe it was my lucky pen. I recalled filling it up before an exam and carrying a small ink bottle with me into the exam hall with an acute sense of nostalgia. After long three-hour papers, my index and middle fingers would invariably be stained with some ink. We were taught that using an ink pen improves handwriting.

I do not know where my pen got lost in the mists of time. I started writing with whatever pen came my way somewhere along the way. Maybe it happened because ink pens kind of disappeared from daily life. Ink pens are never advertised anymore and at work, it is rare to find anyone regularly using them, even more so as the printed word takes over the written word.


My daughter, now in her last year of school, has never used an ink pen in her life. For her, pens mean gel pens with fancy names and fancier advertising budgets. She has never experienced the thrill of having ink on her fingers after a long stint of writing, nor the pleasure of believing that a pen can bring her luck. For her, a pen lasts until its ink lasts. Then, it is consigned to the dustbin and a new one takes over. No long-term bonding, no sense of belonging develops. A curse of the disposable times we live in, one supposes. Though the ink pen is slowly fading from our lives, even today when, on a paper, a few people have written with different pens, the words etched with an ink pen stand out. I still don't have the courage to revert to ink pens though. Convenience is the ultimate arbiter.










Some will find fault with the pomp, glory and official heavy-handedness that went with the foundation celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Beijing can be excused: its leadership can rightly feel it has accomplished much. Modern China has many number one hits, including being the first to lift so many people out of poverty in such a short time and being the first Third World nation to be universally seen as a superpower in the making. In the realm of the economy, in particular, China has broken the mould.


China's bout with modernity and the last few rounds it still has to get through are the stuff of epic poetry. The Chinese suffered terribly from the ruling party's mistakes during the first three decades that followed the Republic's founding. Political evolution still remains Beijing's most pressing concern. In contrast, in India the political process has largely been taken for granted and it is the economic story that, until recently, has been a tale of failed expectations. The present intellectual consensus that China and India are on track to reclaim the positions they lost two centuries ago — but this time as modern rather than mediaeval States — is barely two decades old. There is still a bit of disbelief among many Chinese and Indians that this will actually come to pass. But there can be little doubt that this new attitude had its origins in China's decision to launch economic reforms in 1971. Or that China's success helped spur a less urgent Indian leadership to action.


Over the past six decades China and India buried a number of myths: that creating a modern State was largely a Western phenomenon, that population was a death sentence for such development, that there was a specific formula of political economy that had to be followed. Beijing still has plenty of hurdles to cross, including the direction of its polity and defining its geopolitical space. Nonetheless, China's huge pageant was a statement that not only has it come of age, but that it did so, to take a line from Frank Sinatra, "my way." As the Chinese writer Lu Xun once said, "When people walk all the time, on the same spot, a path appears." It is not a path for India, but it is one now laid out for other aspiring countries.







Raj Thackeray (sic) is remembered before the polls thanks to a little yelp from a friend Tomah-to, tomay-to; potay-to, aloo. But some people would really prefer it that we get the words right. So it is with Mumbai and Mumbhai. Karan Johar's not the only Mumbhaikar to keep calling the city 'Bombay'. But it's Johar-bhai who was the sitting Mumbai Duck when his latest film, Wake Up Sid (Sena), riding on some serious box-office money, made far too many references to 'the beautiful bay' of Bom Bahia as the anachronistic 'Bombay'. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) bossman Raj Thakre is still smarting from the fact that the Bombay Marine — the private navy of the East India Company — and its actions against Maratha vessels in the early 19th century, really established the first real power base in India for the Company Raj. So, Mr Thakre really had to come down on Mistah Johar for having characters in his film refer to Mumbai as Bombay.


Mr Johar is no fighter nor was he meant to be. So as part of a negotiated deal that may have involved changing the name of his television chat show to 'Coffee with Caran' as well as putting a one-line disclaimer about the Mumbai-Bombay switch in his movie at the start of the film, Mr Johar lives another day. The Marathi manoos feels vindicated about now knowing what the MNS's Assembly poll issue is weeks before he goes to vote in Westminster-style elections.


It's easy for us in the comfort of our cheap front stall seats and cheaper pirated DVDs to hrrmph about Mr Johar caving in to Mr Thakre's demands. But it's the filmmaker who's at the frontlines, making sure that the hundreds, if not the thousands, dependent on the release and success of his film earn enough to take those trains that ply in and out of Victoria Terminus for their livelihood. So a gift hamper for you, Johar-ji.









'When Adam left heaven and came to earth, he came to India.'


I heard this grand declaration six years ago, just one of many made by delighted members of parliament in Khartoum, capital of the war-wracked central African State of Sudan. India's former President, the charismatic A.P.J.  Abdul Kalam (or Abubakr Zainabdeen Abu Kalam, as his name was Sudanised in the local press) listened to these outpourings with a bemused but growing smile.


It was also the only time I heard Kalam — ever the politically correct missile scientist — begin a speech with the Muslim greeting of Assalaam Aleikum, after being greeted with roars of Allah-o-Akbar when he stepped up to address MPs.


In the somewhat ramshackle galleries of the stadium-like Sudanese parliament, cooled ineffectively by industrial fans, a 30-something MP called Medina Mustafa turned to me and softly started singing a 1960s Bollywood hit: "Meri man ki Ganga… (the Ganga of my mind)"


Another MP in a flowing white robe and turban turned to me and said: "Mera naam Mohammed hain, aapka naam kya hain (My name's Mohammed, what's yours)?"


It started with Gujarati settlers who arrived in the horn of Africa more than 150 years ago. Bollywood's happy influence has helped, as has the sponsorship of a local football team by State-owned oil giant, the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. India is indeed beloved in Sudan, the same country that gave the world a synonym for starving children and the brutality of civil war: Darfur.


I remembered my experiences in Sudan as I listened with disquiet to some of the knee-jerk deepest-Africa-type reactions when the South African telecom company MTN pulled out of a proposed $23-billion (Rs 110,000 crore) merger deal with India's largest telecom company, Bharti Airtel. It would have created a behemoth with the third-largest number of wireless subscribers in the world.


Some reactions from India Inc:


"I don't know who will want to touch MTN with a 10-foot pole."


"Indian industry is quite disappointed… in future Indian companies will be over-cautious."


"They (the South African government) could have said they will make an exception in their law in terms of dual-listing norms."


Let's not be hypocrites. The Bharti-Airtel deal was called off because of national interest. India's national interest prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call President Jacob Zuma last week and push the deal. South Africa's national interest pushed its treasury, which must clear multinational deals, to refuse permission (Interesting aside: the South African government's interlocutor on this deal is of Indian origin, their respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan).


I can understand why the South Africans might be wary of being overshadowed by India's aggressive, globalising business community. If South Africa wants to keep MTN South African, so be it.


In 2002, national interest drove ONGC to a great deal in Sudan. ONGC paid a Canadian company $650 million (Rs 3,120 crore) to buy out its stake in the Greater Nile Oil Project. Threatened by a US and Canadian blacklist, the Canadian company wanted out, one of the few times morals eclipsed national interest.


Oil revenues provided — and still provide — Khartoum's Islamist government finances for a bloody war against Christian and Animist rebels in southern Sudan. For Sudan's dictator, Lt Gen Omar Hassan Ahmed al Basheer, a man once accused of sheltering Osama bin Laden, that was a great vote of confidence.


For India, the deal was in the national interest, damn Basheer's repugnant government and dubious morals. Today, despite strong competition from the Chinese — who, like Indians, have few qualms about working with murderous regimes — ONGC is flourishing in Sudan.


Business opportunity and personal morals have been, are, and always will be second to national interest. Let's understand this, and let's move on to the opportunities Africa presents.


As Africa tackles health and social problems that bedevil India equally, there are indications that the future is full of possibilities.


Since 1994, Africa's economy has grown at an unprecedented pace. Between 2005 and 2015, 27 of 32 African economies are creating 'a window of opportunity' by going through a demographic transition — societies are getting richer and having fewer children, argues a recent Harvard University paper. Urban India with its one- or two-child families has undergone demographic transition, the poorer parts of India have not.


These African societies may well be lucrative markets for Indian companies, masters of squeezing profit from Re 1 shampoo sachets (pioneered by Chennai's Cavin Care, which now has plans to enter Africa).


Africa can hone India Inc's model of slim margins, high volumes, low costs and big profits.


Indian mobile companies flourish despite earning $6.5 (Rs 312) from every user. They could do better: in Kenya, a market not dissimilar to India, each mobile user generates $9.8 (Rs 470), according to data from Telegeography, a communications consultant.


In some African markets, MTN drops call rates frequently during the day, even every hour. If network use drops, so do call charges. These rates flash on telephone screens.


But if India is to make headway in Africa, the opportunity cannot be about India. The discomfort — rarely echoed in public — many South Africans feel with Indians is maybe why they did not want to change their rules for Bharti. In South Africa, Indians are known for some racial arrogance and clannishness. The T20 World Cup didn't help. We treated the country like a private holiday resort.


We have strong emotional bonds with many parts of Africa. Let's build on those — and learn some humility.







Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to have developed the habit of creating unnecessary controversies about our national leaders. He is neither known for his sense of history nor his scholarship. But he still tried to run down India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, by praising another stalwart Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Both Nehru and Patel have a place in history and neither needs certificates from anyone, least of all Modi. The country remembers them for their immense contributions and their names will forever be etched in golden letters.


Modi said that if Patel were made the Prime Minister of India (instead of Nehru), the country would not have witnessed the terrorism it is facing today in Jammu and Kashmir. Speculation does not alter history and we have to accept reality as it is. It is like saying if aunty had a moustache she would have been uncle. Or, in his context, if he had not usurped the position of chief ministership in late 2001 by pressuring BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy and others, there would have been no Gujarat riots and he would have still had his valid US visa.


In the case of Nehru and Patel, it was Nehru who was the prime minister and Patel his deputy as well as home minister. Both men were visionaries, well-educated — unlike many politicians we know  — and contributed to the very best of their abilities to the country. Both may have made mistakes but that does not change things. Modi and other BJP leaders cannot turn the clock back even if they want to and, therefore, must view things in the present-day context.


It is also true that BJP leaders somehow try to pit Patel against Nehru to run down India's first prime minister who laid the foundations of democracy and development. Patel had a vital role to play and died when the country needed him the most. But, who can battle death?


In Modi's case, he tries to touch an emotional chord among Gujaratis by invoking Sardar Patel's name. Could it be that he wants to compensate for displacing the BJP's best-known Patel leader, Keshubhai from his position while becoming the CM for the first time? No one has ever heard Modi going out of his way to praise Mahatma Gandhi, whom the whole world reveres. He was a Gujarati for people like Modi but much more for everyone else. Besides being the Father of the Nation, he was the original apostle of peace. Modi cannot identify with him for obvious reasons. Similarly, any attempt to identify with Patel is also  futile because Patel was a unifier and not a communalist. He had a national vision and his politics were not sectarian.


Another point which continues to fox BJP-watchers is why its leaders do not invoke Morarji Desai's name. After all, he was from Gujarat. He was the first chief minister of the state of Bombay and the first prime minister whom the Bharatiya Jana Sangh wholeheartedly supported —  so much so that they decided to forget their own identity and merge fully into a new political formation. Both Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani served under him. But Modi and Advani shy away from uttering his name.


The BJP leaders are fixated over some Congress leaders who became iconic for them. Vajpayee tried to become a Pandit Nehru, which he could never become, and Advani continued to remain not even a pale copy of Patel. Coining phrases like 'vikas purush' and 'lauh purush' does not lead to drawing parallels with India's national icons. Surprisingly, none of the top BJP leaders has tried to model himself on Shyama Prasad Mookerjee or Deen Dayal Upadhyaya or even any of the RSS chiefs. If they believe in any ideology, there is no need to be apologetic about it. Between us.








The question of what was amiss in Shopian had long morphed into the despairing realisation that everything is. The convoluted routes the original investigation into the deaths on May 29 of Neelofer (22) and Aasiya (17) had taken, the dead ends it had encountered, the claims and counter-claims, the suspensions, arrests and the release on bail of local police officers, the shocker of the fake forensic samples, the admission of criminal negligence and wrongdoing by doctors — all against the backdrop of a faltering, confused and confusing state administration and the stark likelihood of another sudden civil flare-up — have made 'Shopian' a ready, one-word reference for the Valley and its troubled history. How this act of crime and human tragedy was allowed to spiral into a months-long gory saga is an object lesson in how not to mete out justice to victims and their kin, how not to mock public indignation.


That the Shopian probe was finally handed over to the CBI on September 9 may be cause for more hope than hitherto could be invested in the investigation, but it is hardly the end of the story. The bodies of the two victims have since been exhumed, and new forensic evidence discovered by senior AIIMS professionals has reportedly prompted an admission of cover-up on the part of a doctor who had conducted the first set of tests on the victims' bodies. The state administration must answer why it did not probe the neglect of standard operating procedure in a medico-legal case.


The state government had for long stuck to ensuring that, irrespective of the success or sincerity of the probe, public anger would be mitigated by the arrests and appearance of action. Now that the CBI has taken over, it is imperative that the truth be unearthed and the tragedy laid to rest. For this the CBI must be transparent.







When there's an election round the corner, any random thing can become political dyamite. And when there's an election round the corner in Maharashtra, there seems to be no end to the absurdity. Where else would a sweet and inoffensive slacker comedy like Wake up, Sid find itself as the flashpoint for fervid identity politics?

Raj Thackeray's MNS threatened theatres from screening the movie, because it commits the cardinal sin of referring to the city as Bombay a few times (though it says Mumbai just as casually, and the lead characters work at a magazine called Mumbai Beat). Bollywood understands the language of violence, said Thackeray in silky Marathi doubtless — and sure enough, Karan Johar, one of the most powerful names in the industry, promptly proved him right. He went over to Thackeray's place to apologise, and promised to insert a grovelling disclaimer before the movie. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan expressed his disgust with both the bully and the cowed victim, saying that the state was perfectly capable of providing security to Karan Johar, and that this apology was just a publicity stunt. But more charitably, maybe Johar had no desire to be the brave voice of dissent, and he figured a quick apology was better that inviting Thackeray's inconvenient enmity. But if Karan Johar couldn't stand up to a self-styled thug like Thackeray, what can less influential folks do but stay away from anything likely to attract his glowering attentions?


The point is not that Raj Thackeray (and Bal Thackeray before him) have seized upon Marathi manoos disenfranchisement to define a coarse and resentful politics — the point is that they get away with it. The city in Wake up, Sid is definitely not the hick town of Raj Thackeray's dreams — it is indeed "Bombay", the fabled gritty city where young people come from Kolkata and Bangalore, seeking their own private grails. Why isn't our politics aggressively sticking up for that expansive vision? We know the uses of taking an extreme position: you help decide or determine where the centre will fall. By not countering the narratives, we — and indeed, quite glaringly, Chavan's own administration — are letting goons forever blight the idea of Bombay.










Against severe odds, India has built a 202-km transmission line to bring electricity to Afghanistan's power-starved capital, Kabul. The four-year-long project is notable for a number of reasons. For one, it is a confidence booster. At a time when Indian engineering within our borders (think of the overruns in years and budgets for the Mumbai sea-link) is a study in waste, this project, implemented on war-ravaged foreign shores, will surely boost our confidence. Second, as India begins to punch its weight in the world arena, lighting up Kabul demonstrates our capability. Third, remember that Pakistan had refused to allow heavy equipment meant for the project to travel through its territory, resulting in one of the largest airlifts Afghanistan has seen. With Pakistani allegations over India's presence in Afghanistan reaching fever pitch, the electricity line showcases Indians as a benevolent presence committed to capacity building in the region.


India's success also contains larger lessons. Indian involvement in Afghanistan is on the ascent. There is talk of India building an industrial estate which will generate much needed employment for the local population. There is also talk of Indian involvement in food processing, which addresses rural farmlands and a long-term plan to inhibit poppy cultivation. But this involvement has predictably only made Pakistan more argumentative, with Islamabad lobbying diplomatically against India's assistance. As if on cue, reports indicate that General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has cautioned that increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures. Should India continue to assist in rebuilding Afghanistan, or should the general's advice be heeded?


India must of course be sensitive to the inevitability that our increased involvement in Afghanistan could open up Indian installations to attacks — diplomatically and physically. But beyond that, India must not waver from its commitment to build roads, industrial parks and other infrastructure projects in Afghanistan. Of course, India must keep its partners — among them, the United States — fully in the loop, and mount a diplomatic offensive to counter Pakistani fears. This country has deep strategic and humanitarian concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, and its commitment to capacity building needs to be sustained by sharp diplomacy.








What could have been India's largest outward foreign investment deal — Bharti's proposed takeover of South African telecom major MTN, valued at $23 billion — finally fell through last week at the altar of populist politics. Populism, as the term is used in the broad political economy discourse, describes policy decisions where cynical political motives take primacy over sensible economics, to the detriment of long-term economic performance. There is probably no better example of this than the US car industry, which has repeatedly been propped up by government over many decades, ostensibly in the national interest, but continues to be bankrupt nonetheless.


For Bharti-MTN, the stage was as perfect as it could have been for a merger between India's biggest telecom operator and Africa's largest telecom company. Together, they would have formed the third largest telecom company in the world and been superbly placed to expand beyond their local markets. The price, it seems, was mutually acceptable. The formula dictating cash and share swap components was worked out too. Hardly surprising, since both companies had spent many months negotiating all this, with a large set of bankers, lawyers and consultants advising them.


The only potential twist in the tale lay with MTN's largest shareholder — the South African government. With a 21 per cent stake in MTN, through its wholly owned investment corporation, it was the single largest shareholder in MTN and thus could virtually veto any deal. And as it turns out, the acquisition of MTN — a symbol of "black empowerment" and "national pride" in South African business — by a foreign company was simply not acceptable to the left-leaning Jacob Zuma government.


The demand for dual listing of Bharti-MTN (that is, in both Indian and South African stock markets) was at best a compromise to ensure that MTN continued to have a South African character even after takeover. At worst, and more likely, it was just a cynical cover-up for deliberately sinking the deal. Since India doesn't have capital account convertibility, Bharti could not have listed in South Africa. The government of South Africa would have surely known that India would not change its policy on convertibility for just one deal.


Of course, Bharti will lose out from the failure of this deal to materialise, but so will MTN, a fact which the government of South Africa has ignored in its short-sighted and purely political decision to keep MTN under South African ownership. If the objective of the South African government was really to empower black South Africans then a merged company with a global presence — that would have grown much faster — would have offered more jobs and more opportunities for black South Africans. And investors other than the government would have made good money from a sell-out in any case. So it isn't clear who has gained — national pride maybe, but not the average black South African investor or potential employee. That essentially sums up the problem with populist political decisions in the world of business. They end up compromising efficiency, competitiveness and growth of firms.


In India, we hardly need a lesson in the damage politics can do to business — just look at our public sector companies. Many struggle to remain viable business entities. And those that make handsome profits usually do so because government restricts competition from the private sector. So don't get misled by the "some PSUs are profitable" argument — it's only with the support of policy crutches.


Of course, the same companies could do well if they were allowed to function as commercial entities, but the fact is, they are not. All major policy decisions are routed through parent ministries and often through cabinet committees and the cabinet. This not only delays decision-making but also brings political considerations into it (note how the home state of the minister of railways always gets the new factories and offices). Ministers and bureaucrats freely use PSUs as fertile grounds for patronage. And most PSUs are over-staffed because of "social obligation" (basically populism) to create jobs for the favoured.


The classic example of a PSU gone wrong is Air India, which suffers from all of the problems mentioned above. However, the government simply refuses to either sell it or close it because it's a "national carrier". There is, of course, no reason to have a national carrier, especially when we have many other airlines operating much more efficiently in India and abroad. Air India could, of course, become the airline of choice (the more appropriate commercially oriented way to describe a "national carrier") for Indian and foreign consumers if it is well run, but for that the government needs to get out of the way. We can complain about MTN and South Africa now but would the government of India be willing to sell any of its PSUs, including the telecom majors MTNL and BSNL to a foreign buyer? Probably not, if past experience is an indicator.


Contrast this to what happens if politics is not allowed to interfere in the business of business. The recent sale of Ranbaxy to the Japanese firm Daiichi by its Indian promoters may not have pleased the populist nationalists. But the promoters and other Indian investors who sold out at a very good time did very well for themselves. And Ranbaxy is still operating in India, with Indian employees, and could no doubt grow under Daiichi management which will be good for stakeholders (and indeed non-promoter shareholders) in India. It is easy to forget that takeovers are a crucial component of corporate governance. They help keep firms on their toes, and if a firm is under-performing under the current ownership, it will be bought and improved by someone else. That's good for efficiency, that's good for the economy.


Outside India, consider what would have happened if Arcelor was actually owned by the French or Luxembourg government. Given their fervent populist opposition to Lakshmi Mittal's takeover, the deal would not have happened. However, since the decision was taken by value-maximising private shareholders, the deal went through to the benefit of both Mittal and Arcelor and indeed France and Luxembourg (even if not their politicians).


So, MTN, Air India and countless other such firms would be better off if politicians stuck to the business of politics and let the business of business be settled in corporate boardrooms, not in the corridors of power.








As it turns 60, longevity will be the one wish China's Communist Party will fervently hold for itself. The "perennial ruling party", as it likes to be known as, is preparing itself for a critical transition of power. Its outcome will decide the next line-up of leaders who will govern the country in 2012. This could be a high-risk political mahjong that, not unlike the ancient gambling game, calls for skill, strategy and a good measure of luck. As the political leadership calculates its moves, the question is, will the gamble pay off?


The one constant that could underpin the process is unpredictability. Between now and 2012, China could see some of the most bitterly fought leadership battles. Last month, all attention was on the fourth plenary session of the Party's Central Committee for indicators as to who Hu Jintao's likely successor will be. Contrary to expectations, Vice President Xi Jinping failed to be named as vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission (CMC). The fact that he is the son of a veteran communist revolutionary hero and former vice-premier was expected to ease his way. Princelings or politicians who hail from the families of high-ranking officials have flourished in China's power matrix. The 25-member Politburo of the Party, for instance, has seven princelings while the larger Central Committee has 19. Xi's promotion would have been a strong signal that he is en route to becoming China's next president. But the stumble just goes to show that China's war of succession is by no means wrapped up or guaranteed to be smooth.


Many of these pitched political contests are also a reminder that China's policy-making process is hardly the monolithic world of straight-line decision-making that it is often romanticised to be. Internal political competition is set to get intense as Party elders seek to find a place for themselves or their protégés in the influential Politburo Standing Committee of 2012. Hu's own embattled political position was evident from his decision to leave the G-8 summit this July and rush back to do fire-fighting. He is trying to fend off charges of being ineffectual in his handling of the security situation in Xinjiang and Tibet. He is also under increasing pressure to remove his protégé, the regional secretary of the Party in Xinjiang, Wang Lequan.


These uncertainties could be an indication that there need not be a complete transfer of power in 2012. It remains to be seen if there will be a repeat of the grudging transfer of power, as was the case from Jiang Zemin to Hu. Of his three posts, Jiang relinquished only the position of the general secretary of the Party to Hu in November 2002 and continued as president till March the next year before passing on the mantle to his successor. Most importantly, Jiang continued as chairman of the CMC till late 2004. The outcomes of many of these battles will also turn on how the rivalry between the Shanghai faction under Jiang and the Communist Youth League faction under Hu shapes up.


These mounting tensions also have the potential to make the political leadership jumpy, abrasive and in no mood to take any chances. This would then also impact state-society relations. The recent crackdown against civil society initiatives could be a signal that greater control in the name of caution might be the formulaic political response to dissent. Societal tolerance levels too appear to be fraying thin with people not in much of a mood to forgive any backsliding on social space. The primary challenge facing the Chinese leadership will be to prevent this conversation from breaking down. This will call for a delicate balancing act between the Party's anxiety about an erosion of its political supremacy and the compelling need for a robust domain of public autonomy. Much will depend on how China's leaders make this call.


Some of these leadership battles could also feed into a messy brew of national chauvinism, insecurity and uncertainty. Political signalling aimed at winning friends and influencing hardliners could be very much part of this power play. Where posturing ends and reality begins may, for a while, be hard to determine.


The writer is associate professor, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi










Hello and welcome to walk the talk. I am Shekhar Gupta at New Delhi 's Roosevelt House and my guest this week, the new US Ambassador to India-Ambassador Roemer. Welcome to walk the talk.


TR: Thank you. Namaste


SG: Namaste. The new US Ambassador. Do you feel new or do you feel a veteran already?

TR: I feel probably this is the most important post in the world. Certainly there are always challenges and opportunities here. I am learning as we go. I was instructed by President Obama to try to go out and meet as many people as I possibly can. I remember standing in the White House with the President. The president looked at me and said, 'Tim, you know that there are a billion people in India ?' I said yes sir, I know that. he said, 'I want you to meet as many of those billion people as you possibly can.'


SG: Infact when you back to him, you qualify to him by saying that you forgot to tell me that there are a billion Indians in India , who are argumentative, difficult, diverse.

TR: Well sir, we are diverse. And I think it is one of the great strengths and one of the commonalities between Indian and the United states . We know in the United States we have great diversity in income, in class, in religion, in people. And if there was a scale of 1 to 1o in the United States , we like to think we are about nine and a half. I think in India there might be a new scale up to 19 in the diversity. And it is a great strength of vitality and vibrancy that is here that is great…


SG: We saw you at a school yesterday. We have also seen the US embassy now organizing Iftars in different parts of the country. This people to people contact is not something we associated American diplomacy with. So is there a shift and is this an Obama left shift?

TR: Well, it is two things, I think. One, president Obama has said to me directly at the White House, 'I want you to go out and meet people. Make sure that it is not just important government officials in Delhi but it is people throughout the country, rich and poor, in school and out of school, people with opportunities and people without opportunities. I think also I get it from my parents. My parents, I love them dearly, they are great role models, and my father and mother always said to me that it is one thing to have faith and to go to your services and pray, it is another thing to act that out and community service is a way to act that out, helping to plant trees here in a Delhi park, going to a particular school and helping mentor education. Many Indian businesses do the same with corporate social responsibility, reaching back to help others, after they have succeeded, bring more along the path to success. And I think you gonna see a lot of it, well I mean this mission in Delhi .


SG: That is also a six-time congressman speaking because you learn to look after your constituents.

TR: That is important. That is experience. Well, you look after your constituents but you also know in jobs like this that communicating with people is important, not only communicating with important business leaders, encouraging trade hopeful for a successful Doha round, advocating closer defence and military cooperation, success in the civilian nuclear deal. These are all important but so are people to people ties. After all that is the basis, that is the strength of our two countries foundation. Business to business, people to people…


SG: Would you say the India relationship is one of the few or one of the more visible areas where Obama administration has simply picked up the thread from the previous one? That there is total continuity?

TR: I think there is continuity and change and both are strengths in this relationship. I think the continuity is very respectful, a strong tie between United States and India , its people to people, it is business to business, it is 95,000 Indians in American colleges and universities. But it is also the success of the political system. Democrats and Republicans, President Clinton and President Bush, my predecessor David Mulford, it is also Indian government officials, Prime minister Singh, Prime Minister Vajpayee, we all recognize that this important relationship is a historic destiny to bring us together, not only in a bilateral way but in a global way to work on some of our world's most important problems. And I think that is where the President (Obama ) wants to take this relationship.


SG: So declassify for us, only what you want to declassify, of the conversations you had with your predecessor David Mulford. Did he give you any dos and don'ts? Did he hand you over some unfinished business or pass on some bucks to you?

TR: David is a very gracious guy and I reached out to different ambassadors who have served in this position when President Obama picked me and I want to learn from them to see what to do, as you said, and what mistakes not to make. David was very very nice and said, 'I wanna take you to and Sally out for dinner with my wife Jenny'. They did. He told me some very important things about completing the nuke deal, there are some legacy issues we need to work out there between our two governments, we are making progress but there are still some things to push forward. He told me how to run a big mission, some dos and don'ts there for morale and for constituencies that you play to and he also told me about the State department and the White House and how to work with both. So, David, Richard, Frank Wisener, all the way back to John Kenneth Galbraith and Patrick Moynehan . There are some big shoes to fill in this job.


SG: There are two very distinct categories. You have Frank Wisener, Pickering , these were people who were career foreign service officers. But there have been appointees like you, Mulford before that Dixalase came from outside…

TR: John Kenneth Galbraith. He came from outside, from President Kennedy.


SG: Absolutely. Is there a difference in approach, by virtue of the fact that you come in from sort of the political system. Do you see yourself being able to get more done in Washington or do you see usual bureaucracy in the way.

TR: I think that is a great question. Certainly, I have a great deal of respect for the foreign service and our State department and people there who have spent their lives and careers and who have come in with a great deal of knowledge about how to run a mission. I also think there are inherent and huge advantages to somebody coming from the political system and somebody who is close to the president. I am the president's representative here in India . The president and I campaigned together in a host of states very early on. I had long discussions with the president at the White House about US-India relations where he has talked to me about his conversations with Manmohan Singh, who he has such high respect for. But I also think that one of the advantages of coming from the political system is and my background in Congress is politics, and knowing how the state department and the white house operate. When we need to get some budget done here, a political problem of the finance is solved, where do we go in the Washington DC to get that done. We also have a very vibrant Indian caucus back in the United States and I have worked with them before…


SG: can you tell me one thing that President Obama said about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

TR: When we had completed our meeting after about an hour after talking about US-India relations, he came very close to me and said, 'I just want you to know one thing about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He touched his heart and he said, 'every time I talk to him, I feel very close to him. We have this connection and you make sure that when you see him that he is in good health and that I look forward to talking to him'. Then he said, every time I speak to him on the phone or see him at a meeting in London , I think it will be 5-7 minute conversation and it doubles because we have this connection. We know there is so much work our two countries can accomplish together. He feels very close to him.


SG: I ask you because there is this feeling in India --there was about a six-week period of some kind of a chill, you know President Bush had his highest ratings of any country in India until the day he demitted office—there was a feeling that somehow emphasis on India would shift. Your predecessor was in Walk the Talk just a few months before he left…

TR: I saw the interview.


SG: You saw the interview. And infact, he counted as the main achievement of his period the de-hyphenation of US policy towards India and Pakistan . There was a great fear that it will get re-hyphenated. Ricahrd Holbrooke came, so there were many insecurities. Were you exposed to nay of those before you came in and after you came in?

TR: No, infact, I think what President Obama and Secretary Clinton have advocated is how do we build on this

foundation of a very successful and significant civilian nuclear relationship that has broken through some new faith and trust and expand this into four-five key global issues facing us today. You know, President Obama doesn't do anything in small ways. He is a big thinker. He wants a broad ambitious agenda. So, one issue on civilian nuclear has now been expanded to strategic and defence cooperation, to after threats like Lashkar-e-Toiba but also global issues of defence cooperation with our two great countries. He is talking about climate, energy, green initiatives, green jobs, he is talking about women's development and education reform and he is also talking about Doha round and trade and economic links between the two countries, how do we help the poor come into the middle class.


SG: Since President has this big picture, big strokes of the brush, the vision kind of a person, he is a visionary. What is his big vision on India and India -Us relations?

TR: His big vision is, we think that India is an emerging global player significant in a host of different issues from how do we cooperate on strategic cooperation in very important neighbourhood, how do we work together on this. Mr Chidambaram just had a very successful visit as Home Minister to the United States . We are now doing unprecedented exchanges on intelligence sharing, we are gonna do maga city police training, the FBI, which did so much good work after the Mumbai attacks, I think we gonna see enhanced cooperation and training from them. That, we build on that. How do we now start to cooperate on climate issues and clean technologies? Both our countries are interested in developing new markets here.


SG: I think Mr Chidambaram has to pick you brain on many things because you were a member of the 9/11 commission. You looked at what goes wrong with intelligence and you have a better insight than many people here. Have you had a conversation yet?

TR: I have met several times with Mr Chidambaram and we have had very good conversations as I had with Mr Narayanan. I had a very good conversation with the Prime Minister in a sit-down that lasted about an hour, about a week and a half ago. I think one of the reasons President Obama picked me, selected me for this job is the closeness to him, of course, my experience in national security issues and the 9/11 commission and especially given the Mumbai attacks just happened here. How do we work together, we did somethings wrong prior to 9/11, how do we fix those. We have about 39 different proposals that we have come along in United States . What can we help India with? What can we learn from India in this process? How is India approaching this? And how do we combine our forces going forward to take on this emerging world and regional threat.


SG: Because you were also one of the prime movers of the Homeland Security Bill and then you opposed it.

TR: I did. One of the best votes I ever cast.


SG: So what happened because I am sure Mr Chidambaram would like to know something more about that as well because that is a debate that goes on all the time in federal coalition structure like India.

TR: Well, I initially was a co-sponsor of the bill that would put together a entrepreneurial and quick acting and small Homeland Security Department just like the enemy we often face whether it is Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Laskar-e-Toiba, different groups and cells and they are quick acting. They can strike at a moments notice anywhere in the world. We don't need b bureaucracies to deal with that. we need quick acting agencies. So…


SG: And you think what you had moved had become a big bureaucracy?

TR: I think there are still some challenges that we face on that front. I think Janet Napolitano is working them through and putting together a very smooth operation…


SG: That is a lesson fro India to learn as well because a new idea could become a big bureaucracy in no time.

TR: I think what you wanna do is you wanna put together an agency, something that thinks ahead of the organisations that you are hoping to strategise against. You want the vision coming before the attacks. You want be protective and proactive. And you wanna break down Stove pipes in different organisations, you wanna share knowledge from the top of the organisation down to the states, your system is very similar to our system and the local polices and special operations can do a lot to achieve safety in our communities.


SG: So, obviously you won't tell me exactly what you and we are doing together but tell me a little bit about how we are doing it. Is there a mechanism now in intelligence sharing, how do we share it, how do we jointly asses threats. Just how deeply we are involved with each other now?

TR: Well, I can't get into all the details…


SG: Nor do I want to know.

TR: ....but what I can tell you is that on intelligence sharing side that we are in unprecedented ways sharing more and more actionable intelligence, things that you can act on immediately. We are finding ways to communicate knowledge ahead of time and share threats.


SG: Could we have shared somethings since 26/11 which may have already prevented something?

TR: Very likely. That has happened. We are not only working on intelligence sharing we are working on our people coming from the United States to India and sharing their knowledge, sharing past mistakes that we have made but also learning from India. People from India are going to America , learning from our police operations, our forensics, our DNA training, our technology…


SG: And there is technology transfer of some kind?

TR: There are technology transfers that are taking place and will take place in the future that will benefit both countries and there are bigger things that we can do together moving forward. Look India has a rich tradition on the non-proliferation area. Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday we celebrated, talked about a world free of nuclear weapons. Rajiv Gandhi had a plan to achieve this. On nuclear non-proliferation there are opportunities for our two countries to work together…


SG: But that is universal global disarmament.

TR: That is disarmament but there are also ways that we can that we can work on non-proliferation together, there are ways that we can work on climate change through solar energy and alternative energy projects together. Both our countries are concerned about cleaner air, cleaner water, protecting the soil for our farmers being more productive and growing crops, flooding issues that may take place in your country and our country and how do we mitigate those floods ahead of time. After all, you know, many of our defence exercises now in the United States are not just about other nation state's threats, they are about transnational threats, flooding issues, flu, cyber-security. How does the United States of America and the Republic of India work on these transnational issues.


SG: Are we talking adequately?

TR: I think we are but there is also room for us to even get better on these issues.


SG: I am fascinated that you mentioned Lashkar-e-Toiba in the same vein as Al-Qaeda and others, the Taliban. So that sets at rest a suspicion that even Americans would nuance it , terrorism to Pakistan's west and terrorism to Pakistan's east. But are you really optimistic that Pakistanis will do something real on Lashkar-e-Toiba, given the linkages there. The latest New York Times story is a good example that linkages continue.

TR: The United States has been very clear about this. We experienced our 9/11 and I served on that commission, met with many of the families who lost sons and daughters. When I came here with secretary Clinton we stayed in the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. I met the General Manager who lost his entire family, which is absolutely unfathomable to me, unthinkable to me that you could lose an entire family. We have both experienced that. The United States lost six people in the Mumbai attacks, India lost dozens and dozens of people. United States has been very clear about this. One, we want those six people that have been caught and are now on trial starting in early October in Islamabad are given adequate lengthy sentences. Two, Hafiz Saeed is prosecuted and brought to justice and three, that the infrastructure of Lashkar-e-Toiba is dismantled. They are regional threat not just a threat to India . So those are very clear issues for the United states .


SG: So, you don't make the distinction between Lashkar-e-Toiba being more indigenous, unless India settles Kashmir, people in Pakistan 's Punjab will be angry, what can we do?

TR: Look, there are many issues that United States needs to engage India with. One is national security, one is economic security, one is energy security. There are many things that we can address. One of the things that President Obama has done so brilliantly in his last few months in office, he is only in there close to ten months, is that he has said that you need to use all of the resources of the United States, its power, defence, military but also its diplomacy and its development and we need to do all those things at the same time. We can fight Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al-Qaeda but we also we also have to have economic issues and energy issues and development issues and caring for the poor, that we are doing at the same time because our greatest military people have told us that this is not just a military war, this is a battle of ideas. This involves development, this involves bringing forward the poor, giving opportunities. When you read Osama bin Laden's messages, he has no jobs programme, he has no healthcare programme, he has no education reform programme, it is all about killing people. We step in, the United States and India , and talk about what we do to help the poor, how do we give opportunities to people.


SG: Nor does Hafiz Saeed?

TR: None of them do. It is all about destruction, killing people and taking people away from their families…


SG: He talks about unfurling Pakistan 's flag on the Red Fort?

TR: No positive ideas, no development issues, nothing constructive and then he goes and kills people using the people they recruit to blow themselves up.


SG: You say he goes and kills. When we say that the Pakistanis always tell us but where is the evidence against Hafiz Saeed. Would you put some sanity in that discussion?

TR: Well I certainly think, reading through some of the dossiers that Indian government has exchanged with Pakistan , that there is a lot of proof there, United Nations has Hafiz Saeed on their resolution 1267 and the Interpol has put Hafiz Saeed on the red-flag notice. There is plenty of evidence there, they need to put it together and prosecute.


SG: And what is your hope or expectation. You think this will happen?

TR: well, I am hopeful but I also know as the ambassador to India, not Pakistan, that I have a big agenda from President Obama to work on economic issues, how can we bring our two countries together…

SG: And you can't have Hafiz Saeed highjack it?

TR: Well, I think if that is all you do, if all you do is the military side then you are not doing as much as they are because Al-Qaeda has a political strategy and economic strategy and a military strategy. The United States and India need to continue to battle on all fronts.


SG: I will tell you, I am pushing the envelope on this one, I tell you the skepticism in Indian public opinion comes from the fact that when Americans are killed in 9/11, FBI can come and get Ramzey Yousuf. In this case, Americans also got killed but FBI has not even been allowed to go and interrogate anybody. So are you getting caught in this? Are the Pakistanis saying, look, you want help on our western frontier, let us deal with this?

TR: Well, again, I am not gonna get into all kinds of Pakistan issues. If Ambassador Paterson was here, she should answer a question like that. I so much look forward to the opportunities to engage with the people of India on so many new areas and fronts. Build on the civilian nuclear deal, talk about how we grow a middle class in India as partners, how in India's great tradition of caring for the poor, reaching out on the issues of disarmament, on global peacekeeping missions, how do these two great democracies and two great powers put their forces together on those fronts, how do we create new markets for green collar jobs and energy. These are exciting areas that President Obama wants to move forward with and we hope that when Prime Minister Singh visits United States as our first official state visitor, these are the kind of issues that we would talk about.


SG: And you would rather that no Hafiz Saeed, no 26/11 replay derails this process. Isn't it?

TR: We can do both. We can pursue justice for these people and we can also pursue economic …


SG: No, I am saying one more attack…

TR: Certainly United States and India are working so closely and in unprecedented ways that you and I talked about today to try to prevent any kind of attack here. It is in United States ' interest, it is certainly in India 's interest that attack. But also there are so many other issues…


SG: And your counterpart and people in Washington are saying that just as seriously to the Pakistanis as well?

TR: I think our government is treating this issue with utmost seriousness at all levels. I have had conversations with Richard Halbrooke on this issue, I have conversations with the highest people in our government at the State department and the White house and they all so much value this relationship with India that they know in pursuing this on all fronts, it is important for us that we go after the terrorists, it is important for us that to strike the ground on economic and energy issues, it is important for us to complete the civilian nuclear deal and it is important for us to find out how to reach out and help farmers and how to reach out to the poor.


SG: And find new areas to talk about, that we haven't talked about. Because our dialogue have become a bi unidimensional over the past few years. So you are trying to rectify that?

TR: We wanna take this from a unidimensional approach and success in one area to success in other areas, not only on a bilateral front but on a global front. Think about the rich potential as we move forward with a great democracy in America and a great democracy here in India, the diversity of the peoples, the rule of law, the markets created by clean energy products, the concerns in technology and science exchanges, how do we create new educational opportunities for both peoples. This is truly exciting between our two countries.


SG: Ambassador, we have come this far in this conversation without mentioning one word, China . The analyst community has also been trying to analyse the new India-US relationship in terms of US's relationship with China or US 's view of China in this region. Is that going to be the new hyphenation? An India-China policy.

TR: Here is my take on that. It is certainly an important relationship for the United States and we just had some important strategic and economic dialogue with China that I think was very helpful and productive. As the President has said, he thinks the India relationship is not only one of the most important but also one of the best. And there are so many commonalities that we have just discussed between our two countries.


SG: So, you are not hyphenating India and China now?

TR: We are not hyphenating. It is United States and India . The President has said that, the secretary of state has said that….


SG: Because one hyphen has no shifted from India-Pakistan to Af-Pak. Right?

TR: I don't think there is any kind of hyphenation right now between Pakistan and India and China and India .


SG: I said Af-Pak, although that is sometimes written without a hyphen even, they are joined together?

TR: Well, I think all those are miscalculations.


SG: Media creations.

TR: Media creations.


SG: You have learned quickly in Delhi .

TR: If I were one thing in Delhi its let's talk about US-India relationship but ask the next twenty questions about Pakistan . When we have the opportunity to move this relationship as we are forward on many fronts.


SG: If you have looked at our headlines lately, in most papers, not so much as ours, you would now think that after the 20 questions on Pakistan the next 20 questions will be on China .

TR: Well I know your paper has been covering that very consistently lately.


SG: But I must say very conservatively. We have been trying to sort of pour oil over troubled waters--nothing so exciting has happening. But have you lost some sleep over this.

TR: I have not. No. I have read Mr Narayanan's comments in your paper and other papers and he has said that things are going quite well and there is some media hype to this and he is working the issue very hard and I think the Prime Minister has said similar things.


SG: There is some hype on China in your political systems. Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi called them awful things—hell on earth.

TR: Again I am the Ambassador to India so I am not gonna talk about what the Speaker says or what the vice-president says or what the former officials have said about that relationship.


SG: But China is a source of some argument in American politics, and concern.

TR: Well, no relationship is perfect. And I am sure the United States and India relationship will have our disagreements too. But also a strong relationship, a relationship where you trust one another, where confidence is, you can either work through those relationships and find grounds of commonality and concern and work out that problem or you move to another issue. I don't agree with my wife sally on every issue, I don't agree with my parents on every issue. No relationship in the world is gonna be….


SG: I bet she disagrees with you on more issues than you disagree with her on?

TR: One thing we don't disagree on is our love for basketball.


SG: Absolutely. And I hope we can get to teach you some cricket.

TR: I would love to. I am very interested in that. I was greatly disappointed that India didn't make it into the semi-finals.


SG: But you also saw one billion Indians praying for the Pakistanis.

TR: And that is progress in diplomacy in the world.


SG: If you only left it to cricket.

TR: And the Pakistanis gave it a great effort to try to get India …


SG: Oh, I mean as a confidence building measure, nothing could be better. Let me tell you one more thing, going back to politics, you have got a great advantage because your arrival has coincided with the arrival of a new government. So you get stability and consistency, to use a cricketing expression, you can now be set for a long innings because you got four years at that end and you got five years at this end.

TR: We have had an election in India , the people have spoken and reelected the previous government. They elected in the United States through democracy and the ballot box a brand new person for change and bigger ideas and agendas. Both of these people get along so well and they want to talk about big ideas and expand this relationship beyond national security to brand new areas. We are very excited about this.


SG: What you have got to do is export a bunch of basketball coaches to us?

TR: Well, we are gonna do that.


SG: Your president is a very good player. Isn't he?

TR: He is a good player. I gotta tell you a story. Here is the basketball that when I was campaigning with President Obama in Indiana , he was a senator at that time, I said to him I know you didn't do a good job doing bowling in Pennsylvania . Infact, it didn't go well there at all. But if you can shoot hoops in Indiana , where we really care about it like you care about cricket in India , we will go a long way to winning this state. If you can shoot some hoops in this gymnasium (that we were in with a basketball hoop just like that), we got very all kinds of very important people, MVPs, VIPs in here, and they will talk you up all around in Indiana . I had my son Mathew with me that day. Mathew hit the president, then senator, with a bounce pass. He took this ball and from about here, he let it fly and it went straight to the hoop, swish as we call it in basketball. Didn't touch the rim, right through, clean perfect shot and all the people in the room started clapping. And for the next three weeks on all the news channels, the first thing they talked about to me was not Pakistan , it wasn't the economy or jobs, it was hat guy can play ball. He can really play ball.


SG: How good are you at it?

TR: I can shoot. He (Obama) beat me that day but I can shoot. I will give it a go for ya. Can I take my coat off and give it a go. I will shoot what we call a lay-up and then I will give you some longer shots too.


SG: Sure.

TR: That is a lay-up (after putting the ball through the hoop)


SG: I think you can join the basketball team.

TR: Now how about you?


SG: Well, if you had a cricket pitch, I might have spun one odd past your bat but not basket ball. Thank you

TR: Thank you very much.


Transcript prepared by Mehraj D Lone








The IMF, rejuvenated in the aftermath of the financial crisis, now wants to spread some good cheer all around. The Fund's latest forecast for global economic growth in 2010 is 3.1%, up from its previous forecast of 2.5% made in July this year. Unsurprisingly, China and India are seen as central to achieving this target with estimated growth rates of 9% and 6.4% respectively. The only caveat in the forecast is related to fiscal and monetary policies, which, according to the Fund, must remain loose for recovery to be sustained. That's all agreeable enough, but it may be a trifle too simplistic.


Contrary to the now conventional view on China and India leading the recovery, there is still a case to be made for the US, rather than China and India, being a key to sustained recovery. The US is, after all, the world's largest economy by some distance and the centre of global finance. While the financial system may have achieved some stability, it is still far from obvious that recovery in the real economy is for real and that it is sustainable. And given the dependence of China's key real economy sectors on exports to the US, one can hardly expect a sustained recovery without the US playing the lead. The future of US finance also remains uncertain as deliberations on new financial regulations continue and may last for a long while yet. And until clarity emerges on how American finance will emerge from this crisis, flows of funds to countries like India and China will remain lower than they were at any point in boom time. There is an additional complication in conventional calculations of the kind done by the IMF. One of the major pledges of the G-20 is to correct global economic imbalances, particularly the huge deficit of the US and huge surplus of China and, to a lesser extent, Germany and Japan. If genuine reform has to take place on this front, the US has to get serious about cutting spending. This will squeeze emerging economies which depend on US markets. It isn't clear how quickly China, Germany and Japan can increase domestic consumption to meet the fall in US consumption. Whichever way it unfolds, the process is unlikely to be smooth and even less likely to be fast. The IMF has probably not factored these deeper structural changes in its forecasts. Of course, the world would only be too relieved if the IMF is right, but a little caution is perhaps prudent at this point in time.







The criticism directed at Union power minister Sushil Shinde by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee over the poor performance of the power sector once again brings to the fore the slow pace of reforms in this crucial infrastructure. It is a problem that has enormous implications for an energy-starved country like India. The weak defence offered by the power minister, trying to shift the blame on inadequate gas and coal supplies, will cut no ice as the problems in the sector have continued to multiply under his tenure since the UPA-I government. Incremental policy changes like the new sops announced for mega power projects will only help at the margins. Power policy needs a sustained burst of ministerial energy.


Most recent estimates show that the funds availability of Rs 6.37 lakh crore for the power sector in the Eleventh Plan will still leave a gap of Rs 4.21 lakh crore. Institutional fund flows are now constrained by the prudential norms imposed on credit offered to different sectors and companies, while foreign investors shy away because of low returns. RBI norms prevent the use of external commercial borrowings for meeting rupee expenditures. Fund flows to the power sector will continue to be constrained as long as power policies refuse to address the distribution and market risks. This would require bringing down technical and commercial losses from the current level of 35% to around 15%. This means radical reforms in the distribution sector: privatisation, the separation of agriculture feeders from other lines and shifting to open access systems to increase competition. Introduction of differential peaking tariff and setting up of well-functioning wholesale electricity markets are crucial as well. Another major constraint that has to be tackled urgently is the non-availability of power generation machinery. Repeated efforts to step up supplies and competition have not succeeded. Chinese machines are not the answer always; there are quality issues. Tackling many of these issues requires active participation and coordination with states. States won't be impressed by conferences or strictures. They need an effective incentive structure, something the central government has failed to produce. Clearly, there's an incredible amount for the power minister to do and clearly, there isn't much he's getting done.








Reliance Infocomm and Bharti have both explored the possibility of a merger with MTN, the African telecom giant that is headquartered in South Africa. There are strong synergies in such a deal. Indian telecom companies are the world leaders in offering low cost services, and these skills would yield competitive advantage when applied in Africa. And yet, it is better to go from the foundation of MTN—with a huge subscriber base in Africa—instead of going into the countries of Africa and starting from scratch.


While a one-sided transaction (of Bharti purchasing MTN or of MTN purchasing Bharti) is feasible, the relative sizes of the firms suggest that the best path is a merger. A new unified firm would emerge. All existing shareholders would get shares in the merged company. The trading in both India and South Africa should continue as it has for the two erstwhile companies. In other words, the new company—Bharti-MTN—should continue to obtain equity capital from the combined base of shareholders of both countries as the two components had obtained pre-merger.


This requires a concept called 'dual listing' where one company is listed in two countries. This is commonplace in the world. However, it runs afoul of India's capital controls.


It illustrates the continuing collision between the growing sophistication of the Indian economy and the existing framework of capital controls. This story has been played out in many countries across the world. As a country obtains ecconomic growth, and obtains a certain critical mass of capable corporations and financial systems, capital controls interfere with the process of economic development. All countries that faced these problems have responded by dismantling capital controls. The Bharti-MTN story is in the limelight today. But a deeper problem has been brewing for a long time. Indian companies like Tata Steel compete on the global market for steel. Capital and financial services are crucial for determining their competitiveness. When India runs a policy framework which interferes with the ability of Tata Motors to obtain the lowest cost equity or debt capital, or the best risk management services, this interferes with India's growth. High GDP growth requires embracing globalisation, which involves rethinking the old arrangements for capital controls, financial sector policy and monetary policy.


One dimension of India's capital controls that merits concern is the gulf between the perspective of large firms and small firms. When Bharti faces a problem because dual listing is difficult, it has the heft to bring this to the attention of policy makers and the media. Big companies are able to pound the corridors of RBI seeking relaxations in capital controls, hire expensive lawyers to find loopholes in capital controls and find ways to get around constraints in order to get transactions done. When India is less integrated into the global financial system, this damages debt or equity investment into small companies because foreign financial firms do less with India, but it does not damage debt or equity investment into prominent firms like Tata Steel.


This drives a wedge between the corporate financial structure of the top 100 companies (roughly speaking, the members of Nifty and Nifty Junior) as compared with the remaining 100,000 companies in India. The top 100 companies are able to raise equity and debt capital from overseas, get their risk management done, and access international financial services from the best financial firms in the world. The remaining 100,000 firms take the brunt of the low quality financial services that the Indian financial system doles out. This is unfair, and more importantly, it is inefficient for the Indian economy. It eases the life of the big 100 companies who are then subject to less competitive pressure from everyone else. It results in suboptimal utilisation of resources by almost all firms, and lowers GDP growth. There are three alternative approaches which the policy establishment can take when faced with these problems. The first consists of comprehensively taking stock of where we stand, and reforming the financial / monetary arrangements. While this is the best way to proceed, all too often, in India we take the cynical approach of thinking that comprehensive solutions are out of reach.


The second best approach is one of rapidly responding to these problems as and when they surface. When the Bharti/MTN transaction appears to be shaping up as a dual listing, MOF would rapidly swing into action and come up with all the incremental reforms (both legislative and non-legislative) required to enable dual listings. There is a danger, in this approach, of responding excessively to the political pressures that go with high profile transactions, and not looking at deeper economic policy problems.


The worst possible approach that can be taken is that of sitting tight and smugly asserting that there is nothing wrong with the way India works today.


The author is an economist with interests in finance, pensions and macroeconomics








I was in Europe last week and in the headquarters of the OECD, the rich man's club. Once a year they have a Development Forum and third world types like me get asked to come for the prepcoms. Their preoccupation with the G-20 was understandable. Of course, in France President Sarkozy would make the romantic headlines and Prime Minister Berlusconi would provide comic relief everywhere. But the underlying seriousness was a motif also for the daily press. Especially when one out of six persons are without a job that is obvious. Yet I come back home and the trivialisation of the occasion is overwhelming. Intellectually we are really non-aligned with the world, in a sense which would horrify Nehru Chacha. The first thing to recognise is that structures change, interests don't and foreign policy is not just verbiage, but reconciliation. Some background may be of help.


The idea of an expanded G8 goes to the Canadians, Paul Martin in particular. It began in 2002. India was still a basket case since the IMF papers came in 2003/04 and the CIA and Goldman Sachs pronouncements later. John Kirton was the first to show that China and India are in the first eight in terms of GDP in purchasing power parity and some G-8 countries were not. Martin made an issue of this and the argument that you cannot solve world problems without them. It was not popular. No one likes to give up the status of power. Only the idealist knows that you can be more powerful by giving up power. Martin picked up the torch from Pearson and Trudeau. But more important he set up systems to work on the new world. In 2004 the leadership from the top argument was ready arguing for a G -20 Summit.


The argument, interestingly, was not popular with China and India. China had made it to the Security Council and felt that the expanded G-8 would be a demotion, but took refuge behind the argument of G77 democratisation. By this time the L20 book had been printed, edited by John English, Ramesh Thakur and Andy Cooper and the Chinese essay byYu Yong Ding was decidedly ascerbic. I was my usual enthusiastic self in an irreverential essay on Sherpas and Coolies, giving what I felt the Indian sherpa's stand should be, but when India was invited to the G8, its official stand was cool. It had just sewed up its understanding with President Bush and wasn't in a mood to think out of that.


The L20 book was in a sense anticipating the next few years. It caught the low-hanging fruit and looked wistfully at the tough ones. Diplomatically it ignored the really tough ones for that would weaken the new structures, letting some of the arguments rest in my coolies paper. Those paradigms discovered in 2003, printed in 2004/05 remain in 2009, proving that interests are not for sale. But first the low-hanging fruits.Anna Marie Slaughter, who now advises President Obama talks of the networked world and the danger of a pandemic being more lethal than terrorism. The global health agenda was to follow, as also micro finance at Gleneagles.


Now the tougher ones. I talked of the Asian crisis and a need to develop an early warning system. But the prize went to Gordon Smith who was a Sherpa earlier. In his piece with Barry Carin, he makes a song and dance of the business cycle. That was heresy then for we were in the golden age of derivatives stabilising the world and their harping on history seems prophetic and anticipates the '09 G-20. Incidentally India has, as I wrote in 2003, asked for an early warning system now. Water and energy were seen as tough then but are on the agenda. I got some credit, for the editors argued that 'Alagh's chapter sets a high test for the L20, but it is an option he sees within the range of possibillitties.'Again I am quoted as saying that Cancun failed not because the issues were intractable, but because the World did not recognise that the East Asian crises had sent the global agricultural economy into a spin. In water and energy again cutting-edge institutions are not becoming a part of the stateof-the-art solutions on a global plane.' Pittsburgh put the spotlight on energy. Water is still out there and now we will raise it with food security, another Obama interest.


In spite of all my persuasion, the editors of L20 only gave me a hearing on agriculture in the WTO. In a recent invited piece for Kirton's G20 volume for Pittsburgh I showed that India was willing to get Doha done. The G20 did not bite as all the global press reports show. Our briefings on that are a little on the starry side. The Sherpa's haven't even been allowed to get their toes in that one. Structures change. Permanent interests don't. That's what negotiations are all about.


The author is a former Union minister and former vice-chancellor, JNU








As the stock market keeps moving up, there seems to be an undercurrent of confidence that adds to the optimism. This undercurrent probably emanates from the fact that the two key players in the market, the foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and domestic institutional investors (DIIs) have contrasting styles of investing.


This means that the buying in the market becomes broader. Moreover, contrasting styles also mean that when one party is selling, there is somebody who is ready to buy.


This supports the markets from spinning into a downward spiral. A recent study by CLSA Asia Pacific Research on the monthly net data from FIIs and DIIs shows that there is a clear difference in thinking by the two market participants.


Analysis since April 2007 shows that over the 28-month time frame, FIIs net sold $22bn worth equities on the exchanges and DIIs bought $26.7bn. The report notes that the flows have been in opposite directions for 26 of those 28 months.


Now, it could be said that the data was skewed as due to the global uncertainty, the overseas investors were forced to pull out of the markets and the domestic institutions were investing as they had sufficient inflows and even doubt that they stepped in to support the market from going under. However, in the five of the seven months that FIIs were net buyers in the market, DIIs were net sellers.


Another observation is that, overall, DIIs' holding in the Indian equity markets has moved up from 8% in March 2007 to 10.4% by June 2009. The DII share of the cash institutional businesses has risen from 18% levels in April 2007 to 35% in July 2009. The report estimates that around 82% of the sell-off caused by the FIIs during FY09 was offset by DII inflows. And, DII inflows in the past six years are 93% of the FII inflow since 1993. Interestingly, the stock selection, after valuation considerations, is also contrasting.


While the DIIs prefer stability and look for strong track record and tend to invest in public sector undertakings and multinationals, FIIs prefer growth.







In a bow towards global inclusiveness, the International Olympic Committee voted for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The decision deserves to be celebrated not just by Brazilians: it marks the end of a longstanding script that, for whatever reason, shut South America out of the list of Games' hosts. That the IOC session in Copenhagen overwhelmingly picked Rio ahead of Chicago and Tokyo, not to speak of Madrid, which lost 32-66 in a direct contest in the final round of voting, is significant. The Brazilian triumph is of course a reflection of the growing economic stature of the world's fifth most populous nation (the 'B' in BRIC, the four-member grouping of fast-growing developing economies). As important is the consideration that the Games might leave an all-round sports legacy for a nation that has an iconic status in football, samba, and the Carnival. Unfortunately, the city of more than six million is also known for its crime and violence, which is why it scored poorly in safety and security when an IOC expert group analysed the bids of each of the seven original contestants against 11 criteria. As against this, Rio top-scored in government support and public opinion. The Brazilians have expressed the hope that the Games would help curb crime and solve transport, traffic, and accommodation problems in addition to providing employment opportunities over the next seven years. But in the final analysis, it was probably the emotional appeal of spreading the Games to South America, coupled with Rio's inspired slogan, "live your passion," that settled the issue.


The first-round elimination of Chicago — the one contest lost by master campaigner Barack Obama, who sportingly took time off his busy presidential schedule to lobby for his adopted hometown — was seen as a legacy of the Salt Lake City bribery scandal of 1998. The proposal of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to create an exclusive Olympic television network may also have hastened the exit of Chicago, which was the bookmakers' favourite. The IOC gets the bulk of its revenue, running into billions of dollars, from television rights every four years. The ever-spiralling cost of holding the Olympics has remained a matter of concern for the IOC with Beijing reportedly running up a bill of $40 billion for a Perfect 10 edition of the 29th Olympiad. Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, host cities have run up huge deficits in the past, Montreal in 1976 and Athens in 2004 being prime examples. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who along with the great Pele shed tears when IOC President Jacques Rogge made the announcement in Copenhagen, has plenty of hard work ahead of him.








North Karnataka and the districts along the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers in Andhra Pradesh have been under water for a few days now. Heavy and persistent rains in some districts of northern Karnataka led to waterflows into the Krishna and its tributaries reaching unprecedented levels. The discharge from the Karnataka reservoirs touched a historic high of over 20 lakh cusecs on Friday-Saturday affecting Andhra Pradesh downstream. At one stage, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah had to appeal to his Karnataka counterpart B.S. Yediyurappa to stop releasing water from the Almati and Narayanpur dams, as the levels at Nagarjunasagar and Srisailam dams in Andhra had reached alarming levels. Gulbarga, Bijapur, Bellary, and Belgaum in Karnataka, as also Kurnool and Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh were perhaps the worst-affected by last week's flood fury. The temple town of Mantralayam was also submerged. At least 150 people have died in the floods and several lakhs have been rendered homeless. The Army, the Air Force, and the Navy have been called in to assist the two State governments, but people in many places hit by floods are yet to get relief.


The number of houses destroyed and the extent of damage to infrastructure such as highways, and railway tracks need to be properly assessed. Aside from carrying out immediate relief work, the Centre and the State governments must draw up medium- and long-term plans to mitigate the hardship and havoc caused by such calamities. There is need for a mechanism to coordinate actions such as releasing of surplus water from dams, issuing early warnings, and evacuating people from the vulnerable areas downstream. The Central Water Commission officials in Andhra Pradesh have complained that the State government and the district administration do not heed their early warnings. Given that the country has to contend against drought and floods at the same time, the need for galvanising the inter-State and Centre-State consultation mechanisms can hardly be over-emphasised. During the non-monsoon months, the State governments must make it a point to desilt the network of tributaries and canals and ensure that the dams are fully strengthened to withstand the stress of heavy inflows or discharge. While the State administrations rush to show their concern through high profile visits and promising relief measures on a "war-footing" after a calamity strikes, they have been lackadaisical when it came to taking preventive steps and this has proved very expensive in terms of the human cost.










There is a story senior journalist A.S. Panneerselvan tells of the experience of the first group of Tamil Tigers who were brought to a remote camp in Uttar Pradesh for arms training by the Indian government in the early 1980s. Every evening, the camp's Tibetan cook would look at the group of Sri Lankan Tamils and start laughing. Eventually, one of the Tamils learnt enough Hindi to ask the cook what was so funny. "Thirty years ago," the old man said, "I was in this camp with other Tibetans getting trained and there was somebody else to cook for us. Now you are here and I am cooking for you!" "That may be so," the LTTE man said, "but I still don't see what's so funny." Prompt came the reply: "You see, I'm wondering who you will be cooking for 20 years from now … I think it may be the Chakmas!"


Unfortunately for the Indian establishment, the LTTE story did not end so tamely, over cooking pots and a camp fire. Well before the terrorist group eventually met its end in the Vanni earlier this year, the Tigers assassinated a former Prime Minister of India and were responsible for the death of countless Indian soldiers.


I am recalling this story in an article about India and Pakistan because it reminds us of three processes that are an essential part of modern South Asian statecraft and which help define the contours of the current crisis in the bilateral relationship. First, that every state in the region has, at one time or another, patronised extremist groups or tolerated their violent activities in order to advance its domestic political or regional strategic interests. Second, the activities of these groups invariably "overshoot" their target and begin to undermine the core interests of their original patrons. Third, there comes a time in the life of all such groups when the nature and extent of their violence reach a "tipping point" as far as the same state is concerned.


A mature, well-developed state is one which is able to read the early warning signs and effect a course correction in official policy well before that tipping point is reached. In the absence of this maturity, states respond in one of two ways. States with a tendency to stability are at least able to recognise when a tipping point has been reached and act accordingly. But states which are unable to recognise either the early warning signs or the tipping point itself and which continue to pretend that the non-state actors they have patronised can be subordinated to an official command structure despite evidence to the contrary run the risk of destabilising themselves.


The Congress party leader in Bombay, S.K. Patil, encouraged the rise of the Shiv Sena in the 1960s in order to undermine the city's communist-led trade union movement. The Sena overshot its target and eventually became a political rival to the Congress. By the time the Sena revealed its true self in the communal violence it helped orchestrate in Bombay in 1992, it was too late for anyone to act against it. The Sena had already become a part of the establishment, its violence normalised, its leaders insulated from police action and proper judicial sanction.


A second example of the same phenomenon, but with a different ending, emerged in Punjab in the 1980s. Indira Gandhi welcomed the rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his extremist politics because she saw in him an effective counter to the Akali Dal in Punjab. The Khalistani ideologue's violence was tolerated for some time; the tipping point for the establishment should arguably have come when a senior police officer, A.S. Atwal, was gunned down by Bhindranwale's men in April 1983. But New Delhi waited and waited, acting against the 'Sant' only in June 1984.


The trouble with acting against extremist groups after the tipping point is reached is that the process can be long drawn out and costly, especially in terms of human life. Successive governments at the Centre pacified Punjab but not before nearly 20,000 people lost their lives in Operation Bluestar, the November 1984 massacres, and the brutal police campaigns in the Punjab.


In Pakistan, the military-cum-intelligence establishment has had a long-term policy of creating, cultivating and using extremist groups both as a lever against mainstream political parties within the country and as a tool of foreign and military policy against India and Afghanistan. Some of these groups very rapidly 'overshot' their initial targets, especially domestically. The state responded by targeting particularly wayward terrorist leaders but did not abandon the overall structures of official permissiveness. External pressure following 9/11 led to the temporary course correction of abandoning the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Lal Masjid situation in Islamabad was another potential tipping point but its lessons were ignored, leading to the growth of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Then came Benazir Bhutto's assassination, but the nexus between extremism and a military establishment keen to subvert the return of democracy muddied the waters. Sufi Mohammad's folly in openly defying the Pakistani state soon after the Nizam-e-Adl fiasco in Swat brought about a more decisive point of inflection, which is today still being played out in the Malakand division.


But even if the Pakistani army has joined the battle against terrorism in the frontier regions bordering Afghanistan in earnest, there is no question of the military establishment recognising the danger that anti-India terrorist groups have started to pose to Pakistan itself. A section of the Pakistani political leadership saw in the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008 the grave threat that groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba pose to the stability of the region. Nudged along by the United States and by a non-confrontationist Indian approach, an unprecedented criminal investigation was launched against a section of LeT operatives. Since the LeT has never launched a terrorist attack inside Pakistan, however, it is easy for sceptics there to argue that the group does not pose a threat. That is why the establishment there is reluctant to act against Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed. But wise statecraft is about recognising the early warning signs, not waiting for the tipping point. Imtiaz Gul's book, The Al-Qaeda Connection, provides plenty of evidence on the deep links which exist between the LeT, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and even the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, on the one hand, and the TTP in Pakistan's tribal areas, on the other.


Given these political realities, what can India do to encourage Pakistan to recognise that the terrorist groups operating on its soil are an undifferentiated syndicate and pose a common threat to both countries? Of all the forms of encouragement, refusing to talk is the least effective. It is not a coincidence that those sections of the Pakistani establishment which continue to see the jihadi terror groups as future assets are the very sections least anxious to see the resumption of the bilateral dialogue. Exchanging rhetoric and putting pressure via public statements are also not likely to pay dividends. Nor is there any point in messing up the strong case India has in Mumbai with overkill. Pakistani officials have pointed out, for example, that the salutation "Major General sahab" — one of the co-conspirators allegedly identified by Ajmal 'Kasab' and seen by the Indians as proof of Islamabad's official complicity in 26/11 — is never used in the subcontinent; the preferred greeting is 'General sahab'.


At a recent Track-II meeting of Indian and Pakistani analysts, former ambassadors, military officers and intelligence chiefs organised by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in Bangkok, there was consensus on the grave threat terrorism poses to Pakistan and to India. Specifically, the need for India and Pakistan to open a back channel on counter-terrorism was recognised, with the participation of intelligence agencies from the two countries. This would supplement the back channel on Jammu and Kashmir which worked effectively till 2006 and which, the Track-II meeting felt, needs to be revived at an early date. The Composite Dialogue process, too, was seen as having served a useful purpose in the past.


With last month's meeting in New York between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan yielding little in terms of forward movement by either side, there is a danger of the bilateral relationship getting stuck into one of those ruts that finally require the mediation of extra hands in order to be rescued. Rather than wait for that, the first available improvement in optics — the start of the Mumbai trial in Pakistan, for example — should be seized upon to move ahead on the back channel, with the front channel being revived in a calibrated manner as confidence increases. Indefinitely postponing talks will not help protect India from future terrorist attacks. And talking will not make it more vulnerable. India should stop confusing hard line diplomatic strategy for effective counter-terrorism.








In mid-September, two young men called me at my residence and introduced themselves as engineering (leather technology) students of Anna University. They said they wanted to choose journalism as their career after completing studies in the next two years. I was a bit surprised and asked them why. One of them said that they had been regular readers of The Hindu for the past few years and that they were so impressed and fascinated by newspaper articles that they decided to become journalists. I told them there was nothing wrong with their decision: science journalism was a growing and promising field, but they would need to be trained in journalism in a good institution, in addition to their academic qualification in science and technology. The training would give them the needed perspectives and skills, particularly the skill of writing with clarity.


Ten days later, on September 25, I received calls from a number of readers. They spoke highly of The Hindu's lead story of the day, "Chandrayaan-1 finds traces of water on moon", written by the Thiruvananthapuram-based Science Correspondent N. Gopal Raj. The appreciation was not so much for the spacecraft's probe that found traces of water across the surface of large parts of the moon, demolishing the long-held view that the earth's natural satellite was bone dry, as for the way the story was written.


Many readers said the story was simple and eminently readable. G. Krishnan, who has been a senior trainer of reporters at The Hindu (in news gathering, reporting, and writing), said in an email: "The Hindu's front-page story today by Gopal Raj about the discovery of traces of water on the moon is a clear and simple explanation of a complicated technical subject. It is a good example to give to young reporters about reporting scientific discoveries."


Even a casual reading of the story would show that the correspondent has not diluted the content in his effort to present the story in a lucid style. (That is what happens most often.) While making it interesting and accessible to large sections of readers, he has not sacrificed the technical details. Nor has he compromised on accuracy and nuance. Surprisingly, the writer, who has a first degree in zoology, did his post-graduate work not in science, but in Far East Studies at the University of London. He also took a diploma in Sociology of the London School of Economics.


How then, with only a basic academic grounding in science, could he emerge as a skilled science writer? He said he did not undergo any formal training either. "So much of what I have learnt about science reporting has been by working on the job," Gopal Raj explained modestly. When he went to Bangalore on transfer (1991-2001) he "wrote a great deal about the Indian space programme." He was interested in the country's rocket programme. (His book Reach for the Stars: The Evolution of India's Rocket Programme was published by Penguin Books India in 2000.)



Science reporting for a daily newspaper is perhaps the most challenging of journalistic assignments. Even among science graduates and post-graduates, only a few opt for journalism as a career — and fewer stay on. Not many make a mark.

The major hurdle, of course, is the difficulty the reporter (with some assistance from the editorial desk) faces in presenting the story in a precise, simple, and readable form. This means avoiding excessive technical jargon and an array of statistics, which often stem the flow of the story and deter general readers from reading on.


This is not surprising in the context of the phenomenal advance of technology on one side and increasing specialisation in various fields of study on the other. Providing in-house training; conducting workshops to inculcate a better understanding of specific subjects and improve the writing skill of the journalist; creating opportunities for interaction with scientists and technologists — besides providing the journalist with the needed tools, this will go a long way in altering the situation favourably.


So what is needed is a fairly good understanding of the subject and the skill to present the story in readable form. Training will help. But as important is hard work, continuous exposure to the subject, acquiring domain knowledge, and improving the craft of writing over a period. Professional experience, or the yoga of doing this day in and day out, makes all the difference.











To understand how hard it is proving for President Barack Obama to close the American military prison at Guantanamo Bay, consider the case of Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, Internee Security No. 692. His long-delayed departure last week leaves 97 Yemenis at the complex in Cuba, by far the largest remaining group.


It was seven years ago that Ahmed, then 18, was swept up by Pakistani security forces in a raid on a Faisalabad guesthouse and taken to the prison. It was five months ago that a federal judge, after reviewing all the government's classified evidence, ruled that his incarceration had never been justified and ordered the government to get to work "forthwith" on his release.


But Obama administration officials were worried. Even if Ahmed was not dangerous in 2002, they said, Guantanamo itself might have radicalised him, exposing him to militant fellow prisoners and embittering him against the United States. If he returned to his troubled homeland of Yemen, the officials feared, he might fall in with the growing contingent of al-Qaeda there, one more Guantanamo survivor to star in their propaganda videotapes.


So American officials first sought to route him to a rehabilitation programme for militants in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis would take him only if he wanted to go — and he did not.


So last weekend, as Judge Gladys Kessler of U.S. District Court in Washington appeared to be losing patience with the delay in complying with her May 11 release order, an American military jet finally delivered Ahmed to the Yemeni capital, San'a. He was so greatly changed that his older brother barely recognised him.


"Seven years are gone from his life and can never be gotten back," said the brother, Wagdi Ahmed, a surgeon's assistant in the port city of Aden, speaking through a translator on a cell phone after a brief first reunion. "The feeling of the family is his detention at Guantanamo was not rightful. But nonetheless, we just say, praise God."


Alla Ahmed, now 26, was expected to spend a week or more in the custody of Yemeni security officials, who were questioning him about other Yemenis at Guantanamo and about his views and plans. Then, his brother said, he will join his family in Aden and decide whether to look for work or try to resume his education. Ahmed is the first Yemeni to depart Guantanamo since Obama's promise, the day after his inauguration, to close the prison complex in Cuba within a year — a deadline that aides now say may not be met.


Since Yemenis now make up nearly half of the 220 remaining prisoners, an exit route for them is critical.For Mr. Obama, Guantanamo has become both a security challenge and a political headache. A group of retired generals and admirals who stood behind him when he signed the closing order were back in Washington last week to make sure the administration did not renege on its pledge. Meanwhile, the House voted 258-163 on Thursday for a nonbinding recommendation that no Guantanamo detainee be brought to American soil, even for trial.

The public file on Ahmed suggests a highly ambiguous case that typifies many at Guantanamo. He told a review board that he had travelled to Pakistan to study ``religion and science" — but he said one reason he wanted to attend an Islamic university was that religious schools accepted students with lower grade point averages.


The guesthouse where he was captured was used by both students and terrorist operatives. Four fellow prisoners later reported having seen him fighting or undergoing training in Afghanistan, but Kessler found their accounts unpersuasive, flawed by inconsistencies, contradictions and even mental illness.


She rejected the government's so-called ``mosaic" theory, which asserted that the pattern of indications of terrorist ties added up to a strong case. "If the individual pieces of a mosaic are inherently flawed," she wrote, "then the mosaic will split apart." Ultimately, the government may not have had much faith in its own case, since it chose not to appeal Kessler's order.


Brent N. Rushforth, a lawyer with Day Pitney in Washington who represents Ahmed, said his client never supported terrorism and was known as "the sweet kid" to other prisoners at Guantanamo. "Alla has never exhibited any bitterness," he said.


Yemen, with a population of 24 million, is a fragile state plagued by a separatist insurgency and a growing presence from the group called al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. American officials say the government is weak and does not control parts of the country; the escape of 23 terrorism suspects in 2006 shook confidence in Yemen's counterterrorism capabilities. That is why, even as 117 Saudis and 197 Afghans have left Guantanamo, only 16 Yemenis have been transferred. Yemeni authorities say none of the 16 have joined any terrorist group, and note that Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver, who spent nearly seven years at Guantanamo and whose legal challenge led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling, is leading a quiet life as a cab driver in San'a.


But given the instability, some experts say, the administration is right not to simply send most of the Yemenis home. "Right now, there's no comprehensive program to integrate these guys back into Yemeni society," said Christopher Boucek, who studies Yemen as an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.


John O. Brennan, a presidential adviser on counterterrorism and a former CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has made repeated trips to both Saudi Arabia and Yemen, trying to persuade the Saudis to accept a large number of Yemenis in their rehabilitation programme. But Saudi officials have balked so far, in part because of the negative publicity when 11 of the programme's graduates turned up on a Saudi list of most-wanted terrorists in February.


American officials still have a high opinion of the Saudi programme, noting that its recidivism rate compares favourably to that of ordinary American prisons. But Boucek said the Saudi programme depended on the involvement of relatives, who participated with the former militants and helped police their behaviour after the program concluded.


That means the Saudi programme might work for the roughly 20 Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo who grew up in Saudi Arabia or had relatives there. For the rest, he said, the Saudi programme is "a catastrophically bad idea."


American and Yemeni officials are now discussing how Yemen might build its own version of the Saudi programme.

"It won't be quick, and it will cost some money," Boucek said. "But I think it may be the best choice among a bunch of not very good alternatives."








You can buy The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, as an e-book for $9.99 at Or you can don a pirate's cap and snatch a free copy from another online user at RapidShare, Megaupload, Hotfile and other file-storage sites.


Until now, few readers have preferred e-books to printed or audible versions, so the public availability of free-for-the-taking copies did not much matter. But e-books won't stay on the periphery of book publishing much longer. E-book hardware is on the verge of going mainstream. More dedicated e-readers are coming, with ever larger screens. So, too, are computer tablets that can serve as giant e-readers, and hardware that will not be very hard at all: a thin display flexible enough to roll up into a tube.


With the new devices in hand, will book buyers avert their eyes from the free copies only a few clicks away that have been uploaded without the copyright holder's permission? Mindful of what happened to the music industry at a similar transitional juncture, book publishers are about to discover whether their industry is different enough to be spared a similarly dismal fate.


The book industry has not received cheery news for a while. Publishers and authors alike have relied upon sales of general-interest hardcover books as the foundation of the business. The Association of American Publishers estimated that these hardcover sales in the United States declined 13 per cent in 2008, versus the previous year. This year, these sales were down 15.5 per cent through July, versus the same period of 2008. Total e-book sales, though up considerably this year, remained small, at $81.5 million, or 1.6 per cent of total book sales through July. "We are seeing lots of online piracy activities across all kinds of books — pretty much every category is turning up," said Ed McCoyd, an executive director at the association. "What happens when 20 to 30 per cent of book readers use digital as the primary mode of reading books? Piracy's a big concern."


Adam Rothberg, vice-president for corporate communications at Simon & Schuster, said: "Everybody in the industry considers piracy a significant issue, but it's been difficult to quantify the magnitude of the problem. We know people post things, but we don't know how many people take them."


We do know that people have been helping themselves to digital music without paying. When the music industry was "Napsterised" by free file-sharing, it suffered a blow from which it hasn't recovered. Since music sales peaked in 1999, the value of the industry's inflation-adjusted sales in the United States, even including sales from Apple's highly successful iTunes Music Store, has dropped by more than half, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.


A report earlier this year by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, based on multiple studies in 16 countries covering three years, estimated that 95 per cent of music downloads "are unauthorised, with no payment to artists and producers." Free file-sharing of e-books will most likely come to be associated with RapidShare, a file-hosting company based in Switzerland. It says its customers have uploaded onto its servers more than 10 petabytes of files — that's more than 10 million gigabytes — and can handle up to 3 million users simultaneously. Anyone can upload, and anyone can download; for light users, the service is free. RapidShare does not list the files — a user must know the impossible-to-guess URL in order to download one.


But anyone who wants to make a file widely available simply publishes the URL and a description somewhere online, like a blog or a discussion forum, and Google and other search engines notice. No passwords protect the files.


"As far as we can tell, RapidShare is the largest host site of pirated material," McCoyd said. "Some publishers are saying half of all infringements are linked to it."


When I asked Katharina Scheid, a spokeswoman for RapidShare, if the company had a general sense of what kinds of material were most often placed on its servers — music? videos? other kinds of content? — she said she could not say because "for us, everything is just a file, no matter what." At my request, Attributor, a company based in Redwood City, Calif., that offers publishers anti-piracy services, did a search last week to see how many e-book copies of ``The Lost Symbol" were available free on the Web. After verifying that each file claiming to be the book actually was, Attributor reported that 166 copies of the e-book were available on 11 sites. RapidShare accounted for 102.


Scheid said her company complied with publishers' take-down requests. But the request must refer to a particular file and use the specific URL; it's left to the publishers to find all instances of a given book title on RapidShare's servers. (I can report that RapidShare acted promptly in September when my publisher, Simon & Schuster, asked it to remove an audiobook version of one of my own books and provided the URL for the one file.) According to Scheid, the company gets requests to remove about 1 to 2 percent of the files that are uploaded daily.


To protect users' privacy, however, she said RapidShare does not attempt to block the uploading of infringing material in the first place: ``We don't do content filtering; we don't look into uploaded files." Once a file is removed, the company tries to keep perfectly identical files from being uploaded again, but she listed various ways that determined users can alter the files just enough to effectively circumvent these measures. (My book reappeared on RapidShare a few days after it was taken down.) Hotfile and Megaupload did not respond to requests for comment.


RapidShare and fellow online storage services say that their services help users share large files easily or store personal data without having to carry around a memory stick. On the FAQs page of its Web site, Megaupload depicts its customers as the most ordinary of citizens: ``Students, professional business people, moms, dads, doctors, plumbers, insurance salesmen, mortgage brokers, you name it."


Publishers and authors are about the only groups that go unmentioned. Scheid, of RapidShare, has advice for them if they are unhappy that her company's users are distributing e-books without paying the copyright holders: Learn from the band Nine Inch Nails. It marketed itself ``by giving away most of their content for free."


I will forward the suggestion along, as soon as authors can pack arenas full and pirated e-books can serve as concert fliers.


(Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University.)



© 2009 The New York Times News Service









Half a century after Pacific walruses began recovering from industrial-scale hunting, marine biologists are growing worried that they face a mounting threat from global warming.


Masses of the lumbering Arctic denizens have been crowding on beaches and rocks along the Russian and American sides of the Bering Strait in the absence of the coastal sea ice that normally serves as a late-summer haven and nursery.


While the retreats in sea ice around the Arctic this summer were not as extensive as in 2008 or 2007, the Chukchi Sea, at the heart of the subspecies' range, was largely open water.


On Thursday, biologists from the U.S. Geological Survey issued a report concluding that 131 walruses found dead near Icy Cape, Alaska, on September 14 died from being crushed or stampeded. Several thousand walruses had been congregating in the area, a situation that scientists from the agency said was highly unusual.


In September, Russian scientists and the World Wildlife Fund had reported several thousand crushing deaths among tens of thousands of walruses crowding along the western shores of the Chukchi Sea.


The tusked marine mammals have endured more than 15 million years of climatic ups and downs, so walrus specialists do not foresee the species going extinct, particularly if hunting remains controlled. (Thousands are legally killed each year by indigenous communities in both countries.)


But there has been growing confirmation that the walrus is suffering substantial losses as the sheath of sea ice in coastal waters erodes in the summer.


The floes normally provide a floating nursery for pups while adults dive to root for clams and other food in the seabed in shallow coastal waters along the continental shelf. In September, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service, responding to a lawsuit by the Centre for Biological Diversity, an environmental group, concluded that there was sufficient scientific evidence of rising stress on the animals from climate change to consider granting the Pacific walrus protection under the Endangered Species Act.


That review is under way, and the service is taking public comment until November 9.


The polar bear, similarly dependent on sea ice, was listed as threatened under the species act last year.


"I think there is reason to be concerned," said Dr. Brendan P. Kelly, a marine biologist at the University of Alaska — Fairbanks, who has been studying walruses for several decades and is also a researcher at the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Juneau.


Fatal stampedes among walruses have occurred in past years, he said, citing research he conducted on a similar event in 1978 and reports by hunters on islands in the Bering Sea more than a century ago. But the expansion of open waters along the coasts raises the odds and adds to other pressures on the animals, he said.


For the moment, the Pacific walrus remains abundant, numbering at least 200,000 by some accounts, double the number in the 1950s.


The Atlantic walrus, a subspecies in Canada, Norway, Russia and Greenland numbering about 22,000, never recovered from sustained slaughter.


Kelly said the long-term forecast of warming and less summer ice for the Arctic did not bode well for the Pacific walrus.


"The Pacific population did recover," he said. "But it is hard to imagine that it will not decline in the coming century."


 © 2009 The New York Times News Service









Money is not everything, and the weekend meeting in Istanbul of the Group of Seven richest nations in the world must have realised this. Almost all, with just one exception, are reeling under massive financial problems and clinging to stimulus packages — as the proverbial last straw — possibly in the realisation that if these were withdrawn their economies could go into a tailspin. The problem is that they are yet to resolve issues relating to the real economy. The communiqué at the end of the one-day deliberation on Saturday admits that "the prospects of growth remain fragile and labour market conditions are not yet improving." But the solutions they talk about don't appear relevant to real problems, they only deal with the symptoms. The G-7 talks of strengthening the financial system by building on high-quality capital; implementing strong international compensation standards; improving over-the-counter derivative markets; develop a new framework for sustainable and balanced growth; reform and review the resources, mandate and governance of international financial institutions, etc. It is all so much déjà vu, and does not take issues forward.


The G-7 communiqué notes that "excess volatility and disorderly movements" in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability — which is an euphemism for asking China to release controls on its currency — the renminbi — to ensure more balanced growth, in China and elsewhere. But China, always fiercely nationalist, has made it clear time and again it will work at its own pace and to suit its own requirements, and it is powerful enough to ensure that its writ prevails. Beijing has been signing yuan-based agreements with other nations, skirting the dollar, in line with its view that the dollar should not remain the world's only reserve currency. The real problem with the Anglo-Saxon and European economies is that they have priced themselves out of the markets, and are forced to provide huge subsidies to maintain exports. Their markets are flooded today with goods from developing economies which the poorer countries produce at the cost of exploiting their own citizens. Wages are low and workers labour in sweatshops across China, India and much of Southeast Asia because the West, over the years, leveraged its strength to beat down Asian markets and prices. Now the fortunes are reversed because the West has outpriced itself, and no longer enjoys leverage. That is why the World Trade Organisation is so vital for them: with a world trade deal they hope to be able to flood the markets of the developing world with their products. That scary proposition is the main hurdle that is tripping the Doha Round of world trade talks.


The only real success of the G-7 has been to maintain the illusion of its relevance. It succeeded in pushing under the carpet any talk of restructuring the G-7 into a G-4 as suggested by the United States (to comprise the US, EU, Japan and China). From indications given by the Japanese and German finance ministers, the G-4 wasn't discussed at all, allowing the G-7 to survive to fight another day. The International Monetary Fund, at its parallel meeting in Istanbul, perhaps wrote the G-7's epitaph: it said "the G-20 nations would become the world's main economic decision-making forum, effectively taking over the role of the G-7 group of rich countries", as it (G-20) represented both the rich and the large emerging countries.








After the late-September Pittsburg summit meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 (G-20) countries, most analysts have happily concluded that the G-20 would henceforth replace the Group of Eight (G-8) club of developed countries as the new international economic coordinating forum. Happily, because the G-20 is supposed to be a formation that is more representative than the G-8 of the current changed global economic power balances, thereby recognising the importance of emerging market and developing economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric). But this is only one side of the story.


What has received relatively less attention is that even as the G-20 has reposed greater faith in a multilateral body like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help some of its member countries that are facing acute financial distress, the IMF itself is unlikely to drastically change in a hurry. The Bric countries wanted a seven per cent shift in IMF quotas to emerging market and developing countries to "correspond roughly to their share in world GDP (gross domestic product)" but what was eventually agreed on at Pittsburg was only a five per cent shift in quotas — a decision that India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conceded was "obviously a compromise".


Over the years, many developing countries have been rather unhappy with what the IMF euphemistically calls economic "reforms". Until not very long ago, financial assistance from the IMF would be linked to stringent conditions that entailed a lowering of import barriers and the initiation of "neo-liberal" market-friendly measures that often wreaked havoc with the economies of poor countries and their ability to implement welfare schemes.


There were no such conditions for developed countries when they would come to the Fund to borrow and this was simply because such countries were entitled to larger loans commensurate with their bigger quotas or voting rights held by them. In recent years, while becoming more "flexible" in imposing conditions on developing countries that have received loans, the IMF has agreed to review its quotas or voting shares two years ahead of its original schedule of January 2013, that is, by January 2011.


At the April 2 London summit of the G-20, world leaders agreed to treble IMF's resources to US $750 billion ostensibly to help growth in developing countries. On September 5, the finance ministers of the Bric countries jointly stated: "For the IMF and the World Bank group, the main governance problem, which severely undermines their legitimacy, is the unfair distribution of quotas, shares and voting power…"


On April 28, 2008, the IMF had approved an increase in the voting rights of all developing countries put together from 31.17 per cent to 34.49 per cent, much of it by increasing the voting rights of emerging economies from 23.88 per cent to 25.64 per cent. Consequently, the share of the affluent countries in the aggregate voting rights of the IMF came down from 60.57 per cent to 57.93 per cent. It was a baby step forward for an institution that has staunchly resisted change.


Earlier, in September 2006, the Fund had approved an "ad hoc" increase in the voting shares of four countries: China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey. At that time, the finance ministers of four other countries, India, Brazil, Argentina and Egypt had issued a statement opposing the move that, in part, read: "We reiterate that we support the increase in quota for… (China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey) who are the present beneficiaries of the ad hoc increase. However, the present quota calculation formula is opaque and flawed… a disturbing picture that emerges is that some developing countries will be given increases by reducing the shares of some other equally deserving countries…"


For decades, critics of the IMF have pointed out the gross inequity in the manner in this organisation works. Out of its 186 members, seven countries have dominated its decision-making process — these are the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Canada and Italy. A major decision by the IMF requires 85 per cent voting support. This implies that one country, the US, has veto power since it has a little under 17 per cent voting power on the basis of its quota.


The total vote share of the 80 poorest members of the IMF is barely 10 per cent while five rich countries — the US, the UK, Germany, France and Japan — together control around 39 per cent of the total vote and have permanent seats on the Fund's governing board. The increase in the combined voting quotas of China, South Korea, Mexico and Turkey by a niggardly 1.8 per cent in 2006 had been preceded by two years of intense negotiations.


After the IMF quotas are revised on or before January 2011, the biggest gainer is likely to be China followed by India and Brazil while the biggest loser would be France. Against China's present quota of 3.7 per cent, Saudi Arabia has a 3.2 per cent quota with an economy one-eighth the size of China's. With an economy one-and-half times smaller than that of China, France has a quota of 3.7 per cent. Importantly, even after the quota revision takes place, the US quota is not expected to change and America will continue to exercise veto power over major decisions of the Fund. This is indeed ironical since the ongoing international economic crisis originated in the US and other countries are suffering for no fault of theirs.


After the Pittsburg summit, the IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn claimed the five per cent quota increase proposal was a "decisive move" and a "historic" one.


The G-20 communique said the IMF's "staff diversity should be enhanced" and that top officials of the Fund "should be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based process". The managing director of the Fund has always been from a European country (just as the World Bank has invariably been headed by an American) because of an internal understanding among developed countries. So after a gap of six-and-half decades, are we going to see a non-European as the head of the IMF? Keep your fingers crossed!


Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator









My relationship with God is highly secretive like a well-guarded love affair. It is a feeling within and cannot be advertised and needs to be preserved. There is no logic to it; there is so much love for Him which cannot be measured by any yardstick.


My relationship with the Almighty is marked by a very firm inner belief. The belief that my prayers will be answered. My belief is strong and there is no room for any doubts.


There have been moments which made me realise the existence of the creator of this universe. I learnt it from the atmosphere. My cultural surroundings taught me about Siddhars, Sufis and saint-poets who have always been closer to the Supreme Entity.


Sufism is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a sufi, though some adherents of the tradition reserve this term only for those practitioners who have attained the goals of the Sufi tradition.


I follow the teachings of Sufi-saint Shahul Hameed of Nagoor Dargah. The dargah is an object of great veneration not only for Muslims but also for other communities. On every Thursday large congregation of worshippers of all communities visit the dargah and make offerings to the saint.


It is the prayers of everyone that keeps us going and helps us achieve what we dream of. I believe in God's grace and feel blessed when I am recognised by many people in a crowd.


When I close my eyes and meditate, it is from the sounds of nature that I feel the presence of the God of the Universe. From being aware within, I become one with the elements and can feel the Almighty.


(As told to Peer Mohamed)


Yuga Bharathi is a Tamil film lyricist







In my last column Naxal violence is a cry to be heard (September 21), I wrote about Naxal violence, supporting the Prime Minister's concern about leftist extremism threatening India's security. While such violence needs to be suppressed, I pleaded that Naxals should also be hurt. I received comments on the article, calling for wider discussion especially when it is decided to combat this violence by expanded police operations, supported even by the Army and the Air Force, so that irreversible mistakes are not committed.


There is no question that when the Naxal movement turns violent and Naxalites take law into their hands through extortions, murder and senseless violence, action must be taken against them. There is no room for such violence in our democratic society. Whatever opinion one may have about the philosophy of the movement, no one can support the methods of violence and coercion that Naxalites use.


There can, however, be questions about the most effective manner of suppressing Naxalite violence. It is by now very well documented that such leftist extremism can survive not by acquiring great firepower but by establishing a hinterland of support in the countryside and in the fields of operations.


Essentially these groups are small minorities and their classical method is to hit the establishment at its weak points — and practise the policy of hit-and-run — to provoke unplanned retaliation from the authorities resulting in huge loss of life and property. The strength of the police force is mostly in numbers and its superiority of firepower can hardly differentiate between those actually guilty and those who just got trapped in a situation.


As a result, retaliation on the part of the police makes them more unpopular with the people and thereby serves the purpose of the militants. The violence continues. Clearly, the police needs to change its way of tackling Naxal violence with the best equipment and support mechanism. But more important is that they need support of the local population giving them information and disseminating messages. It is only then that the police can pinpoint the targets and avoid massive onslaught to apprehend one or two real culprits. But this is not easy. This cannot be done by hired people or spies who would soon expose themselves.


In other words, it is the administration and the democratic functionaries in the local areas, members of the gram sabhas and panchayats together with the civil organisations that should be brought into the system for protecting peace and security.


Surely no respectable person will join this effort unless it is clearly seen as working for the affected people and not working as a group of vigilantes. It has to be essentially a political answer to a political problem to win over the population which is affected and exploited by the militants. Also this should not be used by political groups and parties to settle their score — a problem that has been dissipating anti-militant actions, particularly in West Bengal. The administration must remain impartial and act against any group and any party perpetrating violence. Such administrative action cannot be a success unless accompanied by well-thought-out programmes for development of the Naxal-affected areas.


Some of the programmes are being carried out effectively in many parts of the country. Be it construction of school buildings, setting up of public health centres, intensive child care activities or sanitation programmes, we now have enough experience of carrying them quickly and effectively. Many of these programmes should be seen as additional to the schemes already approved at the district and at the panchayat level. But the most important part is that people must believe that these programmes will and can be implemented if law and order prevails and Naxalite violence is curbed.


In the design and the execution of these programmes, the administration must invoke active participation of the local population, with the support of NGOs and other activists and the involvement of panchayati raj institutions. It is true that in many of these Naxalite-affected areas the panchayats have been locally dominated by vested interests who are generally opposed to a radical change affecting those who are poor and vulnerable. But it will be unwise to keep the panchayat system outside this programme, because ultimately they will have to be brought within the grassroots political system.


Once the administration succeeds in initiating these programmes, the hold of the Naxal groups in the local areas will be diluted. With little force and efforts, their violent activities can be effectively controlled.


There will be some differences about the choice of these programmes. It has been noted that in several Naxal-affected areas, building of roads and communications as well as forest development projects have been steadfastly opposed by local people.


Such opposition is temporary. Once people witness that development (construction of roads and communication) would increase trade and prosperity, this opposition will melt away.


But all these decisions have to be taken through discussions and consensus-building operations. NGOs and social activists may often play a very major role in this process and the administration must be prepared to provide them all the support and assistance.


There is one single area of the problems of development in this country which have been the most fertile ground of breeding Naxalism, namely the system of land acquisition and ousting of the tribals and the local population from their natural habitat.


Our government is aware of this. The enactment of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the announcement of a new rehabilitation policy on October 11, 2007 is proof of this.


Recently, the government approved a special development package with a budget of Rs 20,000 crores for the 33 Naxal-affected districts along with 22 districts around Naxal-affected areas.


The development projects need to be implemented systematically involving the participation of the affected people.


The time has now come for us to realise that development in our country requires a change in our approach to planning and development of the local area. Dealing with the Naxal-affected areas can teach us an effective lesson.


The country is prepared to spend sufficient resources for the purpose of national security and overcoming Naxalite problem. Hopefully the lesson that is learnt will be then spread to all other areas of our economy.


Dr Arjun Sengupta is a Member of Parliament and former Economic Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi










It is a matter of pride for all Indians that the country today is in a position to build its own Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), needed by the armed forces to meet any serious threat to India's security. This has been made possible after successfully developing the country's first cryogenic engine, which is ready to be used in the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) that will put the GSAT-4 experimental communications satellite in orbit sometime in December this year. India is the sixth country in the world after the US, Russia, the European Space Agency, China and Japan to have acquired indigenous cryogenic engine building capability. The cryogenic stage "is a very complex system", which will give a big push to India's space research programme. A cryogenic engine uses liquid hydrogen at minus 260 degrees Celsius and liquid oxygen at minus 183 degrees Celsius. As Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientists have explained, those engaged in the task have to acquire great expertise in storing and pumping liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.


It all began with India reaching an agreement with Russia in 1992 for the supply of cryogenic engines and technology for the ISRO's GSLV programme. Moscow, however, reneged on its commitment following pressure from the US, which said that Russia could not go ahead with the transfer of this sensitive technology to India because of being a signatory to the Missile Technology Control Regime. The ISRO took it as a challenge and the happy result is before all of us to see. The ISRO Cryogenic Upper Stage Project, launched in 1994, helped India join the world's elite club with indigenous cryogenic technology with the first "full test firing" in 2002.


The brief test for reaching the full-fledged cryogenic stage in the rocket system development at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu was conducted in October 2006. Now the much-awaited cryogenic engine is ready to be used for different purposes. The US forcing Russia to deny India this crucial technology has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The ISRO scientists must be adequately rewarded for their remarkable achievement.









The Indian Air Force has never used firepower against militants in Jammu & Kashmir or insurgents in the North-East. Its request, therefore, for permission to open fire against the Maoists is a grim reminder of the growing strength of the rebels and the seriousness of the crisis. The request made by the IAF to the Ministry of Defence, confirmed by Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, is evidently related to the impending offensive against the outlaws. Two IAF choppers came under attack in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra in November last year and in April this year, respectively, killing a Sergeant in the process and damaging the helicopters. The IAF, deployed usually for transporting troops and machinery, in search and rescue operations and as air-ambulance, clearly expects to play a far more active role in the offensive, which explains why the permission to fire back at the Maoists has been sought at this juncture.


The Maoists, who killed 16 people in Bihar, including five children, last Thursday night, have become a menace and need to be dealt with firmly. Maoist terror is unacceptable and the rebels must be defeated. But Air Chief Marshal Naik has rightly struck a note of caution and pointed out the very real possibility of collateral damage if the IAF uses its firepower even in self-defence. Killing innocent people on the ground will not only be unfortunate and counter-productive, it would also strengthen the rebels by spreading discontent among the people. It is a difficult choice because the rebels are almost certain to provoke the IAF and take their chances. Still, the permission cannot be granted lightly and one expects the IAF to use its firepower under the gravest of provocations.


Pilotless spy planes have already been in use to guide and direct ground troops during counter-insurgency operations as also in operations against the Maoists. But Air Marshal Naik ruled out the possibility of arming them for firing on the ground, like the Predator drones used by the US against suspected Taliban militants. The IAF chief held out a warning though that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles ( UAVs) can be fitted with sensors to look through the foliage in forests. Public pronouncements in detail may have been a part of psychological warfare and designed to demoralise the enemy. One only hopes it will not rob the offensive of the suspense and the surprise element required for success in such operations.







Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal appears to have jumped the gun when he claimed on Friday that "all's well with the government and the IITs". The meeting with a delegation of the IIT Faculty Federation, the minister said, had helped in clearing the air. He had also underlined that the guidelines on recruitment and the salary structure issued by his ministry for the IITs were normative and that the IITs were free to deviate from them in exceptional cases. While representatives of the IIT teachers had also put on record their satisfaction over the minister's clarification, the misgivings expressed by them the very next day are ominous. The federation on Saturday sought the Prime Minister's intervention and an undertaking in writing, indicating its lack of trust in the minister's ability to honour his word. The federation also sought more funds to be placed at the disposal of the HRD Ministry, responding to the HRD Minister's statement that his budget is not enough for the needs of a knowledge society and to disburse "world class salaries".


The IITs have been known for their high degree of excellence and are one of the very few Indian brands recognised internationally. The HRD Ministry has been accused of ignoring the growing needs of the IITs and their demands related to the upgradation of infrastructure as well as recruitment and retention of quality faculty. While the older IITs faced a debilitating funds and faculty crunch, the crisis was further accentuated by the setting up of several new IITs in different parts of the country. The ministry's notification on the salary structure in Centrally funded technical institutes, issued first in August and revised twice since then, raised the hackles of the IIT faculty, which is clearly upset at the ministry's patronising attitude to them.


The continuing standoff is detrimental to the interests of the nation and must be resolved at once. The IIT Council, which is scheduled to meet later this month, will hopefully be able to pull down the curtains on this sad chapter. If only the HRD Ministry had initiated the dialogue before issuing the contentious notifications, the spectacle of IIT teachers agitating and observing fast, etc, could have been avoided. That the ministry has had to issue the same notification thrice, with minor modifications, is proof enough that there was not sufficient application of the mind. If the IIT boards are indeed autonomous, as the minister has repeatedly claimed, then babus in the HRD Ministry should not be allowed to call the shots.
















When V S Naipaul wrote "India, a Million Mutinies Now" in 1990, it led to a howl of protest over the "exaggeration". Well, the number he had mentioned may have appeared padded up, but is not too far from reality today.


With violent fires burning in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast and 40 per cent of the country's geographical area and over 30 per cent of its population in the grip of Left-wing terrorism, India can indeed be called a country in turmoil, as Mr Ved Prakash Marwah, former Governor of Manipur, Mizoram and Jharkhand, has done in his book.*


He has presented a ring-side view of these bushfires, besides explaining their genesis and the reasons that led to the deterioration in the situation. Normally, whenever there is trouble in a border state, the standard government response is that it is due to meddling by inimical foreign powers.


Mr Marwah differs and holds that Pakistan or any other unfriendly nation could not have succeeded in their nefarious designs if we had put our own house in order. He elaborates in graphic detail how narrow politics and avoidable administrative failures have contributed to the escalation and complexity of the many security problems.


It is an insider's account, considering that before being appointed Governor, Mr Marwah, an IPS Officer, held assignments in different states, including Commissioner of Police, Delhi; Director-General of the National Security Guard; and Adviser to the Governors in Jammu & Kashmir and Bihar.


He blames the political class for many avoidable blunders. The negative role of inexperienced and not very competent police and administrative leadership also comes in for caustic comments.


Mr Marwah laments that while more than half the country is in turmoil, the government is in a self-congratulatory mood. He alleges that many of violent conflicts enjoy the tacit, if not open, support of the ruling parties.


He is most concerned about Left extremism. After all, the states affected by it are more than four times in area and eight times in terms of population than Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Punjab put together.


Yet, the government was not even acknowledging till recently that things are so bad. Shrewd bureaucrats played around with data to hide the fact that more than one-third of the country had been affected by Left-wing violence. Instead of looking at the data district-wise, they cleverly reorganised it police station-wise.


Despite that, peace initiatives have been short-sighted and vacillation and ad hocism have been the hallmark of the government's counter-terrorism policies. The state police has been generally ill equipped, ill trained and poorly led.

In his view the spread of the extremist ideology is primarily a consequence of bad governance and ruthless exploitation of the poor and the marginalised.


He cites Punjab's fight against terrorism as one success story but mentions that things would not have come to such a pass if the government had not treated it as a law and order problem initially.


Mr Marwah was the first officer to enquire into the 1984 riots. All the available oral and documentary evidence did not show the Delhi Police in very good light. The Delhi Police officers, whose role was suspect, first filed a petition in the Delhi High Court to stall the enquiry. When that did not work, they used their political clout to "derail my enquiry when it was drawing to a close".


While the guilty officers have so far not been punished even after 25 years, Mr Marwah reveals that "they have succeeded in causing me unending harassment". They have been filing one case after another against him on flimsy grounds. "I have been summoned time and again by one court or the other. I received a court summon even when I was serving as Governor of Manipur".


His constant argument is that terrorism could not have raised its ugly head but for New Delhi's short-sighted policies.


Another grouse of his is that sitting in Delhi, it is easy to blame police officers functioning in a harsh and hostile environment of using excessive force. The sacrifice of police and armed forces personnel does not find a place in national consciousness. Separatists exploit this weakness to the hilt.


More than his reiteration of the history of extremism and the remedies that should be applied, it is his personal experiences which make the book a remarkable work.


Talking of rampant corruption, he recounts that a serving Chief Minister in Jharkhand floated a company in his wife's name, which managed to get contracts worth crores of rupees from a large corporate house having a major interest in his state.


As the Governor of Jharkhand, he could not communicate with officers in charge on the phone or wireless, because the communication system at most police stations was obsolete.


Mr Marwah recalls that many of the policemen in the Northeast do the bidding of the insurgents rather than that of the government. He found during President's rule in 2001 in Manipur that in not a single case in the last 10 years had the police filed a charge-sheet against the arrested insurgents.


He also witnessed the spectacle of the Samata Party coming to power when it did not have even a single elected member in the Manipur assembly. Another amusing story he narrates is of an eminent political leader who changed his affiliation thrice in 24 hours to come to power.


How seriously New Delhi takes the Northeast can be gauged from the fact that during his tenure as a governor of two Northeastern states, on more than one occasion, he was referred to as the Governor of Nagaland by one of the high-ups. When he tried to inform him that he was the Governor of Manipur and Mizoram and not Nagaland, his immediate remark was: They are all the same any way, what difference does it make?

Poverty in the Northeastern region, he opines, is more due to the misappropriation of funds by corrupt politicians and civil servants and less due to the paucity of funds. The collusive arrangement between different militant factions and the various political parties and civil servants are more the norm than the exception.


For all practical purposes, these financially non-viable states are more like UTs. In spite of huge grants, these states cannot even regularly pay the salaries to their employees. Even the governor's salary is delayed for months, Mr Marwah reveals.


All that makes dark, depressing reading. But, as they say, facts are stranger than fiction.


* India in Turmoil: Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Left Extremism, by Ved Marwah, Pp 352; Rs 395, Rupa and Co.








Prof Meenakshi Mukherjee, who died in Hyderabad on September 16, was one of the very few teachers admired by students and colleagues. She had her admirers and well-wishers abroad, too, as she had been a visiting professor at Chicago, California and Texas. Her death came between India's national Teachers' Day on September 5 and World Teachers' Day on October 5. The aim of World Teachers' Day, being observed since 1994, is to mobilise support for the teachers and to ensure that the needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers.


As a student, I had the opportunity to listen to one of Prof Meenakshi Mukherjee's extension lectures at the Post-Graduate Department of English, University of Kashmir, in the summer of 1982. She impressed the teachers and the students during her polite discourse on Indian writing in English. After the lectures were over in one of the two classrooms of the Faculty of Arts, she would be looking at the enchanting scene outside. The lush green sprawling lawns in front of the faculty building, separated by the waters of the Dal Lake from the foothills of Zabarwan, have been giving solace to the onlookers' eyes, nature lovers and men of letters.


Four years after that first opportunity, I happened to be one among over 15 students she taught at the School of Languages of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Though I was there for less than a year, the greater and closer interaction could not be possible. However, all the students and my classmates then maintained an equal and respectable equation, as every word she spoke had an indelible mark on our minds. Each student (of MA, Linguistics) had compulsorily to submit an assignment in each paper and have a one-on-one discussion with the teacher concerned. Thus, while submitting my detailed assignment, I got an opportunity to individually get her observations and comments on areas which I had failed to cover. I got valuable pieces of guidance.


She could easily find out where I had tried to be smart. But her comments, instead of discouraging me, helped me develop a keener and more honest way of working. It was an honour to have an individual interaction with the great teacher, who could more easily also find out from my write-up that I had already post-graduated from the University of Kashmir. That relationship created in me a greater sense of responsibility. Aptly, World Teachers' Day aims at ensuring that the "needs of future generations will continue to be met by teachers".









That was the concluding sentence of a lengthy, very well argued letter to the US President Franklin Pierce in the 1850s, when the Red Indian Chief Seattle realised how close the "White Man" was to destroying American Wildlife heritage through excessive hunting and associated commerce.


Today, we Indians are faced with the same stark reality. For if the tiger, the master-predator, becomes extinct, the majority of India's animal world in the wild will perish because (a) their numbers will explode beyond the carrying-capacity of our national parks and allied forests, (b) large-scale deaths will follow from epidemics and starvation and (c) the survivors will en-mass descend upon agricultural crops where farmers will understandably impose the ultimate coup-de-grace.


In essence, we are close to witnessing the horrors arising from the dismantling of the natural prey-predator food chain, triggered by filthy lucre.


One of our most knowledgeable tiger-biologists, Valmik Thapar, had made valiant efforts in the 1980s to sensitise the Ministry of Forests and Environment on the magnitude of tiger-poaching in India. Unfortunately, the State chose to deny rather than listen and act. The Secretary MOEF told him emphatically that just ONE tiger had been poached in the whole of that year and that Valmik Thapar must desist pro-offering unasked for advice.


Now some 15 years later, the government admits to the country-wide tiger count at a mere 1,145 and that 50 to 70 tigers died to-date in 2009 alone. Even more worrisome is the government's attempt at naive damage-control by assigning, among other factors, 20 to 35 deaths due to old age and a few even due to drowning in the rivers.


Let us remember that after the tiger's birth about 1.2 million years ago, its southward journey on the Asian mainland ended with the arc, Kanyakumari, Java and Bali islands. The Sunda trench, which separates Java and Bali islands, is one among the deepest in the ocean. Yet, the tiger swam across to inhabit and thrive on Bali island till poached to extinction in the 1930s. So, please let us not lie about tigers dying due to drowning in the Indian rivers. They are poached for money. Period.


Of course, tigers must perish of old age too in the natural way. But how many and over how long? A tiger's average life span is 12 to 15 years. There is little plausibility of 35 old-age deaths in nine months out of 1, 145 tigers of varying age-mix. Perhaps the Prime Minister's scientific advisor could organise a computer-simulated model-check to arrive at the truth.


The common man cares not whether the tiger survives or perishes. But nor does the common man care for the global warming phenomena or for the diminishing green gene-pool and bio-diversity, as the principle tools for human survival. No, these are those vitals of survival strategies of homo sapiene race at large which the elected governments are mandated to deliver upon.


One person who had foreseen this apathy of the common man and therefore of the politicians in India towards our wildlife has been summed up in the personal Journal of Field Marshal Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India in an entry for December, 1946: "His (Jim Corbett) talk on tigers and jungle life is of extraordinary interest and wish I could have had more of it. He has rather pessimistic views on the future of tigers ... and that in many parts of India tigers will become extinct in the next 10 to 15 years; his chief reason is that Indian politicians are no sportsmen and tigers have no votes, while the right to gun licence will go with a vote." What a damning but true crystal gazing of our society.


Having said all that do I have a "doable" plan for the tiger's assured survival? Yes I have, though politically draconian, but it alone will save the tiger and is as follows:


Place the existing National Tiger Conservation Authority directly under the PMO. Place all the tiger reserves and contiguous sanctuaries and protected/notified forests in the country under it for a period of ten years, together with all their current administrative assets and liabilities. Offset the loss of revenue to the states arising from this ordinance for the period of its operation, through special budgetary allocations.


Hold an annual tiger revival audit by an independent body of three to five experts from within and outside the country. Induct 30 per cent new members to the audit team each year and retire an equal number from the previous team.


The Prime Minister must take the annual audit findings as mandatory fresh in-puts for implementation and for keeping Parliament informed.


Place a moratoriam on denotifications and or alteration of boundaries of existing national parks, tiger reserves, sanctuaries and notified forests both by Parliament and by state legislatures through the same ordinance.


Provide legal safe-guards/immunity in the event of encounter-deaths of poachers at the hand of forest staff inside the declared boundaries. This is what broke the back of the ivory poaching syndicates in Kenya in the 1960/70s.


Assuming that there are about 300 tigresses in the cub-productive age (among the 1,145 surviving tigers) and allowing for the average survival of one cub per litter to adulthood and also factoring-in 20 old-age deaths each year, there is every chance our tiger population will reach the 2,000 to 2,500 mark ten years hence. Most tiger-biologists would agree that in fact 2,500 to 3,500 tigers is the optimum figure to look for given the size of our protected areas network and the tiger prey-base availability.


Emperor Ashoka had chosen the Asiatic Lion as the symbol of Indian nationhood. Twenty-two centuries later, we the Democratic Republic of India placed the Royal Bengal tiger on a similar pedestal. Let us arise and save them both.


Jane Goodall was asked by an interviewer in September, 2009, whether she believed there was "Hope for Animals and Their World" to which she responded:


"At one time (1980s) there were just 12 Californian Condors in the wild and one in captivity. Now there are 300. This bird would have gone but for a small group of people who would not give up. As long as we have people like that, there's hope for the future".


Would Minister Jairam Ramesh consider without prejudice the remedial strategy, please?








"iPHONES are killing the conversation on the front row," asserted one fashion editor after the recent Milan shows. And guess what? Her comment loud, to me, in conversation. Anyone remember that? The people-watching afforded by the front row is as fertile as conversation fodder comes, but this season the idle but fascinating chat that used to be struck up between two people who didn't know each other, thrown together on a tiny bench packed tighter than Anna Wintour's suitcase for Paris Fashion Week, had dwindled. Old friends still chatted but that casual conversation between strangers had all but vanished. Instead of gossiping to their neighbour that, say, someone in the crowd's outfit cost more than a family car, many of the audience were furiously tapping away on their iPhones.


Some were tweeting; some may have been answering genuinely pressing emails; some may have been playing with that bubble wrap-popping app but others were using their phones as instruments of isolation that say "don't even think about talking to me" better than the sourest of pouts.


When the lights went down at the Dolce & Gabbana show there should have been a thrilling moment of silence and darkness before the catwalk bursts into light and sound. Instead, glowing in the gloom, like the lighters held aloft at a concert, were the bright screens of several hundred phones.


I appreciate that iPhones are useful and, for many work situations, essential. I am even considering confronting my chronic Luddite tendencies by being one of the last people on earth to join Facebook and Twitter, although I quite enjoy the instant camaraderie of meeting someone else in this beleaguered band. I get that the iPhone represents progress. However, just as President Sarkozy suggested that a country's prosperity shouldn't just be measured in GDP, but also in a joie de vivre index, it doesn't matter how many useful apps you can download, or how quick and wide reaching your internet connection is, if this little ergonomic tyrant is running your life and ruining your personal relationships.


To paraphrase Princess Diana — there are three of us in my relationship: me, my boyfriend, and the new love of his life with curves to die for, the iPhone. It sits next to us on the sofa, the restaurant table, beside the bed, on the beach. Maybe he doesn't really like me, or it's a dog substitute. Either way, it's there flashing constantly like some sort of needy spaceship, fuelling his addiction.


The advent of the BlackBerry meant that people's jobs spilled over into their personal lives, but now the fun factor of the iPhone means that many more are now leading double lives, real and virtual. Whatever happened to living in the moment? On a recent visit to Edinburgh, my boyfriend and I were trying to find our way to the hotel, but instead of meandering through the streets discovering the city's unexpected treasures we had to consult some hi-tech map device, then proceed 500m forward, 300 to the left, etc.


Then there was finding a restaurant. Forget spontaneity: the local eateries for miles around were duly Googled and assessed in the street. Perhaps we missed some kind of virtual tasting app that we could have downloaded to experience our future meal for us. While we were staying in Edinburgh I sent my friend a real, live postcard.

How retro, given that there is actually an iPhone postcard app. What was less retro was the feeling several hours later that I should have had a reply. We've all become so used to instant messaging that the idea of sending a postcard and not getting an instant reaction was frustrating.


These appealing, addictive devices inveigle their way into your consciousness and distort your perception of time and distance. They make people impatient, and rob experiences of their spontaneity. They are anti-joie de vivre. The thing is, I really want one, and that's the saddest bit.


By arrangement with The Independent








With an over-efficient Home Minister, even minor changes in offices say a lot. P. Chidambaram has proved to be number one in the Union Cabinet today. He has delivered, been open and is a workaholic. Thank God, he makes sure his officials are as efficient as he is.


As if biometric attendance systems were not enough to amuse and maybe annoy Home Ministry officials at North Block, two condom vending machines installed in the washrooms left many of them amused.


The initiative is a part of a safe-sex awareness drive for North Block staff, who can buy two Josh condoms of Rs 5. Some curious Home Ministry officials were seen studying the instructions for using the machines minutely. Family planning, they were heard joking, no longer starts from home, but from the Home Ministry office. Great job!



After belting his opponents in the political arena, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has padded up for a new innings. Right after his victory in by-elections, ending the Congress' 16-year domination of the Gujarat Cricket Association, Modi is now in the company of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar who is ICC chairman-designate, while Arun Jaitely is the president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association.


Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla is the vice-president of the BCCI, while Union Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was only recently elected vice-president of the Maharashtra Cricket Association. Another political heavyweight, Union Non-Conventional Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah heads the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. RJD chief and former Union Minister Lalu Prasad too turned into cricket buff, but his efforts to control the Bihar Cricket Association have ended in a legal tangle.


Cricket and politicians are not new. Former Union Ministers Madhavrao Scindia and N.K.P. Salve too took to cricket administration, and have headed the BCCI during their heydays. So, it's not surprising that Modi was tempted to head the cricketing body. The ground work had been going on for over a year. As usual, all minute details were studied well. GCA had till now be controlled by the Narhari Amin group. Modi's man Amit Shah has been engaged in a tussle with the Amin group for the last one-and-a-half years for controlling the affairs of the cash-rich cricket body.


Modi says he will soon come out with a blueprint on how to develop the game in the state. He wants to give it a professional touch by harnessing technology and how to develop the game through an integrated approach. The popularity of the game of cricket can be used to attract the youth to other sporting activity as well is Modi's logic.


So, now Modi obviously will be headed soon to becoming the BCCI chief. He surely is not going to rest till then.



Gujaratis are really an original lot. A village in Gujarat has taken lead in effectively implementing liquor prohibition laws. Kanesara village of Patan Taluka in north Gujarat has not only prescribed financial penalties for consuming liquor, but the person 'caught' drinking is required to spend 24 hours on a tree.








The surrender of weapons by the members of the DHD(J) is a welcome development and it will definitely help in restoration of peace in the trouble torn district of North Cachar Hills to enable the Government to expedite implementation of development schemes. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who attended the surrender ceremony in Haflong on October 2, announced a special Rs 50 crore development package for the hill district, which remained one of the most backward districts of Assam. But only providing additional funds will not ensure development of the district if the funds are not utilised properly for the benefit of the common masses. It is now a well established fact that over the years, funds provided to the NC Hills Autonomous Council by Central and State Governments were misused and substantial amounts went to the coffers of the militants, thus depriving the common masses of the fruits of development. The National Investigating Agency (NIA) is probing into the politician-militant nexus in the Hill district and took the former Chief Executive Member of the NC Hills Autonomous Council, Mohit Hojai and the Chief of the DHD(J), Jewel Garlosa into custody. But if the Government is really serious in ensuring proper utilisation of funds, a thorough probe into the allegations of misuse of funds provided to the Council should be instituted and exemplary punishment should be meted out to anyone found to be responsible for the same to ensure that no one dares to indulge in such activities in future. The Government of India should also keep a close watch on the implementation of the Centrally sponsored projects in the Hill district if it is interested in the development of NC Hills.

The Chief Minister also assured rehabilitation of the militants who came over ground to solve their problems through talks and a proposal has reportedly been mooted to create a special battalion of police to rehabilitate the surrendered militants. But it will not be possible for the Government to appoint all the surrendered militants in the special police battalions as some have police cases against them and they cannot be appointed as police personnel till the cases are withdrawn. Moreover, most of the members of the militant groups are not qualified to be appointed as police personnel and the Government will have to amend the rules to appoint them. The Government can think of providing vocational training to the surrendered militants to provide them self employment avenues and even it can help the former ultras to set up cooperatives of their own to earn their livelihood. Creation of self help groups in different parts of Assam provided employment avenues to thousands of people and the Government can also examine the feasibility of encouraging the surrendered militants to set up such groups to provide them with employment avenues as it will never be possible to provide Government jobs to all of them.







A review of the performance of the north-eastern States vis-à-vis implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has revealed that notwithstanding some overall progress, several critical areas continue to be a matter of concern. On the positive front, both Assam and Meghalaya have succeeded in bringing down the infant mortality rate to below national average but the other north-eastern States continue to lag behind. The maternal mortality rate, however, remains a persistent drawback for Assam. This makes clear that the interventions made so far have failed to benefit the targeted groups in the desired manner. This does not merit surprise because family planning, which is intrinsically related to maternal welfare, is yet to gain grounds in areas in urgent need for such intervention. The bane of early marriage, polygamy and high birth rate continues to plague many backward areas, mostly chars. Along with health-related interventions, the situation also calls for greater awareness at the grassroots. Immunisation of children against deadly diseases has been another problem area for the North-East as a whole. A special and sustained focus is highly imperative to bring about a change for the better. Yet another worry relates to the high incidence of malaria and Japanese encephalitis in the North-East, which accounts for one-third of total deaths caused by these diseases in the country.

Health care being a traditionally neglected area in the North-East, the desired changes can be effected only by ensuring the required infrastructure. Shortage of doctors and paramedical staff, too, needs to be addressed as a priority. Along with initiatives from the State governments, the Centre will have to play a key role in augmenting the region's health-care infrastructure. A majority of the rural populace in the North-East hardly have any access to health-care facilities. Even where there are hospitals, they serve little purpose due to lack of infrastructure and manpower. While we need institutions for advanced medical treatment, of equal importance is to have dependable health-care set-ups at different levels. This is essential for bringing the entire populace under standardised medical care, and can be achieved only when governments give the matter precedence. The problems afflicting the sector being deep-rooted, a pro-active and sustained response from the authorities is a dire need. With escalating costs making private health care out of bound for a vast multitude of the populace, the authorities must exhibit greater sincerity and commitment in addressing the growing health-care needs of the people.








G-20 is an informal forum comprising major developed countries and leading emerging market economies. It was necessitated due to the total failure and collapse of many American financial institutions that led to global economic meltdown. The formation of the G-20 implied a judgment that the current institutional structure was inadequate, even outdated, for dealing with the main problems of the world economy. The Western countries that traditionally have wielded power at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations want the developing nations to cut greenhouse gases blamed for dangerous climate change and to slash barriers that prevent free trade. The developing nations of G-20 forum — Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia – believe their growing importance deserves a bigger say in the world's financial decision-making. The G-20, which represents 80 percent of the world's economic output, is where they can make their case. In fact, Asian countries have done well, comparatively, during the world economic crisis. But the region has been criticized for protecting its trade and agricultural industries from competition.

In fact, China, India, Mexico and the United States during the last decade experienced quantum jumps in their integration with the world economy. The United States, for example, has tripled the share of trade in its economy over the past 40 years. Africa's share of world trade and investment has dropped to minuscule levels. Brazil could quickly expand its trade, probably by a multiple of two or three, if it could obtain better access to foreign markets and reduce its own barriers. Japan's globalization ratio has declined and Germany's has been flat—and those countries have been the growth laggards within the G-7.Perhaps the most dramatic example is the Middle East, on which much current attention is rightly focused. The region did as well or better than Latin America and even Asia in the first postwar decades but has declined steadily for the last 30 years despite the dramatic rise in the price of oil. Earlier President Bush's proposal for a new free trade agreement between the United States and the entire Middle East was one way to advance such integration on a much broader basis. The Middle Eastern and other countries cited here obviously have problems that range beyond their lack of globalization, but their failure to take advantage of international economic integration is clearly a major factor in their lagging performance.

On the other hand, India has been an active and a key participant in G-20 discussions right from the beginning when the G-20 forum of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors was established in 1999. It always played a dominant role in G-20 talks, which is also very important for its long-cherished ambition of a becoming dominant player in global arena. India took the opportunity at the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit to discuss on ways to prevent regulatory failures that led to the economic crisis from recurring. Financial market reform was a central issue at the summit and India opted to play a pro-active role in this issue. The agendas that India tried put forward at the Pittsburgh summit were to exchange of views on stimulus and growth measures while planning exit strategies, review of regulatory framework reiterating commitment against protectionism, focus on reforms of international financial institutions, redressing requirements of mobilising resources for poor developing countries, sending out a strong political message calling for a balanced and successful outcome of the climate change negotiations in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at Copenhagen.

On the other hand, it was a rare occasion when China and India not only shared a common platform but also expressed consensus, on major issues at the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit. India and China are more or less in sync with each other on issues related to international financial sector reforms, including reforms in global financial institutions like IMF and World Bank. The two countries have a similar position on the issue of climate change, which is based on the principle that the 'polluter must pay'. India successfully utilised the opportunity at the G-20 meeting to press for changes in the international financial architecture through reforms of the global financial institutions, like IMF and World Bank, so that the voice of poor and emerging economies gets heard. India also raised the issue of rise in protectionism being embraced by developed countries and the damage it has done to the developing nations' economies. In the first week of September, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee attended a G-20 summit in London, which was meant to prepare the ground for the Pittsburgh talks. A solution to financing ways to combat climate change was introduced on the agenda, which India found discomfiting.At the London meeting, India said it wanted a solution that was in sync with the underlying philosophy of UNFCCC. Another game plan was brandishing UNFCCC commitments at the so-called high table was a strategic move to neutralize a chance of talks on financing climate change moving in a direction unsuitable to India. Both the bureaucrats spoke on condition of anonymity.In London, the finance ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric) said UNFCCC, which oversees the drafting of a new treaty, to be the main forum for negotiations on climate change,.A key reason underpinning India's strategy is the principles of UNFCCC, which work in India's favour when it comes to solutions for climate change financing.

Thus the long run significance for the G-20 could be even greater. Successful realisation of the regional aspirations—especially in Asia, which until recently have lagged far behind Europe and even the Western Hemisphere—could lead to the emergence of a tripolar world economic structure. So G-20 should gradually but steadily supersede the G-7 as the informal steering committee for the world economy. The London communique, which US President Barack Obama declared as "historic", sounds non-historically familiar as so long the developing nations take greater role and responsibility, the G-20 forum will fail to give desired result, the sustainable growth and development of the economy of the emerging economic powers of the nations of Asia-Pacific. It was really good to see that the developing nations particularly India took a leading role in the recent G-20 summit held at Pittsburgh, USA. The joint initiatives of both India and China compelled their Western counterparts to give due respect to the cause of developing nations.








Almost all animals face similar basic ecological problems such as a suitable place to live in, appropriate foods to consume, escape from enemies and producing offspring etc. Some areas are good for feeding and some for breeding. Sometimes these areas are widely separated places. Even if suitable areas are found, animals cannot utilise the resources to their satisfaction as efficiently as possible for several reasons. Because resources such as food, shelter and water are not distributed uniformly in the habitats. These are available in patches. In addition, the areas may not be free from predators, which greatly disturb the prey animals while foraging. Therefore, animals had to spend considerable time and energy in locating a prime site. When animals remain busy in selecting prime site, and in other significant activities such as defence of territory, escaping from predators and establishment etc, they get very little time for bringing up their offspring. Considering all the factors the cost of searching ie time lost, energy expended and risk of predation is far above the possible benefits that may be derived from locating a superior site. Now the question of choice arises, whether the dispersing animals will stop searching for a better location somewhere or settle at a particular site. As animals become sensitive to the costs of locating a superior site, they eventually settle at the second or the third best.

Many animals travel a great distance to collect food and then return to a rest or den, burrow or rookery to deposit their take in the mouth of immobile offspring. In doing so, they run a risk of being blown by wind or carried by currents or attacked by predators. For example - Adelie penguins leave the young chicks in the rookery upto 2 weeks at a time and travel a great distance to forage at sea in search of shrimp-like krill and then return. Ascension is a small island 5 mile wide speck of land in the Atlantic ocean between Africa and Brazil. The green set turtle nests on the island of Ascencion. The adult female turtles visit the island only to deposit their eggs in beach sands. They then swim 1000 miles to the warm shallow waters of Brazil where they feed on marine vegetation for several years and then again return to sand beach to lay another clutch of eggs.

There is innate preference for which some species have a tendency to return to a breeding place where an individual was born and reared. This is called site-tenacity or site-attachment. This characteristic contributes a great deal to habital selection. Site-tenacity is exhibited by the gulls and green herons. They choose to breed in the same place where they were born. Because the area is familiar to them and they are certain that it is capable of supporting adults and their offspring. In case of human being also, it has been observed that there is innate preference for the place where he was born and brought up. Many species of birds may have an innate preference for certain environmental characteristics such as presence of a nest hole or particular density of foliage.

According to ecologists, animals are classified as generalist and specialist feeders on the basis of food items taken by them. Generalist feeders consume a wide variety of foods during its life time. Specialist feeders feed on a highly restricted number of foods. Everglade kite is a bird which feeds entirely on one species of fresh water snail. If a particular food which is eaten by specialists is ample, then population will be more. They are efficient at using their resources. If foods become rare, in that case they become vulnerable to environmental changes, because they cannot switch over to an alternative food. The specialist feeder is more or less dependent on a single food resource.

Generalists occupy a broad ecological niche in their feeding habit. If supplies are short, they can switch from one to another. There is food preferences. Generalists may never become as locally abundant as specialists. They do not become vulnerable to environmental changes. In some part of the year, when the seeds of some crops fall, food may be super-abundant for some species such as various seed eaters. Even then, animals cannot forage as efficiently as possible, because they devote more time for other significant activities such as avoiding predators, maintaining territory, courting mate, incubating eggs etc. For such reasons, there remains very little time for feeding.

Although many species of animals live in the same habitat, their niches are different. In Africa, the black rhino and the white rhino live in the same habitat, but their foraging techniques are different. The black rhino is a browser and feeds on woody plants while the white rhino is a grazer and feeds on herbs and grasses. Many species of animals such as rhino, buffalo, deer etc have been observed grazing together in the short grass habitat of Kaziranga National Park, but their techniques of eating grass are different. Some eat the tip of the grass, some to the ground, some randomly etc.

There are three species of ground-dwelling finches on the Galapagos Islands in South America. Finches are seed eaters. They are commonly known as Darwin's finches. It is interesting to note that the small-billed-finches have very small beaks, the large billed finches have very large beaks and the medium-billed species is in between. The beaks vary according to the type of seeds they eat. There is variation in bill size within each species, but little or no overlap among species. Each finch is best adapted to crush and feed upon. Ecologists said that no two species with same ecological niche can co-exist. They can co-exist in the same environment if their niches or ecological requirements differ.

Under what ecological conditions the species become a specialist or a generalist? Animals that encounter an abundance of one food, generation after generation may tend to evolve specialised traits that maximise the exploitation of this food. On the other hand many species live in areas where they rarely or never have access to a single food that is consistently present in large amounts, under these circumstances, they tend to evolve generalised traits suitable for exploitation of many different foods. Several species of birds have been observed feeding from morning till evening (and even in the night). In these cases, it has been estimated that each ndividual had to find a bit of food every second or two in order to survive.

Territoriality is a wide spread-mammalian behavioural trait. The term territory has sometimes been applied loosely to the home range. The term territory was first given by students of avian behaviour. Classically, it referred to the area surrounding the nest-site from which other conspecifics were driven away, usually by the male. The space defended in this way was large enough to provide most or all of the life requirements of the pair and their dependent offspring.

Home Range is not an exclusive preserve but overlaps with other animal's home range. Many mammals are larger than the largest bird, the areas in which they forage are very large which is difficult to defend. For example: hunting dogs hunt over a tract of land upto 1500 square miles in area. Individuals of the same species require some areas for their normal activities such as food gathering, mating and caring for their youngs. They traverse within such areas for the above purposes. Such areas are called home-range.

(Published on the occasion of Wildlife Week, 2009).







Whether or not Friday's killing of 16 poor villagers in Bihar was the handiwork Maoists, there is no denying the rising challenge this form of armed insurgency poses today. It is inevitable that the state should resort to tough policing to check such violent challenges to its authority and legitimacy.


Yet, it would be futile trying to combat Maoism by use of force alone. Policing has to go hand in hand with transformative politics that redistributes social, political and economic power in the areas where Maoism finds fertile soil.

It is the failure of the state to live up to the promise of equality of opportunity held out by the Constitution that has prepared the ground for ordinary people to support, if not join in, armed struggle against the state. And the task of delivering on the Constitution's promise of decent citizenship cannot be performed by the state and its agencies alone.

Political parties must come forward to mobilise people to change the status quo in rural areas and rectify the extreme inequality of power and assets that is a hallmark of much of rural India even today. The left parties continue to mouth land reforms as the solution to all rural problems. And it is indeed true that part of the reason why Andhra Pradesh registered a sharp decline in Maoist violence over the last five years was a fresh dose of land reforms in the state, in which the then chief minister YSR Reddy himself gave away a good part of the surplus land his family owned.

But land reforms are no longer sufficient. Investment in rural infrastructure — irrigation, roads, power, schools, hospitals, markets, banking or microfinance — is as important. Rural prosperity is driven not just by farming but also and, in fact, to a greater extent, by integration of the rural economy into the national and global economy.

The structural diversification of the economy underway as part of India's globalisation paves the way for people to move to non-traditional occupations, paving the way to break the age-old correlation between caste and occupation. Only an integrated vision that links globalisation to transformation of rural society towards a more egalitarian structure can effectively counter the Maoists, who project armed struggle as the only way out of the crass exploitation and hopelessness that form the staple of rural reality for the majority.







The government's proposal to enact a law defining security clearance procedures for foreign direct investment

(FDI) proposal is welcome. It would put end to arbitrary decisions based on the country of origin. To deny a company access on the basis of the country of its origin is grossly unfair, not just to the company in question but often to the consumers who may derive some benefit from the products and services that particular company would offer.

Often, a new player would increase competition in the market, expand choice for consumers and bring down prices. For instance, first the Korean companies and then the Chinese intensified competition in the consumer durables market. While enhancing choice for consumers is important, it cannot be at the cost of undermining the security of the country.

However, it helps to have clearly defined guidelines to screen investment proposals from foreigners, to identify and reject proposals that potentially pose a security concern. The existing system does have a scrutiny procedure in place, with proposals in sectors such as power, defence and aviation being referred to security agencies.

However, in the absence of a clearly defined policy, the scrutiny process would be ad hoc and possibly even arbitrary. The US model of screening investment proposals within a specified time period (90 days for final decision to permit or bar a proposal, from deciding whether to investigate a proposal for possible security breach) and subject to some laid down conditions is a good one to follow.

When the government is planning to enact an FDI law, it would make sense for it to cover all aspects
foreign investment. The practice of regulating FDI through executive orders should be replaced with a comprehensive law.

The recent press notes (PN 2, 3 and 4) that define a foreign company, lay out guidelines for transfer of ownership from resident to non-resident entities and for downstream investment should ideally be incorporated into law. The entire objective of enacting a law should be to reduce policy flip-flop and arbitrary decisionmaking.









Word is out that the Indian government has given the go ahead for the movie The Indian Summer, with some unfortunate censorious slashes — all scenes suggesting anything improper between India's charismatic first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the charming last Vicereine, Lady Mountbatten, are to be excluded.


Why does the Indian establishment persist in its peculiar belief that either eminent people were immune to matters of the heart, and that even if they did have a flutter or two, the general population should not be allowed even a whiff of any impropriety? This streak of prudery is almost akin to the one that kept kissing off the Indian silver screen till almost the onset of the 21st century. There is every reason to aver that at least the newest generation of Indians — weaned on steamy, kissing-allowed
cinema — would welcome the idea that their forebears were not impossibly abstemious paragons of virtue but real human beings, with enough mortal (and moral) foibles to make them believable and even loveable.

Take the case of Britain, where not only has the formidable Queen Victoria's life been speculated upon in print and celluloid and Princes Diana's life chronicled in gory detail, now a film is being planned on her son, the feckless Prince Harry and his (non)role as the 'Spare to the British throne'. Given the prince's generally colourful lifestyle, the movie might bring out some embarrassing aspects but so far the British government has not restrained the producers.

Indeed, ever since the sons of Prince Charles became adults, the press embargo on them was lifted and they have had to sink or swim with the rest of the
celebrity headliners. Yet in India, a film on Sonia Gandhi has already been canned, and any similar suggestion about her son Rahul is likely to meet with a similar fate though as a bachelor politician, his life attracts even more attention than his late great-grandfather's. Time the government let political figures step off their pedestals and be more human — even if only on celluloid.








When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."


If reading the Leaders' Statement released at the end of the two-day meeting of the leaders of the G20 group of nations in Pittsburgh late last month reminded me of this wonderful conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carrol's Through the Looking Glass, the reasons will become clear by and by.

'We will fight protectionism,' says the Statement in a ringing endorsement of free trade. Good show! Yet less than a month ago the US slapped a 35% duty on import of Chinese tyres. It's not the only one. China has its 'Buy Chinese' clause on the lines of the 'Buy American' clause while India (yes, navel gazing is sometimes necessary) holds the record for initiating the highest number of anti-dumping probes.

In the period since the April Summit when G20 leaders pledged just as fiercely to avoid protectionist measures, a G20 member has violated that pledge approximately once every three days, says the Geneva-based World Trade Alliance.

There's more in the same vein. 'Excessive compensation in the financial sector has both reflected and encouraged excessive risk taking,' says the Statement, calling for reforming compensation policies to align compensation with 'long-term value creation, not excessive risk-taking.' Does it mean extravagant payouts seen in the boom years and even after the crisis have become history?

Unfortunately, no! What is excessive? $10 million? $20 million? What is long-term value-creation? What is a sound capital base? Eight per cent? Ten per cent? The statement leaves these tricky questions to the Financial Services Board. But the latter's standards are much too vague and allow as much scope for gaming as before.
That's not all. A careful reading (literally and between the lines) shows that as of now there is much in the Statement the March Hare would have found to admonish.

"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least — at least I mean what I say — that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might just as well say 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see.'"

Take, for instance, the call to develop 'cooperative and coordinated exit strategies recognising that the scale, timing and sequencing of this process will vary across countries or regions and across the type of policy measures.' If the scale, timing and sequencing of exits is going to vary across countries, can the G20 compel the give-and-take inherent in 'co-ordinated exit strategies'? Unlikely! What about the newly-anointed IMF? Even less likely!

The fact is, for all the tom-tomming about the success of coordinated responses to the crisis, there was no prior co-ordination. Each country responded as it saw fit from its own perspective. Thus the EU held out against repeated US calls to ease monetary and fiscal policies until such time as it felt the Europe's interests were being hurt.

Likewise with developing countries whose governments were initially carried away by talk of de-coupling. They jumped into the fray only when it became evident this was nothing but hogwash. In India the initial stimulus was driven more by the compulsions of elections than by any grand plan of global co-operation. Co-ordination, therefore, was not a conscious a priori decision but a de facto consequence of the crisis once it enveloped the world.

Here too it was each nation for itself. When Iceland's Landsbanki failed, the country initially insured only the savings of its own citizens with deposits in the bank. The UK, not to be outdone, promptly invoked anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic banking assets in the UK to try and arm-twist Iceland into insuring British depositors.

The matter was finally resolved only when the UK agreed to give a loan to Iceland to rescue British depositors.
So make no mistake about it. As long as nation states exist, each nation will be driven by national interests. Co-ordination might be possible in the good times (when there is usually less need for it or the downside of un-coordinated policies is not obvious, as during the pre-crisis years). But in bad times, when push comes to shove, each nation looks to its own.

So does that mean Pittsburgh is an empty victory for the G20? No! The Statement marks a significant break with the past in that for the first time the presence of emerging economies at the high table has been formalised. This is no mean achievement even if the new grouping, like the G-8 it seeks to replace, is no more than a talk shop. But to the extent the G20 is to be the 'premier forum for international economic cooperation', developing countries will now have a forum where they can voice their concerns. Whether their voices will carry any weight remains to be seen. But if they are determined they can make a difference, however small, to the course that is finally charted.

For now, the agenda reflects the concerns of the developed rather than the developing world. The two main issues — how much capital banks need to hold and bankers' bonuses — are not major issues for the non-G8 countries whose banks are in relatively better shape. But in the not-too-distant future the old order must give way to the new and in a far less niggardly fashion than envisaged in the Statement.

Thus the promise of a 5% shift in voting rights in the IMF from 'over-represented to under-represented countries' without spelling out the details (which are these over-represented countries that are to make the necessary sacrifices and by how much?) may be both vague and inadequate. So too the promise of 3% increase in voting power of developing countries in the World Bank. But only for now. As the King of Hearts (also from the same book) tells the White Rabbit, you have to begin at the beginning then go on till you come to the end: then stop. So too, Pittsburgh marks a beginning. As long as we continue in the same direction and do not stop till we come to the end, all will be well. Amen!








A recent report released by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency about the energy savings during 2008-09 estimates there were total energy savings to the tune of 6.53 billion units of electricity and 3.21 million MTOE (Metric Tonne Oil Equivalent) were saved. In terms of MTOE, the total saving is 4.98 million as the equivalent of 6.53 billion units of electricity is around 1.77 million MTOE. The total energy consumption of the country during the same period was around 570 million MTOE. Electrical savings have also been converted into an equivalent avoided capacity of more than 1,504 MWs. Avoided capacity of electricity generation is arrived at by converting the total energy saved on the demand side to the supply side by taking into account the losses and plant load factor. It may be noted that 3,450 MW was added to generation capacity in 2008-09.


This document is not an in-house report of the BEE but has been verified by the National Productivity Council. The main components of these savings are achieved by the
industries, from the use of efficient home appliances through the Standard and Labelling programme and the building efficiency programme. The study also covered the energy saved due to efforts of the state designated agencies (SDAs). The savings reported by SDAs include replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs, energy saving by industries through waste-heat recovery, and other campaigns undertaken by the SDAs for saving electricity in households.

Let us try and analyse the gains to the economy from these savings. Electricity saving is around 35.5% and other fuel saving is 64.5% of overall savings in MTOE. 1,504 MW of electricity generation capacity addition has been avoided. In financial terms this is a saving of approximately Rs 6,000 crore, as cost of setting up one MW capacity today is around Rs 4 crore. It is not only the avoided capacity that is a gain to the economy. There are many other gains as well, which have not been documented in the report. First and foremost is the money that is saved by the consumer on his energy bills. It has been estimated that roughly 6.5 billion units have been saved.

Taking a conservative figure of Rs 3 per unit, it is a saving of Rs 1,950 crore. This is not a double count since, if the savings had not occurred then the consumers would have paid this amount and the utilities would have still needed to set up extra generation capacity.

Another saving is in terms of CO2 emission reduction that takes place due to avoided capacity. It has been estimated that for the Indian electricity grid every kWh of electricity use produces 0.79 kg of CO2 emissions. Saving 6.5 billion units of electricity results in CO2 emission saving of around 5 million tonnes.

The other benefit is in terms of extra revenues that the utilities can gain by selling the saved electricity to better paying customers. Out of 1,500 MW, around 600 MW is from the S&L programme which is essentially in the household, and households are not the highest paying customers. Another 200 MW is from Kerala and Himachal households. A conservative estimate of the difference in the electricity rates between household and commercial users can be taken as Rs 2 per unit. So the utility gains around Rs 650 crore. Again this is not a double count as the Rs 650 crore are over and above the electricity charges that the utilities were being paid prior to the savings by existing customers.

Another gain is in terms of reduction in losses as the total electricity flowing through the system has been reduced by 6.5 billion units on the demand side. Losses stand at 32%, so the reduction in losses is to the tune of 3.2 billion units, which have a
financial value of Rs 960 crore. Similarly, there is gain in the life of the electricity infrastructure due to reduced loads. A conservative estimate of Rs 100-200 crore of savings in these costs can be made. There is another gain due to shaving of the peak demand due to electricity saving which is not being quantified here.

Savings which have not been included in the report add up to Rs 3,960 crore over and above avoided
investment of Rs 6,000 crore. It makes for around Rs 10,000 crore. The above analysis pertains to the electricity savings only, which are 35.5%. The rest 64.5% is fuel oil savings. It can be concluded that at least a similar saving for the Indian economy has occurred for fuel oil savings also. Hence roughly Rs 20,000 crore have been saved by the energy efficiency measures. It needs to be qualified that policy initiatives have come from the government and not the investments. Third party verification of savings is by NPC which is an agency of the government. There may thus be a case for enhanced credibility of verified savings.

What is required is to assess the potential of energy savings in each state in major sectors and to implement the detailed plans of savings systematically. The first step is to have an assessment of the sector and aggregate state-wise potential and to convince the stakeholders that it makes financial sense to adopt energy efficiency measures. Gains are bound to follow.

(Author is a civil servant. Views are personal.)








Over the years, much has been said on 'making up' for past bad karma. However, the million dollar question that would arise is: "But then, how

actually is this to be done?" While the methodology and modus operandi would, of course, vary from case to case, certain basic and universally applicable issues would call for every aspirant's attention.

The first step commences with the admission that one has actually committed errors, wrong doings and mistakes in life. Conscious feeling of this need for true repentance would invariably be followed by the process of identifying the specific issues that call for the needed corrections, 'making up' or atonement. Improvement would naturally result. Indeed, tears of a repentant sinner are not only rare but also precious. As noted by the Bible (Luke: 15,7), "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance".

Doing good, altruistic and virtuous deeds as compensation for a life thus far focused only on accumulation, greed and self centredness would, doubtless, serve to ease the conscience and spirit within, going a long way to ennoble and broaden one's horizon — a must for true growth of personality. However, purely from practical and mundane points of view, it would be necessary to live a life which would be rewarding, also fulfilling one's pet aspirations and dreams. This life would invariably be one where particular problems are intelligently addressed and deficiencies thus sorted out.

Damaged health can be repaired to a great extent through temperance, healthy life style and habits, besides discipline. Squandered or lost
wealth can be regained, at least in part, through industry and foresight, while lost or wasted time can be made up significantly through the virtues of attentiveness, focus, alertness and briskness, following the time tested and suited techniques of stress release, time management, effectiveness and regaining one's 'lost' powers.

Waking up to a new life is often, thus, spurred by that dynamic optimism and urge within, in the manner conceived of by F P Adams: "And of all glad words of prose or rhyme,/The gladdest are, "Act while there yet is time".

Indeed, the ardent seeker, in spite of possible slip-ups or errors in the past, would explore and actually land on specifically needed avenues of 'making up'. He would, then, comprehend that all is not wasted after all and that "there yet is time"!








Whatever Thomas Friedman says, the world is very definitely not flat. This side of the world, we ended the week with a slump in various indices,

as unemployment figures rose unrelentingly in the US. In Europe and UK, we're still involved in intense and acrimonious debate on how much bankers should be paid. And no, the job situation is very definitely not improving, whatever headline macro figures say.

From what I hear, the festive season in India has not only brought back cheer to the sensex, which missed the end of the week blues, but has also the dizzy days of buzzwords like talent crunch, poaching, retention, double-digit salary hikes and so on.

Regulating or clawing back bankers' bonuses may seem like an exotic diversion for most of you — after all the Indian
taxpayer isn't out of pocket or jobless because they had to make sure those guys could pocket their million dollar bonuses.

But you should care. Therein hangs a cautionary tale. Okay, consider it like this. You're in a fast-growing, relatively new, booming sector where there aren't that many trained professionals around, your competitors are waiting to poach anyone and everyone away from you, and business schools, secure in their position as first port of call for 'management' talent just keep hiking their base rates.

Or consider this. You are a small company, and need a common or garden variety mid- or entry-level employee, or even a CEO, but you can't get anyone, because even the less than suitable candidates want the moon and stars and a trip around Saturn thrown in.

What does that have to do with bankers bonuses in London? Pretty much everything. In the US, for instance, studies have shown that over the years, the wealth created in the economy was increasingly distributed by the generators among themselves, to a smaller proportion of people.

Main Street got poorer, Wall Street got richer. As a result, it's sucked up a generation of talent that could possibly have been engaged in research, industry, education government, infrastructure, social services, engineering, et al (many are now going back, by the way). The argument was that these other sectors should pay more – the argument now is that if the money-changers hadn't kept all the money they handle for themselves, and paid what their employees actually deliver, there'd be more to go around for everyone else.

The prevailing economic wisdom was that increasing salaries across the board would fuel inflation, and rip the backbone out of the low-interest rate economies, fuelled by cheap debt. Please note, we're talking in a regime where people costs are already the biggest corporate cost, and interest rates in low single digits.

With a lot of money concentrated in a few hands, the inflation, or bubble as they found, came not in food prices, but with too much money chasing casino
investments and property. After all, what exactly do you do after the 100th million? How many Lamborghinis or Diors can you buy?

Nothing like that has happened in India yet — luckily for us, we've got a whole raft of real economy
industries just starting up, and anyway people costs are still a minuscule portion of corporate costs. Prosperity is a relatively new phenomenon, even in cities. (Remember those ultimately depressing art films about unemployment woes at film fests?). Indian managements still feel aggrieved if they have to move wage bills into the double digit column.

From what I hear though, there are warning signals to beware of. After all, HR as an industry in India is, at most, barely a couple of decades old. I still remember when Personnel used be 'that guy who deals with the unions'. And the textbooks, performance management systems, appraisal forms, models, business school syllabi and theories that HR, recruitment and compensation experts come armed with have all been written in the west. Those textbooks are now being ripped up, along with half of conventional economics and business theory.

I might be lynched for saying this, but it's common knowledge across the world among employers. There's absolutely no way a top B-school graduate without work experience actually earns those headline starting salaries, neither is that the value of their education – that's just like buying a painting at Sotheby, an investment in the future competitive value of the candidate, and because big daddy
banking distorts the talent market into some other dimension.

I'm all for giving Diwali bonuses, and double-digit salary hikes and so on. Give 'em to your software writers, to shop floor workers, to your productive people, that branch in Bihar, to people who actually do the work, and create products. The India growth story is based on the increasing prosperity of its vast demographic and domestic market, the aam aadmi, not its few ultra-high net worth individuals.

The theory that paying over the top for a few high profile stars, almost always to compete with
banks, is necessary, has proved not only to be wrong, but disastrous. As they say in the festive season, spread the cheer. It's not socialism, it's good for the economy.









When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."

"The question

is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master — that's all."

If reading the Leaders' Statement released at the end of the two-day meeting of the leaders of the G20 group of nations in Pittsburgh late last month reminded me of this wonderful conversation between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carrol's Through the Looking Glass, the reasons will become clear by and by.

'We will fight protectionism,' says the Statement in a ringing endorsement of free trade. Good show! Yet less than a month ago the US slapped a 35% duty on import of Chinese tyres. It's not the only one. China has its 'Buy Chinese' clause on the lines of the 'Buy American' clause while India (yes, navel gazing is sometimes necessary) holds the record for initiating the highest number of anti-dumping probes.

In the period since the April Summit when G20 leaders pledged just as fiercely to avoid protectionist measures, a G20 member has violated that pledge approximately once every three days, says the Geneva-based World Trade Alliance.

There's more in the same vein. 'Excessive compensation in the financial sector has both reflected and encouraged excessive risk taking,' says the Statement, calling for reforming compensation policies to align compensation with 'long-term value creation, not excessive risk-taking.' Does it mean extravagant payouts seen in the boom years and even after the crisis have become history?

Unfortunately, no! What is excessive? $10 million? $20 million? What is long-term value-creation? What is a sound capital base? Eight per cent? Ten per cent? The statement leaves these tricky questions to the Financial Services Board. But the latter's standards are much too vague and allow as much scope for gaming as before.
That's not all. A careful reading (literally and between the lines) shows that as of now there is much in the Statement the March Hare would have found to admonish.

"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.

"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least — at least I mean what I say — that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might just as well say 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see.'"

Take, for instance, the call to develop 'cooperative and coordinated exit strategies recognising that the scale, timing and sequencing of this process will vary across countries or regions and across the type of policy measures.' If the scale, timing and sequencing of exits is going to vary across countries, can the G20 compel the give-and-take inherent in 'co-ordinated exit strategies'? Unlikely! What about the newly-anointed IMF? Even less likely!

The fact is, for all the tom-tomming about the success of coordinated responses to the crisis, there was no prior co-ordination. Each country responded as it saw fit from its own perspective. Thus the EU held out against repeated US calls to ease monetary and fiscal policies until such time as it felt the Europe's interests were being hurt. Likewise with developing countries whose governments were initially carried away by talk of de-coupling. They jumped into the fray only when it became evident this was nothing but hogwash. In India the initial stimulus was driven more by the compulsions of elections than by any grand plan of global co-operation. Co-ordination, therefore, was not a conscious a priori decision but a de facto consequence of the crisis once it enveloped the world.

Here too it was each nation for itself. When Iceland's Landsbanki failed, the country initially insured only the savings of its own citizens with deposits in the bank. The UK, not to be outdone, promptly invoked anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic banking assets in the UK to try and arm-twist Iceland into insuring British depositors.

The matter was finally resolved only when the UK agreed to give a loan to Iceland to rescue British depositors.
So make no mistake about it. As long as nation states exist, each nation will be driven by national interests. Co-ordination might be possible in the good times (when there is usually less need for it or the downside of un-coordinated policies is not obvious, as during the pre-crisis years). But in bad times, when push comes to shove, each nation looks to its own. So does that mean Pittsburgh is an empty victory for the G20? No! The Statement marks a significant break with the past in that for the first time the presence of emerging economies at the high table has been formalised. This is no mean achievement even if the new grouping, like the G-8 it seeks to replace, is no more than a talk shop. But to the extent the G20 is to be the 'premier forum for international economic cooperation', developing countries will now have a forum where they can voice their concerns. Whether their voices will carry any weight remains to be seen. But if they are determined they can make a difference, however small, to the course that is finally charted.

For now, the agenda reflects the concerns of the developed rather than the developing world. The two main issues — how much capital banks need to hold and bankers' bonuses — are not major issues for the non-G8 countries whose banks are in relatively better shape. But in the not-too-distant future the old order must give way to the new and in a far less niggardly fashion than envisaged in the Statement.

Thus the promise of a 5% shift in voting rights in the IMF from 'over-represented to under-represented countries' without spelling out the details (which are these over-represented countries that are to make the necessary sacrifices and by how much?) may be both vague and inadequate. So too the promise of 3% increase in voting power of developing countries in the World Bank. But only for now. As the King of Hearts (also from the same book) tells the White Rabbit, you have to begin at the beginning then go on till you come to the end: then stop. So too, Pittsburgh marks a beginning. As long as we continue in the same direction and do not stop till we come to the end, all will be well. Amen!








You are completing your tenure as CEO & MD of TCS and getting into a new role in brand building and leadership mentoring. What are the major

milestones TCS achieved under your leadership?

In the last over a decade, TCS has become a true global player with 142 offices across 42 countries and with over 800 clients, many of whom are Fortune 500 companies. We have successfully ventured into key markets in Latin America, China and Eastern Europe. My focus has always been on planning and directing technology development, building strong relationships with customers, stakeholders and academic institutions.

You grew TCS from a small domestic company to a multi-billion dollar global corporation . What are some of the most crucial challenges you faced during this journey?

Global competition, client diversification, margin expansion and economic slowdown are the continuous challenges one faces. The key is to be innovative, willing to diversify and be adaptive to each situation. Investing and believing in your team and people is key. But the initial years were tough for us. There were a number of policies and government regulations that were not favourable. Everything was a process of convincing people, giving commitments that were very difficult to meet. But those were the ones that taught us how to do more with less. Our patience paid us good dividends.

TCS leads the Indian tech industry. But in terms of size and revenues, Infosys and Wipro are not too far behind. Do you see this as a threat and what is your strategy to remain ahead?

TCS has always been the leader and will continue to sustain its growth. Given our large global footprint, including our investments in new growth markets and emerging markets like China, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Hungary and India, we believe we are well positioned for sustained growth globally. Also, our diverse service portfolio shows that there is tremendous headroom for growth among our existing global customers and new clients.

Industry peers like Wipro, HCL and Cognizant have been active in terms of inorganic growth, but TCS has not made any acquisitions , barring the Citi Global deal. Yet, you recently emphasised the importance of size and scale. What is your comment?

For TCS, growth has always been largely organically driven. However, we have always said that we will look at acquisitions at a strategic level. And over the years, we have made several such moves, CMC (in India), FNS (a banking product company in Australia) and Comicrom (BPO in Chile). All these acquisitions have helped us fill gaps in our portfolio of services or allowed us to enter new markets quickly, like BPO in Latin America following our acquisition in Chile. We have a dedicated M&A team that continues to examine opportunities for M&A as they arise and we are always open to acquiring if a compelling reason is there.

Based on your vast experience, what message would you like to leave behind for the industry?

The current economic tsunami has been among the toughest phases in my career. But I believe every challenge is an opportunity and trying times are a good time to learn and improve , reflect and ask fundamental questions like: Are you doing the right thing? Are you compromising to bring harm to the organization ? Keep the mood and work upbeat. Fight the daunting times with frugality and rigour.








The SGX Nifty probably pointing towards slightly less than 5000, but, should that be a concern or we are still in an intermediate uptrend so to


You will have to assume that the intermediate uptrend is still there because we just hit a new high on Thursday. I thought we maybe would be second time lucky, last Monday also when we were shut, Asia was quite down but then Tuesday morning was a different story. For today 4980 remains a key level and I think we should take support there first thing in the morning, but, even going forward a dip closer to 4900 also would not change the charts too much and I think the market will still remain stock specific. I did mention earlier on when the series started and you would see a little more volatility this series because it is a longer series. There are also a few holidays here and there. So, I think that will play out in the initial part, you know, we are getting into a holiday season also but there will be volatility going forward. Overall I still think you will get enough good trading opportunity every time you get these gap-down sort of openings and there will still be lot of stocks to trade more than the Nifty.

What do you have to say about cement in general because of the despatches that have come in and Grasim in particular because of the news, how do these stocks look?

I am not sure how the news might affect the stock, but, if you look at the charts, particularly this sector there has been more action maybe in the smaller mid-cap segment, but, the large cap has not really done much in the last couple of months. It has not participated in this rally where the market has made new highs. So, I would not be too excited even this morning about any news, I still think this sector is probably in some sort of a consolidation zone and you are looking for momentum right now; you are looking for stocks making new highs to buy on declines and that is not happening in the cement sector. So for me that is probably a sector I would avoid right now just because I am looking for momentum.

Grasim in particular, would that be an avoid as well and are there any cues which show that there is probably some kind of a sell signal because UltraTech on the other hand has shown some very positive activity the whole of last week?

I still think if you are looking for a breakdown level it will come little lower 2500-2600, not right now, so I think for the time being even if there is a knee jerk reaction I do not think it will be big move on the charts, it still suggest more sideways sort of a move.


In which case some of the stocks that traders could look out for maybe today or for this week, what will be the stronger ones, the buy side calls or the sell side calls?

A mix of both, for example to break it up, a couple of sectors that have done well but the stocks have not really participated that closely. They will be more susceptible on the downside. I picked Hero Honda that could fall back to 1390-1360 levels or a Tata Power also back to 1260-1220 levels. The reason I feel they could fall is because when the market has gone and made a new high-their peers for example a Bajaj Auto or a Maruti has gone and hit a new high. Hero Honda has not done that or in the power segment Torrent Power or a CESC made a new move but Tata Power did not do that. So I think on the downside these maybe more susceptible to some sort of a sell off.

The buy side there are some interesting ones especially in the smaller mid-cap segment. We talked about Central Bank a lot and it has moved from Rs 122 to 164, made a new high I believe, that can be bought in the fall, immediately Rs 146 is a level but I think if it comes down to Rs 137-136, there is a lot of support there where you will get that bounce back to Rs 154-164 levels. So look to buy Central Bank on the fall. HCC I mean it has traditionally been a trader's delight but recently it seems like to be getting into stronger hands. Even when the market starts to get a little volatile intraday, HCC is not falling off. So Hindustan Construction is one you could look to buy on the fall. I think Rs 125 to 113 is a good support zone. The stock eventually should go and make a new high in this move, Rs 138-150 is possible. So look to buy that also on the fall, that is another interesting one. A third one is not so much where I have not seen too much trader interest recently but is Zee Entertainment, that also went and made a new move. So I think on the fall back to Rs 230-220 range it becomes a buy and the move on back will be 244 and an unfinished target of 254. So I am looking to buy strength on the way down and looking to avoid weakness, the stocks that did not really move when the market moved up.








German luxe carmaker Audi is optimistic about sales of the affluent car while projecting an 80% growth over last year. But Benoit Tiers, the MD of Audi's Indian subsidiary, cautiously downplays this scorching pace of growth and talks about being profitable rather than grabbing the market share from his competitors BMW and Mercedes. An exclusive interview with ET NOW after Audi's annual golf tournament at Hyderabad. Excerpts:


BMW and Mercedes plan to sell more cars than Audi in India. How do you plan to beat competition?

India is a very interesting market because most manufacturers have their production plants in the country. The customer has a choice of products even in the luxury car segment . But I am of the view that the quality of the product and the service of the dealers matter. Audi in India is a long term commitment and my target is not to be number one in terms of sales figures. My aim is to establish the brand and build service and quality, so that the result will impact sales. We may be late entrants in to the Indian market, but our rate of growth is higher. We're looking at being profitable first. We sold around 1,050 cars in India last year, logging a 120% growth.

How has the order rate been in the first half? Are you tempering your outlook?

Audi India was incorporated in March 2007, and ever since, we have been ahead of our targets in India. We have done extremely well in September by delivering 205 cars to our customers . Our Q7 and A6 are in great demand and we expect to sell 1,800 units of all models this year.

Do you plan to expand your dealer network from 12 right now? Any hiring plans?

Most certainly. It is important for us to be present where ever our customer is. By 2010 we will have 15 dealers and by 2011 we wish to have 18 dealers pan India. We also have our roadside assistance centres where the customer can avail services just by making a call. We will also marginally increase our headcount in regions where we have dealers.

Mercedes Benz will enter the used car segment by the end of this year. Have you any plans to foray in to this market although it is highly fragmented?

The used market will get organised and the market size will touch 1.6 million cars this year. This market will have more requirements due to its growth and we plan to enter this segment in 2010. We have our pre-owned used Audi car programme the worldwide where each car is technically and thoroughly checked before it is re-sold.

The credit crunch softened demand for luxury cars in the US and the UK. Do you think India and China have a greater growth potential?

Clearly, India in the future is one of the biggest markets. Our estimation says that India will be the fifth largest automobile market in the world by 2015. We sold 1,20,000 cars in China last year. India will soon go that way, though it will not happen over night. We are studying the market and we want to be ready for it. Are you planning to offer any discounts and special offers to customers this festive season?

I think it is important for us and our dealers to follow tradition in India.









She's been voted the most powerful woman in banking in the US for two years in a row. As CEO of JPMorgan Chase's treasury & securities services business, Heidi Miller oversees what is one of JPMorgan Chase's most profitable businesses. In a recent exclusive interview with ET Now, Miller talks about the challenges faced by corporate treasurers, the new banking landscape and the shift in business activity from the West to the East. Excerpts:


Do you anticipate a shift in market shares in the treasury and securities services business due to the global financial meltdown?

Well, yes. I do agree that market shares will change. I'm not sure how huge a shift it will be. These are scaled businesses, and I think, you are right to observe that the financial crisis has re-emphasised to people that you're a provider of cash and securities services and that it has to be beyond reproach and very stable. And so I think, a lot of businesses will move to stronger players. I think, there will be more consolidation, and sub-scale players will realise that the amount of investment required to maintain these businesses is quite high. So, I do expect consolidation and a movement to stronger players, which hopefully will benefit us.

Is there a concern among banks over the health of their corporate clients? That recent events could lead to more cases of corporate bankruptcy?

Of course. I think, last year's crisis has already started the ball rolling. So yes, we see increased bankruptcy among corporates of all sizes in addition to retail pain in the US and Western Europe. So, we fully accept and are prepared for certain bankruptcies and an uptick in that. I think, last year was one of the most exciting but difficult years that I've seen in this business. In any given year, we expect bankruptcies and pressures in certain industries, but one or two would be a phenomenal year in that way.

This year, I think, every week brought a new concern about an industry or name and we needed to prepare ourselves to make sure we mitigated any potential exposures or risks that we understood the impact of that bankruptcy whether the company ultimately went bankrupt or not, we needed to be prepared. So, the level of attention and concern was higher than it has ever been.

Economies across the world are at the bottom of the interest rate curve. And given the rock-bottom yield on deposits at this point in time, would you say that the current environment is an extremely challenging one for international transaction banking?

I do think that corporate treasurers are very concerned about the transparency of where their cash is. They do business around the world. They want to know where their cash is, who has it, the ability to know where your cash resides to pool it effectively to maximise its value overnight wherever it is in the world. I think, that's what corporate treasurers are concerned about. Visibility, control, confidence in where the cash resides when it is out of their account or jurisdiction. Corporate treasurers realise there is risk there and they want to minimise that.

Are banks today faced with greater demand from corporate clients to make service level agreements more flexible, especially in light of the recent financial crisis?

I think, corporate customers are more concerned with specifying what exactly they expect us to do. So, there is a greater formality, I would say, in those expectations. In the past, there was, perhaps, in many cases, a willingness not to prescribe what exactly you expect to happen. But people, I think, are very attentive to regulatory change. They want to make sure they are protected in the documentation. They want to make sure they understand what we're supposed to do. What the fiduciary responsibilities are. Where ours ends and theirs begins. So, I would say, if anything, it's more a sensitiveness to the risks involved.

With multi-national corporations shifting focus to emerging markets and also Asia proving to be a great investment story, would you say that the treasury and securities services income of banks will also start being accounted for in large part by these economies?

You're absolutely correct. I think, everybody recognises that growth is coming from emerging markets, whether in Asia or Eastern Europe. We are a very large US player in terms of retail and mid-market, but our wholesale banking and asset management businesses are truly global and we invest where we see growth. So, that's clearly Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. We strive to have a diversity of revenues. Fifty-Fifty, in terms of the business coming from the US against other regions and our investment pattern shows that. So, we clearly want to maintain that level of growth and investment. I would tell you that Asia, in particular India, is a very important market for us.

How radically would you say the treasury & securities services business has changed since September 15 last year?

Not radically. I don't think, the business has fundamentally changed. There is a greater demand for information. There is a greater sensitivity to the control environment. I think, regulators are extremely interested in knowing how we do our business, whether it's in valuing assets for third parties or managing collateral. So, there's a greater sensitivity among regulators on the control environment. I think, our customers are also very focused on the risk environment. But I wouldn't say that's a radical change. I think, there's a demand for information about what goes on in the business.

Would you say with the huge changes that have taken place within the financial system, banks are now getting used to operating at a "new normal"?

Yes, there is a new normal. We're seeing deleveraging, a greater conservatism in terms of risks that they're taking on their balance sheets. I think, for larger systemically important banks, regulators around the world are going to demand this greater conservatism. The markets are changing. Whether they're the securitisation markets, products will change as a result. So yes, there will be a new normal, at least till we all forget again.

We keep hearing of very strict banking regulations likely to be pushed through within the US and maybe, even other parts of the world. Will this increase the cost of doing business for banks?

We spend a lot of money and we will continue to spend a lot of money on compliance. There will be change. We know in the US, for example, there is an increased cost of insurance with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Compliance costs have always been a part of our business. When you're a large player, you have to embed those expected costs in and that's why for many in the business, the scale of the business becomes more important to absorb these costs effectively. You need to take advantage of operating leverage, especially in the processing business.










A few weeks after the firm's quite satisfactory second-quarter results, virtualisation giant Citrix CEO Mark Templeton was down in India. It is the new technology adoption by enterprises that gives him a kick even though spending on technology has declined globally and revenues are flat, Mr Templeton tells ET in an interview. Excerpts:


What will drive future growth of Citrix — acquisitions or product launches?

It will be a mix of both. Over the past five years, we have invested almost $1.5 billion to acquire technologies and world-class talent through strategic acquisitions. It has been a successful part of our growth strategy. Most of our revenue growth will be driven by rapid expansion of virtualisation, networking and collaboration markets we serve today. Incremental penetration in high growth countries such as India, China, Brazil and Russia where we are still building our go-to-market muscle will also contribute.

How important are the new product launches to keep Citrix ahead of the technology and business curve?

New products are the life blood of every technology company and critical for Citrix. We need to keep existing products fresh, competitive and be able to deliver customer value. At the same time, we are also building and launching some exciting products over the next 12 months, some of which are being designed and built by our Bangalore-based R&D team.

Which technology will dominate in the coming years: virtualisation, SaaS or mobile computing?

Every technology that makes people more productive, while giving them control of where and when they work will be really hot. Virtualisation, web collaboration, communications, network acceleration, and device miniaturisation are all very complementary and fundamental toward making a wide range of virtual workstyles a reality.

Apart from India, which other Asia-Pacific markets are you eyeing?

The Asia-Pacific market has a number of countries that Citrix views as growth markets. In addition to India, we are interested in China due to its geographic size, high GDP growth and its rapid infrastructure development. While our Asia-Pacific revenues have grown by 10% year-on-year, our India revenues have grown at a compounded rate of more than 25% over the past few years. We are increasing our India headcount and adding to the number of clients every year.

Citrix has been aggressively launching new products in 2009...

Again, the new products follow the ethos of making virtual workstyles a reality. For one, we have made available the Citrix Receiver application on the Apple App Store. This application gives iPhone and iPod Touch users access to their Windows applications and documents from anywhere. We have also unveiled Citrix Dazzle, a self-service "storefront" for enterprise applications. Dazzle gives corporate employees 24x7 self-service access to a broad array of applications, desktops and content, allowing them to choose exactly what they need, when they need it.

Citrix has been at the forefront of virtualisation. What's the latest?

An emerging development is client virtualisation. It is something that Citrix is working on with Intel. Their version called Xen Client is expected in the fourth quarter of this year. It will allow you to have multiple virtual machines on your personal desktop or laptop or even a handheld device. You will have your corporate and personal information on this single device. Your company can control one of the virtual machines in the device, with the necessary security, to enable a person to do all her official work as well as personal work on the device.

Can you explain how that works?

Multiple types of machines — with different applications — are possible within a single device. Say in a training institution, if some people are to be trained on web programming and others on desktop publishing, the same device can be used. In a government set up, a single device can be used for regular office work as well as to do highly classified work. In short, it can significantly reduce the requirement for personal devices. A company can even ask its employees to bear a part of the expense towards their official laptops and allow them to use it also for personal purposes. This can even be bigger than server virtualisation.







It was a rare instance of the East meeting the West to talk leadership. The representatives of the established and the emerging world orders - Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of the $183-billion General Electric, one of the world's largest corporations and Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, India's largest company -- came together to exchange ideas.


They dídn't have much in common to begin with. While Immelt reflected GE's famed belief in processes, Ambani talked about the role of intuition and respect in effective leadership. But the debate, moderated by Confederation of Indian Industry's chief mentor Tarun Das, saw them gravitating towards a common conviction that the future of world business will be shaped by ideas from the East. Throughout the conversation, Ambani reflected the confidence of an emerging India providing thought leadership to the world of business, while Immelt highlighted the importance of transporting ideas back to the developed world. Excerpts:


Tarun Das: Jeff, GE is in diverse businesses. How do you manage this global business, different products, different services?

Jeffrey Immelt: When I joined GE in 1982, the company was $25-billion dollars and 80% of our revenues were inside the US. Today, we have a $100-billion outside the US alone. So the notion of how to manage the global company and how to keep that going forward is foremost on my mind and that boils down to a couple of fundamentals. First, we have to constantly focus on recruiting, training and developing the world's best talent and giving them the freedom to act and win in their own markets. Second is focus on customers and the third is interface with the society and government. You should know how to make money for your investors and the country. The unique role of the CEO in globalisation is to sense the moment of time and continue to be flexible as things change. Jack Welch (former chairman of GE) sensed the moment of time for India was 1991 when he sent all of us here.

Das: Mukesh, how do you see the world and manage in this very complex situation?

Mukesh Ambani: When I joined Reliance in 1980, it was less than Rs 80 crore in size. Next year, it's expected to touch Rs 200,000 crore mark. Through my journey, I have had the backing of my father's philosophy that business has to have a purpose, which is to meet a missing need in society. I still remember in the 1980s in Delhi people would question us. They said, 'I don't trust you guys. If you are going to spend my foreign exchange, you better earn it and we will put an export obligation on you.' Lots of people think that India is a country of a billion problems. I am a big believer that India is a country of a billion opportunities.


Das: GE has been in India for the past two decades now. What do you feel about India today?
Immelt: The sense of optimism in India is really impressive. China has probably had one of the best governments in the world. If you did exactly what the government told you to do, you were successful. India has a great human resource capability. Going forward, India is going to be the place where the business processes will change rapidly. We have made the decision to actually have all of the businesses in India report to a CEO in India versus back to their home CEOs back in America or Europe or elsewhere. We are doing this only in India. It will make things move faster and help us experiment with different business models. Also, we can see how business models that people like Mukesh are inventing can be transported to the rest of the world.


Das: You recently had a great article in the Harvard Business Review on 'Reverse Innovation'.

Immelt: I think it is the idea that most American multinationals go through stages of globalisation where you export, start to localise and ultimately get to the point where you build local capability. And then you can start transporting ideas back to the developed world. That's what the article really is about. Now the only person in GE who thinks having all the businesses work for a CEO in India is a good idea is me.

Das: Are you too doing that at Reliance when you are looking at your business? Are you innovating, finding new models of doing business?

Ambani: Absolutely. We have got to have a vision to leapfrog, to make sure what we have done in communications, we are able to repeat in multiple sectors. There is always a danger of falling in the trap of doing what the West did. I think our challenge really is to think about what is next and reach there faster than anybody else. All through the 1990s, early 2000s, we were all being given homilies in terms of saying, 'you guys, in the emerging economies, you can disturb the world, and you guys have to discipline yourself'. And see where the biggest crisis came from in the world. It came from the heart of capitalism...

Immelt: (laughing) Are you pointing at me Mukesh?

Mukesh Ambani: We at Reliance have people like Dr Mashelkar and under him we have set up our Innovation Council, which really collects global thought leaders to think about extreme innovations. I am quite clear that 20 years from now, we would not talk about garages in Silicon Valley. We will talk about projects in the villages and rural areas in India, which are then scaled all over the world.


Das: Confidence has been a new ingredient (for Indian entrepreneurs), especially in the last five years. Do you see this in other parts of the world?

Immelt: The CEOs in India are as good as or better than any in the world. When I joined GE, Jack (Welch) sent all of the young leadership team to Japan because he wanted us to understand the force that he feared could beat us in the 20th century. I observed that Japanese CEOs did not like to travel and do things in the rest of the world. What makes this generation of Indian CEOs different is that they have really travelled the world and are willing go where it takes because that's how you get better.


Das: Mukesh, would you like to add to that?

Ambani: My father used to say that leadership really means winning respect. Leadership, to me, is really first about your soul, what values you believe in and what convictions you stand for. Next it is about your heart, what passion you have and that gives you the courage to move on. Third is the brains and that's your knowledge, competence and your ability to execute. And, to my mind, the soul, the heart and the brains, they do not change. So be it 19th century, 20th century or 21st century, leadership continues and what I am seeing is that with every generation, we are only getting better. Today at Reliance, we give people the choices to where they want to work. And 10-15 years ago, everybody would want to go and work outside India, but today bulk of our younger people want to work for rural transformation.

Das: Younger people want to do their own thing. They want to be self employed.

Immelt: I would say in the post-crisis world, the job of the CEO is that we have to recognise that the world now wants us not only to make a profit, which is important, but also to create jobs and income, and that is the way the world will judge us. We are going to do you a service when GE invest in India but I also do you a service when I invest in United States as well because 10% persistent unemployment in US is not going to do any good to the future globalisation. The biggest thing that Indian business leaders can do for me is to see the world every now and then through US President Barack Obama's eyes. And maybe do some of your own foreign direct investments in the United States to create jobs. I mean my own argument would say that the next generation of BPO (business process outsourcing) jobs should be in the United States.


Das: I want to get a little personal with the two of you now as we near the end of the programme. I envy both of you as both of you have a head of hair. This man (Mukesh) looks like he does not have a single grey hair, you (Jeff) look as if you do not have a single black hair, what makes you tick Jeff? I mean what are all you about? Where did you go to school? Where did you grow up? Did you marry your girlfriend? How many kids do you have? Tell us about Jeff Immelt?

Immelt: So I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio in the Midwest. I went to college at Dartmouth. I was a Physics major, Applied Math major in college. I received an MBA and went to work for GE. I spent most of my early career in sales and marketing in our plastics business. I ended up running our plastics business. I spent time in our appliance business. I ran our medical business for five years before becoming CEO. I could tell you a thousand stories about myself. I'd tell you about my father, my real father.

Das: Not Jack Welch?

Immelt: Not Jack Welch. My father worked for GE for 40 years and so in some ways, I am a representative of what's called the American dream. My mother was a school teacher. In one generation in the United States, if you can go from sitting around a kitchen table talking about GE to actually sitting around the boardroom planning the future of GE. So that's what motivates me. I would say the way I would describe myself is I am a GE man. GE is a company of normal people who work together and do extraordinary things, and we like it that way.

Das: Mukesh, I am not going to let you off on the personal front. How is it that you do not have grey hair, not even one?

Ambani: I am from the chemical industry. (The audience bursts into laughter)

Das: And do you share the family passion for cricket or do you have other hobbies and interests?

Ambani: I have left cricket to Nita and am wise enough not to interfere in other's domain. Business requires passion and 24 x 7 kind of an involvement, but it is also important to be detached. The amount of time that I spend with my three children is very important. I think the best upbringing I can give them and the best wealth that I can create for them is really to bring into them a value system that will then last with them for a lifetime. I am a voracious reader, Nita make sure that I work out, though you would not see the obvious results. (Laughs)

INDIA 2014

Das: What kind of India would you like to see five years from now?

Immelt: I would like to see an actual good road between the Mumbai airport and downtown (laughs). I'd say three things about India. The first thing is that the long, foremost focus on infrastructure really comes true; the second thing is really making sure that this prosperity is shared broadly across the country; and the third thing is an incredibly friendly relationship between India and the US.

Ambani: I will give it to you in terms of my wish list. By 2014, India would have demonstrated that a double-digit growth is a reality. Second, we would have created gainful employment and we would be used to creating gainful employment for 12 to 15 million people a year, a large percentage of them being professionals. Third, we would have created (massive) education and training infrastructure.








IT's easy to figure out that both NR Narayana Murthy and RA Mashelkar are good friends; they think alike on most topics, often complete each other's sentence and are the most eternal optimists around. Both are extremely passionate about science, technology and innovation and believe that many of the solutions to India's ills can be solved using these. In Mumbai recently for "Future Challenges Summit" organised by the IITB — Monash Research Academy, the two intellectuals discussed academic-industry interface, innovation, and of course the IIT compensation issue with ET in an exclusive interview.

In the early part of last century, the Tatas and others got into research and education and after that not much happened, but now there is a renewed interest amongst corporates to get into education. Why are we seeing resurgence in corporate interest and what lessons do we learn from Tatas?

NRN: It's a unique time in the history of India. For the first time after 300-400 years, India is getting global attention and admiration. Look at the past five years: the GDP has gone up, exports are rising, the forex situation is comfortable, Indian companies are making acquisitions abroad, NRIs are raising India's image and sportspersons have done well. Of course, last year was an exception due to the global scenario. All these things have led to a higher level of confidence in people. When the confidence is high, you reach out and say we have these problems and we will solve it. In some sense, same-openness stems from the confident mindset. I believe that this is the time to start again what Tatas and all started.

Mashelkar: But for the Tatas, I wouldn't be sitting here. I was born into a poor family, my father died when I was six and my mother brought me up doing menial jobs. I walked barefoot till I was 12. There used to be Janjira Motor Works near Chowpatty, I used to study there under the streetlamps. After I did my SSC, and I was about to quit school, I got Sir Dorab Tata Trust scholarship of Rs 60 per month that made me study further. That Rs 60 added so much value to my life without subtracting any value from Tatas. That's what Tatas have done, they give you an opportunity. But for one Mashelkar who got help, they are millions of mashelkars who don't get help. I think the philanthropy that Murthy and the Tatas have demonstrated, needs to be demonstrated by corporates. Because human capital building is not the responsibility solely of the government, but of corporates too. There are four points that are critical for India: Talent, technology, tolerance and trust. The new higher education technology and infrastructure that we are building has to be built on these four pillars. The demand for the country is huge. We talk about six IITs, we need 60 for a country of 1.2 billion.

The research work done by most of the research institutes are too abstract and doesn't benefit the common man. Don't we require more action-oriented research?

Mashelkar: Science is not only unravelling the mystery of nature, blue sky research, and contributing to the pool of knowledge. There is a useful part of science in which you move from science to technology to innovation. That's what the rest of the world has done. What we haven't done in India is not followed the path of science, technology, and innovation. In 1958, we had the science policy resolution, in 1983 we had technology policy statement, and in 2003 we had science and technology policy. What we really require is science, technology and innovation policy. Innovation is mind to market, concept to commercialisation. In the rest of the world you see that happening. In Malaysia, there is a ministry of science, technology, and innovation, Spain has science and innovation ministry, Argentina has science, technology and productive innovation ministry, and even UK that has given us 60 Nobel laureates, has ministry of innovation, university and skills.

NRN: Peter Drucker said marketing and innovation are only two of basic functions of a successful business. If you don't have strong marketing and strong innovation, you won't succeed.


Higher education is critical for India's competitiveness in the future. But then the government seems to be dragging its feet in the IIT compensation issue — what's your take on the issue?

NRN: I think that Kapil Sibal has said he was introducing the flexibility clause or something like that. I think he will definitely come out with a solution that will be good. But at the end of the day what we need to do is we have to create channels which will provide decent compensation to the faculty. It doesn't have to be compensation from the government. The only thing we should ask from the government is to give a sum to the institution and as long as they can raise funding legally and ethically, nobody should mind compensating the faculty. For example, at IIM-A, whenever a faculty member's paper is published in a journal, he is given a sum of money. I personally feel that the government should be open and give full autonomy to the institutions to raise funds through legal and ethical channels.

Mashelkar: I agree. For example, I am on the board of the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), and on this issue, the board there said we should be the first one to give six-figure salaries, this despite some internal opposition. We said we will not be a burden on the government. X is what they can afford to give, we will pay the rest ourselves with money raised in a legal way and compensation will be linked to performance criteria. What is important is that compensation be performance based, it just cannot be a right.

But experiments involving academia and industry haven't been a success in the past, for example, the Media Lab Asia initiative was a debacle.

NRN: I mean that just because one Media Lab Asia was not successful, we can't throw the baby out of the water. There are many examples of academic enterprise partnerships that have worked, and Mashelkar has been involved in many. We have to look at the glass as half full, not half empty. Also remember that India is just 62-year old and we are toddlers, we are learning a lot of things. All of us have to be positive that's the only way we can make progress.

Mashelkar: I will give you an example. Back in 2007, we celebrated our 60th Independence, but we got our second independence in 1991 after the seeds of liberalisation were sown. I have spent 15 years in research labs in pre-liberalisation era and 15 years in post-liberalisation era. In the pre-liberalisation era, it was import substitution, copying. Anything we did, anything that was ahead of the world, the industry questioned have they done it. In 1989, I took over as the director of National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) and changed the business model. I said we will sell to the world. That's what lead to the partnership with GE ultimately. People told me GE's R&D budget is more than India's R&D budget, what can we offer them. I said it's not the size of the budget that matters but the size of the idea. We created IP in polymerisation of polyethylene tepephthalate (PET) and NCL formed a partnership with GE. Jack Welch said if India is that good, why aren't we there. So GE set up its R&D centre in Bangalore. So things can work.







                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Money is not everything, and the weekend meeting in Istanbul of the Group of Seven richest nations in the world must have realised this. Almost all, with just one exception, are reeling under massive financial problems and clinging to stimulus packages — as the proverbial last straw — possibly in the realisation that if these were withdrawn their economies could go into a tailspin. The problem is that they are yet to resolve issues relating to the real economy. The communiqué at the end of the one-day deliberation on Saturday admits that "the prospects of growth remain fragile and labour market conditions are not yet improving." But the solutions they talk about don't appear relevant to real problems, they only deal with the symptoms. The G-7 talks of strengthening the financial system by building on high-quality capital; implementing strong international compensation standards; improving over-the-counter derivative markets; develop a new framework for sustainable and balanced growth; reform and review the resources, mandate and governance of international financial institutions, etc. It is all so much déjà vu, and does not take issues forward. The G-7 communiqué notes that "excess volatility and disorderly movements" in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability — which is an euphemism for asking China to release controls on its currency — the renminbi — to ensure more balanced growth, in China and elsewhere. But China, always fiercely nationalist, has made it clear time and again it will work at its own pace and to suit its own requirements, and it is powerful enough to ensure that its writ prevails. Beijing has been signing yuan-based agreements with other nations, skirting the dollar, in line with its view that the dollar should not remain the world's only reserve currency. The real problem with the Anglo-Saxon and European economies is that they have priced themselves out of the markets, and are forced to provide huge subsidies to maintain exports. Their markets are flooded today with goods from developing economies which the poorer countries produce at the cost of exploiting their own citizens. Wages are low and workers labour in sweatshops across China, India and much of Southeast Asia because the West, over the years, leveraged its strength to beat down Asian markets and prices. Now the fortunes are reversed because the West has outpriced itself, and no longer enjoys leverage. That is why the World Trade Organisation is so vital for them: with a world trade deal they hope to be able to flood the markets of the developing world with their products. That scary proposition is the main hurdle that is tripping the Doha Round of world trade talks. The only real success of the G-7 has been to maintain the illusion of its relevance. It succeeded in pushing under the carpet any talk of restructuring the G-7 into a G-4 as suggested by the United States (to comprise the US, EU, Japan and China). From indications given by the Japanese and German finance ministers, the G-4 wasn't discussed at all, allowing the G-7 to survive to fight another day. The International Monetary Fund, at its parallel meeting in Istanbul, perhaps wrote the G-7's epitaph: it said "the G-20 nations would become the world's main economic decision-making forum, effectively taking over the role of the G-7 group of rich countries", as it (G-20) represented both the rich and the large emerging countries.








In my last column Naxal violence is a cry to be heard (September 21), I wrote about Naxal violence, supporting the Prime Minister's concern about leftist extremism threatening India's security. While such violence needs to be suppressed, I pleaded that Naxals should also be hurt. I received comments on the article, calling for wider discussion especially when it is decided to combat this violence by expanded police operations, supported even by the Army and the Air Force, so that irreversible mistakes are not committed.

There is no question that when the Naxal movement turns violent and Naxalites take law into their hands through extortions, murder and senseless violence, action must be taken against them. There is no room for such violence in our democratic society. Whatever opinion one may have about the philosophy of the movement, no one can support the methods of violence and coercion that Naxalites use.

There can, however, be questions about the most effective manner of suppressing Naxalite violence. It is by now very well documented that such leftist extremism can survive not by acquiring great firepower but by establishing a hinterland of support in the countryside and in the fields of operations.

Essentially these groups are small minorities and their classical method is to hit the establishment at its weak points — and practise the policy of hit-and-run — to provoke unplanned retaliation from the authorities resulting in huge loss of life and property. The strength of the police force is mostly in numbers and its superiority of firepower can hardly differentiate between those actually guilty and those who just got trapped in a situation.

As a result, retaliation on the part of the police makes them more unpopular with the people and thereby serves the purpose of the militants. The violence continues. Clearly, the police needs to change its way of tackling Naxal violence with the best equipment and support mechanism. But more important is that they need support of the local population giving them information and disseminating messages. It is only then that the police can pinpoint the targets and avoid massive onslaught to apprehend one or two real culprits. But this is not easy. This cannot be done by hired people or spies who would soon expose themselves.

In other words, it is the administration and the democratic functionaries in the local areas, members of the gram sabhas and panchayats together with the civil organisations that should be brought into the system for protecting peace and security.

Surely no respectable person will join this effort unless it is clearly seen as working for the affected people and not working as a group of vigilantes. It has to be essentially a political answer to a political problem to win over the population which is affected and exploited by the militants. Also this should not be used by political groups and parties to settle their score — a problem that has been dissipating anti-militant actions, particularly in West Bengal. The administration must remain impartial and act against any group and any party perpetrating violence. Such administrative action cannot be a success unless accompanied by well-thought-out programmes for development of the Naxal-affected areas.


Some of the programmes are being carried out effectively in many parts of the country. Be it construction of school buildings, setting up of public health centres, intensive child care activities or sanitation programmes, we now have enough experience of carrying them quickly and effectively. Many of these programmes should be seen as additional to the schemes already approved at the district and at the panchayat level. But the most important part is that people must believe that these programmes will and can be implemented if law and order prevails and Naxalite violence is curbed.

In the design and the execution of these programmes, the administration must invoke active participation of the local population, with the support of NGOs and other activists and the involvement of panchayati raj institutions. It is true that in many of these Naxalite-affected areas the panchayats have been locally dominated by vested interests who are generally opposed to a radical change affecting those who are poor and vulnerable. But it will be unwise to keep the panchayat system outside this programme, because ultimately they will have to be brought within the grassroots political system.

Once the administration succeeds in initiating these programmes, the hold of the Naxal groups in the local areas will be diluted. With little force and efforts, their violent activities can be effectively controlled.


There will be some differences about the choice of these programmes. It has been noted that in several Naxal-affected areas, building of roads and communications as well as forest development projects have been steadfastly opposed by local people.

Such opposition is temporary. Once people witness that development (construction of roads and communication) would increase trade and prosperity, this opposition will melt away.

But all these decisions have to be taken through discussions and consensus-building operations. NGOs and social activists may often play a very major role in this process and the administration must be prepared to provide them all the support and assistance.

There is one single area of the problems of development in this country which have been the most fertile ground of breeding Naxalism, namely the system of land acquisition and ousting of the tribals and the local population from their natural habitat.

Our government is aware of this. The enactment of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and the announcement of a new rehabilitation policy on October 11, 2007 is proof of this.

Recently, the government approved a special development package with a budget of Rs 20,000 crores for the 33 Naxal-affected districts along with 22 districts around Naxal-affected areas.

The development projects need to be implemented systematically involving the participation of the affected people.

The time has now come for us to realise that development in our country requires a change in our approach to planning and development of the local area. Dealing with the Naxal-affected areas can teach us an effective lesson.


The country is prepared to spend sufficient resources for the purpose of national security and overcoming Naxalite problem. Hopefully the lesson that is learnt will be then spread to all other areas of our economy.

Dr Arjun Sengupta is a Member of Parliament and former economic adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi








He didn't want to wear earplugs. Apparently, he wanted to enjoy the blast.

That is what the Dallas Morning News reported about Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, the 19-year-old Jordanian accused of trying to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper. He was caught by an FBI sting operation that culminated in his arrest nearly two weeks ago — after Smadi parked a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, supplied by the FBI, in the garage of a Dallas office tower.

"Inside the SUV was a fake bomb, designed to appear similar to one used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing", the News wrote. "Authorities say Smadi thought he could detonate it with a cellphone. After parking the vehicle, he got into another vehicle with one of the agents, and they drove several blocks away. An agent offered Smadi earplugs, but he declined, 'indicating that he wanted to hear the blast', authorities said. He then dialed the phone, thinking it would trigger the bomb... Instead, the agents took him into custody".

If that doesn't send a little shiver down your spine, how about this one? reported that "it has emerged that an Al Qaeda bomber who died last month while trying to blow up a Saudi prince in Jeddah had hidden the explosives inside his body". He reportedly inserted the bomb and detonator in his rectum to elude metal detectors. My God.

Or how about this? Two weeks ago in Denver, the FBI arrested Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant, and indicted him on charges of planning to set off a bomb made of the same home-brewed explosives used in the 2005 London transit bombings. He allegedly learned how to do so on a training visit to Pakistan. The New York Times reported that Zazi "had bought some bomb ingredients in beauty supply stores, the authorities said, after viewing instructions on his laptop on how to build such a bomb. When an employee of the Beauty Supply Warehouse asked about the volume of materials he was buying, he remembered Zazi answering, 'I have a lot of girlfriends'".

These incidents are worth reflecting on. They tell us some important things. First, we may be tired of this "war on terrorism," but the bad guys are not. They are getting even more "creative".

Second, in this war on terrorism, there is no "good war" or "bad war". There is one war with many fronts, including Europe and our own backyard, requiring many different tactics. It is a war within Islam, between an often too-silent Muslim mainstream and a violent, motivated, often nihilistic jihadist minority. Theirs is a war over how and whether Islam should embrace modernity. It is a war fuelled by humiliation — humiliation particularly among young Muslim males who sense that their faith community has fallen behind others, in terms of both economic opportunity and military clout. This humiliation has spawned various jihadists cults, including Al Qaeda, which believe they have the God-given right to kill infidels, their own secular leaders and less pious Muslims to purify Islam and Islamic lands and thereby restore Muslim grandeur.


Third, the newest and maybe most active front in this war is not Afghanistan, but the "virtual Afghanistan" — the loose network of thousands of jihadist Websites, mosques and prayer groups that recruit, inspire and train young Muslims to kill without any formal orders from Al Qaeda. The young man in Dallas came to FBI attention after espousing war on the US on jihadist websites.

Fourth, in the short run, winning this war requires effective police/intelligence action, to kill or capture the jihadists. I call that "the war on terrorists". In the long run, though, winning requires partnering with Arab and Muslim societies to help them build thriving countries, integrated with the world economy, where young people don't grow up in a soil poisoned by religious extremists and choked by petro-dictators so they can never realise their aspirations. I call this "the war on terrorism". It takes a long time.

Our operation in Afghanistan after 9/11 was, for me, only about "the war on terrorists". It was about getting Bin Laden. Iraq was "the war on terrorism" — trying to build a decent, pluralistic, consensual government in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. Despite all we've paid, the outcome in Iraq remains uncertain. But it was at least encouraging to see last week's decision by Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki to run in the next election with a nonsectarian, multireligious coalition — a rare thing in the Arab world.

So, what the US President, Mr Barack Obama, is actually considering in Afghanistan is shifting from a "war on terrorists" there to a "war on terrorism", including nation-building. I still have serious doubts that we have a real Afghan government partner for that. But if Obama decides to send more troops, the most important thing is not the number. It is his commitment to see it through. If he seems ambivalent, no one there will stand with us and we'll have no chance. If he seems committed, maybe — maybe — we'll find enough allies.
Remember, the bad guys are totally committed — and they are not tired.








On October 1, 1959, I took part in a parade for the 10th anniversary of the Communist revolution that led to the founding of the People's Republic of China. I was a middle-school student in the central city of Xian, and my classmates and I gathered at school before dawn. We marched into the city's main square, where senior party leaders would review the parade.

As members of the Young Pioneers, a Communist youth organisation, we were all in uniform — we boys in crisp white shirts tucked into navy slacks, and the girls in white shirts and blue pleated skirts that swayed in the brisk morning breeze. Each of us had a red scarf neatly tied around the neck. We were like meticulously arranged flowers, waiting for inspection.

The senior party leaders showed up late, as usual. By the time they delivered their slogan-filled speeches and initiated the flag-raising ceremony, we had already been standing like statues for several hours, our feet planted to the ground. Nobody was allowed to make a noise or leave the group, even though I badly needed to answer the call of nature. Instead, I raised my arms repeatedly and joined the crowd in shouting: "Long live the Chinese Communist Party! Long live chairman Mao!"

Standing next to me was a student who seemed to share my anxiety. She was pretty, with closely cropped hair. Her eyes darted around impatiently. We waved our arms, chanting slogans like everyone else.
Suddenly, I saw a trail of tears rolling down her cheeks. I first thought she had been caught up in the revolutionary euphoria, but then I noticed that she seemed to be embarrassed by something. She kept adjusting her skirt with her hands. I looked closer and saw that she had wet herself. I untied my red scarf and tucked it into her hands.

Our political instructor used to tell us that the red colour of our national flag symbolised the blood shed by Communists who had sacrificed their lives for the country. We were told to treat our scarves like parts of the flag. So as I quietly tossed away my stained scarf at the end of the ceremony, a vague sense of fear flashed through my mind.

In 1963, I entered college. All freshmen had to undergo a month of intensive training to prepare for the anniversary parade. On the morning of October 1, we goose-stepped in unison, passing the podium and saluting the leaders. Once again, there were red flags everywhere. Colourful floats depicted another bumper harvest. People shouted slogans at the top of their lungs, touting the so-called accomplishments of the Great Leap Forward campaign. I later heard that more than 20 million Chinese had starved to death as a result of that disastrous programme.

It was on the eve of another National Day, in 1968, that the security police suddenly arrested me and put me in a detention centre without any explanation. During interrogation, I found out that my "crime" was related to a letter I had written a year before to the Moscow University Library, requesting a copy of Dr Zhivago, which was banned in China as counterrevolutionary. The police had intercepted the letter and had been monitoring me for quite some time.

I was sentenced to three years of re-education in a labour camp, where I spent two National Days behind bars. On those days, prisoners were granted a reprieve from working in the fields. National Day was a holiday for the guards, who simply locked us inside while they went home. We were able to enjoy a day without supervision. More important, every prisoner would get a few morsels of pork in his meal, which normally featured half-rotten vegetables, thin corn gruel and steamed corn buns.

So while the whole country was involved in the October 1 celebration, we huddled together inside our cells, chatting and playing cards, a rare break from the daily grind of hard labour. The parade, the fireworks and the slogan shouting seemed as remote as a half-forgotten dream.

In September 1971, I was released from jail and arrived home a few days before National Day, which was unusually quiet. Later, through the rumour mill, people learned that the plane of defence minister Lin Biao had mysteriously crashed in Mongolia. (Lin, once seen as a possible successor to Mao, had fallen from favour.) The authorities scrambled for an appropriate public explanation. Lin's absence at major public events could certainly fuel speculation that could damage Mao's reputation. To buy time, the government cancelled the parades that were supposed to glorify the great leader and his successor.

Mao soon grew ill and was no longer in the mood to go to Tiananmen and wave to the adoring masses. Red October lost its lustre, and we were finally free to celebrate National Day at home.

This October 1, the elaborate parades — and tight control — returned. I watched from the United States as China's leadership orchestrated a huge celebration to showcase its wealth and military prowess — while the familiar red flags flew over the capital. Tens of thousands of policemen and volunteers were sent in to maintain security. The party tried to control the weather and even regulate the movement of pigeons. Dissidents were under surveillance or in jail. I couldn't help but think that while China has made great material progress over the last 30 years, Mao is still clearly the patriarch of the Communist Party.


Kang Zhengguo is the author of Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China. This article was translated by Xiaoxuan Li from the Chinese.


By arrangement with the New York Times





...but Deng is the leader to celebrate

By Ezra F. Vogel


Thursday was the 60th anniversary of the day Mao Zedong stood on the platform at Tiananmen Square and announced the formation of the People's Republic of China. But the revolution that millions of Chinese are really celebrating began 30 years ago — under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping.

For the Chinese who had for years endured Japanese occupation, 1949 brought the promise of a new era. But a decade later, the puffed-up National Day celebrations could not mask the widespread starvation that resulted from Mao's commune system. Later, Mao's Red Guards terrorised the country, killing intellectuals and officials. The world shrank away. At a low point in the Cultural Revolution, China had only one ambassador abroad, in Cairo. In isolation, China fell far behind other East Asian countries.

Like Germans who asked why they followed the Nazis, thoughtful Chinese still wonder why they continued to follow Mao even after disaster struck. Outsiders also ask why a population that has rejected Communist utopianism and class struggle still celebrates the 60th anniversary under a large portrait of Mao in Tiananmen Square.

One reason is that after Mao's death, Chinese leaders considered how the entire Soviet leadership lost political authority after 1956, when Khrushchev thoroughly denounced Stalin. They thus decided to keep images of Mao even as they departed from his visions and ideology. Also, the Chinese understand that Mao's achievements of the first seven years of the revolution, especially in unifying the country and building local organisations, formed a base for what his successors accomplished.

Still, most Chinese recognise that the true revolution belongs to Deng Xiaoping. No specific reforms were as important as his persistence in further opening China's doors and encouraging its people to scour the world for new ideas in science, technology and management.

One first step was to promote talent at home. Many universities had been closed during the Cultural Revolution, which ended with Mao's death in 1976. When he returned to power in 1977, Deng embarked on a colossal rush to hold national entrance examinations and reopen universities.

Deng also frequently invited Chinese-American scientists for talks. His key question was always: How can China catch up in science? In 1978, when Frank Press, President Jimmy Carter's science adviser, visited China, he was taken aback when Deng proposed sending far more students and faculty to the United States than Press had the mandate to offer. Deng was so insistent on a quick answer that Press called Carter, waking him in the middle of the night. Carter immediately accepted Deng's proposals.

In the 30 years since Deng started his revolution and further opened China's doors to foreign trade and investment, hundreds of millions have risen above the poverty level, China has become the workshop of the world, urban slums have been replaced by forests of modern high-rise buildings, superhighways have succeeded dirt roads and cars have displaced donkey carts.

To be sure, the last 30 years have had plenty of problems — corruption, crackdowns on dissidents, environmental degradation, unequal educational opportunities and a failing rural health system.

Chinese leaders lacking confidence in their ability to maintain public order are not likely to listen to Western advice on how to handle human rights, minorities and dissidents. China will move at its own pace, but Deng's revolution demonstrated that it is able to take positive lessons from the West.

So on this 60th anniversary, we should join in the celebration of the Deng revolution and not be distracted by the portrait of Mao hanging in Tiananmen Square.


Ezra F. Vogel, a professor emeritus of social sciences at Harvard, is writing a book about Deng Xiaoping


By arrangement with the New York Times








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 "counter measures" 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 isa Senior Fellow at the Centrefor Policy Research, New Delhi








COUNT has long been lost of the number of "drives" undertaken to clean up the pride of Srinagar, but the fate of the shrinking Dal continues to be gloomy. The most recent of the non-starters is the judicially-directed campaign to prevent the 1200-odd houseboats ~ another unique tourism magnet ~ from discharging sewage into the lake. It was launched with much fanfare some six months ago, only three of the boats moored on the celebrated waterbody have installed the recommended systems thus far, and those who did insist the results do not justify the expenditure. According to the houseboat owners' association the systems, developed with the assistance of an IIT, flop in the wake of fluctuating water levels. Now another experiment is in the offing. But, as usual, a blame-game is on. The houseboat owners insist that their high-profile makes them a target, that the boats contribute less than five per cent of the waste that is dumped in the lake, that the hotels and VIP villas in the vicinity are the greater polluters. An opposite line is taken by the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority which insists that the boats install sewage disposal systems, or shut shop. A typical bureaucratic approach: the Dal without the houseboats would just not be the same, the folklore of the Valley would nurse a void.

Admittedly the chief minister has a lot on his plate with both militancy and Mehbooba breathing down his neck. Yet unless a major political move is made, and sustained, the Dal is doomed. It has been reduced to half its size and there has been a 50 per cent reduction in its depth. When militancy ran riot all maintenance activity ceased, and thereafter there has been a lot of talk but little else. Omar Abdullah must put parochial pride in his pocket and launch a nationwide appeal for funds and expertise to resurrect the lake. The tourism sector must also realise that it has high stakes in the Dal's future and loosen the purse strings ~ houseboat owners say they can hardly afford the costly equipment. It would be in order to get New Delhi involved too ~ except that it has made such a mess of cleaning-up a limited stretch of the Yamuna! 







LAST Thursday's meeting in Geneva will rank as yet another milestone in Iran's nuclear programme in as much as it signifies a retreat from confrontation. The development must be all the more critical as it comes within a week of the ultimatum to Teheran by the big powers of the UN Security Council. If the disclosure of the second uranium enrichment plant was an act of defiance, the fact that Iran has now agreed to admit inspectors to the new plant and even surrender some of its enriched uranium to be processed abroad signals a definite concession. Though there is no commitment to stop the uranium enrichment programme, it certainly is a comedown by the Islamic Republic. Further, it coincides with the 1 October deadline, and effectively staves off the clamping of sanctions just yet. Iran has agreed to negotiate with the West, and that is progress indeed.
The success of the meeting in Switzerland is embedded largely on the one-on-one between the US diplomat, William Burns, and Sayeed Jalil, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. In effect, America and Iran have broken the ice after 30 years of what international relations experts have called "high level silence". It was essentially Barack Obama's tactic to bring Teheran to the high table of compromise. The US President has been cautious enough to temper what he calls "a good start" with the caveat that "our patience is not unlimited" and that Iran must take "concrete steps to meet its obligations under international law". The follow-through must at once be substantial and convincing.

No less significant must be Iran agreeing to hand over a substantial part of its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium for further enriching into fuel rods in Russia and France. The material will be exported back to a research reactor in Teheran, eventually to meet the need for isotopes in medical centres. To trade in its own low-enriched uranium is another comedown for a country that may have been planning to convert the material to bomb-grade uranium. It would be premature to speculate if the ruling clerics have had a dramatic change of heart and mind. Suffice it to register that the country is clearly on the backfoot after having revealed a hitherto unknown nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom. To the extent that it will allow inspectors to this facility within the next few weeks.







IN terms of pre-poll alliances, Maharashtra's BJP-Shiv Sena combine doubtless has an edge over the incumbent Congress-NCP. It has an edge too in the timing of its election manifesto. That said, the statement of intent of the combine, as unveiled last week, reinforces its train compartment mentality. The goalposts remain ever so parochial and centred around class groups. The stamp of the Shiv Sena, notably the Thackeray circuit, is unmistakable in the pledge to earmark 80 per cent of the jobs for "inhabitants of the state", a euphemism for an indeterminate number of locals. The 15 per cent additional reservation for "economically backward sections" is another pledge designed to woo an equally amorphous class group. Assuming for the sake of argument that the BJP-Shiv Sena takes over, both these concessions are bound to exacerbate the provincial tension and also, of course, the violence in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra. To use the language of understatement, the BJP-Shiv Sena's style of addressing bread-and-butter issues is fraught with risk.

The alliance is on firmer ground when it dwells on the other critical sector ~ the irony of a dismal power situation in one of the more developed states. Just as it is ironical that the Vidarbha region, where 60 per cent of the power is generated, is the worst affected. Indeed, the whole of Maharashtra is dependent on Vidarbha for electricity. It may sound a tad presumptuous when the BJP-Shiv Sena pledges to "eradicate power cuts in two years". But the importance accorded to this segment underscores the failure of the Congress-NCP to grapple with the problem in the ten years it has been in office. The statutory board, set up by the state government, has done but little to assuage the situation. Politically, the manifesto's emphasis on power is significant as 66 out of the 288 constituencies are in Vidarbha and 60-odd in Marathwada, where the impact of the crisis has been no less crippling. Beyond such aberrations as renewed parochialism, one must give it to the BJP-Shiv Sena that it has chosen a campaign plank that is close to the bone.







London, 4 OCT: Thanks to relaxed laws, illegal immigrants are increasingly staging fake marriage ceremonies to stay in Britain, according to government figures.

The figures, collated by the British home office, have revealed an estimated 261 "fake marriages" took place in the first half of this year ~ putting numbers on course for over 500 by this year end, the Daily Mail reported.
In fact, in 2004, the home office counted 3,578 sham marriages and the figures fell to 282 in 2006. But in the wake of a court ruling last year, there has been an increase of 80 per cent this year, the report said.
Last year, Law Lords said the strict rules against fake marriages were "unlawful" and breached human rights, and could deny genuine couples the right to marry.

However, some marriage registrars believe the estimates undercount the true level of immigration cheating through marriage. "We are seeing a steady increase in the numbers coming through our doors who are producing certificates of approval from home office who have no connection with their partner, sometimes they don't even share the same language with their partner and are unable to communicate with each other in any way apart from through an interpreter. "These are purely for the purposes of immigration avoidance. Now that means we are looking at a figure in the thousands, not in the hundreds," Mr Mark Rimmer, director of marriage registration at Brent council, was quoted as saying.







Democracy is under stress. Its essence has been lost in the welter of shambolic values and misdirected objectives. The individual's worth, so vital for the growth and enrichment of democracy, has been denuded to the extent that he feels alienated. In such circumstances, democracy cannot be as vibrant as it ought to be.
Such qualities as self-respect, self-discipline, self-development and self-activity are at a discount. Yet, as Mahatma Gandhi had envisioned, they are crucial for the survival of democracy. His experiments in teaching and learning urgently need a re-look.

The maladies that plague democracy are a worldwide phenomenon. The problems of Indian democracy need to be spelt out and evaluated. Its values and ideals need to be re-examined as India has contributed not a little to global democracy and civilisation.

Gandhi's contribution to democracy was invaluable, his efforts relentless. He highlighted the glory of Visvamanav, the "global man" and "Visva-Samaj". 

It would be pertinent to ask what, according to Gandhi, are the fundamental problems of Indian democracy? What are his suggestions to address these issues? How far are these suggestions relevant for the revival of democracy in the true spirit of altruism? A modest endeavour to answer these questions might just steer us towards enlightened democracy.


GANDHI was ever so anxious to enrich democracy in order to ensure that it represents the eternal values, ethos and moorings. It ought to be the ideal exponent of humanism. A tireless and lifelong crusader against the ills of democracy, he delved deep into its problems. Foremost is the problem of illiteracy, one that has snapped its foundations. Exploitation masquerades as democracy. This is a problem that has virtually gone beyond control.
Poverty is an outcome of illiteracy. It breeds and spreads inequality to such an alarming extent that in certain vulnerable areas democracy has been reduced to a theoretical concept. Terrible differences exist between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the advantaged and the disadvantaged.

The third factor is the devaluation of values in personal and social life. This has tarnished the image of the individual and social democracy in the wider context. When morality is at stake, democracy suffers. Which explains why the system, as it exists in India, is plagued by greed, graft, and corruption. To an appalling extent, this has affected both the individual and society.

The erosion of aesthetic values in individual and social life has led to the craving for cheap popularity, obscenity and vulgarity ~ trends that militate against the growth of democracy. The technological overdrive has overshadowed the true tenets of democracy. Noticeable also is a general sense of passivity and despair, which runs counter to a thriving democracy.


To tackle such problems, Gandhi had suggested certain constructive measures that deserve special attention in the context of a misguided democracy. The problem of illiteracy should, as he had suggested time and again, be arrested in right earnest. He wanted the whole system of education to be overhauled for wider and more effective dissemination. His Nai Talim or Basic Education envisages the "education of the head as well as the heart", synchronising the wishes and expectations of millions of people who are deprived of the merits and advantages of democracy. His experiments with learning, with a focus on self-dependence, self-service, self-discipline and self-study accentuate the march of democracy towards accuracy, ascent and excellence.

Gandhi gave maximum attention to the elimination of poverty in order to restore equality. The concept of Trusteeship is a novel experiment based on the involvement of the affluent in restructuring the imbalanced economy. Indeed, disparities have resulted in differences and anomalies in a largely confused democracy. His suggestions on "bread labour" introduced a new philosophy that glorifies work as workship. 

As regards Gandhi's thoughts and experiments on reshaping the vision of democracy, the role of the spinning wheel ~ charkha ~ is very significant. Indeed, he had wanted to revive the cottage industry by introducing the spinning wheel. He hoped that it would help remove poverty and also act as the centre of other activities. The charkha, as he emphasised, "is a useful and indispensable article for every home. It is the symbol of the nation's prosperity and, therefore, freedom. It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace. It bears not the message of ill-will towards the nations of the earth but of goodwill and self-help. It will not need a navy threatening a world's peace and exploiting its resources; but it needs the religious determination of millions to spin their yarn in their own homes as today they cook their food in their own homes." (Young India, 8 December 1921).


IT is extremely regrettable that the spinning wheel has been misunderstood and misrepresented. It is actually a pointer to revival and renovation of altruistic democracy in the light of regeneration of the soul-force in self-esteem and self-reliance where the spirit of conjoint living works amidst the sound of the wheel of perfection. Moreover, the role of the spinning wheel in awakening the spirit of harmony and brotherhood in order to eliminate the ills of democracy such as untouchability, communalism, fundamentalism, casteism and so on necessitate a rethink on the programmes for the poor.

Gandhi was distressed over the crisis of democracy and the devaluation of such traditional values as austerity, simplicity, tolerance, steadfastness to truth, righteousness, benevolence, and modesty. He himself was a strict and relentless follower of these values. He preached the highest esteem for all, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion. This comes through in his philosophy of man as the embodiment of God who is Truth ~ Satyanarayan. 

Non-violence, in Gandhi's reckoning, is the permanent pillar of democracy. Non-violence is "truth-force". It is also soul-force and love-force, the most vital elements of democracy. When democracy is guided and guarded by non-violence and truth, it is a safe, pure and perfect platform for the emancipation of man and society.
When shall we follow the footprints of the Mahatma?











The government has named the national rural employment guarantee programme after Gandhi. That would not have been a surprise if it had been named after Indira or Rajiv Gandhi. Nor would anyone have given it a second thought if it had been named after Jawaharlal Nehru, who belongs to the right genre even if he has the wrong name. What is stunning, however, is that the programme has been named after Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi. Perhaps the nominal diversification can be explained by the fact that Congress governments have used the Gandhi-by-marriage name all too often; names, like currency, tend to get devalued if they are used indiscriminately. That, however, applies even more strongly to the MKG name, which has been in currency twice as long as the adopted Gandhi name, and has a greater achievement to its name, namely the freedom of India. It has been used so routinely that a stranger to any Indian town, if he does not know a thing about it, can get down at the railway station and ask the taxi driver to take him to Mahatma Gandhi Road; ninety-nine times out of a hundred, he will end up on some crowded, dirty road, full of jewellery and fashionwear shops. He is, however, unlikely to do so. This six-syllable name is too long for common use; he is more likely to ask for just MG Road.


In this surfeit of bogus homage, Shashi Tharoor's admonition to the nation, that instead of taking a holiday, it should be working harder on the nation's adopted father's birthday, is a breath of fresh air. So was his celebration of his being consigned to cattle class. That is rather staidly ironical; perhaps more ironical is the idiot's guide to diplomacy that is supposed to have originated from him.


But it cannot have been just another joke, for Tharoor has been engaged in serious diplomacy in the past two weeks. Among other things, he went heavily loaded with gifts to Liberia, and had a one-on-one with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. He did not stop there. He went on to have a tête-à-tête with the Indian Female Formed Police Unit, the typically long-winded name that our policewomen exiled in Liberia must bear. Although it may be premature to attribute the achievement to our 53-year-young minister of state for external affairs, to use another typical long-winded Indian description, it has been reported that after his visit, young Liberian women have been queueing up to join the police. But just in case he has trouble at home for saying that he is "not proud about our over-politicisation, our emphasis on rights rather than responsibilities and our unwillingness to work in Kerala the way we work in the Gulf", he has at least one other country where he will find a warm welcome.








No investigation by a sitting judge, or compensation for bereaved families, or admission of lapses, or passing the buck is going to make any difference to the fact that over 40 people died in a shocking tragedy during a holiday trip arranged by Kerala's much-vaunted tourism development corporation. It is Kerala's achievement that the lack of professionalism that seems routine in states such as West Bengal has become unthinkable in that state. Yet such an image, associated with middle- to high-end tourism, cannot be sustained without a scrupulous sense of responsibility and ceaseless monitoring. The almost new, although properly licensed, double-decker fibreglass boat with 76 tourists that capsized in the lake near Thekkady while on a visit to the Periyar wildlife sanctuary was being piloted by a driver who had driven the boat just four times. From his later comments, it would seem he was more at home with wooden boats. The boat capsized because the passengers crowded to one side to catch a glimpse of animals on the bank. They did not have life jackets, although unopened packs of these were found later. No safety instructions had been given, apart from the driver's warnings when it was too late. The whole incident has the colourings of nightmare.


The tragedy says something important and not very pleasant about Indian attitudes, especially because it happened in a state known for its high professional standards. There is always a peculiar carelessness regarding basic details. The tourism industry has provided numerous jobs and has helped training institutions flourish. Yet the staff on the boat was not adequately trained, and the driver was not at home with his vessel. There is no centralized state authority to inspect the capability of the vessels, although the backwaters of Kerala have been built up as a tourist attraction. India's service industry has to learn that nothing can be taken for granted; when people pay for a holiday, they do not expect to die.









Kapil Sibal might well deal aggressively with the reform of management education, still being regulated by the All India Council for Technical Education. Indian institutes of management are only the froth on top of a large wasteland (with a few oases) in management education. It also attracts some of the brightest young people. Business education is almost a guarantee for well-paid jobs and prospects for rapid increases in remunerations. Indian students of management in business schools here and abroad were around 200,000 in 2007, a very small number in relation to the needs.


Management education was an artificial graft on to our educational system. It has not had the integrated thinking and planning that, for example, went into Indian institutes of technology or the five-year law programme at the National Law School of India University. The regulatory framework of the AICTE is highly inefficient, overly centralized and corrupt. The National Knowledge Commission and the Yash Pal committee want the AICTE disbanded and individual schools to decide on fees, curricula and other matters. This will not improve the many bad schools that should be dealt with firmly.


Self-regulation by many bad business schools cannot do any better than the AICTE. Many schools are promoted by seedy entrepreneurs including politicians, out to make large bucks. Until we can weed out the shady schools and introduce high standards of self-governance by law, there must be a mechanism to monitor, inspect and award quick punishment for violators. There must be a mechanism to close the inefficient and corrupt ones.


AICTE norms for recognition included square footage, library, faculty strength, and so on. But AICTE constantly overlooked norms in granting recognition. There was casual and sporadic monitoring and inspection. Cheating was not uncommon and AICTE did not take action. Few were penalized for violation. Many of these recognized schools are scandalously under-equipped in libraries, computers and even qualified faculty. It is a comment on the high quality of students, the shortage of trained managers, and the herd instinct of Indian industry that almost all get good jobs on graduation.


Post-graduate management education must be integrated to build on knowledge imparted in a related undergraduate programme. The student should have had a broad exposure to the social sciences as well as the natural sciences. Values, ethics and societal needs must reflect themselves in management education.


Management education has failed to meet the vast need for managers in Indian business and non-business organizations. The unintended consequence of the hurried reservation for other backward classes is that IIMs, after years of foot dragging, have been compelled to increase the numbers admitted. But IIMs alone cannot meet the huge need for managers in India. We need a more root-and-branch reform of all management education.


There is a severe shortage of competent faculty. They are poorly integrated into management education. Most have little practical experience of management. Many come from different disciplines and there is no system to give them orientation towards management. At least the better management schools must offer the doctorate degree and run faculty development programmes. A massive effort to train faculty from other disciplines to teach in management courses needs to be initiated.


There is no way for students and recruiters today to establish the capability of different schools. Ratings could enable assessment of their relative merit. But hardly 15 per cent of recognized management schools allow themselves to be rated. They all make substantial surpluses both above and below the table. Most schools have modest libraries, few computers and poor faculty. We need a single national rating agency that would publish results annually, and compel all schools to pay for annual ratings.


There are over 22,500 listed and unlisted companies in India. Then there are private companies, partnerships, proprietary companies, service companies, innumerable small and medium manufacturing, trading and financial enterprises, and many non-governmental organizations in health, education and other fields that also need trained managers. The numbers of around 100,000 domestic MBAs (or equivalent) and such of the foreign-trained who return are not sufficient to meet the needs of most of these current and potential users. Most organizations actually recruit experienced people or those freshly out of school and college and train them for their needs. Commerce and economics graduates and others with professional qualifications in accounting, auditing, secretarial practice, engineering and so on form the bulk of the managerial population.


The present standalone MBA post-graduate programme must be integrated with undergraduate education. Students must be able to seamlessly move into an MBA class without having to newly learn the social sciences, statistics, economic history and so on. Many undergraduate courses do not give exposure to a lot of these subjects. The present undergraduate programme is the BBA, a money-making course designed in haste to cash in on the demand for people with a 'business' education. Teaching business management, as is done now, for a BBA degree to 16-year olds is misguided, since management studies demand some more exposure to other subjects and preferably work experience. Instead, a new five-year integrated management programme, with a two-year gap for work experience, must be like the five-year law programme at the national law schools.


We must also pay a lot more attention to the content and teaching in our BCom and MCom courses. The V.K.R.V. Rao committee report on commerce education of 1961 had proposed that management education be at the apex of a pyramid of which the base consists of diploma and degree-holders in commerce who learn the essentials to start as foot-soldiers in commerce and industry. Above them would be the BCom starting as a lower level executive, sales officer, supervisor of accounts and so on. The MCom would have specialized in one industry or another, like banking, transport, railways, even NGOs, arts management and so on, and enter those areas. The management education post-graduate would be fit to join as manager at the entry level anywhere. He would be well-rounded because of his undergraduate work, have had exposure to aspects of management, and would be even more useful if he had spent two years at work. If we create a structure like this, we will produce many more trained personnel to staff a variety of industries and levels of jobs. The present mad rush for management graduates for all types of jobs might decline.


Exploitation of students by charging capitation fees or excessive fees, offering poor facilities and relatively untrained faculty is rampant in many business schools and must be stopped ruthlessly. Every management education institution, whether run by a university or a trust, should be made to follow the same corporate governance rules prescribed for listed companies by the Securities and Exchange Board of India.



The small number of management graduates in relation to the total need makes many of the young and bright entrants act superior and arrogant. They complete management education in their early twenties and have multiple highly paid job offers. Management thinkers fault this practice and attribute the decline of values in many industrial and finance companies to it.


The government must not interfere with educational institutions on matters of faculty remuneration, differential salaries according to qualifications of faculty members, or remuneration based on performance. If the institution depends on government grants it must be free to set remuneration within an overall budget.


Sibal must understand that IIMs do not represent management education in India. There are hundreds of other institutions, many quite unsuited for the job, but making money. After the aging senior politicians who for the last decade handled the human resource development ministry, Sibal is a fresh mind and can transform management education.


The author is former director-general, National Council for Applied Economic Research










The Iranians have been watching too many James Bond movies. If you want to hide a secret uranium enrichment plant, you should bury it under some existing structure in the heart of the city. Hollowing out a mountain just attracts the attention of every intelligence service in the world. They start watching as soon as the first approach road shows up on the satellite photographs.


Western intelligence agencies have known about Iran's second uranium enrichment plant, hidden in the mountains west of Qom, since construction began in 2006. Amazingly, it took until now for Iran's spooks to realize that and warn Tehran to come clean. Recently, the Iranian government delivered a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency admitting that the plant existed.


The Qom discovery also brought the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, around to the view that, "in some cases, sanctions are inevitable." The United States of America, Britain, France and Germany were already convinced that Iran is working on nuclear weapons, and Russia makes five. Out of the six countries that are negotiating with Iran (the five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany), only China is still holding out, but it is starting to waver. The meeting between Iran and the Six may not be followed immediately by sanctions, but they are coming soon.


Yet, it is still not clear that Iran is actually seeking nuclear weapons. The religious leadership regularly declares that they are "un-Islamic", and presumably takes its own decrees seriously. On the other hand, the country has been facing the threat of attack by the US or Israel, using conventional or even nuclear weapons, for decades. So it's hardly surprising that the Iranians decided on a back-up site for uranium enrichment in case their main enrichment plant was destroyed. However, the site near Qom is much smaller, and could not supply the large quantities of slightly enriched uranium that a nuclear power station requires.

Dirty secret


Many people think that the Iranians meant to keep the Qom facility secret permanently, enriching uranium for nuclear weapons there while everybody monitored their innocent activities at Natanz. Others think that the secondary site near Qom is meant to give Iran the option of going flat-out for nuclear weapons if the US or Israel attacks and destroys the main enrichment site at Natanz. Both of these possible rationales were pretty stupid, since there was really no way that the Qom site could stay secret. But it does matter which of those motives underlay the Qom site: was it to build secret nuclear weapons or to have the ability to build nuclear weapons if attacked? The probable answer is that Iran genuinely wants an independent source of fuel for its civil nuclear power programme, since it has repeatedly been targeted by sanctions. Iran also wants the ability to produce nuclear weapons within six to 12 months if it is attacked.


The current crisis is occurring because some countries believe that Iran intends to make nuclear weapons now. They are the same countries that mistakenly thought Iraq had nuclear weapons and invaded it. They may be wrong this time, too. Some governments will argue that Iran has already crossed the legal threshold by keeping the Qom site secret from the IAEA. Under the normal NPT rules, it would only have to declare the site six months before it actually starts processing uranium there, but, in 2003, Iran voluntarily signed the so-called Subsidiary Arrangement, under which it promised to inform the IAEA of new nuclear facilities in the design stage.


It repudiated that extra obligation, but the IAEA says it cannot do so unilaterally. So maybe Iran has now broken the law, or maybe it hasn't. But sanctions are now almost certain, and the odds of a US or Israeli military strike on Iran just got a lot shorter.












Like the Biblical strongman Sampson, the international community remains blind to the grim realities of Gaza. Instead of exerting pressure on Israel to lift its siege and blockade of the Strip and its 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants, the world's leaders provide them with a pittance which keeps people alive but poor.

Eighty-five per cent of Gazans subsist on UN aid. Israel, which controls all the goods crossings into the Strip, permits only basic humanitarian supplies to enter in strictly limited amounts. No raw materials and no cemment, no steel, no glass and no aluminium for construction come through Israeli-controlled crossings. Consequently, water, sewage, and other infrastructure damaged or destroyed during the Israeli war early this year have not been repaired or reconstructed. Some 50,000 Palestinian families have not been able to rebuild homes wrecked by Israeli bombs and shells; the homeless live with relatives or in flats too expensive for their budgets. Unemployment is running at 40-50 per cent. Skilled workers who once had jobs in Israel are sweeping the streets in temporary employment schemes and thousands more are working in smuggling tunnels running under Gaza's southern border into Egypt. Imports through the tunnels provide Gazans with the goods they want and need and create an illusion that there is an economy.

The shelves of shops that have survived siege and sanctions are filled with household items, fresh and tinned food, and cheap clothing. Women cook with gas bottles dragged through the tunnels and cars run on petrol and diesel piped through fuel tunnels.

Livestock and even cars emerge from larger tunnels. Although Israel routinely bombs one or two, the remaining 1,300-1,500 tunnels have created a new class of entrepreneurs. They not only stock the shops but also cafes and restaurants which are doing good business.

On Thursday night, before the Friday holiday, the streets of Gaza city were packed with horn-hooting cars, the shops on the main thoroughfares were decked out inbright lights to attract custom. The Mazaj Cafe on Omar al-Mukhtar street was filled with affluent young men and women sipping coffee and delving into chunks of dark cho- colate cake smothered in cream. But most Gazans cannot afford rich cake or even the modest price of masala tea at this cafe.

Gazans breathe a bit easier these days but are not optimistic about their future. They see no hope for the lifting of the siege and blockade. They fear that the Hamas government in Gaza will not be able to reconcile with the Fateh government in the West Bank since their differences remain wide on a whole range of issues, including reform of the security agencies, elections, and inclusion of Palestinians in the diaspora in decision-making.

In an appeal to the international community to act, John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that cares for the refugee populace here, called for financial aid for the cash-strapped agency. "The people are prevented from sustaining themselves because of the illegal siege on Gaza. Well, if we're not capable politically of getting the siege lifted... then the minimum that we must do is pay the financial price of keeping them alive."


He told Deccan Herald, "Eighty-five per cent depends on handouts of food from the UN to survive. All aspects of life are a struggle. People are losing hope. The whole society is being broken down and the mindset is being transformed so that a decent, civilised people becomes hostile. The most vulnerable are the children, half the population. They are susceptible to the environment, which gives opportunities to extremism."

Opening the borders to allow imports of materials for reconstruction, manufacturing, and agriculture and to permit exports would "unleash the potential" of the workforce and of "entrepreneurs who remain committed" to Gaza, Ging stated.

But Palestinians are not optimistic that anything will be done to relieve the unbearable pressure on them.

So far, the international community has refused to insist on an end to Israel's siege and blockade and the application of the 'rule of law' which prohibits collective punishment.

Gazans are being punished for voting for Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election and for failing to oust Hamas after it seized control of the Strip in 2007. "But the people of Gaza, struggling to put bread into their childrens' mouths, cannot do anything," said Hala over her cup of coffee in the upmarket Mazaj Cafe. "The world's leaders have to act," added Safa. Najla asserted, "Palestinians cannot even work to support our cause. We are in a situation where he cannot help ourselves."









It's only words, for words is all I have to steal your heart away…" goes my favourite song. It implies the power of words which evolve when a man has romantic feelings for a woman, he being inclined to believe that verbal wooing of his love is the best and most effective way to win her over. Indeed, words are very powerful and potent means of communication, which can be either written or spoken, although I'm still pondering over which is more effective. I guess men in love will try both!

There are thousands of words with both positive and negative connotations. One just has to read the introductory pages of 'Reader's Digest' to know the nuances and shades of meanings of several words, how they evolved and the context in which they can be used. It is interesting to see how different wordsmiths chisel and mould sentences, each word used to perfection. When one communicates a certain thought, it should be done by way of economy of words.

There are four categories of people when it comes to communication. The first are the ones who form societies for they communicate well by measuring and weighing their words succinctly and they are never relegated to the category of hurting others. Not only do they talk politely, they are also ethical people. The next category consists of people who talk glibly and courteously but don't necessarily mean well. In other words, they are the smooth talking operators who should be avoided at all costs. In fact, it is even preferable if one falls into the next category of being blunt in written and spoken communication. What is most detestable is the last category of human beings, who are vituperative and vile on the outside as well as inside.

Indeed, so important is apt communication that if not apt, it can break hearts, damage people's psyche and cause irreparable harm to one's emotional health and well-being. Since words once spoken cannot be taken back, they can at times cause immense pain and hurt when they are articulated irresponsibly.

In fact, it has correctly been said by a wise sage, to always make your words pass through three gateways: the first being "Are the words true?", the second "Are the words necessary?" and the third "Are the words kind?" The sage concludes, saying "If it passes through gateway three, have no fear what the result of speech can be."








There has been so much good news about Iran's nuclear weapons program lately that it's almost churlish to expose that news for what it really is - hollow and ephemeral.


Teheran has offered to ship much of its low-enriched uranium to Russia and France, where it will be processed before being returned for use in medical research and generating electricity. Yesterday, Iran also agreed to allow international inspectors to visit its previously secret - and still unfinished - uranium enrichment plant at Qom on October 25.


President Barack Obama said that the uranium export offer was "a step toward building confidence that Iran's program is in fact peaceful." Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations said that if Iran honored its pledge to export its fuel for processing, Washington's proliferation concerns would be partly alleviated.


But Henry Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center asserted that "the fuel France and Russia will send back to Iran will be far more weapons usable, being enriched with 19.75 percent nuclear weapons-grade uranium, than the 3.5 percent enriched brew Iran currently has on hand."


Experts say that uranium needs to be enriched at 90% for use in a nuclear bomb.


So instead of talking about when Iran will suspend its fuel-making activities, the mullahs have cleverly shifted the conversation to what their export pledge means - even though it would not take effect for a year or two.


And just to muddy the waters, Iran's ambassador to Britain, Mehdi Saffare, a member of its delegation to the Geneva talks with the Security Council "five plus Germany," insisted that the idea of sending Iran's enriched uranium out of the county had "not been discussed yet."


ON SATURDAY, The New York Times reported (elaborating on a story carried last month by the Associated Press) that dissident experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency have tentatively concluded that Iran has "sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable… implosion nuclear device."


Their report, "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program," also argues that the country is aiming to place a nuclear payload on its Shahab 3 missile - which can reach parts of Europe.


The only genuinely good news is that "Overall the Agency does not believe that Iran has yet achieved the means of integrating a nuclear payload into the Shahab 3 missile with any confidence that it would work…."


Still, the IAEA specialists believe that though Iran hasn't detonated a device, the elaborate nature of its experiments gives it confidence that its bomb will explode.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the outgoing IAEA chief, has spiked the report. Yesterday, in Teheran he talked about how Iran has supposedly shifted from confrontation toward "transparency and cooperation."


With IAEA dissidents, and the intelligence services of Britain, France, Germany and, of course, Israel arguing that Iran is racing toward a bomb, Obama has instructed the US intelligence community to reevaluate its controversial 2007 finding that Teheran had halted efforts to design a nuclear weapon back in 2003.


NO MATTER how the US intelligence reassessment goes, or how Iran's export gambit plays out, or what happens when the inspectors visit Qom, at the end of the day - and in keeping with the mullahs' strategy - Iran will have bought time.


Obama insists his administration is "not interested in talking for the sake of talking. If Iran does not take steps in the near future to live up to its obligations, then... we are prepared to move towards increased pressure."


Of course, the president would have greater credibility with the mullahs if the heightened sanctions his administration insinuated would be forthcoming in September had actually been implemented.


At this point, there are only three possibilities: (a) Iran will build a bomb; (b) draconian sanctions, spearheaded by Washington, will persuade Teheran to abort its program; (c) military intervention will significantly set the mullahs back.


Assuming Obama realizes that the second option is by far the most preferable, he must not allow Teheran to sidetrack the discussion.


All the world needs to know is when Iran will stop enriching uranium, and when it will end its weapons program.









At the height of Operation Cast Lead, several anti-Israel marches took place through London and other European capitals. To try and inject balance to the debate I gave some media interviews explaining the facts about the mauling Sderot had been taking for years.


Once back in my House of Commons office, I anticipated volumes of hostile e-mails. What I did not expect, however, was that the e-mails were actually evenly split, for and against Israel. Equally unexpected was an opinion poll, published shortly afterwards, which showed that almost as many Britons supported Israel's action as disapproved, despite the horrific images of civilian suffering that were flooding the air waves.


The impression that many Israelis have of uniform hostility among Europeans to the State of Israel is false. Certainly it is true that there are many politicians and people across the continent only too happy to believe the worst of Israel. True also is the rise of anti-Semitism, especially in Eastern Europe, which politicians in these countries do shamefully little to combat.


BUT ISRAEL has friends in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom. Recently, press coverage was given to moves by UK Trade Unions to institute a boycott of Israeli goods, but little attention was paid to the fact that the original hard-line proposal was actually replaced by a more moderate position.


Much of the credit for this should go to the dedicated members of the Trade Union Friends of Israel in the UK. Most readers of The Jerusalem Post will never have heard of this organization, or of the Friends of Israel groups that exist within both the ruling Labour and opposition Conservative Parties. Yet these groups are flourishing, and working hard to ensure that the debate on the Middle East is fair and balanced, and that Israel's legitimate concerns are represented in public discourse.


There is no British version of AIPAC; here Labor and Conservative Friends of Israel do not coordinate strategy, nor share resources. This is no bad thing. I am a Labor Member of Parliament who happens to be a friend of Israel.


As a politician of the centre-left I would love to see my comrades in the Israeli Labor Party flourish again, and I yearn for the days when Israel was seen as a social democratic cause. However, being a friend of Israel does not, and cannot mean being a friend of everything that every Israeli government does or has ever done. As citizens of a vibrant democracy this is not a standard that self-respecting Israelis would hold themselves to, so it cannot be expected of foreign friends.


Israel's Ambassador to the UK jokes that whenever anyone introduces themselves as a "friend of Israel" he dons a flack jacket. So, as a friend of Israel who has proven himself to be so in the House of Commons as well as in the BBC studios, let me say this: it is becoming increasingly difficult for Israel's friends to make our case. The expansion of settlements; disturbing accounts of Palestinians stripped of their rights in east Jerusalem; a deteriorating situation in Gaza; all of these make it harder for Israel's friends to be heard when we speak about the threat of Iran, Hamas and the unfair double standards Israel is subject to. We will robustly defend Israel when it is maligned unfairly, but please do not ask us to defend the indefensible.


Many Israelis may be tempted to shrug off such warnings; as long as the Americans remain committed, what does it matter if support dwindles elsewhere? This would be a grave mistake. Firstly, it would be to abandon the idea that Israel's cause is just; that fair-minded people of goodwill everywhere can feel solidarity with the plight of a country that is the only meaningful democracy in its region, a beacon of free-speech and the rule of law, menaced by fanatical enemies committed to its destruction.


Secondly, to believe that as long as the Americans are on-side little else matters may be real-politik, but it is dangerous. America's patience may be great, but it is not inexhaustible. Obama will probably be around for another seven years; to dismiss him as naïve, and batten down the hatches until another Bush inherits the White House is not a strategy, it is folly.


So for the sake of its many friends around the world, but even more for the sake of its children and grandchildren, Israel should demonstrate once again that it has justice and righteousness on its side, not just might and strength. Embrace every opportunity to advance the cause of a lasting peace and if others do not respond, so be it; but by its actions let the world see once more that the moral high ground belongs, unequivocally, to Israel.


The writer is a Labor member of Parliament, former government minister and past chair of Labor Friends of Israel.








The Goldstone Report has rightly been sternly criticized for its myriad deficiencies. Even stalwart supporters of the investigation have added their own degree of disapproval. In a recent article, B'Tselem's Jessica Montell admitted to being "disturbed" and "unsettled" by Goldstone's allegation that the IDF conducted a deliberate policy of targeting Gazan civilians. Yet she and her NGO colleagues have remained characteristically silent on Goldstone's scandalous treatment of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit as a side issue. As Israel is left to nauseatingly pawn terrorists for proof that Shalit is alive, the tokenism afforded by his captivity breeds further mistrust of the moral claims of Goldstone and the human rights community.


To be clear, Goldstone's report does call for Schalit's release. But this demand is given little prominence, with only two of 452 pages devoted to the issue, including an appalling moral inversion. Rather than focus on Schalit's incarceration itself, Goldstone is more concerned that if Israel maintains a blockade to secure his release, Schalit's captivity would be the cause of illegal "collective punishment."


GIVEN THAT the lengthy report constitutes a 'cut and paste' of NGO 'evidence, including over 500 citations to their material, it is hardly surprising that the NGO community reflects Goldstone's disregard for Schalit. Their mandates may suggest a natural role as leading campaigners for Schalit, but organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Association for Civil Rights in Israel are conspicuous by their virtual silence. Barring isolated mentions of his fate, there has been almost total inaction from the likes of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and B'Tselem in protecting Schalit's basic human rights.


When these infrequent references have been published, they have invariably been placed in the context of condemning Israel for "war crimes," "wanton destruction" or "collective punishment". The immorality of this position is exemplified by those NGOs who cling to the legal fallacy that Israel continues to 'occupy' Gaza, ignoring the reality of the 2005 disengagement. They fail to appreciate the irony that the only remaining Israeli in Gaza, Gilad Schalit, has been held illegally and entirely against his will for more than three years.


Goldstone's report and its defenders have rightly been condemned for failing to place last winter's violence in context. The treatment of Schalit as a footnote to the Gaza conflict is another terrible example of the unwillingness to apply human rights to Israelis.


In Gilad Schalit, Israelis see their own sons or brothers. The covenant between Israeli citizens and its army, that both will do everything possible to protect the safety of the other, is central to understanding Israeli military thinking.


By sidelining Gilad Schalit, it is a factor that both Goldstone and the NGO community choose to ignore. The primacy given by the State of Israel to the fate of even one individual soldier reveals a compassion totally at odds with Goldstone's sinister and false accusation that the IDF launched "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population."


The symbolism of Schalit is particularly powerful for the thousands of IDF soldiers who entered Gaza in the knowledge that they risk being the next to suffer the horrors of captivity. Yet it is their actions which are being