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Thursday, October 22, 2009

EDITORIAL 22.10.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month october 22, edition 000330 collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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













  2. 7, HEAVEN?





























































The nature of the threat posed by Maoists was never in doubt; the brutality which has been unleashed by them against innocent civilians and security forces would fetch cheer only to those who revel in bloodshed and can see nothing wrong about Left-wing extremism that continues to spread its deadly tentacles across the country. Tuesday's attack by Maoists on a police station in West Bengal's Red terror-infested West Midnapore district has served to highlight both the murderous campaign and vile ideology of those who claim to speak for the oppressed masses. By murdering two policemen in cold blood and abducting a police officer the Maoists have once again demonstrated that they are menace to our open society and a threat to our democracy. There is no reason to be awestruck by the audacity of Maoist leader Koteswar Rao alias Kishenji who has declared the abducted police officer a "prisoner of war" — for, it is war against the state that he and his ilk have been waging and which now needs to be taken to its logical conclusion. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, in a letter addressed to bleeding heart liberals and bogus human rights activists, has asked them to check out whether the Maoists are willing to sit across the table and talk. It is more than obvious that dialogue with the Government is farthest from the minds of those who want to seize state power through remorseless violence. If there were any doubts, those have been removed by the Maoists dark deed in West Midnapore — and before that in Jharkhand where a policeman was cruelly beheaded for doing his duty and serving the nation. Indeed, these gory demonstrations of Maoist power are of a piece with the attacks on policemen in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Orissa. Earlier, Andhra Pradesh suffered enormous loss of human lives, but has been able to turn the tide against the Maoists.

In a sense, the manner in which Andhra Pradesh has dealt with the Maoists should have served as an example for the other affected States. The police were empowered, a special unit was set up and the full fury of the state was unleashed on the murderers, liquidating the top leaders and forcing the rest to take shelter in other States. However, barring Chhattisgarh, no other State has shown the political determination to face the Maoists in a headlong confrontation. As a result, the problem has grown over the years and it is only now, under Mr Chidambaram's watch, that the Union Home Ministry has got into the act. Tragically, the massive security operation that has been planned by the Centre has run into problems caused by petty administrative issues raised by State Governments which, on their own, are in no position to meet the challenge, leave alone defeat the Maoists, yet are prompt in pointing out jurisdictional rights. An all-out war on Maoists cannot wait any longer. The Centre must take the initiative and, if necessary, ignore protests by State Governments in pursuing the Maoists to their justly deserved deaths. The time for pusillanimity is long over; now is the time to act, and act with overwhelming force. What we need is a bullet-for-bullet policy, targeting both leaders and their followers. It is equally important that the support which Maoists receive from city-based pseudo-intellectuals whose hearts beat for the killers should be stemmed. If that means cracking down on the Maoists' protectors masquerading as activists, so be it. This war must be won by India.






With China sticking to its territorial claim on Arunachal Pradesh — 'South Tibet' is what Beijing calls the Indian State — it is interesting to note that a certain Internet giant has devised a clever formula to pacify both New Delhi and Beijing. Google's popular Google Map service, which has been in the news before for depicting Arunachal Pradesh as either disputed or as part of China, now shows the State as part of India on Google's Indian domain, part of China on the Chinese domain and disputed for others. Admittedly, Google has a huge clientele in both India and China. It is perhaps with this fact in mind that Google directors decided to follow a 'middle path'. But the practice is not without flaws. Google might be patting itself on the back for finding a way around the Arunachal Pradesh issue. But suppose tomorrow an interested party pays Google to show a neighbouring country's territory as part of its own, will the latter actually play along? Will Google show South Sudan — which is an autonomous region of Sudan and is due to hold a referendum on its independence in 2011 — as part and parcel of Sudan on the insistence of Khartoum even after it becomes a full-fledged state? If so, the situation in the Balkan region of Europe could be even messier.

India and China are equals. Google cannot afford to jeopardise its commercial interests in either of the two countries. But if the two parties involved happen to have varying commercial and international clout, it could give rise to a tricky situation. Google Maps' depiction of contested territories between countries could give a whole new meaning to the term border dispute. For, these maps are accessed by people all around the world and, therefore, the ramifications they can have on resolving border issues is significant. Hence, it would be best if Google could have the conviction to show a country's territorial boundaries exactly the way they are. Coming back to Arunachal Pradesh, there is a very strong possibility that the Chinese Government had a hand in forcing Google to come up with the present arrangement. It is ironical that for a country that strictly monitors content on the Internet it has so much sway on a global IT powerhouse like Google. The Chinese authorities certainly do not have any special affinity for Google. If reports are to be believed, China Written Works Copyright Society is planning to sue Google for scanning and uploading 18,000 books belonging to 570 Chinese authors on its Google e-book archive without seeking consent. Not to mention the blank pages one is directed to if he or she performs a Google search to find information on Xinjiang or Tibet sitting in a cyber café in Shanghai. Perhaps it serves Google right.


            THE PIONEER




The Ministry of Human Resource Development has succeeded in creating a general impression that there is a chance for change. It has given hope to school students that their crushing curriculum load will soon become manageable and the fear of examinations will become a thing of the past with the advent of grades instead of marks. On-line and on-demand examinations also appear to be a possibility. The number of elite Central institutions and universities is being increased and children now foresee chances of getting more openings and quality enhancement opportunities.

Nonetheless, the Ministry's initiatives for change appear to have hit a roadblock after the recent controversy over the eligibility criterion for IITs. Though the final recommendations shall emerge from a high-power committee in due course, people are anxious to deliberate upon the import of the envisaged restrictions in terms of marks. Yes, marks, not grades.

The background has been assessed rightly. Senior secondary (Classes 11 and 12) and sometimes even secondary (Classes 9 and 10) education become a source of stress for children when their parents pressurise them to prepare for the coveted entrance tests after 12 years of schooling to gain entry into the prestigious IITs and medical institutions. Its tuitions, more tuitions and coaching institutions! These coaching centres have mushroomed in every nook and cranny of the country.

Who is not aware of the prestige that Kota enjoys for preparing students for competitive entrance exams? The institutes there conduct their own admission tests before accepting students for coaching. Visit Kota and you can meet families that have shifted base to this small city to get their children to study in the 'right environment'.

It is often lightly remarked that officers of the Rajasthan Government who have children in the right age group are invariably keen to get a posting in Kota. Schools and coaching centers here often arrive at mutually suitable agreements on time distribution to avoid duplication of efforts!

The truth is that success in the prestigious entrance tests is a coaching-dependent phenomenon. It is the drill that matters. But you just can't select raw talent on the basis of routinised proficiency endeavours. With a gross enrolment ratio of only 52 per cent in secondary education we are already deprived of 50 per cent of the talent. In China, GER is 91 per cent. If we confine entrance tests to only those who score 75 to 80 per cent, the worst sufferers will be those who deserve maximum additional support within the mandates of the Constitution.

There are sporadic instances of students passing the IIT entrance tests but failing in the Class 12 board examination. It represents a far greater malady than is evidenced by the number of such occurrences. Students are forced to neglect regular school studies as the pressure to do well in coaching institutions is far more from both family and peer group. School work becomes a natural casualty. Schools too know the reality of the situation and get students to do projects just as a mere formality.

Hence, the entire focus shifts to the percentage of marks in the final board examination. Practical examiners are generally considerate and project works are easily purchased in the market. It is a new form of entrepreneurship that is developing fast and making its presence felt with assurance of further growth.

The phenomenon of coaching and tuitions, as also the neglect of practical work and assignments, is spreading fast and any initiative to counter these deserves support. However, increasing the minimum eligibility percentage for entrance tests to 80 or 85 per cent from the existing 60 per cent is no solution.

It could have worked if India had only one single school board instead of around 40 that it has at present. It could also have been the solution if all schools were working with comparable facilities, academic inputs and standards, and schooling was strictly on the basis of a common school system and neighbourhood schooling was in place. But this is a near impossible situation in the foreseeable future. A single board is not even a desirable proposition.

The proposal to give some weightage to a student's performance in the Class 12 examination in the admission process could be tried. If accepted it would start a race among the boards to ensure that their students get higher marks. Public schools shall be the first to welcome this opportunity, but the sufferers shall be the students of Government schools who study under conditions of severe infrastructure deficiency and professional deprivation by way of non-availability of adequate number of qualified teachers. There is a great divide between some 12 to 15 per cent of the schools on one side and the rest on the other.

It would not be prudent to neglect or ignore this stark reality while taking a policy decision. When the IITs began their entrance examinations nearly five decades ago, a raw but talented child studying in a Government school in a remote district had a chance. The IIT alumni, now in the age group of 50 to 60, would testify to the fact that only the talented could get into the system. And they did so without tuition or coaching. Why can't the same system be in place today?

A couple of months ago, one of the directors of the IITs made a very significant remark: The IITs are not able to attract raw talent, they are only getting those students who are coached and forced to learn certain skills that make them perform faster than others. Could there be a need for a talent search?

The Human Resource Development Ministry has triggered a debate on a very pertinent issue. This debate must be encouraged and extended to all stake-holders in our education system.






US President Barack Obama's historic speech in Cairo that called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world had references to Islam's contributions to civilisation. The speech was a befitting reply to Islam bashers who have bracketed Islamic culture, particularly Arab culture, with certain stereotypes post 9/11. Scholars have sprung up in the West who link Islamic culture with hatred, violence, fanaticism and extremism. Any violence committed by any individual or group is a specific response to a specific pathological and political circumstance and not endemically representative of Arab culture.

Since time immemorial, trade and business have been the essence of Arab culture, not violence. West Asia has been witness to the birth of rich civilisations like that of the Assyrians and Babylonians in Iraq, Phoenician and Canaan in Syria and the Pharaonic civilisation in Egypt. Each of the major cities viz Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, has been the capital of huge political and business empires throughout the different stages of history that presented the world with advancements in science, art, culture, and philosophical thought that form the basis of study in all major universities of the world today.

The emergence of business hubs like Baghdad and Cairo, the emergence of Arabic as the business lingua franca from Spain to Sindh in the Middle Ages, and the missionary activities of Arab merchants in South-East Asia were the legacies of the advent of Islam.

Seven centuries ago, Baghdad and Damascus were hubs of international trade. The Arab world under the Abbasid Caliphs had developed business relations from China to Italy. The businessmen and financiers of Mecca and Damascus set up letters of credit, bills of exchange, primitive contract laws, foreign agencies and custom duties centuries before the bankers of Renaissance Florence and Tudor London.

In modern times the rapid and economic progress of the ancient trading centre of Dubai, which was on the trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus valley civilisation, is a great example of how Islam is conducive for business. In 1830, Dubai was taken over by a sect of the Bani Yas clan led by the Maktoum family that still runs the emirate.

The Silk Route to China, the Amber Route to the Baltic, the evolution of trade-linked cities such as Petra, Baghdad, Mecca, Sidon and Damascus were centres of Arab power for centuries. From ancient times till modern day, trade and business have flourished in this region.







Life is a cycle of success and failure. It is ordained that every human being must have a share of both, albeit in different proportions. Not even the life of the greatest of the great has been failure free. A failure no matter how great cannot be the last word on him.

The unexpectedly stunning defeat of the BJP under Mr LK Advani's leadership took even the winning party by surprise. Earlier in 2004, the BJP under Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee had suffered a more surprising defeat. Indeed, 2009 need not be the end of Mr Advani's political career.

In a democracy, political leaders draw strength from their base. This can be mass base, family base, media base or caste/regional base. Today we have very few political leaders in our country with a mass base at the national level. Most of them have risen on the basis of the remaining three bases. Mr Advani is one of the few political leaders with a mass base who has not risen on the basis of family, media or caste/regional support.

His glorious record of 60 years of public life, during which his sacrifice and integrity stand out, puts him in a class apart. His autobiography, My Country My Life, is a fascinating account. His patriotism and his sense of duty come out loud and clear from a reading of this book. It also amply brings out his erudition and marked ability in meeting the challenges in his career.

Mr Advani was falsely implicated in a hawala corruption case. Pending investigation, he promptly resigned from public life and refused to contest election till he had been cleared. Corruption is not only about money but also about corrupt practices. In an era of rampant corruption among political leaders, a leader of impeccable integrity during his 60 years of political life, is a pearl of great value.

As for making sacrifice for the country, Mr Advani, suffered a long spell of imprisonment for restoration of democracy. Most of our political leaders demand five-star comforts and have become addicted to luxury like the Maharajas of yore. To parody Kennedy in reverse, they believe in asking what the country can do for them rather than what they can do for the country.

During my 11 years as Governor of the two most sensitive States of the country from the point of view of security, I had occasion to interact with top political leaders, including Mr Advani. With his zeal and dedication, he was head and shoulder above the others in dealing with security problems. The astounding success achieved by us in tackling insurgency in Assam by 2003 was largely due to his support and guidance. Had he continued in office after 2004, I am sure conditions in Jammu & Kashmir would have been better than what they are today.

Having said this, let me add that no matter how great, people do sometimes err. Mr Advani appears to have tripped on L'Affaire Jaswant. The BJP took the ridiculous decision of expelling Mr Jaswant Singh from the party for his Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence without the decision-makers reading the book. The BJP Government of Gujarat took the still more ridiculous decision to ban the book in the State on the plea that it denigrated Sardar Patel. Having gone through the book, I do not find any basis for making this accusation.

It is reported that Mr Advani was opposed to Mr Singh's expulsion. If he could not influence the decision of the party on this score, he should have tendered his resignation as he had done earlier after the 2009 poll results. The party would have perhaps yielded and avoided taking a decision which made it a laughing stock.

On the basis of a single address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, all the sins of Mohammed Ali Jinnah for the bloodbath he let loose cannot be washed away. Not long after this address, Jinnah launched an invasion of India in Jammu & Kashmir. Mr Advani, during his visit to Pakistan, had praised that speech. Mr Advani focussed attention on this not as a tribute to Jinnah, but to remind the people of Pakistan of its contents, in the hope that Pakistan may change course and adopt the secular path. That would be in the best interest of Pakistan, India and the world.

Mr Vajpayee had visited Minar-e-Pakistan during his visit to Lahore. This gesture was to convey a message that India had accepted partition and there was no question of trying to undo it. Unfortunately, such gestures appear to have little effect on Pakistan.

Much is made of the controversy regarding Kandahar and Ayodhya. The former was aired vigorously during election campaigning. When that incident took place, the critics had been silent accomplices. They did not raise their voice against the humanitarian decision. However, a thundering silence has been maintained over biryani being fed to terrorists at Hazratbal. A soft state pursuing its policy of appeasement allowed the terrorists to go back to Pakistan.

After the election, sniping on the Kandahar issue by some, including BJP insiders for their vested interests, has continued. The main issue was the release of the terrorists and not so much as to who accompanied them to Kandahar. The latter was no big deal. Mr Advani, who had opposed this exchange but later fell in line with the unanimous decision of the Cabinet, may or may not have been present when it was decided to send Mr Singh to Kandahar or his memory may be failing him. This is of little consequence.

As for Ayodhya, no doubt it was a reprehensible act. Mr Advani was present there at that time and could not prevent the fury of the mob. He has repeatedly said that it was the 'saddest day' of his life.

What happened a couple of years earlier in Jammu & Kashmir was if anything, more reprehensible. Some 60 functioning Hindu temples were destroyed but the secular brigade and the secular media suffer from collective amnesia about it and the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmir Valley because of which Pandits are now living as refugees in camps.

The much-touted fact of Mr Advani's age also needs to be discussed. With better health care, increased longevity is now a worldwide phenomenon. There is no prescribed retirement age for politicians anywhere. The guiding criteria are their acceptability and their state of health. Unlike many political leaders a few years younger to him, Mr Advani continues to be in the pink of health.

Bhishma Pitamah led an army at the battle of Kurukshetra and Mahapurush Shankardev led a spiritual, intellectual and social revolution in Assam during the medieval era. They were then both over 100 years old. Veer Kuer Singh successfully led a 1,000-mile-long military campaign in 1857 when he was past 80. Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan was in failing health and approaching 80 when he led the movement for restoration of democracy. Undue emphasis need not be given to Mr Advani's age.

No one is better suited than Mr Advani to revive the party and ensure that a bipolar polity gets firmly established in our country. If Mr Advani declines to meet this challenge, he will be doing great disservice to his party and to his country. Indian democracy will be doomed to one party and one family rule for ever. That may spell the end of democracy in India.







It exhibits a perversion of mind to deceive desperately anxious families with reassurances after killing others in a ruthless and calculated act of terror. It takes monumental cynicism to declare that they are willing to talk and negotiate with the Government after boasting that the biggest ever operation, Venus, has been launched in an act of war against the State.

The Maoists have done just that. First there was the attack on the police station at Sankrail in West Midnapore, close to the Orissa and Jharkhand borders, in which two policemen were killed and one other abducted on Tuesday. That same evening, Maoist leader Kishenji alias Koteswar Rao, assured the family of the abducted man, Officer in-charge of the Sankrail police station, Atindranath Dutta, that he would be released on condition that the family succeeded in persuading the West Bengal Government to call off the joint security operations underway since June in Lalgarh in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts of the State.

The pitiless exploitation of Dutta family's fear by the Maoists is a measure of their ruthlessness. It would require extraordinary courage for the Dutta family to grasp that the promises made by Kishenji, could be deliberate falsehood.

Obviously the Maoists are persuasive. Equally obviously there are people willing to be persuaded. Even more obviously the Maoists and those who buy their line have common hate objects; in West Bengal it is the CPI(M). Therefore, the Maoists build bridges with people, organisations who serve their purpose. For the Maoists are ruthless — their purpose matters, not the means. If using Dutta's family serves to relieve the pressure of an increasingly successful security operation against the Maoists, so be it.

If the Maoists wanted to parley for peace, then why did they attack the police station, loot a bank and declare that Operation Venus was a full-fledged war that would be pursued with military tactics and obviously the capacity to inflict death and damage on a war-like scale? After killing two colleagues of Dutta, presumably in an act of war, what credibility do the Maoists have when they assure Dutta's family that he would be safe? For the desperately anxious family, the assurance of safety, if it could fulfil the conditions laid down by the Maoists, is a straw to clutch. After the Taliban style beheading of Sub-Inspector Francis Induwar in Jharkhand, can the Maoists be relied upon to keep their word?

For, the Maoists are being squeezed. West Bengal is just one front. Leaders of the CPI (Maoists) have been picked up from New Delhi, Jamshedpur and clearly the noose is tightening around them. The appeal to negotiate by the man named 'Ganapati' echoed by Kishenji and emphasised by the abduction of Dutta is an indication that the security operations have made it difficult for the Maoists to function.

However, negotiating peace with the Maoists is a risky proposition.For there is no space with commonly agreed boundaries, rules and values within which the Maoists and the State can jointly operate. Maoist politics is based on waging war against the State. Maoists reject the Constitution of India even though they declare themselves patriots. The Maoists do not accept and certainly do not respect the rules under which Government in the State and the Government of India function, because the democratic system through which Governments are elected is an unacceptable form of democracy.

Maoist justice is different from the institutionalised arrangements and the norms contained therein of justice within which the rest of India's civilian population functions. Maoist justice can drag out and kill a school teacher in front of his class because he has identified as a "police informer." A child can be burnt to death along with her mother because the father was a "CPI(M)" supporter. Maoist justice, according to the West Bengal police, has killed over 80 people in the past one year, most of the killings have taken place in the last six months.

Maoist justice can siphon out, according to the Union Ministry for Rural Development, an estimated Rs 10,000-15,000 crore from the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. The money has gone to feed a killing machine that has declared itself at war against the State for the exploitation of the poorest. According to the Maoists, they are liberators of the exploited from the clutches of bourgeois landlords, who collude with the capitalists to deprive "indigenous" and "forest" people of their ancient way of life.

For the Maoists, human rights are violated when their cadre are picked up by the police, when their activists are injured in police action, when "forest people" and the "tribals" are "exploited" by the bourgeois political and economic order of which the Governments are servants. Others, including the men, women and children, even students working with Jean Dreze in Jharkhand killed by the Maoists, exploited by them have no rights because they are not human enough. To be human and to have rights, the poor must owe allegiance to the Maoists otherwise they are collaborators of the bourgeois system.

Antagonists of the State and by default apologists for the Maoists, from actor Aparna Sen to the permanent voice of protest Mahashweta Devi, have decried police action against innocent tribals in Lalgarh. They along with the Union Minister for Railways have called for the withdrawal of security forces and the end of the joint operation in the forest areas of West Midnapore, Banukra and Purulia. They and Ms Mamata Banerjee have called for the ouster of the State Government, an end to the persecution of the Peoples Committee against Police Atrocities leader Chatradhar Mahato.

And now, even as the rest of India tensely waits for the outcome of the abduction of Dutta, the Minister for Railways has once again questioned the legitimacy of the security operation.







The recent unrest among the tribals of Koraput district, particularly in Narayanpatna block, in Orissa has received great attention. The tribal outfit known as Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha has raised a century-old 'land issue' of tribals of Koraput region. The CMAS members are reclaiming the land from the landlords of the area and their argument is that the land was belonging to them and they are cheated by the landlords. They have occupied around 5,000 acres of private land and redistributed among the landless tribals of the area. Several non-tribal families have left their villages in fear of attack.

As usual the administration is giving assurance to solve the land dispute at the earliest opportunity. But, the struggle and the violence are gradually spreading to nearby areas. Unfortunately, although Koraput is the part of famous KBK Plan/Long Term Action Plan, there are no steps planned to solve this core issue of tribals.

This is not the first tribal uprising in the history of Koraput. In the past, each decade has witnessed some kind of uprising and violence but without any substantial changes at ground level. The land issue of the tribals of Koraput is complex, the result of centuries-old negligence of the revenue administration. In order to understand the present land issue of the Koraput region there is need to understand the history of Koraput and land revenue administration background from the kings and zamindars to the present political regime.

From the 15th century until the British period, a line of kings and zamindars were in the area. The land revenue administration was the ancient feudal system. The British first established a factory in 1682 at Visakhapatnam, which became an entry point to the Koraput region.

The British entry into the tribal land was not smooth and there were many uprisings by the hill people during the colonial rule. The only interest of the British was to collect revenue from the land and exploit the forest resources. In order to increase the land revenue, they introduced many Acts but there was no attempt to simplify the land revenue system. Under the terms of the permanent settlement of the British, the feudal estate was more powerful and the feudal system was reinforced.

A new chapter in the history of Jeypore was began when the district of Koraput was formed and incorporated in the new Orissa province on April 1, 1936. For the first time in 1938, there was a survey and record of rights operations carried out in the district in small scale.

After independence, the survey settlement process started from 1951 and continued up to 1964. The initial euphoria of independence melted down very soon as there was no end of exploitation of tribals by the powerful people. The issue of land again cropped up in the area in different forms with uprisings, some violent and some non-violent.

The first uprising after independence came in 1951, in Gunupur area under the leadership of Biswanath Patnaik, also known as Koraput Gandhi. After a long self-analysis and reflection, Patnaik started Bhoo Satyagraha. Without wasting time, he started organising tribals in the 30-35 villages of Gunupur region and a land committee was formed. During the Bhoo Satyagraha, the satyagrahis used to request the people who had occupied their land to move, file cases against them and made the whole list of encroached land. If the case could not be resolved within two or three hearings, the tribals used to declare and occupy their land.

By the end of 1970, the radical communist ideology had started capturing the minds of the poor. Patnaik maintained that if the problems had been solved with genuineness, tribals would have never adopted violent tactics.

Vinoba Bhave entered Orissa with his Bhoodan thought, but not much could be done in Koraput district. The Bhoodan Yagna movement initiated in 1955 in the district and as per Government records, nearly 1,65,260 acres of land were donated in the district. The Orissa Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1953 was further amended to become the Orissa Bhoodan and Gramdan Act, 1971. However, in Koraput region, noble thought failed to solve the land issue.

In 1967, 1999, 2000 and 2004, there were uprisings against the powerful landlords, particularly in the Gudari area. The discontent became violent many times and there was loss of valuable lives. Since the British period, the response of the administration to the uprising of tribals was to suppress them with power and violence. That practice is still followed today. Four mega-dams (Machhkund, Kolab, Chitrakonda and Indravati) and two projects (HAL and Nalco) added to the existing land issues of the tribals. The lack of land-to-land rehabilitation policy increased the landlessness. Large-scale commercial plantation such as cashew, eucalyptus and sisal on the common property resources and on the so-called encroachment land further alienated the poor tribals from their land.

Due to the uprisings and discontent people's movements, many land reform Acts were enacted in the 1950s and 1960s. Among them are Orissa Estate Abolition Act, 1952, Orissa Government Land Settlement Act, 1962, Orissa Prevention of Land Encroachment Act, 1972, OPLE Rules, 1985, Regulation 2 of 1956 as amended in 2002, Regulation 1 of 2000, Section 23 and 23-A of Orissa Land Reforms Act, 1960 Distribution of Surplus Land and Orissa Estate Abolition Act, 1951.

The ceiling laws came into force with effect from September 26, 1970 but practically, the ceiling surplus land was not in the possession of the poor tribals in the area. The Regulation 2 of 1956 was not strictly followed and there was unholy nexus of vested interest groups. As a result, a large amount of Scheduled Tribe land was transferred to non-tribal people.

In spite of legislations and schemes and all Government records, ground realities are different. In many studies it was revealed that the homestead land which was distributed to families was either unsuitable for homestead or was never demarcated. The recent computerisation of old land records without updation is not at all a step towards materialisation of land issues.

Immigration started from the kings' period and there was large-scale immigration from 1932 following the opening of Raipur-Vizianagaram railway line. It is very clear that the inflow of immigrants into the region from other areas has increased the land issue in the area.

In the recent past, the inflow of population has increased manifold and in future it is likely to grow with the mining and other so-called development activities. In this situation, there is a need to have special protection and the political will to safeguard the interest of the tribal people, particularly the land resource.

Recently, the State Government became very active after the Narayanpatna uprising but present initiatives of the Government will not solve the regional land issues. In 1932, there was an uprising in Narayanpatna and it re-visited in 2009. The core land issue of the region is the redistribution of land, for this there is need for a new law with the intent to implement. The existing laws will not solve the issue. To solve the land issue, there is need to think radically. Just to keep it under the carpet is a temporary measure and the problem will crop up again in the near future in a different form.

Koraput region was declared as backward in 1919. In 1993, the famous KBK programme was launched. Surprisingly, one will not find any measures or plans on the fundamental issue of land under the KBK Yojana. In the meantime, 90 years have passed since the region was declared backward. There are many programmes, schemes, Acts, laws and reforms but the basic issue is still to be resolved. In the coming KBK Plan there is a need to address this core issue of 'land'.

Bidyut Mohanty works for land-related issues and K Anuradha is a research scholar at the Utkal University.








THE Supreme Court's refusal to order an independent or CBI inquiry into the mysterious death of PF scam main accused Ashutosh Asthana in Dasna jail is unfortunate.


Everything about the death of Mr Asthana on Saturday is fishy. By holding that there was no need for a ' parallel' inquiry since a judicial probe had already been announced into his death, the apex court has overlooked the fact that the PF scam case was handed over to the CBI on its directive. The Ghaziabad police was thought unequal to the task. In fact, the SC has been considering transferring the case to a Delhi court on the grounds that it implicates judicial officers of Uttar Pradesh who could possibly influence its course in Ghaziabad.


The SC's latest stand runs counter to this wisdom. We will now have a judicial magistrate probing Mr Asthana's death which could possibly implicate members of his own professional fraternity. As it is, it is unseemly to ask a humble judicial officer to probe a case with possible links to a high- profile corruption case in which a sitting Supreme Court judge, and 12 high court judges are implicated.


Also, let us not forget that there is a difference between a judicial probe and investigation by the CBI. The former looks into procedures and existing evidence, while the latter actively seeks out information and evidence through forensic and other means. The SC has said that it would wait for the judicial probe report before it decides the next course of action. What it has overlooked is that in the two months that pass before the report is submitted, vital evidence that could be picked up by crime investigators would be lost, reducing the chances of the guilty being caught in the event that Mr Asthana was indeed murdered.







BHARATIYA Janata Party president Rajnath Singh's act of forcing the pilot of his chartered aircraft to take off in darkness from a small airport in Jharkhand smacks of irresponsibility of the highest order.


News reports suggest that the pilot was faced with a no- choice situation where Mr.Singh and his companions' political clout overrode all other considerations. These included the strict Directorate General of Civil Aviation guidelines which state that no night flying is allowed from uncontrolled airstrips unless both the aircraft, as well as the runway, are equipped to handle flights after sunset.


That the entire local BJP set- up was pressed into action to enable Mr Singh to fly by lighting the airstrip with jeep headlights goes to show how sycophancy trumps common sense in our politicians.


It is providential that nothing untoward happened despite the high- risk tak











EVERYTHING seems to be tentative about the Pakistan Army's Rah e Nijat ( Path to Salvation) operation. It was launched after several months of dithering and carried out after the Army cut deals with two powerful Taliban warlords. Even now, it is not clear as to whether the Army launched the operation to salvage its wounded pride after the recent Taliban attack on the General Headquarters at Rawalpindi, or it is acting under American pressure. Or, that it has now finally come to believe that Pakistan's deliverance lies in abandoning the sponsorship of terrorist groups.


At the start of the operation, the Pakistan Army chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani has tried to wean away the Mehsud tribe from the Tehreek- e- Taliban Pakistan by appealing to their patriotism. He can be forgiven for his caution. You don't make war with your people lightly, especially if they happen to be Mehsuds who have in the past several years compelled the Pakistan Army to sue for peace thrice, and in the past century given great grief to a succession of armies.


Reasonable people will agree that the operation is truly Pakistan's path to salvation. For years now the writ of the state has ceased to run in large parts of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas ( FATA). Craven peace deals with various Taliban factions have ensured that while Pakistan's garrisons in towns like Razmak, Wana and Miramshah remained untouched, the surrounding country- side fell under the control of the Taliban.


No war goes according to plan. Most likely this war, too, will end up with unanticipated twists and turns. But the goal that the world community seeks is the destruction of the Taliban as a whole. That is where there are worries about the Pakistani action.


Last year a similar operation was launched against Baitullah Mehsud and then called off suddenly without any explanation.



This time, too, there are questions about the Pakistani goals. They have, for example, made peace with two major Taliban factions led by Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur and ignored the Haqqani network which has been operating out of North Waziristan for close to a decade now.


As is well known, the Pakistani authorities retain close links with the Haqqanis — Jalaluddin and his son Sirajuddin — who were involved in the Kabul bombing of the Indian embassy last year.


If the deals are tactical — aimed at keeping these powerful warlords out of the battle temporarily — they are understandable. But if they are aimed at destroying the anti- Pakistani Taliban, even while preserving the others as part of the Pakistan Army's " strategic" depth, then we have reasons for concern.


The US cannot be too happy about these deals because it knows that nearly fifty percent of the Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders it has killed through drone strikes were in the areas controlled by Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur. As for the Haqqanis, they lead the most effective Taliban forces operating against the US in Afghanistan.


The Pakistan Army has to beware that it does not become the Taliban's " strategic depth". The Taliban of today are not those of 2001. The war they have fought for the last decade has, if anything, deepened their fanaticism and hatred of the US and the West. They no longer require the services of the ISI to lead them into battle as they once did. Not only are they a much more seasoned fighting force, one that is deeply intertwined with the Al Qaeda, they have also expanded their sway across large parts of Pakistan which was not the case earlier.



The recent attacks in Lahore and at the GHQ indicate that there is very little wriggle room left for the Pakistan Army and establishment.


The recent spate of terrorist attacks in the Pakistan Punjab have showed that the Taliban have the capacity to attack at will across urban centres of Pakistan's heartland. It also indicated that the outfit had developed links with the so- called Punjabi Taliban — the Lashkar- e- Jhangvi, Jaishe- Muhammad and the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba. These organisations have in their own way eaten away at the vitals of the state.


Despite a spate of terrorist attacks, some whose authorship the Pakistani Taliban has openly acknowledged, there are people ready to point fingers at India or the US. Last week in the wake of the Taliban attack on three police targets in Lahore, the city's police commissioner Khushro Pervez declared, " The enemy has engaged us in the North West Frontier Province and other areas… There is a lot of evidence showing the involvement of a neighbouring country." Interior Minister Rehman Malik, too, hinted at the Indian connection. Important sections of Pakistan remain in denial about their predicament.


Savage terrorist attacks have hurt Pakistan grievously. The country is stunned and confused. The reason for this is that its leaders, political and military, are not willing to change the discourse of jihad that they encouraged for the past two decades, leave alone dismantle the jihadi armies that have a free run of the country.


Meanwhile there are also military questions about the ability of the Pakistan Army to prevail in Waziristan.


Pakistan has a competent and capable army, but one devoid of any counter- insurgency experience. This was evident in its actions against the Baloch separatists in 2006 and, recently in Swat where it used air and artillery strikes liberally.


In Waziristan, too, Pakistan is relying on aerial bombardment to overwhelm the Mehsuds. This will only result in great destruction and a hardening of attitudes, without any diminution of Taliban military capabilities.


This has been the experience of air power since the Great Blitz of London in 1940 and most recently in Gaza.



Perhaps the most accurate instruments of aerial bombardment are the American Predator and Reaper drones being used in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. Yet a New America Foundation analysis released in Washington this week suggests that of the 1000 or so people killed in drone strikes since 2006, as many as 320 or one- third, have been innocent civilians.


You can make your own back- ofthe- envelope calculation about the number of civilians being killed by the less accurate aerial bombardment currently under way in Waziristan.


Islamabad is using air and artillery fire- power to minimise the use of boots on the ground. But insurgencies can never be defeated this way. Mountains and insurgencies gobble up human resources in large quantities — camps and supply lines need to be guarded, convoys, administrative offices and centres protected. Search and destroy operations require ridgelines and passes to be held and so on.


As of now the Pakistani strategy seems to be to capture Hakimullah Mehsud's hometown Kotkai, probably flatten his home and declare victory.


If that is so, then it is going to be a much longer war than what the Pakistan GHQ has anticipated.








INDIA'S most successful experiment in urban development — Chandigarh — is beginning to show a dirty underbelly.


An ongoing row between Punjab Governor- cum-Chandigarh's Administrator, Gen (retd) S F Rodrigues and the

city's powerful elite points to a web of administrative violations, ego clashes and unseemly attempts to settle personal scores.


Rodrigues appears isolated as the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) entrusts an inquiry to CBI for looking into land deals during his tenure. An MHA audit report also picks apart the real estate projects executed in this period.


As a reaction to it, he has actually named two union ministers — Minister of State for Finance Pawan Bansal and Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni — for putting him and his tenure under a cloud.


He publicly said that Bansal had a stake in the DPS Society, managed by Ambika Soni's husband in Chandigarh. They were opposing him since he objected to the minister's project. His outburst, perhaps a sign of his desperation, was also aimed at the city's top bureaucrat — Advisor Pradeep Mehra — who he claimed was a "mole and incompetent."


Rodrigues' severe reaction has come at a time when his fiveyear- term as the UT's administrator is drawing to a close. He demits office on November 16.


Whoever the real culprit here, there is no denying that some private real estate developers had their way in the execution of their dream projects. The projects hit a road block after Mehra expressed doubts about the " murky" land deals and sought a CBI probe into the Filmcity and Theme Park projects, announced in 2006.


A displeased Rodrigues initiated vigilance inquiries against Mehra and divested him of the power to write ACRs of his subordinate officers. Meanwhile, the CVC initiated a probe into the matter in December 2008.


The ugly spat had another fallout. The MHA mooted a proposal for divesting the Punjab Governor of the additional charge of Chandigarh's administrator and posting a chief commissioner under its direct control. Chandigarh was governed by a chief commissioner till 1984. The move has had its share of opposition from various quarters. The Congress' opponent in Punjab, the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, has already taken up the issue with the Prime Minister.


The most interesting part of the spat has been the silence maintained by Rodrigues' bête noire and advisor Pradeep Mehra. His daily ritual of taking a stroll beside the Sukhna Lake went on uninterrupted even as he stuck to his " nothing to say on this" stand. But, some obvious leaks to the media kept surprising people whenever the general took any action against him.


There is also another side to the controversy. The spat between Rodrigues and Mehra has benefitted some " close confidants" of Rodrigues. While Gen Rodrigues was battling Mehra, his " lieutenants" conveniently moved on and took up coveted assignments elsewhere.

Now, Rodrigues claims that he will not lobby for an extension as Administrator. Having been at the centre of an ugly spat with a colleague and mired in controversies, he will not get an extension in any case.


For the common man in Chandigarh, Rodrigues had come with a clean image. But somehow, many assert, they found him acting less like a disciplined armyman and more like a politician.



THE YOUTH in Punjab's small town of Fazilka have initiated a move to restore Badha Lake — a wetland fallen to encroachers — to its past glory. On October 24, school children in the town situated near the Radcliffe line will pour water into the dry lake bed. It will be a reminder to the older generation that their silence has caused a major ecological damage to the town and the region.


Till 1960, the lake had water and birds from Siberia would come there. It was also a breeding ground for fish.

Between 1844 and 1946, the lake was the major source of drinking water for the town.


But, it is dry now. Encroachers thrive on its banks and the mafia sells the sand on its bed.


The Indus Water Treaty in 1960 spelt doom for the lake. The Central Water Commission truncated the Sutlej river at Suleimanki Head Works for diverting water to the Thar Desert, leaving it dry.


The diversion has made the horseshoe lake fluoride- ridden, with an increase in the dissolved solids in the groundwater.


The initiative to save the lake has been mooted by Fazilka's Graduates Welfare Association, Indian Youth Climate Network and 350. org.



SOME paragliding enthusiasts have given jugaad ( innovation) a new name in Punjab.


Using a tractor driven indigenously innovated winch machine, they have been soaring high, literally. After trials and hiccups for over a decade, their efforts have borne fruit.


As they hold an adventure camp this week at Charewan- Jhabelwali village in Muktsar district, an individual who goes by the name of Jagjit Singh Mann is celebrating his achievement of introducing what is essentially a mountain sport in the plains.


He nurtured a dream of starting a paragliding facility in Punjab after he participated in Paragliding Pre- World Cup 2002 in Himachal Pradesh. But it was not possible to introduce the sport in the plains with meagre money and little help from any quarter.


Then they tried tapping local resources. The police gave them an old tractor which they modified to fit a winch.

Then they founded Mohimbaz Institute, Muktsar, and pooled in money for buying gliders.


Mann reveals that things have got better as Nehru Yuva Kendra has started sponsoring campers. Jagjit Singh Mann now plans to set up an adventure sports academy in Muktsar and is looking to the government for help.


FINALLY, good sense has prevailed among Jats in Haryana over the issue of honour killings.

Advocating a flexible approach and urging the community to move ahead with the changing times, Jat representatives are gathering in Chandigarh for deliberations on this issue next month. The Federation of Jat Institutions, an umbrella body of 12 Jat groups, opines that the community should look at the functioning of khap ( caste) panchayats in a wider and modern perspective.


People have started raising their voice against the violent reaction of khap panchayats to love marriages in Haryana.


Haryana's former DGP M S Malik, the president of the federation, says that marriages in nearby villages and outside the caste should not be opposed.


No one should be allowed to take the law into their hands. The panchayats in the state force at least a dozen couples to leave their villages or order their killing every year. Malik wants deliberations on the subject, hoping to find out ways to deal with panchayats.


SOME students at one of Punjab's business schools were discussing the management skills of members of the state's first family. " They have inherent management skills," remarked a student.


" Look at the way they have been managing their transport business. The buses are well maintained, they are always on time. They have taken care of passenger comfort.


You travel in comfort and tend to forget that you are actually travelling in Punjab," supported another one. " Wish they could utilise their management skills to run the state as well," came a voice from the group.








THIS is with reference to the Question of the Day ' Are dedicated traffic lanes for the 2010 Commonwealth Games a good idea' ( October 21). Delhi Police's latest scheme for providing dedicated lanes for the Commonwealth Games is a good idea, provided it is strictly enforced and is backed up with sound logistics and the latest technology.


In the recent past, a majority of well- intentioned traffic schemes floated by Delhi Police have come a cropper due to lax enforcement. The much touted ' Pedestrian Safety Week' failed to make any impact on motorists, and shocking cases of slanting traffic on the straight zebra- crossings was a common sight everywhere.


As a result, the common public is forced to cross roads at great peril to their lives. Pedestrian safety is not even an issue with traffic cops, who would rather chat endlessly on their cell phones rather than booking traffic violators.

In the past too, Delhi's traffic police had launched special drives to tackle various traffic violations. However, the ground reality is totally different and blatant violations are the order of the day.


Of course, mute notice boards at all traffic islands cajoling motorists to give way to pedestrians and to stick to their lanes are intact. But does anybody notice them? Blue Line buses, auto- rickshaw and call- centre taxis are a law unto themselves, and believe that stopping anywhere and everywhere is their birthright, regardless of other moving traffic.


Most bus- shelters are illegally occupied by squatters, hawkers and autorickshaw drivers, and thus the common public is often forced to stand in the middle of road to board buses. The need of the hour is strict enforcement of traffic laws, and the city traffic police should be proactive in reining in the violators.


L. K. Chawla via email




MAIL TODAY columnist Bharat Wariavwalla has made a major blunder in his article ' The Nobel Peace Prize for Obama could help promote nuclear disarmament' ( October 21).


He states that Polish labour leader and later head of state Lech Walesa never received the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is wrong. In fact, he was awarded the prize in 1983. In this day and age when information is available at the click of a mouse, it is indeed surprising that such a major error has been allowed to mar the credibility of an edit page article.


Ramesh Kumar via email



APROPOS of Dinesh C. Sharma's ' Fusion the master key for energy problem' ( October 21), following the first claim made in the Fleischmann- Pons experiment in March 1989 about cold fusion that ended in a fiasco, another claim was made in 2006 by an Indian American physicist Rusi P. Taleyarkhan of Purdue University.


Sono- fusion or bubblefusion— blasting liquid acetone enriched in deuterium with ultrasound also generated fusion energy.

As a result of the tiny acetone bubbles imploding [ acoustic cavitations], the experiment has yet to be replicated. It seems that only hot nuclear fusion, using heavy hydrogen isotopes [ deuterium and tritium], and mimicking what the sun does, has the potential to yield large amounts of energy.


R. K. Malhotra via email








The Ghaziabad provident fund (PF) scam, in which 37 judges including a sitting Supreme Court judge were allegedly involved in siphoning off several crores from the PF account of court employees, keeps getting murkier. The main accused and key witness, Ashutosh Asthana, died mysteriously in jail on Saturday. Four days later, the police are clueless about how he died. The post-mortem the police got done has not revealed the cause of death, prompting the Supreme Court to order the CBI to conduct fresh tests. The apex court has also ordered a separate magisterial enquiry to be completed in eight weeks.

Since as many as 37 judges are accused in the Ghaziabad scam, it is imperative that investigations into Asthana's death are given the highest priority. According to his wife, Asthana had feared for his life even as he was in custody. Furthermore, it seems he filed two affidavits last year. In the first, he had confessed to carrying out the scam on his own. A few hours later in another affidavit he said he had been forced to make the earlier confession. While the truth behind Asthana's assertions needs to be verified, it once again underscores the need for better witness protection. In several high-profile cases, including the Jessica Lal murder, investigations have hit a wall after witnesses turned hostile. One of the reasons for this is inadequate protection for witnesses which often leads to them withdrawing testimony under pressure.

Asthana's death has dealt a blow to investigations into the Ghaziabad scam. But no effort must be spared to get to the bottom of the scam for it involves the credibility of the judiciary. The Indian judiciary, which citizens trust more than the other branches of government, has been rocked by several scandals in recent times. During the past few months, members of the higher judiciary, including a former chief justice of India, have been accused of corruption and financial impropriety. The controversy over the proposed elevation of Justice P D Dinakaran to the Supreme Court, despite allegations of corruption against him, is yet to die down. So there is a real need to weed out corrupt judges.

There have been demands for the inquiry into Asthana's death to be conducted by a senior retired police officer instead of a Ghaziabad judicial officer since so many judges are accused in the case. There is some merit in this argument. The Supreme Court has, however, responded by saying we should have faith in a judicial inquiry. We can only hope that the unfortunate death of Asthana will help speed up investigations into the Ghaziabad scam.







At a time when Indian airlines are still recovering from the twin shocks of high fuel prices two years ago and the global economic slowdown, the Indian government should be making things easier for them, not perpetuating policies that penalise domestic carriers. Yet, it appears to be doing exactly the reverse.

Currently, only Indian airlines that have been operating for more than five years and have 20 aircraft or more are allowed to fly on foreign routes. But the same rule doesn't apply to foreign carriers, who can fly into India as start-ups even if they have just one plane at their disposal. This lopsided policy - a strange form of reverse protectionism - prevents India's low-cost, no-frill airlines from cashing in on the lucrative foreign travel sector. Result? Nearly two-thirds of the international traffic in and out of India has been cornered by foreign airlines.

Only three Indian airlines are allowed to operate foreign flights - the state-owned Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. Air India's near-monopoly over foreign flights has fed into its overall inefficiency, as a parliamentary standing committee on transport has pointed out. The panel, in its examination of the troubled Maharajah's cost-cutting plan, noticed that Air India made the decision to stop operating several profitable routes and to reschedule certain routes in such a way that foreign carriers were able to take advantage. That's not only an example of Air India's haphazard way of running, it could also be illustrative of what happens when government tries to skew the playing field in its favour. Restrictions may have been placed on nimble, low-cost private airlines to limit competition for the public sector behemoth. The only ones to gain, however, are foreign airlines.

Not only should the government rationalise its policies to ensure that the same rules apply to foreign and domestic carriers, it should do so in a way that encourages competition rather than stifles it. The government should not make it more difficult for foreign carriers like Air Arabia and Air Asia to operate in India, but rather make it easier for Indian airlines to fly foreign routes. Low-cost carriers have, to a certain degree, already revolutionised long haul flights by making far-flung destinations more accessible to travellers than ever before. The government should act quickly to allow airlines to operate freely. Open and competitive skies would benefit both the consumer and the airline industry.







Two statements stand out in the slugfest between the organising committee of the Delhi Commonwealth Games and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). The first, V K Malhotra's, was a timely reminder that the Games aren't 'imperial' anymore. They are the games of the independent nations of the 'commonwealth'. The second was that of India's lone Olympic gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra. He lamented the disappearance of the athlete from the Games radar and urged the organisers to turn their focus on athletes.

Interestingly, more than feats of excellence, it is the enmeshing of sport and politics, evident in Delhi, that catapulted the Games to a position of significance in the global sporting hierarchy. Never have the Commonwealth Games been able to match the Olympics or even the world championships in yardsticks of sporting excellence. So much so that at Brisbane in 1982, the 1,500 metres women's gold medallist from Britain was a staggering 16 seconds off the world record, drawing attention to the standard of competition at the Commonwealth Games. At the same event, Kirsty Mcdermott of Wales won the women's 800 metres with a timing of 2.01.23 seconds, slower than what Dixie Willis, who gave her the medal, had clocked in 1962.

Even the Games' changing nomenclature has political significance. From 'Empire Games' which began as a celebration of empire sport in 1930, the Games were christened the 'British Empire and Commonwealth Games' in 1954, with a series of former colonies winning independence in the 1930s and 1940s. Finally, with empire firmly a thing of the past by the 1970s, the name changed to 'Commonwealth Games'.

In fact, the very origin of the Games was rooted in political expediency. The Empire Games idea gathered strength in the 1920s when a plan was mooted to set empire athletes against the Americans who by then had established a stranglehold over the Olympics. Unlike in the 19th century, when Britain was considered the epicentre of sporting achievement, the balance of power had moved to the US by the second decade of the 20th century. The shift spurred a defensive reaction calling for a separate sports competition for empire countries, one devoid of the excesses of competition and commercialisation integral to the growing cult of the Olympics as the ultimate platform for sporting excellence. The founding fathers of the Commonwealth Games criticised the cult of unhealthy competition manifested in the desperation to win medals encouraged by Olympic organisers.

That political contingency was key to the organisation of the Games was evident from the official document drafted at the time of its inauguration. It stated: "The Games will be very different, free from both the excessive stimulus and the babel of the international stadium. They should be merrier and less stern, and will substitute the stimulus of a novel adventure for the pressure of international rivalry."

Moving forward, by opposing the growing apartheid menace in the 1960s and 1970s, the Commonwealth Games left an indelible mark on history. More than in the realm of sports competition, where it was always a distant second to the Olympics, world championships and subsequently the pan-American Games and Asian Games, it was by trying to resist political ills through sport that the Games offered a voice to millions who were discriminated against in their home countries. Acts like these transcended the sporting barrier, giving the Games their true relevance.

Knowing that it is impossible for Commonwealth athletes to match the standard of the Olympics, the CGF has over the years resorted to multiple innovations to help the Games retain a separate identity. With this view, athletes with disabilities were invited to take part in the Victoria Games of 1994. This decision sparked a major controversy when the Australian chef de mission Arthur Turnstall called it an "embarrassment". Though he offered an unconditional apology soon after, he found himself in the eye of a storm. His statement came as a severe blow to the 'friendly games'. And it once again fuelled debate on whether the Games were turning out to be 'white elephants' with little sporting significance, a debate that has continued ever since.

In light of this history, it can be argued that what is happening in Delhi is only natural. With a former colony-turned-rising superpower trying to assert itself on the world stage, ego battles are inevitable. The sporting event, it is time to understand, has to do with a rising India and its global power projection. When Pranab Mukherjee presented the budget for 2009-10, he was clear on this: "The Commonwealth Games present the country with an opportunity to showcase our potential as an emerging Asian power." So, the finance minister pumped another Rs 1,360 crore into the Games budget, now at a massive Rs 70,000-plus crore. Any attempt by the Games Federation's CEO to act in a patronising manner was sure to provoke a retort. It's the reactions that make these Games what they are: a significant political playing field in our changing global hierarchy.

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.






Ministers, it seems, don't take long to disown radical proposals. Kapil Sibal, Union minister for human resources development, has clarified that it was his personal view that IIT hopefuls should get around 80-85 per cent in class XII exams. This wasn't the government's stand. He's also made it clear that the government doesn't plan to intervene in IIT admissions. The problem is that the minister's earlier pronouncements created such commotion that a spectrum of political leaders and educationists came out in public against the 'proposal'.

A day before Sibal's controversy-generating remarks, Jairam Ramesh, Union minister for environment and forests, made a departure from the government's stated position on climate change negotiations. In a confidential note, he advised the prime minister that India must reconsider its current international position.
The dramatic turnaround proposed by Ramesh, even though in a note to the PM, had major repercussions coming ahead of the crucial Copenhagen summit on climate change. The damage has been done even though the minister has now backtracked in the face of considerable criticism.

Such ministerial flip-flops show the government in a bad light. Rightly or wrongly, they give the impression that ministers are quick to make suggestions without having thought them through. The argument trotted out later, that these are personal views, doesn't hold ground. Sibal and Ramesh are part of the cabinet and they are expected to represent the government's views. They are expected to formulate public policy. What they think in private is immaterial for the public. It is important ministers thrash out their differences within the government before taking positions on any issue.

A considered view formulated after sufficient discussions within the government is what citizens expect from ministers. To see them make recommendations that appear to run counter to existing public policies gives the impression that major policy changes are in the offing, or else that the government doesn't know its own mind. Ministers must take the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet seriously and act accordingly.







What's common between Jairam Ramesh and Kapil Sibal, apart from high profile ministerships? Well, they share the ignominious title of ''flip-flopper''. The former reportedly made suggestions which, if officially adopted, mean radical departures from India's known take on climate change cooperation. The latter's said to have suggested that less than 80-85 per cent in class XII exams wouldn't cut it for IIT aspirants. Facing howls of protest, both apparently 'backtracked'. Ramesh claims he'd only speculated on the possibility of "flexibility'' in climate change diplomacy. Sibal says his remarks were twisted to denote an actual proposal on IIT eligibility criteria. Given the contrived nature of the controversy, the "flipfloppers" are more sinned against than sinning.

Why must every ministerial pronouncement, verbal or in writing, bear the government's imprimatur? If ministers speak in myriad cacophonic voices or even at cross purposes at times, that only mirrors our messy tropical democracy. Ministers should be men who float ideas, not ventriloquists' dummies. Is there a commandment that their soundbytes must toe the official line at all times to not be dismissed as wacko? In this case, neither leader spoke about government policy. Rather, Ramesh's note to the prime minister and Sibal's statements seemed in the nature of trial balloons. Surely there's no law against kite-flying, even if the kite-fliers happen to be Union ministers. Nor are political somersaults proscribed. If they were, most netas would be out of business.

If anything, issues should be subject to as wide a public debate as possible before the final policymaking stage. Climate change and education are major public interest areas. What's wrong if people get a whiff of divergent viewpoints in government circles? Besides, let's stop being naive. It's often conscious government policy to have ministers drop hints or bombs, if required about possible roadmaps on hot button topics. Whether or not that applies here, it's a smart strategy to test the waters of public opinion before framing official stances. Or are we to think that any policy-in-the-making should be a state secret till a decision is imposed on people as a fait accompli?







"It's so childish" and "prudes carry it" are some of the reasons our school-going pre-teens refuse to carry tiffins from home. The humble dabba or snack box has been all but relegated to antiquity, as school canteens become the latest hang-out joints. So, either kids end up wriggling out of taking tiffin to school or they bring it back without even so much as opening it or worse still, they hurriedly gulp it down when no one is looking. The massive advertising blitzkrieg undertaken by the likes of McDonald, Coke, Pepsi, Barista and Subway has been a huge success when kids the world over relate to them as being 'with it' symbols for all things gastronomic. The popping up of the familiar logos on national highways or in foreign countries is met with such relief that you wonder when it transitioned to becoming a popular sightseeing architectural wonder. This newfound loyalty notwithstanding, whatever happened to humble ghar ka khana? When did a clumsily held milkshake and an impersonal grilled sandwich in your hand become far trendier than digging into a rolled-up paratha, sabzi and chutney?

No doubt, later as these pre-teens enter adulthood they may yearn for homemade food, fed up of living on restaurants, takeaways, instant menus and pre-cooked meals. But till then, battling with children on taking tiffin to school is just not worth it unless you want a mini Mahabharata on your hands. The irony is that while the kid may warm up to the idea and deep down even know that it makes sense, she would still lack the courage to do something no one else is doing. A friend exasperatedly suggested to her daughter, ''How about becoming the trendsetter by taking really yummy stuff like spaghetti, chicken sandwiches, rolls and brownies'' to which the daughter sullenly replied with a finality that only an adolescent can demonstrate. ''I would much rather be the follower.'' Period. Schools that have canteens with an elaborate menu have kids coming with fat wallets. The concept of a snack box with a silly Mickey Mouse made on it, holding food that embarrasses you, to be eaten in the confines of a classroom, has to then be the most uncool thing in the world to do. Clearly, food has little to do with satiating appetites or eating healthy and nutritious stuff anymore. It's all about what looks cool, and snack boxes from home do not pass muster.







There seems to be no end to the self-flagellation of men. It is so persistent that that we may have to replace 'masochism' with 'manochism'. Women run down other women as a matter of routine, but they don't make a science of it. Males do, and it's now actually got a name, 'manthropology'.


Just last week, yet another study showed how modern man has become 'a complete wimp'. We didn't really need a team of researchers wasting time and funding dollars to tell us this any more than we needed ditto to tell us that gossip is great therapy, but it's important. What emerges from academia is deemed more accurate.


The latest study is by an Australian anthropologist, Peter McAllister, who has published his findings in a book titled 'Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male'. His fellowmen should revile him as a gender enemy for deploying science to rub in what wives, girl-friends and their own frustrations do every day.


According to McAllister, prehistoric man would have made our current Olympics record holders look like the Senior Citizen segment of the Mumbai Marathon. Neanderthal woman, with 10 per cent more muscle bulk than today's European male, could have put the WWE's Undertaker into a coffin faster than you can say 'rigged'. And, even a century ago, Tutsi men in a routine rite-of-passage ceremony jumped higher than Russia's Andrey Silnov did at Beijing last summer.


Dead White European Male (DWEM) used to be a derogatory term referring to the 'tradition of thought and pedagogy which stresses the importance of individual European men from the past at the expense of economic or social forces, or other groups such as non-Europeans or women'. Since male self-esteem is overwhelmingly linked to regions somewhat lowlier than the brain, DWEMology did not spell catastrophe. However, 'castratophe' has struck since the mid-1990s. Men have been hit where it hurts most, kneed in their greatest need.


A Danish study kicked it off, revealing that the human sperm count was falling faster than fig leaves in the Garden of Eden. Continuous tracking has shown that the downturn is getting worse. Clearly, there's no recovery in this package.


Cherchez la femme: the usual suspect has predictably been blamed for this emasculation, but is not the sole culprit. The long list includes tight pants, hot tubs, mobile phones, laptops, pesticides and obesity. Smoking slows down blood supply to the vital organ, and fast foods confuse it since they contain soy which mimics the female estrogen.


Then, this July, the testosterone factory was threatened not just by slowdown but imminent obsolescence. Britain's Karim Nayernia claimed to have created human sperm in his stem-cell lab.


All this made the real thing both scarce and scared. But do men as a species really have to worry about being laid off? These developments may seem like the end of the world for a gender which measures its whole in the sperm of its parts, but let me reassure it that women will not kick manhood when it is down. Magnanimous in victory, we will give men a new place at the tables which have been so deliciously turned.


We will be happy to state that males exist for purposes other than reproduction, and they can continue in their ordained role as himbos and other sex objects. We will console the weeping wimps that they should not be shattered by Dr McAllister's findings either. So what  if today's males cut such sorry figures on  track and field compared to their ancestors? Women know to their cost that, as CEO or politico, modern men are no slouches at all when it comes to muscling their way to power, fouling it up for the fair








A war of representations is underway across under-developed parts of India. On one side, projecting itself as standing for the 'invisible people', or the sub-aam admi who don't get a call-in in any democratic process, is the Communist Party of India (Maoist) playing Robin Hood and insisting that they are 'pushed into violence' by a boot-stomping State. On the other side is the Indian State, trying to reclaim representation among people across 161 of the 626 districts in India with whom it has, for all purposes, 'lost contact'. With the latest slaying of two police officers and the abduction of another in West Midnapore, West Bengal, by CPI(Maoist) extremists, we have reached another bloody chapter of this book. And there's no end to this story in sight.


To say that violence must stop from both ends is as helpful as wanting to rid the world of evil. Both the Maoists and the State are publicly pursuing this 'we have no other choice' policy. But both parties have only one real objective: to represent the 'invisible people' and in its name. And it is here that the State has a legitimate right to reclaim those people currently being used as cannon fodder. While building roads and hospitals in these undeveloped areas can nip any future extremism among the dispossessed, there is an urgency of what to do in the here and the now. Reclaiming people within the State takes time. The State, even if it is to make up for lost time, is attacked for infrastructure development and the laying of structures of governance. For all the talk about talks between the State and the CPI(Maoist), it's not as if the latter is interested to sit across a table to discuss a peaceful way out. Home Minister P. Chidambaram is pragmatic enough to know that even if demands of 'prisoners of war' being exchanged were met, it would not stop the Maoists' attempts to impose a 'class revolution' through violence. As for the Maoist claim that its war is also caused by 'noxious deals' made by the State with private companies to mine and industrialise tribal regions, such a raison de guerre is strictly for those hardwired to believe that violence is a legitimate consequence of (genuine) discontent. In any case, we don't know of any underhand industries-government nexus in the Bengal district of West Midnapore. So the Maoists' cause may well be about targeting those who don't wet their beak and aren't citizens of their parallel State.


The ball may have started rolling many moons ago because of State apathy. But the ball is now in the Maoists' court. So will they renounce violence to put the moral ball back in the State's court? Unlike those clamouring for the State not to hurt those 'little people pushed to the brink', the CPI(Maoist) is not stupid.





The Commonwealth Games 2010 is still a long way off the starting block. But the Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi is the undisputed winner of the controversy prize. In a recent broadside against the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) CEO, Mike Hooper, Mr Kalmadi described the former as useless and an impediment to the committee's functioning. Tempers have been running high over allegations that the Games are running behind schedule. But to suggest, as an Indian Olympic Association board member has done, that criticism of the preparations smacks of imperialism will do nothing to enhance India's image.

That the president of the CGF, Mike Fennell, has come out in support of Mr Hooper further diminishes the credibility of Mr Kalmadi and his supporters. It is inexplicable that Mr Kalmadi should want to open a can of worms by demanding Mr Hooper's expulsion at this late stage with officials raking up how much Mr Hooper is costing the committee to buttress their claims. India has already received a considerable amount of negative publicity both within the country and outside on the slow progress of preparations for the Games. This is the time to hunker down and get things moving as fast and smoothly as possible with the minimum distraction. The latest controversy has only focused more attention on the Games and the many lacunae in its completion so far. Differences among the many organisers should be sorted out in private and not aired in public.
Though comparisons are odious, we ought to have learnt a lesson from the Chinese whose planning and execution of a mega event like the Olympics went off as smooth as silk.

From the word go, the Commonwealth Games 2010 has been mired in misunderstandings and controversies.
Even if these disputes are resolved and the Games go off well, there will be a lack of confidence in India's ability to host such events in future. The public would be happier with a regular update on the progress of the infrastructure for the Games than be subjected to such mudslinging. The attack on Mr Hooper conveys the impression, whether rightly or wrongly, that Mr Kalmadi is looking for a scapegoat. This is hardly an advertisement for a country that claims that it is up there with the best of them in any arena.
Clearly, it is time to show a little more sporting spirit if we are to get the Games off the ground without further hitches.






Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi 'Twitter' Tharoor has some tough competition these days. After entertaining us for a few weeks with tweetliners and his wry sense of humour, he's has been dethroned by two of his Cabinet colleagues: Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh and Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal. The two irrepressible ministers seem to have stolen Mr Tharoor's thunder with their quote-a-minute propensities.


While Mr Ramesh allegedly proposed a new Indian stand on climate change, Mr Sibal reportedly made a similarly radical comment on cut-off marks for IITs. Both, of course, did not lose much time to retract their comments. Both blamed journalists for not understanding their 'nuanced' stance on these issues. How true. How on earth would journalists understand the meaning behind the meaning of a straightforward press conference (in Mr Sibal's case) and a letter written (in Mr Ramesh's case) in plain English? But the voluble two are in good company. It is part of our political tradition for political worthies to be so nuanced as to confuse us poor hacks. A.B. Vajpayee, Prakash Karat and Yashwant Sinha are maestros in the game. But, we wonder, could this be part of that other political tradition called kite-flying? The kerfuffle that follows such on-again off-again pronouncements ensures that they get not-so-nuanced media coverage. 


So where's the Boss? We haven't heard from him for a while except on some clear and cautionary notes on terror threats. Or has he got lost in the nuances?









'He is our inspiration, every day. Men like these cannot retire."


I heard that declaration from B.K. Mishra, while I gingerly walked up a narrow gangway fixed to the wall of a humid metro tunnel being bored under Delhi. Mishra was talking of his boss and Indian icon, E. Sreedharan, the 77-year-old managing director of the Delhi Metro, that rare marvel of State-run efficiency and harbinger of what India could be — if, as we like to say, we had a thousand Sreedharans.


Mishra is Chief Project Manager of the Delhi Metro, overseer of all construction on a three-line 75-km network that by next year will add another 125 km and 72 stations over six lines. Mishra is a 20-year veteran of the Indian Railways, a behemoth of one million employees — and an organisation that hasn't yet managed to harness its talent to rid itself of obnoxious toilets dumping tonnes of human waste on its tracks. Taken out of the Railways, Mishra (45) has become a master of innovation — handling contractors and engineers from Japan and Thailand; equipment from Germany; working 13-hour days and going 30 days without a break; a man who couldn't be kept down even after a worm in his brain landed him in an intensive care unit (ICU) this year.


That's much like one of his deputies, Salim Ahmed, a former Bombay Port Trust engineer. Like his boss, Ahmed, at age 40, landed up in an ICU for an angioplasty. When I descended into Delhi's bowels with these gentlemen earlier this month to watch a tunnel-boring machine chomp away at Delhi's innards with its diamond teeth, I truly understood what it takes to create the new India.


The man whom Messrs Mishra and Ahmed — and thousands like them — revere has often talked of how he isn't allowed to retire. Indeed, when I visited him in his 21st-century, glass-walled office overlooking the 53-year-old main railway line out of New Delhi station, Sreedharan was ramrod erect and didn't look like he needed to retire.


Yet, he must consider it now.


Much has been written about a string of construction mishaps that have plagued the once-flawless Delhi Metro since last year. Most have been minor, and there is no question the media coverage was out of proportion. The most serious accident was the death of six construction workers when a concrete pier collapsed in July. There was nothing like the Hangzhou incident in China last year, when 21 died when a vast section of an under-construction metro tunnel collapsed, swallowing cars, workers and a bus.


But Sreedharan's demonisation is hindering the growth of the Metro's second rung of leadership. There is no plan B. With Sreedharan's baby on the verge of reaching adolescence (the first train ran 12 years ago), it's important to make sure it can now flourish on its own, away from the nurturing shade of its founder. That is the mark of a truly great organisation.


For evidence look no further than India's software sector. S. Ramadorai has stepped away from Tata Consulting Services, India's largest software company. At the second-largest, Infosys, so have N.R. Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani.
Traditionally, India's great weakness has been its dependence on charismatic individuals. Over the eras, empires have crumbled after strong rulers. We remember Ashoka the Great from the 2nd century BC; Akbar and Aurangzeb — from 17 and 18 centuries later — not their legacies.


How different it is with the British who created modern India with organisations that serve us still: the railways, the civil service, and the Army. But do you remember King George the V, our emperor less than 80 years ago?


I watch with interest, and exasperation, how quickly drivers in India manage to jam a traffic intersection when the signals break down (well, we do this even when the signals do work). In contrast, I once remember watching in fascination as a line of cars smoothly, and without honking, worked their way through a four-road signal-free intersection in an American town.


My theory is that Indians are creative, hardworking but volatile and anarchic. We are terrible at self-regulation, or at following a set of rules and established practices — unless enforced by someone we revere or fear. Are Indians good worker bees but poor gardeners? I actually put this question to Bill Gates when I interviewed him in 1999. Ever the politically correct software guru, Gates started visibly. "There is no genetic difference," he said forcefully.


To change India, the old orthodoxy of hierarchy and hero worship must change. Let us respect our heroes, not revere them. I think Rahul Gandhi understands this. "My father was in politics. My grandmother and great-grandfather were in politics. So it was easy for me to enter politics," he told rural students in Uttarakhand last October as part of his continuing discovery-of-India travels. "This is a problem. I am a symptom of this problem. I want to change it." So, he tries to recreate the 125-year-old Congress party by urging it to return to the people, have internal elections and spawn an organisation that cannot, today, see beyond him, his sister or his mother.


The Delhi Metro is the first 21st-century, urban organisation of independent India (We did have Chandigarh, but we managed to destroy the vision of Le Corbusier, who in any case was Swiss). If we have to really test Mr Sreedharan's baby, we may have to, reluctantly, let him retire.







It would facile to imagine that the reversal of India's policy on climate change is merely an acute case of foot-in-mouth disease on the part of the outspoken Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh. His leaked letter to the Prime Minister indicates that India should pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, which the US hasn't ratified. He also proposes that India should undertake voluntary cuts without first demanding funding and technology for such actions, as the protocol specifies.


Although Ramesh has backtracked after a political furore, one can predict, as the New York Times has reported, that in Copenhagen this December, when the UN will renegotiate the protocol, it will be a case of Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, because the US is rigid about not adhering to the protocol and will be missing in action.


It refuses to countenance any treaty which excludes commitments for China and India, along with other 'emerging' economies, as major polluters in absolute, though by no means per capita, terms. The EU, the most proactive in this regard, is also for a new treaty.


At the G8 meetings in Italy in July, the PM agreed to a 2°C cap on global emissions, beyond which there will be catastrophic climate changes. India's negotiators were discomfited because this cap would imply that at some stage, India would have to accept cuts on emissions. Is this morally and environmentally correct, in a country where some 450 million don't have access to electricity?


In September, Ramesh indicated a major shift: that India was ready to quantify its cuts, which it had previously refused to do. He spelt out five carbon spewing sectors in this regard: power, steel and cement, habitat, transport, agriculture and forestry. The EU announced a 3-7 billion 'start fund' per year for developing countries to cope with climate change, which would rise to 22-50 billion a year from 2020 as international public finance, plus 40 billion from the carbon market.


It had the temerity to suggest that "advanced developing nations" like China and India would be excluded from any such funding. India has the largest number of poor people in the world and can hardly be expected to fund itself to adapt to climate change when it is not responsible for causing it in the first place.


India's sights are clearly on entering into bilateral ties with the US, when the PM meets US President Barack Obama at the White House next month, similar to that the US has signed with China in July. This writer noted a softening in the stance of the President's Special Climate Envoy Jonathan Pershing at this month's UN negotiations in Bangkok when he questioned him about the US expecting India to undertake cuts when its objective should be to increase the energy consumption of the majority, not reduce it.


Is the carrot a seat in the Security Council, as Ramesh hints at? This is identical to the Congress government's Indo-US nuclear deal which a section of the elite favours, but hardly addresses the energy needs of 600 million Indians who make do without a commercial source altogether.


Darryl D'Monte is Chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India (FEJI)


The views expressed by the author are personal






Wasn't it foolish of BJP president Rajnath Singh to take off in a plane on a runway illuminated by jeep headlights in Dumka recently?

Not at all, I admire his daredevilry. Few people would take such risks especially after the aircrash death of Y.S.R. Reddy.

If something had gone wrong, I bet he would have blamed the pilot.


That is the hallmark of a good politician. Always take credit where none is due and pass the buck when you are in turbulence.

This gives me no confidence in his ability to run a party like the BJP.


On the contrary, his risk-taking abilities, his acute lack of timing and rushing in where angels fear to tread have become the hallmark of the party's functioning today.

Then why is the BJP grounded?

You see, it all boils down to long-term planning. When in rough weather you take spot decisions. So you might put the wrong man in the wrong job, utter oaths and imprecations against your opponents, even your own leaders and take the controls into your own hands.

Rajnath has shown us that he has all these virtues.

Do say: Let's rely on a wing and a shloka.

Don't say: The BJP needs a crash course in safety.








The endless factories of the heavily industrialised belt south of Delhi might appear to be unstoppable. But tens of thousands of workers not turning up will put a pretty big dent in production. The strike, therefore, that shut down the Gurgaon-Dharuweda industrial belt is an occasion to examine the fragilities it reveals in our industrialisation process. The spark was the death of Ajit Yadav, a worker at Rico Auto Industries. Labour in Rico has been locked in a dispute with management; Yadav, one of the protesters, was brought to the hospital "with head injuries caused by a heavy, blunt rod", according to the examining doctor. Many of the workers in Gurgaon's factories seem to have responded with anger; by some estimates, as many as 80,000 went on strike today, showing, if nothing else, that there are grievances here that are broad-based and need to be dealt with expeditiously. (Concerns that the strikers assaulted workers who chose not to join the strike, or that they blocked Gurgaon's vital highways, need to be addressed, too.)


But those who should be most concerned, the trade union leadership, seem to be failing to do just that. This is a straightforward labour-management dispute: workers want higher pay, and some of them want their union recognised; management is understandably concerned about its bottomline when the auto industry's in a downturn. Responsible national union leadership would aid Gurgaon's workers in getting a good deal, with minimum disruption to the economic processes central to everyone's prosperity. But, instead, Gurudas Dasgupta, the CPI MP who heads that party's affiliate trade union congress, the AITUC, summed up the national Left's abdication of leadership when he promised "support" if the workers "take up arms in retaliation".


AITUC and CITU (a CPM affiliate), will perhaps be impressed that so many answered their call. But many of those waving red flags will be fresh to the organised sector; if they see that the union leadership that is supposed to help them back to work is instead interested in play-acting revolution, they will become as disillusioned as others are elsewhere. And, for the Left politically, that will be another setback. Tens of thousands in Gurgaon may have answered its call; but how many of those voted for the Left candidate in the Haryana assembly election? If the Left wishes to expand beyond its enclaves, to live up to their rhetoric of being the parties of labour, they will need to show these same people that they are a responsible political force. Playing an obstructionist role in this stand-off is not going to help do that.







When Ramachandra Guha wrote India After Gandhi, a popular history of independent India, two years ago, he would counsel the scholar of independent India to go to the archives. A wealth of private and public papers was there, he said, much of it un-mined and un-cited. As an example, he pointed to his use of the P.N. Haksar papers at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library to deepen his account of the Indira Gandhi years. Haksar was a key aide to Mrs Gandhi, but when another scholar subsequently sought access to the papers, he was denied. It took intervention by Haksar's daughter through UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to have them eventually made available in this case. But the incident serves as a


reminder of the "official secrets" default option that inhibits scholarly inquiry and the personal networks scholars are forced to tap to gain access to papers that should be in the public domain.


It is good news then that a review panel constituted by the National Archives has recommended steps to address the issue. It has suggested changes in the Public Records Act 1993 to ensure that ministries "appraise" and release papers to the Archives in a 20-25 year timeframe. A penalty has also been proposed for ministries/departments that fail to do so. That this basic mechanism of declassification has not been functional is a terrible indictment for a democracy. And it is in this regard that any reform must be more robust than the review panel's proposals are. There needs to be some guarantee against unchecked recourse to "official secrets" as a cover for institutional lethargy in "appraising" papers and also for withholding inconvenient truths.


For this, the government need not start from scratch. It's now four years since the RTI Act came into force, and its successful use to prise out information from the government can offer ways of gaining access to archives. Indeed, the use of the RTI Act itself for this must be studied. Governments around the world have mechanisms to declassify documents without imperilling their national interest, but with enough checks to ensure that these provisions do not instill a culture of secrecy. Sad that India is such a latecomer to this debate.






The Maoists may be a rent-seeking band of thugs who have read Mao enough to be convinced that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, but there's no mocking the very real socio-economic grievances they feed on. The "red corridor" doesn't just circumscribe Naxal-dominated areas, they also delineate a zone of illiteracy, ill-health, and unemployment — an area of darkness that is the legacy of a derelict state. Which is why, even as the government gears up to the necessary task of defeating the Naxals by force, it must come up with creative ways to hasten development in these regions. One such move is the Indira Gandhi National Open University's decision launch vocational training programmes for below-poverty-line (BPL) families in the Naxal-dominated areas of eastern India.


IGNOU's proposed course is laudable for both its aim as well as its method. Focussing on vocational courses on computing, instead of more traditional forms of higher education, could provide the immediate skill sets by which local youth can plug into the market. A long-distance course is also better suited to the realities of remote areas. The exclusive focus on BPL families makes it all the more targeted. The course seems attuned to the peculiar realities in which it will operate, rather than stuck in the semantics of noble intentions and is thus all the more likely to succeed.


There is talk of various other ministries subsidising this programme, talk that must be translated to immediate action. For such creative interventions are a must to end the chronic cycle of poverty and despair in these regions. And at a time when Maoists are bombing roads, taking down electricity lines, looting post offices and beheading officers, measures such as these could give the Indian state the moral edge.








Four years after RTI Act came into force, resist current attempts to dilute it The proposal to exempt `frivolous and vexatious applications', will give sweeping powers to functionaries from the smallest gram sewak and patwari to the rungs above, to dismiss any application this way.


IT is very unusual to find lawyers, activists, and common citizens defending an existing law to the extent that they reach a consensus against allowing any amendments. Coming from a community of nit-picking perfectionists, each with their own strong set of opinions and with a litany of detailed complaints about its poor implementation, the Right to Information (RTI) Act presents a rare example of energetic citizen participation in its formulation, use, implementation -- and, now, protection.


It is not that the RTI Act 2005 is byanymeansaperfectpieceoflegislation. There is much that can be done to finetune and improve it.

However, what activists and citizens have realised, ever since the enactment of the law, is that the adversaries of transparency have been looking for the smallest window of opportunity to neutralise it. They have withstood the repeated and sustained efforts by officials of the DoPT to undermine the law by bringing in amendments "to strengthenit".ManyRTIpractitionersnowrealisethatthebestcanoften end up being an enemy of the good.

Therefore the immediate priority is to show maturity and determined practicality by working hard to use thestrengthsofthelawasitis,struggle for its better implementation, andusethelawtoinitiateacultureof transparency in governance.


The current proposal has been pegged to the president's speech to Parliament on June 4 stating the government would strengthen the RTI with amendments. Protests drewanassurancefromtheminister about a deliberative process before the amendments were considered.

Despite these assurances, there has been no consultation or deliberation in the public domain, and the proposed amendments seem well on their way to the cabinet. RTI activists know that, like the amendments proposed in the past, if the current proposal is accepted, the people of India stand to lose a substantial part of what they have gained in terms of public accountability in the last decade. The current proposal therefore, must be rejected in its entirety.


The proposed amendments include introducing an exemption for so-called "vexatious and frivolous" applications, and by excluding from the purview of the RTI Act access to "file notings" and the decision-making process -- this time by excluding "discussion/consultations that take place before arriving at a decision". The danger in both cases liesfarbeyondtheimmediatescope of the Act. They affect all transparency of public action that this countryhasseeninthelastdecade.


The proposal to exempt "frivolous and vexatious applications", will give sweeping powers to functionaries from the smallest gram sewak and patwari to the rungs above, to dismiss any application this way. Those set aside may range from applications related to people's survival, to corruption and the bureaucrats' fear of accountability being enforced. The RTI Act will stand as a mockery of itself.


At this moment we are engaged in an internal and somewhat schizophrenic struggle between realising our dreams of a truly democratic India and assessing ourselves as a democratic country, based solely on the statistics of how many go to poll in various elections. Interestingly, these democratic movements have been resisted less by the politician thanthecivilservant.Evenso,inthe last four years, many individuals who are part of the structures of power have come to realise the worthoftheprocessoftransparency and accountability.


The RTI Act has pushed every wing of government towards transparency and accountability. Parliament needs to be cheered for its cross-party summary rejection of the proposed judicial accountability bill that would have allowed high court and Supreme Court judges to keep their declaration of assets an internal secret. The chief justice of the Delhi HC dug deep into the reservoirsofinstitutionalcourageto reject a SC appeal that the office of the chief justice of India would not be covered by the RTI Act. There are innumerable bureaucrats who have used the law to usher in more transparentandaccountablemodes governance. At a recent meeting of the Information Commission, Sitaram Yechury of the CPM and ArunJaitleyoftheBJPbothechoed an earlier assessment by the Congress MP and former Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the DoPT, S. Natchiappan, that this is not the right time to think of amendments.


Many commissioners of information -- the focus of criticism of many RTI activists -- too have made a shift from being the protectors of the civil service to guardians of the RTI.


But there are some remaining bastions of official opaqueness and secrecy. Ironically, the DoPT, which is the host department, has been the mostconsistentadversaryofthisAct of Parliament. Pre-occupied as it is with what it sees as its primary mandate -- civil servants' postings, transfers, confidential records, inquiries and investigations -- natural justice is denied when it is allowed to adjudicate on its own actions! It jealously protects the interests of its clientele. The track record of its own performance is dismal. This nodal ministry has failed to get governments to comply with section 4 of the Act, because it hasnoteventriedtodoso.Andyetit proposes to strengthen proactive disclosure by amending the Act. It has failed to raise awareness about the law and educate citizens about itsuse.Andithasrepeatedlyflouted the orders of the Information Commission and undermined its authority. Under the law the Information Commissionisthesupremeauthorityonmattersofinformation,whose decisions are only subject to review on merits by the High Court or the SupremeCourt.Eventheingrained bureaucratic subservience to hierarchy seems to have collapsed in the face of its own self interest.


Two current nation-wide studies, one done under the aegis of the Government of India and the other by people's organizations (RaaG and NCPRI), have both concluded that the main constraints faced by the government in providing information is inadequate implementation, the lack of training of staff, and poor record management. They have also identified lack of awareness, along with harassment of the applicant, as two of the major constraints that prevent citizens from exercisingtheirrighttoinformation.

Neither study, despite interviewing thousands of public information officers and other officials, has concluded that the occurrence of frivolous or vexatious applications is frequentenoughtoposeeitherathreat to the government or to the RTI regime in general. Certainly no evidence has been forthcoming in either of these studies that access to "file notings" or other elements of the deliberative process has posed a major problem for the nation. On thecontrary,manyoftheofficersinterviewed have candidly stated that the opening up of the deliberative process has strengthened the hands ofthehonestandsincereofficial.


This is a straightforward issue of democracy. We have to individually and collectively oppose this diabolicalmovetodisenfranchiseus from what is our fundamental right to know. The writer is a prominent leader of the right to information movement








Two of everything for one state? Alloting two central universities -- one each for Jammu and Kashmir -- is in fact the latest in a series of faulty policy decisions.


AT a time when Kashmir is going through relative calm and the headlines have shifted to the mayhem in Pakistan and red threat in the mainland, there is nevertheless a worrying trend taking shape, one bound to lead to division of the state as an administrative unit along communal lines. And, again the reason is not separatist politics but the actions of a vote-obsessed mainstream -- especially the government.


The decision by the Centre to allot two central universities -- one each for Jammu and Kashmir -- is in fact the latest in a series of faulty policy decisions that provide a temporary solution to the problem of growing polarisation. Instead of standing up to a bizarre competition and choosing a place based on suitability, the government played a balancing act. And a central university that could have provided a rare opportunity for students from across the state to study together is now strengthening the process of polarisation. Already, in the two state universities -Kashmir University and Jammu University -- the student community and faculty come largely from the Valley and Jammu respectively; their politics and academic orientation are poles part.


The government is giving in to the demands of communal forces masquerading as regional politics, only to temporarily avoid another Amarnath land row-type flash point. But in the attempt to prevent a crisis, government's actions are sowing the seeds of a larger disunity, and an eventual violent break up of J&K.


This dangerous trend began decades ago but remained at the fringe of the discourse. The shift, however, began to turn into an accepted political norm during the previous Congress-PDP coalition government. When then-Governor S.K. Sinha planned to extend the Amarnath yatra and set up an Amarnath development authority under the Raj Bhavan and thenCM Mufti Sayeed turned down his plan, four Jammu-based ministers from Congress resigned in protest but their colleagues from Muslim-majority districts silently supported Mufti.


The reason for this confrontation, however, lay in the government's dangerous policy of bringing major religious bodies within state control, turning them into extra-constitutional entities with no legislative oversight, and blurring the lines dividing religion and state. According to the law, the governor, if Hindu, will be the chairman of Hindu shrine boards while Waqf Board will be led by the chief minister, if Muslim. The consequent Amarnath land row last year sharpened a communal divide to such extent that the valley witnessed its first ever economic blockade from Jammu; public outrage in Kashmir soon turned into a separatist uprising. The government has learnt no lessons.


Look also at how it has been treating the official language of the State. Urdu -- also the language of revenue records and court -- was a binding force between different religious and ethnic populations; but instead of strengthening it, there is a consistent effort to diminish its use. In fact, J&K's official language is rarely used in the winter capital, Jammu. The recent implementation of the government decision to remove Urdu as a compulsory subject for aspiring revenue officers has begun having a dangerous political fallout.


The government has already divided the state into four administrative units -- Jammu, Valley, Leh, and Kargil Hill Development Council. The process of division has, in fact, been sped up recently with setting up of separate directorates for almost every government department. Higher education decisions, however, have been exceptionally short-sighted. While there is a steady progress to set up S.K. Sinha's vision of a "Hindu University" with 40 percent reservation for Kashmiri Pandit students, the government is simultaneously supporting an Islamic university being set up by JamiatAhle Hadees. (There are already three universities established by shrine boards, two in Jammu and one in Kashmir.) Now the two new central universities are most likely coming up in Sambha district of Jammu and Ganderbal district in the valley.
The additional central university has come at the cost of an IIM. If the government wakes up and resists communal forces and decides on a university and an IIM, there is a way. Doda district of Jammu, located at the bottom of the human development index in the state, wants the campus; if government agrees, the communal propagators of the two-university model would be silenced. Doda connects the Valley and Jammu, and is thus a link between the two communities as well. Similarly, the government must make a team of experts to study the most suitable location for an IIM so that the student community of the entire state is benefited.


But if, instead, the government is silently working on the re-organisation of J&K as an administrative unit, it must then aspire to allow that to happen in a peaceful manner. Myopic vote-buying and temporary crisis-averting solutions will only polarise the state to a point of no return, and lead to a catastrophic partition.








RUSSIA is increasingly unable to resist the charm of China's economicandpoliticalinfluence.AsRussia'srelativelylowproductivity translates into declining competitiveness, China's ways of influencing the north continue to expand. Even routine domestic economic decisions in Russia are increasingly made with a consideration for China. For instance, Beijing sent a delegation to Moscow in July to negotiate conditions of a large group of ethnic ChineseaffectedbythedecisiontoclosetheCherkizovskyMarket. China's rising importance has translated into the growing prominence of the Sinophiles in Russia's national discussions...The China discourse has evolvedfromonedominatedbytheWesterniserstoonelargelycontrolledby theSinophiles,whohavesupportersinthegovernment,energyfirmswithties to Asia and the military-industrial complex...Kremlin strategists believethatthecountrywouldbebetteroffredirectingitsoilandgas supplies toward Eurasian countries such as China and India because such a measure would assist the country in developing energy-intensivegoodsandtransformingitscurrentstatusasaraw materials appendage of Europe.










Four years ago, the International Cricket Council — as boring and dogmatic a sports body as you will find — decided to do something radical. It announced that Australia — the undisputed leaders of the cricket world at the time — would host a Rest of the World XI for three one-dayers and a special, never-seen-before six-day Super Test. This would be the mother of all series, it proclaimed, "a Titanic among cricket tournaments."


Considering the fate of said ship four days after it sailed from Southampton in April of 1912, it was almost prophetic that the Super Series sank without a trace in October of 2005. Australia won all three ODIs without breaking into a sweat, and the so-called Super Test didn't need six days as Matthew Hayden and Stuart MacGill ended it in just three-and-half despite facing a galaxy of international stars ranging from Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara to Andrew Flintoff and Muttiah Muralitharan.


A number of timeless lessons were learnt from that experience — the most important one that a team of collected greats cannot compete with a side that plays together, trains together and grows together. This is why when all three IPL teams crashed out of the inaugural Champions League — thereby reducing the tournament to an extravaganza nobody cares about — we shouldn't really have been surprised. Cricket, despite its peculiar nature that allows a batsman and a bowler to battle alone on the pitch, is still a team game; and in a team game, history, tradition and professional bonding are usually more important than individual skills.


Expecting Delhi Daredevils, Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers to face teams such as Somerset, Victoria and Trinidad & Tobago, was being unfair to them. In T20 cricket, any team can beat another on a given day on the strength of a couple of performances, but over the course of a tournament the men eventually get separated from the boys, and the structural weakness of the IPL franchises (hidden so far because they were only facing each other) was exposed this past week.


This is not a lament about the comparative poor standard of the IPL as a whole (and neither will, nor should, this make any difference to the popularity of its third season in 2010), but about the fact that the Champions League was pitting apples against oranges. When a team has played cricket for more than a 100 years, like New South Wales for example, it ends up counting for something. As proponents of a brave, new world we don't always look at things in that light, but the teams that stay together for years adopt a certain cricketing character by including what they like and excluding what they cannot embrace.


Just as the Dallas Mavericks are a fast-breaking, pick-and-pop basketball unit no matter who is coaching them and who the players are, and modern Arsenal believe in a free-flowing, lateral style of football with or without Thierry Henry, a cricket team, too, derives its style from the land of its origin. Changes in personnel may be frequent but changes in personality are both gradual and collective.


Even football clubs with history and tradition — Real Madrid, West Ham, and Chelsea, for example — could not always handle a new crop of players without having to go through prolonged teething problems. So, for IPL teams formed two years ago to take on sides who have evolved over decades was always going to be an exercise in futility. Add to it the fact that IPL players are together only for a couple of months a year, and the mountain becomes insurmountable despite the home advantage.


After the ratings pitfall of the inaugural Champions League, the tournament is going to find the going tough from here on. A club cricket tournament in India with no local team in the semi-finals makes little sense. Quality is not the problem this time, but I fear the inequality may take too long to overcome.









The editorial in the latest issue of the Organiser, titled "Time to ask China (to) shut up," says: "An editorial on China in The Economist (October 3, 2009) commented, '...the image that it would like to cultivate... is constantly being undercut by two of its leaders' habits. One is the knee-jerk resort to hysterical propaganda and reprisals when a foreign country displeases it by criticising its appalling treatment of political dissidents, or accepts a visit from the Dalai Lama or other objects of the Communist Party's venom. The other is the readiness to put its perceived economic self-interest ahead of strategic common sense.' China has an unfinished business of Taiwan, towards which, according to this edit, China has pointed some 1,000 missiles. It has not reached an agreement with Japan over disputed islands; it has similar border disputes with Vietnam, Russia and all its other neighbours in the vicinity. Indian media and politicians are mostly debating what China wants and what India can give. From a purely nationalist perspective, it is time India made claims in its geopolitical interest and stopped playing a victim all the time".


The editorial adds: "Great countries live in the present and look to the future for the welfare of their people. Harking back on history to make expansionist moves is a dangerous game. If India is to take a lesson from China, it can also make a lot of unsettling noises on China. That Chinese emperors were beholden to Great Ashoka is well known. Less publicised are the facts that the Chinese emperors used to pay tributes and send emissaries with lavish gifts to the courts of the glorious Kushana emperor Kanishka in the second century AD, in the third and fourth century to the great Samudragupta and Chandragupta Vikramaditya and later emperor Harsha.


At one point the great Kanishka even defeated and forced the Chinese ruler to accept his suzerainty".


It concludes: "Today, as far as India is concerned, it is vowed by a unanimous resolution of Parliament to liberate 19,000 square kilometres of Indian territory forcefully occupied by the Red Army, in that treacherous war of 1962. China, which, its leaders rightly point out, is still a poor country, should concentrate on providing a better life to its people and help the region become a zone of peace".


Who created Pakistan?

In a piece titled "Jinnah was a creation of the British," Jay Dubashi writes: "Barrister Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the founder of Pakistan but it is not he who created it, though that is what most people believe. The real founders of Pakistan were the British, and Jinnah was their creature or agent in every sense of the word. They paid him for it, which means they were his paymasters, literally, and he was on their pay-roll for nearly ten years before Pakistan was torn away from India. Partition of India was not a simple affair between a few Indian politicians hungry for power, and the British. Behind the Partition was a deep-seated strategy, in fact, an international conspiracy, with the British as ringmaster, and Jinnah, a mere advocate, their agent".


He adds: "From the days of Curzon, the British were trying to have a big swath of land — a country, infact — between India and imperial Russia, then under the Czars. Curzon and his bosses in London were obsessed by the idea that the Czars of Russia were bent on conquering India and adding it to their empire. The Russian empire was a growing power and straddled two continents. Even Napoleon had failed to shake it up. As for the British, India was a jewel in their crown, and imperial consuls like Curzon were determined to keep it from falling into alien hands.


He concludes: "I have a feeling that Nehru knew that Jinnah was a British agent, which may be one reason, and a powerful one, to keep away from him and also to keep him away from the Congress. When Gandhi met Jinnah in August or September 1944 for the famous Gandhi-Jinnah talks, Nehru, who was in jail at the time, was furious, and told his colleagues that nothing would come out of them".








Google, as everyone knows, runs its operations on quasi-Biblical ethics. Its code of conduct can be summarised in one simple commandment — "Don't Be Evil". Yet, when Google announced its Google Books project, perhaps its most ambitious project yet, the uproar was tumultuous. Everyone, it seemed, believed that Google had finally gone over to the dark side.


Why is this such a big deal and why should we care?


The goal of the Google Book project is to digitise all the books in the world, to allow them to be searchable online and accessible everywhere. Google went about implementing this laudable initiative by digitising public domain books from research libraries. This meant that rare books, copies of which had hitherto been available only at a handful of libraries, were now accessible anywhere in the world for free. It offered researchers and scholars unprecedented access to research materials and the ability to continue their research even if they did not have the fortune of physical proximity to the libraries in question.


However, Google did not stop there. It began to digitise copyright protected books and offer public access to limited snippets of this content. This would have been a clear copyright infringement if it wasn't for the doctrine of fair use that allows limited publication of copyright works for non-commercial purposes. But even with the fig leaf of fair use protection, so significant were the implications of this project that Google was sued for copyright violation in short order.


After much negotiation, Google arrived at a settlement with various rights holders in the US. Under the terms of the settlement, Google agreed to establish a book registry to which genuine rights holders of books could register and receive an agreed settlement amount for each book that had already been digitised. This amount would be paid in exchange for a covenant not to sue Google.


While this in itself seems reasonable, the over-broad manner in which the settlement itself has been drafted has caused considerable consternation. It applies to anyone who has a "US copyright interest" and allows all such persons to choose to either opt out of the settlement (thereby withdrawing their books from the registry) or do nothing and be deemed included. It is this all-encompassing approach to the creation of a class of rights holders that has raised the ire of many. Some have gone so far as to say the settlement allows Google exclusive rights over all literary content as, even though the registry's agreement with Google is not exclusive, no other company will be able to use the books included in the registry unless the rights holder has exclusively authorised it.


This is of particular concern in the context of "orphan books" — a sub-class of literary works which are still covered by copyright, but in respect of which the copyright holders can no longer be traced. Under the settlement, Google will have a virtual monopoly over all such orphan books since there are no rights holders to opt them out of the settlement. This would make it that much harder for any company other than Google to gain access to the books in the registry.


Why does all this matter to Indian authors? After all, the Google Books settlement pertains to US copyright, and only a fortunate few Indian authors have been published outside of the country. The answer, again, lies in the broad sweep of the settlement terms.


India and the US are both members of the Berne Convention, a copyright treaty that allows signatories reciprocal rights in the literary works of member countries. By definition, the term "US copyright interest" as used in the Google Book settlement, will include copyrights of books and literary works published in Berne Convention countries. This means that should you, as an Indian author, fail to opt out of the Google Book settlement, you have forever waived your right to sue Google for copyright infringement. And in the context of Indian "orphan works", this means that no company other than Google will be able to gain access to those books in the registry.


As a result of the uproar over the proposed Google Book settlement, the court hearing the matter has indicated that the old settlement terms will not be acceptable and the parties have been asked to propose a new settlement by November 9, 2009. This date is around the corner but from all indications it appears that the changes will be cosmetic. While Google may not yet be evil, with absolute power over all the books in the world, how long will it be before it starts to grow horns?


The writer is partner, Trilegal law firm









The third in a series by `New York Times' reporter David Rohde on his seven months as a captive of the Taliban in Pakistan It was a universe filled with contradictions.

My captors assailed the West for killing civilians, but they celebrated suicide attacks orchestrated by the Taliban that killed scores of Muslim bystanders.


ANERVOUS-looking Pakistani soldier pointed a rocket-propelled grenade at our pickup truck in late January. The Taliban guard beside me loaded his rifle and ordered me to put a scarf over my face. A group of Pakistani civilians standing nearby moved out of the way, anticipating a firefight. In the driver's seat of our vehicle was Badruddin Haqqani, a senior commander of the Haqqani network, one of the Taliban's most hard-line factions and the group that was holding me and two Afghan colleagues hostage in Pakistan's tribal areas.


Obeying the guard, I covered my face.Thesoldierwasintheleadvehicle of a Pakistani army supply convoy in North Waziristan. After surveying the road, the soldier got back in his truck, and the convoy rumbled forward. I hoped that the Pakistanis might somehow rescue us. Instead, I watched in dismay as Badruddin got out of the truck and calmly stood on the side of the road. As trucks full of heavily armed government soldiers rolled by, he smiled and waved at them. After the convoy disappeared, Badruddin seemed amused. "Do you know who that was?" he asked me.

"No,"Isaid,tryingtoplaydumb."That wasthePakistaniarmy,"hesaid.Heexplained that under a cease-fire agreement between the Taliban and the army, all civilians were required to get out of their cars when an army convoy approached. For Taliban vehicles, though, only the driver had to get out.


The trip confirmed suspicions I had harboured for years as a reporter. The Haqqanis oversaw a vast Taliban ministateinthetribalareaswiththedefacto acquiescence of the Pakistani military.

The Haqqanis were so confident of their control of the area that they took me -- a person they considered to be an extraordinarily valuable hostage -onathree-hourdriveinbroaddaylight toshootasceneforavideooutdoors.


Throughout North Waziristan, Taliban policemen patrolled the streets, and Taliban road crews carried out construction projects. The Haqqani network's commanders and foreign militants freely strolled the bazaars of Miram Shah and other towns. Over the winter, I would come to know the reality the Haqqanis had created.
Some nights, commanders and their fighters visited the houses where we were being held. Conversations were dominated by their unwavering belief that the United States was waging a war against Islam.


It was a universe filled with contradictions. My captors assailed the West for killing civilians, but they celebrated suicide attacks orchestrated by the Taliban that killed scores of Muslim bystanders.Theybitterlydenouncedmissionaries, but they pressed me to converttotheirfaith.Theycomplained about innocent Muslims being imprisonedbytheUnitedStates,evenasthey continued to hold us captive. Tahir, Asad and I had received comforting letters from our families through the International Committee of the Red Cross. But I hadn't spoken to my wife, Kristen, in three months. Finally, on February16,AbuTayyebdrovemetoa remote location and allowed me to call her.TheTalibantoldmetogiveherthe number of their cell phone and have her call us back. They were demanding $7 million at that point but were too cheaptopayforthephonecall."Thisis my last call," I said to her, repeating what they had told me to say. "This is our last chance." Abu Tayyeb promised that he would reach a settlement with my family. Then, as he had many times before, he left without doing so. My conversations with him duringhisbriefvisitleftmedoubtfulthathe would ever compromise in a case involving an American.

Onemorning,heweptatnewsthata NATO airstrike had killed women and children in southern Afghanistan. A guard explained to me that Abu Tayyeb reviled the United States because of the civilian deaths. Americans invaded Afghanistan to enrich themselves, they argued, not to help Afghans.TheyignoredthattheUnited States helped build hundreds of miles of paved roads in Afghanistan and more than a thousand schools and health clinics. My captors denied widespread news reports that the Taliban burned down scores of newly built schools to prevent girls from getting an education. We were held for much of the winter in a building the Pakistani government had constructed to serve as a health clinic. It was part of an American-backed effort to win the hearts and minds of the local population. Most of the guards were Afghan men in their late 20s and early 30s.
SomehadgrownupasrefugeesinPakistan. All had limited educations from governmentschoolsorreligiousinstitutions, known as madrasas. Some did not make it past junior high school. None had seen the world beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.


As the weeks passed, our captivity became increasingly surreal. My captors railed against the evils of a secular society. In March, they celebrated a suicide attack in a mosque in the Pakistani town of Jamrud that killed as manyas50worshipersastheyprayedto God. Those living under Pakistan's apostate government, they said, deserved it. After we had been held for months in captivity, my kidnappers demandedthatIstopwashingthegroup's dishes because they did not want to catch my diseases. They believed that problems I was having with my stomach stemmed from my being an inherently unclean non-Muslim, not from unhygienic water.


During our months in Miram Shah, patterns emerged. When certain commanders visited, the atmosphere was tense, and discussions centred on what they saw as Western injustices against Muslims.Whenwewerealonewiththe guards who lived with us, moments of levity emerged. After dinner on many winter nights, my guards sang Pashto songs for hours. My voice and Pashto pronunciation were terrible, but our guard surgedmetosingalong.Theballadsvaried.Onsomeevenings,Ifound myselfreluctantlysingingTalibansongs that declared that "you have atomic bombs,butwehavesuicidebombers." (TO BE CONTINUED) The New York Times









The Gurgaon-Manesar belt on the outskirts of Delhi, in Haryana, is the biggest hub of automobile manufacturing—particularly auto components—in India. It is in fact a symbol of perhaps India's most successful manufacturing sector in recent years—auto components is the one manufacturing industry where India can claim a lead over China. Therefore, any mass workers' strike is not only bad for the firms concerned, but also for the country's image and reputation as a quality destination for auto manufacturing. And the most recent strike has paralysed the sector for reasons that are at best flimsy. Ostensibly, the strike was called in response to the death of a worker in component maker RICO's plant. But this wasn't a typical industrial accident, which could have perhaps provoked outrage. His death was a result of a violent scuffle between two groups of workers and had nothing to do with management. In fact, a senior manager was inexplicably assaulted for taking action against workers who had taken recourse to violence. The strike, unfortunately, seems more motivated and incited by the political ambition of the AITUC, the CPI-affiliated trade union, which wants to spread its clout with auto workers in this belt and this industry.


Apart from the immediate damage and losses caused by the closing of plants for a day, the workers have unwittingly damaged their own long-term cause of securing gainful employment. New investors will hesitate to invest in this belt. They could quite easily go to another part of India or indeed another emerging economy, which has fewer problems with indisciplined workers. This sort of worker belligerence with little reason also forces manufacturers to employ more capital-intensive methods of production in a country where labour is much cheaper and should ideally be the first-choice factor of production. Strikes, coupled with inflexible labour laws, have perversely caused our industrialisation process to turn capital-intensive too early. In China, on the other hand, labour-intensive production is the norm, even in technology-intensive sectors. Unfortunately, workers are not able to see the damage they are doing to their own cause through such ill thought-out strikes. In these difficult times, when firms are struggling to make profits, workers must be committed to enhancing the profitability of the firms they work for, not lead them to more losses. The future of this sunrise industry in India—we hope to be a global hub of small car production—requires workers and unions to act more responsibly. It is in their self-interest, too.






It's been said that Microsoft started on the ground while Google was born in the sky. One has also heard Microsoft's founder called PC genius, Internet fool. When Bill Gates released Windows 1.0 in 1985, the ad campaign featured Steve Ballmer shouting at the camera: "How much do you think Microsoft Windows is worth?" The answer was $99 and many thought that was an absurd price, absurdly high. Many years and much inflation later, the Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade costs only $120, even though Windows runs 90% of PCs. That sounds like Microsoft is holding on to the strongest possible wickets, except it's also offering steep discounts—US students will pay just $30 for the Home Premium version through January 3. This time around, the ad line goes: "More happy is coming." You hear Europe's The Final Countdown in the background. So, how does one explain the discounts and why does the company still seem to be sporting a defensive posture? One answer is Vista. "Wow starts now" went that campaign, but it fizzled out faster than the product itself. Reports of users downgrading back to predecessor Windows XP rose as fast as negative reviews of Vista itself. In contrast, Windows 7 has gotten positively fawning reviews. Plus, it's the first Microsoft operating system to have been released with fewer features. Why? The answer lies in cloud computing and all that gives Google an edge over Microsoft, all that Gates couldn't figure out when he retired.


Cloud services include Web-based e-mail, social networking and online games—everything that transposes services from PCs to virtual data centres. Their rise means not just complicated things, but also that simple tasks like word processing and spreadsheets are migrating online. Google hosts these services and makes money from them, handling more than 75% of search-related advertisements in the US. In order to compete, Microsoft has chased down a deal with Yahoo! with tenacity. But it knows that there is a tough fight ahead, not just with Google and Apple, but also with competitors whom we can't yet identify. Remember, Google wasn't on the horizon when Microsoft won its last big win in the early 1990s, beating down IBM and Apple for mastery of the PC. On the India front, we need a good broadband spread to fly the clouds. But recent Trai numbers suggest that penetration is still at a lowly 6.8 million subscribers. It's not just the usual suspects, but also countries like Slovakia and Tunisia which are doing much better. Topliner Finland has, of course, made broadband Internet a right by law.








One reason why consumer demand in India did not collapse like it did all over the world following the Global Liquidity Crisis is that households in India are not highly leveraged like they are in developed economies. Households are major savers in India but, are not major borrowers. Indian households account for more than 65 per cent of the total savings of the country. And, of the total outstanding credit of commercial banks, personal loans account just over 20 per cent. Both, the savings and the borrowings of households are reasonably safe—the risk component in them is limited. The equity component in household savings is small and debt-servicing is not a major component of the monthly household outgo. Most surveys indicate that less than five per cent of the households invest in equity markets. More importantly, equity markets account for less than 7 per cent of the total savings of households. This low exposure to equity markets ensures low volatility of the savings. Most of the financial savings of households can be characterised as of low-risk and low returns.


Thus, the fall in the equity markets in 2008 and the conservative risk management policy of RBI that kept the deposits of the household sector safe together limited the adverse impact of the global liquidity crisis on household finances.


Similarly, most of the household borrowings are backed by household cash flows and debt-servicing accounts for a small proportion of household expenses. But, we may not remain "like that only", to borrow a popular Indian phrase and with apologies to Rama Bijapurkar. Indian households are moving down the path of greater leveraged living.


I see two factors playing mutually complementing roles at increasing the level of financial leverage of households. At a macro-level is the egalitarian view of financial inclusion. And, at the micro-level is the entrepreneurial push to increase the size of the retail market for financial products.


That the path towards greater financial leverage of households is strewn with risks for the household sector is understood at a macro, theoretical level. But, the household that exposes itself to such risk rarely appreciates the full import of the leverage. At a macro level, the risk is still low, but at the household level it is significant and can be stressful. This risk need not be acceptable to the household sector unconditionally. The recent global liquidity crisis indicates that it should not be acceptable to society at large as well. We need safeguards against a highly leveraged households sector.


Lenders understand risk. In India, they rarely, if ever, go bust. In the organised sector, RBI forces risk management. The experience during the Asian contagion in the second half of the 1990s and the global liquidity crisis provide evidence that these risk control mechanisms are effective. Unorganised lenders have, arguably, less civil means of risk management and it can be safely assumed that professional money lenders in the unorganised sectors do not go bankrupt because of non-performing assets.


Among the borrowers, risk in corporates is controlled by the lenders as they demand cash flow statements and projections. While risks do prevail among the lenders and the corporate borrowers, these have been contained because firms prepare annual accounts that are audited by professional chartered accountants and used by tax authorities besides the lenders themselves. Even if these are not perfect, they provide some measure of leverage and therefore the means to control risks.


Households do not make balance sheets. Leverage and debt-servicing abilities are thus not measurable by the lenders. There is no institutional mechanism anywhere in the world that measures or controls household financial risk. The aggressive marketing of loans to the household sector thus implies a blind faith. It also leads to the use of risk management methods that are often questionable. This in turn leads to a new form of stress at the household level.


Credit information bureaus cannot help. These can provide the history of payment defaults by households. But the problem is not delinquency. The problem is household leverage. We need to build mechanisms to contain this leverage. One solution is that the lenders must insist on households drawing up their income and expenditure statements and also their balance sheets. A careful study of these will provide lenders a better means of ensuring that credit is only provided to households that are not excessively leveraged.


In the last few years, many households have graduated to filing their income tax returns. Making a balance sheet should be the next logical step. Households need to know their finances. This knowledge itself can help many of them to control their irrational desire to acquire assets that they cannot afford or to use their assets more wisely than they did before the knowledge emerged from the balance sheet.


Banks should facilitate households in drawing up their financial statements. And, while they lend to individuals, they need to appreciate that it is the household that is more important in so far as a banking relationship or retail credit risk management is concerned.


The author heads Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy








The Sino-Indian relationship remains pregnant with interesting possibilities. Bilateral developments continue to excite both sceptics and optimists. Sceptics hardly see light at the end of the tunnel that both countries trudge. Optimists on the other hand don't entertain such visions. Both quarters are certain about the future course of Sino-Indian relationship as dictated by their respective interpretations. Sceptics believe that the current phase of mixed engagement—classifiable as 'day' (though cloudy)—will give way to a darker phase of 'night' dominated by hostility. Optimists, in contrast, are convinced that the current phase of mistrust and suspicion—more typically 'night'—will be suppressed by a brighter 'day'. At present, however, optimists appear to be outnumbered by sceptics. The sceptical version of the Sino-Indian story is well known. This includes familiar arguments such as territorial disputes, contentions over Tibet, balance of power in the Asian continent, hegemonic desires and likewise. Copious literature and thousands of conferences, seminars and workshops have been devoted to threadbare analysis of each minute bone of contention. Such enormous discussions on bilateral difficulties should have, by now, eased, if not eliminated some of the difficulties. But intellectual and academic deliberations appear to have imparted a greater sense of irreconcilability to outstanding issues. Strategic communities have hardly spared any efforts to prepare both countries for prolonged conflicts.


But history is replete with ample evidence of Sino-Indian cooperation particularly in trade and commercial exchange. The two countries not only traded deep and wide but were also two of the world's most prosperous economies on the eve of the industrial revolution of the 18th century. De-industrialization of both economies occurred almost in tandem as China and India plunged into prolonged economic slumps from 1820 onwards. Both have begun recovering after languishing for more than one and a half centuries.


A simple lesson from history needs to be taken note of: bilateral trade flourished when both countries were growing well in the pre-industrial revolution era. In a much shorter span of seven-eight years—the early years of the latest millennium—trade between the two countries has begun flourishing again. The last few years—before the onset of the global downturn —also marked the period when both countries recorded growth rates that were among the highest in the world. Thus bilateral trade again revived strongly with both countries growing well.


It is difficult to figure out why two countries that are trading vigorously with each other would like to go to war. Since China's entry in the WTO in December 2001, Sino-India merchandise trade, within a short span of seven years has increased from $2.3 billion in 2002 to $40 billion in 2008. There is no doubt that both countries are gaining from this enlarging exchange. Are they keen on choking off such gains and clamping their own growths by fighting with each other?


Sceptics, particularly on the Indian side, argue that gains from trade have been mostly one-sided. With a merchandise trade deficit of $22 billion, India has hardly benefited from greater trade according to them. Services trade data is not available. However, such trade balance is likely to be in India's favour. Furthermore, actors involved in business transactions are guided by the rational objective of maximising profits. There are obviously solid reasons behind Indian enterprises importing large volumes of electrical machinery, electronic goods, mechanical appliances, fertilisers, steel and chemicals from China. There are equally sensible reasons behind Chinese enterprises undertaking large imports of iron ore, copper and plastics from India. The most obvious explanation is that imports are helping producers and consumers on both sides by increasing access to cheap raw materials and decent inexpensive finished products. Indian industry wouldn't have imported from China had domestic intermediates been available at similar price and qualities.

As both countries recover from the global downturn, there is no reason why they should not look ahead to trading more with each other. Unfortunately, unjustified fears might create circumstances hindering trade growth. Delays in issuing visas and permits are typical examples.


Rather than finding difficulties in every opportunity, sceptics will be better off looking at the larger Sino-India history. That clearly shows there are opportunities in every difficulty and not otherwise.


The author is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views








It isn't the possibility of deferred 3G spectrum auctions but the reason cited by A Raja for deferring the auctions that is a surprise. The ministers says that since the ministry of defence has not vacated the 3G spectrum, the department of telecommunications might not be able to conduct the auction in the current fiscal. 3G spectrum has become jinxed. At a time when the entire world is moving on to the next technology platform of LTE, 3G still hasn't seen the light in India.


Right from the time the auction guidelines were announced by Raja in August last year it was public knowledge that the DoT had around 60 Mhz spectrum in the 2.1 Ghz band and that defence would have to vacate more 3G spectrum and move on to the optic fibre network that the state-run telecom operator BSNL has been asked to construct. Meanwhile, the government would conduct the 3G spectrum and the Broadband Wireless auctions. After the empowered group of ministers gave its verdict that a total of five slots would be auctioned for 3G services (four to private operators and one reserved for BSNL/ MTNL in each circle), it became very clear that only a few operators in a handful circles would have to wait for a while until spectrum was freed.


With the reserve price issue resolved and the markets also looking up, foreign operators have evinced interest in participating in the auctions, which by now is the only route for them to enter the Indian telecom market. And finally a short-term paucity of spectrum in a few circles especially in a lucrative circle like Delhi would ensure an even more aggressive bidding and thus even a higher revenue realisation for the government. It is in this background that Raja's latest excuse of lack of spectrum and pointing an accusing finger at the defence ministry comes as a googly since they are hardly issues for delaying the auctions. It would have made better sense for Raja to stand up and say since the Trai has decided to come out with a consultation paper to iron out 2G matters and that could delay auctions. That would have sounded more logical.







"There is no place," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day, "for separatist thought in Jammu and Kashmir." Less than three months later, persuaded that this summer's street protests demonstrated that Kashmiri secessionists have both reach and influence, the central government has changed tack. During his visit to Srinagar last week, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram announced that New Delhi would be seeking to renew the long-stalled dialogue process. He correctly acknowledged that there is a political problem in Kashmir and it has to be solved. Jammu and Kashmir's unique history necessitated a unique solution, he urged, using language that was different from New Delhi's standard official rhetoric. Mr. Chidambaram made the case for quiet, behind-the-scenes talks: a constructive dialogue, as he put it, rather than a photo opportunity. That dialogue, highly-placed government sources have told The Hindu, is already under way: separatist leaders, including All Parties Hurriyat Conference chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader, Yasin Malik, have met with high-level functionaries in the Union Home Ministry. The effort is to work out a framework both sides can live with — and ensure that the talks are built on foundations strong enough to endure political storms.


Will the effort succeed? There is of course no guarantee it will. In January 2004, Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani met with the Hurriyat leadership for the first time. The ground was prepared and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced that the only precondition for negotiations was humanism. This was followed up by a second meeting that March. Prime Minister Singh held two more rounds of talks in May and September 2005. Fearful of the jihadist wrath, the Hurriyat never brought a serious agenda to the table. In March 2006, APHC leaders promised to attend Dr. Singh's all-party Roundtable Conference on Jammu and Kashmir only to back off in the face of terrorist threats. Two challenges now lie ahead. First, J&K's fractious secessionist groups must agree on a road map for progress. Mirwaiz Farooq has set up a committee to engage his archrival, Islamist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani; it can only be hoped the talks are fruitful. Secondly, Islamabad's support for the dialogue process must be secured. Pakistan would do well to appoint an envoy to continue the secret dialogue held by Satinder Lambah and Tariq Aziz, which yielded a set of agreed principles for a resolution of the Kashmir conflict in 2006. Mr. Chidambaram meanwhile must be applauded for taking a significant step forward in the knowledge that the journey to peace will be a long, hard trudge, littered with political minefields.








Over 20 passengers were killed and 22 injured — most of them women and children — when the Goa Express rammed into a stationary Mewar express near Mathura early on Wednesday morning. The engine of the Goa express hit the rear of the Mewar express, causing severe damage to the last coach and derailing several others. Preliminary reports point to human failure, though the last word on the signalling system has not been said yet. In such cases of collision between two trains, there can be two possible causes — either signal failure or human failure by way of ignoring the signal. The inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety will fix the responsibility, but what assumes importance is the follow-up action. Accidents such as this are not uncommon in the massive Railway network in the country. Every one of them has been followed by an inquiry and every such exercise has yielded a host of suggestions on measures to be adopted for averting the mishaps. While mechanical or electrical failure can be dealt with, the railway authorities have not yet been able to come to terms with human failure.


When the crew of a train see a red signal, they are supposed to stop for two minutes if it is night, and one minute during day time, and then proceed with caution. They are provided with walkie-talkie sets to get in touch with the nearest railway station, ascertain the situation, and act as it warrants. Given this, it is surprising that such a communication had not taken place in the high-density Mathura-Delhi route. Did the communication equipment fail, or were the crew oblivious to these basic safety requirements? It is up to the Commissioner of Railway Safety and the Railway Board to get to the bottom of what went wrong and where, and fix responsibility. The Konkan Railway designed an anti-collision device, which has reportedly gone through trials and been fitted on trains operating in certain high-risk sectors. There was supposed to be a time-bound programme for fitting these devices on all trains. Millions of people who travel by trains will look to Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee for ensuring that safety concerns are addressed with a sense of urgency. The Railways must wrap up the investigation quickly and come out with the whole truth. A systematic programme of retraining and re-orientation of the railway staff is imperative to keep them alert and safety-conscious.










Bangladesh's recent decision to take to the U.N. long-time maritime boundary disputes with India, and to issue a compulsory arbitration notification under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), marks a new chapter in coastal conflicts among South Asian countries ( The Hindu, October 10, 2009). The region has been unable to amicably resolve a large number of issues regarding sea laws, maritime boundaries and coastal resources, leading to increasing conflicts. International sea laws, foreign policies and domestic interests have often cross-cut each other in this process. South Asian coasts need de-bordering and any such process entails a re-bordering from the perspective of coastal fisherfolk and sustainable fisheries. More possibilities, therefore, need to be explored for greater coastal, bilateral and regional integration.


India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh share the resources of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Whereas India's maritime boundaries necessitate delimitation with seven states on adjacent and opposite coasts — Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh — it shares land borders with six states. Since the 1970s, India's maritime boundaries have been demarcated with many countries, but these remain seriously unresolved with Pakistan and Bangladesh.


Bangladesh has comparatively much less of a coastline. It has no agreed sea boundary with its neighbours. It has special reasons to be interested in the evolution of the law of the sea. Its people have historically been seafarers. The limited land-based food and fuel resources available to them, and the disparity between resources and subsistence needs of a large population make it imperative for Bangladesh to recognise the potential of oceans as a tangible promise for the future. Thus the government enacted the Territorial Waters and Maritimes Zones Act, 1974. This Act, however, did not specify the breadth of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal in clear-cut terms.


The delimitation of maritime boundaries has created a conflict between Bangladesh and its neighbours. Disagreement arose mainly with India when Dhaka signed in 1974 contracts to share production with six international oil companies, granting them oil and natural gas exploration rights in its territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal. The Bangladesh line moved towards the south from the edge of the country's land boundary, while the Indian line took a south-easterly direction, thus creating an angle within which lie thousands of square miles of the Bay, claimed by each country as its economic zone. This overlapping claim has become a critical problem between the two neighbours. For example, the territorial sea, the EEZ, and the continental shelf will depend on how this dispute is resolved.


Harekrishna Debnath of the National Fishworker Forum said in an interview with the authors: "Since the mid 1970s, after the International Conference on the Law of the Sea, a sense of EEZ and maritime boundary has deeply got involved with questions of sovereignty of a nation. All nations, particularly those with coastal lines, are therefore engaged in demarcating their maritime boundaries. However, while theoretically this has been realised, unlike land, it is not easy to demarcate sea boundaries. The process is also tied closely to the lives of millions of fisherfolk across the globe. India and Bangladesh are no exception to this. Between them, there is a less than 400-km area in the sea. Thus there is an absence of the 200-km EEZ on both sides, though it theoretically exists. This has led to a great amount of confusion. In this situation it is not only difficult but near impossible to maintain the LOS decision."


Although negotiations have been going on since 1974, Dhaka and New Delhi are not able to settle the delimitation problem, mainly because of the concave nature of the Bangladesh coast. Bangladesh's position is that no right principle can be applied in the present case and that the basic guideline should be equity. India, on the other hand, applies the equidistance principle in delimiting the boundary, ignoring the physical features of the coast. It is imperative that an amicable solution be found, even if it is based on the equitable principle.



It is by now a truism in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka that coastal borders, EEZs and laws of the seas have radically changed the coastal areas. The term "coastal conflicts" has become a menacing qualifier among us. It is clear how and why borders have affected the fisherfolk who have lived within their cartographic confines. It is equally agonising to find how they have also deeply affected those thinkers and policymakers who live elsewhere, but who mostly see the solution within the confines of the existing borders. Thus, they are much more concerned with cross-border policing and managing cross-border infiltration than with coastal cross-border relationships and cross-border coastal conservation. More important, there is no effort to un-map and re-map the coastal borders, because the changes that have taken place are not only in the physical space but also in ways of comprehending the region.


The imaginary of the coastal borders in South Asia is conceived primarily with reference to nation-building, relationships of nation-states within the region, and natural resource management for a broader common good internationally. Coasts are places where the 'geographic' and the 'management' could be superimposed on each other to create powerful and secure nations, with perceptions of their rights to harness their coastal production. However, given the history of the region and community relationships among the coastal fisherfolk, the coastlines have been neither natural nor practical. Not allowing neighbouring coastal territories of individual countries even an informal freedom to interact has rendered the coastal borders inimical not only to livelihoods but also to shared histories, religions, festivals, sensibilities, languages and habits.


It is true that the function of the modern South Asian coastal states has been to codify and territorialise the decoded, de-terrritorialised flows of the coasts so as to prevent them from breaking loose at all the edges and hems of national, environmental and coastal balances. But this has fatally failed the coastal people. As certain sense-making machines become obsolete, new ones need to be constructed. The South Asian states must rework on their coastal borders, bilaterally and regionally, in such a manner that a collective coastal community comes into being.


Coastal integration is ideal. Any project of greater coastal bilateral and regional integration involves what are called "sovereignty tradeoffs." Integration often requires the establishment and maintenance of structures of authority and institutions that surpass national boundaries. One important condition that will make coastal integration possible in South Asia is a new understanding of 'sovereignty' itself, in which the coasts do not symbolise control or power but become spaces for interdependence, even though this may at first seem to compromise autonomy. The other important condition would be an acceptance by the states of a simultaneous dialectic of greater bilateral/regional integration and sub-regional power. In such a scenario, Sindh of Pakistan would likely develop extensive links with Gujarat in India. The coasts of Tamil Nadu will resonate vibrantly with the coasts of Sri Lanka, as might those of West Bengal and Bangladesh.


On the ground, regional or bilateral coastal cooperation will gather momentum only when it is based on organic links among different coastal sub-regions of the subcontinents. Thus, it is not the centre of each country but coastlines and surrounding areas that would be the driving force behind policies and law-making. By rediscovering and re-establishing cultural affiliations and working and living ties, nations can actually emerge safer and more secure. This kind of coastal integration can also lead to an emergence of new kinds of conflict management machinery and, for that to happen, there can be devolution of power locally. As the coastal regions of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka come together, the coastal laws of all these countries will also begin to look more or less alike and work in an integrated fashion.


(Charu Gupta and Mukul Sharma are the authors of the book Contested Coastlines: Fisherfolk, Nations and Borders in South Asia, Routledge, 2008.)









The widespread optimism about the possible signing of the India-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) sometime in 2010 fails to take into account the many thorny issues that remain to be resolved. Not the least of them are the tariff negotiations on goods and some agreement on the trade in services. Apart from these , an area of concern is sustainable development and climate change raised by members of the European Parliament. Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and vice-chairwoman for the delegation for relations with India, points out that some 30 to 70 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have raised several issues relating to environmental aspects, marginalisation of groups of people and global warming in their meetings with MEPs.


The FTA was stuck because of these issues as NGOs were opposing the trade agreement as it could contribute to bigger social disparities in India, she says. Ms Kolarska-Bobinska also referred to complaints that the Indian government was providing no real data on the impact of the FTA. Climate change and poverty alleviation were a concern for the MEPs and the European Parliament will put a lot of stress on these issues, apart from trade protectionism. A plenary session of the Parliament in Strasbourg this week will address some of these concerns.


Trade negotiations started between the India and the EU in 2006, roughly the same time as with Korea and while the FTA with Korea is almost finalised, the one with India after seven rounds of negotiations is nowhere near closure. The EU is thrusting itself as a single unified market with 27 countries. It is India's largest trading partner accounting for approximately 77 billion euros in trade in goods and services in 2008, whereas India is ranked tenth in the list of EU's main trading partners. The EU feels that India needs to further open up its market and accelerate market reform and address such matters as customs tariffs and the many non-tariff trade barriers, as well as considerably improve its infrastructure.


NGOs, however, pinpoint the social dimensions of the proposed FTA. Barbara Specht, advocacy officer, Women in Development Europe (WIDE), Brussels, feels there is a total lack of transparency, democratic process and public debate on the FTA. Until now, seven rounds of trade talks between the EU and India have been concluded without any negotiating texts or positions of either party being made public and without consulting key civil society constituents in Europe and in India.


Ms Specht says that so far it has been agreed that both parties would eliminate at least 90 per cent of tariff lines which for the Indian government means a substantial loss of customs revenue. In the past, revenue loss led to an increase in direct and indirect taxes as well as to cuts in public spending. It also includes a decline of investments in public services and cuts in subsidies of, for example, food grains, affecting women primarily.


Another area of impact is the liberalisation of government procurement which is an integral part of the mandate of the European Commission. Public procurement includes public utilities at state, provincial and local governance level in India and the EU has not stated that it would exclude essential services such as infrastructure for health, education and water from its demands.


In the arena of services, which is hotly debated as well, with the help of the FTA the EU would like to achieve significant liberalisation of the banking sector. A special report by Kavaljit Singh, titled "India-EU FTA: Should India open up the banking sector?" brought out by Madhyam, a policy research centre, questions the much-touted benefits of opening up this sector. The report asks whether big European banks are going to augment the reach of the banking system to millions of Indians citizens who have no access to basic banking services. What specialisation and experience do European banks have when it comes to providing basic banking services to landless rural workers and urban poor dwellers? Will the India-EU FTA reduce the domestic regulatory space? While there is some frustration in the trade negotiations, with the EU complaining of India's lack of preparedness and inadequate human resources, the fact remains that the treaty is clouded in secrecy and its myriad issues are still contentious. The Indian government too has showed its usual lethargy in not creating a participatory process for the trade negotiations especially when the treaty could have an impact on livelihoods of already marginalised communities, apart from implications in the services sector and on Intellectual Property Rights.








While India could play a "constructive part" at the Copenhagen negotiations on climate change that will take place in December, it cannot accept mandatory emission limits, according to Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


In an opinion piece that is appearing this week in the journal Nature, the head of the international body that assesses the scientific evidence on climate change said that India expected a "strong agreement" to come out of the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen. The country was very vulnerable to the effects of climate change, he pointed out. "We need a more constructive spirit between developed and developing countries if we are to reach an effective agreement in Copenhagen," remarked Dr. Pachauri, who is also director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi and director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute in the U.S.


"To achieve this, the leadership of developed nations must convince their public on the principles and scientific realities under which they will take proactive commitments. At the same time, major emerging economies such as India should not hesitate to put forward their own national action plans as part of global efforts, and which would help them achieve sustainable development." Dr. Pachauri took the view that "as a matter of principle, India will firmly dismiss demands from developed nations that their proposed emissions cuts should, in any way, be contingent on rapidly developing economies, such as India and China, committing themselves to emissions limits before 2020."


India's Prime Minister had released the National Action Plan on Climate Change in June. The plan focused on achieving a pattern of sustainable development while dealing comprehensively with the challenge of climate change, he pointed out.


In order to demonstrate the India's seriousness towards shared action, it could, at an appropriate stage of the negotiations, offer the plan as part of a global package of commitments, suggested Dr. Pachauri. However, "in Copenhagen, India should reject any imposition of measures for verification of goals achieved under the [National Action Plan], but might agree to annual international reporting," he added.


Without the development and transfer of low-carbon technologies, developing countries would continue to emulate the emissions-intensive growth patterns of the developed world.


"But alongside well-defined intellectual property rights, technological innovation can be created through partnerships between developed and developing countries at much lower cost than if these were driven solely by the developed world," said Dr. Pachauri









The move surprised many as it was unveiled simultaneously in the Vatican and in London, where the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was forced to admit that he had not known about it until a fortnight ago.


Pope Benedict's initiative — set out in an apostolic constitution, the highest form of pontifical decree, and unveiled by a senior Catholic cardinal — allows Anglicans worldwide, both clergy and worshippers, to convert en masse while still maintaining part of their spiritual heritage.


Both Williams and the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who was sitting next to him in a show of unity, refused to concede that the Vatican was passing judgment on the troubles within the Anglican communion.


"It is not an act of aggression, it is not a statement of no confidence. It is business as usual," said Williams, who nevertheless apologised to Anglicans that there had not been prior debate. The Vatican sought no input from Lambeth Palace. The papal decree comes after many years of approaches to the Vatican from Anglicans unhappy with the ordination of women and gay people.


There was scarce detail about how the new structure would work — there could be separate services in Roman Catholic churches for breakaway Anglicans, though control would lead back to Rome. It creates not so much a church within a church as an enclave operating under the auspices of the Vatican. The most significant part of the decree is that it will allow married Anglican clergy to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests, waiving the requirement of celibacy.


The pope's chief theological adviser, the U.S. cardinal William Levada, said that he would put the number of Anglican bishops in the world who were poised to become Catholics "in the 20s or 30s." Later, Joseph Di Noia, the deputy head of the Vatican's liturgical department, said he believed the figure was closer to 50.


Williams appeared on Tuesday alongside Archbishop Nichols in Eccleston Square, the central London administrative HQ of the Catholic church in England and Wales, and there were awkward moments. When Williams was asked if the Vatican move was a "massive vote of no confidence" in his leadership, it was Nichols who jumped in with an answer. Several times they both said the apostolic constitution was not a commentary on the internal disputes ravaging the world's second biggest Christian denomination — despite years of Roman consternation over the ordination of women and gay people.


At an Anglican conference last year several cardinals swooped into Canterbury to air their concerns about the impact such innovations would have on relations between the two churches and how undesirable an Anglican schism would be.


But on Tuesday in a basement room, faced with the press, Williams was optimistic and resolute, though his complexion reddened. "I do not think this constitution will be seen as in any sense a commentary on Anglican problems offered by the Vatican. It is a response to this range of requests and inquiries from a very broad variety of people. In that sense it has no negative impact on the relations of the communion as a whole to the Roman Catholic church as a whole."

Williams was also forced to reveal his ignorance about the move to Anglican bishops and archbishops, a number of whom are dissatisfied with his leadership. In a letter he wrote: "I am sorry that there has been no opportunity to alert you earlier to this; I was informed of the planned announcement at a very late stage, and we await the text of the apostolic constitution ... in the coming weeks."


Two bishops from a prominent Anglo-Catholic movement in the U.K., Forward in Faith, welcomed the apostolic constitution, but said it was not a time for "sudden decisions or general public discussion."


The bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough, who provide pastoral and spiritual care for people opposed to women bishops, also confirmed their 2008 meeting with Vatican officials, an event previously denied by Lambeth Palace.


They said some would want to stay in the Anglican communion, while others would make arrangements according to their conscience. They said they had chosen February 22 "to be an appropriate day for priests and people to make an initial decision as to whether they wish to respond positively" to the apostolic constitution.


"We were becoming increasingly concerned that the various agendas of the Anglican communion were driving Anglicans and Roman Catholics further apart. It was our task, we thought, to take the opportunity of quietly discussing these matters in Rome. We were neither the first nor the last Anglicans to do this in recent years. Following the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England in July 2008 to proceed with the ordination of women ... we appealed to the Holy Father and have patiently awaited a reply." The initiative is not without problems for the Vatican. The Catholic Church will accept married Anglican vicars who agree to be reordained, just as it includes married priests of the so-called Uniate churches that belong to the Orthodox rite. But, like the Orthodox, it draws the line at married bishops.


However, under the arrangements Anglicans can be taken into so-called "personal ordinariates" in each country, similar to military chaplaincies. Each would be headed by a former Anglican prelate, who does not have to become a bishop in the Catholic church, and so could be married.


By accepting numbers of married clergy, some with the responsibilities and status of bishops, the Vatican risks reigniting the debate among Catholics over its insistence on celibacy for the vast majority of its priests who belong to the western, or Latin, rite. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








There are thousands of Muslim Bedouin who serve in the Israeli army, or IDF, and even bear arms against their fellow Muslims in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. They do so although it is not compulsory for them to serve in the Israeli military, as it is for most Israeli Jews, and sometimes military service comes with a price tag.


``I will do whatever is required from me to do the job with the full faith in the service of the Israeli state," asserts Maj Fehd Fallah, a Bedouin from the village of Saad in the Israeli occupied Golan.


He is happy to perform his duty, whoever he may have to fight against. "Yes, I have fought against Muslims in Gaza," he says. That includes Israel's three-week Operation Cast Lead which began in December last year.


"And I would fight again if I had to," he added. "Israeli Muslims who don't serve in the IDF should be ashamed for not serving their country."


Israel's Bedouin are a Muslim, Arabic-speaking group. Although these formerly nomadic people were once considered part of the Palestinian nation, most of them are now proud to call themselves Israelis.


Cooperation between Jews and Bedouin began before the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. In 1946, tribal leader Abu Yusuf al-Heib sent more than 60 of his men to fight alongside Zionist forces against their Arab neighbours in Galilee. More than 60 years on, Maj Fallah's devotion to the Jewish state was unequivocal. He even refused to be interviewed by me in Arabic, insisting: "I have better command of Hebrew."


Military service is a family tradition in many Bedouin villages, especially those located in the north of Israel. During my conversation with Maj Fallah, two men were standing listening to us. They were his cousins and both wore the uniform of the IDF. "It's a legacy — it's something that has been passed on from generation to generation in my family," Maj Fallah explains.


"My father and his father served in the army too."



The Israeli army does not publish statistics about the exact number of non-Jewish enlisted soldiers, although it says hundreds of non-Jewish Israeli citizens — Muslims, Christians and Druze — join up every year. Their numbers have grown rather than decreased since the controversial military assault on Gaza.


The Israeli military official responsible for minorities is Col Ahmed Ramiz. He is Druze, another Arabic-speaking ethnic group with a presence in Israel and other parts of the Middle East. He told me that the main obligation for any citizen of Israel "is to defend his country and to serve in the IDF."


How does this square with Israel's status as the world's only Jewish state? Why should Muslims apply — and why should Israel accept them? He explained the compromise in the following terms.


"We have decided that, due to the potential conflict between the Muslim person's national identities and their status as Israelis, we don't make it compulsory for Muslims to join the IDF," Col Ramiz said.


Muslims could work in every unit of the army, even elite units, although a Bedouin recruit recently applied to join the pilot's course and was declined. "He didn't meet the specific requirements and various personality tests," the colonel told me, and denied it was anything to do with his ethnicity or religion.


But the pride shown by someone like Maj Fallah is not shared by all Bedouin soldiers who have signed up to the Israeli military. Many young Bedouin join up to better their prospects in terms of education and work rather than national pride. Some are also sensitive to the fact that among other Muslim Arab communities military service is seen as a badge of shame.



Maher is a part-time physical education teacher in his 20s, who served in the military in the Education Unit.


"When I was in the army, they said it would be easy for me to get a job. I applied for a lot of things but it wasn't easy," Maher told me when I met him on the family farm near Nazareth. "Muslim employers don't want me because I had been in the army and the Jews prefer to give jobs to other Jews," he explained.


"In my village it can be difficult but people are not hostile as in other places."


One of those places is the nearby town of Um al-Fahm, whose residents, like the Bedouin, are considered Israeli Arabs, but who continue to have close ties with the wider Palestinian community in the occupied territories and the post-1948 diaspora. Such people make up the majority of Israel's 1.5 million non-Jewish Arab community, with the Bedouin accounting for less than 200,000 of that number.


Maher tells me he tries to avoid wearing his uniform in the non-Bedouin Arab villages to avoid being called a traitor and risking verbal and physical abuse.


Maher and other young serving Bedouin soldiers have described to me a feeling of being trapped.


On the one hand, they have to do military service, or non-military community service, to be eligible for government help towards education fees or for family allowances, on the other they run the risk of marginalisation from other non-Jews.


As Maher put it: "We are damned if we serve, and we are damned if we don't serve." — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate








The denouement in the election process in Afghanistan has been anti-climactic in that it is likely to leave President Hamid Karzai in the driver's seat in spite of the opposition of many in the international community to him. The results had produced a clear winner, the incumbent winning nearly 55 per cent of the valid votes, with his principal opponent Abdullah Abdullah trailing far behind at 28 per cent. And yet charges of electoral fraud marred the exercise. These would not have occurred — if indeed they did to the extent claimed by some UN officials but disputed by Afghan members of the Independent Election Commission, one of whom resigned in protest — if the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had been more astute, more mindful of its responsibilities, and punctilious about its duties.


After a period of suspense, Mr Karzai has agreed to the runoff. This could underline his real victory. He has kept alive his country's new democratic constitution. He need not have, although that would have risked political mayhem. By doing so, he has resurrected his credentials as a democrat, a man of peace in a country in which violence has been the currency of politics, and a diplomat of the first rank. At the practical level, there are two possibilities now. Being a refined politician, Dr Abdullah would straightaway know his chances of besting Mr. Karzai in most parts of the country are theoretical in the main. As such, it is not unlikely he might consider an arrangement in which he is offered a high constitutional position, rather than insist on a runoff vote. In such an event, Mr Karzai retains the presidency. Some way would then have to be evolved to bypass the constitutional requirement of a second-round vote between the two top contenders. If, on the other hand, the alternative scenario were to prevail, and an electoral duel were fought between the rivals, Afghanistan could face a bleak prospect politically. There is every likelihood of a laughably low turnout because voters would be fed up and on account of the country's difficult geography and harsh winter. The UN and some leading Western actors, who cried themselves hoarse over a flawed election, would look ridiculous. The only ones to crow would be the Taliban.


Such an outcome would make the military campaign against the jihadists in the coming weeks and months more difficult than it need be. A significant dimension of the armed campaign on both sides rests on information and psychological warfare, which the Taliban have consistently won so far. If a government comes to power based on a pitiably low vote, as many suspect the runoff to turn out, a clear propaganda advantage would be handed to the Taliban. It might therefore be best that a runoff were avoided. The Election Control Commission (ECC) of the UN that was overseeing the entire process could have avoided the farce we saw had it put its foot down at the time when electoral malpractices were being reported in real time. It foolishly waited for the process to be completed before raising a howl. The irony of ironies — the malpractices occurred in areas where either Western troops were in control of the polling or where the Taliban intimidated voters into staying away. The ECC might have given a better account of itself if it included a member from a developing country democracy, rather than only Westerners. That would have been consistent with standard UN practice.









Keats' lament of "tears amid the alien corn" aptly sums up the debate on genetically-modified (GM) food. The latest to join this swirling controversy is the humble brinjal, with the government's genetic engineering approval committee clearing its GM avatar, Bt brinjal. Bt (for Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria) makes toxins that are lethal to insects. GM crops use this to incorporate into plants a gene that helps produce a bacterial pesticide protein, which enables the plant to protect itself from pests. Almost 40 per cent of the brinjal produced in India is destroyed by the fruit and shoot borer (FSB). In spite of this India remains the world's second-largest producer of brinjal.


Bt brinjal uses the Cry1Ac gene to express an insecticidal protein to make the crop resistant to FSB. This helps reduce waste considerably, and farmers could expect to rake in an additional Rs 4,000 crores annually.


But try telling this to the critics, whose concerns range from masked multinationals holding poor farmers to ransom to giant brinjal mutants devouring bewildered humans. It's only natural for the introduction of any new crop strain to raise suspicion. One fear is that GM crops could limit biodiversity and eat into the country's gene pool. But GM crops by themselves hardly limit biodiversity as much as conventional agriculture does! Even something like wheat that we all take for granted is actually a product of natural genetic engineering: it has seven additional chromosomes from a different species with which it crossbred before man even thought of agriculture!


There is enough sound science and experience backing agricultural biotechnology. And in any case, the insertion of a couple of genes is, in many respects, a much simpler genetic modification than is sometimes made in conventional breeding. Even the vitamin Riboflavin — used in most vitamin supplements — is now routinely synthesised using a gram-negative bacterium, and no one's complaining.


There can be no denying that agriculture could do with a leg-up to meet the demands of an exploding population, and that this must involve agronomy, ways of controlling pests and diseases, and environment-friendly measures.


GM crops are the best bet yet for this, and it's unfortunate that critics should blindly adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards a technology that has so much potential. So where does one draw the line? One way of going about it is to make the good, the bad and the ugly sides of research on GM crops available to the public so it can make informed choices. But dismissing GM crops as an outlandish idea would be doltish. For it could very well be that, as physicist Stephen Hawking once said, "People in 50 years' time will wonder what the fuss about GM food was all about".


Prakash Chandra is a science writer





It would be the saddest day of our lives if the Centre approves the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. This would be an excuse for the government to allow genetically-modified food crops in India, which are facing stiff opposition in other parts of the world. How can the government think of allowing genetically-modified crops in the country when there is no scientific evidence to prove that they are safe for human consumption?


In India there is no labelling regime for genetically-modified (GM) foods which will give consumers a choice to make a decision whether they want to consume GM food or not. Till the time this is done, regulators should not have cleared any GM crops.


Are GM food crops the only solution to address food security concerns? Are we sure the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) decision to approve Bt brinjal was not affected by corporate interests, when many countries in Europe have refused to accept it? The GEAC decision has clearly overruled science. The decision was taken in an hour's time. This is questionable. You are taking such an important decision and do not care to go into the scientific evidence? After its own regulatory body approves it, the Centre says it is in no hurry to approve Bt brinjal. What good will it do now for environment minister Jairam Ramesh to consult scientists, farmers' organisations, consumer groups and NGOs, when he could not stop his subordinates from approving Bt brinjal?


How can one forget the suicides by farmers who were made to believe that another genetically-modified crop, Bt cotton, was good for their land, as well as economically viable?


Surveys have shown that there have been decreases in micro-organisms and beneficial soil enzymes


in the soil of Bt cotton fields.


And now we are getting into Bt brinjal. No one is considering the fact that this would destroy the rich varieties of brinjal in the country. India is known for organic farming and we know that organic farming produces more and brings more money to farmers.


India still needs to step up laboratories and the regulatory framework before anyone thinks of clearing Bt food crops.


It is also not possible to check the GM-content in food as there are no methods in the country to prove that these foods are safe for consumption.


There are so many unresolved issues surrounding the environmental release of the transgenic vegetable, as well as genuine concerns expressed over its safety for human consumption. But there is apparently no concern in government to address these.


Vandana Shiva is an environmental activist and founder of Navdanya Trust







The recent report about China wanting to build a dam to divert water from the Brahmaputra is the latest in a series of anti-India steps that China has taken in the last two-three years. And one that should give India reason for serious introspection. Beijing's somewhat childish behaviour over Arunachal Pradesh lately should serve as an appropriate reminder of our own blunders on Tibet and related boundary issue six decades ago.


We also need to take a relook at China's so-called claim of sovereignty over Tibet. On closer scrutiny, these appear to be nothing more than imperialist claims, like Britain's over Hong Kong and Gibraltar, which cease to have validity in a post-colonial world. The plain fact is that China, as an imperial power, laid claim over Tibet as a colony. The argument about Tibet ethnically being a part of China is incorrect and lacks historical support.


The origin of China's claim over Tibet goes back to a dynastic marriage over 1,500 years ago, when the Tibetan king Songsten Gampo married princess Wen Cheng of the Tang dynasty. The marriage in itself did not mean that Tibet was incorporated into China at that time, but China, from this point of time, claimed that Tibet was a part of "greater China". The Tibetans, and in particular the government-in-exile headed by the Dalai Lama based in Dharamsala, has never accepted this untenable claim by the Chinese government. According to them, Tibet has always enjoyed de facto independence. After Songsten Gampo, the Tibetans and the Chinese fought many times and the Tibetans defeated the Chinese on at least two occasions.


After the rise of the Dalai Lama, the relationship between the two countries was politico-religious, resembling the relationship between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor in Europe. Chinese emperors acted as Tibet's protectors. In 1911, when the nationalists overthrew the Quing dynasty, the 13th Dalai Lama expelled all Manchu and Chinese officials from Tibet and announced Tibet's independence (1913). From 1913 to 1951, Tibet was completely independent.


The Simla Agreement of 1914 was the result of a conference attended by representatives of Tibetan, Chinese and British-Indian governments. There is no evidence that the Tibetans acknowledged the Chinese claim over them. The Chinese and the Tibetan delegates, along with the Indian delegates, signed the draft treaty separately. But, thereafter, although both British-India and Tibet formally endorsed this treaty, the Chinese government in Beijing did not do it on account of the fact that the Chinese imperial government got progressively weakened and was eventually overthrown by San Yat Sen in 1911. It is not correct to say that the government in Beijing refused to endorse the treaty as they had objections to its provisions. The Tibetans have always maintained that Tibet enjoyed de facto independence till 1950. It was after the Communist takeover of China under Mao Zedong that Radio Peking started announcing that Tibet was a part of China and that the Chinese government was determined to restore Tibet to a "unified China". Soon after that the People's Liberation Army of China invaded Tibet. The Dalai Lama appealed to America, Britain, India and Nepal for help and guidance. The British advised the Dalai Lama to negotiate with the Chinese and reach an arrangement suitable to both. However, the Indian government bent over backwards in acknowledging Tibet as a part of China and advised the Dalai Lama to accept this status.


Delhi went out of its way in withdrawing the Indian Army contingents stationed in Lhasa and Gyantse, under the 1914 treaty. The government of Tibet had no choice then but to sign the infamous 17-point agreement, and agreeing to Tibet being incorporated into the communist regime. The very first point of the agreement was: "The Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the motherland — the People's Republic of China".


Tibetans now became one amongst the 55 ethnic minorities of China. Further, China distributed Tibetan territories among different Chinese provinces like Sichuan, Yunan and Gensu, leaving only the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region as Tibet. Today, the Han settlers outnumber ethnic Tibetans in Tibet proper. China has militarised Tibet and located military bases along the Indo-Tibetan border in a clear policy to intimidate India.


It is forgotten by Indians of the present generation that Indians did not need a passport or visa to visit any part of Tibet for business or tourism until the early 50s. It was only after China's occupation that they insisted that Indians carry valid travel documents for entering Tibet. It should also be pointed out that traditionally the border between British-India and Tibet was notional rather than political or geographical. And when, for the first time, the Chinese attempted to physically mark the border, this started a process of unending border disputes.


Meanwhile, the flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959 complicated matters. The Dalai Lama is respected widely in the border areas and Tawang is no exception. Chinese claims over Arunachal Pradesh are only on the strength of the attachment of the people living there to the Dalai Lama and his Tibet. The moment the Dalai Lama is no longer in Lhasa that attachment will disappear.


For India, the time has come to engage in real politics. New Delhi should consider retracing steps and reviving the case for Tibet's complete autonomy and for the withdrawal of the Chinese military forces from Tibet. Once India takes this stand, there will be support for it in the UN as well. After all, during the days of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai, China did not oppose India's case for Jammu and Kashmir, but the moment China became friendly with Pakistan and border problems erupted between China and India, China dumped India's case without any hesitation and supported Pakistan's claim over Kashmir. It was a clear volte-face. So there are good international precedents for India to re-open the Tibetan question.


Nitish Sengupta, an academic and an author, is a former Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the Government of India








The Goldstone Report blaming Israel more than the Hamas movement for alleged war crimes in the 22-day Gaza war of December 2008-January 2009 leaving nearly 1,500 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead is a landmark event since the creation of the Jewish state. Its passage in the UN Human Rights Commission marks the first time that Israel lost the immunity it has persistently claimed to flout the rules of war and civilised behaviour, thanks to total American moral and material support.


The irony is that a reputed South African jurist, Richard Goldstone, himself a Jew, made the stinging indictment of Israel's conduct during the infamous conflict. The report, now referred to the UN Security Council, asks Israel and Hamas (the latter for firing rockets into southern Israel) to conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes in six months, failing which the issue should be sent to The Hague war crimes tribunal, which is independently looking into the possibility of prosecuting Israel.


It seems unlikely that Israeli leaders will face war crime charges at The Hague, given the US veto in the Security Council and its overall influence. But the contention that Israel could do no wrong because it was living in a hostile sea of Arab states has come crashing down. Ends have always justified the means in Israel's case and much blood has been spilled - not only by militants - in the 60 years of Israel's existence.


Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are not the only casualties of the Goldstone Report. The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, had initially deferred to US and Israeli pressure to bury the report. Facing unprecedented Palestinian protests, he reversed his decision. But the weak head of the Fatah movement in charge of enclaves in the West Bank, Israel, has lost much of his credibility. And the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, was reported to have taunted him with the words: "No one believes this leadership. It must he held accountable. Israel was in a corner and the Palestinian team came to its rescue".


To no one's surprise, the United States, together with the Netherlands with its abiding sentimental attachment to the Israeli cause, voted against the resolution in the UN Council, with other European Union members either abstaining or not voting at all (France and Britain). American representatives damned the report as flawed and unfair to Israel. Despite the advent of the Obama administration, the hardline Jewish American lobby is alive and well.


Americans initially persuaded Mr Abbas to help Mr Netanyahu to bury the report at the altar of the peace process. But the charade has gone on long enough to lack credibility. President Barack Obama started with a bang by presenting a new American face to the Muslim world through his famous Cairo speech and setting the first marker for Israel: no new or expanded settlements on occupied land under "natural growth" or any other guise. Mr Abbas, on his part, made it his mantra: no new talks with Israel unless there was a freeze on new or expansion of settlements on occupied land. Mr Netanyahu gave the new US President his answer: a thundering "no". Israeli cockiness and ability to thumb its nose at the sole surviving superpower stems from the sway Jerusalem has over the American political process.


Mr Obama has been retracing his steps since then, with his representative for the region, George Mitchell, going through the motion of shuttling between Israeli and Arab capitals. Despite his new resolve, Mr Abbas agreed to meet Mr Netanyahu with Mr Obama in the White House. The charade of the peace process where there is no peace or meaningful process must be maintained because it serves a soporific purpose without changing anything but greater Israeli occupation.

From their narrow viewpoint, Israelis believe they are sitting pretty. They have stared down a new US President who actually wanted to bring about peace, strangely winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his intent. They have blatantly announced new settlements and further dispossession of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip remains blockaded and walled off from the world. The West Bank is cut into ribbons by Israeli-only roads leading to more illegal settlements. And Palestinians remain divided between the Fatah and Hamas movements, with the former appearing more and more like members of a peripatetic fraternity in business suits attending conferences leading to nowhere.


Mr Obama, beset with two wars, a still ailing economy and controversial health reforms, underestimated the power of the Israeli lobby. Having failed to stop further illegal settlements, he made a strange demand from Arabs, that they should do their bit to create the right atmosphere. Palestinians are an occupied people living in utter misery, particularly in Gaza, and how can the United States expect of the Arab states to give up the only lever they have, of legitimising the Jewish state while Israel goes on a rampage of new settlement-building activity?


The Saudi proposal, reiterated twice by the Arab League, of universal Arab recognition of Israel if it would withdraw to the pre-1967 borders and seek a rational settlement of Palestinian refugee problem, continues to gather dust. The Israeli peace lobby is a voice in the wilderness. The once hopeful Oslo accords have become an archaeological curiosity, the now comatose Ariel Sharon physically destroying all vestiges of the Palestinian Authority painstakingly built through European Union funding.


A Right-wing government is now in office in Israel but there are some issues that cut across political frontiers. In fact, the largest expansion of illegal settlements has taken place during Labour Party rule. And the dream of Greater Israel Mr Netanyahu is seeking to bring to reality fires the Israeli imagination. The problem boils down to this. Israel might want to live like a garrison state till eternity, but the costs to its mentor, the United States, are mounting by the day. For decades, the US and the West have pretended that Israeli nuclear bombs do not exist while lecturing the other countries in the region on the virtues of virginity. Only very recently has the US tacitly acknowledged the Israeli nuclear arsenal.


Perhaps we are beginning to see the first glimmer of hope. The Goldstone Report has bluntly told Israel and the world that the cachet of security cannot justify all crimes. Israel, like every other country in the world, must be held accountable for its actions.








The quest for Shangri-La, that mythical land where nobody ever dies, is a perennial one for mankind. Nobody wants to grow old, lose all faculties one by one and then eventually die. If only we could remain young, is the oft-heard plea of mankind. Now scientists are holding the tantalising promise of just that.


Human bodies regenerate and replenish themselves with clockwork efficiency and at a fairly good clip. Most of this happens without our knowledge or even awareness. It is one of those processes that we take for granted, though at some point it all stops and we die. The problem is when our body parts fail before we're done with them. British researchers are currently trying to fix that problem and if their theory works, even if we don't manage to live forever, it will be for a very long time.


Regenerative therapy uses our own bodies to work with us. The idea is to strip donor organs of all cells, leaving behind the basic structure. This is inserted into the body to replace the worn out or malfunctioning organ and allow the body to grow around it. In other cases, long-lasting artificial replacements are used. The intention is to make the lives of senior citizens easier and remove the current pressure on human organ donation. This research postulates that the new improved organs will last at least 50 years, a nice, long lease of life.


But of course, the moral, ethical and practical questions and problems remain. For one, if everyone is either regenerating or replacing, will anyone ever die? What do we do with so many people? Is space a feasible option yet? Would one want to be regenerated at 80 or at 20? Will this become a pastime or hobby — like cosmetic surgery — mainly for the wealthy while everyone else dies, either literally or of envy.


It is not necessary though to remain fixed on the doomsday hypothesis alone. It is only sensible to keep all objections under discussion so that as we venture into these new, exciting but potentially hazardous territories, we have a few backup plans ready. Death, after all, is not just a leveller — it is also an efficient system of cleaning up the planet.

Still, the scope of the human imagination and ingenuity is magnificent.


Combined with all the other research that is out there, from genome mapping to stem cell research, regenerative therapy also allows us to explore that one frontier that is perpetually fascinating to us — ourselves! Shangri-La may yet be around the corner.







Gurgaon, on the outskirts of Delhi, symbolises globalised India, where international brand names in information technology sector have set up shop and young people from all over India are swelling the new skilled work force.


It is a young and hip India and it is the new economy. But that is only part of the story. The other, less visible, is the Gurgaon which is a manufacturing hub of the old economy. This is where new technology may have come in, but newer ideas have not.


Almost five years ago Gurgaon saw clashes between the police and workers of an international auto company. Similar scenes are being played out now; on Tuesday trade unions of the communist parties, Aituc and Citu, organised an industrial strike and 10,000 people poured into the streets.


The protests soon degenerated into predictable violence; the protesters beat up the deputy manager of Rico Auto, the automotive parts manufacturer, against whom the strike was organised. They were demanding compensation for the family of a worker who had died in a previous clash with the management. The management spokesperson indicated that it would pay compensation but it would not deal with any union on this. Clearly, the chasm is one that is being witnessed in many companies in Gurgaon and elsewhere — companies do not want unions in their factories.


For a few years, as the Indian economy grew during the post-liberalisation phase, old style unions went on the back foot, if not disappeared. Now they seem to be coming back in the white and blue collar sections of the economy. There have been strikes by bank officers, pilots and in factories by workers. Large and small companies that have grown in recent years are against unions. It's a situation fraught with tension, especially since in an era of job cuts, salary freezes and downturns, labour would want to consolidate its position and managements will want a freer hand.


While union violence is unacceptable, managements will find it difficult to ward off unions. Companies will have to understand that workers have a right to organise. But old style unionism is passé. The Left unions may be fighting their battles against globalisation, but they will lose support if workers find that such tactics are scaring off investors as well as forcing managements to take a harder line towards wages, working hours and so on. It is in the interests of both to come to terms with these realities.








Hemmed in by Chinese incursions and claims? Not quite ready to gift Arunachal Pradesh to the inscrutable neighbours yet? Relax, have some tea. The Brits got it right. A nice cuppa can often suggest magical remedies for impossible problems. And they picked up this trust in tea from the astoundingly insightful Bengalis, who still believe that cha holds the secret to a meaningful existence.


As an astoundingly insightful Bengali myself, I propose that if we pay a little more attention to cha we may manage to keep the Chinese at bay. Shhh… there's some trouble brewing over cha in China right now. It involves a tiny stroke at the base of the character in the Chinese script for cha, or tea. The government wants to get rid of that itsy-bitsy little stroke. The rest of China is staunchly against it. And here's our chance of paying back the Chinese.


What have they done, you ask? You mean apart from lining up missiles at the border pointing at us, occasionally bombing Buddhist monasteries in Arunachal, refusing to give people from Arunachal a visa (they believe Arunachalis, being Chinese, don't need a visa for China), giving separate visas for Kashmiris but not on their Indian passports, showing Arunachal Pradesh as their territory even in Google maps, periodically dropping in uninvited across the border for a little look-see, impishly painting rocks in our Northeast red, and refusing to admit that they are diverting the waters of the Yangtze (Brahmaputra to us) that could dry up Assam?


Well, right now they are complaining about the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang, which hosts one of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries in the world. They are "firmly opposed", they say, to this visit, and "greatly concerned" by this elderly monk's trip to "so-called Arunachal Pradesh" (they call it "South Tibet"). Last week they were complaining about our own PM Manmohan Singh's visit to our own state of Arunachal Pradesh in similar words, registering "strong dissatisfaction". They do that every time the PM sets foot on the state. We respond by glumly reciting that "Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of
India" and changing the subject.


We do not attempt to embrace the state or pay attention to their needs, we do not build roads or bridges in this remote land starved of infrastructure, or even educate ourselves about the region and its culture. In short, we do nothing to make Arunachal truly ours, other than holding on to a political notion and acting as an absentee landlord. It's a marvel that Arunachalis themselves still believe they are Indian. Possibly because the alternative is worse.


Meanwhile the Chinese government has also been active at home. It has proposed to make life simpler by modifying 44 characters (of the 3,500 most frequently used) in their script. Which has instantly unleashed furious opposition and made life more complicated. Chinese characters were part of their cultural heritage, snapped the Chinese and need to be cherished and protected. Unbelievably, the Chinese government backed off, at least temporarily. "If the people are opposed, we will not budge," they said this week. Never mind the meaning. The operative word here is "if".


Now here's a plan. One of the 44 characters proposed to be changed is cha. It's a minute change insignificant to the untrained eye, important I assume only to language purists and cha-aficionados. As a nation of tea drinkers, led by the cha-cherishing people of the east and northeast, we have a right to resist. We must claim that we are "greatly concerned" about this proposal and "firmly opposed" to it. We must raise a storm in a tea cup and register our "strong dissatisfaction" at such initiatives geared to upset Indo-China talks. Come on, let's be good neighbours. They visit us so often, let's at least drop in for tea.








We have never been in this situation before. Just a couple of years back, in the last years of the Bush regime, it seemed as if an Indo-US geopolitical alliance was all we needed to move up to the big league. But enter Obama and all bets are off.


The US embrace is no longer as warm as we imagined it to be. Meanwhile, the India-China relationship is fraying at the edges; Pakistan is getting into a Talibanesque mess; Nepal is ambivalent, and the Maoists positively hostile to us; Sri Lanka is cocky after subduing its Tamil Tigers; and Bangladesh is unlikely to do anything to keep its people from spilling over into India or turn overtly jihadi.


In short we have no real friends anywhere — neither in the neighbourhood nor in the wider world of power blocs. How then are we going to protect our national interests?
One thing is for sure. Lazy diplomacy is not going to help. Nor will ambivalence about defence preparedness.


We have, in the past, put too much faith in moral posturing, influenced by the likes of Nehru and Gandhi. But the emerging scenario needs a Chanakya, not woolly thinking, as every country's foreign policy is driven by realpolitik. China is bashing up Tibetans and Uighurs, but has the friendliest of relationships with Pakistan, the epicentre of jihadi terrorism.


The US is a muddled up superpower, with no idea of how to protect its long-term interests. It is backing Pakistan in the belief that it will take on the Taliban, but what if Pakistan, driven by blind hatred of India, is not up to it? What if a Talibanised Pakistan is armed to take on the US and India instead?


Russia, a defence superpower with a puny economy, kowtows to China despite being wary of its embrace. The European Union, despite its high moral tone in everything, is the meekest possible force when it comes to fighting for what it believes in. Economically, western Europe is in decline and politically it is effete.  Japan is too self-absorbed with its non-performing economy to stand up for its national self-respect, whether it is against Chinese bullying or North Korean buccaneering.


In this world, the first thing we need to understand is that we are on our own. Civilisationally, as Samuel Huntington presciently predicted, we have no natural allies to call to our aid. We have to size up the world and make our moves.


As things stand now, these are the major power blocs we have to deal with: the US and north America is bloc one; China and south-east Asia constitute a rival bloc, and its power is growing; the European Union is bloc three, but it is largely protectionist and its economy is losing steam; Latin America is the rising power, and as such ripe for alignments. The west Asian economies — largely Islamic — constitute another node, despite apparent local rivalries and bitterness.


What we have left is the African subcontinent, Australia, Russia and Japan. Africa is ripe for big power rivalry, and the Chinese are ahead in the game. Australia is aligned to the US, but is of little practical relevance in any international power game.


That leaves Russia, Japan and India as the sole major powers with no natural allies and each with its own weaknesses to attend to.

This is the slate on which Indian diplomacy has to make its mark, and the place to begin obviously is the US, Japan and Russia — in that order. The US is a natural partner but it believes it needs Pakistan on its side and China too. Since both of them are our enemies, Indian diplomacy has to do two opposite things: one is to patiently educate the US on the disadvantages of partnering with countries that are actually inimical to its interests; secondly, we need to resist misguided US pressure to make concessions on Kashmir. We should, of course, give the Kashmiris a large amount of autonomy, but we have to keep the Pakistanis out of there to preserve secularism.


On the assumption that our relationship with the US will not be smooth, we have to redevelop our friendship with the Russians and closer economic ties with the EU and Japan. If any country should be shown favours, it is Japan. We also need to develop Iran as a strategic partner, if only to send a message to the US that if they can jump into bed with our enemies, we can talk to Iran too.


Of course, only a militarily strong nation can maintain its independence. We must thus keep raising our defence preparedness with a step-up in defence's share of the GDP to 4-4.5 per cent for the next 10 years, till we are capable of deterring China on our own. The nuclear deterrence also needs to be beefed up and made real, with proper delivery systems.


India is not a warmongering nation, but we must learn the lesson that only those who are perpetually prepared for war can usually avoid it.






While largely agreeing with 'Failing the test' by Aroon Tikekar (DNA, October 21) I beg to differ on his suggestions about inviting scholars for the post of the vice chancellor in various universities rather than making them apply. I don't understand why we feel shy in applying for any post. I think we should appraise our notions of self-respect and respect the values of institutions.

nagha Gokhale, via email



As a true blue Mumbaikar my heart bled on reading about the tragic death of six valiant fire-fighters who lost their lives due to the general apathy towards safeguarding these custodians of our personal safety ('Six firemen get caught in lift, die due to suffocation', DNA.Sunday, October 18). It is shameful that even today these brave men don't have suitable tools of their trade which may well have averted this tragedy. This incident should serve as a lesson to ensure our firefighters are fully equipped.

aju Iyer, Singapore



The HRD minister, Kapil Sibal, had good intentions when he is supposed to have said that the student should score well in maths and sciences to get into IITs ('Sibal says:To take JEE, score 80-85% in Std XII', DNA, October 20). The reason given by Sibal is that students spend a lot of time in IIT coaching classes at the cost of the Class XII syllabus and lack a basic understanding of the concepts. Second, economically poor students or students from rural areas don't have access to coaching classes and to neutralise that he put emphasis on Class XII marks. Give weightage to the marks scored in 10th and 12th in maths and sciences. This way one tracks the student for a longer period. There is no use of having a topper in IIT entrance exams if he's spent two years in a coaching class.

G Venkataraman, via email


Kapil Sibal should be hailed for his bold approach for his proposal for minimum 80-85 per cent score in class XII Board exam as an eligibility criteria for appearing for IIT-JEE from 2011 onwards. But such a move is bound to be counter productive. The intention of the minister is 'to stem the mushrooming of coaching centres for IIT-JEE' as well as the students not taking the 'X11 board examinations seriously'. Forget about stemming of mushrooming coaching classes for IIT-JEE, this move will lead to mushrooming of coaching classes for Class XII boards also, thereby delivering a double whammy for such aspirants.


JVR Gopal, Navi Mumbai









Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's call to defence services commanders to be ready to face any form of terrorism in the wake of regular intelligence reports of possible terror strikes is pertinent in view of the uncertain security scenario in neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan. That there is no room for complacency is beyond question and it is apt that Dr Manmohan Singh has emphasised it strongly at the senior commanders' conference. It is not enough that there has been no major terror incident after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. Lowering our guard because of this would be most ill-advised because the dangers are still lurking. Significantly, Dr Manmohan Singh made it clear in his address that both state and non-state actors were involved in the business of terrorism, an obvious allusion to the dubious role that Pakistan's army and the ISI have been playing in fanning terror.


The Prime Minister's emphasis on evolving proper procedures for defence acquisitions and procurement reflect his concern over lack of public accountability in defence purchases. Considering that the progressive increase in revenue expenditure, which is largely accounted for by salaries and pensions, leaves just over one-third of the defence outlay for modernisation, it is important that this amount be judiciously spent. The Indian armed forces have suffered greatly due to lack of spending on modernisation over the last couple of decades and it is indeed vital that new weapons systems be acquired speedily so that the country keeps pace with substantial military acquisitions in the neighbourhood. Coupled with this is the need for the armed forces to attract talent on a larger scale. It is no secret that the brightest youth are turning away from the forces and there is a shortage of officers that cannot be ignored. The Prime Minister's advice to senior commanders to ensure that these men and women constantly upgrade their skills and remain ahead of the technology curve deserves to be followed in entirety.


Clearly, there was an undertone of urgency in the Prime Minister's interaction with senior commanders. His call for better synergy among services to combat the serious challenge posed by all forms of terror including 'aggravated militancy' should galvanize the entire security apparatus of the country to meaningful action.








Although an inquiry ordered by the Railway Minister will establish the exact cause of the mishap near Mathura station early Wednesday morning, human error apparently has played a role. Initial reports indicate the driver of the Delhi-bound Goa Express jumped the signal and rammed the train into the stationary Mewar Express, also headed for Delhi. Appearing rather helpless, railway officials grudgingly admit that 86 per cent of the railway accidents in the country occur due to human error. There are as many as 17,000 unmanned railway crossings in the country which are accident-prone. Yet the Railways is terribly slow in providing staff and a reasonable lighting system even at busy crossings.


So frequent have been the mishaps on rail tracks and such is the indifference towards the loss of precious human lives that the Railways seems to have accepted accidents as inevitable. Its safety record, once again, stands blemished. Actually safety has seldom been the top priority of railway ministers. The current incumbent has reduced herself to being the Railway Minister for West Bengal only. Some of the previous ministers also used the Railway resources to nurture their own constituencies.


In one case when the Supreme Court asked the Railways why the level crossings were left unsupervised, the authorities cited lack of funds as the reason. More than funds, it is the lack of will that seems to be behind the Railways' dismal safety record. Whether the Railways genuinely made hefty profits of Rs 20,000 crore two years ago as was claimed by Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and now disputed by Ms Mamata Banerjee, it has enough money to improve the safety standards. The signalling system needs to be upgraded as the Mathura accident has highlighted. With the latest advances in the communication system, the Railways should not allow itself to be caught in the kind of mess visible at Mathura.








THE Rs 500 crore assistance announced by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram for rehabilitation of over 250,000 Tamil refugees displaced by the civil war in Sri Lanka — the second such aid in four months — should help ameliorate the condition of these hapless people who have seen little succour since the Lankan army defeated the secessionist LTTE. Apart from the humanitarian aspect of this aid, there is also the political imperative of the Congress satisfying its ally the DMK which has been demanding a fair deal for the ethnic Tamils. Recently, a delegation of 10 DMK and Congress MPs had, after visiting refugee camps in Sri Lanka, described the conditions of the Tamil refugees as 'pathetic.' With the north-eastern monsoon round the corner, there are even harder times in store for them in their tarpaulin tents in overcrowded camps fenced by barbed wires.


Significantly, India has huge stakes in terms of the larger strategic objective of weaning the Lankans away from the Chinese. The Sri Lankan Government has been cultivating China and Pakistan to keep India in check. It has invited China to construct a modern port in Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka and also to help it in gas exploration in areas which are close to India. Similarly, there is a growing military relationship between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which worries India. This country can hardly lose track of the fact that Sri Lanka sits next to shipping lanes that feed 80 per cent of China's and 65 per cent of India's oil needs. All this underlines the need for India to assume the leadership role in helping Sri Lanka in its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks to bounce back in prime favour.


While giving aid to the Sri Lankans, it is vital that India uses its influence on the Rajapakse government to persuade it to go in for political reconciliation and to rehabilitate the refugees speedily. This is the only way the Tamils can be kept away from extremist influence again and durable peace can be established in the country.









THE European Union (EU), the most admired integration story of our times, has been finding it difficult to take decisions quickly. It has a cumbersome process to arrive at a decision, rendering it incapable of influencing the course of politics and economics at the global level in an effective manner. This has been quite frustrating at times, as many EU officials admitted during a week-long interaction with visiting journalists from India in Brussels last week. The Belgian capital has emerged as the nerve-centre of European politics because of having the different EU institutions as well as the North-Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO's) headquarters there.


 The EU's desire to improve its decision-making process led to an attempt aimed at the modification of European institutions in 2001. The result was the framing of a European constitution, which, however, failed to become a reality because of its rejection by French and Dutch voters in 2005. It was a depressing development, yet it could not dampen the spirits of European leaders. They continued to discuss among themselves about how to find a way out of the crisis caused by the rejection of the constitution. They have the characteristic of being great discussants which helped them to identify an alternative: why not work for a fresh treaty?


Soon they started working on what has come to be known as the Lisbon Treaty, initially intended to be ratified by the end of 2008. The ratification process got delayed because the Irish voters first rejected it before finally giving their approval. Though it has been ratified by all the 27 EU member-countries, it has yet to become operational. The Czech Republic's President Vaclav Claus has to put his signature on the Lisbon Treaty as his country's law requires it. But he is delaying it as he is a known Eurosceptic, who wants the EU to disappear as quickly as possible. He, however, admitted last week that the Lisbon Treaty has gone too far and he may not be able to block it.


But nowadays almost all Europeans have their eye on him. Why is one man preventing the much-awaited treaty to become a reality? This is how Eurosceptics (call them diehard nationalists) have been coming in the way of the European integration process. And this is how the success story has been weaved so far.


Many senior EU officials admit that they themselves are surprised how the EU has succeeded in achieving all that it has done since the 1957 Treaty of Rome was signed, leading to the establishment of the European Community.


The European Community became the European Union with the signing of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. But the treaty signed in Lisbon, Portugal, will rename it as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union if it finally becomes operational. One of the changes that will be introduced by the Lisbon Treaty will be an increase in the tenure of the EU Presidency from the present six months to two and a half years, which is bound to affect its style of functioning. But there is a big IF. Every European leader wishing to see Europe to become the United States of Europe one day is worried.


Yet senior journalists and others who have been watching the EU from close quarters find nothing surprising in the unending wait for the Lisbon Treaty. The EU will be there so long as it prevents the outbreak of a war between two or more member-countries, many of whom have been at daggers drawn for decades together. The other factor that continues to work as the cementing force is the economic gain accruing to the EU members. The EU has emerged as the world's largest trading bloc. It is a huge market with nearly 50 crore buyers.


They are learning from the example of India. In the opinion of EU leaders, if India can grow to become a major power of Asia and the world despite its regional, linguistic, religious and other diversities, why can the EU not do so? Though India is a nation-state, unlike the EU, they notice many parallels between the two. Those who see the emergence of the United States of Europe in the coming few years draw inspiration from India.


Before the EU was hit by the global recession, the poverty-stricken eastern European countries like Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had started growing at 10 per cent, rivalling China. That is, of course, an old story, as today most European economies are in the grip of a recession excepting Germany and France, which have started growing again.


The euro as the EU currency (except in Britain) is going strong. The Schengen Agreement for removing border controls remains intact. Anyone planning to visit EU countries, save for Britain, needs to have only the Schengen visa. These are not small gains.


But what the EU has not been able to remove is the grudges that most European countries still nurse against each other. Most of them have strong nationalistic feelings and remain very protective about their own language and culture. They have, of course, sacrificed some of their sovereign rights to allow the EU experiment to grow. But most people fail to understand how the countries which have fought two world wars have been together in the EU for over half a century.


The EU success story could have been more admirable had its members been able to overcome their prejudices against Turkey. This largest European country has very little chance of becoming a part of the EU in the near future. Why is Turkey being denied its right to join the EU? No EU official who was asked this question in Brussels last week was able to give a convincing answer. A senior professor was frank enough to admit that the Turkish question could not be answered because Turkey was yet to be accepted as a fully European country. Besides this, as he clarified, Turkey does not fit into the EU scheme of things because of the religious factor.


 There is the fear of Turkey upsetting the EU applecart as it has a huge population, more than that of Germany, which sends 99 representatives to European Parliament. Once Turkey is able to join the EU, the number of its representatives in European Parliament will be bigger than that of Germany. The Germans will never allow this to happen. There must be a consensus among all the member-countries. And the Germans are not alone. Most of the EU members are opposed to Turkey's entry into the bloc.


Yet the EU is considered as being wedded to secular values. That is why the Turks are very much hopeful of entering the EU one day. If the Berlin Wall (it existed from 1961 to 1989) can crumble, the prejudices against Turkey can also disappear one day. And that will mean the EU has removed the most difficult hindrance to its becoming the United States of Europe.








IT is early evening. I am impatiently channel surfing, succumbing to the television code of instant gratification. Dismayed with a set of hyper little champs raucously gyrating to 'Pappu can't dance saala'; I stumble upon a fractured voice singing 'Kuuke Kuuke Koyaliya...'


Another click takes me to a pigeon/girl — whatever — being serenaded with 'Masakali, Matak kali'... Yet another click and I hear how 'Dude saala kaam se gaya'...


In angst, I switch on the radio (FM, stupid!) and find motor mouth 'Rocking Laila' breathlessly extolling Saifeena's 'Ahuun...ahuun...ahuun...' Another click and 'Aajaa, aajaa, dil nichoren' rocks on... I am seriously considering hara-kiri when 'Biloo rani, kaho to abhi jaan de doon'...comes on. I bravely rock on instead.


I click the idiot box on for a last time, luckily catching a nostalgia laden programme featuring Ameen Sayani; a suave, facile raconteur par excellence (now indelicately branded as Radio Jockey; RJ) who reigned supreme at a time when music and lyrics were enriching and intelligible.


It was the period of the end 1950s — beginning 1960s, when melody reigned supreme. Sayani takes me back to some irreplaceable teen memories... I must have been 16 then, and a die-hard music fan.


Wednesday night was special for all of us. At dot 8 PM, our young world would come alive in front of the big Philips radio in the drawing room. It had a buff cloth facing, an ebonite exterior, shiny knobs and a shiny green lamp. 8 PM was Binaca Time, with the magical voice of Ameen Sayani announcing yet another episode of Binaca Geet Mala, accompanied by trumpets, crashing cymbals and a frenzied roll of drums.


What followed then was a treat whose magic lasted the whole week, till next Wednesday. Ameen Sayani effortlessly brought in banter, repartee, the pedigree of the song and its composers and singer(s) and its position last week. He built up huge excitement amongst his listeners, before taking them to the aakhri payedan (last step in the ladder), to the geeton ka sartaj (emperor amongst songs) that he announced with a magnificent, patented flourish of trumpets.


We all had our favourites. The romantic "Chaudveen ka chand ho"..., "Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi wo barsaat ki raat"... the saucy "Haal kaisa hai janab ka"...the failed-in-love "Teri duniya main jeene se, yeh behtar hai ki mar jaayen"... we loved these songs and their unforgettable music and soulful lyrics.


We screamed with abandon when they rose up the countdown ladder. When they did not, there was dark talk of bias; the unfair criticism forgotten the moment another of one's favourites came up the ladder... The memory of those unforgettable times continues to haunt though. Jai Ho! Ameen. You were special.








Once the extent of fraud in the Afghan election had been established, even to the approximate degree that was possible, something clearly had to be done. The choice, presented to President Hamid Karzai on many occasions after the election by US and UN officials, lay between agreeing to hold a second round of voting or starting coalition negotiations with the runner-up, Abdullah Abdullah.


It is not known what pressure the US may have exerted to convince Mr Karzai to abandon the third option – remaining in power for another term, on the grounds that the election victory he had claimed was fair – but the central argument can well be imagined. Why should US and other foreign troops risk their lives propping up a government that had so rigged the election to disguise its lack of popular support?


There are pluses and minuses to the option Mr Karzai has belatedly chosen: a second-round run-off to take place on 7 November. The minuses are that it prolongs a process that has already proved extraordinarily difficult and divisive, and will expose foreign and Afghan troops to further danger. Given the defects in the arrangements for the first round, the low turn-out and the delays in the count, it is not unreasonable to ask whether things are likely to be much better the second time around.


Mr Karzai is, rightly, pleading for a high turn-out, but poor security, and the questionable appetite of the electorate for another vote, militate against him getting it. A second round thus risks compounding the problems.


In principle, though, a run-off is preferable to a coalition of former enemies concluded under duress. Mr Karzai, who easily topped the poll the first time around, even when the fraudulent votes were excluded, would appear to have little to lose. And the mandate for whoever wins will be more credible than it would otherwise have been. However rough around the edges, Afghan democracy has another chance. To call Mr Karzai's decision "statesmanlike", however, as Britain and others did yesterday, is flattery too far. A statesman would have agreed to a second round weeks ago; Mr Karzai has simply accepted the least bad option.



That President Hamid Karzai has now reluctantly agreed to accept the findings of the international audit of the recent election and to participate in a run-off vote is clearly to be welcomed.


But no one should be in any doubt what the new vote will cost, not just in treasure but in blood. A new election may do something for President Karzai's legitimacy, but it won't alter the problem he poses if, as Mrs Clinton at least seems to expect, he is re-elected. What then?


Some say that Karzai II must be very different from Karzai I and the international community (and especially Washington) must make sure it is so.


He must be persuaded – whether before or after the run-off – to have a government of national unity (GNU), which would include his main rival in the election, Abdullah Abdullah, and also the representatives of all ethnicities in multi-ethnic Afghanistan. He must then reach out and run an administration for the whole country, rather than one whose primary driver is the Pashtun interest.


Then, Karzai II must at last begin a serious programme to tackle the endemic corruption that is eating away at his support.


This all makes perfect sense and we should certainly try it. But we should be aware that it is far from certain to work. A GNU is precisely what Karzai I started out with. He was genuinely elected by all sections of Afghanistan and his first government was a genuinely national one.


President Karzai has not proved very good at holding together broad coalitions and it was not long before his early allies, especially in the Northern Alliance, became his most determined opposition. I am not convinced he would be any more able to make a success of what he so signally failed to make a success of previously.



To ask him to tackle corruption seriously would be to ask him to knock away one of the principle props of his government. He has not proved keen on doing this in the past, despite heavy pressure from the US and others. I am not at all sure that this is likely to change in the future.


So, could we find a more subtle way of responding to the election of President Karzai Mark II? One of the major problems we have faced in Afghanistan is the mismatch between the theory and the practice of Afghan government. Thanks, in large measure, to the intervention of the West, Afghanistan is, in theory, a centralised-governed country in the model of the classic Western nation state. But, in practice, Afghanistan is what it has always been for the last 1,000 years – a deeply decentralised country based around tribal structures.


Could this be the opportunity to tackle that issue head on, by shifting our emphasis from building up Kabul structures, to building up local ones, running with, rather than against, the grain of Afghanistan's tribal system?


 By arrangement with The Independent









LIKE everyone in Australia, I was appalled at the spate of attacks on Indian nationals living in my country. The ensuing media coverage has justifiably shaken India and Australia and a stream of politicians and officials have visited this country to reassure the worried authorities, parents and prospective students that the attacks will not be tolerated.


We can't let a few individuals who have engaged in mindless acts of violence to change our dreams and pursuits, or disturb our strong and enduring friendship. Australian universities remain the world's best destination for Indian students. The actions of a handful of people can't change that fact.


And, as is often the case, out of adversity springs change for the better. Politicians, authorities, university and community leaders in India and Australia have met over the past several months and have committed to taking action that will improve student safety. My university – Swinburne University of Technology – has reported that of the 27 individual actions we have committed to take to improve Indian student safety, 14 have been implemented, a further 12 commenced, with one final action scheduled for 2010.


As so many current and former Indian students will attest, the recent media coverage in no way reflects the reality of studying at Australia's universities.


The Australian government has announced a review that will strengthen the legislation protecting international students studying in my country. Swinburne welcomes the toughening of these regulations, and argues that changes are required to weed out the few unscrupulous providers who have exploited vulnerable international students.


Australia has the world's best legislation for the protection of the rights of international students. Everything that an international student attending an Australian university experiences – information, support provided, the learning and teaching experience – is monitored and improved to ensure that it complies with the requirements of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act.


If you are considering your overseas study options, don't let isolated incidents stop you from objectively assessing the situation and making the right choice – the same choice that has attracted many thousands of Indians to my country. Swinburne's commitment to supporting our international students starts at the very top of our institution and permeates every aspect of campus life.


Our advisers assist students with course selection, information about living in Melbourne and accommodation for up to two years before students arrive in Australia. Education agents representing Swinburne must be members of the Association of Australian Education Representatives in India.


In 2010, Swinburne will be part of a project to provide a 24-hour help and assistance line for international students – free of charge – staffed by medical and legal staff, trained counsellors, and Swinburne experts. If our students run into trouble of any kind, we are there to support them. Our international student support team ensures that students are provided with every assistance possible.


Australia's universities are world famous for the level of care and support provided to international students: and justifiably so. International education has had a transformational effect in Australia. With over 500,000 international students choosing to study in our country – almost one-third studying in Melbourne – our campuses and cities have been immeasurably enriched.


Australia and India will emerge from our recent difficulties as steadfast friends. As more Indian students choose to study in Australia, or graduate and return from their studies, and as more Australian students take advantage of opportunities to study in India, it is inevitable that our mutual respect and understanding will increase.


Australia's universities remain the world's best destination for Indian students. And we are determined to continue to earn that reputation, through our action, our voice, and the outcomes we provide.


Swinburne will continue to play its part to improve the experience of international students studying on our campuses. We are immensely proud of our Indian student population, and our large Indian alumni community.


Indian students have enriched Swinburne: in return we have transformed the lives of our graduates.


The writer is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) of Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia .






Phingchuk Dorje (65), a Tibetan woman, sells sweaters on a busy Srinagar footpath. Her cherubic face brims with delight as she makes some sales. Clad in a chupa (traditional Tibetan dress) and pangdev (an apron like attachment in dress for married women), her golden tooth and silver hair add to her simplicity and make her graceful even in the ripe old age. But beneath her calmness and cheerfulness lies a longing, a deep desire for return to her homeland. Returning to Tibet is something she thinks about all day.


Phingchuk, who was a only teenager when she took the historic flight from Tibet to India in 1959 along with His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, is one among thousands of Tibetans settled in the valley of Kashmir.


"I always dream of spending autumnal days of my life in my own land where nobody will call me a refugee. Whenever I remember the days of my childhood, my eyes fill with tears. I get flashbacks of the good old days spent in Tibet with my dear ones. God knows whether my last dream will ever come true," she grieves. "Since the exodus neither I have any news of my near ones who were left in Tibet nor do I know what happened to our property there", she adds.


For 50 long years Tibetans have waited hoping against hope for a return to their native land. On their arrival in India, hardly anyone of them had realised that they would be leaving Tibet so long. Initially, there were several humanitarian agencies which stepped in to provide them aid, but later as the exile stretched, they had to work hard to earn a living. The Government of India provided them land for monasteries, schools and residential quarters at several places.


They took up odd jobs and tried to put down their roots in the Kashmir valley. Most of them earned a living through selling knitted sweaters. "We sold sweaters on roads and simultaneously knitted too. Even the men and young children knitted to contribute to the kitty. Clusters of people, who were not even distantly related, lived in small rented apartments. Those were difficult times but we bore it without a frown, you see. Both men and women shared equal responsibility of the household." says Ming Mar, aged 60 years, Phingchuk's cousin. Tibetans found a good clientele among Kashmiris and gained a place in Kashmiri society.


However, sweaters cannot sell throughout the year. The profit margin being very low in sweaters, they gradually shifted to the shoe business. They lament the government apathy for failing to provide Tibetan Margs (markets) which exist elsewhere in India. "It is so difficult to do trade without a definite market. We trade here for a limited season, for about 6-7 months but the police hardly permit us to sell on roads. Since our children study at Dharamsala, we trade there for the rest of months. Even Jammu has a Tibetan Marg but I wonder why we haven't been provided one here in Kashmir!" says Lhudup Tso, a respected member of the community.


Though cut off from Tibet, they still maintain their distinct identity. Indigenous customs, conventions, food habits and the overall ethos have all been preserved. Festivities, marriages, childbirth and other important functions are celebrated according to their traditional norms. Momos and Thukpas are lip-smacking Tibetan delicacies.


Yet they have adapted to the new culture and society around them. Along with their traditional foods, vegetables, rice, dal, even Wazwan (special Kashmiri cuisine based on meat delicacies) forms part of their fare. Interestingly, Kashmiris now relish Tibetan cuisine, evident in the number of Tibetan food outlets that are coming up in Srinagar.


Social customs remain progressive. It is not taboo for boys and girls to mix with each other at social gatherings, fairs or festivals and then to spend time with each other before selecting their life partners. Marriage in the Buddhist faith is a simple affair. Some may solemnise the marriage at home while others sanctify the union at a monastery. The custom of dowry or bride wealth does not exist and the divorce rate is comparatively low.


 Charkha Features








The forthcoming by-polls for Dhekiajuli and South Salmara Assembly constituencies are going to be crucial for both the ruling Congress and the opposition AGP. Dhekiajuli has traditionally been an AGP bastion, with the party holding the seat for three consecutive terms since 1996. The party's impressive track record notwithstanding, a keen tussle is on the cards between AGP's Siba Charan Sahu and Congress' Bhimananda Tanti at Dhekiajuli. In South Salmara, the AUDF clearly holds the advantage, and it would be a Herculean task for the Congress candidate Wazed Ali Choudhury to negate the challenge of AUDF's AR Ajmal, the son of AUDF chief Badaruddin Ajmal. The AGP and the BJP have extended their alliance to both Dhekiajuli and South Salmara, and while the exercise is unlikely make much impact at South Salmara, it is expected help the cause of the coalition at Dhekiajuli by preventing division of anti-Congress votes. Interestingly, both the constituencies were under non-Congress dominion and if the Congress succeeds in wresting power in any, it would amount to a major electoral dividend for the ruling party.

The past few elections since the last Assembly polls, including the Lok Sabha, Panchayat and municipal polls, have indicated a declining trend for regional politics with the AGP putting up a poor show. The party, which had twice been in power in the 1980s and 1990s, has to share much of the blame for the disintegration of regional forces. Despite its much-publicized unification a year back, the party continues to be a divided house with leadership still being a contentious issue. The quitting by Prabin Bodo, an important leader, on the run-up to the by-polls does not augur well for the party. The perennial dissent within the AGP has harmed the cause of not just the party but regional politics as a whole, triggering people's disillusionment. If the AGP's two stints in power were eminently forgettable, its performance as the main opposition, too, has been uninspiring. A weak opposition negates the prospects of a vibrant democracy, as it gives the rulers the licence to arbitrary practices. The foremost task before the AGP is to strengthen itself from the grassroots and place before the people a clear-cut, unambiguous agenda guided by genuine regional concerns rather than harping on the Congress' failures. The AGP needs to do more than just reunite to get back the people's support. It is time it did some serious introspection to rectify its drawbacks.







Once again it appears that India is not quite certain about its position vis-à-vis the climate change debate, and the stance it would take in the forthcoming meet at Copenhagen. The most glaring instance of such a revelation could be gathered from Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh communicating thoughts to the Prime Minister's Office, which are rather different from what has been India's position for close to two decades. If media reports are to be believed, the Minister had written that India should de-link herself from the platform shared by developing countries which believe in not going for severe emission cuts. It is also understood that the Minister hinted at India ditching the Kyoto protocol. If that be the truth, then the implications are clear, and according to some quarters, quite alarming. Critics of the newly cited position say that the conceived move was tantamount to a virtual surrender to the wishes of the developed nations who want four fast-developing nations – China, Brazil, India and South Africa – to reduce emissions bellow the base level.

If Ramesh does reflect the thinking of his office, then it deserves serious thought. Is his changing belief a portent of things to come, and is it based on sound analysis of the prevailing reality where Indian per capita emission is still substantially lower than that of developed nations? What would be the implications of the country ditching the Kyoto protocol? To what extent could India's industrial growth be affected if indeed emissions are reduced by high levels? These and other points would have to be debated in a transparent manner before a long held positions should be modified. As some of the politicians and even technocrats have mentioned, it might not be feasible for India to embrace a plan to curb emissions without harming her economic interests in an increasingly competitive global scenario. These recent moves and their counters, however, should not be distractions in India seeking to reduce emissions in the long run. It is now imperative that well planed interventions must take place for the country to limit dependence on fossil fuels, make a gradual switch over to green technologies and to adopt sustainable practices. A time is not far away when the competitiveness of Indian industry and business would be measured by environmental standards, and for that best practices would have to be identified and adhered to sooner than anticipated.







he Minister of State for Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Prof. KV Thomas has said that technical standards can play a more pivotal role in achieving a low carbon and sustainable energy future. Inaugurating a seminar on tackling toe climate change through standards on the occasion of World Standards Day in New Delhi Prof. Thomas said that standards have actively propagated use of new energy-generation and efficiency-enhancing technologies like CFLs, involving green buildings, solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, hybrids and combined cycle energy systems, which can become the engines of growth for this century, while efficiently combating climate change. He stressed on the fact that although many low-carbon technologies exist which have the potential to significantly reduce global emissions, there is still need for more enabling frameworks like pertinent technical standards and specific policy responses to support their rapid deployment.

The Minister stated that impact of climate change on the environment can be reduced by efficient use of energy and other natural resources, increased use of renewable raw material, increased reuse, recycling and recovery, greater use of non-conventional energies like solar and wind, use of alternative bio-fuels, CNG etc. He called upon all the stakeholders to collaborate in drawing a future framework for research, development and demonstration of clean energy technologies combating climate change and their economic implementation.








The recent announcement by our Chief Minister after the Bhimajuli massacre that local people would be armed to resist any heinous attack on villages may be well intended, but probably the Chief Minister has not really gone into the ramifications and consequences such a move may ential and how it may be totally counter-productive in the long run. 'Arming the people" is not a new concept, it has been tried in Nagaland and Manipur under various names like VG (village Guards) or VVF (Village Volunter Force) and except for very limited success in very limited areas, this experiment has neither reduced the intensity of insurgent activities nor it has really resulted in reducing the deployment of security forces. Army and Police are increasingly facing the challenges posed by self imposed ethnic or political organisations, all of whom, mistakenly feel that they are the final voice of their community. The paradoxical situation is that on one side same NDFB, under Govind Basumatary has declaed cease fire and is in dialogue with the Central Government and similarly there is a pro-talk group of ULFA waiting for discussion and there is still an anti-talk group who feels that fate of Assam and Assamese lies in their hand only. We shall not go into those details as to the efficacy and genuineness of pro and anti talk philosophy of militant groups and how such move can or cannot bear fruit, but what we are concerned at the moment is to examine the efficacy and result as to whether 'arming the people', in areas like Bhimajuli, as suggested by our Chief Minister, will have any positive effect. Today it is Bhimajuli, but tomorrow it may go to other places and may give rise to new demands. 'Should we arm the civilians'– is the moot question that requires an in depth strategic study.

We must first remember and accept that whether it is NDFB, ULFA or DHJ, as of now, they are not simply some dacoits who loot with violence. We must acknowledge that they are mercenary fighters. They are militarily trained, armed with all sophisticated weapons and above all, rightly or wrongly, for good or bad, they are motivated in their own way. So dar as NDFB is concerned, this is a part of ethnic insurgency in Assam. Having accepted these facts, the Government of Assam and Government of India have rightly opened dialogue with the pro-talk group of NDFB and whether these talks meet success or not, the process initiated must be encouraged and appreciated. Likewise, we expect talks begin with pro-talk element of ULFA also, direct and straight, with no intermediary like PCG and the people of Assam hope that extreme violence that has snatched peace from this beautiful region will come back, sooner than later.

Let us now deal with the subject of 'arming the people'. Having said what these militant groups are, we know that compassion and care for fellowmen is not in the dictionary of these militant groups and they can go to any extent so long they can attain two objectives–one, show the State that they do exist and two, get money by extortion for their sustenance. Bhimajuli is just the result of this. What the State can do–arm itself better or arm the people? This is the question we are faced with.

Insurgency turning into extreme violence and attack on humanity is a world phenomenon today and not limited to Assam or India. Afghanistan is facing Taliban insurgents, the States like Chattisgarh and West Bengal are facing Maoists and Naxalites, Britain is facing the IRA and there are many such continuing conflicting groups in the world. Ethnic and political conflicts among groups of different ideologies or interests are a call of the day and conflict resolution is a scientific mechanism the States have to learn and practice. We cannot expect, for example, that the Afghan people, selectively to as a whole can be armed of fight Taliban insurgents. We cannot expect that ULFA can be or should be taken on by people directly who face their violence or threat. As a matter of principle, it is the job of the State to protect their people and for that matter it is a part of States' strategic decision how they perform this singularly important function. Maintenance of Law and Order and safeguarding the lives of the citizens are the first and foremost duties of the State. We agree that people also have responsibility themselves towards curbing violence and for that matter a duty to protect themselves against perpetrators of violence and killing, but that cannot be extended to a point that States' responsibility can be divided or diluted. If people of Bhimajuli are armed, the first casualty will be the accountability of the police force who are there (or were supposed to be there) to protect these people. State's responsibility cannot be or should not be diluted on the pretext that people of the area are armed at State's expense and they must do the job what the police should have. It is not denied that government might have taken this decision (or may take) as a supplementary to the police force or rather as a force multipliers and not as a replacement of police force, but there are adverse consequences and such decision may rather go against the interest of the same villagers aimed to be protected.

Firstly, how does the government arm the people? Are all villagers be armed or a few selective ones? Arming a complete village is not only costly, but also the weapons may be misused over time. Secondly, what type of equipment the government should supply to the villagers to defend themselves? Can the villagers be trained or should they be trained in use of such sophisticated equipments, which may be misused for their own gain in the long run? Thirdly, weapons attract weapons. The snatching of weapons from this untrained group of villagers may become a motivation force for militants to strike. And lastly, this move of arming the villagers may give further excuse to the already maligned police force to take prolonged reaction time in emergency. In Bhimajuli, it is alleged that police undue long time to come for action.

Considering all these aspects as experienced on that unfortunate day at Bhimajuli, instead of thinking about arming people, the authority should think on following line: (a) Upgrade the police in the remote areas in terms of their infrastructures, their conveyances and their equipment. (b) Reallocate the police posts and police stations depending on an in-depth study of 'threat perception'. The border and sensitive areas should have a different yardstick for strength of police personnel in a particular station and about equipment and weapon they should hold. (c) A village to village liaison team should be organised between adjoining villages, more so on villages falling under two different adjoining States. This should be done under respective states' supervision. (d) The village heads or liaison team heads should be supplied with wireless communication for immediate contact with the nearest police station or any other security organisation, including Army. (e) Prepare special package of development plant for such sensitive areas in the border. People must not feel left out.

Having a few arms in the hands of a few is not the answer to face mindless violence and killing, but the government must instill a sense of confidence on the police force for the people to depend on. Unfortunate it is that this confidence level is on the waning side. Bhimajuli massacre has further eroded this faith and confidence. The people must have the faith that their security will be best served by their own police. Army should be only the last resort when police fails. Use of Army at the slightest pretext dilutes army's main role and also demoralise the police. The people of Assam condemn all these violent acts and they sincerely hope that the government will takes more active steps to bring back the confidence among the poor villagers. Let it not be politicised. The State Police be motivated and modernised 'Arm the police and save the people better'–this should be call of the day and not other way round.









Recently the US Congress transmitted the so-called Kerry-Lugar bill granting Pakistan $ 1.5billion annually for the next five years. This decision of the new US administration came during the bilateral meeting between Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton despite Islamabad's concerns on some of the language and provisions in the bill. Earlier the US Senate voted unanimously to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion per annum till 2014, triggering fresh concerns for India, which warned that such funds might have diverted to support hostile operations against states and needs to be monitored. Reacting to the Senate's passage of the bill, Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna said in New York that India was concerned about it as Islamabad had in the past diverted American aid to bolster its defences against India. India's concern is justified considering the track record of Pakistan.

But the so-called Kerry-Lugar bill is against the new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that President Barack Obama unveiled as it was the clearest signal at that time that the Obama administration intends to dedicate the time, resources, and U.S. leadership necessary to stabilize the region and contain the terrorist threat in South Asia. The new plan reflected a shift in U.S. strategy towards more regional diplomacy and civilian aid to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but less tolerance for the continued existence of militant sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the border. The re-doubling of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan should help convince Pakistanis that America won't repeat its past mistake of turning its back on South Asia like it did in the early 1990s. But leaving the past behind also requires Pakistan to put its faith in a new strategic view of the region that involves greater integration and cooperation with its neighbours and zero tolerance for terrorist groups that threaten the peace. Without a shift away from Pakistan's dual policies of fighting some terrorists and supporting others, U.S.-Pakistani ties will be destined for a collision course. U.S. officials have long been aware that Pakistani security officials maintain contacts with the Afghan Taliban and other Pak-based militant outfits. There is mounting evidence that Pakistani security officials support, and even guide, the terrorists in their activities. This fact has serious implications that brought fore the reality which long been ignored by the successive US administrations. In fact US intelligence agencies apparently intercepted message that Pakistani army chief General Kayani referred to Afghan militant commander Jalaluddin Haqqani as a 'strategic asset'. Jalaluddin Haqqani is a powerful independent militant leader who operates in the border areas between Khost province in Afghanistan and North Waziristan agency of Pakistan's tribal border areas. He has been allied with the Taliban for nearly 15 years, having served as tribal affairs minister in the Taliban regime in the late 1990s.

In fact, the Obama administration's new strategy for Pakistan includes a pledge to triple the money spent on economic development for the shaky country. But some Pakistanis question the effectiveness of pouring more money into a leaky economy without fundamental reform. There is no denying the fact that for the past few years the US administration studiously ignored the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership gathering in the tribal areas of Pakistan, and so the present situation in Pakistan is certainly now or never. In fact, Pakistan has been at the center of a gathering firestorm engulfing south and central Asia in the most volatile confrontation since 9/11. Pakistan, Afghanistan, the US and NATO all bear heavy responsibility for the crisis. Truly Bush administration had neither the inclination nor urges to do right by Afghanistan, despite pleas by President Hamid Karzai to eliminate cross-border terrorist strikes from Pakistan and effectively rebuild the country. Still the earlier US administration was cozy with Pakistan's former President Pervez Musharraf and Iraq occupied bulk of the US attention. As a result Pakistani Taliban now controls all seven tribal agencies that make up the autonomous region bordering Afghanistan called the Federal Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). They are present across the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) through brutal terror tactics and threaten large towns. Poised on the borders of Punjab, the largest province, they are joined by Punjabi and Kashmiri extremist groups. US forces in Afghanistan launch almost daily attacks against suspected Al Qaeda hideouts in FATA and also target Afghan Taliban leaders such as Jalaluddin Haqqani. Pakistan's military first denied the strikes, and then virulently protested them. As a result, the army now says it allows US missile strikes despite public anger over Pakistan losing its sovereignty.

On the other hand, the fight against the Talibans or other insurgent outfits is commonly seen in Pakistan as an American cause, not a Pakistani one'. That is why Pakistani citizens blame US for civilian deaths in Pakistan rather than blaming the Taliban for causing US drone attacks. That is why Pakistani government's peace deal with Taliban does not forbid Taliban from mounting cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. So also the ratification of the Sharia act clearly manifested the dilemma facing Pakistan's beleaguered government as it sought to halt violence in the Swat valley while convincing the US and major players of international politics that it was not capitulating to allies of Al-Qaeda. Thus the US shotgun marriage with Pakistan, arranged after the 9/11 attacks in order to launch the US war on terror, began to fall apart, and in the process endangered the very state of Pakistan. During the long period of US neglect of both Afghanistan and Pakistan deteriorated the situation in the entire region and as far as the situation in both these countries is concerned, poverty and despair still haunt much of Afghanistan.

In fact, Pakistan is at a critical juncture. The Obama administration is demonstrating a willingness to invest significant resources even amid a serious global economic downturn into helping the country develop into a prosperous, peaceful and thriving state is a praiseworthy step. But following this policy it seems that US is ignoring the security concerns of the region. So achieving this goal requires Pakistan's leaders to adjust their own regional security perceptions and to view the internal terrorist threat as urgently as their counterparts in Washington do. It is time the US takes sincere initiatives that its aid to Pakistan should not be misused but serve the end of building a developed Pakistan and creating a peaceful atmosphere in the entire region. Only this can stabilise Pakistan and its economy and prevent extremists to go ahead with their policy of dissidence by isolating Pakistan from the global community. But for this US will have to display greater commitment for the security of the entire region as a long term policy. In fact, it is the natural expectation from the most powerful democratic nation at this critical juncture.









The deadly train collision near Mathura has once again underlined the dismal standards of safety in the Indian Railways. And the latter must now realise the need to efficiently implement maintenance and safety mechanisms.

For, disasters such as the one yesterday keep happening with dismal regularity. Just seven months ago, for example, we had the Coromandel Express mishap in Orissa, which killed nine passengers and injured scores.

Of course, the Railways actually claims that its safety record is better than that in countries like Japan, Germany, France and Italy. That boast rests on the index the Railways employs to determine its safety standard: the number of accidents per million train kms, which has, according to the Economic Survey, come down from 0.55 in 2001-02 to 0.20 in 2008-09.

But that can well be called statistical skulduggery. For, it is also a fact that the number of 'consequential train accidents' stood at 177 in 2008-09 (down from 194 the previous year). That is still an unacceptably high figure. Even more so given the fact that Rs 16,318 crore has been spent (from 2001-2008) from the Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF). Clearly, the goal of renewal/replacement of over-aged assets and safety enhancement has not been achieved.

Time and again, it has been pointed out that instead of improving infrastructure and mechanising signalling and track-switching systems, the Railways still mostly relies on outdated safety assets. Investigations after train mishaps invariably blame both mechanical and human failures. Yet, while huge resources are spent on dozens of new trains, there is scant investment in tracks.

And collisions have occurred even as large sums have been spent on installing anti-collision devices. Wednesday's mishap too happened as one train hit a stationary one from behind. Already, human error, which the Railways says is responsible for 83% of train accidents has been blamed. Clearly, safety also means ensuring driver vigilance and using alternative warning systems. Better resource allocation and efficient implementation of safety mechanisms would only then contribute to creating a culture of safety.







It's welcome that there is improved focus — albeit belated — on new technology and cutting-edge equipment in a policy-deficit sector like power, characterised by routine revenue leakage in the key area of distribution.


Reports say that power producers NTPC and DVC would soon invite bids for a series of super-critical boilers and turbines, for revved up thermal efficiency. The idea, of course, is to boost power output, with little or no increase in the fuel input.

It would improve our energy efficiency levels, reduce the relative price of power and very substantially increase energy availability too. An added bonus of increased diffusion of super-critical boilers in thermal plants would be the sustained decrease, in relative terms, of emissions of green-house gases. Super-critical boilers do increase thermal efficiency by up to a third or more, as compared to sub-critical boilers.

It implies added power generation, but without proportionate increase in, say, coal combustion. It means being concurrently energy efficient and environment friendly. So there's no contradiction involved in aiming to shore up thermal efficiency levels and in the process tackling climate change, given the power-investment backlog. The NTPC and DVC bids require that domestic manufacturing of the boilers be made mandatory, in stages. We need to fastforward adoption of clean-coal technologies.

It is notable that the technology adoption in power is taking place over a wide range. The Centre, for example, has identified five new sites for new nuclear-power plants, to be built with Russian, French and US collaboration. The state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation has chalked out long-term plans for a quantum jump in generation capacity.

And the Centre reportedly plans to have an ambitious 20,000 mw of solar power capacity — or about a fifth of today's conventional generation capacity — by 2020. What's needed is concrete policy action and follow through, to actualise the plans. In tandem, what's surely warranted is to clamp down on theft and reckless give-aways in the state power sector. Otherwise, the moribund finances of power utilities would short-circuit modernisation.









The launch of yet another e-reader in 100 countries, including India, has got enthusiasts once again predicting the end of the book as we know it.


With almost half a dozen such electronic options with varying gigabytes of memory — and the added halo of conserving paper, no doubt — hitting the market, old fashioned bookstores may soon face the same fate as music retail chains.

Rather than rows upon colourful rows of tomes with different covers, artwork and typefaces, there will soon be notepad -sized gizmos, each stuffed with thousands of e-books. Bookshops will then become internet addresses and libraries will shrink to personal, portable gadgets from their current expansive avatar as specific rooms in homes and buildings, much like the grand orchestra of yore has been reduced to a symphony of electronic bytes on MP3s and ipods in a single century. Nice for those who simply want to gulp content rather than savour the sensory experience of the printed word upon crisp paper.

Also nice for those pressed for time, as future versions of e-readers will surely be able to track down that elusive quote or fact, shearing hours off the current option of manually flicking through books. And it would practically be a godsend for those who despair about what to do with books that have outlived their usefulness, become infested with silverfish, or clog up shrinking living spaces. What could be better than compressing kilos of paper into a no-hassle piece of gadgetry that needs just the press of a button?

The downside, of course, is that several e-readers are tethered to single systems when it comes to downloading books, so choice is limited to the titles available there. Their very nature — virtual, rather than actual — also means they cannot be lent to friends (or nicked from someone) or resold. If this mode of reading gains ground, there would no longer be a premium for first editions of successful books, no question of autographed copies and no future additions to the ranks of antiquarian books. There is more to books than the reading of them.








When the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) II announced Kapil Sibal as its human resource development (HRD) minister, the advocates of higher education reform were delighted. Two of his predecessors — Murli Manohar Joshi and Arjun Singh — had been stubbornly opposed to all reforms. The higher education system in India could not afford yet one more anti-reform HRD minister.


Under the guiding hand of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his reformist finance minister Yashwant Sinha had worked to implement economic reforms in virtually all sectors of the economy. But when it came to higher education, the dynamic duo could not budge the wall that was Joshi. The sector met the same fate under Arjun Singh during the UPA-I rule.

Against this background, the appointment of Mr Sibal has been a breath of fresh air. Consistent with his reputation for action and unlike many of his colleagues who remain plagued by inaction, he has diligently moved to bring about change in this long neglected sector. Unfortunately, success has so far eluded him.

To some degree, despite good intentions, Mr Sibal has ended up expending his valuable political capital on reforming parts of the system that are simply not broken. Whereas it is the college and university system that is in urgent need of reform, his first major push has been in secondary education. This is unfortunate since a relatively well-functioning secondary education system is precisely the reason even a dysfunctional colleges and university system has managed to produce talented graduates.

At least in urban India, public and private schools engaged in secondary education fiercely compete for the most talented students and teachers. An important dimension of that competition is world-class education in the classroom. That education has sent top-class secondary school graduates to colleges.

These students know that if they mastered the college curriculum and scored well in the college examinations, they would be rewarded with good jobs in today's rapidly expanding economy. The resulting effort by the students — rather than value added in the classrooms in colleges — is the single most important reason for the continuous flow of talented graduates from Indian colleges and universities.

In the debate leading up to the abolition of the central board class X examination, much was made of the stress it places on the students. Yet it is the preparation for these examinations and the resulting value added that brings better-prepared students to class XI and XII and eventually colleges and universities.

At Princeton, where I did my doctorate, we were permitted to do courses on an "audit" basis. No examinations were required under this option. This certainly reduced stress at the examination time but the downside was that hardly any courses I did on an audit basis stayed with me. Examinations do serve a valuable function.

The latest effort by the minister to raise qualifying marks for the IIT entrance examination to 80% marks in class XII also represents an unwise use of political capital. The reason provided for the proposed change — the low threshold encourages the proliferation of coaching institutes — is hardly persuasive.

What if the coaching institutes actually impart valuable knowledge to the students? Moreover, are there data to show that those failing to receive 80% marks in class XII never qualify for entrance? If yes, transparent reporting and advertising of the data on the successful candidates for the last 10 years would largely accomplish the desired objective. If not, no case for the exclusion of the students with less than 80% marks exists. The IIT administrations on which the minister has now left the decision must carefully weigh these factors.

For his part, the HRD minister needs to divert his political capital to tackling the reform of the college and university education. Here nothing short of a major surgery is needed. He must first end the tyranny of the University Grants Commission (UGC) by abolishing it altogether. After nearly six decades of central control, our colleges and universities are surely mature enough to handle their own affairs.

The best of our academic institutions — IITs and IIMs — are in fact outside the purview of the UGC. In the same vein, management education, which survives on the award of diplomas rather than degrees and therefore does not have to submit to the UGC surveillance, has also done well.

In engineering, even outside of the IITs, some of the leading engineering colleges are in the private sector. Their dependence on the UGC-blessed universities for the award of the degree is a burden, not blessing, since it prevents them from building independent reputations. In the medical field, the tight central control on the expansion of education by the highly corrupt Medical Council of India has led to the proliferation of "doctors" with no formal medical education in not just rural but also urban India.

While ending central control, Mr Sibal must also open the door to genuine entry of private universities. Indian higher education system has failed to keep pace with the rising needs. Ten years ago, gross enrolment ratios in higher education in China were below India's. Today, they are more than one and a half times ours. If we rely solely on the state to catch up, we can be sure to fall further behind. The state has neither the resources nor ability to fill the vast gap that now exists between the demand for and supply of college and university education. Absent massive private entry, severe skill shortages await our industrial and services sectors.

If we are to benefit from genuine competitive pressure through private entry as in the banking and telecommunications sectors, private universities will have to be fully freed to set their own faculty salaries and tuition fees. The entry to the deserving students whose parents cannot afford the fees in these institutions will have to be ensured through loans at generous terms. Given good higher education more than compensates for the tuition paid, assistance through loans rather than tuition-free entry is fully justified.

(The author is a professor at Columbia University)








Whether we lead or we follow, in order to be fulfilled in whatever we do, we need to be intense. Intensity is not an emotion. When you are intense, one part of it may be emotional. Intensity should become a quality in you. If you are talking let intensity be there. In your relationships, in your decisions, in your memory, in your thinking, in your desires, even in your fears, be intense without escaping from this moment.


Intensity does not depend on the nature of the work or action. It can be as complex as running a billion dollar company or as simple as cleaning the floor. It is not the 'what' but the 'how' that is important. Intensity means radiating the energy that does not create any conflict inside and outside. Intensity is intensely being inside you. Intensity flows smoothly and yet strongly. We always believe that if anything flows smoothly like a river, it will not have intensity, and if something is intense like a stone it will not be flowing freely. No. Intensity is like a flood, which is intense and flowing.

Some people intensely create conflict every moment! Anything you tell them to do, they will be ready to create a conflict. Real intensity does not create conflicts. It is flowing but intense.

Usually we feel a terrible restlessness towards the outer world. We do not know what is happening. We do not know what should be done, but there is a deep dissatisfaction about what is there in the inner space; this restlessness should become intensity.

The father of Yoga, Patanjali, says: 'Success is nearest to those whose efforts are sincere and intense.' A river does not need a navigator or signboards to reach the ocean. It reaches its destination without any help. When your whole energy moves in one direction as a whole you can move easily. When you are intense and ready to flow you will achieve your goal.

Usually intensity leads to a solid feeling. We may be intense but we may have lost the ability to flow, because we are driven by ego. We are determined to achieve what we want but we have our own rigid ideas about how to get there. We fail to understand that Existence can make events happen in a much more beautiful and effective way than we can plan.

Take up something and follow it with full intensity. Intensity does not mean acting rigidly without scope for updating or change. Only when you are open to change you can make your way like the river flowing intensely towards the ocean. Intensity is integration. Intensity is focus. Intensity is sincerity. Be Blissful!








Strikes have resulted in loss of production and loss of life in different parts of the country. The main sticking problem has been workers' right to form a union, rather than any demand for better wages or working conditions. Managements see unions as troublemakers who would disrupt the functioning of the enterprise and reduce profitability. This attitude is against India's interests, both in terms of economic growth and political and social development.


Unions work to enhance workers' entitlements, through collective bargaining which can take an agitational form if negotiations fail. Workers' entitlements broadly fall into three categories: wages, agency at the workplace and leisure. All these help the economy, and help industry grow bigger and its profits, fatter.

How can higher wages for workers increase their employers' profits? The paradox is only apparent. The trade-off between the two is real at the level of the individual enterprise and disappears at the level of the economy as a whole. The reason is simple: the mass market.

The mass market has been the biggest driver of economic progress in the world. When the consumer base for any good is limited, there is only so much of income that anyone can generate from producing it. But once it is demanded by the majority of the population, the volume of production, revenue and profits shoots up.

Any enterprise's workers are a cost for that enterprise. But for the rest of the economy, they are potential consumers and the higher their purchasing power, the larger the sales. For any single enterprise, the incentive would be to depress the expenditure on wages and salaries.

But for the economy as a whole, the higher the wages and salaries paid out by all enterprises, the bigger the demand for industry's collective output of goods and services, the greater the volume of business and the greater, also, aggregate profits.

How can an enterprise take the decision in the enlightened self-interest of all enterprises together to increase its own wage bill? It won't. After all, there is no guarantee that its munificence would be emulated by other employers, so that the market for its own produce would also expand. Two things can force a decision that improves the collective good. One, regulation: the law could mandate minimum wages, for example. Two, unions. Unions would force individual enterprises to pay higher wages and salaries, boosting aggregate demand in the economy.

The unions can also reduce the working day, so that workers can have greater leisure. Leisure, of course, is also a business opportunity. Publication of books, newspapers and journals, music, movies, television programming, sports, gaming, tourism, eating out, even long gossip sessions over the phone — a whole lot of economic activity depends on people having leisure along with purchasing power.

Unions also can help raise productivity. The simple reality is that today's sophisticated manufacturing calls for very high levels of quality, that cannot be achieved by mindless automations who work only because of compulsion. When work becomes actualisation of the worker's creativity, his output would be of the kind required for a product or a service to be truly globally competitive.

Here, there is clearly a question of ambition. Does Indian industry want to be global leaders, and so aim for the requisite levels of quality, or are they happy to stay somewhere at the bottom of the foodchain, making do with ill-paid, ill-trained, insecure workers and the quality they are capable of producing? Most sophisticated manufacturing takes place in workplaces with unions, whether in Japan, Korea, or Europe. China, too, has unions, of course, but they are toothless puppets that cannot challenge the authority of the state or the party.

Japanese companies revolutionised quality, by giving workers unprecedented levels of agency at the workplace. It is possible, in India, too, to involve unions in transforming the work culture and raising quality and productivity to create global companies.

Of course, for all this to happen, it is not just employers who have to change their mindset. So must the unions. Our unions are, for the most part, conditioned to see managements as opponents, the present system of production as something that needs to be overthrown, rather than improved. They must understand that broadbased capitalist growth, far from being rotten and ready to crumble, is vigorous, flexible and capable of creating sufficient new income to banish subsistence poverty. And they must engage with the task of making it work in a way that benefits the majority.

Unions play a big role in strengthening democracy and modernising society, combating retrograde tendencies. Divisions based on caste, religion, region, language, and ethnicity hold back India's growth. Unions can overcome these divisions within them. Instead of leaving the job of organising the disempowered rural poor to the Maoists, political parties and their unions and mass organisations can take on the task.








MUNICH: He recalls memories of driving to India and touring the north. For the first time, he says, he experienced so much vegetarian food. That was in the 1970s. As president of the Max Planck Society of Germany (MPG) headquartered in Munich, 60 year-old Peter Gruss plans to visit India in February 2010 to launch a science centre, a facilitating hub for budding Indian scientists to access what Max Planck and other German research bodies like DGF and DAAD have to offer India.


Why India? "We're not looking at nations, we're looking at quality," says Peter Gruss. According to him, research scientists from India — particularly post-doctoral students — are focused and dedicated and this enhances the quality of work that the MPG takes pride in. Today every tenth doctoral student working and doing research at MPG Institutes from abroad is from India. Quality is paramount, so much so that when the head of a department or institute retires or leaves, it is simply shut down. But why shut down a functioning institute? "We see it as an opportunity to reshape the institute, to shift focus if need be."

The range of subjects that MPG institutions spread across Germany study is mind-boggling, and includes physical and electro chemistry at the Fritz Haber Institute, Berlin, gravitational physics at the Albert Einstein Institute at Garching, and plasma physics, infection biology, astrophysics, human development, and history of emotions!

More than 80% of its post-doctoral students are from abroad. Not all of them would know German? Science is international. So the English language is fine; everyone in the scientific community speaks it, says Gruss. The Society is able to generate new topics of research because unlike universities, it is not forced to educate people; its focus is on research, though students are encouraged to take up teaching assignments at universities situated close at hand. Ideation comes easily.

The institutes are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. And, scholars are given generous compensation packages. Maybe that's why the MPG is able to excel despite stiff competition from its peer groups in the US, the most popular research destination. What matters to MPG are intellectual environment, autonomy and long-term financial stability.

How does MPG meet its costs? "To some extent we are independent of the financial market." Before World War II, MPG received funding from industry and private institutions. To become independent of any individual interest, MPG devised a system so that funding composition is as follows: 50% federal funding and 50% funding from all 16 states. With 17 participants, it is difficult for any one to exercise undue influence. The downside is that for any decisions, you have to get 17 votes.

A government decision in June 2009 says that the MPG would be funded with an increase of 5% every year from 2011 onwards for five years. The major political parties have included this in their manifestoes. Out of its current budget of e1.4 billion, 85% is publicly funded and sources include the European Union, the ministry of science and technology and the German research organisation, DFG. Industry funding makes up a very small percentage of the total, with no strings attached.

Research for research or for application as well? MPG's curiosity-driven research does have a possible outreach to commercially successful products.

What are MPG's expectations of India? Nothing can be more international than science, and knowledge is generated where conditions are best suited to do so, which is why MPG is keen to expand in places like India where there is huge potential, says Gruss. And MPG's philosophy is that you have to establish tools or mechanism to allow scientists to go home and work in their respective countries.

"We give post-docs e20,000 a year — for four years' duration — when they go back to their country to establish their own laboratories. So far, within the past four years, MPG has helped establish 15 such partner groups in India — the largest number in any one country — and the number is growing. The criterion is to look at those countries as partners where there is the highest chance of success."

So hasn't the recession affected monies available for research? The president of Germany's premier research society is convinced that in times of economic crisis you need to invest more in research and development. "That's why the MPG has a representative at the German embassy in Delhi, to help channel your huge potential," smiles Gruss.








Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's key advisory team on economy believes the government should continue to stimulate the economy this fiscal, ensure good rabi harvest and facilitate more private investment in power generation. While being optimistic about a decent 6.5% growth this fiscal, the PM's economic advisory council chief Dr Rangarajan says it is vital to have a carefully calibrated exit strategy from the stimulus measures as the large fiscal deficit is unsustainable. Excerpts:


What is the right time to exit the stimulus measures?

Basically, the sign of economic recovery must be sound. If we are getting a growth of 6.5% or exceed this level, then in the next year, we can begin to withdraw the additional sops given to specific sectors. Then the sectoral support may not be necessary. What we need to do is to stimulate the economy in general.

Do you expect the abundant liquidity in Western markets to flood India if inflationary pressures prompt RBI to harden the monetary policy, raising the interest rate differential?

As things stand today, capital inflows do not pose a serious problem. It may add around $31 billion to the reserves but will not cause a serious concern. I do not foresee capital inflow rising at the pace it did in 2007-08. But the higher inflow is definitely helping the private sector to maintain investments in the economy.

FDI is better than last year's. Firms are also able to raise external commercial borrowings more comfortably than they could last year. FDI is not volatile, portfolio investments can be. But it adds to the liquidity and strengthens the market. There is no need to change policies unless the inflows shoot up sharply and rapidly.


When do you expect the RBI to move away from the policy?

It depends on the RBI's assessment of growth and inflationary pressures. If inflationary pressures are not pressing, the RBI may not move away from the accommodative policy. Unless inflation breeches 6%, the monetary authorities may not take action.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The denouement in the election process in Afghanistan has been anti-climactic in that it is likely to leave the President, Mr Hamid Karzai, in the driver's seat in spite of the opposition of many in the international community to him. The results had produced a clear winner, the incumbent winning nearly 55 per cent of the valid votes, with his principal opponent Abdullah Abdullah trailing far behind at 28 per cent. And yet charges of electoral fraud marred the exercise. These would not have occurred — if indeed they did to the extent claimed by some UN officials but disputed by Afghan members of the Independent Election Commission, one of whom resigned in protest — if the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had been more astute, more mindful of its responsibilities, and punctilious about its duties. After a period of suspense, Mr Karzai has agreed to the runoff. This could underline his real victory. He has kept alive his country's new democratic constitution. He need not have, although that would have risked political mayhem. By doing so, he has resurrected his credentials as a democrat, a man of peace in a country in which violence has been the currency of politics, and a diplomat of the first rank. At the practical level, there are two possibilities now. Being a refined politician, Dr Abdullah would straightaway know his chances of besting Mr. Karzai in most parts of the country are theoretical in the main. As such, it is not unlikely he might consider an arrangement in which he is offered a high constitutional position, rather than insist on a runoff vote. In such an event, Mr Karzai retains the presidency. Some way would then have to be evolved to bypass the constitutional requirement of a second-round vote between the two top contenders. If, on the other hand, the alternative scenario were to prevail, and an electoral duel were fought between the rivals, Afghanistan could face a bleak prospect politically. There is every likelihood of a laughably low turnout because voters would be fed up and on account of the country's difficult geography and harsh winter. The UN and some leading Western actors, who cried themselves hoarse over a flawed election, would look ridiculous. The only ones to crow would be the Taliban. Such an outcome would make the military campaign against the jihadists in the coming weeks and months more difficult than it need be. A significant dimension of the armed campaign on both sides rests on information and psychological warfare, which the Taliban have consistently won so far. If a government comes to power based on a pitiably low vote, as many suspect the runoff to turn out, a clear propaganda advantage would be handed to the Taliban. It might therefore be best that a runoff were avoided. The Election Control Commission (ECC) of the UN that was overseeing the entire process could have avoided the farce we saw had it put its foot down at the time when electoral malpractices were being reported in real time. It foolishly waited for the process to be completed before raising a howl. The irony of ironies — the malpractices occurred in areas where either Western troops were in control of the polling or where the Taliban intimidated voters into staying away. The ECC might have given a better account of itself if it included a member from a developing country democracy, rather than only Westerners. That would have been consistent with standard UN practice.








The Goldstone Report blaming Israel more than the Hamas movement for alleged war crimes in the 22-day Gaza war of December 2008-January 2009 leaving nearly 1,500 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead is a landmark event since the creation of the Jewish state. Its passage in the UN Human Rights Commission marks the first time that Israel lost the immunity it has persistently claimed to flout the rules of war and civilised behaviour, thanks to total American moral and material support.

The irony is that a reputed South African jurist, Mr Richard Goldstone, himself a Jew, made the stinging indictment of Israel's conduct during the infamous conflict. The report, now referred to the UN Security Council, asks Israel and Hamas (the latter for firing rockets into southern Israel) to conduct credible investigations into alleged war crimes in six months, failing which the issue should be sent to The Hague war crimes tribunal, which is independently looking into the possibility of prosecuting Israel.

It seems unlikely that Israeli leaders will face war crime charges at The Hague, given the US veto in the Security Council and its overall influence. But the contention that Israel could do no wrong because it was living in a hostile sea of Arab states has come crashing down. Ends have always justified the means in Israel's case and much blood has been spilled — not only by militants — in the 60 years of Israel's existence.

Israel and its Prime Minister Mr Benjamin Netanyahu are not the only casualties of the Goldstone Report. The Palestinian Authority President, Mr Mahmoud Abbas, had initially deferred to US and Israeli pressure to bury the report. Facing unprecedented Palestinian protests, he reversed his decision. But the weak head of the Fatah movement in charge of enclaves in the West Bank, Israel, has lost much of his credibility. And the exiled leader of Hamas, Mr Khaled Meshaal, was reported to have taunted him with the words: "No one believes this leadership. It must he held accountable. Israel was in a corner and the Palestinian team came to its rescue".
To no one's surprise, the United States, together with the Netherlands with its abiding sentimental attachment to the Israeli cause, voted against the resolution in the UN Council, with other European Union members either abstaining or not voting at all (France and Britain). American representatives damned the report as flawed and unfair to Israel. Despite the advent of the Obama administration, the hardline Jewish American lobby is alive and well.

Americans initially persuaded Mr Abbas to help Mr Netanyahu to bury the report at the altar of the peace process. But the charade has gone on long enough to lack credibility. President Barack Obama started with a bang by presenting a new American face to the Muslim world through his famous Cairo speech and setting the first marker for Israel: no new or expanded settlements on occupied land under "natural growth" or any other guise. Mr Abbas, on his part, made it his mantra: no new talks with Israel unless there was a freeze on new or expansion of settlements on occupied land. Mr Netanyahu gave the new US President his answer: a thundering "no". Israeli cockiness and ability to thumb its nose at the sole surviving superpower stems from the sway Jerusalem has over the American political process.

Mr Obama has been retracing his steps since then, with his representative for the region, Mr George Mitchell, going through the motion of shuttling between Israeli and Arab capitals. Despite his new resolve, Mr Abbas agreed to meet Mr Netanyahu with Mr Obama in the White House. The charade of the peace process where there is no peace or meaningful process must be maintained because it serves a soporific purpose without changing anything but greater Israeli occupation.

From their narrow viewpoint, Israelis believe they are sitting pretty. They have stared down a new US President who actually wanted to bring about peace, strangely winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his intent. They have blatantly announced new settlements and further dispossession of Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip remains blockaded and walled off from the world. The West Bank is cut into ribbons by Israeli-only roads leading to more illegal settlements. And Palestinians remain divided between the Fatah and Hamas movements, with the former appearing more and more like members of a peripatetic fraternity in business suits attending conferences leading to nowhere.

Mr Obama, beset with two wars, a still ailing economy and controversial health reforms, underestimated the power of the Israeli lobby. Having failed to stop further illegal settlements, he made a strange demand from Arabs, that they should do their bit to create the right atmosphere. Palestinians are an occupied people living in utter misery, particularly in Gaza, and how can the United States expect of the Arab states to give up the only lever they have, of legitimising the Jewish state while Israel goes on a rampage of new settlement-building activity?

The Saudi proposal, reiterated twice by the Arab League, of universal Arab recognition of Israel if it would withdraw to the pre-1967 borders and seek a rational settlement of Palestinian refugee problem, continues to gather dust. The Israeli peace lobby is a voice in the wilderness. The once hopeful Oslo accords have become an archaeological curiosity, the now comatose Ariel Sharon physically destroying all vestiges of the Palestinian Authority painstakingly built through European Union funding.

A Right-wing government is now in office in Israel but there are some issues that cut across political frontiers. In fact, the largest expansion of illegal settlements has taken place during Labour Party rule. And the dream of Greater Israel Mr Netanyahu is seeking to bring to reality fires the Israeli imagination. The problem boils down to this. Israel might want to live like a garrison state till eternity, but the costs to its mentor, the United States, are mounting by the day. For decades, the US and the West have pretended that Israeli nuclear bombs do not exist while lecturing the other countries in the region on the virtues of virginity. Only very recently has the US tacitly acknowledged the Israeli nuclear arsenal.

Perhaps we are beginning to see the first glimmer of hope. The Goldstone Report has bluntly told Israel and the world that the cachet of security cannot justify all crimes. Israel, like every other country in the world, must be held accountable for its actions.








Last summer I attended a talk by Michelle Rhee, the dynamic chancellor of public schools in Washington. Just before the session began, a man came up, introduced himself as Todd Martin and whispered to me that what Rhee was about to speak about — our struggling public schools — was actually a critical, but unspoken, reason for the Great Recession.

There's something to that. While the subprime mortgage mess involved a huge ethical breakdown on Wall Street, it coincided with an education breakdown on Main Street — precisely when technology and open borders were enabling so many more people to compete with Americans for middle-class jobs.

In America's subprime era, we thought we could have the American dream — a house and yard — with nothing down. This version of the American dream was delivered not by improving education, productivity and savings, but by Wall Street alchemy and borrowed money from Asia.

A year ago, it all exploded. Now that we are picking up the pieces, we need to understand that it is not only the US financial system that needs a reboot and an upgrade, but also our public school system. Otherwise, the jobless recovery won't be just a passing phase, but our future.

"Our education failure is the largest contributing factor to the decline of the American worker's global competitiveness, particularly at the middle and bottom ranges", argued Martin, a former global executive with PepsiCo and Kraft Europe and now an international investor. "This loss of competitiveness has weakened the American worker's production of wealth, precisely when technology brought global competition much closer to home. So over a decade, American workers have maintained their standard of living by borrowing and overconsuming vis-a-vis their real income. When the Great Recession wiped out all the credit and asset bubbles that made that overconsumption possible, it left too many American workers not only deeper in debt than ever, but out of a job and lacking the skills to compete globally".

This problem will be reversed only when the decline in worker competitiveness reverses — when we create enough new jobs and educated workers that are worth, say, $40-an-hour compared with the global alternatives. If we don't, there's no telling how "jobless" this recovery will be.

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn't there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

That is the key to understanding US' full education challenge today. Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive. Therefore, we not only need a higher percentage of our kids graduating from high school and college — more education — but we need more of them with the right education.

As the Harvard University labour expert Lawrence Katz explains it: "If you think about the labour market today, the top half of the college market, those with the high-end analytical and problem-solving skills who can compete on the world market or game the financial system or deal with new government regulations, have done great. But the bottom half of the top, those engineers and programmers working on more routine tasks and not actively engaged in developing new ideas or recombining existing technologies or thinking about what new customers want, have done poorly. They've been much more exposed to global competitors that make them easily substitutable".

Those at the high end of the bottom half — high school grads in construction or manufacturing — have been clobbered by global competition and immigration, added Katz. "But those who have some interpersonal skills — the salesperson who can deal with customers face to face or the home contractor who can help you redesign your kitchen without going to an architect — have done well".

Just being an average accountant, lawyer, contractor or assembly-line worker is not the ticket it used to be. As Daniel Pink, the author of A Whole New Mind, puts it: In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper "and just as well", vanilla doesn't cut it anymore. It's all about what chocolate sauce, whip cream and cherry you can put on top.

So our schools have a doubly hard task now – not just improving reading, writing and arithmetic but entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity. Bottom line: We're not going back to the good old days without fixing our schools as well as our banks.








Keats' lament of "tears amid the alien corn" aptly sums up the debate on genetically-modified (GM) food. The latest to join this swirling controversy is the humble brinjal, with the government's genetic engineering approval committee clearing its GM avatar, Bt brinjal. Bt (for Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria) makes toxins that are lethal to insects. GM crops use this to incorporate into plants a gene that helps produce a bacterial pesticide protein, which enables the plant to protect itself from pests. Almost 40 per cent of the brinjal produced in India is destroyed by the fruit and shoot borer (FSB). In spite of this India remains the world's second-largest producer of brinjal.

Bt brinjal uses the Cry1Ac gene to express an insecticidal protein to make the crop resistant to FSB. This helps reduce waste considerably, and farmers could expect to rake in an additional Rs 4,000 crores annually.
But try telling this to the critics, whose concerns range from masked multinationals holding poor farmers to ransom to giant brinjal mutants devouring bewildered humans. It's only natural for the introduction of any new crop strain to raise suspicion. One fear is that GM crops could limit biodiversity and eat into the country's gene pool. But GM crops by themselves hardly limit biodiversity as much as conventional agriculture does! Even something like wheat that we all take for granted is actually a product of natural genetic engineering: it has seven additional chromosomes from a different species with which it crossbred before man even thought of agriculture!

There is enough sound science and experience backing agricultural biotechnology. And in any case, the insertion of a couple of genes is, in many respects, a much simpler genetic modification than is sometimes made in conventional breeding. Even the vitamin Riboflavin — used in most vitamin supplements — is now routinely synthesised using a gram-negative bacterium, and no one's complaining.

There can be no denying that agriculture could do with a leg-up to meet the demands of an exploding population, and that this must involve agronomy, ways of controlling pests and diseases, and environment-friendly measures.
GM crops are the best bet yet for this, and it's unfortunate that critics should blindly adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards a technology that has so much potential. So where does one draw the line? One way of going about it is to make the good, the bad and the ugly sides of research on GM crops available to the public so it can make informed choices. But dismissing GM crops as an outlandish idea would be doltish. For it could very well be that, as physicist Stephen Hawking once said, "People in 50 years' time will wonder what the fuss about GM food was all about".


Prakash Chandra is a science writer


* * *




It would be the saddest day of our lives if the Centre approves the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. This would be an excuse for the government to allow genetically-modified food crops in India, which are facing stiff opposition in other parts of the world. How can the government think of allowing genetically-modified crops in the country when there is no scientific evidence to prove that they are safe for human consumption?
In India there is no labelling regime for genetically-modified (GM) foods which will give consumers a choice to make a decision whether they want to consume GM food or not. Till the time this is done, regulators should not have cleared any GM crops.

Are GM food crops the only solution to address food security concerns? Are we sure the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) decision to approve Bt brinjal was not affected by corporate interests, when many countries in Europe have refused to accept it? The GEAC decision has clearly overruled science. The decision was taken in an hour's time. This is questionable. You are taking such an important decision and do not care to go into the scientific evidence? After its own regulatory body approves it, the Centre says it is in no hurry to approve Bt brinjal. What good will it do now for environment minister Jairam Ramesh to consult scientists, farmers' organisations, consumer groups and NGOs, when he could not stop his subordinates from approving Bt brinjal?

How can one forget the suicides by farmers who were made to believe that another genetically-modified crop, Bt cotton, was good for their land, as well as economically viable?

Surveys have shown that there have been decreases in micro-organisms and beneficial soil enzymes
in the soil of Bt cotton fields.

And now we are getting into Bt brinjal. No one is considering the fact that this would destroy the rich varieties of brinjal in the country. India is known for organic farming and we know that organic farming produces more and brings more money to farmers.

India still needs to step up laboratories and the regulatory framework before anyone thinks of clearing Bt food crops.
It is also not possible to check the GM-content in food as there are no methods in the country to prove that these foods are safe for consumption.

There are so many unresolved issues surrounding the environmental release of the transgenic vegetable, as well as genuine concerns expressed over its safety for human consumption. But there is apparently no concern in government to address these.


Vandana Shiva is an environmental activist and founder of Navdanya Trust









The recent report about China wanting to build a dam to divert water from the Brahmaputra is the latest in a series of anti-India steps that China has taken in the last two-three years. And one that should give India reason for serious introspection. Beijing's somewhat childish behaviour over Arunachal Pradesh lately should serve as an appropriate reminder of our own blunders on Tibet and related boundary issue six decades ago.
We also need to take a relook at China's so-called claim of sovereignty over Tibet. On closer scrutiny, these appear to be nothing more than imperialist claims, like Britain's over Hong Kong and Gibraltar, which cease to have validity in a post-colonial world. The plain fact is that China, as an imperial power, laid claim over Tibet as a colony. The argument about Tibet ethnically being a part of China is incorrect and lacks historical support.
The origin of China's claim over Tibet goes back to a dynastic marriage over 1,500 years ago, when the Tibetan king Songsten Gampo married princess Wen Cheng of the Tang dynasty. The marriage in itself did not mean that Tibet was incorporated into China at that time, but China, from this point of time, claimed that Tibet was a part of "greater China". The Tibetans, and in particular the government-in-exile headed by the Dalai Lama based in Dharamsala, has never accepted this untenable claim by the Chinese government. According to them, Tibet has always enjoyed de facto independence. After Songsten Gampo, the Tibetans and the Chinese fought many times and the Tibetans defeated the Chinese on at least two occasions.

After the rise of the Dalai Lama, the relationship between the two countries was politico-religious, resembling the relationship between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor in Europe. Chinese emperors acted as Tibet's protectors. In 1911, when the nationalists overthrew the Quing dynasty, the 13th Dalai Lama expelled all Manchu and Chinese officials from Tibet and announced Tibet's independence (1913). From 1913 to 1951, Tibet was completely independent.

The Simla Agreement of 1914 was the result of a conference attended by representatives of Tibetan, Chinese and British-Indian governments. There is no evidence that the Tibetans acknowledged the Chinese claim over them. The Chinese and the Tibetan delegates, along with the Indian delegates, signed the draft treaty separately. But, thereafter, although both British-India and Tibet formally endorsed this treaty, the Chinese government in Beijing did not do it on account of the fact that the Chinese imperial government got progressively weakened and was eventually overthrown by San Yat Sen in 1911. It is not correct to say that the government in Beijing refused to endorse the treaty as they had objections to its provisions. The Tibetans have always maintained that Tibet enjoyed de facto independence till 1950. It was after the Communist takeover of China under Mao Zedong that Radio Peking started announcing that Tibet was a part of China and that the Chinese government was determined to restore Tibet to a "unified China". Soon after that the People's Liberation Army of China invaded Tibet. The Dalai Lama appealed to America, Britain, India and Nepal for help and guidance. The British advised the Dalai Lama to negotiate with the Chinese and reach an arrangement suitable to both. However, the Indian government bent over backwards in acknowledging Tibet as a part of China and advised the Dalai Lama to accept this status.

Delhi went out of its way in withdrawing the Indian Army contingents stationed in Lhasa and Gyantse, under the 1914 treaty. The government of Tibet had no choice then but to sign the infamous 17-point agreement, and agreeing to Tibet being incorporated into the communist regime. The very first point of the agreement was: "The Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the motherland — the People's Republic of China".
Tibetans now became one amongst the 55 ethnic minorities of China. Further, China distributed Tibetan territories among different Chinese provinces like Sichuan, Yunan and Gensu, leaving only the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region as Tibet. Today, the Han settlers outnumber ethnic Tibetans in Tibet proper. China has militarised Tibet and located military bases along the Indo-Tibetan border in a clear policy to intimidate India.

It is forgotten by Indians of the present generation that Indians did not need a passport or visa to visit any part of Tibet for business or tourism until the early 50s. It was only after China's occupation that they insisted that Indians carry valid travel documents for entering Tibet. It should also be pointed out that traditionally the border between British-India and Tibet was notional rather than political or geographical. And when, for the first time, the Chinese attempted to physically mark the border, this started a process of unending border disputes.
Meanwhile, the flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959 complicated matters. The Dalai Lama is respected widely in the border areas and Tawang is no exception. Chinese claims over Arunachal Pradesh are only on the strength of the attachment of the people living there to the Dalai Lama and his Tibet. The moment the Dalai Lama is no longer in Lhasa that attachment will disappear.

For India, the time has come to engage in real politics. New Delhi should consider retracing steps and reviving the case for Tibet's complete autonomy and for the withdrawal of the Chinese military forces from Tibet. Once India takes this stand, there will be support for it in the UN as well. After all, during the days of Hindi-Chini bhai bhai, China did not oppose India's case for Jammu and Kashmir, but the moment China became friendly with Pakistan and border problems erupted between China and India, China dumped India's case without any hesitation and supported Pakistan's claim over Kashmir. It was a clear volte-face. So there are good international precedents for India to re-open the Tibetan question.


Nitish Sengupta, anacademic and an author, is aformer Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the
Government of India








It's an intriguing idea, especially since the profession had such a cozy relationship with vice in the old days.
Arthur Gelb, the Times' famed former culture impresario and managing editor, begins his wonderful memoir, City Room, by describing the racier Times newsroom of the 1940s. He says it was a time of clandestine sex in the closets, a movie-star mistress of the publisher sashaying about and two tough bookies from Hell's Kitchen at a corner desk taking bets as "wads of bills peeked from their pockets".

In his memoir, Gaily, Gaily, Ben Hecht describes his years as a cub reporter at the Chicago Daily Journal starting in 1910. It was a time when reporters were still "exotic adults", he writes, and journalism was considered by many as "a catch basin for hooligans, bar flies and minor swindlers".

The first thing Hecht did was get his girlfriend, who was "in harlot servitude" when they met, hired as the "first girl reporter" at the paper for $12 a week by pretending she was a Van Arsdale who was a niece of Edith Wharton.

When she got caught selling her services in the newsroom, Hecht's cynical Irish editor advised him that reforming women was a time-waster. "The female, from birth onward, is a mist of lies", the editor intoned. "And her white belly is a shrine for swindle and delusion".

The next thing Hecht did was plot with his colleague Charles MacArthur — they would later write The Front Page — to revive a hanged criminal with a shot of adrenaline and then charge newspaper editors around the country $50 each for the "exclusive" on the "Walking Corpse".

In these times when big-city papers and magazines are disappearing and shrinking — the New York Times is cutting 100 more newsroom jobs and Conde Nast is closing four magazines — we need life rafts.
Publications once buoyed by splashy ads evoking drinking and sex are now conjuring ways to use drinking and sex to subsidise the news.

The New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have wine clubs. Conde Nast has started an online dating website for a fee of $30 a month called to "unite glamorous girls with fashion-conscious GQ-reading boys to create matches made in style heaven".

Self-described print press "fanatic" Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns the Daily News and US News & World Report, proposed to Forbes that the federal government could save newspapers by allowing sports betting on newspaper websites.

"It would take congressional legislation and the willingness on the part of the government to confront gambling and casino interests that have blocked this", he said. "Newspaper owners have never gotten together to lobby for this because they have always been quite profitable. Those days are behind us".

I tracked down Zuckerman in Jerusalem on Tuesday to ask him about it. "Newspapers are so critical for public dialogue and holding public officials responsible", he told me. "And who's going to be able to afford original reporting in the next five years? Very, very few". He said some British newspapers make millions on betting games like Bingo. "People are spending money on what is basically a social vice anyhow", he said. "So why not use it to preserve the First Amendment? It's not a perfect solution, but it is a solution".

Nick Pileggi, who wrote the books and screenplays for Goodfellas and Casino, sees no downside. "It would be a wonderful, huge blow against organised crime because the money would be taken out of what the mob gets", he said. "And every state has a lottery so nobody from the state is going to stand up and say 'We're against gambling'". He said that if newspapers would stop being so stuffy, they could set up ATM-style machines in lobbies and at newsstands and "take over a business that the mob now does illegally worth $20 to $40 billion a year".

"Newspapers are not sacred papal offices", he said. "It's a Damon Runyon business".

Arthur Gelb may have written about the Runyon days fondly, but he disputes the virtue of vice.

"How about you get some Vegas showgirls to come to the newsroom, do a little performance and charge admission?" he bristled. "Or you could have an escort service. Just take away the managing editor's office, and use it for assignations. Where do you stop this nonsense?"I don't know. The Vegas part doesn't sound so bad.

By arrangement with the New York Times









AN obscure police station has conveyed a resounding message to the West Bengal administration. Tuesday's mayhem in West Midnapore's Sankrail thana was quite the most intrepid Maoist offensive against the force that holds up the established order. As much as the killing of two policemen and the abduction of the OC, the fact that 22 extremists, with women in the vanguard, were literally easy riders on eleven motorcycles to Sankrail police station has left the brass shaking their heads in disbelief. The immediate response of the administration suggests that it had palpably underestimated the vulnerability of Sankrail in volatile West Midnapore and close to the Jharkhand-Orissa border. The extremists have used the familiar forests as the entry-cum-exit route. The topography ought to have made it obvious that the place is very much in the vicinity of the Red Corridor. The smugness of the Chief Secretary that Sankrail is not known as a "typical Maoist stronghold" is shocking; to harp on the fact that the DGP is camping in Junglemahal makes the outrage still more baffling. If a district is a confirmed hotbed of Maoist activity, it must be deemed to be entirely so. West Midnapore leaves no scope for slackness in any segment thereof. The murders, the kidnapping, the looting of arms from the police station and of cash from a bank nearby illustrate that Sankrail has been the victim of selective slackness in a forbiddingly disturbed district. The basics of administration would seem to have gone awry. Indeed, the police station was poorly equipped, with sophisticated weapons withdrawn out of the fear that they might be snatched by the Maoists. In the event, whatever remained has been snatched. The police have been caught with all defences down, and literally so. Small wonder why the extremists had a dramatic run of the place.

Critical indeed must be the timing of the attack, a few hours after the Chief Minister had fairly convinced the Left Front partners on the need for "harsh measures (read UAPA) given the ground realities". That the women who led the strike are members of Orissa's People's Liberation Guerrilla Army indicates that the outrage was a trans-border operation. Equally confirmed is the involvement of the Maoist leader, Kishanji, who has demanded the release of all women Maoist cadres in exchange for the freedom of OC, Atindranath Dutta. What remains open to question is whether these women cadres had been arrested in Bengal or Orissa. Deafening has been the rather diplomatic silence of Mamata Banerjee. Consistently opposed to the joint offensive, she has neither condemned the killings and abduction nor criticised the administration for the lapse. Indeed, the political class generally has been left speechless by the Maoist.







SINCE it is only once in a year that the Prime Minister interacts with the top military brass the address to the Combined Commanders Conference ought to consist of more than a pep-talk and calls to gear up to counter one threat or another. Sadly, even if it was only a sanitised version of what Dr Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that was released to the media ~ it was deemed diplomatic (chicken?) to delete the reference to developments on the Chinese front ~ there was little to indicate that military matters were being accorded due priority. To talk of ominous intelligence inputs, a deteriorating security environment, the need to develop the wherewithal to counter non-traditional threats, all point to the speech-writer doing little more than rehashing what was said last year, or the year before. Has this once prestigious interaction, theoretically critical to the national security effort, been reduced to just a lot of jaw-jaw? In the context of the present defence minister not convincing the strategic community of having come to the terms with the demands of his job, nor having the political clout to get things done, the Prime Minister's taking the routine-rhetoric route is doubly disappointing.

What must cause a bit more than disquiet was the talk of modernisation when the recent track record might suggest that more major deals have been cancelled than have been concluded: whose fault is it that a clean procurement process has not been worked out? And to talk of planning with a long-term perspective is a joke when the defence five-year plans are approved sans financial commitment, indeed budgetary allocations do not roll over from one fiscal to the next. Similarly, to emphasise the importance of synergy and integration invites ridicule when the government continues to dither over switching over the Chief of Defence Staff system. The promise to make a military career attractive is another of those sarkari assurances that are negated by reality: in this case the "cream" of the youth looking elsewhere, the increasing numbers seeking premature release. It is true that the impetus for change and upgrade must also come from within: it does boil down to wishy-washy leadership ~ in and out of uniform.







AGITATORS forcing schools and colleges to close for a day or two has become a part of life in India but in Manipur there have been no classes since 9 September following the All Manipur Students' Union's call for an indefinite strike. It wants chief minister Ibobi Singh to resign for the death in custody of a former militant activist, Ch Sanjit, on 23 July. It also wants police officers involved in the incident to be punished, and agitation leaders booked under the National Security Act to be released. It is not clear why AMSU took nearly one and a half months to react, but if nothing is done to break the strike the consequences are likely to be disastrous. The AMSU is part of the Apunba Lup umbrella organisation which is spearheading the movement for Ibobi's ouster. Understandably, angry parents have formed the All Manipur Student Guardians Organisation and asked the government to reopen institutions by 21 October, failing which the body will approach the Governor. But the organisation has already faced flak from the Lup which wants it to apologise publicly for going against its movement.

There is no timeframe for the BK Agarwal Judicial Commission to submit its report on the 23 July incident. It will either blame or exonerate the government, and in either case the likely scenario is predictable. If the Ibobi government is exonerated, there will be more trouble. If it is held responsible, Delhi is not likely to touch Ibobi. The Union home ministry admitted recently that Manipur was the most volatile state in the North-east but how to ease the situation there is of relatively little importance to the Centre. Conditions in the state are ideal for Delhi to step in but one thing is certain: it will never shake up Ibobi because it needs a strong chief minister there and he has proved capable.







LONDON, 21 OCT: The number of UK homes standing empty has hit one million, the highest ever level, a charity has revealed. The Empty Homes Agency reported that more than one in 20 properties have been unoccupied for six months or more, a figure described as "shocking" by homelessness charities. "More money needs to be made available to give local authorities the manpower to make contact with the owners of empty properties to start getting these homes back into use," said Ms Kay Boycott, Shelter's director of policy and campaigns.

"Bringing empty homes back into use is only part of the solution to Britainis housing problems. There is no substitute for the government building the urgently needed new affordable housing that the country needs," she added. Ms Boycott highlighted the difference between long and short-term empty homes, adding that there are around 300,000 long-term empty homes. "Local authorities have the legal powers to bring long-term empty homes back into use, but don't have the resources to enforce these powers," she said. ~ The Independent







THE worst aspect of the Bofors case was not its corruption. Corruption in varying degrees is worldwide. The worst aspect was the cover-up of the corruption. Cover-ups too are worldwide. But nowhere are they as brazen and shameless as they are in India. Bofors set a new standard of shamelessness. After the Bofors case there followed a whole stream of scandalous crimes that were consistently covered up with equal shamelessness. HDW Submarine case, Jain Hawala case, Oil for Food scam – there is a long list of scandals covered up with contempt for public opinion. The politicians, the investigators, the judiciary and the media all got badly tainted in this process.

The government's embedded media wimps destroyed the credibility of their profession. But whatever gloss India's ruling class may put on the ugly truth, people are not deceived. People know the truth whatever the courts may decide. Why, even former Chief Justice JS Verma, the current darling of establishment moralists, demanded a retrial of the Jain Hawala case after himself presiding over the Supreme Court bench which heard this brazenly mishandled case.


NOW there is a very, very slim chance that things may change. Globalization and the information era are upon us. And US President Barack Obama has a bee in his bonnet. He wants to punish all the tax evaders in the US who stashed away their illegal funds in tax havens. For a start Obama has zeroed in on the queen of all tax havens, Switzerland.

In August the US arm-twisted Switzerland to dent its famed tradition of banking secrecy. It compelled Swiss banking giant UBS AG to disclose the names of 4,450 American clients suspected of hiding assets in secret Swiss accounts, out of a total US 52000 account holders. This development is expected to prod thousands more UBS clients in America to voluntarily disclose their financial details to the Internal Revenue Service. Thereby they may avoid jail, not tax penalties. President Obama reportedly is determined to get lists of all past account holders regardless if they have shifted their deposits to other tax havens. Swiss sources have acknowledged that UBS has no real choice in turning over the names. This is bad news for Indian VIP account-holders who directly or indirectly also figure in the lists.

Contrary to his public posture, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is in a dilemma. The finance ministry had claimed that it was trying to recover black money stashed abroad. But its actions belied its words. The German government had given a list of names of Indians whose money is lying in the LGT Bank of Liechtenstein. The Indian government refused to disclose the names provided by Germany. It claimed that it was prevented by certain legal hurdles put up by Germany. Did the finance ministry deliberately create those legal hurdles? Germany itself has released its own list. How can it prevent India from releasing the list which it provided to India?

The finance ministry also got information pertaining to the Pune stud farm owner, Hasan Ali Khan's huge amounts deposited in the UBS Bank of Switzerland. However, according to Swiss authorities while the Indian government publicly sought information in Swiss account holder Hassan Ali Khan's case, it submitted "forged" documents that were required by Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice. Swiss authorities say that they want to help in the case if Indian authorities could satisfy the Swiss government's demand for proper documentation.


Since April 2007 the Indian government failed to respond to the Swiss request!

Pranab Mukherjee's dilemma is understandable. The lists of illegal account-holders could include the names of leading politicians across political parties. Therefore, the paradoxical situation arises. For public consumption the UPA government moves heaven and earth to reclaim Indian black money stashed abroad. Privately it is haunted by the fear that by doing so it could ring its own death knell. The dilemma does not end there. It becomes far more sinister.

Switzerland's economy is in recession. Swiss banks want to start operating in India and even participate in the Mumbai Stock Exchange. The Indian government put up a show of demanding transparency from the Swiss banks regarding the identities of the illegal Indian account-holders in their lists. The Swiss have not provided the lists as yet. The government went ahead and allowed the Swiss banks to open branches in India. UBS obtained permission to open a retail branch in February 2008. Switzerland's biggest bank, Credit Suisse, got permission to start operating this month. Permission for the Swiss banks to play the Mumbai Stock Market has been cleared and awaits ratification.


TWO questions arise. First, does the Indian government truly want the lists of illegal account-holders to be made public? Secondly, would the government dare deny the Swiss when their banks have full knowledge of all the corrupt Indian VIPs who have held secret accounts in their vaults?

The situation becomes more ominous. America has the lists of illegal account-holders that include many non-resident Indians who could be operating on behalf of Indian politicians. Given the close interaction between governments and intra-penetration by their respective intelligence agencies, US information about corrupt Indian VIPs could easily spread to other governments. Can the Indian government be trusted to avoid becoming a victim of blackmail by foreign governments privy to such information and willing to use it?

In November 1991, six months after his death, the highly reputed Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrate, alleged in a report that there were numbered Swiss bank accounts in the name of Rajiv Gandhi equivalent roughly to two billion US dollars. That report was never publicly denied. The failure to do that leaves one with a most uncomfortable feeling. If India's top politicians are vulnerable to blackmail, how independent can the government's policies be?








Time for confused rhetoric over how to tackle the Maoists is clearly running out. The rebels themselves seem to entertain no such confusions. Sympathetic sections of the civil society may attribute the Maoist violence to social and economic exploitations. But the rebels have a clearer view of their ends and means. They are sworn to a violent ideology that, they think, would help them seize State power. Their daring attack on a police station in West Midnapore district should leave no one in doubt about their intentions and strategy. It is no coincidence that the assault comes almost within hours of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, calling for a "holistic" approach to what he considers the greatest threat to India's internal security. Mr Singh would like the State's response to be more "nuanced" than purely punitive. No one can question the wisdom of such an approach, but the Maoists may render it unworkable. Both in theory and in strategy, the rebels want a bigger confrontation with the State in order to intensify their guerrilla warfare. That is why Maoist violence has increased dramatically in recent months in different parts of the country. They are clearly baiting the State to engage with them on militaristic lines.


Not having a definitive policy to tackle the problem will be disastrous for the State, but no policy is good enough unless it is acted on with clarity and determination. The governments in New Delhi and the Maoist-infested states seem to suffer from the dual disadvantage of a warped policy and ill-defined strategies. West Bengal's poor record in fighting the Maoists is a case in point. After all the Maoist mayhem over the past year, it is not yet clear whether Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is firm enough to do what needs to be done to stem the rot. His party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has been the worst victim of the Maoist violence, but it still talks of fighting the rebels "politically". It seems that neither the chief minister nor his party is prepared to pay the costs of a full-blown fight. A comparison between his approach and that of the former chief minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray, in dealing with the Naxalites in the early Seventies is unavoidable. Mr Ray left no grey areas in the fight, either political or moral, and decisively won the battle. Mr Bhattacharjee would do well to emulate Mr Ray's decisiveness and firmness of purpose.







Afghanistan has hit the predictable path towards a run-off after the inconclusive presidential elections of August. But this is more because of the choice of the incumbent president than that of the people. On Tuesday, Hamid Karzai 'chose' to accept that he had fallen short of a majority verdict. The unpleasant situation arose after an inquiry by the Electoral Complaints Commission of Afghanistan, under the aegis of the United Nations, led to the cancellation, on grounds of fraud, of chunks of votes that had gone in Mr Karzai's favour. He could have challenged the ECC's conclusion in court and avoided a run-off. After all, the Independent Election Commission, run by his government, had conclusively decreed his electoral win — never mind the many boxes found stuffed with ballot paper not even torn off from the book stub or others that were signed in the same hand and pen.


The reason why Mr Karzai felt compelled to allow himself to undergo a second round was because of his critical dependence on the Western allies for logistical support. Without them providing foreign troops to deflect the Taliban, manpower to conduct the humungous task of elections, or facilitating aid and training, Mr Karzai would still not be able to venture too far. Over the years, he has undoubtedly cultivated political relations within the country and beyond, with China and Russia, to overcome his handicap, but the logistics do bother. The threat of the Nato allies indefinitely withholding addition to troops must have rankled, if not their displeasure with a dubious victory. For Mr Karzai, a run-off is thus the least worst option. There are chances of the Taliban playing spoilsport. But in a contest held within three weeks, Mr Karzai could still hope for his support networks — worked out assiduously before the August elections — to return him a decent victory than their being able to do so in the distant future. Besides, three weeks could be enough time for a compromise to be worked out with the political rival. It is important for Mr Karzai, but perhaps more important for his Western allies, that the next government in Afghanistan should appear to represent the people's choice. On that hinges the exit plan of the Nato countries. But given that even fewer people may be willing to participate in this charade, there is little chance that the run-off will lead to a more representative government than the first round did.









I have just finished reading, in this column of The Telegraph, Bhaskar Dutta's most helpful introduction to the works of the two new Nobel laureates in economics. I want to make a small comment myself, flowing from Dutta's thoughtful observations. But before that I must tell you about another reaction to the event that I have seen with a certain degree of amazement. It is doing the rounds (through emails) from the day after the prizes were announced — many of my readers must have seen it too.... It goes in the name of Steven Levitt.


Steven D. Levitt is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of economics at the University of Chicago, where he directs the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory. Levitt received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. He has been teaching at Chicago since 1997.


In 2004, Levitt was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the most influential economist under the age of 40. In 2006, he was named one of Time Magazine's "100 people who shape our world". Without a question, young Levitt is Nobel class himself, apart from being the principal author of Freakonomics, which has sold over three million copies in all the principal languages of the Western world. Let us look first at what Levitt has to say about this year's prize. His note is entitled, "What this year's Nobel prize in economics says about the Nobel prize in economics", which, I must admit, is a very winning title by itself. It follows partly like this:


"Earlier today, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson were awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for their work on the role of institutions. If you had done a poll of academic economists yesterday and asked who Elinor Ostrom was, or what she worked on, I doubt that more than one in five economists could have given you an answer. I personally would have failed the test. I have no recollection of ever seeing or hearing her name mentioned by an economist. She is a political scientist, both by training and her career — one of the most decorated political scientists around....


"Economists want this to be an economists' prize. This award demonstrates, in a way that no previous prize has, that the prize is moving toward a Nobel in Social Science, not a Nobel in economics."


Levitt is a bit kinder to Oliver Williamson, I noticed. The only negative point of his about Williamson was that he had not been cited or talked about by other economists over the last 15 years. But the older economists, it is conceded, might feel rather happy about this award.


Bhaskar Dutta, happily, did not go into the question of the social ordering of the relative merits of highly merited people — which question at one time he or his mentor, Prasanta Pattanaik, might surely have been delighted to take up. He has done a more prosaic but far more important work. He has introduced us to one area of economic administration of activity where markets do not exist: the individually unowned commons that belong to nobody, but belong to all. And thankfully, he is not distressed by the presence of non-economists as participants in the question and sometimes as the leading contributors to its delineation — leading to at least the first stages of its solution.


Dutta has not called Ostrom, I am glad to see, a political scientist. He has pointed out that Ostrom's claim to fame is her work on the classes of problems labelled the "tragedy of the commons", a term incidentally coined by the biologist, Garrett Hardin, for situations where individual property rights over a resource are not well-defined — the "resource" could be the stock of fish in the ocean, or groundwater, or forests on public land.

Nobel prizes are always chancy. Joan Robinson was voted into the shortlist year after year after year but she never made it. Amartya Sen was on the list several times but missed it repeatedly. He got it, I think, the third time. As usual, every time we had heard he was in the shortlist we hoped for the best. I remember an amusing story we heard about this that I may share with the readers — I am sure Amartya will not mind. Every time he was shortlisted and then got to the very last lap, he would tell only his mother (whom we all adored). She would look forward to it only to be disappointed. Then came the happy ending and Amartya rang her up at night to say that he had got it. Mashima replied, "You poor boy, go to sleep" — thinking this was some prank played on him by somebody. One reason for my telling you this is that Amartya too was perhaps not quite the economist the Chicago market-economics monetary-economics school wanted to see taking the prize in the end. I may be entirely wrong. But the passion with which the great Professor Levitt has written about the prize being captured by the wrong people makes me wonder.


Whatever it is, Chicago seems to have taken it rather badly. And they are partly justified too. After all, fully trained, high-calibre economists had been reading, writing, researching and talking about the cyclical movements of the economy and how to deal with these efficiently and quickly with enlightened market management techniques. This had gone on over all of the last 70 years, more or less to their entire satisfaction. They are entitled to be a little baffled by the sights at the battlefield. The welfare economists, too, did not know exactly what to say. It is time, therefore, for changing horizons, changing agenda, changing paradigms, as Thomas Kuhn might have visualized it: a time of revolutionary change in social science disciplines.


A final comment. Dutta reports that both the prize-winners were rank outsiders with the betting firms. Ladbrokes offered odds of 50-1 on either of them getting the prize. "At least two of my colleagues in the economics department in Warwick, as well as a very well-known economist visiting us from the United States of America, had not heard of Elinor Ostrom." The Ladbrokes judgment was understandable and so the odds showed what they did: very low probability of either candidate winning. But the betting firm knew a little better: the two candidates had exactly the same probability of winning. For the economics prize, Ladbrokes made no distinction between economics and political science. Some one guessed right: Elinor Ostrom, political scientist, and Oliver Williamson, a slightly backdated economist, each had a small, but absolutely equal, chance of winning the Nobel and they did. Ladbrokes knew better than the large crowd of up-to-the-minute economists observing the race.








The buzz words that are found aplenty in the lexicon of military warfare today are 'synergies', 'network-centric', 'precision attacks', 'information superiority', and so on. However, none of these —the pillars of the Revolution in Military Affairs theory — can be substantially achieved without jointmanship, inter-operability and integration of the three services: the army, navy and the air force. It is also a fact that bringing the three services under a unified command has been a testing exercise for most countries, including India. The resistance, in most cases, has been from the services themselves.


The Americans may have switched to the concept of chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, but it required legislation. The CJCS was invested with far-reaching legal authority, and the model allows operational directions to flow to the army's theatre commanders globally, with the chairman advising the secretary directly.


India initiated the integration of the three services pretty much early by creating the National Defence Academy (NDA) where cadets aspiring to be officers in all three services continue to be trained together to promote inter-service camaraderie. In 1960, the armed forces opened their apex training institution, the National Defence College, a tri-service organization. The Integrated Defence Staff was created in November 2001 to serve as the apex tri-service organization. This organization provides staff support to the chiefs of staff committee, which has all the three service chiefs on board. The strategic forces command, often referred to as the nuclear command, was established in 2003.



The exercise in integration has, unfortunately, not progressed thereafter. In effect, what has been achieved so far is the unification of the services at the ankles with the NDA, and loosely stitching them together at the shoulders with the IDS. In the Combined Commanders Conference on June 25, 2009, the defence minister stated that all three services were now attuned to the idea of a chief of defence staff. Today, technology provides the wherewithal to integrate more cohesively, be it for sharing intelligence, data, or a host of other functions. Undoubtedly, national security requires jointmanship making it more economical in terms of acquisitions and logistics.


However, there is a flip side to the coin. India's defence forces have very strong inner affiliations and pride. The affiliations can make logical decision-making difficult. A CDS from a particular service may look into his service interests only. Such aberrations are likely to come up more in the area of equipment acquisitions and roles. For instance, the third-largest army still does not have fixed-wing aircraft. It has only a fleet of ancient helicopters that can at best insert a couple of companies or battalions, with its integral resources.


This is just one area, which might experience disservice. With the season's flavour being 100-day schedules— the home minister's 100-day internal security strengthening road map; the education minister's 100-day-reforms and so on — perhaps the defence minister could also identify contentious issues and decide on the role of the CDS in the next 100 days. The Americans legislated such issues with the Goldwater-Nicholos Act in great detail. India needs to distil its own experience and work out the formulae. With the defence minister himself accepting that the services are ready, it is his own call now. There is no debating the fact that a CDS is required, but his loyalty needs to be ensured.


This is at best a two-stage process: identify the fallouts first and reconcile them with objectivity. Next, get a CDS in saddle. If he is given the responsibility and held accountable, the CDS could provide the unity required in operations as well as the advice that needs to be given to the political leadership far more efficiently.







What does the appointment of a Saudi national as special envoy to Jammu and Kashmir by the Organization of Islamic Conference mean for India? wonders Abhijit Bhattacharyya


One needs to note the dates first. A Pakistani national, Sharifuddin Pirzada, held the post of secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Conference from January 1, 1985 to December 31, 1988. Pirzada finished his tenure during the period Benazir Bhutto assumed power, when the Soviets were in the throes of a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan, the two-pronged, Pak-engineered 'proxy-war' was at its peak in the Indian Punjab, and seeds of Operation Kashmir were sown in India.


One is aware of the mysterious, hidden hand of Pakistan operating ceaselessly from an international platform in order to emphasize "Islamic social and economic values; and promote solidarity amongst member states." The Pakistani game plan is simple: to show India in a poor light and mobilize opinion to form a united front to destroy, destabilize and debilitate the Indian State, military, and all that the potentially strong, mighty and prosperous India stands for, its inherent faultlines, social tensions and political aberrations notwithstanding.


The recent appointment of a special envoy for Jammu and Kashmir — a Saudi national, Abdullah Bin Abdul Rahman Al Bakr — by the OIC at its meeting in New York thus comes as no surprise. Understandably, the Indian spokesperson, Vishnu Prakash, retaliated, "It is regrettable that the OIC has commented on India's internal affairs. We condemn and reject this. Inherent in OIC's statements and actions on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is a complete inability to understand India's position."


Indeed, the OIC is unlikely to take any stand in consonance with diplomatic norms and international law as it continues to be guided by terrorist-breeding and terror-ridden navigators of a South Asian nation in disarray. One regrets using strong words against one's neighbour. But in hindsight, one feels it to be one's duty to put the record straight for readers to make their judgment.


The OIC began its journey with 25 nations on board in the Moroccan capital of Rabat on September 25, 1969. Old-timers may recall the valiant antiques of the then Indian ambassador to Morocco, trying a forced entry into the meeting 'uninvited', thereby creating a flutter and attracting international curiosity. Forty years down, the OIC's strength stands at 57, with steady additions over the years: five (Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Syria and the UAE) in 1970; one in 1972 (Sierra Leone); five (Bangladesh, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Uganda) in 1974; two (Burkina Faso and Cameroon) in 1975 ; three (Comoros, Iraq and Maldives) in 1976; Djibouti in 1978; Benin (1982); Brunei (1984); Nigeria (1986); Azerbaijan (1991); Albania, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan (1992); Mozambique (1994); Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (1995); Suriname (1996); and Togo, Guyana and Ivory Coast in 1997, 1998 and 2001 respectively. With a permanent secretariat based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the current secretary-general of OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, hails from the sole secular Muslim-majority state of Turkey.


As far as India is concerned, the OIC does not have any direct bearing as such; nevertheless, indirect factors could have a domino effect on New Delhi, giving a nasty blow from time to time on two favourite topics: the plight of the minority community in India, and human rights violations in Kashmir. Not surprisingly, the fulcrum of the OIC in India is the 'Kashmir and Hindu obsessed' Pakistan, whose present leaders devoutly follow the guidelines laid down by their 19th century predecessor, Syed Ahmed Khan, who stipulated, on March 14, 1888: "Then who would rule India? Is it possible that... two nations — the Mohameddans and [the] Hindus — could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and inconceivable... if we join the political movement of the Bengalis our nation will reap loss, for we do not want to become subjects of the Hindus instead of the subjects of the 'people of the Book'".


In fact, the psyche of the Pakistanis manipulating and manoeuvring the OIC from behind the lines can be well assessed if one recalls these words by Mohammad Ali (one of the Ali brothers of Khilafat movement) written two days before he died to the British prime minister on January 1, 1931: "A community that in India must now be numbering more than 70 millions cannot easily be called a minority in the sense of Geneva minorities, and when it is remembered that this community numbers nearly 400 million throughout the world, whose ambition is to convert the rest of mankind to their way of thought and their outlook on life, and who claim and feel a unique brotherhood, to talk of it as a minority is a mere absurdity." The utterances were for a separate nation. That separate nation has come to stay. It is now the bounden duty of that nation to subjugate a non-religious neighbouring nation through religious coercion of a diplomatic shield.


Kashmir first appeared on the agenda of the ninth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers of the OIC at Dakar on April 24, 1978, at the behest of the Pakistani foreign minister, Agha Shahi. It became a staple Pakistani item since the 19th ICFM was held in Cairo in August 1990. Interestingly, the proxy war of Kashmir had begun earlier, in 1989, by Benazir Bhutto, the ostensible friend of India.


The pet words used by Islamabad — 'reign of terror let loose on the Muslims of Kashmir by Indian forces' — are repeated with a regular monotony. However, at the Istanbul meet of the ICFM, in August 1991, came the OIC resolution endorsing the Pakistani position on Kashmir. Understandably, India reacted strongly to the "pro-Pakistan resolution" and rejected all suggestions for "good offices mission or fact-finding mission to Kashmir from abroad". The Pakistani prime minister added his own bit at the OIC summit in Dakar in December 1991, suggesting that the "dispute on Kashmir was the greatest single potential threat to peace and security in South Asia." It was in the seventh OIC summit in Casablanca, in December 1994, that the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was allowed to address the OIC for the first time.


It is in this backdrop that the role of Islamabad in the OIC can be understood. One can even see why the Hurriyat chairman hailed the appointment of the OIC assistant secretary-general, Abdullah Bin Abdul Rahman Al Bakr, as special envoy to Jammu and Kashmir. If the Nato and the International Security Assistance Force, led by Barack Obama, can have Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Af-Pak, can Islamabad remain behind by not appointing an Arab national of the OIC as in-charge of the internal affairs of non-OIC, non-Muslim India? To use a Russian word as answer to an Asian problem: Niet.








On September 24, 2009, the 15-member United Nations Security Council, during an unprecedented summit chaired by Barack Obama, unanimously adopted Resolution 1887 calling on states that have not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty "to comply fully with all their obligations". The NPT, in place since July 1, 1968, has 189 countries that are party to the treaty. Of these, only five are recognized as nuclear weapon states. Only four recognized sovereign states — India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel — are not party to the treaty. The first three have openly tested and declared they possess nuclear weapons. Israel has a policy of opacity regarding its nuclear programme.


The Federation of American Scientists, arguably the most respected association of scientists in the world, recently released a report stating that Pakistan had 70-90 nuclear weapons and was adding fast to its arsenal. It also confirmed that the Chinese have provided the knowhow of not only the highly effective plutonium reactors — the instruction manuals provided by the infamous A.Q. Khan to the Libyans were in Mandarin — but of the Shaheen II missile as well, capable of striking all major Indian cities. Khalid Kidwai, the head of Pakistan's strategic forces command, has declared that the country's entire nuclear arsenal is "aimed solely at India", though he is quick to add that such an eventuality will arise only if Indian attacks either make deep inroads into Pakistan's urban centres or significantly degrade its army or air force.


To the vast majority of Pakistanis, the rationale for acquiring nuclear arms was provided very tellingly by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto shortly after the Bangladesh debacle in December 1971. He argued it was imperative that Pakistan acquire nuclear weapons to counter the larger conventional weapons capability of India. He declared that while "Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilizations could have nuclear weapons", he would like to be remembered as the person who provided these to the "Islamic civilization". Shortly after, funding for the "Islamic bomb" was initiated by Saudi Arabia and Libya, with the latter and Iran the beneficiaries of knowhow and equipment.


George W. Bush's final year of presidency witnessed an alarming development, first reported by the US Military Academy at West Point, that Pakistan's three nuclear-weapons-related facilities at Kamra air base, Wah ordnance factory and Sargodha arms storage site were targeted by suspected jihadis. The Pakistan government's choice of these sites was questioned by arms experts across the globe as all three were in areas difficult to protect from jihadis or extremists willing to sacrifice their lives for a cause. Earlier, the Bush administration had revealed that Pakistani nuclear scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al Mukhtar, met Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and held discussions in Kandahar on radiological devices. Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood and Chaudhuri Abdul Majeed, two close associates of Khan, were detained for maintaining close contacts with al Qaida and the Taliban. Earlier Mehmood, echoing Bhutto, had publicly proclaimed Pakistan's nuclear arsenal as the property of the whole Muslim world.


In spite of his "aimed solely at India" comment, Kidwai is considered a moderate and was commissioned at a time when the country's army still had a semblance of civilian control. But subsequent recruits in the country's armed forces and the influential ISI have clandestinely associated with fundamentalists and refrained from taking action on extremists on the pretext that they too have a cause, pointing a finger at Kashmir and Palestine among others. Khan's 'proliferation' could not have been possible without their looking the other way.


The Islamic world is not a unified group of nations. To cash-rich, Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, Shia-dominated Iran is an arch enemy, and Pakistan's Sunnis are gradually turning to the conservative (Sunni) Wahhabi Saudis for material and spiritual inputs. The Wahhabis, in turn, are funding every cause to spread their sect's influence globally. The scenario of a cash-strapped, Wahhabi-dominated Pakistan selling its nuclear expertise to other Islamic countries, which but for Iran are Sunni, is not as far-fetched as it seemed ten years back.


In response to the UNSC Resolution 1887, India had responded that it will not sign the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state, emphasizing that "nuclear weapons are an integral part of India's national security and will remain so". It is unlikely that on Manmohan Singh's state visit to the US next month, there will be any change in India's take on the NPT.










The clarifications made by environment minister Jairam Ramesh on the letter he wrote to the prime minister proposing changes in India's position on climate change issues will not remove the misgivings which have been created. It is likely that the letter was a test balloon to probe public opinion, both domestic and international, on some new ideas. A confidential communication to the prime minister would not otherwise have found its way into the press. The initial reaction within the country has been one of strong disapproval, with even the Congress distancing itself from the contents of the letter. The clarification that the letter contained only notes for discussion and India's position will be based on the consensus that emerges from these discussions is disingenuous and such a consensus already exists.

This position seeks time-bound and mandatory carbon emission reductions by developed countries as they have contributed to global warming more than developing countries and transfer of clean technologies and financial assistance to adapt to climate change and reduce the use of carbon. These were the basic assumptions of the Kyoto Protocol which is to be replaced by a new international agreement to be finalised at the Copenhagen summit in December. India, along with China, was leading the developing countries' bloc in the negotiations, even as late as last fortnight at a preparatory session in Bangkok. Jairam Ramesh's letter proposes dumping of the Kyoto Protocol, breaking ranks with the developing world and accepting emission targets without any commitment by the developed countries on clean technologies and finances. The argument is that it is in India's interest to reduce carbon emissions.

This u-turn, if accepted, will weaken India's and the developing countries' negotiating power at Copenhagen. There will be hard bargaining at the summit and it is not even certain that there will be an outcome acceptable to all in December. Whenever there is an agreement, it will be the result of compromises by all contending parties. India too will have to give something to take what it wants from the developed countries. But the letter, if it has some official backing, has prematurely shown India's hand and given rise to the suspicion that it may ultimately yield substantial ground. The mention of some trade-offs with the US does no credit to a country of India's size and stature.







A ship believed to be carrying toxic and radioactive waste and anchored some 40 nautical miles from the Alang coast in Gujarat could pose a deadly threat to marine ecosystems and human lives. Of US origin, the ship Platinum-II (formerly known as SS Independence and SS Oceanic) was penalised by the US Environmental Protection Agency for contamination. It was heading to the ship-breaking yard at Alang and is reported to be loaded with 210 tonnes of material contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), besides tonnes of asbestos in its body. This is not the first time that a toxic ship headed for Alang has kicked up a controversy. In 2006, two French ships Clemenceau and Blue Lady were stopped for their toxic content. In a controversial decision, the supreme court allowed Blue Lady to be dismantled at Alang despite concerns over its lethal waste.

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board maintains that Platinum II does not pose any threat. Environmental experts disagree. A three-member team appointed by the Central government is investigating the level of toxicity of the vessel and will submit its report on Friday. Reports that the ship is leaking contaminated material into the sea have been found to be untrue.

India takes great pride in the Alang ship-breaking yard being the world's largest. Indeed it is big business. It generates profits worth tens of thousands of crores.  However, it is time India paused and pondered over the costs incurred. Workers involved in ship-breaking are exposed to PCBs, asbestos, lead, waste oil and tributylin. A study of their health has revealed that 16 per cent suffer from an early stage of asbestosis, an irreversible lung condition that leads to cancer. Even if Platinum-II is not carrying radioactive substances, its asbestos is lethal. There will be pressure from vested interests to see that Platinum-II is dismantled at Alang, whatever the level of its toxicity. The health of workers and safety of environment, not profitability of the business should guide the government in determining the fate of the vessel and the future of the ship-breaking industry. Development of alternate occupations at Alang would free people of having to work in this hazardous industry.









The UN Human Rights Council advanced the cause of international law when it endorsed the 'Goldstone report' providing evidence that war crimes were committed during Israel's war on Gaza. The council's landmark decision empowers victims of war crimes and challenges the impunity some favoured countries have enjoyed.

The council upheld the 575-page report issued by a mission headed by highly respected South African judge Richard Goldstone who presided over war crimes trials for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In an interview with 'Forward', a US Jewish weekly, Goldstone said Israel had a 'responsibility' to respond to rocket attacks from Gaza which killed 20 Israelis over eight years. But, he observed, Israel's response "amounted to reprisals and collective punishment, and constitute war crimes."

The Goldstone report condemned the Israeli assault on Gaza as "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability."
The report also condemned the indiscriminate firing of rockets and mortars into southern Israel by Palestinian irregulars. The war's death toll was 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians and 1,414 Palestinians — of which 1,174, or 83 per cent, civilians. He called on both sides to investigate charges made in the report and take action if crimes are identified.

Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who refused to cooperate with Goldstone and denied the mission entry to Israel, rubbished the report, rejected its recommendations and said that no Israeli will be charged. Hamas, which cooperated with the mission when it visited Gaza, welcomed the report and pledged to investigate allegations of war crimes.

If the sides do not carry out credible investigations and initiate prosecutions where warranted within six months, Goldstone said the Security Council should refer it to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. To avoid a US veto in the Security Council, the Arab and non-aligned group plans to send the report to the General Assembly for forwarding to the ICC.

Among the countries voting in favour of the report were India, China, Russia, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria, representing about half of the world's people. The US was able to persuade only Italy, Holland, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine to vote against the resolution. There were 11 abstentions. France and Britain, which have urged Netanyahu to implement Goldstone's recommendations, were among the five that did not vote.
The 'Goldstone effect' is likely to have serious consequences. So far, the report has had immediate impact on the behaviour of both civil society and governments. The report has encouraged human rights groups to work for prosecutions of Israeli public figures, divestment from Israel and boycotts of Israeli exports. Israeli commentators complain that Israel is being 'delegitimised.'

On the global scene, the consequences are slowly becoming clear. The US tried to sink the report in order to protect its own back as well as that of Israel.

Goldstone makes it clear that any country should face war crimes charges if it prosecutes a war by targeting civilians and deliberately destroying civilian infrastructure. Bush administration officials qualify as war criminals for waging an unprovoked war of aggression on Iraq while Obama administration's air strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan which kill and maim more civilians than Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters could be ruled war crimes.

Pakistan's current offensive against the Taliban in south Waziristan could also come under investigation. To conform to international law, prosecutors of wars should not kill more civilians than enemy combatants during offensives or single actions. Therefore, the Goldstone precedent could, in theory, change the way certain countries wage war.

Slaughtering civilians is not the only option. During the height of Irish Republican bombings in London, Britain did not flatten the Catholic neighbourhoods of Belfast. India did not slay thousands in Karachi following the horrendous attacks by Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai.

The key to dealing with war crimes and crimes against humanity is accountability. Writing in 'The Financial Times' on Oct 14, Antonio Cassese, former president of the International Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia, laid down the law to European governments who, he stated, "now have a historic opportunity to demand in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the same accountability they seek in other conflicts."

Without parity of accountability, there is neither rule of law nor respect for the world's paramount powers. The US and Europe are routinely accused by Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims of having one standard for violators in Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and Bosnia and another for perpetrators of war crimes in West Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
If the Goldstone principles are applied to all conflicts, alleged war criminals travelling abroad could face arrest and trial under local laws providing for 'universal jurisdiction' or extradited to The Hague to defend themselves before the ICC. 

The very threat of being held accountable could warn governments that the era of impunity has passed. One Israeli commentator admitted as much by saying that the Gaza campaign was Israel's last all-out onslaught on its enemies.









While the war in Iraq triggered massive demonstrations across the globe, the ratcheting up of the number of troops in Afghanistan has generated no more than brief debates in parliaments. Obviously the intervention in Afghanistan if far more 'legitimate' than the invasion of Iraq, based as if was on false assumptions about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

Nonetheless, it is still significant that the Afghan war, with its high human costs, is accepted as inevitable and that even the world peace movement seems resigned to it.

Man tends to resort to conflict as something natural and spontaneous. Only a society of law and order can control this tendency with any effectiveness. Over the centuries, the values and principles adopted by societies have grown more refined. For example, there is growing acceptance of the use of humanitarian intervention in conflicts that affect high numbers of civilians. In other words, it is now thought that wars are not supposed to exceed a certain level of barbarity.

It is worth asking whether or not the destruction of Dresden or Hiroshima could happen again without arousing universal moral condemnation, which the annihilation of civilian as opposed to military targets did not arouse in that epoch. Conflicts are characterised by the level of civilisation of the period in which they take place. The more primitive a society, the more frequent its conflicts and the more killing of defenceless civilians, women, and children.

Imagine a creature from another planet landing on earth and asking where he was. He is told that on earth societies are divided into nations. How do these nations relate to one another? the visitor asks, and is told that there is an institution called the United Nations that represents all countries and is charged with preventing wars between them.

Wars? the extraterrestrial asks, what are they? How do they work? They are conflicts fought with weapons, the traveller is informed, although the five permanent members of the Security Council  have veto power and also happen to be responsible for 82 per cent of world arms sales, with the United States the leader by far. At this point the extraterrestrial gets back into his ship and leaves in search of a planet with more logical inhabitants and better suited for peace tourism.

It may be because of this lack of logic that major historical events usually awaken people's hope for a better future. The end of the Cold War aroused the expectation of a significant reduction in military spending and thus of a giant 'peace dividend' that could be invested in the development of the two-thirds of humanity in the south of the planet. But this dividend never materialised, and today the US is spending as much on weapons as the next 20 arms-buying countries.

Obviously wars change. We are now in the grips of the theory of a 'clash of civilisations,' as the conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Islamic movements is called. The theory posits that a struggle is underway between Judeo-Christian and Muslim civilisations.


This 'clash of civilisations' theory was introduced by author Samuel Huntington in an article in 1993, and much has been said and written about it since. However, there has been no true examination by the international community of the causes of this alleged clash, nor have any recommendations been generated to resolve it, except for a commission formed ten years ago by Spain and Turkey that brought together eminent figures from all areas and backgrounds to examine the topic. The primary conclusion reached was that there is no clash between civilisations, but rather specific conflicts within them.

It is in this context that we should examine the original objective of al-Qaeda to take control of the Arab world, and its subsequent fight against the infidels who supported corrupt governments of the area. Similarly, the commotion caused when an Italian minister wore a shirt with a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed, setting off protests that resulted in the deaths of 22 people in Libya, should be understood as a conflict within Christian civilisation.

It has already been 10 years since the UN General Assembly approved the commission's report and its recommendations for a 'plan of action for a culture of peace,' which is one of the most modern and ethical documents ever generated by the international community. Very little came of it since. Nonetheless, this effort raised the level of the civilisation we live in and makes war all the more detestable. Each wave of peace that breaks against the wall of violence brings its collapse a little closer.









It all began with a book. The latest in the 'Twilight' series was out and all the kids in school were talking  about it. "Our classmates are reading it, why can't we?" My children couldn't understand why I was so reluctant to let them read the book by Stephanie Meyers. "We're the only ones who have not read it", was their constant refrain. When I heard that the story revolved around a vampire's relationship with a high school girl, I was conflicted.

Should I be a Cool Mom and let them read it or a Boring (worse yet, control freak) Mom?
For the first few weeks after the book came out I opted to being the latter. But my kids like most others of their ilk have an enduring trait. Like a rottweiller, they would wear down my resistance with constant badgering. Not that they use the same strategy while studying for their tests and exams. I eventually succumbed but only after it passed my litmus test of suitable reading for teens.

A quick peek at the children's section in the local bookstore brought home the fact that witches and wizards have become de rigueur. Fantasy is one genre that has become very popular with children today.

Whatever happened to that one witch whom we encountered with Dorothy in the land of Oz, who sent shivers down the spine? She seems a tame, insipid cousin to her brethren today. When I even talk about fairies and pixies that Enid Blyton brought to life, my kids simply roll their eyes.

They are now caught up with a book series that doesn't involve wizards or vampires. When they explain that it's about characters who disappear in and out of a book as it is read out aloud, I am stumped.  It's not a whole lot easier to handle than blood-sucking vampires but I can live with this one. I know I'm on the fast track of earning the sobriquet of Cool Mom.








Israel is drying up. Even if the coming winter pleasantly surprises us with phenomenal precipitation, there is little likelihood of it sufficing to make up the deficits of the past six parched years. And because of the inexcusable inaction of successive governments for the last decade, nothing significant can now be done to alleviate the severe shortage overnight.


Given these two facts, and fearing the worst this winter, the government is currently searching for at least a provisional interim solution. As far back as 10 years ago, the idea of importing water from Turkey was given serious contemplation, but the grand scheme was never realized. Now it is being considered again.


There were always compelling reasons to eschew the Turkish alternative. It was, and is, expensive - especially when compared to the incomprehensibly delayed investment in desalination infrastructure which would stand us in very good stead over the long haul rather than be instantaneously consumed. And it carried an underlying security worry, though that was never spelled out directly: The primary logic of opposing the Turkish option was that it would contradict all principles of minimal Israeli self-reliance.


From its very inception, Israel was an acutely beleaguered state, struggling for survival. Hence the emphasis placed from Israel's earliest days on self-reliance in every field, including agriculture and food production. In that context, the idea of having a foreign entity control so vital a commodity as water was unthinkable, no matter how reliable the foreign supplier.


And even in the heyday of Israel's much-touted strategic alliance with Turkey, it was recognized that the reliability of the partnership was far from assured. There was always an undercurrent of doubt surrounding the alliance, with profound implications for any initiative that would see Israel dependent on Turkey for that most critical of resources, water.


TURKEY'S CURRENT escalated anti-Israel extravaganza has redoubled these concerns. What caused disquiet years ago - when relations with Turkey were relatively sound - has now been exacerbated after Turkey vetoed Israeli participation in a joint NATO drill within its borders, moved closer to Syria, launched an ongoing series of verbal attacks on Israel for last winter's Operation Cast Lead assault on Hamas in Gaza, and broadcast, on state-controlled TV, a staggeringly vicious anti-Israeli drama, Ayrilik, which portrays IDF soldiers callously shooting Arab children, among other bogus murderous atrocities.


All this has already been translated tangibly into deteriorated trade relations. Ever since Operation Cast Lead, growing numbers of Turkish firms are evading payment for Israeli goods and services. Turkish arrears are up by a whopping 90 percent and now amount to $40 million. Turkish banks aren't cooperating. This has contributed to a 40% drop in Israeli exports - mostly in metals, chemicals and plastics - to Turkey in the past nine months (versus a 22% drop in Israeli exports elsewhere due to the worldwide recession).


Meanwhile, Israeli holidaymakers are fast losing their appetite for Turkey's delights. Israel's trade unions, which in the past organized packaged vacations for their members to Turkey, have announced a boycott of the ultra-popular Antalyan resorts. The unions accounted for at least half of the Israeli tourists streaming to Turkey. Israeli families are rushing to cancel reservations and are avoiding the Turkish national carrier, Turkish Air. A large local cafe chain has gone so far as to cease offering its black coffee blend, marketed as "Istanbul Coffee," to protest Turkish hostility.


In such a climate, it would be irresponsible and frankly bizarre for the government to ignore all that had transpired in recent weeks and seriously consider entrusting any significant proportion of our water supply to what can most politely be described as an unreliable source.


Israel got by without Turkish water until now, and will have to get along without it in the future as well. It would be a mark of true desperation to gamble that a regime which is going out of its way to defame and incite against Israel won't turn off the supply in times of emergency. If anything, the very fact that the Turkish option is being given any reconsideration now should underscore the scandalous failure in recent years to accelerate our desalination capacity and the urgent imperative to speed up the construction of our much-needed desalination plants.








Nine months after US President Barack Obama made Middle East peace a centerpiece of his foreign policy, that goal appears more elusive than ever.


Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mideast special envoy George Mitchell will present a progress report to the president next week, and the news won't be good. The only positive element of their report, said an administration spokesman, is that while progress has been scant, at least they're still talking.


True - but not to each other.


Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are expected to meet again - separately - in Washington next week with Mitchell in search of a formula for relaunching peace talks.


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said over the weekend that the US and Israel have reached an agreement on a partial settlement freeze, but extensive construction continues and there's no confirmation of a deal from the administration; in any event, the Palestinians are likely to reject whatever halfway measure they come up with.


That may disappoint Obama but not the Israeli or Palestinian leaders, neither of whom shares the president's enthusiasm for restarting the peace process.


PALESTINIAN LEADER Mahmoud Abbas said he won't sit down with Netanyahu without a total freeze of Israeli construction beyond the 1967 border, including east Jerusalem, something Obama had called for initially but backed away from in the face of intense Israeli opposition.


Abbas, with his popularity plunging, is toughening his terms for resuming talks and topping them off with increasingly strident rhetoric. That appears aimed less at Israel than at Palestinian voters - polls show him tied with Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh if the elections were held now. The object is to tell voters he's as tough as his Hamas rivals, who continue to insist they want neither peace nor Israel.


While that may play well on the Palestinian street, it tells Israeli voters there is no Palestinian leader serious enough about making peace to go to the street to preach reconciliation.


The latest attempt at compromise between Fatah and Hamas appears on the brink of collapse even before it is signed. The two sides refuse even to meet together so the draft agreement had to be faxed to them by their Egyptian interlocutors.


Fatah quickly signed, not because it was anxious to make peace but because it knew the agreement was doomed and wanted to be able to put the onus for killing it on Hamas, which fell for it by demanding changes, including the right to continue "resistance to occupation" - terror attacks on Israel.


The plan would create a unity government to run the Palestinian Authority until presidential and parliamentary elections can be held late next June; if the deal falls through, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will call elections for January.


Elections are important to achieving international recognition for Hamas, which prefers the June date, with a requirement that Abbas conduct no negotiations with Israel until then.


The Obama administration opposes the Egyptian-brokered deal because it would set back its efforts to revive the peace talks that Fatah says it wants and Hamas says it opposes. Washington demands Hamas must first meet the international community's terms: renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept prior PA-Israeli agreements. It refuses.


WITH THE Palestinians so deeply divided and more focused on their internal power struggles than peace with Israel, and the US increasingly mired in Afghanistan, Netanyahu is effectively free from pressure to move to final status negotiations. That leaves the US with no partners for peace talks.


If Palestinian reconciliation means a unity government with Hamas that refuses to recognize Israel and the two-state approach, the US can be expected to support Israel's refusal to deal with it. And without a credible Palestinian partner, there is no incentive for Obama to expend vital political capital on something headed nowhere when he needs it so badly elsewhere.


And the truth is that Netanyahu, presiding over a fragile right-wing coalition that could collapse if there are any serious peace moves, doesn't share Obama's vision of a quick return to negotiations with the Palestinians - any Palestinians.


But the Obama administration won't just walk away. Even if it concludes neither side is ready for serious peace talks, the administration is likely to remain involved at a lower level than initially planned if just to keep the pot from boiling over and to be ready when the two sides have leadership ready to make peace.


Still, the days of aggressive, assertive US peacemaking may be over before they had a chance to begin.








This past week marked the sixth anniversary of one of the most brazen anti-American terror attacks to have occurred in the Middle East in the 21st century, yet hardly anyone in Washington seems to have noticed. As a result, this horrific event, which took the lives of three brave Americans, has been all but forgotten, leaving the cause of justice unfulfilled.


On October 15, 2003, Palestinian terrorists assaulted an official US diplomatic convoy in Gaza, which was on its way to interview young Palestinian students hoping to study at American universities.


As the vehicles bearing diplomatic license plates passed near Beit Hanun, a roadside bomb went off, killing John Branchizio, 37, of Texas; Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey; and John Marin Linde, 30, of Missouri, all of whom were providing security.


At the time, Gaza was still under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but virtually nothing was done to hunt down the perpetrators, even though a senior Palestinian intelligence official later admitted that he knew who was behind the attack.


And there was little doubt that this was a premeditated act of murder. The visit had been coordinated in advance with Palestinian officials, and the US vehicles were traveling on a road that was closed to Israeli traffic, so this was not a case of "mistaken identity" on the part of the terrorists.


Moreover, the device used in the blast was remote-controlled, and it was activated only once the American "targets" were identified and in range. And prior to the attack, the Palestinian media was filled with anti-American incitement which seemed deliberately designed to stir up hatred and even violence against the US.


Astonishingly, however, the Bush administration showed little public interest in pursuing a thorough investigation or even pressing the Palestinians to punish the killers. Naturally, the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat and later Mahmoud Abbas was only too happy to oblige by dropping the matter entirely.


BUT THIS is a matter that cannot, and must not, be dropped. Branchizio, Parsons and Linde were among more than 50 American citizens who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.


Under both the Clinton and Bush administrations, US aid and support continued to flow into Palestinian coffers even though they did not shy away from taking the lives of American citizens nor hesitate to laugh off requests to arrest their killers. By all indications, President Barack Obama seems equally inclined to forgive the unforgivable.


On October 15, exactly six years to the day since the Beit Hanun attack, his national security adviser, Gen. James R. Jones, chose to attend a dinner hosted by an outfit called the American Task Force for Palestine. Instead of utilizing the opportunity to issue a clarion call to bring Palestinian killers of Americans to justice, Jones preferred to emphasize just how much his boss wants to reward the Palestinians with a state.


"President Obama's dedication to achieve these goals," he declared, "is unshaken, is committed, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of achieving them."


With all that energy and determination at his disposal, it's a shame that Obama isn't equally as "relentless" in trying to achieve a modicum of justice for the dozens of American families whose loved ones were taken from them by Palestinian terror.


One would think that an issue of this magnitude would cry out for resolution. But political considerations, and a fear of offending Palestinian sensibilities, apparently take precedence in the calculus of the Beltway.


Take, for example, the Rewards for Justice Web site run by the US State Department, the goal of which is "to bring international terrorists to justice." Located at, it lists a series of terror attacks against Americans dating back to the early 1980s.


Incredibly, in the section devoted to the 2003 attack in Gaza, the site does not identify those who carried out the bombing as Palestinian. Instead, it obliquely refers to them as "those responsible for this attack," as if their identity is something of a mystery.


But that, of course, is far from being the case. Last December, during the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, one of the ringleaders of the 2003 attack was reportedly killed by the IDF. His name was Muhammad al-Dusaqi, and he was a leader of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee.


Presumably, with just a little bit of simple intelligence work, it would not be too difficult to figure out who his accomplices were, or even to go out on a limb and deduce that they too were Palestinian terrorists.


Of course, now that Gaza is under Hamas control, it makes it that much harder to track down the Palestinian killers of Americans located in the area. But that doesn't excuse or justify the lack of effort on Obama's part.


Washington has plenty of leverage with the Palestinian leadership, and it is time that some of that influence be brought to bear so that killers of Americans can no longer roam free.


It was the American writer H.L. Mencken who once noted that "if you want peace, work for justice." Quite simply, the two must go hand in hand.








Naturally, I thought Ambassador Michael Oren should have accepted J Street's invitation to its convention this coming Sunday. He should have gone there and said, "We disagree, but my door's open," and by not doing so he's saying that this Israeli government will only talk with its supporters, not its critics.


But I suppose we liberals should be grateful to Oren for at least sending an "observer." By doing that, he's saying that this government, whatever its differences with J Street, does not see it as an enemy, an anti-Israel group.


Oren's decision has to be the most tolerant, enlightened gesture that official Israel has made in a long while, certainly since the Netanyahu government took over. This is about as vibrant as it gets anymore in our vibrant democracy.


Congratulations are due the ambassador for having the guts to send the observer. If the pro-war/anti-Arab wing of the pro-Israel community had its way, J Street would probably get an IAF missile through its roof.


BETWEEN THE Weekly Standard, Pajamas Media, Commentary, StandWithUs, ex-AIPACer Lenny Ben-David and assorted other soldiers in Israel's information war, there's a campaign on not to disagree with J Street, not to criticize it, but to destroy it. There's a telephone crusade led by Weekly Standard Online editor Michael Goldfarb to scare senators and congressmen away from the convention. The strategy is to slander J Street, it's having more than a little success, and Goldfarb is confident the cancellations will snowball.


"Will Senator Mark Pryor really go to the mat for an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas organization?" he asks rhetorically.


"Anti-Israel, pro-Hamas." That's J Street to these people.


The fact is that this organization's politics are indistinguishable from those of Meretz. Is Meretz anti-Israel and pro-Hamas? Lots of Israelis and American Jews, of course, would say "yes," but that's because they have a totalitarian mind-set, and that's what drives the campaign.


Ben-David attacks the organization for having the gall to invite the likes of Amnon Lipkin-Shahak (a former IDF chief of staff and cabinet minister), Ami Ayalon (a former Navy commander, Shin Bet chief and cabinet minister) and Amir Peretz (a current MK and former Labor Party leader and defense minister) to speak at the convention. They're political "losers," he says, they were rejected by the Israeli electorate, and now they want to make a case to American lawmakers that differs from Netanyahu government policy.


"The tactic," writes Ben-David, "is patently anti-democratic."


No, actually, in a democracy, even people who lose elections retain the right to express their opinions - wherever and to whomever they want. You can look it up.


Despite what the pro-war/anti-Arab camp says about J Street, its political positions are pretty tepid. It hasn't said a word in favor of the Goldstone report. It offered only the slightest, mildest demurral over our "disproportionate" use of force in Gaza, couching it somewhere between an endorsement of our "right to self-defense" and a condemnation of Hamas rocket fire.

Big deal. This makes them off-limits?


They want to "engage with" Hamas. Ex-Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy has been saying this for years. Is he anti-Israel, pro-Hamas, too?


BUT THERE'S more. There's some really sinister stuff here. A few of J Street's donations have come from…Muslims! And not just any Muslims, but Muslims who don't even support the settlements!


And it invited these young American Jewish poets, these hip-hop guys, to the convention even though they'd said outrageous, provocative things. One of them had used Holocaust imagery in a poem about Israeli soldiers in Gaza. (Under pressure, J Street pulled the plug on them.)


Tell me, has any right-wing Jew ever been scratched from an Israeli or American Jewish event for using Holocaust imagery against Arabs, against human rights organizations, against anybody he didn't like?


If you want to demonize J Street for something that some of its convention guests said, where does that leave the Republican Party, whose conventioneers still applaud the name of Richard Nixon, that raging anti-Semite?


In public, Binyamin Netanyahu has credited the welfare cuts he made as finance minister for helping bring down the Israeli Arab birthrate. Avigdor Lieberman has threatened to bomb the Aswan Dam, wished death on Arab MKs and run on the election slogan "Only Lieberman understands Arabic."


Great friends of Israel like Rev. John Hagee and Rev. Pat Robertson have cursed Muslims to the heavens, while Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the closest thing this government has to a spiritual leader, has cursed and wished death on far too many Jews, not to mention Muslims, to keep track of.


In all good conscience, can AIPAC invite any of these people to its next convention?


I'm joking. Let AIPAC invite them all, let them all talk, let the whole Senate, Congress and White House go hear them. I wouldn't say a word against it - and neither, of course, would J Street.


But that's the point - in Washington, when it comes to Israel, the Right doesn't have to answer to anyone for anything, while the Left has to apologize for living. And for many on the Right, there's no apologizing for that.


But hey, our embassy is sending an observer to the J Street convention. We liberals should be impressed. Given the political mood in Israel over the last decade, this is like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.








This weekend J Street is launching its first major convention at which it claims 160 members of Congress and a number of former Israeli left-wing politicians will participate. Only 18 months old, J Street already boasts of a $3 million budget which, while minuscule compared to AIPAC's $70 million, is nevertheless impressive. It also receives glowing liberal media coverage, especially from The New York Times.


American Jews take pride in being an open and pluralistic community. So why make a fuss about an organization, even if it does engage in activities that many would consider offensive? Besides, blackballing such a fringe group would lead to accusations of attempting to stifle freedom of expression and transform it into a martyr.


However, the fact is that no one is seeking to deny freedom of expression to J Street or other groups hostile to Israel. The issue is whether organizations should be able to exploit the Jewish community as launching pads to campaign against the Jewish state while presenting themselves as mainstream Jews.


Most Jews would concur that a red line should be drawn between legitimate criticism of Israel and concerted campaigns to pressure the US or any government to force the democratically elected government of Israel to make concessions which could imperil the lives of its citizens.


J Street has crossed that red line even though it continuously recites the mantra that it is "pro-Israel," insisting that while it "disagrees with certain Israeli government policies our bottom line is that we always support the State of Israel and its future as a democracy."


Or to quote executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami "we are trying to define what it means to be pro Israel... you don't have to adopt the party line."


Yet J Street has the chutzpa to openly campaign against Israel on the grounds that it possesses a superior understanding of what is best for Israelis. It obscenely spins this by likening itself to parents who are obliged to employ "tough love" with children who are drug addicts. It is surely unconscionable for Jews resident in America to lobby their government to pressure Israelis, contrary to their will, to take steps that could have life and death implications.


In fact, J Street's policies are more extreme than even their radical Israeli counterparts. During the conflict with Hamas, which was endorsed by all Jewish political parties in the Knesset, J Street proclaimed that Israel's "escalation in Gaza would be counterproductive" and was "disproportionate." It also alluded to a moral equivalency between the policies of Israel and Hamas, stating that it found difficulty in distinguishing "between who is right and who is wrong" and "picking a side."


Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the US Reform movement (who inexplicably will now be participating in the J Street convention) then described J Street's views as "deeply distressing, morally deficient and profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and appallingly naïve."


J Street also "opposes the role of force by Israel or the United States" against Iran and even canvassed Congress to block a bipartisan resolution calling for tougher sanctions. It also urges the US and Israel to negotiate with Hamas. Despite President Barack Obama having done so, J Street chief Ben-Ami refused to endorse Israel as a "Jewish state" relating to it as a "Jewish democratic home in the State of Israel."


J Street also raises the issue of dual loyalties which has been resurrected by anti-Semites in recent times. Ben-Ami expresses concern about "the impact of Israeli policies on our interests as Americans and Jews," suggesting that continued "blind" support for Israel would lead to alienation from the American public which would conclude that Jews display greater loyalty to Israel than America.


J Street raised similar sentiments when it defended Obama's initial choice of Chas Freeman, the fiercely anti-Israeli former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to become chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Not coincidentally, Stephen Walt the coauthor of the viciously anti-Israeli The Israel Lobby and Foreign Policy publicly hailed the emergence of J Street as "good news."


An even more ominous cause for concern was the recent disclosure that Arab and even pro Iranian elements were funding J Street. One donor and member of the organization's finance committee, Genevieve Lynch, was a participant of the National Iranian American Council. Judith Barnett, a former registered agent for Saudi Arabia, is a donor and serves on the J Street Advisory Council. Nancy Dutton, until 2008 an attorney for the Saudi Arabian Embassy, donates to J Street's political action committee which has been financing anti-Israeli congressional candidates.


IN SHORT, J Street has established a virtually consistent track record of hostility against Israel. One has yet to see it release a single statement backing Israel on any substantive issue. It vigorously campaigns to pressure the US government to be "tough" and force Israel to make unilateral concessions. It financially supports the election of anti-Israeli congressmen and raises the specter of dual loyalties. It continuously defames mainstream Jewish organizations, depicting them as extremists. It receives financial support and praise from Arabs and foes of Israel. To suggest that such an organization is "pro-Israel" is utterly preposterous.


Today Israel is undergoing a critical phase in its relationship with the US. The pressures on the Jewish state are not limited to calls to freeze settlements. In the aftermath of the toxic Goldstone report, Israelis travelling abroad may now face the threat of prosecution. Israel also faces the challenge of defining defensible borders and addressing the danger of a nuclear Iran. In these and other existential challenges, Israel is largely dependent on US support which J Street seeks to undermine.


There is no doubt that the vast majority of committed Jews are outraged by a Jewish organization whose principal raison d'être is to lobby the US to act harshly against Israel. The limited support J Street enjoys comes principally from those uninvolved in Jewish life. Indeed, Ben-Ami even told The New York Times that his members are comprised primarily of intermarried youngsters who attend "Buddhist Seders." That probably explains why J Street could endorse the staging of the contemporary anti-Semitic blood libel play Seven Jewish Children.


No one seeks to deny Israeli bashers freedom of expression. But there is a need to make the public aware that J Street represents an insignificant group of uncommitted Jews. It must be exposed as hostile to Israel and marginalized from the Jewish community. If Americans understand this, J Street's ability to undermine Israel will largely be neutralized.








There is a great deal of excitement in the Washington offices of J Street these days. Phones are ringing, e-mails are pouring in. More than 1,000 people have already registered for the first annual conference to be held in the capital on Sunday.


One hundred and fifty members of congress and senators are members of the host committee, among them representatives with a known record on Capitol Hill. For an organization that is barely 18 months old, this is quite an achievement.


J Street is the new kid in town. It was born out of a need to give a large number of progressive Jews in America, who love Israel and support policies that put the peace process on the front burner, a voice. For a long time, perhaps for too long, there has been no real movement, no real progress in our relations with our next door neighbors. Israel has not taken real advantage of Arab overtures or the Arab peace initiative.


Like many Israelis, a large number of Jews and non-Jews in America believe that there is a solution to the conflict that has torn us apart for generations: the two-state solution. They believe that it is possible, moreover it is necessary and urgent. The new administration in Washington headed by President Barack Obama, has brought hope that a new policy giving priority to progress in our area will be put in place. They believe that this is an American as well as an Israeli interest, and that there is no contradiction between the two.


Over 110,000 have signed in and have become supporters of the organization. This is, by far, one of the largest memberships in the organized Jewish community. Small and large donations have poured in through the Internet. Indeed this is a new fact in Jewish life in America.


TO FULLY grasp the importance of this phenomenon, one must understand what successive studies of Jewish life in America have shown: that a majority of American Jews are unaffiliated; that they do not feel that existing Jewish organizations represent them; that they drift away from Jewish life in general and from Israel in particular. At the same time, many are engaged in American politics and support progressive causes and policies in America. Many of them want to be involved and to support Israel in a different way.


This is a new generation with whom we have not known how to communicate. J Street gives them a voice, a face, a cause they feel comfortable to support. It speaks their language and addresses some of their concerns. It is pro-Israel and pro-peace. And deep in our hearts, we all know that there in no contradiction between the two. This is what an increasing number of politicians at the local and national level want to hear.


Often times the views of "official" Israel do not concur with those of American Jewish organizations. But this is the role of Israeli diplomacy: to explain and to try to iron out the differences. This is precisely what successive Israeli governments and diplomats in Washington have done. Ambassadors representing right-wing governments have engaged in dialogue with the American Friends of Peace Now and with the Israel Policy Forum. Ambassadors representing left-wing governments have met with and spoken to groups like the ZOA and Parents of the Settlers. Refusing to meet Jewish organizations, be they left, right or center, is not a policy. It is a mistake that Israel cannot afford to make.


All attempts to portray J Street as an "anti-Israel, dangerous organization" are as misleading as they are futile. Israeli politicians and diplomats should understand that our country needs support from all parts of the political spectrum in America. The estrangement of the young generation and the hostility on campus should be a cause of grave concern to us. The young progressive students supportive of J Street are best qualified to address this issue.


Rather than fearing, criticizing and spreading rumors which have no relation to reality, the organized Jewish community should make some room at the table. Our diplomats should take advantage of any venue, any stage given to them to express their views and those of the government they represent.


J Street is voicing today what successive governments in Israel have learned: that peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world can be achieved only through openness and compromise. Prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and foreign minister Tzipi Livni have understood and expressed it, as well as prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak before them.


And at the opening of the Presidential Conference this week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has moved one more step forward and has declared that peace with the Palestinians is possible.


J Street is here to stay. Nay - it is here to grow. Rather than trying to delegitimize or marginalize it - embrace it.


The writer, a former diplomat and member of the Knesset, is now the director-general of the Berl Katznelson ideological center as well as international secretary of the Labor Party.








Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor has been shown to be a lucid voice of reason in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's second government. In an interview with Gidi Weitz to be published in full in Haaretz Magazine tomorrow, Meridor presents reasoned and appropriate positions on matters both political and legal. His return to political life will be justified if he fights for his beliefs.

Meridor has garnered considerable experience in the cabinet and Knesset, and as an adviser to prime ministers and defense officials, even if he didn't always fight for his opinions. He is proposing that Netanyahu proceed in total seriousness with the peace process with the Palestinians to resolve the conflict and, simultaneously, to renew negotiations with Syria to create a new strategic landscape for the region. Meridor makes clear that he isn't proposing an empty process but rather an agreement with the Palestinians "that would oblige us to make significant concessions on part of the land."

He believes that the prime minister "wants to reach an agreement [on peace]," but unfortunately Meridor, who supports such an arrangement, also casts doubt on its feasibility and favors hardening Israel's positions as compared to the proposals by former prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Meridor, who is also intelligence and atomic energy minister, has gone head to head with his six inner cabinet colleagues in his determination that an investigative committee on Operation Cast Lead be established. Unlike Defense Minister Ehud Barak's total recalcitrance and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's aggressive reaction, Meridor believes Israel must treat the allegations in the Goldstone Commission report seriously and investigate itself to extricate the country from its isolation in the international community.


In the same vein, Meridor strongly opposes Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's proposal to split the authority of the attorney general, seeing it as a real threat to the rule of law and the balance of power in Israeli democracy.

Meridor, who has feared for the resilience of the judicial system and the preservation of basic democratic values, worked (with Benny Begin) to prevent Daniel Friedmann from remaining justice minister and to stop the so-called Nakba bill, which would bar marking Israel's establishment as a Palestinian catastrophe.

It is important that Meridor make his views heard in the right-wing cabinet, in the face of ministers who oppose any peace agreement and seek to break apart the judicial system. It would be good if Meridor could also convince Netanyahu to listen to his advice, and not simply serve as a moderate spokesman for the government.








The chronicles of stupidity are as follows: In the first decade after the Six-Day War, Israel decided not to decide. It did not heed the warnings of the likes of Yeshayahu Leibowitz, Amos Oz, Uri Avnery and former Labor Party leaders Aryeh Eliav and Yitzhak Ben-Aharon, all of whom immediately understood that the occupation was a trap. Israel believed that the territories were bargaining chips, and that it would be best to hold on to those chips so they could be exchanged for peace. The Israel of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir did not understand that the temporary situation it created in Judea, Samaria and Gaza was a permanent trap from which it would be very difficult to get out.

In the second decade after the Six-Day War, Israel decided. After the electoral upheaval of 1977, the right-wing governments built around 150 settlements, which were designed to make the occupation irreversible. Even after Likud withdrew from Sinai, the party was determined to prevent an additional evacuation. In an unprecedented display of arrogance, trepidation, and obliviousness to reality, Likudist Israel tried to consolidate its control over the territories, de facto. By employing anachronistic and illegitimate colonialist methods, the Israel of Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon defied international law and the demographic realities on the ground to swallow large swaths of land it was incapable of digesting. Intoxicated by power and tinged by messianic fervor, it tried to stop Palestinian sovereignty at any price, but in so doing undermined Jewish sovereignty.

In the third decade, Israel underwent a period of sobering up. The first intifada compelled a majority of Israelis to understand that it would be best to leave the territories. Yet Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres chose Oslo as the avenue for trying to leave the territories, an avenue that led to a dead end. Why? Because Oslo relied on the baseless assumption that Yasser Arafat was a partner and that peace was attainable. As a result, the peace process was not rigorous enough with the Palestinians, nor did it take a hard enough line against the settlements. The result was total chaos: On the one hand, we had an armed, hostile and irresponsible Palestinian entity, on the other we had a terrifying settlement enterprise. Instead of the diplomatic process freeing Israel from the noose, it only tightened it further around its neck.

The fourth decade of the occupation saw Israel sober up from its sobriety. After the failure of Camp David and the eruption of the second intifada, the Israeli majority understood that the occupation and peace were two separate issues. It understood that Israel had to carefully leave the territories, even though such a withdrawal would not end the conflict.

The Israel of Sharon and Ehud Olmert believed in unilateralism. Yet after unilateralism was tried during the disengagement, it became clear that the latest magical solution was an illusory solution. The ascent of Hamas, the Qassam attacks, Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone report taught us what happens when Israel seeks to disengage: Palestinian extremism strengthens, violence is renewed, and when Israel tries to defend itself, it is singled out. At this late stage of the necrosis, a simplistic unilateral withdrawal does not revive Israeli legitimacy, it erodes it to the bone.

The fifth decade of occupation is the last decade. There is no chance the international community will grant Israel another respite. If we do not quickly find the right way to deal with the occupation, the occupation will bury us. Justly or unjustly, Israel's back is against the wall. Justly or unjustly, the world is showing Israel zero tolerance and giving the country no quarter. If we are once again compelled to employ force, we will be denounced. If we do not seriously deal with the settlements, we will become South Africa.

So Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have no time. They must act quickly. The option of the first decade (status quo) is not an option. The option of the second decade (settlements) was never an option. The option of the third decade (peace) is an illusion. The option of the fourth decade (unilateralism) is a recipe for disaster.

Thus it is vital to produce within a short time the (sober) option of the fifth decade. Perhaps a limited withdrawal from Samaria. Perhaps a limited withdrawal in exchange for international recognition of an Israeli line of defense and an Israeli right to defend itself within that line. Perhaps a limited withdrawal on condition that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states assume temporary responsibility for the evacuated territories and their development. However it is done, Netanyahu and Barak must act. They must prove that they are not sitting in their offices to enjoy the trappings of power, but to end four decades of foolishness by ushering in a fifth decade of hope.








Israel has been dealing one blow after another to the rest of the world. While China has still not recovered from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's absence from the reception at its Tel Aviv embassy - a serious punishment for China's support for the Goldstone report - France is licking its wounds after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "vetoed" a visit by the French foreign minister to Gaza. And Israel has dealt another blow: Its ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, will boycott the conference next week of the new Israel lobby J Street.

China, France and J Street will somehow get by despite these boycotts, Turkey will also recover from the great vacationers' revolt, and we can expect that even the Swedes and Norwegians will recover from Israel's loud reprimands. But a country that attacks and boycotts everyone who does not exactly agree with its official positions will become isolated, forsaken and detestable: North Korea of today or Albania of yesterday. It's actually quite strange for Israel to use this weapon, as it is about to turn into the victim of boycotts itself.

Israel strikes and strikes again. It strikes its enemies, and now it strikes out at its friends who dare not fall exactly in line with its official policies. The J Street case is a particularly serious example. This Jewish organization rose in America along with Barack Obama. Its members want a fair and peace-seeking Israel.


That's their sin, and their punishment is a boycott.

Oren, meanwhile, is a devoted representative: He also is boycotting. After criticizing Israeli columnists, including this one, in an article in The New Republic for daring to criticize Netanyahu's speech at the UN - an outrage in its own right - the ambassador-propagandist uses the boycott weapon against a new and refreshing Jewish and Zionist organization that is trying to battle the nationalistic and heavy-handed Jewish-American establishment.

In whose name is Oren doing that? Not in the name of Israeli society, whose ambassador he supposedly is. The former ambassadors from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union would have acted the same way.

Such aggressiveness is a bad sign. It will drive away our last true friends and deepen our isolation. "A nation alone" has turned into our goal, our isolation has become an aspiration. Whom will we have left after we attack and boycott everyone? Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League? Our propagandist-attorney Alan Dershowitz?

Dividing the world up between absolute good and evil - our side and our enemies, with no middle ground - is a sign of despair and a complete loss of direction. It's not just our ambassador in Washington, who knows nothing at all about democracy and pluralism and only wants to please his masters. Such behavior - kicking and barking crazily in every direction - is destroying Israel.

Without giving us a chance to voice our opinion, Israel is falling to the status of an international pariah, the abomination of the nations. And whom can we thank for that? Operation Cast Lead, for example. Only the United States remains our automatic and blind ally for all our mistakes. Another democracy that saw its status deteriorating so much would ask itself first and foremost what mistakes it had made.

In Israel our approach is exactly the opposite: The rest of the world is guilty. The Scandinavians are hostile and the Turks are enemies, the French and British hate Israel, the Chinese are only Chinese and the Indians can't teach us anything.

Any legitimate criticism is immediately labeled here as anti-Semitism, including Richard Goldstone, the Jewish Zionist. We are pushing everyone into a corner roughly and hope they will change their opinions and suddenly be filled with a deep understanding for the killing of children in Gaza. Now America too, even its Jews, are no longer immune to this aggressive Israel mad with grandeur.

The damage is piling up from Beijing all the way to New York. After the J Street boycott even American Jews will know that Israel is not a tolerant, open-minded or liberal country, despite what they are being told.

Now they will know that "the only democracy in the Middle East" is not exactly that, and whoever does not repeat and proclaim its propaganda messages will be considered an enemy - they may also be punished severely.

They should just ask the billion Chinese who are licking their wounds from the mortal blow the Israeli Foreign Minster dealt them personally.








As happens every year, Amos Oz once again did not receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even if we didn't expect him to win the prize, we learned about his disappointment from the media, which reported to us on the tense anticipation and the ensuing disappointment. Oz himself, who has received many prizes and honors, did not discuss his disappointment in public, although anyone who was interested could read it in the handsome and ascetic face of the man of letters.

Oz is a worthy candidate for the Nobel Prize, but there are others like him. Nor does Oz need the prize to bolster his fame or success. As someone whose books have been translated into dozens of languages, he is the most famous Israeli writer in the world. He does not lack for prizes, but apparently just for that reason, his desire for the Nobel Prize is understandable. It's the missing piece in the picture of his success.

But it's not enough that Oz wants the prize. To be a candidate, he must be recommended by academics, and people with diplomatic connections have to pull strings for him in the right places. They have been doing so for years, in fact. To win the prize, it is also desirable that the candidate not be a stranger to the members of the prize committee. Oz is one of the best-known Israelis in the world, almost like Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, who is tireless in his efforts to have Oz win the honor.

Many good people, no less worthy than Oz, have not received a Nobel, from Virginia Woolf, James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges to Yehuda Amichai, Yoram Kaniuk and Philip Roth. This does not in any way detract from their influence on world culture. The connection between the prize's prestige and the quality it is supposed to convey is not always clear. But Oz is a candidate not only because of the body of his work, but also due to his many public appearances and because he is a brilliant speaker who advocates working for peace in Israel and the world over, without taking the risk of sliding into pacifism or the extreme left.

In his acceptance speech for the Heinrich Heine Prize for literature last year, he presented the conflict in the Middle East as "a real estate conflict" ... "if we neutralize the fanatics on both sides," whereas in his acceptance speech for the Goethe Prize, he explained that there are also just wars.

That may be why people like Peres are working to have the Nobel Prize awarded to Oz. They believe that Oz's victory would also be the victory of the sane voice on the Israeli side of the unending conflict and another victory for the peace camp.

But what would we get out of this victory? Nothing, in fact. Who should know that as well as Peres? The Nobel Peace Prize he received, like those received by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, did not change a thing in the no-peace situation or in Israel's status among the nations, though it did add to Peres' prestige as an Israeli who is especially loved the world over, the exception that proves the rule.

Awarding the prize to Oz would not be able to offset the Goldstone Commission report and would not make the occupation, the expulsion of foreigners, the social gaps and the civil-rights situation in the territories any better in the eyes of the world, whereas Oz is liable to become the fig leaf of Israeli policy. Perhaps it would be better for him to learn from Jean-Paul Sartre, just as important a writer as he, who won the prize but refused to accept it on principle. And we also know that one should not chase buses, men and prizes. There will be others. That's true of buses at least.






Two days ago, at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, guests of the president's conference Facing Tomorrow were shown a short film about Israel's scientific, technological and social achievements. I could sense unease. "A Jewish Agency film," snickered a well-known economist. And after all, seated in the auditorium were VIPs from all over the world, including foreign presidents. And Tony Blair. And if that weren't enough, even the host, Shimon Peres, ignored the international status of the event and used his speech to repeatedly praise Jewish intelligence and its contribution to the country and humanity.

Although the prime minister rescued the honor of the event and addressed the major issues - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for example - at a certain point in the evening, when the discussion returned to the naive visions, the smiles, mine at least, were no longer smiles of embarrassment. The atmosphere made it possible to briefly escape problems we cannot solve in spite of - or perhaps because of - our exclusive preoccupation with them. Perhaps, I thought, our country really is beautiful as the film's creators presented it, rather than ugly, as we are shown on television every evening? And perhaps most of the people here are good and humane, rather than evil, cruel and corrupt, as the screaming headlines inform us every day?

Peres has stopped bearing the vision of the New Middle East. Over the past few years, his vision has been to prepare the country scientifically and technologically for the future. He has a tireless urge - and no other leader in science or politics compares - to spur others to become involved, on a national and international scale, in fields in which Israeli scientists, entrepreneurs and research institutes have an advantage. And as long as he focuses on that, his leadership is acceptable and even helpful. If he concentrates on the right areas, gets the right people involved and finds them the necessary public and private resources, this aspect of his leadership will be far more successful than the political aspect. If he succeeds in implementing even a small fraction of the conference's objectives, many people will lose their cynical smiles. And who knows, he may even be forgiven the sin of the Oslo disaster, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the fields of solar energy, water desalination and cultivating the desert, Israel definitely has advantages it must exploit to develop national projects. The National Water Carrier, the project engraved in our awareness, is two generations old. Peres' Facing Tomorrow conferences, and even more so, his initiatives, can certainly promote awareness of the need to renew national projects.

The time has come for us to use most of our human and economic resources on projects that depend more on us than on others. We must abandon the obsession with finding a solution "now" to a problem - even a very important one - which in the foreseeable future we will have to live with, without a solution, as years of attempting to solve it have proven. And until the problem is solved with time, and it probably will be, we would do better to channel our national energy into areas where we enjoy greater - or absolute - freedom of action.

We will of course continue to address the Iranian bomb, terror, the Goldstone Commission report and other global problems. But we must give them a proportionate, sane amount of attention, and we must not invest most of our national energies in them. If our decision makers are guided by our real needs, rather than those dictated by the headlines, even issues insoluble thus far may come closer to a solution.







Rightly celebrated as one of this country's most important environmental statutes, the 1972 Clean Water Act has greatly improved the quality of America's waters, turning contaminated rivers and lakes into swimmable, fishable and even drinkable waters.


But even its staunchest allies agree that the act has grown old and fallen well short of its goals, crippled by uneven and sometimes nonexistent enforcement by state and federal agencies — particularly during the Bush years, but even before — and by shortcomings in the law itself.


A comprehensive series of investigative articles in The Times by Charles Duhigg makes it clear that the time has come to strengthen enforcement and the law. More than 40 percent of the country's waters, he found, remain dangerously polluted. Nearly 20 million Americans fall ill every year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses. Polluters — public and private, large and small — treat the law with contempt. Violations have jumped significantly. Penalties for noncompliance are small and rarely assessed.


President Obama's new team seems to be paying attention — chiefly Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the act as well as a related measure, the Safe Drinking Water Act. Ms. Jackson has ordered an assessment of the agency's shortcomings, promised stronger enforcement, added new chemicals to the long list of contaminants and promised to investigate others. But she agrees that more must be done, by her and by others.


POLICE THE STATES As with most environmental laws, responsibility is shared. Washington sets the health standards; the states write and enforce the permits, which tell polluters what can and cannot be discharged into the water. Some states are tough, others weak, but in all cases the E.P.A. has the authority to intervene and enforce the laws when states fail. Worried about disturbing the federal-state balance, intimidated by industry, the E.P.A. has never used this power the way it should.


CLOSE OBVIOUS LOOPHOLES There are two big gaps in enforcement. Large animal-feeding operations — the huge sheds containing hogs and chickens — are supposed to be regulated as "point sources" just like factories. They are not. In Iowa, not a single confined animal-feeding operation has a clean water act permit telling it what to do.


Power plants are another big loophole. What utilities put into the air is regulated. Not so the toxics — arsenic, lead, cadmium — they discharge into the water. The agency was supposed to have set limits on these pollutants in the 1980s, and never has. That's disgraceful.


FIX THE LAW The 1972 act focused largely on what was then seen as the most obvious threat: direct discharges from large "point sources" like factories and municipalities. The bigger danger today comes from unregulated sources like runoff from farms, suburban lawns and city streets. The act should be rewritten to give these nonpoint sources higher priority.


FIX THE FINANCING The number of regulated sources has grown enormously, from 100,000 in 1972 to an estimated one million. Adding nonpoint sources would increase the burden on underfinanced and understaffed state agencies, not to mention the E.P.A. itself. The Clean Air Act requires states to collect fees from the largest air polluters. A similar, federally mandated fee system might be considered for water polluters.

There are other problems. Data collection from industry and local authorities is hopelessly outdated. Two misguided Supreme Court decisions have forced the E.P.A. to use precious resources to resolve jurisdictional disputes over its authority to protect wetlands and small streams. But beefing up enforcement, repairing regulatory and legal flaws and putting the entire effort on a firm financial footing are the big ones. Ms. Jackson deserves all the help she can get from the White House and Congress in tackling them.







Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, and his party have been trying to blow up the power-sharing arrangement ever since neighboring states put it together last year. They are now perilously close to succeeding.


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced last week that he and his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, would boycott cabinet meetings to protest the arrest and detention of an important party leader, one of a long series of arrests ordered by Mr. Mugabe to make power-sharing unworkable.


The departure of Mr. Tsvangirai and his allies from government would be a disaster for Zimbabwe's long-suffering people. The Southern African Development Community, the 15-member regional organization that brokered the deal, must demand that Mr. Mugabe finally abide by its terms and spirit. If he refuses, the community should withdraw recognition from his government and insist on new, internationally supervised elections.


Mr. Tsvangirai clearly won the first round of Zimbabwe's 2008 presidential vote. Then Mr. Mugabe let loose the army and thugs from his party, ZANU-PF, who made it impossible for Mr. Tsvangirai to continue campaigning for the decisive second round. Mr. Mugabe claimed re-election by default, but few recognized his rule as legitimate. The United States and the European Union applied constructive pressure by tightening financial sanctions against Mr. Mugabe's close associates.


At that point other African leaders should have pressed Mr. Mugabe to organize new elections or step aside. Instead, they devised a deeply flawed "power-sharing" deal. It provided for Mr. Mugabe to continue as president and Mr. Tsvangirai to be named prime minister. Cabinet jobs were apportioned. But Mr. Mugabe's loyalists kept control of the army, police and the courts and used that power to arrest and intimidate opposition leaders, including members of the new government.


The new cabinet put honest and competent opposition leaders in charge of education, health, housing and child welfare. Their efforts, along with the help they enlisted from international relief agencies, turned back a deadly cholera epidemic and famine, slowed the crippling exodus of teachers and made it possible for Zimbabwe's next generation to imagine a better future.


If power-sharing can be saved, those ministries need to stay in qualified hands. ZANU-PF's grip on the army and courts must be loosened and a nonpolitical expert should be named to run the central bank. If Mr. Mugabe won't agree to those terms, new elections must be scheduled, with active international supervision, so that democracy, not intimidation, determines their outcome.







An enlightened measure signed this month by California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will require those convicted of drunken driving — including first-time offenders — to install special devices that prevent cars from operating if the driver is drunk. The large pilot program, which covers the 14 million people living in Los Angeles, Sacramento and two other counties, adds important momentum to the national campaign by Mothers Against Drunk Driving to expand the use of the life-saving technology.


Mandating the ignition-interlock devices for all drunken-driving offenders is smart safety policy. Once installed, the vehicle will not start until the driver first blows into the device and registers an alcohol level below the legal limit. Offenders who commute to work by car can keep their jobs, but they cannot drink and drive.


This technical fix is more effective than just a license suspension. Up to three-quarters of drunken drivers whose licenses are suspended continue to drive. Typically, a first-time, convicted offender has driven under the influence dozens of times before being arrested.


There are 11 states that require both first offenders and repeaters to use ignition-interlock devices for an assigned period. Most programs were enacted in the past two years, and the data are still building. But for California, where recidivists make up more than a quarter of annual drunken-driving arrests, the dramatic results logged in New Mexico are encouraging. Between 2004 and 2008, New Mexico experienced a 65 percent drop in drunken-driving recidivism. Drunken-driving fatalities in the state dropped 35 percent.


California's large-scale embrace of interlocks should help embolden lawmakers in states like New York, where similar proposals face predictable, shortsighted opposition from the alcohol industry. Congress should also take action by conditioning federal highway money on requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunken-driving offenders.







Lost in the public polling fine print of the Virginia governor's race is a strikingly vital statistic: a vast majority of Virginians want to plug the gun-show loophole that for years has fed the "Iron Pipeline" of weapons flowing into states and cities with stricter gun controls.


The issue of gun control has traditionally been a third rail in Virginia campaigning, and it still is. But a new poll for The Virginian-Pilot by Christopher Newport University found that 8 out of every 10 likely voters want to end the practice of allowing unlicensed dealers at "sportsmen" shows to sell guns wholesale outside the laws that mandate a background check of purchasers.


The loophole is no laughing matter, although the National Rifle Association is using a fictitious Soprano-like "Noo Yawker" to bolster Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor who favors leaving the loophole unchanged. "Fuhgeddaboud your freedoms" if Mr. McDonnell is not elected, the faux Mafioso warns Virginians in a TV ad. It's payback for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent stings documenting how Virginian dealers are a major conduit for crime guns in New York City.


The record in Virginia of the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, closely parallels Mr. McDonnell's fierce politicking as a defender of gun rights — with the notable exception of the gun-show loophole. Mr. Deeds felt obliged to honor the pleas from families whose loved ones were among the 32 fatalities in the Virginia Tech gun massacre two years ago. With that went the N.R.A. endorsement that the Democrat had enjoyed in the past.


The loophole closure is far from the dominant issue in the multifarious Virginia campaign, even if most voters realize the Virginia Tech spree brings gun control closer to home. Closing the loophole has been repeatedly set back by statehouse machinations, but by fewer and fewer votes. Those latest newspaper poll results show the people are speaking. Too bad politicians are not listening.








AS two of the officials who helped carry out Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller's 1967 mandate to build a Lower Manhattan community on landfill in the Hudson River, and considering the unquestionable success of what he proposed evident in today's vibrant Battery Park City, we believe that New York City, which has a little-remembered option to buy the entire property for $1, should hand over that dollar bill. Let's finally make Battery Park City, with its 10,000 or so residents and 92 acres of businesses, housing and beautifully maintained green spaces, a part of the city to which it really belongs.


Since its creation, the development has been overseen by the state-run Battery Park City Authority and the $200 million a year in rents and payments from developers in lieu of taxes is deposited into a fund controlled by the mayor, the city comptroller and the authority. The fund holds about $236 million and is growing daily.


It's no surprise that in these financially difficult times, the question of what to do with this surplus has become an increasingly contentious matter. New York's governor, David A. Paterson, has repeatedly proposed raiding the authority fund to plug holes in the state budget. Earlier this year, he even suggested that the authority should issue $300 million to $500 million worth of bonds to raise more cash for the state. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wrestling with his own budget shortfalls, has balked at such schemes: the authority's generous contributions to the Housing Trust Fund already help pay for low- and moderate-income housing in the city.


To settle these disputes, New York City should simply take advantage of that obscure provision written into the 1979 agreement that transferred the title to the land from the city to the authority. With just $1, the city would reacquire the land; the authority would no longer control Battery Park City; and the development would become a neighborhood the same as almost any other in Manhattan. Its income would be New York City's, solely.


The city would, of course, be obligated to assume the $1.1 billion in bonds issued by the authority. But these bonds could be satisfied by the sale of the income from the commercial leases at Battery Park City. The revenue from that sale would total at least $2 billion, leaving plenty left over after the bonds had been taken care of.


Here we come to another budgetary truth. The authority's current operating expenses are approximately $30 million a year, even though the development has been virtually completed and the city already provides all police, fire, educational and sanitation services. Driving up the operating expenses of the authority even more are the ever-growing health insurance and pension contributions for a staff that is far larger than the authority requires.


We estimate that the work now done by the authority, including debt supervision, the collection of residential and commercial rents and maintenance of the property, could be accomplished for no more than $5 million annually. An additional $10 million from the city would allow the nonprofit Battery Park City Parks Conservancy Corporation to continue to maintain the parks there. (A similar arrangement works well with Central Park, and it's the best plan for Battery Park City's award-winning green spaces.) With the overhead thus reduced, that's a $15 million savings the city could put to good use.


The city could also immediately benefit from an additional $1 billion in bonds sold against the remaining income, which includes the residential leases, and backed by the general credit of the authority.


In addition, the development's unused South Cove could be filled in for $20 million; the resulting land could be used for an iconic 2-million-square-foot building that would both mark the entrance to New York Harbor and net the city what we estimate would be $480 million in land value and $20 million per year in additional payments in lieu of taxes.


This proposal to return Battery Park City to the City of New York may seem unprecedented, but in 2003 a payment of $1 gave much of Governor's Island back to the city as well. And with New York City hard-pressed for cash in a time when other sources of money are drying up, the landfill project and reacquisition of Battery Park City would help finance many municipal services, including housing for the needy, education, police, fire, sanitation and health care. Better still, this Golconda mine of riches would not need to be fought over with the state.


Yes, in this day of trillion-dollar bailouts and stimulus packages, a dollar can still buy something.


Charles J. Urstadt, the chairman of a real estate investment trust, was the founding chairman of the Battery Park City Authority from 1968 to 1978. Avrum Hyman was the director of public information of the authority during the same period.








ON Tuesday, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, and Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, introduced legislation to allow the Government Accountability Office to audit some of the Federal Reserve's lending programs. Different bills calling for more comprehensive Fed audits already have widespread support in the House and Senate. Expanding this oversight is long overdue.


After the financial turmoil of the last year, it should be clear that we depend on the Fed for high-quality financial data and that the Fed should be held to the highest standards of transparency. And yet we cannot be assured of either of these things unless the Fed is subjected to a thorough audit of its numbers. I worked on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board 30 years ago, and I know that without comprehensive audits to double-check Federal Reserve data, the risk exists of inadequate and sloppy accounting from the Fed.


Consider the data the Fed presented last year on nonborrowed reserves. Nonborrowed reserves are total bank reserves minus money borrowed by banks and held as reserves. Clearly, the money borrowed cannot exceed the total reserves, so nonborrowed reserves should not be negative. Yet for a few months last year, the Fed reported banks' nonborrowed reserves at billions of dollars below zero. In its calculations of nonborrowed reserves, the Fed included in borrowed reserves new forms of bank borrowing not being held as reserves. Such incompetent accounting would not survive an unconstrained, fully informed audit.


The information the Fed releases on bank deposits is similarly biased and contaminates data on the money supply and thereby on the liquidity of the economy produced by Federal Reserve policy. In order to evade reserve requirements, which mandate that a certain fraction of deposits be held in reserve and not lent out, many banks sweep much of their checking account deposits into shadow money-market-deposit savings accounts before reporting those deposits to the Fed. Since such accounts have no reserve requirements, this allows the banks to decrease the amount of total reserves they're required to have. But the liquidity provided to the economy from checking accounts is the pre-sweeps amount, not the reported post-sweeps amount.


Why does the Fed not require banks to go public with their real checking account deposit data? If the Fed doesn't see it as a problem that banks evade reserve requirements on checking accounts, why doesn't it just remove those requirements? Such evasion would be less likely to continue in the face of a comprehensive audit by the Government Accountability Office.


But while the Fed needs to be audited substantially, creating an independent data institute to monitor the Fed's monetary and financial data would be better than expanding a Government Accountability Office audit. An independent institute would have the highest specialized expertise to produce economic data for the Fed.


Neither an independent monitoring institute, nor — a reasonable second best — an expanded Congressional audit would constrain the Fed's ability to act in the country's best interests. It would simply ensure that the country knew what the Fed was doing, and why.


William A. Barnett is a professor of macroeconomics at the University of Kansas and the editor of the journal Macroeconomic Dynamics.








 "I HOPE people who say this war is unwinnable see stories like this. This is what winning in a counterinsurgency looks like."


Lt. Col. William F. McCollough, commander of the First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, is walking me around the center of Nawa, a poor, rural district in southern Afghanistan's strategically vital Helmand River Valley. His Marines, who now number more than 1,000, arrived in June to clear out the Taliban stronghold. Two weeks of hard fighting killed two Marines and wounded 70 more but drove out the insurgents. Since then the colonel's men, working with 400 Afghan soldiers and 100 policemen, have established a "security bubble" around Nawa.


Colonel McCollough recalls that when they first arrived the bazaar was mostly shuttered and the streets empty. "This town was strangled by the Taliban," he says. "Anyone who was still here was beaten, taxed or intimidated."


Today, Nawa is flourishing. Seventy stores are open, according to the colonel, and the streets are full of trucks and pedestrians. Security is so good we were able to walk around without body armor — unthinkable in most of Helmand, the country's most dangerous province. The Marines are spending much of their time not in firefights but in clearing canals and building bridges and schools. On those rare occasions when the Taliban try to sneak back in to plant roadside bombs, the locals notify the Marines.


The key to success in Nawa — and in other key districts from Garmsir in the south to Baraki Barak in the center — has been the infusion of additional United States troops. The overall American force in Afghanistan has grown to 68,000 from 32,000 in 2008. That has made it possible to garrison parts of the country where few if any soldiers had been stationed before. Before the Marines arrived in Nawa, for instance, there were just 40 embattled British soldiers there.


The chronic troop shortfall made it impossible to carry out the kind of population-centric counterinsurgency strategy that has paid off in countries from Malaya to Iraq. NATO forces could enter any district but not hold it. As soon as they left, the Taliban would return to wreak vengeance on anyone who had cooperated with them. One NATO general compared it to "mowing the lawn." That ineffectual approach allowed the Taliban to regroup after 2001.


Now the coalition has enough troops to carry out a "clear, hold and build" strategy — but only in a few districts. Overall force levels remain far below what they were in Iraq during the surge — when 174,000 foreign troops worked with 430,000 Iraqi security personnel. Afghanistan, which is bigger than Iraq, has just 102,000 coalition troops and 175,000 local security forces.


That is why Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has submitted his controversial request for 40,000 additional troops. He emphasizes that this is not an inflated figure but the bare minimum required to roll back a tough, determined foe.


Some in the White House and Congress imagine that our troops can muddle along at current levels while training the Afghan security forces to take over. But this ignores the brutal logic of war: Either you have the initiative or the enemy does.

In the past few years, the Taliban have been on the march. They have been able to bring large areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan under their sway. If President Obama rejects or waters down General McChrystal's request, he would be sending a terrible message of irresolution that would embolden the Taliban and dismay any Afghans tempted to cooperate with coalition forces. If, on the other hand, the president were to back his commander, the general would be able to maintain and build on the momentum generated by this summer's operations.


During 10 days spent in Afghanistan at the invitation of Gen. David Petraeus, the head of Central Command, I observed that a difficult task has been further complicated by the checkered results of the Afghan election. But what seems to be conspicuously absent from the conversation in the United States is the realization that Afghanistan's corruption problem, like its security problem, can be best addressed by additional troops.


Given what I saw and heard on my visit, I believe it is indeed possible to get Afghanistan's politicos to do a better job — you just have to watch them closely. That's what soldiers from the Third Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, are doing in Baraki Barak, a district of Logar Province south of Kabul, under the command of Lt. Col. Tom Gukeisen.


Like Colonel McCollough's Marines in Nawa, Colonel Gukeisen's soldiers have thrown a security cordon around Baraki Barak. Inside they are carrying out what they call an "extreme makeover." Working with a support team from the State Department, they are dispensing aid dollars and enhancing the authority of the local governor, whose new district center is next to a joint Afghan-American combat outpost.


"If you're not sticking next to the Afghans," one American officer tells me, "they're going to hell." But if United States soldiers and officials do stick close by their Afghan counterparts, substantial improvements are possible. Nawa and Baraki Barak make that clear.


Poor governance is an argument for, not against, a troop surge. Only by sending more personnel, military and civilian, can President Obama improve the Afghan government's performance, reverse the Taliban's gains and prevent Al Qaeda's allies from regaining the ground they lost after 9/11.


Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author, most recently, of "War Made New: Technology, Warfare and the Course of History, 1500 to Today."








The United States was born of our ancestors' nationalistic resentment of a foreign power whose troops we saw as occupiers, not protectors. The British never fathomed our basic grievance — this was our land, not theirs! — so the more they cracked down, the more they empowered the American insurgency.


Given that history, you'd think we might be more sensitive to nationalism abroad. Yet the most systematic foreign-policy mistake we Americans have made in the post-World War II period has been to underestimate its potency, from Vietnam to Latin America.


We have been similarly oblivious to the strength of nationalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly among the 40 million Pashtuns who live on both sides of the border there. That's one reason the additional 21,000 troops that President Obama ordered to Afghanistan earlier this year haven't helped achieve stability, and it's difficult to see why 40,000 more would help either.


American policy makers were completely blindsided in recent weeks by outrage in Pakistan at the terms of our latest aid package — and if we can't even hand out billions of dollars without triggering nationalistic resentment, don't expect a benign reaction to tens of thousands of additional American troops.


We have been fighting in Afghanistan for twice as long as we fought in World War II, with a current price tag estimated to be more than $60 billion a year. Standard counterinsurgency ratios of troops to civilians suggest we would need 650,000 troops (including Afghans) to pacify the country. So will adding 40,000 more to the 68,000 already there make a difference to justify the additional annual cost of $10 billion to $40 billion, especially since they may aggravate the perception of Americans as occupiers?


I've been fascinated by Pashtuns ever since I first sneaked around the tribal areas as a university student, hiding in the luggage on tops of buses. My interviews in recent years with Pashtuns in both Afghanistan and Pakistan leave me thinking that we profoundly misunderstand the nature of the insurgency.


Some Taliban are fundamentalist ideologues who will fight us to the death. But others become fighters because they are paid to do so, because a tribal elder suggests it, because it gives them an excuse for traditional banditry, because American troops killed a cousin, or because they resent infidel forces in their land.


When Pakistani troops enter Pashtun areas, the result has sometimes been a backlash that helps extremists. If Pashtuns react that way to Punjabis, why do we think they will react better to Texans?


Indeed, modern Pashtun history is, in part, one of backlashes against overambitious modernization efforts that lacked local "buy-in."


The American military has become far more sensitive to Afghan sensibilities in the last few years, and there are some first-rate commanders on the ground who cooperate well with local Pashtun leaders. That creates genuine stability. But all commanders cannot be above average, and a heavier military footprint almost inevitably leads to more casualties, irritation and recruitment for the Taliban.


One of the main arguments for dispatching more troops is the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda. But Steven Simon, a National Security Council official in the Clinton years who is now a terrorism expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, notes that there may be more Al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan, Yemen and perhaps Somalia than in Afghanistan.


"I'm skeptical that the war in Afghanistan is going to solve the Al Qaeda problem," he said.


That's not to say we should pull out, and it's a false choice to suggest that we should either abandon Afghanistan or double down. A pullout would be a disastrous signal of American weakness and would destabilize Pakistan.


My suggestion is that we scale back our aims, for Afghanistan is not going to be a shining democracy any time soon. We should keep our existing troops to protect the cities (but not the countryside), while ramping up the training of the Afghan Army — and helping it absorb more Pashtuns to increase its legitimacy in the south. We should negotiate to peel off some Taliban commanders and draw them over to our side, while following the old Afghan tradition of "leasing" those tribal leaders whose loyalties are for rent. More aid projects, with local tribal protection, would help, as would job creation by cutting tariffs on Pakistani and Afghan exports.


Remember also that the minimum plausible cost of 40,000 troops — $10 billion — could pay for two million disadvantaged American children to go to a solid preschool. The high estimate of $40 billion would, over 10 years, pay for almost half of health care reform. Are we really better off spending that money so that more young Americans could end up spilling their blood in Afghanistan without necessarily accomplishing much more than inflaming Pashtun nationalism?


Gail Collins is off today.







Across the country the schools and colleges and universities are silent, teachers and students in their homes awaiting a decision on when 'normal service' will resume. Viewed objectively it is unlikely that normal service is going to be resumed in the foreseeable future, and even as students and teachers go back to work they will do so with a nagging fear at the backs of their minds. The bombing of the Islamic University in Islamabad was as much a watershed moment for the education sector as was the raid on GHQ for the army and the military more generally. In both cases a line was crossed, and the map of terror gained new territory. Although educational institutions have been destroyed in the past there have been relatively few instances in which their students have been the target, but now the student body has moved centre-stage and no school, college or university, no matter how big or small, is a place of safety. The large open campuses that are both home and workplace for many thousands of staff and a place of daily visitation by students are a terrorist's dream come true. They have multiple entrances, crowds that are easy to hide in and even the most security-aware institution is as porous as a sponge - and sealing them impractical.

The bombers are adapting to the need of the hour and becoming ever more sophisticated in the way they go about their business. Many are now clean-shaven and fair-skinned, they are sometimes dressing in modern casual clothing or the all-concealing burqa (and the most diligent security guard is going to think twice about demanding to search a person wearing a burqa) and have learned to blend with the environment they seek to attack. There are anecdotal reports that some have learned English (as in been taught by their handlers and trainers) -- the better to gain access to their targets and allay suspicion. We are at war, and for the first time our children are right in the front line. We cannot shut down an entire national education system indefinitely because that would mean that the bombers have won. We have a few days to reflect and prepare for its reopening, and when it does 'vigilance' will be the watchword -- because laxity exposes the soft underbelly and is the weakness that the terrorist seeks to exploit.







Tens of thousands of people who have fled South Waziristan tell terrifying tales of falling bombs and blocked roads, which placed them at enormous peril as they tried to reach safety. Others speak of houses being destroyed in the Mehsud areas of the tribal agency. The perception of these people is significant. Many IDPs have told the media in interviews that they simply do not believe the Taliban can be defeated through military action. They argue that the bombing raids most badly affect the civilian population rather than the militants. Many are fearful that the fighting in Waziristan could continue for weeks but serve very little real purpose. These people have after all seen similar war before – with the militants each time forcing troops out. They are convinced that this time too things will be the same. Civilians say also that they are caught badly between the two fighting forces and suffer at the hands of both. Amnesty International has expressed concern over the plight of non-combatants caught in a war that is not of their own making. Other international and local right watchdog bodies had also demanded more be done during the war in Swat to keep the civilian population safe. The same holds true in South Waziristan as well.

Even in a condition of war, international humanitarian rules apply. The requirement that children, women and men be protected is the focal point. The fact that little heed has been paid to these clauses is sad, not only because it means the death of innocent people – such as the family of 12 who died after being hit by a bomb while trying to escape South Waziristan a few days ago; but also because it means the military fails to gain moral authority. It is already obvious the people of Waziristan equate it with the militants – and as a source of the suffering imposed on them. If the military campaign in Waziristan succeeds this time round, and the Taliban are genuinely defeated, the need will arise to win back the loyalty of these people. This will not be easy. Militants have held sway here for years. Alongside the secret negotiations with Mehsud tribesmen and the other efforts to break up backing for the TTP, ordinary people too need to be persuaded that state forces have respect for them and are willing to help them. This can play a key role in deciding which side they take – and their support will be a vital one in winning this war which will not end with the destruction of militant bases.







In its eighth annual report, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog body, Reporters Without Borders, ranks Pakistan – alongside Somalia – as one of the most dangerous places for journalists. Five journalists died on duty in the country between September 2008 and September 2009. The report notes that media professionals operating