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Thursday, October 1, 2009

EDITORIAL 29.09.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month september 29, edition 000310, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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




























1.      BLACK & YELLOW


3.      IT’S THE STATE


















































4.      THE WAY IT IS















































































Dissent in the Congress, so long as it does not pose a challenge, howsoever insignificant, to the party ‘high command’, is barely tolerated. But when dissent turns into open defiance of the high command’s decision, a very dim view of it is taken, as it should be; there is no merit in allowing rebellion to fester beyond a point. What, however, is also frowned upon is the perceived failure of local leaders to contain dissent so that it remains within manageable limits. Hence, it is not surprising that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah should have wasted no time in writing a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, expressing “deep pain and grief” over a “regrettable incident wherein some Congress workers resorted to undisciplined and unruly behaviour of tearing down a banner containing pictures of various leaders, including yourself, at Khammam district Congress office”. Mr Rosaiah has not only let it be known to those who matter in the Congress that he disapproves of such “unruly behaviour” but also conveyed, ever so slyly, that the person behind the incident is not to be trusted — after all, they have insulted the party president. The Chief Minister’s finger points at Mr YS Jaganmohan Reddy, son of YS Rajasekhara Reddy who died in a tragic helicopter crash on September 2. But Mr Jaganmohan Reddy has been equally prompt in denouncing the act of vandalism and the subsequent arson by Congress members who are believed to be his supporters, just as he had distanced himself from the unseemly campaign launched by his men in the wake of his father’s death to have him installed as Chief Minister. That, however, did not help hide his ambition; nor shall his latest remonstration convince many people that he has abdicated power in favour of Mr Rosaiah.

What Sunday’s incidents indicate is that Mr Jaganmohan Reddy may be down, but he definitely does not see himself as out of the race for the Chief Minister’s office. He and his supporters view Mr Rosaiah’s installation as a temporary arrangement; they are appalled that the heir should be denied his political inheritance. They would also argue that if the Congress can pander to the dynastic ambitions of its satraps in Maharashtra (even the President’s son has been given a ticket to contest the coming Assembly election, setting a new, if not unhealthy, precedent) and Haryana, there is no reason why a different standard should be adopted for Andhra Pradesh. Indeed, a party headed — and controlled — by the Nehru-Gandhi clan cannot, on the face of it, deny similar privileges to lesser clans in the Congress. But this is where the problem begins. Politics is not about logical extrapolation and extension of existing practices; it is essentially about what serves a party’s interests best at any given point of time. More importantly, unlike Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, no other son, daughter, son-in-law or, for that matter, daughter-in-law, has as yet sought elevation to high office. Seen against this backdrop, Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, who has entered the Lok Sabha courtesy his father, is undeserving of what he aspires for so desperately. The Congress’s central leadership has conveyed to him its reluctance to countenance his claim; it’s likely that he will now be told that his strong-arm tactics are not appreciated. It remains to be seen whether that dampens his enthusiasm or piques him further into acting rashly.







After having secured for herself a second term in office through a comfortable electoral win in Sunday’s general election in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel would do well not to dwell too long on her victory. For, a host of challenges await her on both the domestic and the international fronts. In the immediate future her main challenge will be to conclude successful negotiations with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) to form a stable coalition Government. For the last four years, Ms Merkel’s right-of-centre Christian Democratic Party was part of a ‘grand coalition’ with the left-of-centre Social Democrats. An alliance between the FDP and the Christian Democrats means that the Social Democrats will be warming the Opposition benches. This will also give Ms Merkel the elbow room to implement the kind of economic reforms that she had often talked about in the past but was not able to execute. Both the Christian Democrats and the FDP are for tax cuts which they believe are crucial to Germany’s economic recovery. However, a burgeoning Budget deficit could sober up the promises. Be that as it may, with the FDP as her junior partner in the Government, Ms Merkel should have no more excuses for not being able to at least make a serious effort towards reforming the largest economy in Europe.

On the international front, it is Afghanistan that is most likely to take up majority of Ms Merkel’s foreign policy attention. At present there are about 4,500 German soldiers serving in the Nato mission in Afghanistan. But calls for bringing the troops home have grown louder over recent months. In the run-up to the election, both Ms Merkel and her main Social Democrat rival Frank-Walter Steinmeier — who was also the Foreign Minister in the previous Government — had hinted at exit strategies. Ms Merkel had joined British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in calling for an ‘international conference’ on strategy in Afghanistan, something that was perceived to be an indication towards pulling troops out. However, pulling out of Afghanistan prematurely would be a disastrous decision that would significantly jeopardise the Nato mission. Over the last few years, Germany, like Britain, has become home to radical Islamists who have been constantly demanding that German troops be pulled out of Afghanistan and threatening ‘dire consequences’ if the Government doesn’t take them seriously. It is a serious matter of concern that days before Germans went to polls, two videos — one by the Taliban and the other by the Al Qaeda — surfaced. Both of them threatened retaliation if Germany did not pull out from Afghanistan. It is in the face of such threats that Ms Merkel should remain steadfast and not be deterred. Ms Merkel has done well to project herself as a mother figure. Now, she must live up to it.



            THE PIONEER




It is neither accident nor coincidence that the now America-friendly Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called for an ‘independent state’ of Kashmir at the UN General Assembly on September 23, even as news reports hint at New Delhi’s plans to cede more autonomy, vindicating Hindu fears about disproportionate concessions to separatists.

The larger picture is Washington’s desire for tangible gains in Afghanistan. America feels Islamabad’s cooperation could turn the tide in history’s ‘graveyard of empires’; but this is unlikely until Pakistan makes material gains in India’s northern State. US President Barack Obama, who mooted this formula during his presidential campaign last year, suddenly hyped the near-dead Non-Proliferation Treaty at the UN as pressure tactics towards India.

He also, at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting in New York, urged “sustained and expanded” support for Pakistan, and got the Senate to triple non-military aid to about $ 1.5 billion per annum till 2014. The House of Representatives is expected to follow suit. As it is no secret how Islamabad has consistently used aid, it is time New Delhi stopped hallucinating about the special relationship with America.

Col Gaddafi promoted the idea of an independent ‘Baathist state’ between India and Pakistan. Does this mean a minority dictatorship, like Sunni Saddam Hussein’s over Shia-majority Iraq? He was allowed to wax eloquent for 100 minutes, as opposed to an allotted 15 minutes; this reinforces the view that the UN is a colonial tool of modern imperialist powers, though he muttered some rhetoric against America and the Security Council.

An ‘independent’ Kashmir is, of course, baloney. It is a euphemism for supinely handing over Jammu & Kashmir to Pakistan, because all it involves is India moving its armed forces out of the State, and allowing Pakistani forces to move in. There are grave apprehensions among Kashmiri Hindus that unwarranted concessions are afoot.

Hindu leaders warn that the Government of India is planning to reduce Army presence along 35 sensitive routes in the Valley, particularly the highly-permeable Rajouri-Poonch sector where annually there are nearly hundred infiltration bids. They question the rationale for reducing Army presence in a sector with maximum infiltration bids.

More pertinently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself said on August 15, and also at the Chief Ministers meeting, that the situation in Jammu & Kashmir is deteriorating. Yet simultaneously there was talk in the Valley about the return of Hindus, which is bizarre as the situation is hardly conducive to such an event. In an interesting and doubtless concerted development, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq invited the Government of India for talks and assured it that he would not embarrass New Delhi during his visit to Islamic countries.

Kashmiri Hindus say attempts are being made to persuade a handful of Hindu families to return to the Valley, to provide a symbolic cover for the proposed concessions to the separatists. It will then be claimed that the separatists are no longer ‘communal’, and that the concessions are not being given on the basis of the two-nation theory, but on ‘secular’ grounds.

Anguished Hindus say that at a time when Pakistan is visibly wilting, whispers abound in the Valley that the Prime Minister feels that ‘no stand-off with Pakistan is possible’. All kinds of rumours are being floated, and no source attributed. But now, a national daily has reported that far from taking steps to scrap the deleterious Article 370 which has encouraged separatism, the Centre is planning to give Jammu & Kashmir even more powers, most notably, taking the State out of the purview of Article 356 which gives New Delhi the power to dismiss the State Government.

Such a suicidal step will effectively ‘liberate’ the State from Indian control. Should the Jammu & Kashmir Assembly vote for independence or joining Pakistan outright, New Delhi will be powerless to do anything. If the Army is withdrawn, secession would be even easier. It is pertinent that in the recent session of the Jammu & Kashmir legislature, both PDP and National Conference legislators mooted resolutions demanding that Kashmir must become independent or semi-independent. Way back in 2000 also, the NC-led Government had made the Assembly adopt a resolution seeking greater autonomy, virtually bordering on sovereignty, for the State.

PDP legislators also demanded the release of those booked under charges of sedition; withdrawal of all anti-terror laws, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act; POTA and Public Safety Act; self-rule, India-Pakistan joint control over Jammu & Kashmir; abrogation of the 1960 Indus Water Treaty; and withdrawal of all Central laws and Central institutions from the State. The Chief Minister announced that while the PDP had enforced the AFSPA, the National Conference would ensure its withdrawal from the State!

In such a politically volatile climate, it is inexplicable why the Centre is keen to implement some version or other of the Chenab formula of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. This involves identification and segregation of areas of Jammu & Kashmir on communal lines; demilitarisation of the State; cross-border traffic across the Line of Control; and making the Line of Control irrelevant.

In the corridors of power, Kashmiri Hindus say, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah determines matters pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir, and he has managed to sideline the National Security Adviser. He has been assiduously promoting the division of the State on demographic lines, proposing five regions called assemblies or hill councils — the Chenab formula again.

At the recent Working Group on Centre State Relations on Jammu & Kashmir, Mr Habibullah proposed having mountain and plains area hill councils; a de facto division of Jammu into Muslim and Hindu areas. In April 2005, he had suggested Regional Assemblies for the State on communal lines. Given this backdrop, it may be advisable for the Centre to reconsider a reported decision to appoint him as Governor of Assam, a sensitive State under demographic invasion from Bangladesh.

The UPA must immediately take the nation into confidence about its intentions in Jammu & Kashmir. It must know that any concessions to separatists in the wake of Pakistan’s August 29 move to quietly integrate the Northern Areas into the Islamic Republic will be perceived by the international community as a willingness to relinquish the State. If that is indeed the case, the people of India have a right to know why, and on whose behalf, such surrender is being envisaged.







This refers to the report, “Foreign varsity doctors must clear MCI screening test: Court” (September 22, 2009). The Supreme Court ruling that states doctors who obtain their basic medical degree from foreign countries must pass a screening test to prove their level of medical knowledge before they are allowed to practise in India is welcome. The quality of healthcare in India is still not as good as it can be because of several fundamental problems. Regular news of horrific deaths from medical negligence in hospitals and nursing homes bear testimony to this.

Until only a few decades ago, basic medical training or the MBBS degree was offered only by teaching Government hospitals through reputed universities. Apart from a small number of poor quality students who would get into these medical colleges through ‘quotas’, admission to MBBS programmes was generally confined to the best students through a fiercely contested entrance examination.

Nonetheless, with the advent of private and ‘deemed’ universities since the 1990s, medical colleges offering MBBS degrees have mushroomed in different parts of the country. Now, almost any student can get admission into these private medical schools by paying a hefty ‘capitation fee’ which can run into multiple lakh of rupees. Instead of a sound academic background, all that these students require is their parents’ money. Even the post-graduate seats are sold for a price by these private medical colleges.

Undoubtedly, the standard of medical education in countries like Nepal, Armenia and Bhutan is far below that of medical education in India. It is alleged that if adequate money is paid, a student may be able to obtain a medical degree from some of these foreign medical institutions without even attending a single class.

On the other hand, allowing sub-standard domestic private medical colleges to admit students for MBBS courses must be stopped. Serious allegations have surfaced against high-ranking officials in the Medical Council of India of granting licenses to second-rate medical colleges to allow them to offer an MBBS degree. This is a grave issue and must be rectified as soon as possible.

Given all this, the best way to ensure the quality of medical training is to have a screening test for all those who aspire to practise in this country. A screening test is mandatory for all medical graduates from India when they go to developed countries to practise. Why then should the MCI allow doctors with medical degrees from foreign colleges to treat patients here without a proper screening test?








Ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls scheduled for October 13, the Bharatiya Janata Party has come out with ‘Maharashtra Vision — 2020’, a comprehensive blueprint of its development plans for the State and its proposed specific social welfare schemes for the people. The vision document is in fact a “Vachanama” (a charter of commitments), which details the party’s specific promises to people in different walks of life.

Given that it enunciates a series of populist measures and takes a pragmatic view of the problems facing the State, ‘Maharashtra Vision — 2020’ reads by and large like a just-what-the-doctor-ordered document for the State and its people.

First the populist measures: Free electricity for farmers having land up to 10 acres, a promise to make Maharashtra a State free of power load-shedding in stages by 2015, free-of-cost cold storages for horticulturists at taluka levels, grant of loans to farmers under Kisan Credit Card Yojana to the extent of 50 per cent of the value of the land owned by them, 24-hour electricity supply for lift irrigation schemes, construction of affordable ownership houses in rural areas, 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayat Raj institutions, a special package for domestic helps, removal of price difference in food grains provided to BPL and APL card holders, issuance of health and food security cards which guarantee nutritious and other food items to people from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other economically weaker sections of society, free supply of 50 units of free water per month to every SC, ST, OBC, BPL card-holding family living in slums and a minimum 30 per cent seat reservation for women in public transport (buses) in all cities.

Among the BJP’s commitments, free power supply to farmers with a land holding up to 10 acres stands out. The ruling Congress-led Democratic Front had promised free power to farmers in its manifesto for the 2004 Assembly poll. However, the DF reneged on its promise after it came to power. It is in this context that the BJP’s free power supply promise is rather crucial from the point of view of the polls.

Apart from its populist measures, the BJP’s vision document promises to set up a separate body called ‘Mumbai Metropolitan Region Road Maintenance Corporation’ to ensure better upkeep of roads in and around Mumbai, build a new port in the north coast of Thane district, quadruple the railway lines between Kalyan-Karjat and Kalyan-Kasara corridors and construct new platforms on the two routes to take care of the increasing needs of Mumbai’s satellite towns like Kalyan, Ulhasnagar, Ambarnath, Badlapur, Vasai-Virar and Mira-Bhayander, and create new private parking spaces for autorickshaws and taxis.

Though the vision document states that it would come out with a policy ensuring against sprouting of new slums and in the process creating a slum-free Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the BJP does not explain as to how it would go about the task and as to what is its stand on the regularisation of slums which have mushroomed in Mumbai before 2000. The existing policy in Maharashtra is that all slums that came up in Mumbai before 1995 are legal. The ruling DF alliance has held out a promise that all pre-2000 slums would be regularised if it returned to power in the 2009 Assembly polls. It is another matter that the DF alliance had made a similar promise in its 2004 poll manifesto and backed out later, by saying that the mention of regularising pre-2000 slums in its manifesto was a “printing error”.

Some of the social welfare schemes proposed by the BJP in its vision document are: ‘Anna Daata Adhar Yojana’ for aged farmers, ‘Swayampurna — a self-reliant village scheme’, aimed at making villages self-reliant in electricity through use of biogas and creating local employment by encouraging supplementary agricultural businesses, ‘Samartha Gav-Sampanna Gav Yojana’, aimed at developing villages in every respect, ‘Purak-Poshak Ahaar Yojana’, a scheme meant for home-delivering nutritious food to tribal children in the age group of six months to three years, ‘Gharoghar Navjaat va Bal Arogya Seva’ scheme for providing immediate treatment to newborn children suffering from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea and ‘Lek Ladki Yojana’, aimed at providing insurance cover to every girl child from birth and paying the money accumulated in the insurance scheme along with interest at the time of her marriage.

On the industries front, the BJP has proposed the creation of Maharashtra Development Corridor by laying new railway lines connecting Mumbai, Thane, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad and Nagpur and six-lane highways on both sides of this railway line. It plans to take this corridor through backward regions and set up industrial centres equipped with all facilities along the corridor. Provision of all basic infrastructure facilities in all industrial townships in the State before 2015 and a new SEZ policy for providing basic infrastructure and concrete tax concessions for first five years for those setting up industries in backward areas of the State are a couple of other commitments made by the BJP.

Apparently succumbing to the compulsions of vote-bank politics, the BJP is trying to woo Maharashtrian voters by promising them that it would work towards ensuring the use of Marathi language in all Government and private establishments, including public relations offices, shops, restaurants and public transport undertakings, and is rooting strongly for the use of Marathi in courts.

The BJP, which has take a cue or two from the pro-Marathi plank used extensively by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena led by Mr Raj Thackeray, is all for announcements in Marathi at airports, distribution of Marathi newspapers on flights and trains reserving stalls for selling Marathi books and other publications. The party wants to make it compulsory for outsiders to complete a course in learning functional Marathi before seeking jobs in the State.

Though it is going to make a poll issue of a staggeringly high debt of Rs 1,85,000 crore that the DF has piled up during its 10-year rule, the BJP’s vision document is silent on how it plans to rescue the Maharashtra Government from the debt trap it finds itself in today.








Pundits ponder over symbolism. Post-modern theory has developed a formidable array of tools to examine and explain gestures: The creation of, use and meanings both obvious and underlying, if not hidden and unintended.

Even though this is the post-modern age, politics in India remains a game of crude gestures. It is the cheapest political trick in the book: For instance, ladling out compensation or rather promise of compensation every time a potential voter or voting block suffers a loss or tragedy. From fiddling around with economic reforms, including labour laws, Special Economic Zones and of course land acquisition laws to payouts for dead or injured in bus crashes, the game is to convey, convincingly, to voters the perception that the political heart bleeds for them.

Therefore when a bus falls off a bridge in Galsi in Burdwan district, as happened on Saptami day in West Bengal, there is a scramble to announce a compensation by a political party to draw attention to its aam admi brand, even if it is a token sum of Rs 25,000. Others are catching on to the game. A company that bought over a textile mill in Hooghly wants to set up a textile park on the sprawling factory site; therefore distributing new clothes for the pujas to 150 families is a way to sweeten the deal. The list of such perfunctory acts of kindness (sic) and charity (sic) is endless.

Gesture has replaced substance and sense, for that matter. West Bengal’s Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, it seems, will skip yet another meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in October on the Ganga River Basin Authority. He was absent for the Prime Minister’s meeting on internal security, declined a breakfast invitation and now this. He is conveying a message, though what that is remains a mystery to almost everybody, even his comrades within the Communist Party of India(Marxist). Petulance, however, is not an exclusive behaviour preference of the Chief Minister alone. Trinamool Congress’s supremo Mamata Banerjee is inclined the same way, skipping Cabinet meetings, declaring a list of untouchables for herself and her party men, beginning with the CPI(M) and ending with whoever is the newest enemy.

Where gesture becomes dangerously irresponsible is on critical issues that affect millions of people; when substance is leached out and empty noise replaces constructive debate or engagement. The speculation is that when Parliament reconvenes, top billing will be given to the delayed, though not abandoned, changes to the land acquisition and compensation Bill. Since the delay was caused by the vociferous opposition of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, whose political credibility rests on her famously destructive politics of Singur and her success in shutting down and sending off the Nano car factory out of West Bengal, the politics of the matter will determine how the policy is sold to the voter.

Post Lalgarh, and the peaking of peoples’ resistance and the open incursions of the Maoists into West Bengal’s already violent and volatile politics, the response of the ruling CPI(M) has altered, significantly on the issue of land acquisition, fertile and waste or forestlands, for industrialisation projects. Post Vedic Village, when the activities of land sharks and the entirely predictable deployment of force to ‘buy’ land at ‘market prices’ came out into the open and was no longer a badly kept and therefore well understood secret, the scramble to airbrush images has turned into a sick syndrome.

West Bengal’s ruling party, having embraced the market as a semi-divine source of deliverance from decades of economic downturn, raced to reprogramme its campaign. Messages to allay the fears of a peasant class, comprising owners, a majority of whom were beneficiaries of its own success in implementing a redistribution of land via a moderately ‘radical’ reforms policy were delivered. Therefore leaders like the earthy and excitable Abdur Rezzak Mollah, a political, even if well-meaning lightweight, were given charge of the land campaign.

But the delivery of an edited message to land losers, whose anxieties provided the Trinamool Congress with an easy start to its ‘Maa, Mati, Manush’ politics, does not address the issue of designing a policy that makes economic sense for what the ultra Left describes as ‘refugees of development.’ Ms Banerjee may get into a fight with the Congress over the changes to the Land Acquisition Bill currently in cold storage. Her reasons are simple; she needs to keep the changes on hold till the 2011 State Assembly elections are over.








The Iranians have been watching too many James Bond movies. If you want to hide a secret uranium enrichment plant, you should bury it under some existing structure in the heart of the city. Hollowing out a mountain just attracts the attention of every intelligence service in the world. They start watching as soon as the first approach road shows up on the satellite photographs.

Western intelligence agencies have known about Iran’s second uranium enrichment plant, hidden in the mountains west of Qom, since construction began in 2006. Amazingly, it took until now for Iran’s spooks to realise that and warn Tehran to come clean. On Monday, the Iranian Government delivered a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency admitting that the plant existed.

Hiding things always causes suspicion. “The revelation of this second nuclear enrichment site... proves beyond any doubt that (Iran) wants to equip itself with nuclear weapons,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The Qom discovery also brought Russian President Dmitry Medvedev around to the view that, “in some cases, sanctions are inevitable.”

The United States, Britain, France and Germany were already convinced that Iran is working on nuclear weapons, and Russia makes five. Out of the six countries that are negotiating with Iran (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany), only China is still holding out, but it is starting to waver. Next Thursday’s meeting between Iran and the six may not be followed immediately by sanctions, but they are coming soon.

Yet it is still not clear that Iran is actually seeking nuclear weapons. The religious leadership regularly declares that they are “un-Islamic”, and presumably takes its own decrees seriously. On the other hand, the country has been facing the threat of attack by the United States or Israel, using conventional or even nuclear weapons, for decades.

During the 1980s, the actual attacks on Iran were carried out by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but with Washington’s blessing. It was the Reagan Administration that gave Saddam access to the poison gas that saved him from defeat, and Reagan also lent Baghdad the US Air Force photo-interpreters who told Saddam which Iranian targets to hit.

It was the trigger-happy crew of the US missile cruiser Vincennes, operating illegally in Iranian waters, who mistakenly shot down Iran Air flight 655 in 1988, killing all 290 civilian passengers aboard. And while neither the US nor its allies have attacked Iran directly for the past 20 years, the rhetoric about Iran coming out of Washington has been consistent: “rogue state”; “axis of evil”; “all the options are on the table.”

So it’s hardly surprising that the Iranians decided on a back-up site for uranium enrichment in case their main enrichment plant at Nazran was destroyed. However, the site near Qom is much smaller, and could not supply the large quantities of slightly enriched uranium that a nuclear power station requires. What it could do is supply the small quantities of highly-enriched uranium that a nuclear weapon requires.

Many people therefore think that the Iranians meant to keep the Qom facility secret permanently, enriching uranium for nuclear weapons there while everybody monitored their innocent activities at Natanz. Others, including myself, think that the secondary site near Qom is meant to give Iran the option of going flat-out for nuclear weapons if the United States or Israel attacks and destroys the main enrichment site at Natanz.

Both of these possible rationales were pretty stupid, since there was really no way that the Qom site could stay secret. But it does matter which of those motives underlay the Qom site: Was it to build secret nuclear weapons as soon as possible, or to have the ability to build nuclear weapons if attacked?

The probable answer, given the regime’s theological objections to nuclear weapons, is that it genuinely wants an independent source of fuel for its civil nuclear power programme, since it has repeatedly been targeted by embargoes and sanctions in the past — and it also wants the ability to produce nuclear weapons within six to 12 months if it is attacked.

A number of other countries have sought and attained such a “threshold capability” over the years, and it is perfectly legal. Maybe it shouldn’t be legal, but under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is.

The current crisis is occurring because some countries believe that Iran intends to go beyond that legal threshold, and actually make nuclear weapons now. They are the same countries that mistakenly thought Iraq had nuclear weapons and invaded it in 2003. They may be wrong this time, too.

Some Governments will argue that Iran has already crossed that legal threshold by keeping the Qom site secret from the IAEA. Under the normal NPT rules, it would only have to declare the site six months before it actually starts processing uranium there, but in 2003 Iran voluntarily signed the so-called Subsidiary Arrangement, under which it promised to inform the IAEA of new nuclear facilities in the design stage.

It subsequently repudiated that extra obligation, but the IAEA says it cannot do so unilaterally. So maybe Iran has now broken the law, or maybe it hasn’t. But sanctions are now almost certain, and the odds on this ending in US or Israeli military strikes on Iran just got a lot shorter.

The writer is a London-based independent journalist







When a year ago in Berlin Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a New European Security Treaty to enshrine “legally binding” assurances that Europe’s security is indivisible and that Russia is part of it, the reaction of many Europeans was sceptical at best. Many believed that Mr Medvedev’s proposals, which at that stage did not mention the US or Nato, have been designed not to strengthen, but to undermine the European security —to divide Europe from the US, to weaken Nato and to re-impose Russian sphere of influence over the Eastern Europe. Although this negativism has been partially dissuaded by further clarifications from Moscow, that all key players and institutions within the Transatlantic community should be included in discussions and decision-making on the new treaty, scepticism remained.

Europeans are asking a number of legitimate questions. Firstly, why do we need a new European security system, if the absolute majority of Europeans —except for Russia and maybe Belarus — are happy with what they already have.

Secondly, how could we negotiate —let alone ratify in ALL European Parliaments — a new Treaty with Russia, if Europe remains divided and many European states continue to view Russia as a threat. Thirdly, why should we negotiate with Russia when it has not practiced what it wants to preach — namely support for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states — think Georgia — or for Conventional Arms Control in Europe — think Russia’s suspension of CFE implementation. And finally, even well-wishers who are ready to give Moscow the benefit of the doubt and to support the discussions of the new Treaty, have been puzzled by the fact that a year after Mr Medvedev’s speech in Berlin we are no nearer to understanding what the Russian President actually meant in detail, because none of these details — no drafts or reports — have been provided, distributed and publicised.

I suspect, and our discussions in Valdai Club meetings have reassured me, that the Russian experts and decision-makers are fully aware that there are no easy answers to these questions. At the same time, President Medvedev at the meeting with us asserted clearly that he believes not only that he has not received any negative responses to his proposals, but that such responses cannot be given in principle, because as Mr Dmitry Anatolievich noted “European cannot refuse to discuss European security with Russia”, implicitly stating, I assume, that Russia was, is and will remain the key player in Europe’s regional security agenda.

This optimism seems to me more humanist, than political. However, it is also correct in identifying what the real value of his proposals is. It is not in trying to draft a text of a new Treaty acceptable to all Europeans — eg Russia, Germany, UK, Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, etc — such text cannot be written in this particular historic reality — but in developing a platform at which an honest and productive dialogue can take place on how we all Europeans — including of course Russia as a member of the European family — understand contemporary security, why we continue to fear each other and why 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall we cannot find a formula, a Motus Vivendi, or an Institution under which auspices we can engage in solving even those security challenges which we agree represent a common concern.

Such dialogue is always timely and necessary and indeed it cannot be rejected because it represents the only possible way for building trust and inter-dependency - not in terms of energy or military balance , but in terms of developing a comprehensive, objective and more realistic understanding on what European security means to all its members, how do we distinguish security in Europe from security of Europe and focus on the latter, and what role do we all want to see Europe and the Transatlantic community as a whole playing in the 21st century.

Focusing on the European Security Architecture is a dead end for such dialogue. Architecture is always divisive —you are either in it or out of it — and since there is currently no appetite on both sides to think about Russian membership in Nato or in the EU, any discussions about architecture will end up discussing the new role of OSCE. This is an important issue, of course, but not perhaps central for the European Security agenda of tomorrow.

Instead of Security Architecture, Europe needs Security Horticulture. It needs a long term process of cultivating trust, and shared understanding not only of history, but also of the current and future problems we face. It needs to cultivate decision-makers of a new generation on all sides who can listen and think in terms of cooperative security, not in terms of a zero-sum thinking or Cold war stereotypes. There are many such decision-makers in Russia and in other parts of Europe. And finally we need to cultivate the problem-solving mentality among both experts and decision-makers to replace the current problem-generating one, at least as far as Russian-Western relations are concerned.

If Mr Medvedev’s proposals are about such Security Horticulture, I am sure they have real prospects to be listened to very carefully.

The writer is a political affairs analyst with Russia Profile magazine.







The nuclear move-counter move that took place in New York was not unexpected. Given that disarmament has been US president Barack Obama's pet foreign policy initiative, a face-off of sorts was always on the cards. It has fallen out largely as expected, although UN Security Council Resolution 1887 calling on all non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) to sign on was a surprise. But the rebuttal by Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna was inevitable, as was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's stance. And at the end of the day, nothing has truly changed on the ground when it comes to genuine disarmament initiatives.

Both resolution 1887 and the NPT are self-defeating in their vagueness. The former does not authorise any concrete disarmament measures; it is, in effect, merely a promise to keep talking. And the latter is a fundamentally flawed document in both intent and execution. It lacks the teeth to compel disarmament on the part of the five de jure nuclear powers. In effect, it locks the non-nuclear signatories into a false bargain wherein they have gambled away a strategic option for a promise that was never delivered upon. For India to accede to such a treaty, rolling back its nuclear programme in the process, is simply not feasible.

That said, genuine global disarmament is a worthy goal, however distant, that New Delhi must continue to work towards. Rajiv Gandhi's 1988 action plan provides a template, entailing verifiable, time-bound waypoints towards disarmament for the existing nuclear powers. And controversial though it is bound to be domestically, New Delhi should not completely rule out signing on to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). Neither is completely inconsistent with India's declared nuclear doctrine of credible deterrence. If, for instance, the government is confident of the existing arsenals and technology's effectiveness and of the capability to conduct computer-simulated tests it would lose little by acceding to CTBT. In the process, it may even be able to win concessions from the US such as data and technology to aid with simulations. Using the same logic, once a minimum credible deterrent has been achieved in terms of size of the arsenal, the FMCT becomes a possibility. But these remain hypothetical scenarios for now, given that the US itself has not ratified either treaty.

It is a fine line that New Delhi must walk, safeguarding India's strategic interests in a difficult neighbourhood while not being seen to be obstructionist when it comes to genuine disarmament efforts. As A Q Khan's clandestine network has shown the world, proliferation intrinsically linked to disarmament continues to be a serious threat. And India has more to lose than most.







There's a row brewing over commercials promoting morning after pills as emergency contraceptive tablets are popularly known that have hit the airwaves in India lately. The ads cannot be missed; they are on every channel and play out frequently. And they are plastered across newspapers and magazines as well. Which should not be a problem in itself. If any product is legally marketable, then there should be no restrictions on it being advertised. However, this case is not a black and white one.

Ads for two products in this category that are being aggressively promoted have come under the scanner of the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) for misleading the public. The DGCI has reportedly received several complaints about these ads, including from medical experts. The advertisements tend to convey the message that emergency contraceptive pills are similar to preventive measures, which is inaccurate. One of the ads ends with a tag line "ab ham hain tension free" (we are now tension free). Another says "Abortion say achcha hai pregnancy ko rokna" (it is better to stop a pregnancy than have an abortion).


Gynaecologists have expressed concern that the lack of clarity and statutory warnings about the uses and effects of these pills could lead to them being abused by women, especially the young. It's not an unfounded concern. Emergency contraceptives, when popped often, can lead to health complications for the user. If not taken in the right dosage, it could lead to incomplete abortions, a prescription for hazardous complications.

Reports suggest that the indiscriminate use of morning after pills is on the rise, especially among those young women who fall within the 18 to early 20s category.

This is cause for concern. But it's important not to obfuscate the matter and take moral positions. Emergency contraception is a medically acceptable practice and has its uses. It gives women more control over their bodies in emergency situations. It's only when abused which is true of any drug that morning after pills pose a problem. The DGCI is considering converting these over-the-counter contraceptives into prescription drugs. If that happens, they cannot be advertised. That's no solution to the problem. Given the lax regulatory framework in India, it is not difficult for people to get access to drugs without the required prescription. The better way to tackle this problem is for advertisers to recast their messages. Alongside, awareness about safe sexual practices need to be driven home through sex education in our schools and public awareness campaigns.








It is 2050. A warming climate and accelerated snowmelt have reduced the dry season flow in the Indus to a trickle. Pakistan backs out from the Indus Waters Treaty and demands international intervention against India to increase its share of water flow. At the other end, gradual loss of land to a rising sea in the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta is displacing nearly a million people a year and the flow of illegal migrants is roiling relations with Bangladesh and law and order in the north-east. At the southern end of the country, the government is struggling to find land for resettling several lakh refugees from the Maldives, Lakshdweep and other islands. These and other security risks created by global warming need to be taken into account in long-term strategic planning.

Climate change will change the context for strategic planning because of the substantial changes in geography that it could bring about. From an Indian perspective, these would include: warming of the Himalayan-Hindu Kush-Tibetan highlands and its impact on river water flows; rise in sea levels and its impact in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta; and rapid melting of Arctic ice.

Warming of the highlands in the central part of Asia, where practically all major Asian rivers have their origin, will affect the volume and timing of river flows. These are all international rivers and the sharing of their waters has always been a major source of friction. Clearly, this will lead China to tighten its grip on Tibet so that it can leverage its power as the upstream state.

India shares the Indus, which is largely snow-fed, with Pakistan, the Ganges with Bangladesh and the Brahmaputra with Bangladesh and China. The pressures on these great rivers from global warming will come on top of what we already see in the drying of seasonal tributaries and mountain springs. Existing agreements on water sharing could be threatened as river flows change and further tensions could arise if upstream states decide to divert supplies to cope with changing conditions. Fears about China diverting Brahmaputra waters have already surfaced.

The second big geographical change of concern to India is the inundation of low-lying areas in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. Projections of sea level rise in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are quite small. But this is one area where later assessments have suggested a substantially greater level of risk. In fact, some of the effects can already be seen in the Sunderbans. The main security consequence is the likely flow of migrants from Bangladesh. But a change in sea level could also open up maritime boundary disputes as the baseline for demarcation changes.

The third big geographical change, rapid melting of Arctic ice, has global consequences. It will open up a large area of the continental shelf where there are expectations of large finds of oil, gas and other minerals. Already the countries bordering the Arctic Ocean have started to stake their claims. Arctic ice melt will also open up a north-west passage between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific which could alter preferred shipping routes and affect the strategic balance as submarines would be able to move more easily between the two oceans. A further change in the global strategic balance could arise with Russia acquiring all-weather ports on its northern shores.

There could be more areas of vulnerability the prospect of water scarcity in the Middle East and Central Asia leading to conflicts in what would be a major energy supply zone for India. India may also be faced with some responsibilities for helping low-lying island countries like the Maldives which will be severely threatened by sea level rise.

Energy security, food security, water security, habitat security and health security will all be affected directly by climate change. Hence the response to geopolitical challenges arising from climate change should be folded into a broader strategic framework that addresses the core issue of how to cope with the impact of climate change on people's well-being and development prospects.

At a more tactical level, military planning will need to take into account new realities brought about by changing physical conditions like Himalayan passes opening up earlier, the impact on our military installations in mountainous and coastal areas, enhanced demands for disaster relief and so on.

Climate change is not a trigger event that can precipitate a sudden violent conflict. It will take place gradually over a period of time, with the impacts building up slowly. Moreover, one cannot say with confidence when these security concerns will arise. This does not, however, mean that we should wait and see. If things turn out less worrying than we thought, then, to put it metaphorically, we can always start smoking again. But if things turn out worse than anticipated, the option of undoing past inaction is not available. The national security case for action on climate change is not about responding to immediate threats. It is about preserving strategic options.

The writer is a member of the prime minister's council on climate change.







It's not often that the stuff of Hollywood thrillers finds expression in real life. The premise of Steven Spielberg's 2002 sci-fi film Minority Report, based on a short story by Philip K Dick, could be eerily replicated a few years from now in the UK. In the film, a special police department apprehended people before they could commit a crime, based on predictive technology that told them when and where a crime would take place, with ultimately disastrous results. Something similar is in the offing in the land of the CCTV: surveillance cameras will be able to identify suspicious individuals and relay that information to the police, thus preventing crimes from taking place. Or so it is hoped.

Researchers at the multimillion pound Centre for Secure Information Technologies at Queen's University, Belfast, predict that within five years their software will be able to profile people in public places. The cameras will assess situations and individuals on pre-programmed criteria and send warnings to control rooms if any suspicious behaviour is observed. What passes for suspicious behaviour, according to these scientists, is wearing a hoodie or looking shifty things many of us might do when having a bad hair day or trying to avoid an acquaintance.

Following 9/11, people across the world have had to necessarily give up some civil liberties so that governments may be able to protect their citizens better. But this goes too far. Not only does it throw out the principle of holding a man innocent until proven guilty, a cornerstone in any civilised society, it holds him responsible for his intentions, not his actions.

In the movie, the technology was a success there had been no murders in the state for years until it wasn't. In the real world, CCTV's value has been questioned repeatedly in various security assessments, including one internal police report, which found that in London every 1,000 CCTV cameras aid in solving just one crime per year. With such a minuscule rate of success, is this a trade-off worth making?







The sci-fi film Minority Report critiqued the concept of "pre-crime": stopping a crime foretold by psychics before it could be committed. Its message was that no one could be branded a criminal before actually committing a crime. The logic is unexceptionable, just as it's true that a suspect is to be presumed innocent till proven guilty. These principles underpin any democratic society. But let's also remember that if ordinary people can live without fear, it's because law enforcers are out there doing their jobs. And crime prevention is as important a part of their brief as solving crimes.

That's why the new age CCTVs being developed should be welcomed. Nearly four million such cameras in Britain haven't been too successful in minimising crimes till now. Researchers say that's because CCTVs on the streets and in public transport systems have so far been passive collectors of visual data, all of which can't be studied in real time. Their smarter versions would identify suspicious conduct, issue verbal warnings and alert security officers. In other words, they would actively assist law enforcers who can't be at all places at all times. Making on-the-spot assessments on the basis of certain risk factors, the GenNext cameras are expected to be an effective crime prevention tool, if used.

There's urgent need for technology-aided crime detection. Today's thugs are smarter, better armed and more networked than in the past. Besides, law enforcers pursue more than just criminal gangs. Sadly, the age of innocence about universal respect for life and liberty ended long ago. Even before 9/11, extremists used violence to achieve perverse goals, raising fears about possible attacks with chemical, biological and other crippling weapons. Mass transport systems buses, metros, airplanes are especially vulnerable. Recall the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995. As 9/11 showed, today's variants of such tragedies will most likely be grander in scale. No wonder more and more people the world over accept heightened surveillance in return for greater security. They know it takes an awful lot of crime-fighting to protect the civilised values they cherish.









For once, i was ahead of the curve, and, having rarely been in this exalted place, i can tell you it feels good. The backlash against Facebook, the social networking site, has begun, with rumblings of discontent being heard from distant corners of the globe.

Word is going round that it is time-wasting, trivial, and a pathetic substitute for meeting friends in person. This is precisely what i have been saying to my friends all along but they used to recoil in horror as though declining to open a Facebook account was like refusing to bathe. They muttered darkly about certain people being pig-headed. I was treated like a Luddite, vainly holding out against penicillin or the electric kettle.


Every time i asked them what exactly was so wonderful about this site, they gave the same feeble answers. Oh, it's a great way to keep in touch. You can post your photos on it. Through the links to other people's pages, you can see what your ex-boyfriends or ex-husbands are up to.

Well, according to me, this is a waste of time. I can barely keep in touch with the friends who really matter to me four to five at the most, at any given stage in my life much less maintain an online relationship with old college friends or colleagues from years ago.

If one has never bothered to make contact with them in all these years, it's because one has never needed or particularly wanted to. It means that they don't matter hugely to me now. They did then, but now i'm in touch with another set of friends. My life is full enough with them.

If one has a spare few hours, one would rather meet a friend over coffee or wine. That real-time, face-to-face conversation is contact, not exchanging trivia online. Why would i want to see a friend's holiday snaps when i can barely summon up enough interest in my own to get them developed? Few things, bar waiting for milk to boil, are as boring as other people's holiday pictures.

Much as i love my friends in various parts of the world, i'm perfectly content with a 'broad brush' update. An occasional e-mail telling me they are fine, their teenage son hasn't become a drug dealer and their dog's arthritis is better is fine with me. Any more detail is redundant. I assume they are equally uninterested in the daily mundane-ness of my life and that is exactly as it should be.

Even assuming i wanted to sign up, i would never have the time. If i, blessed with two maids and only one child to look after, cannot find the time to go on this site, how do millions of others, particularly those in the West who have many household chores, do so?

No wonder companies are banning this site. God knows what it is doing to global productivity. But even outside work, don't people have to walk the dog? Check up on an elderly aunt? File their tax returns?

The Facebook phenomenon has confirmed yet again what we have always known that human beings are sheep. They see someone going off in one direction and they follow blindly for no apparent reason beyond the comfort of numbers.

All my efforts at persuading my 12-year-old son not to get onto Facebook failed. I spoke cogently about the charm of being different, of having the moral strength to resist peer pressure, of the infinitely greater pleasures of reading, but my efforts failed. His school friends looked at him as though he had gone soft in the brain.

As for twitter, don't even get me started. The very name cutesy and twee irritates the hell out of me. Facebook and twitter are fads. Like all fads, they'll end up in the dustbin, not of history, but of history's footnotes.

The writer is a journalist.







I think, looking back upon the good one has done for others over the past year, rather proudly, that it was much more than in the past. So, is it that one turned a new leaf and took to philanthropy or social service? Nothing of the sort. Why then this proud reflection of the year so far? Well, i have helped people in distress! For example, by forwarding e-mails that would pay two cents for every e-mail forwarded to the little girl battling for her life in an ICU in some obscure hospital. The surgery costs a huge sum, but no sweat, one need not reach for those purse-strings yet. I just need to forward an e-mail to my 300+ contacts who will so generously forward it again to their kith and kin. I feel good. I have shared important information that could help my friends in distress, such as how to deal with a heart attack if you are alone, or how not to get trapped by thieves at an ATM and how to bring in the local police by simply typing one's password backwards. I do care for my friends and relatives, and isn't that a great social cause? I even signed several online petitions, including the one that urged the government to proactively take on the scourge of terrorism that was eating into our national fabric. What more could i do?

Are you laughing at me? I do hope you are! Because all my responses described above can be collectively called 'slacktivism', a combination of 'slacker' and 'activism'. You don't need to dirty your hands or spend more time than needed to lift your index finger only to click on your mouse to either sign that online petition or to forward an e-mail that could save someone's life. All for a good cause! However, if studies are to be believed, online petitions don't work. If you think forwarding an e-mail pays two cents per forwarded mail to a sick child's family, please be informed that these are hoax e-mails, with nobody tracking them and no money being offered. The good part is that most of the time, nobody is in any distress, either. So, what good have i really done last year, then? Except the feel-good sigh that one heaved for having acted on several matters that were close to one's heart, having become a slacktivist and depriving oneself of the true joys of giving?










`S op the world, I want to get off,' was the name of a 960s musical that became a global punchline. It also reflects a potential threat the world faces after the Group of Twenty (G-20) summit. Namely, that in coming years everyone will wash their hands off managing the international system. It helps to ask why the West was willing to deep-six the Group of Eight and share decision-making with 12 nations, most still desperately poor and many politically unstable. The answer: after such a money and morale-sapping meltdown, they found the trappings of power more burden than privilege.

Economies like India and China will need to make hardnosed assessments as whether they are prepared to take on the responsibilities of a G-20 managed economy. If they conclude they are not, the Pittsburgh summit will have ushered in the worst of all worlds: an economic throne abandoned by its incumbents and avoided by its inheritors.


The shift between G-8 and G-20 will be gradual, it can't really be marked by the dates of the Pittsburgh meeting. But there is reason for wariness. Traditionally, the world economy has been handled by what scholars call a `hegemon', with a dominant position in global trade and finance. Such countries -- Britain in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th -- learn to make short-term economic sacrifices to sustain a system that gives longterm benefits. Developing the political consensus and social stability to enact such policies is what differentiates the boys from the great powers.


These are exactly the type of policies that emerging economies like India and China often struggle with. But if the G-8 countries decide such policies are beyond them as well, then the world economy is heading becoming a ship without a rudder. It is no surprise, then, that the G-20 communique is filled with plans to pass on the tasks of coordination and monitoring to international bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others. The vision is of a new world economic order of governments being guided by neutral multilateral agencies.

The fear is that it could mean an era of governments succumbing to populist sentiments and the world economy disintegrating under the impact of protectionism, financial isolation and worse. The reality is probably going to be somewhere in between, but hopefully more in the direction of the former.

`S op the world, I want to get off,' was the name of a 960s musical that became a global punchline. It also reflects a potential threat the world faces after the Group of Twenty (G-20) summit. Namely, that in coming years everyone will wash their hands off managing the international system. It helps to ask why the West was willing to deep-six the Group of Eight and share decision-making with 12 nations, most still desperately poor and many politically unstable. The answer: after such a money and morale-sapping meltdown, they found the trappings of power more burden than privilege.
Economies like India and China will need to make hardnosed assessments as whether they are prepared to take on the responsibilities of a G-20 managed economy. If they conclude they are not, the Pittsburgh summit will have ushered in the worst of all worlds: an economic throne abandoned by its incumbents and avoided by its inheritors.

The shift between G-8 and G-20 will be gradual, it can't really be marked by the dates of the Pittsburgh meeting. But there is reason for wariness. Traditionally, the world economy has been handled by what scholars call a `hegemon', with a dominant position in global trade and finance. Such countries -- Britain in the 19th century and the United States in the 20th -- learn to make short-term economic sacrifices to sustain a system that gives longterm benefits. Developing the political consensus and social stability to enact such policies is what differentiates the boys from the great powers.

These are exactly the type of policies that emerging economies like India and China often struggle with. But if the G-8 countries decide such policies are beyond them as well, then the world economy is heading becoming a ship without a rudder. It is no surprise, then, that the G-20 communique is filled with plans to pass on the tasks of coordination and monitoring to international bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others. The vision is of a new world economic order of governments being guided by neutral multilateral agencies.
The fear is that it could mean an era of governments succumbing to populist sentiments and the world economy disintegrating under the impact of protectionism, financial isolation and worse. The reality is probably going to be somewhere in between, but hopefully more in the direction of the former.

As on every Dussehra evening, we will be reminded again about the natural victory of the forces of good over evil. Thousands of effigies of Ravana will play metaphor to this universal belief that takes shape from universal hope. And yet, while the war against darkness in its many forms is played out every year on the platform of mass theatre, in the real world there exists a more dangerous symmetry between good and evil, a more evenly matched battle. For one, there lies the problem of fixing what is good and what is evil. India in 2009 is at the crossroads. That inaction itself can be a vice, even an evil, can be gauged from decades of indifference that not only the Nation-State has shown towards vast swathes of its own people, but also that of the citizenry at large.

The innocuous-sounding term `chalta hai' has arguably been the most potent enemy of our country that still sees India's schizophrenic reality of First World capabilities with Third World miseries exist in full widescreen Technicolour. It's easy -- far too easy -- to blame that behemoth called The Government for all that ails us. People get the kind of government and its auxiliaries that they deserve, or at least that they grow comfortable with. The prime function of a democracy is to make popular will policy. Not always has popular will been for the obvious good.

On another level, there is another battle between good and evil going on -- a real one. The Prime Minister has reiterated that tackling Maoist extremism is India's most dangerous challenge. On his part, the Home Minister has made a strong argument for not shirking from the necessary duty of physically uprooting this menace and then going on a damage control mission for decades of under- or non-development among so many of our citizens. Amartya Sen, in his magisterial book, Idea of Justice, invokes the argument and counter-argument exchanged between Arjun and Krishna before the Kurukshetra war. While the former makes a cogent point about the means being more important than the end, the latter wins out when he states that one must do one's duty. If there is any lesson to be learnt from the victory of Rama over Ravana, it is this: a just war against the many ills beleaguering our nation must not be avoided. Being in denial about them is more than half the battle lost.







Here we were getting used to emulating our VVIPs and wolfing down the caviar and Kruger champagne, when comes a diktat from the Uttar Pradesh Congress that all and sundry in political life must spend time in Dalit localities. This will be a bit of a comedown for our leaders who, despite all their austerity blues, are still keen on a bit of the good life.


The problem we envisage here is that our netas, once having been asked to mingle with the masses, will go to such localities with the sort of security that will throw all normal life into a kilter. However, if nothing else, it will give them a touch of India that many of them have never felt before. We  may get the Delhi belly eating on the streets of the capital. But our netas seem to be made of sterner stuff. Rahul Gandhi was able to tuck into poori-sabzi and come away with no ill-effects. So what’s to stop our stalwarts doing the same? Food and clothing are sure-fire ways of getting to the heart of people as Rahul’s grandmother knew only too well.


When in the North-east, Indira Gandhi would don the local dress, she had no dietary preferences, and was generally a big hit in any corner of India. Food is something that engages all Indians. A Bengali will contest the merit of a simple daal for ages with a southerner. So we must welcome Rahul’s efforts to sample the culinary delights of all of India. The young Congressman has a great deal on his plate. We can only hope, that given his recent forays, he has not taken on more than he can chew.

Just when India was getting set to roar on the world stage, bad news regarding the dwindling population of its national animal, the mighty tiger, started making headlines. Now we hear the lotus is wilting, nay, dying. And before there's a burst of celebration in certain camps, let us warn you that this is not a reference to India's main opposition party's diminishing fortunes, but the very real possibility of a rare species of our national flower being lost forever. According to a BBC News report, the extremely rare Nymphaea tetragona -- a rare species of the lotus -will be gone soon, as conservation efforts to save this unusual flower have come to naught.

Add to this mix the rise in peacock poaching, and the fact that no one even remembers what a hockey stick looks like, then swirl the thought around in the muddy waters of a shrinking Ganga, and you might chance upon the very real possibility that our national symbols could be disappearing one by one. Perhaps we need a new, easy-to-recall list, including icons that represent the signs of our times, and are not nearing extinction. For example, we could replace the peacock with the pigeon as a tribute to the Great Indian Communications Revolution. Given the abundant reminders these birds liberally leave behind in our offices and homes, they'd be pretty hard to forget.

Well, we never hear the strains of Vande Mataram every time the Boys in Blue lift a championship cup, or Leander Paes his doubles partner, so maybe it's time to tune in to that other national song of jubilant times -`Chak de'. But for the handful of our readers who fear that all will soon be lost, here's some good news. That wily ol' banyan tree has a long innings ahead and mangoes are always just a season away. As for the rest, maybe it's time to give ourselves a national makeover.










For 30 years I had gone to work each morning. My wife and I had raised two children. Gradually, I had moved up the corporate hierarchy with more pay and responsibility. At 50, I asked myself, what had I really achieved? I felt as though I was waking up each morning, going to work, and feeding my family — only to repeat it the following day. My children would probably follow me and go on to do the same thing with their children. What was the point of it all? Is this all there was to life? I wanted to find a better way to live.


I had been very competitive throughout my corporate life, but I could not reconcile to my boss’s view that “it is not enough to do well. Someone has to lose, and you must be the one to win”. Duryodhana in the Mahabharata would have approved of my boss’s big-chested sentiments, but I wondered: once one’s youth, vigour and thrill of winning are gone, what happens then? How long could an adult be expected to be motivated by a 1 per cent gain in the monthly market share of Vicks Vaporub or Ariel detergent?


I felt weary by the time I was 50, and it was this feeling of futility that drove me, in part, to take early retirement. My Kshatriya-like craving to win was disappearing and my job had begun to resemble the futile labours of Yudhishthira. I identified with Karna’s sense of mortality when he says, “I see it now: this world is swiftly passing.”


Thoughts such as these — of life’s futility, of mortality and the passage of time — tend to drive one to religion. But instead, they made me ask if virtue might be one of the very few things of genuine worth in this world, and if it might give meaning to my life. I was interested in dharma (virtue) rather than moksha (salvation), and I wondered if India’s foundational text, the Mahabharata, might have something to teach me. The familiar pain of being alive and human filled me with admiration for Yudhishthira’s commitment to dharma, to satya (truth), ahimsa (non-violence) and anrishamsya (compassion).


When I began my quest, I did not imagine that I would be undertaking an enterprise quite so bizarre. I tried to picture the look of shocked incomprehension on Yudhishthira’s face when he loses his kingdom and his wife in the dice game and this happens at the very moment of his greatest triumph when he is consecrated ‘king of kings’. He could only suppose that his world had gone awry.


Gradually, I began to realise that the dice game may be symbolic of the quixotic, vulnerable human condition in which one knows not why one is born, when one will die, and why one faces reverses on the way. The only thing certain, the Mahabharata tells us, is that kala (time or death) is ‘always cooking us’ and that the truth about dharma is hidden in a cave.


I had to depend on a gambling addict and a loser. A curious choice for a guide, you might think. Yudhishthira is so fraught with frailties to be an unhero, anayaka. His world is off-balance and the God, Krishna, constantly feeds this imbalance, fostering disorder. Although he is a warrior, he lacks physical prowess, distrusts martial values and feels helpless. What redeems him is his insistence on being anything other than himself. Alone, he confronts the possibility that the universe might not care about dharma.


I felt something was clearly wrong when the epic begins with a remarkable murderous rite performed by King Janmejaya, the great-grandson of the valiant hero of the Mahabharata, Arjuna. He is holding a sacrifice to kill all the world’s snakes in order to avenge his father, Parikshit, who has been killed by a snake. Not a promising start for a heroic epic.


The story is also whacky — it is about a war between the “children of a blind pretender fighting the sons of a man too frail to risk the act of coition”. The winner of the war is the reluctant Yudhishthira, who does not want to fight, but who gives the order for the war to begin. Then he goes on to win the war, not by skill but by deception. After the bloody victory, he suffers bitterly, and says, “This victory looks more like defeat.” He has seen through the disturbing chaos of the world. His mournful regret at the war’s end is the all too familiar sadness for the defective human condition. The Mahabharata is a profoundly ironic text with a ‘very modern sense of the absurd’.


Yudhishthira persists in his Faustian search for dharma till the end. He hopes to find goodness in heaven but he encounters the villainous Duryodhana instead. In hell, he finds Draupadi and his brothers, and the old look of incomprehension returns on his face. It reminded me of Sisyphus, the Greek hero, who was condemned to push a huge rock up a hill. Each time he neared the peak, the stone rolled down to the bottom. Yudhishthira has the same look on his face as Sisyphus when he sees the rock rolling down — the realisation that life may well be futile.  


After six years with the Mahabharata, I have come to realise that despite its dark, chaotic theme, and despite ironic reminders about how difficult it is to be good, the Mahabharata is able to snatch victory in the character of its unhero, Yudhishthira. He teaches that it is part of the human condition to also aspire. He shows that it is possible for good to triumph even in a time of cosmic destructiveness, making us realise that the theme of the Mahabharata is not war but peace.


I may not care for the ascetic streak in his character, but I do believe that ascetics rarely cause the mayhem and violence that conventional heroes do. Yudhishthira demonstrates that an act of goodness might be one of the very few things of genuine worth in this world.


Gurcharan Das is a consultant to industry and the government. This is an edited extract from The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma (Penguin). The views expressed by the author are personal


Afour-page dossier that is not just meant to improve the Indian cricket team's performance but also make them better human beings has generated a lot of debate, praise and even derision for all the wrong reasons. Messrs Gary Kirsten and Paddy Upton, the two South Africans responsible for coaching and providing psychological inputs to Team India, have circulated a document to the players which touches upon various aspects of team development, some very routine, some supposedly very bold and even revolutionary in nature.

It refers to India's history and gives reasons why we are a docile nation that has always been reactive in nature. It urges the team to be proactive and adopt strike-first methods to win matches, especially outside India.

This is something that should please our right-wing politicians and their followers. The document does not stop there -- it gives us examples from the 1971 war, saying how Indians reacted only after cities in northern India were bombed by Pakistan, and then links it with statistical data of how poorly we have done overseas in cricket by never attacking any team. This incursion into the past needs a serious debate; had any Indian coach said this, he would've already been reprimanded, if not sacked.

But the portion that has hogged a lot of news space and generated a lot of mirth among cricketers from even more `aggressive' and `liberated' countries is that which links fulfilling sexual urges with performance on the field. It talks about how excessive testosterone levels lead to aggressive behaviour and how increased sexual activity leads to rise in testosterone levels.
The inference to be drawn here is that since we are docile as a race, sexual activity will lead to the players being more aggressive, and hence to better performers on the cricket field.

How we wish that we had known of these findings when China attacked India in 1962! Our soldiers could have been sufficiently advised and even provided with partners before sending them to the battle field. Maybe a war that we lost could've been won?
But jokes apart, the relationship between sex and performance on the sporting field has been debated endlessly and there has been a lot of research done on the subject over the years. Among the many theories, however, none is as conclusive as Kirsten and Upton (or perhaps only Upton, since Kirsten tried to distance himself from the document on Friday) would like us to believe. Football teams and their coaches have grappled with this problem and have not come to any satisfactory conclusion. It has been left to each individual who, as long as he does not breach the team's discipline, and the moral and ethical code of the society he lives in, is free to indulge in what he thinks is good for him.

Sex as a part of training input has, to my knowledge, not been part of any coaching manual, especially in cricket. That is why we could see players from other countries blushing and demurring when told about team India's new `vision' document. And since many of the Indian team members are married, obviously `going solo' would be a better option for them unless their wives are patriotic enough to forgive them their indulgences for the sake of India's victory.

That the coaches have good intentions and want India to be aggressive so that they become the best team in the world is not in question here. But to use war terminology to make `us' understand our limitations as a sporting nation is as amusing as it should be shocking. Going by this logic, the empire on whom the sun never set should have been the best team in the world, something it rarely was. England, who colonised almost half of the world, is a struggling cricket nation and does not have an enviable record even in other sports.

How do we explain the rise of the colonised `slaves' -- the West Indies cricket team -- which for the better part of Eighties was the most outstanding team the history of the game has known, giving lessons to their English `masters' and to the rest of the world?
Australia has never been at war, yet it was the best team in the world for the last decade. The point I'm trying to make is that to link a nation's attitude to war with the nature of its people and its sporting achievements is fraught with serious danger. Even the best of historians have refrained from passing such judgments.

In any case, is being the aggressor and going to war such a good thing that youngsters should feel proud of it? Should they feel embarrassed that their forefathers never attacked any nation? In fact, if anything we feel proud of the fact that India never had any imperial designs and did not loot and plunder other nations?
Kirsten and Upton are here to coach and train a cricket team -- something they are qualified to do.
They should refrain from giving us lessons on our history, culture, religion and race. Pradeep Magazine is the author of Not Quite Cricket











In Germany’s colour-reflective politics, this is a huge black-yellow triumph. In Sunday’s national elections, Chancellor


Angela Merkel was assured of a return to her country’s leadership, but with a ruling coalition that has shifted decidedly rightwards. The results in the end came as a surprise to even those who had anticipated a rough ride for the two big parties — Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and her coalition partner till last week, the Social Democrats (SPD). The SPD netted 23 per cent of the vote, registering its worst post-war performance. The CDU, with a third of the vote, fell well short of its expectations, but with the support of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), it can form a ruling coalition with a comfortable majority. And with Germany’s, and the rest of the world’s, worst year economically being the context and prime issue in the election campaign, the result affirms the popular perception that free-market capitalism has to be fixed, not jettisoned.


In that, the election result consolidates the rightward shift in European politics. But it also defines the issues of economic well-being more starkly than perhaps anywhere else in Europe. Merkel, who lacks the charisma and flair for grand gestures that have defined so many of her predecessors as chancellor and also leaders like France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, is a sharp-nosed pragmatist. Over the past years, she worked through the contradictions of the “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats. Now, she may actually temper some of the Free Democrats’ stridently liberal economic and political demands. For instance, on the FDP’s campaign for tax cuts. But those will probably be differences of the degree and pace of reform, not disagreements. Differences over Germany’s anti-terror regime may be more sticky.


In the year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, governments worldwide have been forced to play a more interventionist role in the financial sector. Now, as the fears of another great depression begin to recede, the work of the big economies to coordinate and address the problems outlined is no less challenging — as last week’s G-20 meet showed. With the left and right of Germany’s vocal polity separating once again, how they reorient themselves to the task of talking through these issues will be fascinating to track.







It is a truth widely acknowledged that heritage which spurs tourism can be a driver of economic growth. Shimla has, to its credit, internalised this logic rather well. A spate of new conservation efforts aims to involve people in their own history.


Shimla’s fading prettiness had been under threat from rampant and thoughtless new construction, despite the fact that tourists overwhelm the city every year to channel a lost past. That’s set to change as the town embarks on an interesting new plan to conserve its architectural history. Despite its tacky reference to a paint brand, the Himachal Pradesh government’s “Har Ghar Kuch Kehta Hai” scheme has a promising premise: Shimla is going to enlist its own citizens to share stories and document their own built heritage. The government will pool all this information, and then focus attention on developing and displaying these sites as landmark buildings.


The mock-Tudor grandeur of the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (once the Viceregal Lodge), the dignity of Christ Church, or neo-gothic piles like Gorton Castle might be obvious visual reminders of the Raj, but there is a whole other buried history in the buildings that didn’t make it to tourist brochures, but lingers on in anecdote and family legend. To name these crumbling buildings and have them on a


heritage register would certainly expand the tourist itinerary and would also encourage a bottoms-up historiography of Shimla. To reconstruct a past city from the mental shards that remain is an exciting exercise, and will connect local people to their surroundings in a meaningful way, besides adding to the cultural archives for tourists.








If the gun comes to define politics in West Bengal, surely the genesis of that political culture does not lie in the present problems in West Midnapore district. But it is in that district that the CPM seems to be looking to legitimise its newfound, and dangerously misguided, strategy of arming the party cadre to engage in gun battles with the Maoists as last week’s violence near Enayatpur showed. Whether or not the CPM has considered the consequences of its decision, it is the logical extension of the party’s three-decade-old practice of substituting administration by party. But if the CPM believes that armed cadre can defeat the Maoists and then restore law and order as well as the people’s sense of security and their confidence in the state machinery, it couldn’t be more mistaken.


Fighting the Maoists and neutralising their operational capability is the task of police and security forces. That is why the CRPF were dispatched to Lalgarh to assist the state police in June. That is how Andhra Pradesh, which offers the best model for counter-offensives against Naxalites, has tackled the menace — with its dedicated Greyhound force and intricate local intelligence. It is needless to say that the Bengal government is not in a position to raise a local, dedicated anti-Maoist force like the Greyhounds. But it had sought and received Central paramilitary forces for Lalgarh, which it must still deploy along with the state police to eradicate Maoist violence. Unfortunately, the biggest constituent of the ruling Left Front has a pathological tendency to make a bad situation worse. Even some of its Left partners have warned that an armed resistance would cause “anarchy” although CPM supporters have been bearing the Maoist brunt.


Besides, a mainstream political party has no business taking the law into its own hands.


Most importantly, the CPM’s decision betrays the administrative decay it has overseen in the state, whereby its police force cannot be counted upon to do its job. A politicised administration, with a police force often used as a party tool, which nevertheless is under-equipped and under-staffed to operate on this scale, can only think of solutions to law-and-order problems in terms of party cadre. The plight of villagers caught in the crossfire between Maoists and security personnel in Bengal is precisely the result of an administration that had abdicated its responsibility. Filling that administrative vacuum with guns and partymen can only be the gory culmination of the CPM’s utterly confused and hitherto half-hearted strategy against Maoists.










General McChrystal’s plea for a major surge in US troops in Afghanistan has once again drawn attention to the most wrenching foreign policy dilemma of the Obama presidency: its Afghanistan strategy. There are basically two positions now on


offer. One is what might be called the maximalist strategy. On this view, the US has to be committed to Afghanistan for the long haul. It has to be reconciled to the proposition that Afghanistan will require an immense commitment of troops, financial resources and political will, for at least two decades if not more. Although no one uses the word, America will have to act like a radical imperial power: creating a state where there is none, controlling the economy, restructuring social relations, and vigilantly attending to its security concerns.


The idea that Afghanistan could be secured on the cheap, without a good old-fashioned blanketing of the troops on the ground, was a colossal illusion. At its core such a strategy was self-defeating thrice over. But having an adverse troop to territory ratio, the US has to rely on more air-strikes and the collateral damage simply produces more backlash. By not appearing fully in command, the US has not given Afghans an incentive to fully support it. And if it does not commit fully, it will send a message out to all its adversaries that they simply need to wait for the US to cut bait and run. In some ways the argument hopes that the act of sending the signal itself, that the US is prepared to do all that it takes, will itself help the effort. It will convince Afghans that there is only one game in town. Paradoxically, sending a signal that the US is ready to stay for as long as it takes may be the only way of ensuring that it does not have to stay long. Anything less would be regarded as a failure; it might expand the space for unsavoury political movements like the Taliban and put American security at risk.


On the other side, there are the minimalists. On this view, the idea that the US could create something like a fully functioning state and reform a whole society is a pipe-dream that risks catastrophic failure. There is no reason to suppose that such an undertaking is likely to succeed. As Rory Stewart has been arguing eloquently, it is hard to imagine that Afghanistan can be a state, much less a functioning democracy, in the sense that we understand those terms for a very long time. The social and material preconditions simply do not exist; and such little slivers of leadership that existed have been delegitimised after the last election. The analogies between the troop surge in Iraq and Afghanistan are misplaced. And even if it were possible, it is very unlikely that there will be domestic support to sustain such a strategy. The American public is already confused about and tiring of the war. Democrats are not too keen on facing an election with tens of thousands of troops still in Afghanistan. American allies have been abandoning what was considered the “good war”. Since the domestic preconditions for a sustained war effort do not exist, it would be even more self-defeating to commit to a maximalist strategy. The only option is for America to scale back its ambitions. The Taliban may be odious, but they are, in and of themselves, not a threat to the US. Concentrating a few thousand troops, well-targeted to go after well-defined and narrow targets, is more likely to be a sustainable strategy than the commitments of tens of thousands. In its search for at best a few hundred who pose a threat, the US continues to alienate more and more of the Afghan population.


Who wins this argument is going to be enormously consequential for South Asia. At the very least a more intense war is only likely to strengthen the Pakistan army’s role, not diminish it. But it is interesting to notice some features of the current argument. There is still a considerable dissociation of fact and logic in looking at justifications for a troop surge. The degree of Al-Qaeda’s association with the Afghan problem had always been greatly exaggerated; and now Pakistan has a lot more to answer for on Al-Qaeda than Afghanistan.


Second, it is interesting to ask how states come to determine which option they will take. Is it based on a compelling logic of facts on the ground? Or is it path dependent? In the US three factors predispose the argument towards the maximalist solution. First, the mere fact that a large military industrial complex exists, and is used to thinking in terms of the effectiveness of force, predisposes the argument towards using more force. Second, a superpower is often defined not by its ability to get things done, but by its ability to absorb the costs of failure. So there are fewer incentives for a cautious prudence.


Third, there is a question as old as international relations. How do strategists come to hold the dispositions they do? A fascinating new dual biography of George Kennan and Paul Nitze, by Nitze’s grandson, Nicholas Thompson, explores this question. Although the contrast can be overstated, Kennan believed that to have peace you need to wage peace; Nitze believed that if you want peace you have to prepare for war. The point is that it would be easy to pretend that the judgments of hawks and doves, or maximalists and minimalists, are based on facts. In most strategic situations, there is something of an odd combination of a prejudgment on the one hand and a leap of faith on the other. The unfolding debate on Afghanistan has, in this sense, got a déjà vu quality to it. With the exception of a few protagonists like Rory Stewart, who have worked in Afghanistan extensively, the protagonist’s decisions will not depend on the facts of the ground in Afghanistan; they will come pre-formed.


Obama’s challenge is that if he goes for the minimalist strategy, he will have to cut deeply against the framework in which the American state (including several key players like Hillary Clinton and Holbrooke) still thinks of power. If he goes for the maximalist one, he runs up against the grain of the profound schizophrenia in American democracy: the need to demonstrate success, but not at a high cost. Afghanistan is such a test because it will define the character of America’s sense of itself.


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research,








What is it about marriage that brings out the Indian in us? Why is it that almost without exception, TV entertainment, when it is not daring us, scaring us or baring our innermost secrets, runs in circles around the holy fires of matrimony? Is it, as Frank Sinatra once famously sang, about “love and marriage” (go together like a horse and carriage) or is it the primordial fear of extinction that compels us to continually ensure our future through new generations (which follow the horse and carriage!).


Consider: there’s a show called Perfect Bride (how typical that it’s the bride who must be ‘perfect’), there’s Rahul Mahajan searching for the perfect bride on Swayamvar (coming soon), there’s Pati Patni aur Woh (NDTV Imagine) who appeared on TV yesterday and are confronting said future generation in the form of a baby, and there’s the new Colors serial Bairi Piya. Here, amidst the ruins of a harvest, the indebtedness of impoverished farmers, the villainy of the moneylender ‘maalik’, Ekta Kapoor has proposed marriage, just as she had in countless earlier soaps.


She’s joined a long line of baraatis: marriage parties attend every soap, every week. But Kapoor’s decision to introduce an engagement and plans for a marriage in the first few episodes of her latest serial, that too one which explores the grim lives of ‘suicide farmers’, testifies to the centrifugal force of weddings as TV spectacle and marriages as plot propeller of universal appeal.


Perhaps Kapoor needed familiar trappings as she embarks on a journey into the unknown. With Bandini (NDTV Imagine), she had already ventured into rural India but she had clung to Ronit Roy for comfort. Besides, most of the action occurs within the comfort zone of a palatial mansion. Now, she’s out in the open with green crops invaded by locusts (or other flying insects), alongside heartbroken farmers who torch their land to save the neighbouring village’s harvest. She’s inside a kachcha dwelling where the feast consists of a glass of water as sister asks sister to imagine it’s an egg. She’s beside the farmers pleading with the maalik to give them time to repay him and he says fine then, give me your daughters instead.


Ekta Kapoor and social realism? Now, that’s a new one. Bairi Piya is a brave attempt, a wonderfully shot serial with well-defined characters, a strong storyline, and tugging at our heartstrings in a way nothing she has made before, because this time it’s about a subject authentic and topical. Can she sustain it without falling back on her old melodramatic ruses? Well, it is a bit too dark — the mortgage of daughters is over the top and has agitated at least one NGO, the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) which has promptly asked for its removal. Oh dear, here we go again. Why can’t people agree to disagree and leave it at that?


You’d think Kapoor was better suited to Perfect Bride because it’s all about loving your saas and bahus. That too at a magnificent old fort (what is it with grandeur in these times of austerity?). This is ‘Ten Brides for Five Bridegrooms’. As catches go, the men are quite fishy, sorry fetching — pleasant blokes, but rather ineffectual as they play Dumb Charades. Their mothers are more formidable, already behaving as though they are mothers-in-law. The prospective daughters-in-law recommend themselves; that’s when they’re not squabbling amongst themselves. Unfortunately, the reality show is like another serial — without engaging characters. Not one of the participants evokes any strong feelings in us other than the desire to scold them, or switch channels.


Our politicians and moral police, meanwhile, will have to find something else to complain about now. Sach ka Samna (Star Plus) ended ten days ago, not with a whimper or a bang but with a bow from Rajeev Khandelwal. He was the star of the show, dignified even as he plunged an endoscopic tube down throats and looked at what lay inside.







Ever since Jaswant Singh dug up Jinnah to rediscover our history, he seems to have excited our young population. This is not surprising since half of them are below the age of 25 and have no knowledge of how differently things could have turned out in 1947. For many of us who lived through Partition or who heard unpleasant stories about those days, much of what is being rediscovered is passé. Give any one of us an opportunity and time to visit a good library, or even better, the British Public Records Office in Kew, and we could pull out a few stories that could astonish our young society.


Since I was due to address a conference in the Andamans, and had heard anecdotally that we were almost cheated out of those islands during Partition, I went back into the records of the transfer of power. Even to my amazement, this is what the research revealed.


The time is around April 1947 and Mountbatten has already frightened his staff into believing that he and Edwina are booked on a flight to London on August 16. The first missive is written by the India office in London (L/P&J/10/140:ff 445). It suggests that since Indians seem to have no opinion or objections to the British determination to retain the Maldives, Seychelles, Diego Garcia and Mauritius as part of the British Indian Ocean strategic setup, why don’t they also leave the Andaman and Nicobar islands out of the draft bill on the transfer of power. True, Nehru might object, but “since we are giving them everything else... What can they do about it?”


Perhaps the Viceroy should be approached on how to deal with the Indians on this. A couple of months later, news of the British intention to retain the Andaman and Nicobar islands is leaked to The Times of India. This brings about a ‘sharp rejoinder’ in the Hindustan Times the next week, saying that if the British actually raised this issue with Indians, ‘it will be summarily rejected’. The note is written by General Ismay of the Higher Defence Organisation fame, and he adds that if “we raise the question now of being allowed to use the islands as a naval or air base... we would ruin our chances of success”.


But the wheels of government grind slowly, and although information of the British intention to retain the

Andaman and Nicobar islands is common knowledge, it has raised no public outcry. So, the chiefs of staff committee figure in London, why not retain the Laccadive (Lakshadweep) Islands too? “These islands are sparsely inhabited coral strips and would be essential for our air reinforcement route to Australia, New Zealand and the Far East”. Assuming that the Andaman and Nicobar islands are retained and not given to the Indians, the problem still remains: navigating the distance from Masirah (Oman) to Ceylon — assuming that ‘we’ cannot use India as a transiting base, after having diddled them out of all their islands. Therefore, the chiefs of staff committee (COSC) feel, both the Andaman and Nicobar, and Laccadive islands are necessary to His Majesty’s government.


In conclusion, they say, they cannot assume that India, even if it agrees to remain a dominion, would agree to allow the British government, perpetual use of these islands. Therefore, they suggest that the Laccadive islands be transferred immediately from the Government of Madras to London. Things are actually getting quite hot, both climatically and figuratively, since the time is now July 1947. The chiefs of staff now hand over a minute to the British government stating that first, the A&N islands and Laccadives be simply left out of the bill on the transfer of power, and secondly to tell the Viceroy that ‘using’ the islands is not adequate, because it is “essential to retain our sovereignty over them.”


So, does the Viceroy have other opinions? Even if the Indian agriculturists in Delhi are unfamiliar with maritime power, and unsure what would happen if India didn’t get any islands on power being transferred to them. But clearly, Mountbatten, as a naval officer, and friend of India, knows exactly what is being put over the Indians, and will not cooperate. So: a missive to the Secretary for India, Mr Alexander, that the COSC are “worried about the line being taken by the Viceroy” and think the matter cannot be left open for negotiation at some distant date.


Fortunately, Mountbatten holds firm. After all he was the Supreme Commander Allied Forces, South East Asia Command during the recapture of Burma from the Japanese, so he should know what the islands are for. The British government, in their long and final minute, finally gives up. They have given Mountbatten the task of ‘getting us out’ by August 15, and he’s boss. London has to seek Delhi’s approval, not the other way round. So, in clause 16, they agree that ‘the viceroy had come to the firm conclusion that no provision be included... About the A&N Islands” and “leave our interests to be dealt with by negotiations with the new Dominion of India alone”.


And that is how I swam in the islands last week without showing my Indian passport to the immigration in Port Blair. Surely there is a good case to rename these islands the Mountbatten Islands. The RSS may be quite reasonable about this.


The writer is a retired rear admiral








The moon remains a mystery even today. Gazed at by poets and lovers, intensely studied by astronomers for several centuries, examined by geologists for the last 50 years, visited by more than 50 spacecrafts, and walked upon by twelve humans, the moon hasn’t lost its capacity to throw us a surprise or two. The recent finding of Chandrayaan-1, that the surface of the lunar soil is not bone dry but reasonably wet, is astounding to say the least.


It is not as if we did not expect any water on its surface; or that we have found substantial pools of liquid water. We could squeeze out a teaspoon of water from several kilograms of the moon’s soil, at best. However, that water is so widespread on the surface, mixed in the minerals that make up lunar dirt, especially the top millimeter of soil, was totally unexpected. Water appears all over the moon — from cratered highlands to deep cavities and darker plains. Given earlier assumptions, this find is startling.


Samples of lunar rock brought back to earth by moon missions such as Apollo and Luna never showed any signs of water, leading scientists to presume that the moon was dry. However, in the last two decades, various missions to the moon indicated that perhaps it has water. In 1994, NASA’s Clementine spacecraft that orbited the Moon picked up signals that suggested the presence of icy materials. The spacecraft beamed radio signals into shadowed craters in the polar regions, and the reflections received back appeared as if it came from water in its icy state. Two further missions, Cassini and Deep Impact, which did a fly-by manoeuvre around the moon, also found signals that indicated possible water in the polar regions.


These findings, though surprising, match current understandings of the formation of terrestrial planets and moons. Early earth was so hot that water molecules would have disassociated and broken up into oxygen and hydrogen. Thus internal sources could not account for much of the water on earth’s surface. Astronomers now postulate that comets and asteroids were the cosmic carriers of water. During the period of “late heavy bombardment” 3.9 billion years ago, thousands of comets and asteroids impacted on earth, each bringing in trillion litres of water for millions of years. As the moon shares the same area of space as the earth, it should have also received some share of water from comet impacts. However, since its gravity is very low compared to earth, and in the absence of atmosphere, water would have evaporated and drifted off into space. In fact not just water, the moon’s surface is largely devoid of even volatiles. In time, the moon lost its supply of water, perhaps nearly all, but not all of it. Scientists postulated that some remnants of icy water may be lurking in dark, cold, permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s south pole. Scientists thought that the signals detected by Clementine and other spacecraft were indeed this polar ice.


Inspired by this astonishing finding, in 1998 NASA sent another spacecraft, the Lunar Prospector, to verify the finding and to specifically explore polar regions. It had a state-of-the art device called a neutron spectrometer, which could detect hydrogen-rich minerals. Once again the poles yielded intriguing signals indicating hydrogen-rich deposits. Could this be H2O (water), HO (hydroxyl —a form of water) or some other minerals rich in hydrogen? The lunar prospector could not give a clear answer.


It was in this background that M3 was included in the payload of Chandrayaan-1. M3 is a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that could specifically look for signals of water (H2O — two atoms of hydrogen bonded with one atom of oxygen) and hydroxyl molecule (OH — a water molecule with a hydrogen atom stripped off). It was one of the eleven scientific instruments onboard Chandrayaan-1; the instrument itself came from NASA — a fine case of international collaboration and universal science.


How the M3 detects water on the moon is similar to how we see the grass as green. The blade of the grass absorbs all other colours of VIBGYOR of sunlight, except green. The same way, water or hydroxyl molecules absorb infrared light, specifically at 2.8 microns, roughly three to four times the wavelength of light our eyes can see. Therefore when sunlight falls on the surface of the moon and is reflected back, wherever water or hydroxyl molecules are present, 2.8 micron wavelength would be missing in the reflected light. M3 could detect the absence of this wavelength, the chemical signature of water and hydroxyl.


Now it has been confirmed not only by NASA’s M3, but also by ISRO that the moon impactor, India’s space probe that crashed on the moon in June 2009, had also detected telltale signs of water.


Is this the water that scientists were searching for — left over from the comet impacts over millions of years? Apparently not. Careful observations for many months indicated that the amount of water detected by M3 changed over the month-long lunar day. There was more in the local morning, and less at noon a week later. This seems to imply that the sun has a hand in the water seen on the surface. Scientists postulate that solar wind, which is teeming with hydrogen, slams into the oxygen-rich lunar surface soil called regolith, resulting in the formation of water molecules or hydroxyl molecules. However when it is local noontime, the sunlight breaks up the water molecule, again reducing the levels. So we see the most water in the morning, which dries by noon. This process of water formation on the moon’s surface is far removed from what was postulated until now —- icy remnant of comets, stored in the dark polar craters.


So, Chandrayaan-1 has demolished the long-held view of the moon’s surface. While it’s clear that water has been found, it’s a long way off from real estate agents developing land and selling plots on the moon. Nevertheless, it has injected new life into fanciful lunar dreams. In any case, our nearest celestial neighbour seems to have many more surprises in store, and the only way to unravel them to pay a visit. I say we do it.


The writer is principal scientific officer, Vigyan Prasar




















Guru Ramdev’s latest reported base has been set up in Scotland, at a tiny and treeless island known as Wee Cumbrae to locals. Taking advantage of the recession, a couple of his followers have bought up this space on the cheap, at a reported 2.5 million pounds. At the inauguration, the guru himself was reported to be in trademark saffron robes and wooden sandals, even as the skies remained leaden and dark. Over in the US, the guru has already laid the foundation for a $20 million centre in Houston. The interesting thing about Ramdev is that he can be credited with the big yoga revolution in India, after decades in which yoga’s growth story was really taking place in the West. We are not talking the ‘ancient’ times of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Mia Farrow and then the Beatles, who supplicated at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Yoga has actually taken broad roots in the US, and many other countries by extension. Celebrities like Madonna, Sting and Hugh Jackman (that’s three continents) have done their bit. But by now, it’s is a multi-billion dollar global industry and followers are legion. But hip. A 2008 US poll found yoga practised by the young, the smart and the affluent—40.6% of practitioners were aged 18-34, 71.4% were college graduates and 44% had household incomes of $75,000 or more.


Moreover, this is a market thriving though the recession. The $100 Manduka yoga mat, for example, has seen its sales rise 55% in the first four months of 2009, with sales at dramatically up 87%. Yoga studios throughout the US and the UK are reporting increased traffic. And researchers are bending over backwards to provide proof that yoga works to treat or prevent disease. To take one example, a US National Institutes of Health study on chronic low back pain published this month finds that yoga participants displayed lifted mood, less pain and improved function in the group that compared with a control group who received standard medical therapy. In the US, low-back pain represents the largest category of medical reimbursements, with $34 billion in direct medical costs reported annually. The UK—Scotland, Ireland, etc—is no less seduced. Over here, YogaBugs is training hundreds of thousands of children in yoga every week, the beats of an exotic ‘pocket of calm’ accompanying traditional rhymes like ‘Row, Row, Row the Boat’. In short, Ramdev’s recipe couldn’t have been better-timed. This is the best possible time to make a rocky little island off the Scottish coast act like it was a remote spot off the Himalayas or the banks of the Ganges.






For most of last year, capitalism was supposed to have been questioned—by both street fighting anti-globalisation activists and the intellectual and political Left. But interestingly enough, anti-globalisation protests seem to be at their lowest ebb in over a decade right at the time when they ought to have a lot to protest about. Similarly, centre-left political parties seem to be struggling to extract mileage. The latest centre-left casualty at the ballot box is Germany’s Social Democratic party which has been handed a resounding defeat by Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats. Labour, in the UK, too seems to be fast ceding ground to a resurgent conservative party. And the incumbent centre-right, Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have gained in stature during the crisis.Even in the US, the ostensibly centre-left Democratic party is treading a broadly centrist and market friendly line in the aftermath of the crisis.And many of Democrats’ more liberal, as the term is defined in US politics, ideas are not getting traction.


What explains this? For one, it surely demonstrated that capitalism, even if prone to instability once in a while, is viewed by a majority of people as the best game in town. Second, anti-globalisation movements and the Left in general seem to have come up short in the realm of ideas once the great unraveling happened. It was easier to rail against a successful capitalism than to suggest constructive alternatives. Also, when the economy was booming there were more resources for everyone including those who attacked the system. In recession, even the anti-globalisation protesters don’t have the funds to organise themselves. At a parallel level, like anti-globalisation movements, centre-left political parties also find it easier to follow a convincing agenda when capitalism is thriving—it is easier to tax and spend when there is a boom. When fiscal deficits are soaring, parties of the Left have to abandon redistribution and spending, at least on the scale they would like, which robs them of their key policy agenda and credibility. It is not merely a failure on the part of the Left that has led to their marginalisation. It is also about the pragmatism of the centre-right. This crisis has seen government intervention on a massive scale including nationalisations. This crisis has seen rich countries involve emerging economies in finding coordinated solution, more than ever before. But this crisis has been all about reinvigorating capitalism, not subverting it. That’s where the centre lies.








The pharmaceutical industry is one of the most regulated industries. But Indian companies exporting to different geographies find themselves lost in a regulatory maze as they try to cope with different procedures and documentation needs. The repercussions of not adhering to these norms can be disastrous, as three Indian companies recently found out, when their products were held up at various European ports of transit because the regulatory authorities found that data loggers attached to the consignments showed a temperature variation that should not have been there. The authorities decided that this could affect the shelf life of the medicines in those consignments and prevented passage.


This case was discussed recently at a Regulatory Awareness Programme in Mumbai, where an official from the UK’s drug regulatory body, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), pointed out that in this case, it was not the fault of the concerned Indian pharma companies but clearly the Qualified Person (QP) had in each case, neglected to ensure that appropriate temperatures had been maintained as required. Each pharma company exporting to European countries has to appoint a QP who is based within the European Community (EC) or European Economic Area (EEA). The primary legal responsibility of the QP, as per the MHRA website, is to certify batches of medicinal products prior to use in a clinical trial (human medicines products only) or prior to release for sale and placing on the market (human and veterinary medicinal products). Each batch of finished product must therefore be certified by a QP before being released for sale or supply in the EC/EEA or for export.But for the Indian three companies, this is cold comfort. The incident resulted in revenue loss for sure but, more importantly, damaged their reputations. Companies (and not just in India) have been demanding a basic degree of uniformity and synchronisation between regulators and regulations, but as an official from MHRA admitted, though all regulators are driven by a common agenda (to safeguard public health), levels of details are different. The devil is in the details.







Around the world banks have been criticised for their role in the financial crisis. Public outrage has exploded as billions of dollars in bonuses have been paid to Wall Street. French President Nicolas Sarkozy vigorously argues that “we want to see an end to the scandal with the bonuses”.


Although often ignored, it is a reality that bankers have paid their share. They suffered large wealth losses and lost billions as a result of the crisis. With a few well publicised exceptions, no one has lost more in this crisis than the CEOs of failing banks, together with their shareholders. Richard Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, reportedly lost $1 billion, while Calpers, the California Pension Fund reportedly lost $60 billion.


Politicians want to regulate and influence CEO pay levels. This is not desirable at all. More regulation will only lead to more complex compensation schemes that use breaches in the regulations to pay more, but less transparently. However, corporate boards must put this issue on top of their agenda. It is key to solving the problems that plague current compensation practices. The excesses of the past, like the backdating of stock options, and bonuses attributed to executives of failing banks, cannot go on.


There is no agreement between governments on the limits to be imposed on bank bonuses. The controversial French-German plan to impose a cap on bonus payments is not well accepted by the US and the UK. This is fortunate. It would be a huge mistake to artificially try to regulate the maximum amount (or percentage) of bonus allowed.


Taking a historic perspective, we realise that moves like these which bring increased layers of regulation and limits have limited success, and often are associated with the use of loopholes.


For instance, offshore jurisdictions could be used to evade taxes and scrutiny by the regulators on the amount of bonus paid. Top-earning bankers could also become contractors of the bank, rather than employees on the payroll. If they become contractors, then there are no limitations on how much the company can pay its supplier for a given service.


Ultimately, if the proposed caps were approved, we would have an even stronger role for the state in the economy, and an extra layer of civil servants on the public payroll. The financial sector recovery that will lead the world economy out of the current recession relies on having the appropriate talent on board.Having more bureaucrats running the world’s top financial institutions is not an ideal scenario, particularly at a time when firms are in desperate need of a strong financial system that can help them weather the crisis.


Protectionism is another aspect of this. It is well known that crises urge governments to become more protectionist, and thus actually threaten our age of modern globalisation. If one country decides not to deal with banks that fail to meet its local standards, in effect, it is restricting entry to foreign banks. Ultimately, this means that, for instance, the French financial needs will only be served by French banks. As we well know, having less competition in this market will have one direct effect: increased costs for using financial services. Once more, it will be the taxpayer who will pay for this increased protectionism.


We must focus on people’s aspirations. We cannot prevent rewarding the best. If we balance things, and treat everybody equally, then we are basically afraid to pay the winners, and eventually economic growth will disappear.


Some compensation practices of the past were undoubtedly wrong. It is known that compensation committees face huge pressures to report that “their” CEO is among the top of the industry. Some consultants’ reviews of compensation only aggravate the problems by focusing too much on the company size and too little on performance. In the end of course, not all CEOs can be above average. However, there is agreement on some broad principles on the issue of pay moving forward: use of long-term metrics; incentives related to performance, not size; and no guarantees of bonuses.


It is clear that short-term incentives are out of fashion. The new proposed claw-back measures want to ensure that managers are more focused on long-term performance and sustainability, rather than on short-term profits and speculation. This means to defer a large proportion of the bonus (up to five years), which can be claimed back by the firm in case the performance subsequently deteriorates.


Another possible mechanism that can be implemented, and that also intends to align the long-term gains of shareholders and managers, is the use of restricted stock, which may only be sold when certain conditions are met. A lot more thinking needs to be done on this.


The author is Professor of Finance at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland. He directs IMD’s Strategic Finance programme. These are his personal views







Global multilateralism probably suffered its worst decade, the 2000s, since the spectacular failure of the League of Nations some eighty years earlier. The United Nations has steadily been reduced to a talk shop, aptly described as Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner by Muammar Qaddafi. The WTO is still stuck in Doha, eight years on. Nobody hears much about the World Bank anymore, and the IMF was dead, and waiting to be buried, until the global financial crisis struck us all after the collapse of Lehman brothers in September 2008. Until that moment, the 2000s were all set to be remembered as the decade when unilateralism (courtesy George W Bush’s neocons) and bilateralism (almost everybody else) finally defeated the noble cause of multilateralism.


It is, however, interesting to note that none of the organisations mentioned above were instrumental in initiating the coordinated response to a potential Great Depression. Instead, it was a largely dormant club of finance ministers and central bankers from the world’s twenty largest economies, the G-20, formed in the aftermath of the East Asian crisis in 1999, which was brought into the limelight, elevated to a heads of government level.


Nobody gave the hastily convened meeting of the G-20 heads of government by a lame duck US president in November 2008 much of a chance to solve anything. One year on, the cynics would be eating their words.


Of course, some of the most crucial decisions taken were guided by the immediate context, the decision to undertake coordinated fiscal and monetary stimuli being the prime example. But even that was a tough decision given the differences between member states. Still, it was taken, and quickly agreed to by all. Even on the more controversial issue of financial regulation and executive pay, the G-20 has arrived at reasonable consensus fairly quickly. Everyone now agrees that banks must have minimal capital requirements to prevent excessive leverage. And everybody agrees that bankers’ should be paid in a manner that discourages short-term gambles—so bonuses should be paid over long time horizons and more in stock options than cash. Obviously, each country will devise its own norms, but the fact that some broad principles have been agreed to by such a diverse range of countries is no mean achievement.


However, more than these immediate issues, what is most interesting is the commitment that G-20 has made to reform the fundamentals of the global financial architecture. This is what really gives multilateralism a new lease of life. First, the G-20 will replace the G-8 as the main body to guide international economic policy coordination. Second, the G-20 will reform the Bretton Woods institutions to give greater voting rights to emerging economies. Third, the developed countries will subject their own economic performance to peer review from other countries and the IMF. By committing to such far reaching changes, which democratise the governance of the global economy, the G-20 has given a new lease of life to a multilateralism which was breathing its last.


Critics will argue that a group of twenty countries deciding things is hardly the inclusive multilateralism of the UN and WTO kind. But its small size is one of the reasons why G-20 will work effectively while the UN and WTO struggle. The G-20 is admittedly exclusive at one level but very inclusive at another. Its members after all account for 85% of the world’s GDP and a significant majority of global population. It has representation from every continent and region and includes rich countries, middle income countries and poor countries. Yet, by being a small group, it avoids the collective action problems of large groups like the UN general assembly and WTO. And it can thus arrive at decisions relatively quickly. Because the grouping is representative and diverse, its decisions have more legitimacy than those of other small groups like G-8 (all rich), IMF Board (US and Europe) and the UN Security Council (P-5).


The plain and unfortunate reality of the world is that it is an unequal place, and some countries will always matter more than others—as trouble makers and as problem solvers. A run on banks in Burkina Faso or Guyana will not have the same impact as a run on banks in the US or China. If the global economy falls into recession, then stimuli by the twenty largest economies will matter more than stimuli by the hundred smallest.


Moving forward, beyond this crisis, we confront the important issue of climate change. Again, the G-20 countries have the most important role to play since they are largely responsible for the problem and therefore responsible for the solution. If the twenty largest economies do not agree on climate change, a consensus among the other 170 doesn’t matter. So, the G-20 must be used as a forum to address problems beyond this crisis which is nearly over. It will only be a good thing. Consider it even as the core of a reformed UN Security Council.








The Pittsburgh summit of the G20 has been hailed for announcing that the Group of 20 will henceforth take on the role and mantle of the G8 but is it possible to tame the forces of instability that brought the world to the brink of financial and economic disaster last year merely by issuing edicts, fiat, and a check list of dos and don’ts? This is the question every country in the world needs to ask, especially those like India, China and Brazil, which bear little res ponsibility for the meltdown but which, nevertheless, are suffering from the aftershocks of the global crisis it caused. Broadly speaking, the Pittsburgh communiqué has what is needed to revive the global economy and insulate it from financial instability. Like every good primer, it emphasises three ‘Rs’ — reflation, regulation and risk management, and representation. Fortunately, the single measure most crucial for recovery in the short term is also the one which finds the most tangible mention: there will be no premature withdrawal of the stimulus package. India and China went in to the G20 apprehensive about the European and also the U.S. commitment to the ongoing reflation of the world economy and have every reason to feel satisfied at the outcome.


The stimulus package is truly win-win, because it allows for the recovery of Western economies and for developing country exports. Unfortunately, not all countries and players have a shared interest in the implementation of the Pittsburgh line in other areas. Take regulation and risk. If national governments do not implement the excellent recommendations made by the G20 on bankers’ pay, transparent accounting procedures and prudential banking norms, financial markets will once again start indulging in risky behaviour. As for representation, the G20 have made genuine headway by agreeing to a 5 per cent shift in quota share in favour of the developing and emerging economies. This was also a major demand of the BRIC countries, Alongside this, the IMF has also been asked to help the G20 conduct a regular ‘peer review’ of the macroeconomic and regulatory policies of individual countries, a mechanism that, theoretically, will allow the world to get an early warning of negative practices, especially in the Anglo-Saxon financial universe. But if this oversight task is performed perfunctorily, or not at all, all the fine words at Pittsburgh will get negated. And the BRIC and Asian countries will have even more of an incentive to develop their own institutions to insulate themselves from the next occidental financial contagion.








The economic stimulus packages initiated in several countries have given fresh momentum to corporate lobbying, in which powerful companies spend tens of millions of dollars ensuring that legislation and policy are drafted to favour their area of business. Enormous sums are spent on this and on contributions to campaign funds. In the U.S., the major banks spent $56 million in the 2007-08 financial year; the mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac spent $180 million over a period of eight years. Figures for 2009 show that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have lobbied to the tune of over $6 million; Monsanto have paid out over $2 million, while the U.S. defence manufacturers have spent over $17 million. Also in the U.S., Political Action Committees (PACs) have become the biggest sources of campaign funding for candidates; corporate PAC spending increased from $15 million in 1974 to over $220 million in 2005. In India, corporate lobbying, in the form of intensive briefings and presentations to ministers and senior civil servants, is expanding; the current political climate also makes ministers, officials, and legislators more receptive to it.


For big business, lobbying works. Published research shows a significant positive correlation between lobbying and financial performance, and lobbying by firms or by lobbying agencies often produces policies tailored to their own requirements. In 2005, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s attempt to tighten the law on mortgages failed after intensive lobbying by lenders. Almost no major countries require oversight, transparency, or accountability in lobbying. It has even been said that in India the paucity of high-quality research centres makes officials vulnerable to slick lobbying and instant publicity countering allegations by, for example, environmental and other activists. There are, however, signs of concern about lobbying. On March 20, President Obama signed an executive order requiring government agencies involved in the stimulus package to report all contact with lobbies. But the response has been poor, and businesses have evaded the rules by delegating the work to staff who are not registered as lobbyists. Although some major corporations are coming under shareholder pressure to provide detailed information on their lobbying, an early change in the lobbying culture is unlikely. Critics say that what is called lobbying in the west is called corruption in developing countries; and one Indian campaigner says corruption stinks but it is at least a stink that everyone knows. There can be no doubt that lobbying will continue to pose a serious threat to democratic processes around the world.










India’s great founding Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, worked energetically to defuse global tensions during the Cold War, commissioned the first study on the human effects of nuclear explosions, and campaigned tirelessly to eliminate what he termed these ‘frightful engines of destruction.’ It is our ambition to carry forward Nehru’s vision into the 21st century.


Even if nuclear warhead numbers are well down from Cold War peaks there are still over 23,000 in existence, and nearly all of them have a destructive potential many times greater than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And thousands of such weapons remain on high alert, ready to be launched within minutes. Nuclear-armed states have taken only limited steps towards reducing stockpiles, their common commitment to the ultimate goal of a nuclear weapon free world.


The time is right to make a renewed effort to break the logjam, building the global momentum led by the U.S. and Russia, to ensure that historic opportunities are not lost to indifference. There has been a range of appeals from current and former world leaders and nuclear decision makers urging a renewed effort to move the nuclear disarmament agenda forward: for new cuts to nuclear arsenals, bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force and to commence negotiation of a treaty to ban the production of fissile material for weapons use. It is highly significant that President Barack Obama chose to convene this month a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.


The International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament seeks to contribute to the current global effort, to help build a new momentum to reconsider the role of nuclear weapons in international relations and eventually to eliminate them. This is not an issue which we can allow to be pushed aside by new threats, be they concerns over the global financial crisis or the prospect of pandemics and climate change. The nuclear threat is an ever present danger which must be addressed in parallel. And after a decade of neglect, the issue demands priority attention from our political leaders world-wide.


Indeed nuclear weapons could still be the biggest risk of all to the peace and stability of our world — at the global level and regionally: nuclear weapons arsenals are still huge. The possibility remains that still more countries will acquire them, and the danger persists of their deliberate or accidental use by states or non-state terrorist actors.


That is why we, the Commission, and indeed the international community, were greatly encouraged by the results of the April summit between Presidents Medvedev and Obama. The agreement to pursue a deal on cutting nuclear weapons that would replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), Russia should kick start movement on broader disarmament and non-proliferation measures.


Leadership from Russia and the U.S. is crucial, but so too is the commitment of other nuclear armed states if nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament momentum is to be regenerated. But there has to be buy-in from many other international players as well. The moment has to be seized by governments, and civil society activists around the world, working to a common action agenda that is both idealistic and realistically pragmatic. The countries of South Asia have made it clear that they share with most other nations the conviction that every effort should be made to eliminate the world’s store of nuclear weapons. But it is clear that there are still major regional challenges to be addressed to bring about the circumstances whereby this process can be moved forward. The effort has to be global but it must be matched by addressing regional challenges.


It was essentially to identify such a global agenda, and to energise a high-level global political debate around it, that Prime Ministers Rudd of Australia and Fukuda of Japan, on 9 June 2008, launched the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament which we have the privilege to co-chair. Significantly, on the same day, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opened an international nuclear disarmament conference in New Delhi, calling for the countries of the world to create a framework to rid the world of atomic weapons. We sense opportunity in these parallel expressions of intent and commitment.


The Commission is independent of governments, but its highly distinguished membership, and research support structure, is drawn from both nuclear-armed and non-nuclear armed states around the world. It is addressing all the inter-related issues of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the future of civil nuclear energy, and holding commission meetings and regional consultations in many capitals. And it aims to produce a handbook of practical — and clearly written — recommendations as a guide to policymakers.


As Co-Chairs of the Commission we are honoured to be joined in this endeavour by an outstanding panel of individuals, including former heads of state and government and globally recognised specialists, who have agreed to serve as Commissioners, and by the equally impressive group of Advisory Board members and Associated Research Centres who will be contributing to the Commission’s work. South Asia is strongly represented on the Commission by former Chief of the Pakistan Army, General Jehangir Karamet, former National Security Adviser of India, Brajesh Mishra, and Additional Secretary of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, Prasad Kariyawasam. We have also benefited from our collaboration with Delhi Policy Group, and in particular Lieutenant General (retired) Raghavan (also current President of the Centre for Security Analysis, Chennai) who is a member of our Advisory Board.


While the Commission’s immediate focus will be on the May 2010 conference that will review the architecture of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it will look beyond that conference and grapple with the pressing issue of the engagement of those countries who have not joined the Treaty (India, Pakistan and Israel), and those who have either purported to walk away from it or whose commitment to it remains uncertain: all of them critical if the path to the elimination of nuclear weapons globally is to be maintained.


While no final decisions have yet been taken by the Commission about any of its detailed recommendations, the general approach is to identify a three-phased action plan. The first task is to spell out all the steps which can and should be taken in the short term, to around 2012, to build initial momentum: including bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force, negotiating a convention to ban the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes, achieving significant reductions in actual weapons numbers, and achieving broad consensus on the future course of disarmament negotiations. The second part of the action plan will involve identifying a series of steps, through to around 2025, by which nuclear weapons would be reduced to truly minimal numbers, the dangers of their accidental use would be effectively eliminated, and nuclear doctrine would be agreed and applied dramatically limiting occasions for their deliberate use. The third task is to identify how the final step could then be taken, of moving from such a ‘minimalist vantage point’ to a world without any nuclear weapons at all.


Indian leaders have declared their commitment to nuclear disarmament — a commitment which must be shared by the entire region. In recognition of India’s regional and global roles in matters of international security, and the importance of the South Asia region more generally the Commission will meet in New Delhi in October, at a conference held in consultation with the Delhi Policy Group. The meeting will be regional, to consult with South Asian nuclear and strategic experts from government, academia and, those involved in developing the nuclear power industry. We have invited representatives from key regional states — Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — and look forward greatly to hearing regional perspectives on the full range of issues on which the Commission is working.


We hope and expect that this will be a very productive event, which will make its own significant contribution to the movement for a safer and saner nuclear future that is now at last — after so many years of inaction — starting to emerge right around the world.


(Gareth Evans is former Foreign Minister of Australia and is President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group. Yoriko Kawaguchi is former Foreign Minister of Japan and member of the House of Councillors. They are Co-Chairs of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICNND)).









William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times who also wrote novels, books on politics and a Malaprop’s treasury of articles on language, died at a hospice in Rockville, Maryland, on Sunday. He was 79.


The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Martin Tolchin, a friend of the family.


There may be many sides in a genteel debate, but in the Safire world of politics and journalism it was simpler: There was his own unambiguous wit and wisdom on one hand and, on the other, the blubber of fools he called “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”


He was a college dropout and proud of it, a public relations go-getter who set up the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” in Moscow, and a White House wordsmith in the tumultuous era of war in Vietnam, Nixon’s visit to China and the gathering storm of the Watergate scandal, which drove the president from office.


Then, from 1973 to 2005, Safire wrote his twice-weekly “Essay” for the Op-Ed Page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus. Unlike most Washington columnists who offer judgments with Olympian detachment, Safire was a pugnacious contrarian who did much of his own reporting, called people liars in print and laced his opinions with outrageous wordplay.


Critics initially dismissed him as an apologist for the disgraced Nixon coterie. But he won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and for 32 years tenaciously attacked and defended foreign and domestic policies, and the foibles, of seven administrations.


Along the way, he incurred enmity and admiration, and made a lot of powerful people squirm.


Safire also wrote four novels, including Full Disclosure (Doubleday, 1977), a best-seller about succession issues after a president is blinded in an assassination attempt, and nonfiction that included The New Language of Politics (Random House, 1968), and Before the Fall (Doubleday, 1975), a memoir of his White House years.


And from 1979 until earlier this month, he wrote “On Language,” a New York Times Magazine column that explored written and oral trends, plumbed the origins and meanings of words and phrases, and drew a devoted following, including a stable of correspondents he called his Lexicographic Irregulars.


Widely read writer on language

The columns, many collected in books, made him an unofficial arbiter of usage and one of the most widely read writers on language. It also tapped into the lighter side of the dour-looking Safire: a Pickwickian quibbler who gleefully pounced on gaffes, inexactitudes, neologisms, misnomers, solecisms and perversely peccant puns, like “the president’s populism” and “the first lady’s momulism,” written during the Carter presidency.


There were columns on blogosphere blargon, tarnation-heck euphemisms, dastardly subjunctives and even Barack and Michelle Obama’s fist bumps. And there were Safire “rules for writers”: Remember to never split an infinitive. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. Avoid cliches like the plague. And don’t overuse exclamation marks!!


Behind the fun, readers said, was a talented linguist with an addiction to alliterative allusions. There was a consensus, too, that his Op-Ed essays, mostly written in Washington and syndicated in hundreds of newspapers, were the work of a sophisticated analyst with voluminous contacts and insights into the way things worked in Washington.


Safire called himself a pundit — the word, with its implication of self-appointed expertise, might have been coined for him — and his politics “libertarian conservative,” which he defined as individual freedom and minimal government. He denounced the Bush administration’s U.S.A. Patriot Act as an intrusion on civil liberties, for example, but supported the war in Iraq.


He was hardly the image of a button-down Times man: The shoes needed a shine, the gray hair a trim. Back in the days of suits, his jacket was rumpled, the shirt collar open, the tie askew. He was tall but bent — a man walking into the wind. He slouched and banged a keyboard, talked as fast as any newyawka and looked a bit gloomy, like a man with a toothache coming on.


His last Op-Ed column was “Never Retire.” He then became chairman of the Dana Foundation, which supports research in neuroscience, immunology and brain disorders. In 2005, he testified at a Senate hearing in favour of a law to shield reporters from prosecutors’ demands to disclose sources and other information. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. From 1995 to 2004, he was a member of the board that awards the Pulitzer Prizes.


William Safir was born on Dec. 17, 1929, in New York City, the youngest of three sons of Oliver C. and Ida Panish Safir. (The “e” was added to clarify pronunciation.) He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and attended Syracuse University, but quit after his second year in 1949 to take a job with Tex McCrary, a columnist for The New York Herald Tribune who hosted radio and television shows; the young legman interviewed Mae West and other celebrities.


In 1951, Safire was a correspondent for WNBC-TV in Europe and the Middle East, and jumped into politics in 1952 by organising an Eisenhower-for-President rally at Madison Square Garden. He was in the Army from 1952 to 1954, and for a time was a reporter for the Armed Forces Network in Europe. In Naples, Italy, he interviewed both Ingrid Bergman and Lucky Luciano within a few hours of each other.


In 1959, working in public relations, he was in Moscow to promote an American products exhibition and managed to steer Vice-President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev into the “kitchen debate” on capitalism versus communism. He took the photograph that became an icon of the encounter. Nixon was delighted, and hired Safire for his 1960 campaign for the presidency against John F. Kennedy.


Starting his own public relations firm in 1961, Safire worked in Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s 1964 presidential race and on John V. Lindsay’s 1965 campaign for mayor of New York. Safire also wrote his first book, The Relations Explosion (Macmillan, 1963).


In 1962, he married the former Helene Belmar Julius, a model, pianist and jewellery designer. The couple had two children, Mark and Annabel. His wife and children survive him, as does a granddaughter, Lily Safire.


In 1968, he sold his agency, became a special assistant to Nixon and joined a White House speechwriting team that included Patrick J. Buchanan and Raymond K. Price Jr. Safire wrote many of Nixon’s speeches on the economy and Vietnam, and in 1970 coined the “nattering nabobs” and “hysterical hypochondriacs” phrases for Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew. After Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of The Times, hired Safire, one critic said it was like setting a hawk loose among doves. As Watergate broke, Safire supported Nixon, but retreated somewhat after learning that he, like others in the White House, had been secretly taped.


Safire won his Pulitzer Prize for columns that accused President Jimmy Carter’s budget director, Bert Lance, of shady financial dealings. Lance resigned, but was acquitted in a trial. He then befriended his accuser.


Years later, Safire called Hillary Rodham Clinton a “congenital liar” in print. Clinton said she was offended only for her mother’s sake. But a White House aide said that Bill Clinton, “if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response on the bridge of Mr. Safire’s nose.”


Safire was delighted, especially with the proper use of the conditional. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service









Visitors hoping to peek at Australia’s exotic marine life usually head straight for the Great Barrier Reef. But conservationists say an equally remarkable, but lesser known, marine environment is under threat from the booming oil and gas exploration taking place among the reefs and atolls off Australia’s northwest coast.


A damaged oil well in the region has been spewing thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Timor Sea since Aug. 21, when a blowout forced the evacuation of all 69 workers on the platform. Emergency crews have been working to contain the spill, but officials say it could take three more weeks to plug the leak.


The platform is above the Montara oil field in the remote Kimberley region of Australia. The leaking well head is owned by Thailand’s national petroleum company, PTT Exploration and Production, one of many energy companies that have set up operations in western Australia to feed Asia’s growing appetite for oil and gas.


In the first half of this year, more than 50 wells were drilled in the tropical waters off western Australia, adding to hundreds of other recent projects. Last month, the government gave Chevron the green light to expand its exploration of the huge Gorgon gas field, a $40 billion project that was opposed by conservationists because of its potential environmental impact.


Economists credit the booming trade in petroleum and other mineral resources for helping Australia escape the brunt of the global economic downturn, but environmentalists say this prosperity comes at a price. They say the Montara oil spill is merely a sign of things to come unless greater protections are extended to vast stretches of tropical reefs off northwestern Australia.


“It’s a classic conflict between development and the ecological values of the region,” said John Carey, manager of the Kimberley Conservation Program with the Pew Environment Group. ``We need to get the balance right. But the balance at the moment is that less than 1 percent of this globally significant area is under any form of protection.”


The Thai oil company said it was still investigating what had caused the blowout. To stop the spill, the company has hired a specialist rig to drill 1.6 miles below the seabed and flood the area with heavy mud. But such highly specialised equipment is not easy to come by. It took three weeks to tow the rig from Singapore.


The company has declined to estimate how much oil has spilled into the sea, saying it is too dangerous to take accurate measurements from the damaged rig. The company and Australian maritime officials, who are helping to clean up the spill, say that the slick is around 25 miles wide and 85 miles long, but that the leakage appears to be slowing.


The federal environment minister, Peter Garrett, said this month that the government believed that 300 to 400 barrels of oil were leaking into the sea each day. That amounts to more than 450,000 gallons of oil, and unknown quantities of gas and condensate, since the blowout began. By that count, the Montara leak is relatively small. The Exxon Valdez, by comparison, dumped around 11 million gallons when it ran aground off the Alaskan coast in 1989. The oil slick has not reached any coastlines, thanks in part to mild weather conditions and efforts by the government. But conservationists worry that the spill could take a heavy toll on marine animals. © 2009 The New York Times News Service








At the moment, there is not much more to say to Pakistan than what external affairs minister S.M. Krishna conveyed to his counterpart S.M. Qureshi in New York on Sunday that — the level of conversation cannot progress to a higher level unless Pakistan shows that it is serious about acting against its citizens who plotted and executed the Mumbai blasts last year. Taking his cue from the national mood in this country, Mr Krishna "flagged" to his counterpart the need for Islamabad to go beyond these seven or eight key individuals to address the broader question of tackling forces and elements of the Pakistani state whose bidding is done by the terrorists raised especially to launch covert attacks against India. So it is not just a question of dealing with Hafiz Saeed, the terrorism ideologue. The JuD and LeT leader only symbolises a larger issue in India’s eyes. Reinforcing the sentiment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh observed from Pittsburgh that the only obstacle to better ties between the two countries was that Pakistan had not given up its "old attitude regarding the use of terror as an instrument of state policy". Dr Singh is not given to such bluntness normally. He may be seeking to put the ghost of Sharm el-Sheikh behind him, and he may also be speaking some home truths to vent his displeasure with the United States for the sanction given by its Senate last week to the tripling of non-military aid to Pakistan, although it is widely acknowledged that Islamabad harnesses such windfalls to bolster its military position against this country.


The forthright talk by Indian leaders was necessary. But it does not amount to delineating a new policy toward Pakistan. Typically, then, the Pakistani side has sought to react in a tit-for-tat fashion, with its foreign minister saying Islamabad too had issues to sort out with India (meaning the bogey of Balochistan, which has been cooked up of late). Pakistan’s foreign secretary Salman Bashir noted with guile that the two countries cannot afford to get stuck on one point. He was referring to the issue of Mumbai, and terrorism more widely, that India has been emphasising, overlooking mischievously that India is raising nothing less than matters of crucial security concern. New Delhi can’t wait for the next meeting of its officials with Pakistan to convey the same message unless the articulation is embedded in a specific policy matrix.


The signalling of a wider policy in relation to Pakistan should be global in its reach as the matter concerns nothing less than dealings with one of the most dangerous and irresponsible countries in the world. It also needs to cut across subject domains — such as economy, trade, Kashmir. The assumption to be made and conveyed to the world is that Pakistan foments terrorism in the region, no matter what it says, and that India and Afghanistan are both its victims. New Delhi has been too coy with Washington. It needs to clearly inform the United States that it would go its own way on Pakistan because America’s policy toward that country is wrong-headed — that in the name of stabilising Pakistan, it stabilises the Pakistan Army and its Inter-Services Intelligence, the very people who give security cover and institutional support to Mullah Omar and other top Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. India also needs to take into account that America’s much-touted AfPak policy is tottering, being undermined by its own authors. This gives New Delhi greater latitude in its dealings with the rulers in Islamabad.









Freedom of the press, and of media generally, is one of the more prized features of Indian democracy. But just as real political democracy remains lacking in true content as long as a large part of the population is effectively economically disenfranchised, so too true press freedom is restricted by socio-political and material forces.


The media scene is undergoing a revolution in terms of the proliferation of new forms of media and new providers, both Indian and foreign. This may seem to be an indication of much greater freedom and reduced ability of the state or other few entities to control or monopolise information. Nevertheless, there are clear limits to the apparent "freedom" of the media, and sometimes these limits can be even more restrictive than the earlier more explicit curbs placed by government.


Globalisation over the past decade has been associated with the spread and intensification of the commercial model of communication. Insofar as this has meant a reduction in state monopoly over information and its dissemination, it is a positive thing. But it carries the danger of replacing state control with control by oligopolistic private corporations. The presumption is that deregulation and market-orientation will bring greater freedom. But that need not always be the case.


First of all, media activities driven by the market treat readers and audiences as consumers, not as citizens. Since what is being purveyed is not an ordinary good, but the very substance of knowledge which makes for informed politics, social consciousness and the ability to change social, political and economic forces, this matters a great deal. Indeed, in modern democracies, media plays a central role in terms of the possibility of creating an informed citizenry and, thereby, determining democratic practice.


The decline in the felt obligation to serve non-commercial information interests, involving purely public interest or addressed to groups with less economic power, effectively marginalises the public sphere. On television, for example, issues of major political or social importance tend to be expressed in minuscule fragments or in such a frivolous manner that the content is often missed. This absence of knowledge — access to it only in truncated and potentially misleading form — undermines democracy. A public which is inadequately informed about the substance of arguments that affect its most important social policies has effectively lost the substance of citizenship rights.


Related to this is the generally conservative bent of the information and analyses that are consequently presented. The crucial difference between what is good for private business (especially large, multinational private business) and what is good for the quality of life of the population is ignored. This is not so much the product of an overt conspiracy as a more insidious system of shared values in which the journalists, presenters and editors are all part of a system that promotes generally conservative economic philosophies.


Further, the tone and content of media dissemination is increasingly not innocently determined, because of the dependence of media on advertising revenues. As the role of advertisers in influencing media content grows, so too the traditional notions of the separation of editorial and commercial interests tend to weaken. Advertisers want affluent audiences who are likely to be influenced in the choice of their consumption, so media content tends to cater to the more affluent groups in society.



Paradoxically, this still does not ensure consumer sovereignty. The content of most media dissemination is determined by owners, managers and editors, often in conjunction with advertisers. And this in turn is influenced by perceptions of what would be the most arresting image to hold the viewer’s attention or the reader’s interest, the least demanding and, therefore, most likely to be indulged of stories, and the most facile of sound-bytes and printed epigrams.


So the choices available to consumers of the various media are limited to those which are consciously provided by those who purvey this service, and viewers or readers cannot hope to go beyond this. Surveys among television-watching households in the US have found widespread dissatisfaction with the nature of the content of the programmes, the extent of gratuitous violence, the overkill of staged "reality" television, and the desire for alternative programming. But the basic pattern of programming has remained unchanged despite such knowledge. Indeed, the plethora of television channels now available often serves only to underline this ironic lack of real choice.


Add to this the sheer effect of particular forms of programming, restricted information spread as well as so much directed advertising on the consumption and lifestyle decisions of individuals and households, and the actual lack of freedom of the recipients of this process of cultural determinism becomes more obvious.


Much in the frightening manner predicted by Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World, what appears to be much more choice and freedom for individuals in different societies ends up being predetermined aspiration without even the knowledge that it is unfree.


Of course, the entire picture is not as completely dire as may appear from this account. Just as technological change at one level has made the possibilities of and pressures for commercialisation and concentration in the sector much stronger, so it has also created other possibilities of spreading information — chiefly through the Internet — which are cheaper, more open, more potentially questioning of the dominant paradigm, and thus more democratic.


Even if Internet access is greatly limited in the developing world, it still provides new opportunities for access to and dissemination of information, views and analyses which otherwise did not exist or were being increasingly squeezed out by the process of media concentration.










As we approach the global summit on climate change in December 2009 in Copenhagen, critical concerns are likely to emerge. Both the United Nations conference last week and the subsequent G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh left several issues somewhat ambiguous. While the United States spoke of reduction in its emissions, these remain insignificant. At the G-20 meet, leaders stated that they would "intensify efforts to reach an agreement at Copenhagen and undertake strong action to address the threats of climate change". This is mere rhetoric. The upcoming December summit at Copenhagen may also not address some of the challenges that are vital in tackling climate change.


Efforts to address climate change dates back to 1992 when the agreement on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into place. This was ratified as the Kyoto protocol, adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. However, the Kyoto protocol’s goals remain unfulfilled since the US did not ratify it. The Kyoto protocol placed greater emphasis on developed countries, leaving the developing countries out of the scenario.


The next step under the Bali Action Plan of 2007 was to look into what developed countries could provide by cutting their carbon emissions and demonstrate their ability to drive their economies with low-carbon options. However, as already indicated in President Barack Obama’s speech at the UN, the impact of the economic recession affects the manner in which developed countries will focus their efforts on the reduction of emissions and reliability on low-carbon options as it will impact the pace of industrialisation and cause the developed world to loose its competitive edge. Therefore, the expectation that the developed world will pledge to make deep cuts in carbon emissions at the forthcoming summit needs to be more clearly evaluated. The crux of the argument was that the developing countries need not be more responsible than the developed world in this regard. The debate borders around two dichotomous issues. First is the developed countries’ burden of historical responsibility and their contribution to cut Greenhouse gas emissions. Second is the argument by the developed countries that the issue of population contribution by the developing countries has left a legacy of successive generations who will continue contributing to the hazard of climate change.


The Asia-Pacific region remains critically locked into the issue of climate change, given the fact that the two fastest-growing economies of India and China are within this region. The forthcoming Copenhagen summit is likely to see a group of developing countries such as Brazil, China and India come together to form a front against the attempts of the developed countries to push for a legally-binding clause on carbon emissions.


While the defence of these economies remains that they are fast growing and need the energy resources to push forward their economic growth, the West is making huge demands by asking these countries to accept legally-binding emission cuts which they themselves have been unable to do.


While the option of a concerted effort by the developing world remains crucial, China has already signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on enhancing bilateral cooperation on climate change, energy and environment, with the US. This MoU significantly locks the US and China into a bilateral deal which may address issues relating to emissions but leave both India and Brazil out of the reckoning. Given that the US and China are the largest emitters, the possibility of what is emerging as a "G-2" is going to critically reshape the context of the Copenhagen summit.


Other regional players that will remain significant are Japan and Australia. Japan has already followed the Chinese lead and has agreed to cut emissions. Both these countries have also emphasised the willingness to push ahead plans for alternative renewable sources of energy. Australia is also showing serious intent in shaping the outcome of the Copenhagen summit.


In fact, Indonesia and other East Asian countries are also taking a step in the right direction. Smaller regional countries too can assist in helping cut emissions individually. The Asean-Australia Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) is likely to impact the way the region can devise its own approach to the issue of climate change.


The "global ETS" is of critical importance and will impact the shape of the forthcoming summit. What the ETS provides in substance is a trade facility where the richer countries that emit more carbon emissions can buy carbon credits from the poorer countries. While this helps to bring in foreign exchange for developing countries, the flip side is that by pushing the developing countries to cuts emissions, there is likely to be greater reduction in their use of fossil fuels which they are reliant upon. In many cases, like in India and China, this could impact the growth potential that has been pushed forward by industrialisation and the percolation effect of this to reach the lower economic strata could be affected in the long-term. So there is a need for greater willingness on the part of the Western countries to share technologies of cheaper fuel and energy with the developing world — this will reduce their dependency on fossil fuel and yet provide the necessary energy options to continue with their economic growth.


One of the approaches to addressing the issue of climate change is to increase the number of stakeholders. Within individual countries, the possibility of decentralising the issue by including both state and non-state actors pushes the agenda forward. The second approach beyond the state structure is to push forward the regional and global level contexts.


Western countries need to demonstrably prove their willingness to be larger stakeholders in impeding, if not altering, the course of climate change. But having a stake in the preservation of the existing conditions and in halting the course of climate change, the developing world too has to show that its use of traditional fuels would be reduced. Ultimately there is only one realisation that will be significant — that both the developed and developing countries need to preserve this earth for future generations. All arguments need to be tailored to ensure that we meet this key goal.


Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU
















It is heartening that the Union HRD Ministry wants to go in for a tough law that would seek to cancel registration of an institute that charges capitation fees. The word ‘capitation’ may have an innocuous meaning in the standard western dictionaries, but in the Indian higher educational context, `capitation fee’ has an extortionist connotation suggesting, in fact, something like a hefty bribe for admission, wrapped as fee. The committee on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education, headed by Prof Yashpal, recently indicated that some private professional institutes were charging up to Rs 40 lakh from a student as capitation fee. This despite a Supreme Court judgment six years ago which sought to clear the confusion caused by an earlier judgment by imposing a total ban on capitation fees.


That the pernicious practice of some private managements charging exorbitant capitation fees from aspirants in the name of development has been continuing unabated has much to do with the fact that influential people, including ministers in some states, have jumped on to the education bandwagon with the sole motive of making a fast buck. Recently, Tamil Nadu’s Directorate of Medical Education decided to recommend criminal proceedings against Sree Balaji Medical College, owned by Union Minister of State S Jagathrakshakan, after it failed to reply to the second show cause notice on the collection of capitation fees from MBBS aspirants. This followed a ‘sting’ operation by a newspaper in which officials of two leading medical colleges, including Sree Balaji Medical College, were caught on camera demanding Rs 20 lakh to Rs 40 lakh for an MBBS seat.


While Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal is a well-intentioned man, it is to be hoped that the legislation that he is proposing will not have loopholes which the unscrupulous can exploit. As the Yashpal committee recently indicated, the errant institutes have a free run as regulatory bodies have failed to check the illegal practice, partly due to reluctance to tackle the problem. Significantly, Mr Sibal has also indicated that if an institute promises something and delivers something else, that will amount to malpractice and the institute will face de-recognition. These intentions must be translated into action and the law, when enacted, must be enforced strictly without fear or favour. Capitation cannot be allowed to be charged if education has to be less iniquitous than it is today.








Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is not known for accepting defeat easily. What he said at Ludhiana the other day, therefore, came as a surprise. “The government”, he said, in a candid admission, “is helpless over the power shortage in the state”. The next day, back to his usual ways of politics, Mr Badal said he was ready to “face cuts of at least seven hours at my residence to share people’s plight”. His weaker moments prompted some Congress leaders to come out with a piece of ill-meant jibe advice to him: Please retire from politics as “that would be your best contribution to Punjab”.


The power crisis in Punjab is too serious an issue to be used for political point scoring. The Congress governments have as much contributed to the present power situation as those led by the Akali Dal. Both have indulged in competitive populism for short-term electoral gains. By giving free power to farmers and later to sections of the poor, the successive governments have not only bankrupted the Punjab State Electricity Board and depleted its own treasury, but also deprived the state of cheap Central and World Bank funds otherwise available for development works. It is doubtful whether free power has politically benefited any party.


If the Akalis have to appease farmers, the BJP has urban voters to look after. The BJP has forced the coalition government to absorb the recent power tariff hike imposed on industry and the domestic power consumer. Because of this as well as the recent condition attached by the 13th Finance Commission to the waiving of part of the Central loans to Punjab, the government has decided to review subsidies. Since the Finance Minister has been excluded from the review committee, the outcome may not be encouraging. By cutting political and bureaucratic extravagance and pruning subsidies reasonably, the government can raise resources as well as avail of Central funds to undertake power and other development projects.







It is common for gold prices to rise with the onset of the festive season in India. However, this year the rise has been steeper and this has not deterred people from buying more. Indian fondness for gold is well known. A bride is loaded with ornaments, which are intended to provide her financial security. But there is more to gold buying now than for its traditional use in weddings and festivities. With the introduction of gold futures and trading of gold funds on stock exchanges, many investors have succumbed to the lure of gold. Its prices are closely monitored and price gyrations are not as wild as those of stocks. Hence, the risk-averse prefer gold to stocks.


Punjabis have turned active gold traders, going by media reports of the daily trading figure of over Rs 1,200 crore, which is substantial in these days of slowdown. The recent upswing in the gold prices is attributed to many factors. Financial institutions and funds, it is reported, are switching to gold from equities, whose prices have doubled or tripled from their lows in March on hopes of global recovery. There is a risk of stock prices plunging after an almost non-stop bull run. Secondly, the US dollar is on the decline. A fall in the dollar usually leads to a gold price rise. The dollar hit almost a one-year low recently. With uncertainties gripping the currency markets, investors are shifting from currency to gold buying.


However, ordinary retail investors should think twice before buying gold at the current high prices. For one, the hyped-up demand for gold may not sustain beyond the festival season. For another, since global developments have a bearing on gold prices, it is difficult for ordinary investors to keep track of them. It is better to avoid trading as speculators often suffer the most when institutional investors change their priorities.
















I wrote an article on the Punjab Wheat Miracle in The Illustrated Weekly of India (May 11, 1969) at the request of Mr Kushwant Singh, then Editor of the Weekly. I then pointed out that the catalyst of the miracle was the new plant type sent by Norman Borlaug in 1963. This plant type had a semi-dwarf plant stature and was capable of utilising fertiliser and water very efficiently. When grown with good agronomic practices and soil fertility management, varieties like Lerma Rojo - 64A and Sonora 64 gave about 5 tonnes of wheat per hectare, in contrast to 1 to 2 tonnes per hectare of the earlier tall varieties.


The earlier varieties like C306 bred by Chowdhry Ramdan Singh had amber grains and excellent chapati making properties. Fortunately, Borlaug had also sent segregating populations from which wheat breeders at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, and Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, selected high-yielding amber grain and good culinary-quality varieties like Kalyan Sona and Sonalika. This resulted in enormous enthusiasm among the farmers of Punjab, Haryana and Western UP, and I described the role of farmers in the revolution as follows:


“Brimming with enthusiasm, hard-working, skilled and determined, the Punjab farmer has been the backbone of the revolution. Revolutions are usually associated with the young, but in this revolution age has been no obstacle to participation. Farmers, young and old, educated and uneducated, have easily taken to the new agronomy. It has been heart-warming to see young college graduates, retired officials, ex-Army men, illiterate peasants and small farmers queuing up to get the new seeds. At least in Punjab, the divorce between intellect and labour, which has been the bane of our agriculture, is vanishing.”


It was in 1961 that I got an invitation sent to Dr Borlaug for visiting India and sharing with us the semi-dwarf wheat material which he had developed in Mexico using the Norin 10 dwarfing gene from Japan. Borlaug visited India in March 1963 and we travelled all over Punjab, Haryana, Western UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh during March 1 to 24, 1963. Dr D S Athwal, then the Head of the Plant Breeding Department of PAU, Ludhiana, provided dynamic leadership in testing, selecting and spreading the new varieties. After watching the performance of the material sent by Borlaug in September 1963 at several locations in North India, I proposed the initiation of a National Demonstration Programme to get the views of farmers on the new varieties. This programme was started during rabi 1964. As a result of their enthusiasm, a small government programme 
became a mass movement.


I had prepared in 1963 a paper titled “Five Years of Dwarf Wheats”, describing what needs to be done between 1963 and 1968. This was later published by the IARI. Although predictions are risky in the biological world due to many factors beyond human control such as weather, the programme went as planned and Indira Gandhi released a stamp titled “The Wheat Revolution” in July 1968 to commemorate the quantum jump in production achieved. We were fortunate to have the total support and guidance of Bharat Ratna C Subramaniam, who was the Union Agriculture Minister during 1964-67.


An important feature of the wheat revolution is an increase in production through higher productivity. For example, the yield of wheat in Punjab went up from about one tonne per hectare to over four tones after the Green Revolution. The same happened in Haryana and Western UP. Also, in this region, which is the heartland of the Green Revolution, farmers now take one high-yielding variety of rice in addition to wheat. Sometimes a potato crop is also taken as a result of the availability of irrigation water. However, such intensive cropping has also led to the over-exploitation of the aquifer. This is why I pleaded with the Punjab farmers that they should work for an ever-green revolution which can result in higher productivity in perpetuity without associated ecological harm. I hope, Punjab, Haryana and the other important agricultural areas of our country will take to conservation farming and say goodbye to exploitative farming.


In 1966, India imported 18,000 tonnes of seeds of Lerma Roja 64-A and a few other varieties from Mexico with the help of Borlaug as part of a “purchase time” strategy, resulting in a quantum jump in wheat production from 12 million tonnes in 1965 to 17 million tonnes in 1968. Similar results were being obtained in rice, as a result of the introduction of the Dee-gee-woo gen dwarfing gene from China in tall varieties of indica rice at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Dr William Gaud of the US coined the term, “Green Revolution” in 1968 to denote productivity-led advances in production. For example, India produced 80 million tonnes of wheat from 26 million ha in 2009. If this production was to be achieved at the pre-Green Revolution yield level of 1 t/ha, 80 million hectares would have been needed. This is why the Green Revolution is also referred to land or forest saving agriculture.


Though a plant breeder, Borlaug always emphasised that for the plant to reveal its full genetic potential for yield, appropriate agronomic practices were needed. “Breeding” for high yield, he used to stress, must be accompanied by “feeding” for high yield.


“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world. We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.” These were the sentiments expressed by the Nobel Committee while presenting the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize to Norman Borlaug. What led Borlaug to make such a significant contribution to fighting hunger? The secret of his success is reflected in his last spoken words on the night of Saturday, September 12, 2009. Earlier in the day, a scientist had shown him a nitrogen tracer developed for measuring soil fertility. His last words were “take the tracer to the farmer”. This life-long dedication to taking scientific innovations to farmers without delay sets Borlaug apart from most other farm scientists carrying out equally important research.


On the occasion of his receiving the Congressional Gold Medal from the US Congress on July 17, 2007, Borlaug said:


“The Green Revolution was a great historic success. In 1960, perhaps 60 per cent of the world’s people felt hunger during some portion of the year. By the year 2000, the proportion of hungry in the world had dropped to 14 per cent of the total population. Still, this figure translates to 850 million men, women and children who lack sufficient calories and protein to grow strong and healthy bodies. Thus, despite the successes of the Green Revolution, the battle to ensure food security for hundreds of millions of poor people is far from won”.


He urged the US Congress “to launch a new version of the Marshall Plan, this time not to rescue a war-torn Europe, but to help the nearly one billion, mostly rural poor, still trapped in hunger and misery”. This then is the unfinished task bequeathed by Borlaug to scientists and political leaders worldwide.


The writer is Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and Chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai.








True stories of love and affection are not rare but those of labour of love are rare, indeed.


Jhumroo, a comely girl, is the joy of her parents. Fresh as a daisy, she started going to school when she was four years old. Watching her going to school and returning home was a routine that delighted her parents.


But this schoolgoing started getting disrupted. Jhumroo became pale and weak. Disturbed parents went from one specialist to another to get their child restored to health. But they were devastated when they learnt that the child was suffering from blood cancer. That was their most painful moment. Resolving to give Jhumroo the best possible treatment available they took her abroad, consulted well-known specialists but returned disappointed.


Thomas Hardy’s “theory of chance” played its hand then.


Coming home to enquire about Jhumroo’s health, a friend advised the parents to show her to Dr Vandana.


Hailed as a doctor with Midas’ touch, an angelic person who kindled hope and removed fear of the ailment, Vandana was known not just for her success in treatment but also for affection and care. While medicine cured, her affection dimmed the pain. No wonder Jhumroo bore the treatment well and continued her studies.


The doctor and the parents knew all, but resolved to persevere with the treatment. Mother was ready to leave her job and invest all her time in Jhumroo’s care. The father turned down an offer of a lucrative assignment abroad to stay with his daughter.


The treatment was a painful ordeal. But after a long wait the miracle started to happen. Seeing Jhumroo recover, the doctor’s joy and the parent’s happiness was limitless. Tears of joy washed the pain they all suffered. Love’s labour was not lost.


Herself a doctor now, Jhumroo, has resolved to follow her role model Dr Vandana, to pursue specialisation in blood cancer cure.


Dr Vandana’s story does not end here. While she was treating Jhumroo, a parallel saga of treatment of a young man was also going on. A bright student with engaging features put all his trust in the doctor, who in turn, spared no effort in his treatment. The doctor succeeded this time again. Regaining his health and his looks, Ravi stirred something in the doctor’s heart. Mutual attraction blossomed into a romance which culminated in their marriage. A quiet marriage was their way of tying the knot.


The couple has since moved abroad. Acutely conscious of Ravi’s genetic profile, they have decided not to go in for a child of their own. They have adopted a cute little girl who is their delight.


Union of Vandana and Ravi is their destiny and their bliss. It has a ring of Churchillian saying,


“We married and lived happily ever afterwards”.








Six months after proclaiming a new commitment to the war in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama is under growing pressure to make what would amount to a U-turn in US policy and scale back America’s commitment to a conflict that many experts – and a majority of the public – now fear may be unwinnable.


The debate, which divides Mr Obama’s most senior advisers, was thrown into stark relief by the leaked report of General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, warning that the war might be lost within a year without a further boost in troop strength and a major change in strategy to combat the spreading Taliban insurgency.


General McChrystal’s bleak assessment coupled with Washington’s frustration with the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and the fraud-ridden election over which he presided, has reignited a rift between Vice-President Joseph Biden and Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, over how the war should be waged. It has also left Mr Obama facing a fateful choice: whether to go along with his generals and send yet more troops, or stand current policy on its head.


Spoken or unspoken, behind the debate lurks the shade of Vietnam. It emerged that The Washington Post, the first to report General McChrystal’s devastating 66-page memorandum, agreed to delay publication by 24 hours, omitting elements relating to future tactics that the Pentagon and White House said might endanger American troops on the front lines in Afghanistan.


Bob Woodward, the paper’s investigative reporter, who broke the story, compares the document to the secret history of the Vietnam war that caused a sensation when it was obtained in 1971 by The New York Times. The so-called Pentagon Papers “came out eight years too late,” Mr Woodward says.


The stakes are now huge – so huge that the President barely mentioned Afghanistan in his address to the United Nations General Assembly. If Washington is perceived as opposing a further troop build-up, or leaning towards a reduction, then other countries in the coalition, where the eight-year-long war is even more unpopular than here, will rush for the exits.


Hitherto, the issue of the war in Afghanistan has seemed straightforward. In contrast to Iraq, Afghanistan has been the “good war” – a war of necessity, fought to make sure that a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, directed from Afghanistan by an al-Qa’ida sheltered by the Taliban, would never occur again.


Underlining this reinvigorated commitment, Mr Obama authorised an increase in US strength in Afghanistan to 68,000 by the end of the year, and named General McChrystal, previously in charge of US special forces, as his new commander on the ground. But the latter’s recommendation of a boost of 30,000 to 40,000 confronts this president with a dilemma akin to that facing his predecessor over Iraq three years ago: to surge or not to surge? And views within the administration differ sharply.


Essentially the choice, in strategic jargon, is between counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. The latter, implying a broad war against the Taliban to prevent it returning to power, seems to be what General McChrystal has in mind, and has long been backed by Mrs Clinton. Only this week, she had scathing words for those who argued that al-Qa’ida was no longer a factor in Afghanistan. “If Afghanistan is taken over again by the Taliban, I can’t tell you how fast al-Qa’ida would be back.”


The Vice-President, on the other hand, wants a narrower focus on al-Qa’ida itself, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where security forces have scored some important recent successes against the terrorist organisation and its Taliban allies. Under this approach, the US would require fewer forces in the field.


Instead of trying to protect the general population from the Taliban and operating a “hearts and minds” policy to win over civilian support, it would concentrate on targeted strikes on al-Qa’ida operatives, relying on umnanned drones, missile attacks and the special forces where General McChrystal is an expert. Simultaneously the training of Afghan government forces would be speeded up.


A third faction advocates a compromise, either scaling back the requested troop increase, or even starting to reverse it, while at the same time ensuring that the country does not collapse into chaos.


The White House and Pentagon are now studying the report, and it will be “weeks” before a decision is made, administration officials say.


But Mr Obama, once so trenchant on the subject, is now hedging his bets. All options are on the table, he indicated during his blitz of the Sunday talk shows last weekend. “The first question is, are we doing the right thing?” he told CNN.


As it is, public support for the conflict is dropping sharply, too. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll yesterday, 59 per cent of those surveyed were now “less confident” that the US could achieve a successful end to the war. More than half opposed an increase in American forces, while a third wanted an immediate pullout.


This growing pessimism is visible on Capitol Hill, too. Earlier this month, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, warned that neither Capitol Hill nor ordinary voters are in the mood for sending more soldiers to a war that has already taken almost 900 American lives – and 51 in August alone. Then Michigan’s Carl Levin, chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, declared that the US should send no more troops before a “surge” in Afghan security forces. But as even Pentagon officials concede, training Afghan forces up to the required standard of competence – not to mention loyalty – will be even more difficult than it was in Iraq.


Complicating matters further, Congressional leadersare now demanding a personal accounting from General McChrystal on how the war is going. For the moment Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, has resisted the pressure, insisting the commander will only appear on Capitol Hill when a new policy has been decided. But if US casualties continue to grow, he may have little choice in the matter. In the meantime, Mr Obama is increasingly in a corner.


As Republicans constantly remind him, for the US to wind down its commitment would send a message of weakness and inconsistency to friends and foes alike. But to press on with a long, inconclusive war in a distant corner of Asia carries well-known and equal perils.


Once again, events are bearing out the famous aphorism of Mark Twain, that “while history doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes”.

 By arrangement with The Independent








After facing an environmental threat from the two thermal plants, the Bathinda area will have to cope with the adverse effects of the proposed oil refinery being set up by HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd. The refinery may start by 2011. The two thermal plants, to be operational in two-three years, will use 77,585 tonnes of coal daily.


As refineries need large volumes of water for processing steam and cooling, it is not known whether the proposed refinery will tap groundwater or use water from the Bathinda canal.


The refinery will emit gases like carbon dioxide, carbon mono-oxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which will have to controlled to bring the emissions within the prescribed limits.


The refining process releases numerous chemicals into the atmosphere resulting in an “odour” problem, if not 


The liquid effluents generated by the refinery will also have to be controlled and managed to obtain “zero outflow” as there is no natural stream flowing in the area to receive the treated effluent.


The risk of industrial accidents such as fire and explosions and also industrial noise may affect the health of the people of the surrounding area.


The Bathinda area is already affected by a large number of cancer deaths, which last year alone were counted to be 321.


Waste water produced by the refinery processes may contain ammonia and other heavy metals present in the crude oil being refined and is required to be treated at the plant site.


The treated effluent is mixed with cooling water and discharged into a natural stream or is “recycled” for reuse. Efficient rainwater harvesting will be needed to control water run-off.


A hydrogen peroxide treatment may have to be given during the effluent treatment process. The traditionally used ferrous treatment normally results in a large volume of “chemical sludge”, which is hard to handle. With the use of the hydrogen peroxide treatment, the formation of sludge is eliminated.


Most of the solid wastes are recycled either on or off the site and part of the sludge may get disposed of in landfills.


The contamination of soils from the refinery processes is generally a less significant problem compared to the contamination of air and water.


An emergency venting may be acceptable under specific conditions where the flaring of the gas stream is not possible on the basis of an accurate risk analysis and integrity of the system needs to be protected.


The justification for not using a gas flaring system should be fully documented before an energy gas venting is considered. The flaring network should be carefully designed and the maximum volume of gas ‘flared’ during the various events must be recorded. A continuous improvement of the “flaring system” through implementation of the best practices and new technologies should be demonstrated.


In conclusion it may be stated that the refineries are considered to be a major source of hazardous pollutants such as benzene, toluene and ethyl benzene and some of these chemicals are suspected to cause cancer.


These may also aggravate certain respiratory conditions such as childhood asthma. So they are a cause of worry for the residents of the surrounding areas. The government needs to take steps to ensure that adequate health and safety precautions are built into the project.







It is now four months since Law Minister Veerappa Moily announced with much fanfare his plans to reform the legal system in India during his five-year tenure.


But so far nothing has moved, notwithstanding all the right noises the minister keeps making from time to time to streamline the judiciary and speed up the system of justice delivery.


Instead, his ministry has been making news for all the wrong reasons, the latest being the controversy over the proposed elevation of Karnataka High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran to the Supreme Court.


And now that National Scheduled Castes Commission Chairman Buta Singh has also jumped into the imbroglio, accusing the media of targeting Justice Dinakaran because he is a Dalit, Moily has started blaming jurist Fali Nariman and his four associates for releasing to the media their letters to the President and the Prime Minister, questioning Dinakaran’s integrity, which the media played up.


Congress leader accused of selling ticket


With the rush of ticket seekers, the AICC headquarters was a hub of excitement last week. It saw some real action, courtesy an angry woman ticket seeker from Maharshtra. Not seeing her name in the list, she chased a party leader from her state, accusing him of having “sold off” the ticket.


Looking for cover, the leader ran and briefly hid in the room of an AICC office-bearer. After a while hoping that the woman might have left, he stepped out, but to his surprise the lady was waiting and literally got him this time. The poor fellow had a hard time, physically shaking her off and sprinting to the safety of his car.


Unhealthy discourse from Health Minister


Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was so excited about the progress his ministry made on the 100-day agenda that he called a press conference the other day to share his successes.


In attendance were almost all joint secretaries of the ministry who sat religiously throughout the unusually long press conference, coming to the minister’s rescue occasionally when Azad fumbled or stuttered.


As his stretched discourse crossed all time limits, restive journalists began interrupting and shooting questions.


But Azad, as he must have intended, clearly deflected major questions on crucial issues, including the progress on NRHM, which remains lax as ever.


Having taken up all the available time, the Health Minister walked away from the conference saying: “Next time” to the numerous queries. Now that’s some healthy trend!


Contrbuted by R Sedhuraman, Vibha Sharma and Aditi Tandon







Karl Marx was wrong. Religion is not the opium of the masses or a collective exercise in wishful thinking that good will triumph over evil if the gods are propitiated. In India, religion is the celebration of the masses.

"Welcome to Dussehra and Id," says a poster in Bangalore. And it's not just in urban India but in the rural heartland that a religious festival of one community is celebrated by people of other faiths.

A religious festival in India is an experience in bonding together people of different faiths. The music, song and dance of the Ramleela has for centuries attracted crowds of all denominations. Even the performing artistes need not belong to the same faith.

The late B R Chopra was just continuing a time-honoured tradition when he commissioned Dr Rahi Mazoom Raza to pen the script for his mega TV serial Mahabharat and chose the actor Feroz to play the key role of Arjun. That Mahabharat enjoyed a staggering TRP of 86% clearly indicates that it was watched by millions of Indian viewers from all communities.

In Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated not just by Hindus but by people of all faiths who throng the pandals which spring up on every other street, with the artisans who make the images striking a topical note by throwing in props from movies which have caught the popular imagination in that particular year like the Jurassic Park dinosaurs in 1993 or the Titanic ship in 1997.

It's not just a religious occasion but a fascinating mix of folk and street art and theatre. The puja season sees a burst of creativity as literary magazines go into print with their latest collection of fiction.

That Navaratri is celebrated elsewhere in the country at this time of the year only enhances the festival mood as India takes a welcome break from its daily routine. And with Diwali and Christmas to follow, the mood can only get more festive!







Instead of wasting effort and throwing more money into the state-owned Air India, the government would do well to privatise the airline. It might not get much for the overstaffed, loss-making and financially stretched carrier, but the airline would at least have a fighting chance under a private management.

Global aviation still remains a tightly controlled business, subject to myriad foreign investment restrictions and complicated rules about who can fly where, through bilateral agreements. Most countries have, however, got over their fixation of owning an airline or a national flag carrier.

The world's big airlines are now publicly listed companies with widely dispersed shareholding. India, too, needs to move in that direction as, with the proliferation of private carriers, a government-owned airline has ceased to be a strategic imperative.

The intense competition among India's airlines has also precluded the need for a large state-owned player to prevent private sector collusion and profiteering. Most importantly, there are no obvious solutions for Air India within the ambit of state ownership.

The mess at Air India is largely due to political interference, policy inaction and patronage of vested interests, which have prevented the airline from being run on commercial considerations. Putting an end to this requires strong political will.

Manpower rationalisation, for instance, is the most pressing need for the airline, but it is unlikely that the government would have the courage to find ways to pare airline's staff to about half its current strength, nearly 32,000.

The best solution in the current context is for the government to not throw good money after bad, rather extricate itself completely from the mess. It is also important that the resources locked up in the company are put to optimal use, rather than be subjected to perpetual mismanagement.

Despite the accumulated losses, the airline has value and the private sector owner should be able to put it back on track. Even if the government does not get much by way of sale consideration, the thousands of crores of cash infusion in the airline it would avoid would be a good gain. The government's focus should be on instituting a strong regulatory body that would keep the skies open and competitive.









Political support for cross-border commercial deals is not just a fact of life worldwide, but also a decisive determinant of success in many cases.

The Indian government, too, has pitched in to lend its quiet support for business ventures in the past — Laxmi Mittal's acquisition of Arcelor had involved some lobbying by the Indian government, to pre-empt Arcelor from mobilising political support against the takeover bid.

However, when Dr Manmohan Singh came out openly in support of India's largest telecom player Bharti's ongoing bid to acquire a 49% stake in South Africa's MTN, that marked the first time an Indian prime minister has stuck his neck out to back a single company's venture abroad.

This is welcome. In the past, the preferred stance of the Indian politician had been that he would not dip his hands in the unclean waters of commerce.

Such disdain had two different kinds of lineage:one, the superior and predatory position that the ruler occupied, in traditional caste culture, over the trader; two, the modern, socialistic scepticism over the politician's ability to champion the interest of the masses over the interests of the class of privilege.

In the contemporary era of globalisation, both caste culture and socialistic prejudice have become irrelevant. Trade and industry are no longer base activities; rather, they are now creators of new wealth, opportunity and societal dynamism.

Traders and industrialists, in short, are no longer inferior species that the ruler could associate with in all decency only when extracting tribute. Further, in the logic of reform and liberalisation, economic policy should not be a matter of patronage.

With the link of patronage broken, there should be no stigma attached to a political leader backing a commercial project. With Dr Singh's impeccable credentials, no one would attribute anything other than the collective good in the prime minister's backing of this particular cross-border venture.

May this be the beginning of a sustained trend. However, it is important to guard against principled support for an Indian company facing potential discrimination at the hands of a foreign government being used as a precedent for subsequent degeneration into crony capitalism. We hope Dr Singh, in his wisdom, would lay down the ground rules for this as well.







Sharad Pawar's public talk about his retirement plan may have been prompted more by compulsions to set the atmospherics for the poll campaign. Yet, the politics of his eventual departure has been weighing heavily on AICC managers while deciding to continue with the Congress-NCP pact.

Though there has been agreement among senior Congress leaders that the party could gamble with a solo run given the rumblings on the BJP-Shiv Sena front and Raj Thackeray's growing damage potential for the opposition, they still strategically opted for the alliance. Grand old party leaders feel that having worked under the Sonia-led Congress for past 10 years, Pawar is now struggling to justify the NCP's 'anti-foreign origin plank'.

The AICC also feels that with the Maratha leader fast ageing, many of his evidently restless senior colleagues may have to make a decision soon whether they would like to work under the future leadership of Rahul Gandhi or Supriya Sule. So, the final opinion was that breaking off the alliance at this juncture would help Pawar project a "grievance plank" for a party that has long lost its founding plank.


It is no secret that the Congress and NCP are sparing no effort to break the so-called third front (RLDF) in the Maharashtra polls. The former tasted blood first when RPI(Gavai) jumped out of the RLDF led by Ramdas Athavale group of RPI.

As the Gavai faction returned to the Congress-NCP front, there is a buzz in political circles as to what prompted the fence-hopping. Insiders say RPI(G) founding leader R S Gavai is set to complete his term as the governor of Kerala in a couple of months.

Murmurs have it that the elder Gavai, once a Dalit leader of some eminence, is by now so used to the comforts of Raj Bhavan that he would like to get another term in some other state capital. The Congress is apparently keeping him guessing after getting him to change sides in the middle of the campaign. Hints are that Gavai may just be the start of desertions from the RLDF.


GUESS who landed up recently at the Vatican to seek the blessings of the Pope? Agatha Sangma, minister of state for rural development and daughter of former Speaker P A Sangma, that's who. Along with her parents, the youngest minister in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet met the Pope on September 16.

Apart from seeking blessings for herself and her family, Third Eye learns that Agatha also conveyed the greetings of PM Manmohan Singh. The Pope apparently was charmed by the young lady's political standing: "It is a remarkable achievement to be a minister at this age. God bless you," was what the Pope said as he blessed the 28-year-old Agatha! Welcome to the wonders of Indian democracy, your holiness!



Our netas are prickly folk, it seems, when it comes to being treated 'cattle class'. Take the case of one of the young guns, a minister of state, who didn't quite take kindly to security personnel asking him not make an entry into Rail Bhawan through the exit gate last week!

It was rather ugly, as the minister threw his weight around after the staff tried to stop him. The bullying worked as the young chap bulldozed in through the wrong gate. Presumably, he hasn't quite got the hang of what the word 'exit' signifies. For, there's really only one exit the politicians care about....








With the lowering of tariffs across the globe, non-tariff barriers (NTBs) are increasingly being used by developed countries to restrict the inflow of goods. Sometimes NTBs are meant to address legitimate concerns of human, plant and animal health and safety, environmental concerns, or target unfair trade practices such as dumping and subsidies.

However, often these measures are disguised attempts to shield the domestic industries from competition. This has negated possible gains that developing countries could have extracted through lower tariffs and unless NTBs are tackled, even zero tariffs will not give market access.

Taking advantage of the flexibilities in the WTO rules, NTBs have proliferated, especially those concerning standards, labelling and testing/ certification/ licensing requirements. Many NTBs are especially targeted on products where the developing countries have a comparative advantage — food products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles, leather, engineering products, etc.

Studies have corroborated that a significant proportion of Indian exports are affected by such NTBs. There are moves in some developed countries to bring in import restrictions on non-trade issues such as animal welfare, labour norms and climate issues.

The NTBs often serve to address the irrationally low risk perception level (much lower than prescribed by corresponding international standard), and which is often based on the testing limits of instruments.

Sometimes an importing country even insists on a specific method for testing with the only manufacturer of equipment being located in that country. On certain products different countries seek different testing requirement — on Indian mangoes, US insists for irradiation requirement while Japan seeks VHT requirement.

Production systems of industries need continuous adaptation as standards imposed on imports are made progressively stricter. The NTB requirements increase the transaction cost and this may be sufficient to put the small exporters out of business. Repeated seizures/ destructions of exported goods also hurt the country's image.

The flexibilities in WTO agreements make it difficult to discipline such NTBs. Still there are mechanisms under the current dispensation to deal with NTBs bilaterally and multilaterally. But the government has been unable to effectively use this avenue. Why?

The problem of NTBs is especially compounded because of dearth of data and specific information on country-specific NTBs and their impact on trade, industry and consumers. Although, the details of all notified regulations by WTO members have been now electronically tabulated by the government, the primary data on specific problems faced in respect of a NTB can only come from the industry and trade.

While the Indian industry is quick to highlight the tariff barriers on exports and/ or aggressively defend the import tariff on the Indian border, the response to NTBs is lukewarm.

The enlightened few definitely raise the NTB issue but are not very forthcoming when it comes to providing specific transaction details that can arm the government to fight the NTBs bilaterally or in the multilateral forum of WTO, viz., the SPS/ TBT Committee (under WTO rules, only the government can take the issues on behalf of industry), and in WTO's Dispute Settlement Forum, if other efforts fail.

The Indian industry is also unable to provide scientific evidence against certain irrational requirements concerning the standards and testing procedures, although this could yield positive results.

For bona fide standards and testing requirements, the only option is to upgrade the systems to comply with the requirements. If the specific difficulties due to technological or economic limitations are brought to the notice of the government, it could, where possible, design schemes to assist in required upgradation, or seek capacity building support from the importing country, especially developed countries (permitted under WTO rules).


A specific dispensation could be sought where possible. Another place where the industry and trade intervention is critical is at the stage of framing of standards by international bodies such as Codex, ISO, IEC, etc., so that the resultant international standards duly reflect the concerns of developing countries, permitting the government to later insist on use of such standards.

The government is trying to negotiate a horizontal mechanism to deal with all sorts of NTBs as part of NAMA negotiations at the WTO. It is also trying to create a framework for dealing with possible NTBs through bilateral SPS/ TBT agreements under FTAs, especially focussing on the use of international standards, reliance on Indian test results, including self-certification by suppliers, appeal mechanism for rejected consignments, prescribe timelines to resolve the SPS/ TBT issues, etc.

However, here again, unless the industry and trade take the pain to apprise the government of the range of their problems and participate actively in the negotiations, the effort of government may fall short.

Further, the reliance on private standards by retail chains in the EU, US, etc., that lack transparency and rational basis, are increasingly determining the market access. The industry needs to point at the specific trade concerns arising from such standards so that the government can appropriately raise the issues in the SPS/ TBT committee.

Currently, except for food products, India has few mandatory standards. To deal with our trading partners on an equal footing and force them to concede bilateral concessions, we need to create our own mandatory standards and testing requirements. This will also be in consumer interest.

However, the biggest barrier in this direction is that according to WTO's National Treatment principle such requirements would also apply to domestic production and unless the Indian industry exhibits competency to comply with these requirements, the government may be reluctant to promulgate them.

The industry on its own volition should come to the government with a roadmap for sequencing in mandatory
standards in areas of its strength.

To deal with NTBs comprehensively through WTO rules, we will possibly need a NTB round to succeed the Doha Round, as and when it is concluded. However, till such time, the industry needs to work in tandem with the government to tackle the NTBs under the current dispensation. A strong technical cell housed in the industry associations could help in this endeavour.

(The author is a civil servant. Views are personal.)








In the Tibetan Book of the Dead there's a vivid description of a judgement scene presided over by a Yamaraj-like figure, the flaming Lord of Death. This is followed by a now familiar reminder: Apart from one's own hallucination, in reality there are no such things existing outside oneself like Lord of Death, or god, or demon.

Act so as to recognise this because judgement is carried out by the various sides of one's own nature; which is to say judgement proceeds by the operation of natural tendencies within oneself. (In different religions the same thing is reflected in the choice of the presiding judge — always an example of divinity incarnate. A God-made man or manmade god. Christ, Ahura Mazda, Osiris, etc.)

The book also makes it clear that such judgement is not immediate on the soul's arrival in the post-mortem world but follows a period in which various other fears and longings are experienced.

It gives detailed descriptions of gods and demons which might visit the soul at this time but adds: "Fear not; be not terrified; be not awed. Rather, recognise them to be the embodiment of your own intellect."

The entire work is an artefact of Tibetan Buddhism which is, basically, Buddhism — one of the few religions regarded as atheistic inasmuch that no overarching godhead presides over all creation.

So far, so good and on the face of it, the Book of the Dead which came to life more than 1,300 years after the Buddha’s death, seems to make much practical sense since it rules out the absolute existence of supernatural entities — good or bad — and ascribes psychological reasons for their manifestation.

However, it deadens over the fact that the writer(s) had absolutely zilch firsthand experience of what they were talking about — a fact unfortunately glossed over by our admiration of its insights into the workings of human mentality.

The Buddha, on the other hand, learned what he did by growing up for an extended period of time living voluntarily in the school of hard knocks on the wrong side of the palace tracks and almost starving to death in the process.

His knowledge therefore bears the imprint of real experiences. He said, among other things, that there is no intermediary between mankind and the divine, that distant gods are subject to karma themselves and, most importantly, that teachings should not be borne out of second-hand hallucination and illusions of importance, ego or death.








Whenever there is a financial crisis, our first reaction is to criticise the existing set-up, followed by building in more safeguards/controls and finally, entrusting the responsibility to a regulator to supervise the whole process.

Interestingly, the current G-20 meet is no different, wherein an idea came up that an international agency like IMF be entrusted with the task of policy watchdog. The thought is that IMF secretariat will assist the G-20 in overseeing the economic policy frameworks in different countries.

IMF would identify signs of potential crisis in future and raise alarm bells for the necessary action to be taken to avoid any major financial turmoil.

Therefore, a question arises whether it is desirable and also whether it is feasible keeping in view the diverse politico-socio-economic objectives that different constituents of the grouping seek to achieve.

An independent global policy watchdog prima facie appears to be a good idea. For, in many cases, the national regulators/central banks had literally ignored the signs of economic crisis brewing up in their economies or were not vocal enough to have their say.

Also, it is felt that if the regulators had taken timely action, the crisis might not have been as severe as it has been. Once the economies are back on their growth trajectory, regulators and the policymakers tend to become more liberal mainly to avoid the criticism of being conservative road -blocks.

Many a times, the sheer pressure of the competing economies forces regulators and financial institutions to willingly or otherwise allow the market forces to prevail, thereby leaving leg room for possible over-leveraging without adequate real assets backing.

Even though ideologically it appears to be a sound policy, in practice, it is not easier to achieve. This is evident even from the very composition of the G20. Also, there are questions to be addressed about the developed countries policy framework, superfluous consumption etc.

At the other end of the scale are a few developing nations, which albeit a few challenges, continue to be optimistic about their continuous growth and are now being applauded for their conservative policies, strong financial fundamentals and good savings right up to the home unit.

Therefore, there are diverse interests to be protected and promoted even within the G-20 group itself. Further, whether G-20 should decide on a matter which could have far-reaching implications for the entire economic world is debatable too.

Countries across the globe are in different stages of evolution in the world economic order, where many a times the politico-social issues override the sound economic principles and merely having a watchdog may not yield desired results.

The current economic disaster is a combination of the uncontrolled human greed and bad economic policy. Ironically, the human greed is also the main reason for the economic growth over centuries and will continue to exist and fuel growth. Therefore, what is required is sound economic policy and tough regulators who can tame excessive greed.

To achieve this objective, whether such regulator/s should be at national level or an independent global agency is surely an interesting debate.

(The author is Executive Director, KPMG.)









The US financial meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent global recession from which the world is just beginning to emerge, have given the IMF not only a fresh lease of life but enhanced its stature and role in global financial and economic governance. One should recall that in the period immediately prior to Lehmans collapse, the IMF had been shedding staff and selling part of its gold reserves to stay financially viable. The crisis has changed all that.

The IMF has seen a trebling of its reserves to $750 billion, with pledges from successive G-20 Summits and its programs, expanding to a number of East European, Baltic and Latin American countries. It has also launched its emergency facility, which is being used to extend large- scale financial support to countries faced with severe external shock in the shortest time possible and with minimal conditionalities.

This has enabled the Fund to come to the rescue of beleaguered economies who would otherwise have to take recourse to private capital flows, access to which is often uncertain and extremely costly during a crisis.

At the recent Pittsburgh G-20 Summit, the IMF has been called upon to undertake global macroeconomic surveillance with the objective of preventing the emergence of large macro-imbalances and unsustainable asset bubbles. The IMF has, in the past, performed this function in the case of its emerging and developing-economy members through its annual Article IV consultations.

In case of countries seeking IMFs facility during periods of balance of payments stress, such monitoring and surveillance combined with technical advice has been undertaken more intensively for the duration of the programme.

What appears to be different on this occasion is that the G-20 is demanding that even advanced economies should submit to the Funds surveillance and technical advice. This is a crucial and much-needed reform for rebuilding IMFs credibility and trust, especially amongst its Asian membership.

IMF must be seen to be capable of pursuing its role of global surveillance and technical intervention without any discrimination and in an even-handed manner towards its entire membership.

Any perception that the Fund remains constrained in its interaction with G-8 central banks and finance ministries will render it virtually ineffective and completely erode its credibility with the rest of its membership and specially with the large emerging economies.

Let us hope that a more mature US administration that has drawn the relevant lessons from the recent crises will allow an arms length relationship to emerge between US Treasury and the IMF management. This is important in ensuring that the Fund is seen as a neutral and empowered arbiter of global macroeconomic imbalances and not biased in favour of any one or a small group of countries.

This neutrality will be further strengthened when, following the declaration from successive G-20 Summits, a non-European is finally selected to head the IMF.

Hopefully, this will be an Asian as that will be seen as another important sign of the gravity of economic activity having shifted irretrievably from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific region. Without these changes and reforms, the IMF will certainly not be capable of rising up to the demands placed on it by the G-20 which has unambiguously emerged as the new centre of global economic governance.

(The author is Director, ICRIER.)








The task of monitoring whether nations are changing their economic policies to promote long-term growth is being assigned to the IMF, as reported from the recently concluded Pittsburg summit of the G-20.

This indicates two major developments: (a) Emerging economies like India, Brazil and South Africa are finally being recognised as critical players in the global economy. It is reported that G-8 will be replaced by G-20 as the major instrument of world economic policy making. (b) The recent global economic melt-down triggered by the near collapse of the US financial markets has established that the developed economies need as much policy guidance as the developing economies.

Whereas, the announcement has been made, there is still considerable scepticism around the table whether the transition from economic feudal system will be bloodless and without resistance. We have seen in the past the way IMF forced developing countries in distress to cut tariffs, open borders and privatise in order to qualify for adjustment loans.

There has always been a lingering suspicion that the agenda of the IMF and other multilaterals was set by the developed countries to safeguard their interests. Along the way, to an extent, these suspicions seem to have been confirmed. One just has to listen to what Joseph Stiglitz has been saying.


Now, the same organisation is being asked to monitor whether the developed nations are changing their economic policies to promote long-term growth and examine financial conditions required for nations to start withdrawing fiscal and monetary stimulus programs.

Even though no single country has the power or authority to lead the global response to the financial crisis this time round, as the US did after the Asian financial meltdown towards the end of the last decade, the concomitant reforms framework would require the US to sharply cut its budget deficit, China to increase considerably domestic consumption to reduce its reliance on exports and Europe, to make structural changes to increase business investment. This will not be easy.

Caveats are already being put in place. The US wants the IMF simply to analyse policies proposed by G-20 countries but not oversee the process. Ted Truman, who recently served a stint at the US Treasury under President Obama, is reported to have said that the IMF wont be the referee. Some European countries are resisting giving the IMF even the power to analyse policies out of concern about being singled out for criticism.

So would making IMF the watchdog make a difference in the way global economy is managed? It would, but only if, amongst many others, the following three prerequisites are met:

(a) The emerging economies get greater voice in the functioning of the IMF through higher quotas and re-balancing of voting power as has been reiterated by PM at Pittsburgh, (b) China and US get to undertake painful rebalancing of the structure of their economies and correction in their balance of trade, even if over the medium term, and (c) the developed economies accept oversight by IMF of their economic policies and make fundamental changes in their economy, like better regulation of their financial systems, including reform of banking sector through measures such as imposing stiffer capital requirements on banks.

(The author is a civil servant. Views are personal)











VOTERS in Japan have departed from tradition. The Democratic Party of Japan, led by Yukio Hatoyama, has replaced the Liberal Democratic Party that had ruled the country for 54 years. What does the change imply for Japan and the rest of the world? This will depend hugely on the formulation of policy, economic and diplomatic.

The outlook for the economy is gloomy. The rate of unemployment rose to a record 5.7 per cent in July 2009, factory output declined, and household spending fell considerably. Japan today is more dependent on exports than it has ever been.

Indeed, the economic crisis has been the singularly crucial factor behind the defeat of the LDP. It has been rejected by the people with the hope that the Democratic Party of Japan would solve the problem of chronic unemployment. A large number of companies have collapsed.

The DPJ was formed on 27 April 1998 following the merger of the four previously independent parties that were opposed to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The economic and social policies of these parties were either liberal or social democratic. A large number of disaffected politicians from the LDP have joined the DPJ. 

The DPJ claims to be anti-establishment. In its reckoning, the bureaucracy of the Japanese government is too domineering, inefficient, and without innovative ideas. It wants to “create a new, flexible, affluent society which values people’s individuality and vitality.” This is the rhetoric of its election manifesto.


THE DPJ argues that a free market economic system is favourable for welfare. It feels that the role of the government ought to be limited to building up of a suitable system for self-reliant and independent individuals. Following the philosophy of Margaret Thatcher, it seeks to introduce local organisational structures, eventually to reduce the social services that are provided by the government. This might reduce the expenditure of a government, that is grappling with debts and deficits, but it will not enhance the welfare of the Japanese people.
Hatoyama, the new Prime Minister, is no revolutionary but a pillar of the establishment. Incidentally, his close relatives were once leading figures of the LDP. He is essentially a conservative politician, though with a different face.

There is nothing revolutionary in the DPJ's economic policy statement. It states that the party will “encourage people to have children by increasing child support and lower education costs, paying for this by slashing outlays on roads, bridges and public works.” For the last 15 years, indeed during the phase of depression, the Japanese government has financed the construction of roads and bridges primarily to generate jobs. The construction sector, being the major employer, received huge subsidies from the government and easy finance from the partly nationalised banks. If the DPJ shifts the focus, it will certainly aggravate the problem of unemployment. Thus far, the DPJ's policy statements are either hollow or not feasible to implement.
The second parameter is foreign policy. Major changes are not expected but a modification of priorities can have serious implications for India. The new Japanese government is almost certain to improve relations with China in accord with Hatoyama's “idea of fraternity”. China was his first destination as the leader of the DPJ, and he has served as the vice-president of the League for Japan-China Friendship in Japan’s parliament.
India has benefited immensely over the last few years from Japanese investments and subsidies, and steady financial support from the Asian Development Bank, almost always headed by Japanese presidents.
Barack Obama has already declared China as the USA's strategic partner. China is the most important trading partner of both America and Japan. Russia, ignored by India ever since Jaswant Singh was the external affairs minister, is strengthening its strategic partnership with China. The trend is clear: the USA, Japan, Russia and China will seek to improve mutual relationships. Will that leave India high and dry?

In his pre-election speeches, Hatoyama never mentioned the damage China has caused to the country's economy by taking away most of the jobs from Japan. In concrete terms, Hatoyama's economic policy will depend on what he describes as “the restructuring of government finances and the rebuilding of our welfare systems.” However, he has stopped short of spelling out the details.


THE new Prime Minister is remarkably clear about the economic integration of Japan-China-Taiwan-the Koreas through a common Asian currency on the lines of the Euro. "We should be working towards a common Asian currency. The process will possibly take more than 10 years.” Previous attempts by Japan to set up an Asian Monetary Fund during the continent's financial crisis of 1998-99 were blocked by the United States.
The main issue is whether or not in the context of the new world order the USA will encourage greater integration of the East Asian economies. If it does, the source of funds for India from both Japan and the Asian Development Bank will dry up.

With a new pro-Chinese government in Japan and in the USA, India should try to think of a new alliance. Tensions between the USA and Russia are mounting; Washington is trying to move into the Russian sphere of influence in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

India should try to revive the kind of friendship it had with the former Soviet Union. This can be achieved by increasing the economic and strategic alliance with Russia.

The writer is Professor of International Economics, Nagasaki University, Japan








Plastic bottles were ceremoniously removed from shelves in the sleepy Australian town of Bundanoon at the weekend as a ban on commercially-bottled water, believed to be a world first came into force. The ban, which is supported by local shopkeepers, means bottled water can no longer be bought in the town in the Southern Highlands, two hours from Sydney. Instead, reusable bottles have gone on sale, which can be refilled for free at new drinking fountains.

Locals marched through the town on Saturday, led by a lone piper, to celebrate the start of the ban. John Dee, a campaign spokesman, said: “While our politicians grapple with the enormity of dealing with climate change, what Bundanoon shows is that at the very local level we can sometimes do things to bring about real and measurable change.” The ban was triggered by a Sydney drinks company’s plan to build a water extraction plant in the town. Bottled water is widely viewed as an environmental menace, because of the energy consumed in producing and transporting it, and because most bottles end up in landfill sites. A New South Wales government study found the industry was responsible for releasing 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2006.
;The Independent







THE days of senior “law-enforcing” officials having, like Caesar’s wife, to be above suspicion may have ended with the fall of the Roman empire, but that hardly detracts from the huge embarrassment ~ we trust that the government does not have a different view on that ~ over an official under the CBI scanner being appointed to head the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. Without prejudice against the first woman to head the agency that could play a crucial role not only in unearthing black-money and hawala rackets but also monitoring the funding of terrorist outfits (that it has done little in that regard is another issue), or making any value-judgments on the allegations against her, there is valid cause to flay the process by which such senior appointments are made. For it is no secret that the CBI is probing the official after securing the approval of the High Court, and surely the Department of Personnel under which the CBI technically functions, would have been aware of that. The ongoing investigation amounts to a slap in the face of every member of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, and confirms reports that the panel seldom meets to assess the suitability of those being appointed to important posts, a file does the rounds and ministers merely affix their “dhobi mark”. Yet the quality of governance hinges on the competence of officials, their capacity to deliver what is required in the new job, and calls for more than routine circulation of a file. Surely “corruption clearance” is an essential for those being considered for appointment as the Director-General of the DRI. This matter must be resolved at the earliest, one way or the other. It would be terribly unfair to expect that official to function effectively when clouds of suspicion hover over her; similarly others in the DRI will be demoralised if their head is tainted.
Organisations like the DRI are not like the Council of Ministers, whose upright members ~ albeit a dwindling number ~ have made a virtue of co-existing with some rather unsavoury characters, whitewashing or ignoring the black sheep in the family. Their functioning is determined by their top officials, they get hamstrung if the “boss” is being suspected of involvement in wrong-doing. Will the Prime Minister take the trouble to find out how the ACC got itself into this mess. Or are other interests at play?







Germany remains ever so politically fractious despite Sunday’s renewed triumph of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The convincing mandate must be viewed in the context of the worst economic blight since World War II. There is reason to reckon the result as Merkel’s personal victory, one that has been neutralised with the 33.8 per cent vote for her Christian Democrat party, indeed its second worst performance since the war. As critical as the triumph has been the drubbing of the Social Democrats, once again the worst since the war. Which effectively brings the curtains down on the four-year “grand coalition” of the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats. Germany is set to enter a new phase in its political history as the ruling Christian Democrat party now gears up for a coalition with the Free Democrats, a pro-business entity. Almost inevitably, this could signify a dramatic change in policies with the new junior partner in favour of tax cuts and general economic reform.

Indeed, the best-ever performance of the Free Democrats has been another hallmark of this election. Many conservative voters may have switched support faced with the sluggish pace of economic reforms under the erstwhile Merkel-led coalition. In her hour of victory, well may the Chancellor exult, “we’ve got a stable coalition and that’s good for Germany”. In reality, however, Merkel may have to allow a greater say for the Free Democrats in the wake of its unexpectedly impressive showing. It will be part of the government after 11 years, and negotiations on matters of policy may not be particularly smooth-sailing, after all. Misgivings of hostility within the Christian Democrat ranks are not wholly unfounded.

It will be a bitter Oktoberfest for the Social Democrats, smarting under the worst disaster since its foundation with a 23 per cent of the vote. In its immediate impact, the party is set to witness crucial changes in its leadership. The lament of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the Social Democrat candidate for the office of Chancellor, just about sums up its worst crisis since the war: “There is no way of talking round this one, it is a bitter defeat.”







LAST year, the Centre sanctioned Rs 1,158 crore to fight terrorism and Naxalism and the bulk went to Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar and Chattisgarh. While Assam received Rs 68.11 crore, Manipur and Nagaland got Rs 39.23 crore and Rs 38.42 crore respectively. The funds are mostly for the purchase of weapons, vehicles and modern security communications equipment and also for the construction of residential and non-residential quarters. Given reports of mismanagement of such funds, the last NDA government reportedly toyed with the idea of the first three items being procured by the Union home ministry and distributed to the states concerned ~ a good idea, indeed ~ but apparently this did not receive the required support.

The North-east saga of uncertainty and militancy has been around for three decades and since even the induction of the Army has failed to reduce the sustained momentum of militant attacks, Manipur, the most volatile state in the North-east today, is girding itself to meet fresh challenges by revamping its police force. Not that this is being done for the first time; the force has perpetually been in the process of modernisation ~ take for instance the creation of a commando force that is as mobile as it is trigger-happy. Only last year as many as 300 special police officers were appointed after a village banned the entry of militants. There are the India Reserve Battalions ~ more units have been sanctioned ~ and a number of Manipur Rifles battalions. In the next few months, a 3,100-strong village defence force will be created and the Intelligence agency strengthened with more than 250 new personnel. And perhaps there will be a new force to oversee the safety of transporters and drivers on national highways. The idea of having more police stations is praiseworthy, but each unit must be self-sufficient and strong enough to tackle a given situation. Red-tape defeats all intent at preparedness. The state government is reportedly sitting on the results of the police recruitment tests held seven months ago. To be sure, job-seekers in Manipur are prepared to pay a bribe of more than Rs 20,000 for the post of a constable. Little wonder then that rampant corruption is what keeps militancy alive.







SYDNEY, 28 SEPT: Plastic bottles were ceremoniously removed from shelves in the sleepy Australian town of Bundanoon at the weekend as a ban on commercially-bottled water, believed to be a world first came into force. The ban, which is supported by local shopkeepers, means bottled water can no longer be bought in the town in the Southern Highlands, two hours from Sydney. Instead, reusable bottles have gone on sale, which can be refilled for free at new drinking fountains.

Locals marched through the town on Saturday, led by a lone piper, to celebrate the start of the ban. John Dee, a campaign spokesman, said: “While our politicians grapple with the enormity of dealing with climate change, what Bundanoon shows is that at the very local level we can sometimes do things to bring about real and measurable change.” The ban was triggered by a Sydney drinks company’s plan to build a water extraction plant in the town. Bottled water is widely viewed as an environmental menace, because of the energy consumed in producing and transporting it, and because most bottles end up in landfill sites. A New South Wales government study found the industry was responsible for releasing 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2006.
;The Independent














Why should we abolish nuclear weapons? This apparently naive question seems to have become a matter of hot debate. In Japan, which suffered nuclear holocaust in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there is a profound desire for nuclear abolition that derives from its first-hand experience of the appalling damage caused by nuclear weapons. Yet this does not seem to be enough to constitute a successful argument for “a world free of nuclear weapons”. The effort to bring about a nuclear abolition must be indivisibly and essentially integrated with the challenge of creating a more equitable, just, and humane global society.

When the idea of “a world free of nuclear weapons” resurfaced as practical goal after new anti-nuke initiatives emerged in the United States, I found myself confronting once again the question, Why? The need for a global solution to problems like poverty and climate change is a given, as if tacitly mandated by the standards that guide civilised human society. Nuclear abolition, in contrast, tends to be confined within the category of weapons linked to national security. It is not seen as a moral and global human issue. To succeed, the nuclear abolition movement must be brought into a wider sphere of people’s thinking.

Ten years ago I translated into Japanese a book titled, ‘Fast Track to Zero Nuclear Weapons’ by Robert D Green, a former British navy commander. A statement in the book has continued to intrigue me.

The author, explaining the analogy between the campaign to abolish slavery 200 years ago and the nuclear abolition movement, wrote that the campaign to abolish slavery succeeded because “it focused on the illegality of slavery, not just its cruelty”.

The lesson of Green’s study is that in history the agonies and bitter struggles that human society undergoes can generate the political will to enact important laws, national and international. Even when compromises are necessary to get such laws passed, such legislation will contain legal norms, language, and a conceptual framework that can be applied in the effort to usher in a new era.

The preambles of international treaties or conventions banning or limiting weapons invoke basic legal norms and principles. However, there is a striking difference between instruments limiting nuclear weapons and those concerning other classes of armaments.

The Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Anti-Personnel Mines Convention, and the recent Cluster Munitions Convention all contain a clear exposition of the human and moral basis of the prohibition which they argue is a prerequisite to a civilised world and subject to the laws dictated by human conscience. Surprisingly, this is not the case with nuclear weapons treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Nowhere in the NPT or CTBT is there a similar invocation of human and moral standards. Can we really achieve a world free of nuclear weapons with such weak legal footing?

We know why this is the case. It is because euphemisms are needed in order to persuade nuclear weapon possessors to join such instruments to bind themselves. As long as we accept this practice, I fear we may fail to establish norms that recognise the real nature of nuclear weapons and their implications for future generations of humanity. We would also be failing to envision a nuclear weapons-free world as a better one for human society.

Our first task therefore is to explore how to establish an international legal instrument that can be effective even if countries possessing nuclear weapons do not accept it because it formulates coherent moral norms governing the unparalleled horrors of nuclear weapons. A possible step in this direction would be an international instrument to outlaw the use and the threat of use of nuclear weapons, as discussed in a recent article by Rebecca Johnson (Disarmament Diplomacy, ‘Spring’ 2009). A so-called Ottawa process in which civil society and like-minded nations collaborate would be a feasible approach.

We also need to fully articulate how the world today is distorted by the habit of sabre rattling and gun diplomacy, the most prominent example of which has been the threat to use nuclear weapons. The norms enshrined in the United Nations Charter to pursue “friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” and “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination” will never be attained in a world dominated by the horror of nuclear weapons. The path towards a nuclear weapons-free world should also enable us to envision the new, more humane society embodied in such norms.

(The writer is founder and special advisor of Peace Depot Inc, Japan)










A tiny animal pronounces a profound message “Hakuna Matata” in the animated film ‘Lion King’. This, he says “I be happy — no worries”.

We, urban bodies learn it the hard way, sometimes with a little nudge here and there. It takes quite an effort to let the ‘pleasure principle’ dictate terms in fashioning one’s needs, goals and luxuries. Yet I saw this unfold in the life of a lady whose services I inherited. Let me call her Rajamma. She came to me a decade ago, well-trained, well, almost, by my mother. Her duty is to keep the floors clean and this she achieves in 10 minutes flat every morning.

Let me list her former decisions. She had put up with her husband’s violent ways before she threw him out on a rainy night. She met my questions with stoic silence and showed the cigarette burn marks on her back and stomach. After this event she increased her employers from two to four and sailed along.

A few years ago, her family settled property matters. Being astute, she positioned herself in her village home and returned with a sizable amount of cash. After opening a bank account she got in touch with a senior, kindly real estate agent and bought herself a single bedroom house in a lovely residential locality. Since she had matched the purchase amount with a little personal loan from an employer, she has rented her house to bachelor software engineers.

She hopes to move into the house herself, the moment she clears the loan. Neighbours, television, the cellphone and what she observes keenly have shaped her lifestyle into something very simple, yet elegant.

A couple of months ago, she sought permission to come in a little late for a week as she had to go elsewhere between 7 and 8 am. I nodded my consent and promptly forgot about it. Two weeks later, with a triumphant smile she initiated a conversation to explain her accomplishment. She had enrolled herself in a driving school and had obtained a license to drive a car! “Why?” I asked. “Just to get a feel of it and besides, you may need a chauffeur in the near future,” she quipped.








One of the ways that the Bush administration tried to avoid accountability for its serious misconduct in the name of fighting terrorism was the misuse of an evidentiary rule called the state secrets privilege. The Obama administration has essentially embraced the Bush approach in existing cases, trying to toss out important lawsuits alleging kidnapping, torture and unlawful wiretapping without any evidence being presented.


The other day, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. issued new guidelines for invoking the state secrets privilege in the future. They were a positive step forward, on paper, but did not go nearly far enough. Mr. Holder’s much-anticipated reform plan does not include any shift in the Obama administration’s demand for blanket secrecy in pending cases. Nor does it include support for legislation that would mandate thorough court review of state secrets claims made by the executive branch.


The rules, which replace a less formal set of procedures used during the Bush years, establish a high-level review process at the Justice Department before a privilege claim may be invoked in court. Executive agencies will have to persuade a Justice Department committee that disclosure of information would risk “significant harm” to national security.


The new rules instruct the Justice Department to look for ways to avoid shutting down an entire lawsuit and to reject privilege requests motivated by a desire to “conceal violations of the law, inefficiency or administrative error” or to “prevent embarrassment.” The rules sensibly give the attorney general the responsibility to sign off on all state secrets claims.


It remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, the new regimen will succeed in avoiding flimsy claims of secrecy. Much depends on how the rules are interpreted and enforced, and the Justice Department’s willingness to stand up to insistent intelligence agency demands.


One cautionary note: Since assuming office, Mr. Holder has reviewed the administration’s position in ongoing cases and has continued broad secrecy claims of the sort that President Obama criticized when he was running for president. To the extent that legitimate cases get dismissed as a result, Mr. Holder should make sure allegations of government wrongdoing get referred to an agency inspector general, as his new plan requires.


In any event, while more stringent self-policing of executive branch secrecy claims is welcome, it is hardly a total fix. Senator Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, noted that without a clear, permanent mandate for independent court review of the administration’s judgment calls, Mr. Holder’s policy “still amounts to an approach of ‘just trust us.’”


If the Obama team is sincere about wanting to end state secrets abuses, it will support the State Secrets Protection Act sponsored in the Senate by Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, and in the House by Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat of New York. The measure contains safeguards to ensure protection of legitimate secrets. But before ruling on a secrets claim, and possibly dismissing a lawsuit, judges would be required to review the documents or evidence in question instead of just accepting assertions in government affidavits.


The need for such safeguards is not theoretical. Even as Mr. Holder tried to reassure Americans with new written rules, the Justice Department was seeking dismissal of a significant lawsuit over the Bush administration’s extraordinary renditions program based on a blanket claim of national security by Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.








Sunday’s elections in Germany were a personal triumph for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose low-key centrist leadership has been good for Germany, good for Europe and good for trans-Atlantic relations. She is now the European Union’s steadiest, best-respected leader.


If that says as much about the weakness of the rest of the field as it does about Mrs. Merkel’s positive qualities, she will have more political space to show off those qualities in her second term. Her first four years were cramped by the electoral necessity of an awkward coalition between Mrs. Merkel’s right-of-center Christian Democrats and the left-of-center Social Democrats.


Both parties lost ground on Sunday, the Christian Democrats slightly, the Social Democrats precipitously. Both registered their lowest percentages since the 1940s. The big gainers were the new Left Party, the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats. Mrs. Merkel got a vote of confidence in her leadership, not her party.


Her new coalition partner will be the Free Democrats, giving her a solid, politically coherent center-right majority. Mrs. Merkel should resist pressures to shift too far to the right, especially on economic policies. What the world economy needs most from Germany is another round of widely disbursed stimulus spending, not regressive supply-side tax cuts. Germany is Europe’s biggest economy, and it needs to become a faster-running motor of continental recovery.


The Free Democrats’ leader, Guido Westerwelle, takes over as foreign minister at an important moment. Nuclear diplomacy with Iran, where Germany is one of the six nations trying to negotiate with Tehran, is entering what looks like a decisive phase. Germany and Russia may need to back up diplomacy with a willingness to impose broadened economic sanctions. Meanwhile, German troops are more needed than ever in Afghanistan. Berlin should resist political pressures to pull them out.


Twenty years after reunification, Germany is a successful and credible democracy. The challenge for its newly elected government is to shoulder its full share of the burdens of constructive international leadership.







There should be a rule that New Yorkers may not grouse about city government if they fail to vote when it counts — like in Tuesday’s runoff elections. Democratic voters have a chance to pick the party’s nominee for comptroller, who is the city’s accountant, and public advocate, its ombudsman. In New York City, the Democratic choice in these races is usually the winner.


There are two candidates for each office, and the pollsters are predicting two real horse races — no easy winners. But here’s the problem. There are about 3.2 million Democrats eligible to vote on Tuesday, but the experts are estimating that about only 150,000 will make it to the polls. Now, there’s something every New Yorker should really be complaining about.


Voting won’t take long with only two races and no lines.


Here are our recommendations:


For city comptroller, we endorse Councilman David Yassky of Brooklyn, who is in the runoff against Councilman John Liu of Queens. Mr. Yassky has shown that he would be more thoughtful and cautious in overseeing the city’s pensions and other businesses, including the contracts and budgets for the city’s schools. (Many New Yorkers simply don’t realize how powerful and important the comptroller’s job is.)


For public advocate, we endorse Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, who is running against Mark Green, a former public advocate. In his recent time in the Council and even during this race, Mr. de Blasio has shown that he has the kind of temperament and intelligence to help those needier New Yorkers who deserve his voice in City Hall.


The polls are open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.


Comptroller: David Yassky.Public Advocate: Bill de Blasio.








Melville Island lies half an hour by small plane north of Darwin, Australia, at the very tip of the Northern Territory. On a hazy day, it seems to take shape in the Arafura Sea like a more substantial haze. The pilot makes a slow sweep to give his only passenger — me — a good look at the landscape before we touch down at Garden Point, the tiny airstrip outside a village called Pirlangimpi.


As we begin descending from 4,500 feet, the pilot tells me about an enormous convective storm called Hector — one of the tallest thunderheads in the world — that forms over Melville and Bathurst Island (collectively known as the Tiwi Islands) every afternoon during the monsoon. He points out a network of straight, raw, red-dirt roads running through the backcountry. I look more closely and see that the irregular broken cover of eucalyptuses native to the Tiwi Islands gives way to what look like geometrically planted orchards — 75,000 acres of them.


The trees in those long, straight rows are not fruit trees. They’re fast-growing acacias, native to eastern, not northern Australia. What they’re good for is wood chips, the raw material of the paper industry. “The plantation,” the pilot calls it as we make our final approach. Then he adds, “It’s in receivership.” Indeed it is. Great Southern Plantations — the Perth-based company that ran the plantation — collapsed in May, and a banking consortium that was helping support the wood-chip project is scheduled to pull out at the end of September. Great Southern’s real business was not managing agricultural properties. It was selling managed investment schemes — investments in its properties.


But this is not just another forestry project gone awry — 75,000 acres of bankrupt monoculture where there used to be native tropical woodland. The Tiwi Islands are aboriginal reserves. In other words, the islands are owned by “traditional owners” — the Australian phrase for its indigenous population living on traditional lands. The partnership with Great Southern Plantations was supposed to create as many as 300 jobs on Melville Island — jobs that would go to Tiwi Islanders — and leave behind, once its 60-year lease had expired, the infrastructure for a thriving forestry business.


What’s left behind is a sense of desolation and distrust. I talked with several Tiwi Islanders — over a dinner of mud crab, local barramundi, local mussels and magpie goose — and it was clear that many of them doubted the good faith not only of Great Southern and the Northern Territory government but also their own Tiwi Land Council, which had encouraged the partnership. What Great Southern (called Sylvatech when the project began in 1996) got out of the deal was the valuable right to log the land that was being cleared for acacia — including eucalypts and the remains of former cypress pine plantations.


The question that night at dinner wasn’t just the economic loss involved — the loss of jobs and royalties and individual investments. It was the meaning of this failure, its demoralizing effect on a people who have been striving to find a way toward economic self-determination. Like traditional owners on the mainland, the Tiwi have had to struggle with the cruel vicissitudes of Australian policy toward its aboriginal population — everything from the brutality of official racism to the confused tolerance that has come in more recent times with cultural and political empowerment.


But I also heard a deeper sense of regret. “We should have left the savanna as it was,” one Tiwi said to me. The more I listened, the more it seemed there was a forceful analogy between the plight of the Tiwis and the plight of all of us. How do we balance the need to find the economic wherewithal to educate children, to bolster self-confidence and a sense of self-determination, with the need to preserve our cultural integrity and our homelands?


On Melville Island, the problem appears in its starkest form. The Tiwi tried to strike that balance with the best of corporate and governmental intent in hopes of a sound, self-determined future — far brighter than their present. The good news in this failure is that it happened before Great Southern could expand its plantation — as planned — to 247,000 acres. And now, for the Tiwi, the question of the immediate economic future — and their ultimate integrity as a people — has to be reopened.










A whoop went up in the classroom and the teenagers became giddy when they realized that the man and woman being escorted to the front of the room were Bill and Melinda Gates.


“Ohmigod!” shrieked one girl, her eyes and mouth wide with astonishment.


“Are you the real Bill Gates?” asked another.


The Gateses were in the Algebra 1 class at West Charlotte High School (a venerable, mostly black institution that over the decades has reached academic highs and touched ignominious lows) to learn, not teach. They have been traveling the country trying to see for themselves what really works and what has gone haywire in public education in the United States.


Visiting classrooms is like peering into the nation’s future. Right now the view is somewhat frightening. American kids drop out of high school at an average of one every 26 seconds. Only about a third of those who graduate are prepared to move on to a four-year college. And in the savage economic downturn that has gripped the U.S. for the better part of the past two years, retrenchment in public schools and colleges is widespread.


For a country that once led the world in educating its citizens, we are now moving decidedly in the wrong direction. As Mr. Gates points out: “Our performance at every level — primary and secondary school achievement, high school graduation, college entry, college completion — is dropping against the rest of the world.”


This has consequences. As Melinda Gates notes: “America’s long history of upward mobility is in danger.”


The Gateses are co-chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic organization. They are investing billions of dollars and much of their considerable energy in an effort to spark not just change but a transformation in the way American youngsters are educated.


It’s an overwhelming challenge, and not all of their early efforts have borne fruit. Educating children in the U.S. means engaging issues like poverty and homelessness, racial and ethnic transformations and entrenched, outdated ways of doing things. But the Gateses seem determined to master this issue and do what they can to help reverse the current dismal trends.


As they met over two days with students, teachers, administrators and community college executives in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, the intensity of their focus and concentration was striking.


“You can read about all of this stuff,” Bill Gates told me, “but it’s important to come out and see it, to spend time talking with the people involved, and to visit the bad schools as well as the good schools if you really want to understand and make a difference.”


The issues can be maddeningly complex. There are school districts in which much of the population is aging and predominantly white and the taxpayers are less than enthusiastic about supporting a school population that is largely poor and black or Hispanic. There are schools trying desperately to raise their test scores, an important measure of accountability, while at the same time trying to keep poor and struggling youngsters from dropping out — the very youngsters who are often a drag on overall test scores.


But the many challenges will have to be met and overcome if the U.S. is to maintain a successful society. The American work force is becoming increasingly black and Hispanic, and a two-year or four-year college credential has become a prerequisite to a middle-class standard of living. With that in mind, it’s not difficult to see how disastrous it is to have nearly 50 percent of minority kids dropping out of school before they even get a high school diploma.


“It is so important,” said Melinda Gates, “to get all of the children educated.”


The Gateses are committed, but they need so many more to follow their lead.


I’m not sure how or why so many Americans over the past few decades took their eyes off the critical importance of education as the pathway to personal and societal success. In their book, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz pointed out that educational attainment in the U.S. “was exceptionally rapid and continuous for the first three-quarters of the 20th century.” And then, foolishly, we applied the brakes and advancement “slowed considerably for young adults beginning in the 1970s and for the overall labor force by the early 1980s.”


If you don’t think we’re paying a price for this, just look around.


A student in the Algebra 1 class at West Charlotte High summed up the matter cogently when she said to the Gateses, in a voice that was not the least amused: “People seem to think it’s cool to be stupid. But it’s not.”








Centuries ago, historians came up with a classic theory to explain the rise and decline of nations. The theory was that great nations start out tough-minded and energetic. Toughness and energy lead to wealth and power. Wealth and power lead to affluence and luxury. Affluence and luxury lead to decadence, corruption and decline.


“Human nature, in no form of it, could ever bear prosperity,” John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, warning against the coming corruption of his country.


Yet despite its amazing wealth, the United States has generally remained immune to this cycle. American living standards surpassed European living standards as early as 1740. But in the U.S., affluence did not lead to indulgence and decline.


That’s because despite the country’s notorious materialism, there has always been a countervailing stream of sound economic values. The early settlers believed in Calvinist restraint. The pioneers volunteered for brutal hardship during their treks out west. Waves of immigrant parents worked hard and practiced self-denial so their children could succeed. Government was limited and did not protect people from the consequences of their actions, thus enforcing discipline and restraint.


When economic values did erode, the ruling establishment tried to restore balance. After the Gilded Age, Theodore Roosevelt (who ventured west to counteract the softness of his upbringing) led a crackdown on financial self-indulgence. The Protestant establishment had many failings, but it was not decadent. The old WASPs were notoriously cheap, sent their children to Spartan boarding schools, and insisted on financial sobriety.


Over the past few years, however, there clearly has been an erosion in the country’s financial values. This erosion has happened at a time when the country’s cultural monitors were busy with other things. They were off fighting a culture war about prayer in schools, “Piss Christ” and the theory of evolution. They were arguing about sex and the separation of church and state, oblivious to the large erosion of economic values happening under their feet.


Evidence of this shift in values is all around. Some of the signs are seemingly innocuous. States around the country began sponsoring lotteries: government-approved gambling that extracts its largest toll from the poor. Executives and hedge fund managers began bragging about compensation packages that would have been considered shameful a few decades before. Chain restaurants went into supersize mode, offering gigantic portions that would have been considered socially unacceptable to an earlier generation.


Other signs are bigger. As William Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, in the three decades between 1950 and 1980, personal consumption was remarkably stable, amounting to about 62 percent of G.D.P. In the next three decades, it shot upward, reaching 70 percent of G.D.P. in 2008.


During this period, debt exploded. In 1960, Americans’ personal debt amounted to about 55 percent of national income. By 2007, Americans’ personal debt had surged to 133 percent of national income.



Over the past few months, those debt levels have begun to come down. But that doesn’t mean we’ve re-established standards of personal restraint. We’ve simply shifted from private debt to public debt. By 2019, federal debt will amount to an amazing 83 percent of G.D.P. (before counting the costs of health reform and everything else). By that year, interest payments alone on the federal debt will cost $803 billion.


These may seem like dry numbers, mostly of concern to budget wonks. But these numbers are the outward sign of a values shift. If there is to be a correction, it will require a moral and cultural movement.


Our current cultural politics are organized by the obsolete culture war, which has put secular liberals on one side and religious conservatives on the other. But the slide in economic morality afflicted Red and Blue America equally.


If there is to be a movement to restore economic values, it will have to cut across the current taxonomies. Its goal will be to make the U.S. again a producer economy, not a consumer economy. It will champion a return to financial self-restraint, large and small.


It will have to take on what you might call the lobbyist ethos — the righteous conviction held by everybody from AARP to the agribusinesses that their groups are entitled to every possible appropriation, regardless of the larger public cost. It will have to take on the self-indulgent popular demand for low taxes and high spending.


A crusade for economic self-restraint would have to rearrange the current alliances and embrace policies like energy taxes and spending cuts that are now deemed politically impossible. But this sort of moral revival is what the country actually needs.








TEHRAN’S disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant near the holy city of Qum has derailed the Obama administration’s already faltering efforts to engage with Iran. The United States will now cling even more tightly to the futile hope that international pressure and domestic instability will induce major changes in Iranian decision-making.


Indeed, the meeting on Thursday in Geneva of the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany with Iran (the “five plus one” talks) will not be an occasion for strategic discussion but for delivering an ultimatum: Iran will have to agree to pre-emptive limitations on its nuclear program or face what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls “crippling” sanctions.


However, based on conversations we’ve had in recent days with senior Iranian officials — including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — we believe it is highly unlikely Iran will accept this ultimatum. It is also unlikely that Russia and China will support sanctions that come anywhere near crippling Iran. After this all-too-predictable scenario has played out, the Obama administration will be left, as a consequence of its own weakness and vacillation, with extremely poor choices for dealing with Iran.


Because President Obama assembled a national security team that, for the most part, did not share his early vision for American-Iranian rapprochement, his administration never built a strong public case for engagement. The prospect of engagement is still treated largely as a channel for “rewarding” positive Iranian actions and “punishing” problematic behavior — precisely what Mr. Obama, as a presidential candidate, criticized so eloquently about President George W. Bush’s approach.


At the United Nations General Assembly last week, President Obama used language reminiscent of Mr. Bush’s “axis of evil” to identify Iran and North Korea as the main threats to international peace and vowed to hold them “accountable.” In Geneva, we can expect the United States to demand that Iran not only accept “concrete” limitations on further nuclear development but also demonstrate the peaceful nature of its nuclear program to avoid severe sanctions.


This approach prompted Mr. Ahmadinejad, during a meeting last week, to declare that Iran does not believe Americans are “serious” about strategic cooperation. He argued that, when Iran had previously agreed to limit its nuclear development — as when it suspended uranium enrichment from 2003 to 2005 — Western powers offered nothing in return, and instead sought to “restrict our rights even further.”


This was more than a diplomatic failure by the West — it was also a serious blow to the credibility of reform-minded politicians in Iran. Is it a surprise, then, that no candidate in Iran’s recent presidential election supported renewed unilateral restrictions on its nuclear program? Mr. Ahmadinejad has now reiterated that it should be possible to cooperate with Washington to resolve the nuclear issue, but only in the context of a broader strategic understanding — something the Obama administration has not accepted.


Absent some agreement with Washington on its long-term goals, Iran’s national security strategy will continue emphasizing “asymmetric” defense against perceived American encirclement. Over several years, officials in both the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami and the conservative Ahmadinejad administration have told us that this defensive strategy includes cultivating ties to political forces and militias in other states in the region, developing Iran’s missile capacity (as underscored by this weekend’s tests of medium-range missiles), and pushing the limits of Tehran’s nonproliferation obligations to the point where it would be seen as having the ability and ingredients to make fission weapons. It seems hardly a coincidence that Iran is accused of having started the Qum lab in 2005 — precisely when Tehran had concluded that suspending enrichment had failed to diminish American hostility.


American officials tend to play down Iranian concerns about American intentions, citing public messages from President Obama to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, as proof of the administration’s diplomatic seriousness. But Tehran saw these messages as attempts to circumvent Iran’s president — another iteration, in a pattern dating from Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal, of American administrations trying to create channels to Iranian “moderates” rather than dealing with the Islamic Republic as a system. President Ahmadinejad underscored this point to us by noting that Mr. Obama never responded to his congratulatory letter after the 2008 United States election — which, he emphasized, was “unprecedented” and “not easy to get done” in Iran.


The Obama administration’s lack of diplomatic seriousness goes beyond clumsy tactics; it reflects an inadequate understanding of the strategic necessity of constructive American-Iranian relations. If an American president believed that such a relationship was profoundly in our national interests — as President Richard Nixon judged a diplomatic opening to China — he would demonstrate acceptance of the Islamic Republic, even as problematic Iranian behavior continued in the near term.


After taking office in 1969, Nixon directed the C.I.A. to stop covert operations in Tibet and ordered the Navy to stop its regular patrols of the Taiwan Strait even while China was supplying weapons to kill American soldiers in Vietnam. President Obama has had several opportunities to send analogous signals to Tehran — such as ending Bush-era covert programs against Iran — but has punted.


Unfortunately, the Obama administration was enticed by the prospect of regime-toppling instability in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election this summer. But compared to past upheavals in the Islamic Republic’s 30-year history — the forced exile of a president, the assassination of another, the eight-year war with Iraq and the precipitous replacement of Ayatollah Khomeini’s first designated successor, Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, with Ayatollah Khamenei — the controversy over this year’s election was hardly a cataclysmic event.


Furthermore — and notwithstanding the comment by President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia that sanctions are “sometimes inevitable” — the Obama administration’s focus on mustering support for effective economic penalties is delusional. For three years, Moscow has given just enough on sanctions to keep the nuclear issue before the Security Council, because Russian officials calculate that is the best way to constrain unilateral American action. But Russia has consistently watered down any sanctions actually authorized. Senior Russian diplomats continue to say that Moscow has not agreed to support any specific additional measures. Moscow may well acquiesce to a marginal expansion of existing sanctions, but it will not accept substantial costs to its own economic and strategic interests by supporting significantly tougher steps.


China may also agree to a marginal expansion of existing sanctions, but will not endorse measures that hurt important Chinese interests. An Obama administration proposal that Saudi Arabia “replace” the oil China now imports from Iran completely misreads Beijing’s energy security calculus.


China is not only continuing to buy large amounts of Iranian oil, Chinese energy companies are also now developing substantial investment positions there — justifiably confident that Washington will not sanction Chinese firms over energy investments in Iran. Chinese military officials are particularly focused on the potential for Iranian hydrocarbons to come to China through pipelines running across Central Asia, rather than through seaborne routes vulnerable to American naval interdiction. Iran is the only Persian Gulf country that can offer China such diversification of supply sources and transit routes.


The Obama administration may hope that even an ineffective quest for “crippling” sanctions will hold the line against those in Washington and elsewhere advocating a military strike on Iran’s weapons program. That is sadly reminiscent of our experiences at the State Department and the National Security Council in the Bush administration, when officials who opposed the Iraq war championed “smart sanctions” and tighter containment of Saddam Hussein’s regime as the alternative course. Such calls did nothing to change Mr. Hussein’s calculations, and were overwhelmed by the exaggerated allegations of Iraq’s renewed efforts to build nuclear weapons.


INSTEAD of pushing the falsehood that sanctions will give America leverage in Iranian decision-making — a strategy that will end either in frustration or war — the administration should seek a strategic realignment with Iran as thoroughgoing as that effected by Nixon with China. This would require Washington to take steps, up front, to assure Tehran that rapprochement would serve Iran’s strategic needs.


On that basis, America and Iran would forge a comprehensive framework for security as well as economic cooperation — something that Washington has never allowed the five-plus-one group to propose. Within that framework, the international community would work with Iran to develop its civil nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities on Iranian soil, in a transparent manner rather than demanding that Tehran prove a negative — that it’s not developing weapons. A cooperative approach would not demonize Iran for political relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah, but would elicit Tehran’s commitment to work toward peaceful resolutions of regional conflicts.


Some may say that this is too high a price to pay for improved relations with Iran. But the price is high only for those who attach value to failed policies that have damaged American interests in the Middle East and made our allies there less secure.


Flynt Leverett is the director of the Iran project at the New America Foundation and a professor of international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. Hillary Mann Leverett is the president of a political risk consultancy. Both are former National Security Council staff members.









On the surface, the talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York went well. Both sides maintain the dialogue was both candid and cordial. But Mr S M Krishna also conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart in no uncertain terms that the Mumbai attacks that took place just over a year ago remained a barrier to progress. The Indian FM linked a sustained dialogue process to more definite action from Pakistan against terrorists. Shah Mahmood Qureshi has meanwhile emphasized that terrorism could not be the sole basis for talks. The stalemate we have seen then since November 2008 continues. It is impossible to know what version of events to believe. Pakistan insists New Delhi has not provided sufficient information to act against the persons it says were behind the Mumbai episode. India maintains the evidence it has sent across is compelling. The Pakistan interior minister has suggested investigators be sent in from across the border to follow up on the information provided. It is uncertain if this is a serious suggestion, but it points to increasing frustration over the issue.

The holdup in the dialogue process is unfortunate. What the Indians appear to be indifferent to is the fact that better relations with Pakistan can bring immense benefits to people on both sides of the divide. Is it fair to hold this up as a means to keep up the pressure on Pakistan that has been forcefully exerted since last year? This is something for the Indian government to ponder. It seems obvious that at the present time it is on the one hand calling for progress in talks with Pakistan and on the other refusing to move forward on the Mumbai issue. Greater flexibility is needed. Pakistan too must consider its own strategy. Quite independently from the Indian pressure it faces, it must ask itself if certain persons who it is alleged are involved in militancy truly enjoy protection and if so why. Both sub-continental countries suffer in similar fashion due to the long stalemate we are seeing. They must therefore find a means to move forward. Mumbai cannot be forgotten. Nor should attempts to find who was responsible be abandoned. This would just raise the possibility of more terrorism of a similar nature. But there are other considerations as well. The talks need to continue so that attempts can be made to find lasting peace in the region. After all, only when this happens will terrorism be delivered the fatal blow needed to vanquish it forever.







The Taliban have demonstrated they remain fully capable of striking at will. Within days, we have seen them in action in Peshawar and in Bannu – where two strikes have taken place within days of each other. The most recent, in which five people died when a van laden with explosives crashed into their vehicle, targeted a peace committee member. His death will be seen by the Taliban as a triumph. The toll from the suicide bombings over the weekend and a day after it stands now at 32. The buoyancy seen over Eid in Peshawar, a city that had shown some confidence that the years of terrorism were finally over, has disappeared following the blast in the centre of the metropolis. The ruthless young leader of the Taliban is quite evidently eager to assert his authority and to demonstrate that the death of Baitullah Mehsud can make no difference to the organization.

The path he has chosen makes several things obvious. One is that we cannot afford to be complacent. The Taliban remain a dangerous force, capable of causing a great deal of damage. The war begun against them must continue. There can be no letup. It is also apparent that this war can be won only through armed action. There is simply no other way. Taken forward logically this also means that sooner, rather than later, there will have to be a campaign in Waziristan – the area that remains the principal stronghold of the militants. This is not something to look forward to. Conflict of any kind always brings suffering. The tales from widows and orphans and parents who have lost sons in Swat underscore this. But there are simply no options. We must also start looking at other aspects of the struggle. The young suicide bombers found in Swat and the children enrolled at training institutes need to be rehabilitated. So do youngsters armed by the militants. The aftermath of a war that has had a deep impact on our society will be a long one. A strategy needs to be drawn up to proceed step by step, and by doing so ensure we can move into a future in which militants are not able to ravage cities and claim dozens of innocent lives.









Sections of the media have spent much of the last month dissecting the so-called 'scandal' of Meera, a film actress, and her alleged husband, his alleged actions, her court appearances and bail hearings and any amount of insubstantial gossip that surrounds the whole affair. In a televised interview with a private TV channel Meera was clearly uneasy with the way the interviewer was treating her and less than happy with the way the microphone was attached to her on-camera – the entire shoddy episode being quickly uploaded to YouTube there to be viewed by anybody with little holding their ears apart other than a well-stuffed pillow. To say that this is a matter of little consequence is an understatement by several orders of magnitude. It speaks volumes about the salacious way a woman will be treated - given the opportunity - by TV channels eager to play to the lowest common denominator. Meera is an actress, she is a woman who is unlikely to have been educated to much beyond matriculation, if that, and there is no reason on earth why she should be proficient in anything other than her first language – yet she is publicly mocked for her lack of English skills.

Do we publicly mock our star cricketers whose stumbling English is no better or worse than that of Meera? Would we publicly humiliate them as she has been humiliated and made fun of? The real scandal about Meera the actress is the way she has been used and abused by a media with a set of moral values derived from life in the gutter. What matters is not whether she is married or not, but whether some elements of the electronic media are going to begin to treat women, all women, with respect, rather than as fodder for a goggling viewership.









Every act of terrorism leaves behind tales of tragedy. We as a nation have become used to bomb explosions, drone attacks and atrocities of all kinds and our people now take such incidents in their stride. Therefore, the Peshawar suicide bombing on Sept 26 shouldn't have come as a surprise or more shocking than previous terrorist acts. However, it will be instructive to discuss this incident to understand the senseless nature of the bombings that kill innocent people, destroy livelihoods and contribute to the hopelessness of the situation now obtaining in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in particular, as well as in the rest of Pakistan.

The suicide bomber, a young man with a trimmed beard according to the closed-circuit television footage collected from Askari Bank, was driving a black car stuffed with 100kg of explosives. This is the estimate drawn by police investigators and they should be right because the bombers and their handlers pack as much explosives as possible in vehicles and suicide jackets to cause maximum damage. The footage showed that the bomber hurled a hand grenade and then tried to drive away his vehicle before blowing it up. The result was death and destruction all around the Cantonment Plaza on the busy Fakhre Alam Road in the Saddar area of downtown Peshawar. Thirteen innocent persons were killed and more than 90 sustained injuries. The beautiful front portions of several multi-storey buildings on the road were unrecognisable after suffering destruction and well-furnished offices were turned into rubble. Over 200 shops and offices and 40 vehicles were damaged.

Though investigators are unsure about the actual target of the suicide bomber, as a military vehicle in the parking lot of Cantonment Plaza could have tempted him to strike, the traders, shopkeepers, officegoers and everyone else working in this part of Peshawar were convinced that Askari Bank was targeted. On two previous occasions attempts were made to attack the bank. About two years ago, several people sustained injuries in a bomb blast outside the bank and then an explosives-laden car parked nearby was defused just in time. The bank had reportedly received threats recently also because the militants perceived it as a legitimate target due to their understanding that it was owned and run by the military. For the Taliban militants and their jihadi allies, every institution, organisation and individual linked with the military deserved to be attacked after having suffered at the hands of the security forces.

The identity of those killed and wounded should explain how people having no links to the security forces or the government, which are prime targets of the militants, are caught up in bomb explosions. Riaz Ahmad, a 32-year-old driver with a nongovernmental organisation, and his college-going younger brother, Imtiaz Ahmad, were both killed in the blast and not many in their village, Achini, near Peshawar could control their tears at the time of the funerals. Property dealer Mohsin Ali Qureshi, aged 22, was on the way to his office on a motorcycle when the blast took his life. His father found his body at the Lady Reading Hospital following a frantic search after he had failed to reach him on his mobile phone. The elderly "Baba Gamlay Wala" who sold flowerpots and other earthen vessels on his pushcart, also perished in the explosion. Few people knew the actual name of the 70-year-old but all those doing business in the area recognised him. Also killed were rickshaw driver Daulat Khan from Shakai Hindkiyan village close to Peshawar who had recently returned from Dubai, electrician Nasim Gul from the city's Bihari Colony and 26-year-old Sarfaraz from Katlang in Mardan who used to buy and sell motorcycles for a living and had come to Fakhre Alam Road on some errand after admitting his ailing grandmother in the nearby Combined Military Hospital.

The suicide bombing killed and injured young and old, men and women, Sunnis and Shias, urban dwellers and villagers, soldiers and civilians, doctors and patients, shopkeepers and customers and Pashto and Hindko speakers. None among them had been part of the decision-making process to wage war against the militants. They didn't cause harm to any militant and none deserved to be harmed. They were all ordinary people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Askari Bank may be owned by an affiliate of the armed forces, but it is a commercial rather than a military enterprise and is staffed by civilians. Probably it would not have become a target if the bank had a non-military name. The senselessness of the suicide bombing was evident from the fact that this wasn't a strategic target and attacking it caused no setback to the security forces or the law-enforcement agencies. In fact, it was a public place and, therefore, a soft target. One wonders why a suicide bomber was wasted in attacking such an easy target. Perhaps the militants have run out of targets, or they have an abundance of suicide bombers ready to be unleashed against even a lesser target. It seems they haven't realised that such attacks in public places have already made them deeply unpopular. Or they do realise the implications but have given up hopes of winning public support for their cause.

The tragedy of the Sept 26 bombing in Peshawar was compounded by the fact that another suicide attack took place the same day in southern Bannu city when the Mandan police station was blown up and 15 people, mostly policemen, were killed and scores of others were injured. The Bannu blast also damaged 70 adjacent houses. In fact, the material losses suffered by common people in the Peshawar and Bannu suicide bombings could run into millions of rupees. The government has no system or means to compensate those suffering such huge losses. It should come up with some system of compensation as the material losses suffered by people in terrorist attacks and military operations are now a common occurrence. Failure to do so would contribute to frustration among those affected and add to the number of people harbouring a grudge against the government.

There was another tragic happening the same day in the distant Northern Areas, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan after being granted greater autonomy. A bomb explosion rocked Gilgit and triggered sectarian riots that killed five people, including cops. It appears the bomb blast was designed to cause sectarian strife and the objective was achieved as some killings followed the incident and fuelled tension in a tourist-friendly area once famous for its peace and tranquillity.

The three tragic incidents took place on a day when the Pakistani cricket team won its Champions Trophy match against old foe India in Johannesburg, South Africa. Fans were glued to television sets and every other activity was kept on hold. The win led to wild celebrations, which at times were painful for those grieved by the death of 33 Pakistanis in the three bombings. One could imagine the feelings of the aggrieved families. Though the joy felt by fans, particularly the young people, on beating India at the cricket ground was understandable, it was sad that the contest between the two rivals was equated to something akin to war and the sighs and tears of the grieving families were drowned in the din caused by hysterical partygoers. We need to practice moderation in every respect, and this applies to celebrating success and making joy.

Winning a match or two against India or bagging the Champions Trophy like the Twenty20 championship before it surely provides a cause for celebration. But it isn't much of an achievement for a country that is at war with itself and is suffering from serious political, economic and social problems. The media too must show maturity instead of focusing too much on pursuits such as cricket and music shows and wasting time and space on frivolous issues like the one concerning actress Meera's marriage. The rising poverty, bad governance, deteriorating law and order situation, lost livelihoods due to violence caused by militancy and military operations, long hours of curfews in the conflict areas, alarming levels of unemployment and record corruption are far more important issues that need to be highlighted and tackled. Failure to show sympathy and solidarity with victims of violence would further weaken the already weak and fragile federation of Pakistan.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim







Much to the dismay of the government's detractors and contrary to the vilification campaign going on in the country against the elected leadership, the US Senate voted on Thursday to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to roughly $1.5 billion per year.

The bill, approved unanimously, had been agreed upon between the Senate and House sponsors of legislation passed separately by each chamber earlier this year. The sponsors are Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar. The bill has incorporated improvements over the earlier version of the Kerry-Lugar Bill passed by the Senate and the House. The vital aspect of the bill is that its language is far less prescriptive and stringent. Specific references to India as well as A Q Khan have been eliminated while the language related to nuclear proliferation is markedly toned down – from "ensure access of US investigators to individual suspected" to receiving cooperation "in efforts such as providing relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals associated with such networks."

On Thursday, for the first time ever, major economic powers agreed to the formation of a multi-donor trust fund (MDTF) to help the country build its tribal areas which have been the worst victim of the fight against the militants.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity President Barack Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Gordon Brown co-chaired the meeting of Friends Democratic of Pakistan (FoDP). The participants included a galaxy of world leaders, such as President Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, the prime ministers of Australia and Canada and World Bank president Robert Zoellick. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi termed the summit a "diplomatic success," stating that it represented a vote of confidence in the Pakistani nation.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown applauded Islamabad's campaign to rid the restive border areas of violent extremism and bring stability to the region. The British leader commended the leadership of President Zardari and the role of the armed forces for launching an effective offensive against the militants.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama reaffirmed his administration's commitment to economic cooperation with Pakistan.

The total amount of the bill passed by US Senate for FY 2009 is $3021.0 million. $1147.5 million would be given under the head of Development and Reconstruction out of which $33.5 million will be given under the head of Child Survival and Health Programme whereas Economic Support Fund would receive $1,114.0 million while $11,02 million will be made available for the country in FY2010 with $27.9 million and $1,074.3 million on Child Survival and Health Programme and Economic Support Fund respectively.

Pakistan will receive a total of $1103.1 million under the head of Security Assistance out of which foreign military financing would be $300.0 million this year whereas $700.0 million have been allocated for Pakistan Counter Insurgency Fund; $13.3 million would be spent on Non-Profit, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Issues. International Narcotics and Law Enforcement would receive a total of $87.5 million while $2.3 million would be spent under the Head of IMET. It is worth mentioning here that $298.0 million, $22.7 million, $155.2 million and $ 4.0 million respectively would be given to the country under the same head in FY2010.

Pakistan will receive a total of $255.4 million under the head of humanitarian grant; further details are that Migration and Refugee Assistance will be given $69.6 million while Food for Progress will get $31.0 million, PL480 $36.3 million and International Disaster Assistance will be given $118.0 million in the FY 2009. Migration and Refugee Assistance will receive $20.0 million while no money has been reserved for Food for Progress, PL and International Disaster Assistance in the FY 2010. Total State Department operations will entail $2,506.0 million in this financial year whereas it would be $1602.0 million in the next financial year.

The Department of Defence will receive a total of $515.6 million in which Counter- Narcotics will receive an amount of $63.3 million this year and $38.4 million in the next financial year while $25.0 million have been reserved for FATA Authority this year. Ensuring that the present government does not face any obstacle in its democratic dispensation a condition in the bill requires that the security forces of Pakistan do not subvert judicial processes. The aim of the legislation is to promote stability in the country.

It is worth mentioning that the bill underlines the importance of supporting Pakistan's national security needs to fight the ongoing counterinsurgency and improve its border security and control. However, it does not specify any amount or percentage. This provides the administration maximum flexibility and none of the conditions can set in motion automatic sanctions.

Previously, Pakistan was governed by a dictator and that regime weakened all our important institutions like the judiciary and the parliament. Even the media was brutalised and attacked when the crunch came. Today all our institutions are working for the betterment of the people. The judiciary and the parliament are respected by the executive. The media is free to examine and comment on the working of the government. Internationally, Pakistan stands in the strongest diplomatic position in its sixty two year history. Our leaders now stand shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of other democracies. And perhaps the most important message that President Zardari sends to our nation and to the world is that democracy does indeed deliver.


The writer is an MNA and a member of the PPP media team. Email: fispahani@gmail. com









All those making revelations these days in TV talk shows speak out after long years of silence. On whose behest are the secrets being divulged now? All these talking spies and sleuths have served under the Pakistan Army Act and are fully cognisant of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act. Were they not under oath to protect state secrets coming to their knowledge? Why can't they be silenced and proceeded against? Or have they been promised impunity?

Distribution of slush money amongst politicians through Intelligence outfits was wrong, but revealing it now is yet another wrong--more damaging than the original act. A petition against this outright purchase and bribery is pending in the Supreme Court for 13 years. This is surprising. But more surprising is the assertion by the attorney general, the government's highest law officer, that the government will not request the court for an early hearing of this case.

Given the NRO and knowing the foreign guarantors, a demand to drag Musharraf into the courts is surprising. And equally surprising is the role and attitude of those who assert "democracy is the best revenge" and that they would prefer a "perpetual punishment" rather than the punishment laid down by the law. The prime minister's requiring a "unanimous resolution" is strange. Where can such a provision in law be found and followed? He could have been more truthful and stated his inability, rather than indulge in a political gimmick. Mr Gilani says that his government will do only the "doable." The finance minister says that the sugar mafia is too powerful for the government to be tackled or taken care of. Is this the writ of the state they keep talking about?

The facts are being concealed by none other than the occupants of high offices.

Foes claiming to be brothers is such a blatant and outright lie that it is bemusing. Talking of brotherhood being taken to generations and within days dismissing the brothers' government, signing of a Charter of Democracy in a ceremony and soon declaring it is "not so sacred" are classic examples of hypocrisy.

On the NRO, how can a person, for personal perpetuation, exonerate those whose corruption scales in the International market are measured and weighed in terms of percentage formulae? Why were the unreal maps of Jinnahpur published when now these are said to be fictitious and a figment of the imagination by the operatives?

In 1999, removing the army chief in such an undignified manner was wrong. But more of a wrong was the reaction of the army chief to handcuff the prime minister.

How can one or two individuals by their assertions change or distort the historical facts regarding handing over of lists to a hostile neighbour? It was a serious and deliberate crime. Declaring now that no such lists were ever handed over is an outright lie. Benazir is on record as having said that had her government not helped Rajiv Gandhi, India could have faced fragmentation.

After elections in 1988, the Muslim League was a viable claimant and contender to power because the People's Party had failed to gain an absolute majority and single alone could not lay any claim to form the government. Two letters from President Reagan changed the destiny of the country. In his letter to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, he asked him to nominate and invite Benazir Bhutto to form the federal government. And in his postscript remarks to Benazir, he expressed the hope that she would soon visit the United States as Pakistan's prime minister. Whither sovereignty? There has been repeat of the same act in 2008!

Who is behind the minus-one formula and what is all this fuss about? Asif Zardari is the president of Pakistan under the umbrella of the NRO. He ascended to this highest office through a transparent, democratic process. Removing him through a tenacious and treacherous mechanism will be unfair and fraught with dangers. The military is already occupied in fighting an aimless war against its own people in Balochistan, Swat, Malakand and FATA. It is an endless war and the government is wrong in claiming early victories. It will take years and years–perhaps after the exit of foreign forces from Afghanistan–before the situation returns to normal. The recent elections in Afghanistan prove that our regional and geopolitical situation will not undergo any radical change. Sending Zardari to Nawabshah after assassination of Behazir will further alienate Sindh to the detriment of the federation. It would be wise to let him enjoy the globetrotting overseeing his assets, estates and empires, but his friends back home must ensure that he is kept abreast of the popularity polls to justify his incumbency.

Over the years our national resources and assets have been subjected to a merciless loot and plunder. There have been serious scams, scandals and cartels causing tremendous setbacks to our economic health. Flight of capital, money laundering, forex frauds, huge loans written off have crippled our economy and emptied the exchequer. Those in power have filled their coffers and kitties with ill gotten wealth to their full satisfaction. To name a few there were, seizure of foreign exchange accounts, Qarz Utaro Mulk Sanwaro, earthquake rehabilitation funds, cement and sugar cartels, atta crisis the co-operatives scandal, finance companies, Khanani and Kalia (the list of the culprits is still awaited), Mehran Bank and Punjab Bank scandals and huge illegal foreign exchange remittances from the country. The mighty people have made billions and purchased properties abroad. Has this income been declared or they have evaded taxes and duties? The losses suffered by the exchequer are in high proportion. Every government has been waiving/writing off big loans causing loss of billions to the state treasury. Reportedly the present government has written off loans worth Rs52 billion. These written off loans must be recovered. The government should constitute a judicial commission to investigate and take steps for recovery of all these irregularities.

Why are we distorting our national history and destroying our image as a sovereign country? Did we not learn a lesson from the break-up of our beloved homeland? Is this the intellectual and honesty level of our leaders? Do we know about the struggle and ultimate creation of Pakistan against all odds? Did our fathers and forefathers offer their blood, kith and kin for a state to be reduced to a personal and family fiefdom? What are we leaving for the history to record and preserve for posterity?

In the end I would wish to express my sympathies for the PML-N. In its moves and manoeuvres to appease the PPP it is further damaging its political credentials and propriety. The PPP is not going to oblige it through the repeal of third term restriction clause of the 17th Amendment. Its strength lies in a unified Muslim League and not in becoming an appendage of the PPP. The sooner it understands it, the better. Restricting himself to Punjab, Mian Nawaz Sharif is neither serving national interests nor is it befitting his stature. He commands respect and following. He should come out from the confines of Raiwind and view the developments in national perspective, by touring the federating units. Instead of leaving provinces to the nationalists and regional parties, he should popularise the national politics. It is need of the hour. Showing solidarity with the rulers one day and getting repulsive response the other day is an insult to his political faculties. He already has limited options which he should not limit further.

The writer is former minister for religious affairs. Email:







Self-criticism is widespread in Pakistan. It is unfortunate that as a nation we take pride in maligning our own country. We proudly demean our country and take pleasure in criticising our own socio-economic culture, especially before foreigners. In particular, the so-called elite of the society are seen pointing fingers at their own government and even their own country in diplomatic functions.

During my eleven years in the ministry of finance, I have seen so-called "economic experts" criticising every aspect of government economic policy and creating confusion about macroeconomic statistics. For them, nothing was going in the right direction and the economy was on the verge of collapse. On the other hand, the international rating agencies, such as Standards & Poor's and Moody's, continued to improve Pakistan's credit ratings. Whenever Pakistan went to the international capital markets and floated bonds, its paper was oversubscribed by several times. Goldman and Sachs – the global investment bank, expanded its list of emerging economies (Next 11) by including Korea and Pakistan, which in its opinion, would play an important role in the global economy along with the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

These international rating agencies and global financial institutions expressed their optimism because they could see Pakistan's economic fundamentals gaining traction with each passing year. On the other hand, our "economic experts" continued to belittle the economic progress that the country was making and at the same time misguiding the general public through the print and electronic media. At times the critics crossed all limits and wrote something which only a non-Pakistani with the intention to harm Pakistan's interest would write. For example, two or three weeks prior to Pakistan floating its sovereign paper in international markets in 2006, one Pakistani critic wrote in an international newspaper to warn global investors not to invest in Pakistan's sovereign bond. Interestingly, this bond was oversubscribed and Pakistan joined the league of the few countries that succeeded in floating a 30-years paper. Similarly, Pakistan floated another sovereign bond on May 23, 2007--i.e., after the tragic incident of May 12 in Karachi. Before the Pakistani team would go for the road show, one of the critics wrote in a leading domestic English daily warning global investors not to invest in Pakistani paper. The bond was once again oversubscribed by seven times. At times it was hard to fathom that a Pakistani could go to this extent to damage national interest. But there were many such critics who would fail to distinguish between criticising a government and harming national interest.

No government is perfect. There will always be some weaknesses in policy-making; after all, policymakers are also human beings. Criticism is an integral part of good governance. It is the job of the experts to highlight the weaknesses and suggest solutions. Criticism for the sake of criticism is not a healthy practice. Constructive criticism is always welcomed by every government. Unfortunately, such criticism has seldom been practiced in this country.

Take the example of India. The former president of the Confederation of Indian Industry – the most powerful body of the Indian private sector – concluded in one of his presentations, in which he was comparing India and China that (i) India should not emulate China, (ii) India would grow by the Indian model and (iii) Indians must avoid self-criticism. This is the spirit which is lacking in Pakistan. Is everything milk and honey in India? More than 45 per cent of the poor of South Asia live in India. India is the home of millions of HIV/AIDS patients – second only to South Africa. The number of undernourished children in India is in millions. But how often does one hear Indian experts criticising and demeaning the progress made in their country on macroeconomic front?

Take yet another example from India. Inflation is one of the most important indicators of macroeconomics. The way inflation is measured in India leaves much to be desired. Inflation is commonly measured as changes in the consumer price index (CPI). The CPI-based inflation remains the official barometer of inflation in many countries around the world–developed or developing. In these countries, the economic authorities review the commodity basket at an interval of 5 to 6 years. Interestingly, India, an emerging economic power, still uses the wholesale price index (WPI) as its main measure of inflation. The WPI, as its name suggests, is designed to measure the changes in prices at the wholesale level of all the commodities. It is not the price that the Indian consumer faces in the market. Furthermore, the base year for the WPI is also 15-years-old (from 1993-94), and therefore does not represent the current production structure of the Indian industry. India does produce CPI-based inflation but it is not used as an official measure of inflation. Furthermore, the bases of CPI-based inflation are three-decades-old and certainly do not represent the current consumption patterns of Indian society.


While India portrays an inaccurate picture by using an exceedingly old base year for the WPI, how many Indian economic experts have criticised their government for misrepresenting the inflation figure? How many of them have criticised their government as we do in Pakistan? Our inflation number is far superior and updated than that of India and yet our experts would criticise vehemently the inflation number of Pakistan.

Constructive criticism is most welcome by any government. We must avoid criticism for the sake of criticism and misguiding the general public. This nation has already paid a heavy price for being misguided by our "experts." We must not discount our successes. As a nation we must learn to celebrate our successes as well. Turn self-criticism into self-confidence, which would be an asset for all of us in these testing times.

The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School in Islamabad. Email: ahkhan









The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

President Barak Obama weighs his options on Afghanistan amid dwindling public support in America for the war. Political debate has escalated in Congress and the media about both the aims of the western mission and its chance of success, at a time when there is growing unease within a fractious international coalition whose members see drift and a lack of strategic clarity in Washington.

President Obama has promised a comprehensive policy re-assessment before making decisions on strategy. He has said he would not be rushed into making up his mind about sending more troops until he had "absolute clarity about strategy".

While he mulls over the assessment submitted late last month by General Stanley A McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces, the fraud-ridden presidential election in Afghanistan has thrown Washington's political strategy into disarray.

With no legitimate political structure in place this denudes any counterinsurgency plan of its most critical requirement. Although frenetic damage limitation efforts by western diplomats are in progress, the uncertainty created by a deeply flawed election is feeding into growing public doubts in the US as well as in Europe.

As American casualties have risen, public support for the war has waned. A series of opinion polls indicate the changing public mood in America and rising war weariness in the midst of pressing domestic concerns.

Polls show that the American public is deeply sceptical about President Obama's view that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity". A Washington Post-ABC poll found 51 per cent saying that the war is not worth fighting while 46 per cent said it is. Other polls have also found that the majority are now opposed to a troop surge.

It is among President Obama's own party that support for the war has been flagging. Leading Democrats have been calling on President Obama to resist requests for more troops. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has warned that there is little appetite in Congress to authorize additional forces beyond the 21,000 that are already on their way and which will take the total of US forces to 68,000 by year end. Liberal Democrats like Senator Russel Feingold have urged a "flexible timetable" to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan.

With most Democrats opposed to continuing or expanding the conflict, Obama has been placed in the awkward position of relying more on the Republicans for support in the war.

As the counterinsurgency mission in Afghanistan has become almost entirely Americanized, this has made it even harder to garner domestic support. Eliciting such backing seems to increasingly rest on internationalizing the military effort but the western coalition itself is afflicted by dissension.

It is in this challenging environment that the White House is reflecting on the recommendations made by General McChrystal. The bulk of this review of reviews was leaked last week. In the 66-page report the general describes the situation in Afghanistan as "serious but with success still achievable". He warns that unless he is provided more troops and a robust counterinsurgency strategy the war may be lost. He suggests that the aim of the military engagement should be to protect the population and unify the coalition effort.

Last Friday McChrystal submitted a formal request to the Pentagon for additional forces, possibly as many as 40,000 troops. The administration had earlier asked the general to delay making this request, to get inputs from civilians and outsiders to rethink overall strategy.

The debate over troop numbers is really one about how deeply to commit to a conflict that has already exceeded American combat engagement in the two World Wars combined. The debate so far has been polarizing. Republicans like Senator John McCain have called for committing "decisive military force". Powerful Democrats have argued against deeper involvement in a war in which an escalation strategy offers no guarantee of success and exposes the US to the risk of being bogged down in a Vietnam-style quagmire.

The debate has also pitted Vice President Joe Biden and key Congressional leaders who advocate a narrow counterterrorism approach that focuses on Al Qaeda and those like General McChrystal who are pressing for a broader counter insurgency strategy.

It is now more than apparent that the Obama administration rushed into a policy review of Afghanistan and hastily announced its conclusions in March 2009, sixty days after assuming power. This review represented a compromise between different views and sought to bridge the minimalist/maximalist approaches by offering something to everybody. What followed was more a statement of intent than an actual plan.

What was rolled out on the ground reflected little break with past. For all the emphasis on a civilian surge and a stronger diplomatic thrust, only a military strategy was implemented, on which virtually all the reliance was placed. And as the "new approach" was pursued without taking hard decisions mission drift followed.

President Obama now confronts tough choices that many believe he sought to avoid in the first seven months of his presidency. The immediate decision is whether to accede to the military's request for more troops or to scale back and redefine both the mission and its goals. His administration probably calculates that it has less than a year (as mid-term Congressional elections are then due) to show progress before public support disappears.

The choice for him should not be one between abandoning Afghanistan and pursuing an open-ended military engagement. Both would be destabilizing for the region. They are also unfeasible. The challenge is to find the best way of preventing the country from being a haven for terrorist networks but avoiding a course in where only a military solution is pursued.

He can no longer take the decisions that are necessary without addressing strategic questions: Is the goal of the military mission now simply the avoidance of defeat? What does "success" in Afghanistan really mean? Can Afghanistan be stabilized by just military means without applying non-military elements of strategy? This is what another troop surge implies. Is it at all feasible for outsiders to undertake nation building?

If insurgencies are neutralized as much by political as by military means, how can a viable political strategy be fashioned in the aftermath of the fraud-stricken Afghan election? How can talks with the insurgents be initiated? On what terms? And with whom?

If training and expanding the Afghan National Army and police is the basis on which an ultimate exit plan depends how can progress be expected when that process remains skewed in favour of non-Pashtuns? How can such forces take over more responsibility for their country's security if they suffer from this critical deficit as well as other disabilities in training and professionalism?

It is how President Obama addresses these questions that future stability in Afghanistan may hinge. He has shown a sense of realism in stating in recent interviews that he does not believe in an indefinite occupation and is not interested in being in Afghanistan to "save face".

He needs above all to recognize the need for a transition strategy that includes a process of reconciliation undertaken by Afghans themselves, investing seriously in more representative and viable Afghan security forces, considering a peace keeping force from Muslim countries as a 'bridging step' and forging a regional compact. Unless a radically different tack is followed the outcome may not be any different than it has in the past eight years.







"Veni, vidi, vic – I came, I saw, I conquered," thus declared Julius Caesar before the senate in Rome after he defeated the Greeks. Following his summits with visiting eminences of the world, it's early to say what President Asif Ali Zardari will tell his nation on return. Sure, his media handlers and friendly hacks accompanying him will declare him the victor.

The acid test of our president will be on the number of zeroes written on the cheque he receives from FoDP (Friends of Democratic Pakistan); the stringent conditions for $1.5 billion he has managed to wrest out of the US senate still squeamish about giving it; and any other freebies (military hardware) he can convince Obama to gift to Pakistan. Yes, yes, we know that our leader will not leave the US shores without dough, but with how many strings attached is a question no one can answer right away.

Meanwhile there's a small housekeeping matter that requires our immediate attention. Islamabad's philharmonic orchestra is hopelessly out of tune. Discordant notes floating around create a cacophony of confusion. In the June New York Review of Books, Ahmad Rashid quotes Zardari as telling him that his government has received only "$10 and $15 million," despite all the new American promises of aid. But Ambassador Anne Patterson harps a different note – she tells reporters in September that Pakistan under Zardari has received $3 billion in economic, security and development assistance to date. His finance guru Shaukat Tarin fiddles a $970 million figure as sum received from the US. Question: why are the three 'musicians' jangling different numbers?

Truth, as always is the casualty.

Oh! By the way, we've been given our metrics. Remember SIP? The White House released the Strategic Implementation Plan to Congress ahead of the FoDP summit. James Jones, director of National Security Agency is the author. The eight metrics to judge the progress in Pakistan and Afghanistan are meant to act like those little lights along the floor of the cabin that light up when the plane nosedives. These illuminated escape path lights show you the way out. Similarly the escape lights in the Oval Office will come on should the SIP yardsticks catch some VIP in 'Af-Pak' with his hand in the till. Get the drift? Need I be more explicit?

Does anyone know the New York-returned team's action plan? I don't see any fresh, young faces among the wiseacres to raise our comfort level. I'm told that 70-something Salman Faruqui is one of the leaders of the pack. Is he the point man or Shaukat Tareen? If our benefactors at FoDP and SIP continue to eye Pakistan with suspicion, don't be at all surprised. By now the world should have been told what exactly is on our president's mind regarding the money. Inquiries by some Islamabad-based reporters for the finance ministry have drawn a blank. The secretary finance has conveniently directed such queries to the Foreign Office.

The past two PPP governments don't exactly have a scintillating record of finance keeping. Benazir Bhutto was loath to appoint a finance minister. She liked to keep the portfolio herself, but handed over the all-important investment portfolio to First Hubby. Why? Perhaps the question would be better answered by her friend-turned-foe Farooq Leghari whose charge-sheet against the Benazir government of that time had corruption as a major plank.

More troubling today is, what if Barack Obama was to pick up the phone and dial the presidency in Islamabad wanting answers to some pointed questions identified by that SIP stuff? Gulp! Our man on the hill may not be prepared for the grilling? Can Zardari satisfy Obama's curiosity and tell him to calm down? If not, say goodbye to FoDP, SIP and the $1.5 billion US assistance meant only for non-civilian development in Pakistan.

Julius Caesar, he bestrides the political landscape like a colossus. Who will be Pakistan's JC?









A LATEST report by a UK newspaper has once again brought to focus what plans the United States has in store for Quetta. The Sunday Times has reported that the United States was threatening to launch air strikes on Mulla Omar and the Taliban leadership in Quetta ‘as frustration mounts about the ease with which they (allegedly) find sanctuary across the border from Afghanistan’.

The dangers are looming large and the deliberate leak about bombing of Quetta is not a hollow warning if one takes into account other related developments and the growing shift in the US policy vis-à-vis the war on terrorism. Alarm bells should have rung much before in the power circles in Pakistan as Quetta and Muridke have clearly been mentioned in the Kerry-Lugar Bill, the adoption of which is being propagated as one of the biggest achievements of the present regime. On a number of occasions in the past as well, Americans leaked similar reports alleging that Quetta has become abode of Taliban and even Al-Qaeda leadership, as if the provincial capital is an inaccessible territory where from terrorists can plan and launch their activities. Americans have long been planning something nefarious about Balochistan and that is why they are extending tacit support to Indian interference there. Not only that, there are also reports that they have been launching operations against Iran from the soil of Balochistan as a result of which misunderstanding mars otherwise good relations between Pakistan and brotherly Iran. The fact that most of the elements of the BLA are based in Afghanistan, where Americans are in control of virtually everything, also corroborates reports that trouble in Balochistan is fomented with active connivance of some foreign powers. Americans have miserably failed both in Iraq and Afghanistan and they are now focusing on Pakistan for the sake of face-saving as they find here some readily pliant quarters to advance their objectives. Under these circumstances, it is time that the nation gets united to ward off the danger and foil designs of those who want to destabilize nuclear Pakistan as part of their long-term agenda. While we would urge the Government to announce the much-delayed Balochistan package with a view to creating congenial atmosphere for promotion of national unity and solidarity, the issue should be discussed threadbare in the forthcoming sessions of the Senate and the National Assembly.










THE much-hyped New York meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna created more fissures than contributing towards the prospects of normalization of relations. While Pakistan was hoping progress towards resumption of the composite dialogue process, Indians have even rejected the proposal for resumption of the back channel diplomacy.

This is not only frustrating but a clear snub to Pakistan’s continued apologetic policy towards India. We have been emphasizing in these columns that although it is desire of every Pakistani to have improved relations with India yet this should not be at the cost of national honour and dignity. The only benefit that Pakistan can and should expect from dialogue is movement towards peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute but we have witnessed that Indians were not budging an inch from their stated position on the issue. Then why should we die for resumption of meaningless dialogue? This time round Indians have even rejected the back channel diplomacy that could play some role in resolution of the disputes between the two countries. Pakistan Foreign Minister was apparently very enthusiastic about the back channel diplomacy as he had even announced the name of Pakistani interlocutor but regrettably his sincerity has not been reciprocated by the Indian side. To add salt to the injury, the Indian External Affairs Minister stated that there was no need for back channel diplomacy when ‘front channels were open’. Where are these front channels when you (Indians) have unilaterally stalled the composite dialogue process and contemptuously ignored request of Pakistan for a meeting between the two foreign secretaries. Rejection of talks and blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan clearly show that India is using coercion as a policy tool to advance its mini superpower agenda and Pakistan should, therefore, reassess its approach accordingly.








WORLD Tourism Day (WTD) was celebrated worldwide on Sunday but regrettably it almost went unnoticed in Pakistan as only PTDC’s few hotels, motels and TICs made local arrangements by displaying old posters of tourist sites while a function was arranged the following day in Rawalpindi which reflected apathy on the part of the Ministry of Tourism and PTDC. The main purpose of World Tourism Day is to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values.

The World over there is increasing awareness of Tourism’s role as a productive activity and its undisputed potential to generate employment, government income and other benefits to economy. This year’s theme “Tourism - Celebrating Diversity” was aimed at shedding light on the most human side of the industry, its capacity to build understanding, foster social inclusion and promote higher standards of living. Pakistan like every region of the world is distinct and has many things to offer and gain through travel and tourism, particularly the high mountains in the northern areas, its deserts, sandy seashores, green valleys and varied environment. It was an important occasion for the Ministry of Tourism and the PTDC to promote the development of the industry by highlighting the diversity of our land, which has indeed been the motive behind travel and tourism for centuries. The Ministry should have launched a high profile campaign of sites of tourist attractions in Pakistan and organise an international conference with the involvement of international tourism operators and other stakeholders. But who should tell the Minister for Tourism and his handpicked subordinates who have no experience or background of tourism that such are the occasions when the country can draw the attention of tourism operators to explore new tourist attraction sites. We could also have invited the Secretary General of the WTO in the conference and sought his support to reconstruct the tourist sites, which suffered immensely due to militancy in Swat and Malakand. As peace returns to Swat and Malakand, one of the major areas for tourists attraction, it is of utmost importance that the PTDC must hold a high profile gathering in Swat to show to the local and foreign tourists that they are safe while visiting these areas.









The United Nations Security Council, at a summit chaired by US President Barack Obama, unanimously approved a resolution on Thursday that envisaged a world without nuclear weapons. The resolution called for stepped up efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote disarmament and reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism.

The US-drafted resolution also called for further efforts in the sphere of nuclear disarmament envisaging a “world without nuclear weapons”. It urged all countries that have not signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to do so. The conference also aimed at promoting the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), first initiated in 1999. Addressing the Conference, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon, asked India and eight other countries including Pakistan to ratify the agreement so that it comes into force. In the past, Pakistan had taken the position that it will sign the CTBT if India signs it, which was a flawed approach. Pakistan being a sovereign country should formulate its own policy and its decisions should not hinge on what India does.

India seems to be the first country to have given immediate reaction to the resolution before it was voted. In direct answer to the resolution calling for signing the non-proliferation treaty, India’s permanent representative in the UN Hardeep Puri said: “There is no question of Indian joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear weapon state. Nuclear weapons are an integral part of India’s national security and remain so pending non-discriminatory and global nuclear disarmament”. India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has said that the country has taken a “principled” stand on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and there is no scope for change in its position unless a number of other “developments” take place to address the concerns. To be precise, India would not sign the NPT unless it is given the status enjoyed by the five recognized nuclear powers.

In other words, India wants to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The point besides, big powers wish to have the monopoly of nuclear devices but they do not have moral high authority to convince other countries not to produce atomic bombs especially when they are being threatened by hegemonic regional and world powers. The problem is that the US - the sole super power - has double standards, one for its strategic partners and the other one for rest of the world. Israel is an undeclared atomic power yet America would not like to see Iran or any Arab country develop nukes to meet the challenges from it.

The US itself has entered into a civil nuclear agreement whereby India would enjoy all the benefits accruing to a state that has signed Non-Proliferation Treaty. This has disturbed the balance of power in South Asia. At the time of concluding agreement with the US, India had conveyed an impression that further nuclear tests would not be necessary yet it is not willing to sign the NPT or CTBT. On the other hand, members of US administration, government functionaries and think tanks continue propaganda against Pakistan that terrorists could get control of its nuclear assets in the event the state fails. In 2006, Pakistani press quoting Indian news agency had published news that National Intelligence Council, a think-tank organ of CIA in its 114-page report, among other observations, presaged that the world would need America’s help in resolving conflicts, and the US will have to intervene with a view to stopping Kashmir dispute from taking an ugly turn. It observed that in case India commits aggression against Pakistan, and gets initial success due to its edge in conventional arms, Pakistan could use atomic weapons. It is strange that the US needs Pakistan to win the war on terror but it expresses concerns that terrorists could lay their hands on Pakistani nukes knowing full well that Pakistan has a multi-layered system, which was put in place with the cooperation of the US.

The US administration perhaps does not realize that its policy of building up India as countervailing force to China would prove counter-productive, as India would never flex muscle with a powerful neighbour like China. American leadership does not realize that it is creating a monster for which the US might face the consequences of arming its potential rival in this region. It is an undeniable fact that India has quantitative and qualitative edge over Pakistan in conventional weapons such as tanks, aircraft and naval ships; still it is on buying spree and acquiring sophisticated weapons from the US, Russia, France, UK and Israel.

Of course, the US policy of making India a strategic partner has emboldened India to continue to be stubborn and balk at resolving Kashmir and other disputes. When the US and the West realize that the Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint, they should use their clout to persuade India to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders. As regards credible nuclear deterrence, it is rather difficult to assess as to how many nukes could make Pakistan safe, but it has to be decided in the light of what its archrival does. The two pillars of India’s strategy are a “minimum credible” deterrent and a doctrine of “no first use” of nuclear weapons. Pakistan also believes in minimum deterrence but does not subscribe to the “no first use” because of India’s edge over conventional arms and size of the armed forces. After May 1998 nuclear tests the then India’s national security advisor had said that for India’s deterrent to be credible, it needs nuclear weapons in sufficient numbers and sufficiently dispersed across the country to enable them to survive a first strike and cause enormous damage to the aggressors. But the India’s blend of low-range and long-range missiles to carry warheads is Pakistan-specific because it would not go to war with China remembering 1962 war when it lost thousands of square miles to China. Of course, after teaching India a lesson, China had returned to its original positions.

In 2006, a small group of US military experts and intelligence officials convened in Washington for a classified war game explored strategies for securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal if the country’s political institutions and military safeguards began to fall apart.

The secret exercise - conducted without official sponsorship from any government agency, apparently due to the sensitivity of its subject - was one of several such games the US government has conducted in recent years examining various options and scenarios for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons: How many troops might be required for a military intervention in Pakistan? Could Pakistani nuclear bunkers be isolated by saturating the surrounding areas with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from the air and packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions? Or might such a move only worsen the security of Pakistan’s arsenal? But Pakistan’s armed forces have the ability to frustrate such designs.









Pakistan nuclear program has remained an eyesore for India, Israel and USA. One of the principle objectives of axis of evil based in Kabul is to deprive Pakistan of its nukes, which the latter considers as guarantor of its security against aggressive designs of India. RAW in connivance with other intelligence agencies conceived a comprehensive plan in end 2001 to export terrorism into Pakistan from Afghanistan. Weakening of Pakistan Army at the hands of foreign sponsored militants in FATA and Swat was designed to show to the world that Pak forces were incapable of meeting the militant threat and were fast losing space. Takeover of Lower Dir and Buner in last April soon after Nizam-e-Adl Accord was aimed at scuttling the accord, creating panic that Islamabad was within grasping reach of Taliban and that any delay in taking physical action would be at the cost of losing nukes. Simultaneously, all economic indicators of Pakistan were brought down and stories of its fragmentation circulated to create fear in hearts of weak-kneed rulers so that they would come running to Americans beseeching them to safeguard their nuclear weapons from marauding Taliban. Or else, seek American help to create secure perimeters around nuclear sites. Pentagon has already prepared several contingency plans to either seize nukes or destroy them firing precision guided laser missiles either by bombers or drones. Latter are probably practicing for such an eventuality either from Shamsi airbase or Tarbela base.

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a close friend of Bruce Riedel has cautioned that before Pak nukes fall into hands of extremists, these should be either destroyed or taken over. He suggests that said nukes are stored in easily identifiable sites that could be attacked with airpower or Special Forces and can be destroyed, if necessary. He expresses his anxiety that flight time for US bombers from Diego Garcia naval base is too long and that either missiles might not penetrate underground hardened pens in which nukes are stored or it may allow time to the custodians to shift some nukes in assembled form elsewhere. It may be recalled that in the wake of mounting concerns about safety, nukes were dispersed. Warheads were stored unassembled, with fissile core separate from non-nuclear explosives, and placed separately from delivery means. While this arrangement has made it almost impossible for terrorists to steal and use a nuke, it has also made it exceedingly difficult for US Task Force to seize all nukes in one go. These apprehensions have restrained USA from opting for a military option. It has also impelled American officials to repeatedly press Pak officials for more information on location of nukes.

Andrew Cockburn stated that the US is helping Pakistan modernise its nuclear arsenal to make nukes safer. He claims that project costing $ 100 million a year, would prevent accidents and keep nukes out of reach of extremists. France too has extended its help to improve the safety of our nuclear assets. There is no truth in Andrew’s story since Pakistan doesn’t need any foreign assistance to secure its nuclear assets. It is a different matter that US officials are trying hard to find out quantity and location of all our nukes and one way is to first drum up their vulnerability and then offer safety assistance. Other is to increase its presence and spy network and cultivate agents within nuclear organisations either for technical sabotage or for gaining detailed information. Planned extension of US Embassy in Islamabad and reported arrival of about 1000 marines along with APCs and Black water under the plea of security and for coordinating disbursement of enhanced US assistance is worrying the people. Apart from self-created and ill-founded anxieties of USA, Israel and India about vulnerability of our nukes, other thing which is pinching them is up-gradation of Pak nuclear program. Lt Gen Michael Maples, Director Defence Intelligence, before his retirement in last March said that Pakistan nuclear program was still vulnerable. He added that Pakistan was continuing to develop its nuclear infrastructure. Washington Post in May wrote that Pakistan will be ready to start churning out a new stream of plutonium for its nuclear arsenal to make warheads for ballistic missiles and cruise missiles capable of being launched from submarines, ships and aircraft. US Congress said that Khushab Plutonium producing reactor is being expanded by adding two additional heavy water reactors with Chinese help.

While expressing concern over Pakistan’s improvement of its existing modest nuclear facilities, USA ignores Indian ambitious plans to expand and modernise its nuclear program. Apart from inducting Arihant nuclear submarine, it is designing cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads, relying partly on Russian technology. It is also trying to equip Agni ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and to deploy them on submarines. It is also contemplating improvement and testing of a powerful thermonuclear warhead. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman Indian Atomic Energy commission disclosed that by 2020, India would be able to generate 25% of its power from atomic energy and 50 % by 2050, that is, 700 gigawat. He is optimistic that Indo-US nuclear deal would sharply boost Indian nuclear capability. India has 17 operating nuclear power reactors. It plans to increase its capacity of 4120 megawatts to 10,000 megawatts by 2012. France, Russia and USA are contenders for installing 6-8 new reactors in India.

India has a chequered history in safeguarding its nuclear stockpiles. Hindu extremists and Indian scientists have been involved in theft of nuclear material and in technology transfers between Israel and India . Stealing and selling enriched uranium has accelerated since 2005 and has now become a norm. Ravindar Singh, a RAW agent was caught selling nuclear secrets to other countries. Indian scientists also had a hand in development of Iran ’s Bushehr plant. These untoward incidents when seen in context with huge network of Hindu extremists aligned with Indian military indulging in terrorism against religious minorities in India to establish Hindu Raj in India and depraved role of RAW against all neighbours of India, which has turned into a rogue outfit indicates the depth of malaise set in within Indian polity. 156 theft cases of uranium have been reported in India and registered with Indian police since 1984. These statistics make Indian nuclear program most unsafe and most dangerous and a great danger to world security. Christopher Pine, a nuclear safeties expert working with Natural Resource Council in Washington has branded India’s nuclear safe keeping practices as worse with least safeguards in the whole world.

Instead of raising concerns and taking preventive actions, USA is encouraging India to build more bombs. Indo-US nuclear deal enables India to produce 40 nukes a year. Other than dangers of Indian nuclear program, why the Maoist threat supported by peasants and deprived segments of Indian society which is shaking the very foundations of India not causing any concern to our friends like Bruce Riedel? Instead of undesirably fretting against Pak nuclear programme, the west should be more concerned about security of their own nuclear storage houses which have become vulnerable because of growing animus of Islamists present within and outside the western world. Lapses in US nuclear safety system should be an eye opener. Posting of list of US 103 commercial nuclear power reactors and their locations on internet was a grave lapse. It was not the first or last security breach committed by bumbling Americans who do not tire censuring Pakistan and needlessly losing their health over well secured nuclear assets of Pakistan. Loopholes in US regulations allow people to easily obtain and send overseas sensitive military hardware that could be used in nuclear devices.

The writer is a Rawalpindi-based defence and security analyst.









Pakistan nuclear program has remained an eyesore for India, Israel and USA. One of the principle objectives of axis of evil based in Kabul is to deprive Pakistan of its nukes, which the latter considers as guarantor of its security against aggressive designs of India. RAW in connivance with other intelligence agencies conceived a comprehensive plan in end 2001 to export terrorism into Pakistan from Afghanistan. Weakening of Pakistan Army at the hands of foreign sponsored militants in FATA and Swat was designed to show to the world that Pak forces were incapable of meeting the militant threat and were fast losing space. Takeover of Lower Dir and Buner in last April soon after Nizam-e-Adl Accord was aimed at scuttling the accord, creating panic that Islamabad was within grasping reach of Taliban and that any delay in taking physical action would be at the cost of losing nukes. Simultaneously, all economic indicators of Pakistan were brought down and stories of its fragmentation circulated to create fear in hearts of weak-kneed rulers so that they would come running to Americans beseeching them to safeguard their nuclear weapons from marauding Taliban. Or else, seek American help to create secure perimeters around nuclear sites. Pentagon has already prepared several contingency plans to either seize nukes or destroy them firing precision guided laser missiles either by bombers or drones. Latter are probably practicing for such an eventuality either from Shamsi airbase or Tarbela base.

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a close friend of Bruce Riedel has cautioned that before Pak nukes fall into hands of extremists, these should be either destroyed or taken over. He suggests that said nukes are stored in easily identifiable sites that could be attacked with airpower or Special Forces and can be destroyed, if necessary. He expresses his anxiety that flight time for US bombers from Diego Garcia naval base is too long and that either missiles might not penetrate underground hardened pens in which nukes are stored or it may allow time to the custodians to shift some nukes in assembled form elsewhere. It may be recalled that in the wake of mounting concerns about safety, nukes were dispersed. Warheads were stored unassembled, with fissile core separate from non-nuclear explosives, and placed separately from delivery means. While this arrangement has made it almost impossible for terrorists to steal and use a nuke, it has also made it exceedingly difficult for US Task Force to seize all nukes in one go. These apprehensions have restrained USA from opting for a military option. It has also impelled American officials to repeatedly press Pak officials for more information on location of nukes.

Andrew Cockburn stated that the US is helping Pakistan modernise its nuclear arsenal to make nukes safer. He claims that project costing $ 100 million a year, would prevent accidents and keep nukes out of reach of extremists. France too has extended its help to improve the safety of our nuclear assets. There is no truth in Andrew’s story since Pakistan doesn’t need any foreign assistance to secure its nuclear assets. It is a different matter that US officials are trying hard to find out quantity and location of all our nukes and one way is to first drum up their vulnerability and then offer safety assistance. Other is to increase its presence and spy network and cultivate agents within nuclear organisations either for technical sabotage or for gaining detailed information. Planned extension of US Embassy in Islamabad and reported arrival of about 1000 marines along with APCs and Black water under the plea of security and for coordinating disbursement of enhanced US assistance is worrying the people. Apart from self-created and ill-founded anxieties of USA, Israel and India about vulnerability of our nukes, other thing which is pinching them is up-gradation of Pak nuclear program. Lt Gen Michael Maples, Director Defence Intelligence, before his retirement in last March said that Pakistan nuclear program was still vulnerable. He added that Pakistan was continuing to develop its nuclear infrastructure. Washington Post in May wrote that Pakistan will be ready to start churning out a new stream of plutonium for its nuclear arsenal to make warheads for ballistic missiles and cruise missiles capable of being launched from submarines, ships and aircraft. US Congress said that Khushab Plutonium producing reactor is being expanded by adding two additional heavy water reactors with Chinese help.

While expressing concern over Pakistan’s improvement of its existing modest nuclear facilities, USA ignores Indian ambitious plans to expand and modernise its nuclear program. Apart from inducting Arihant nuclear submarine, it is designing cruise missiles to carry nuclear warheads, relying partly on Russian technology. It is also trying to equip Agni ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and to deploy them on submarines. It is also contemplating improvement and testing of a powerful thermonuclear warhead. Anil Kakodkar, Chairman Indian Atomic Energy commission disclosed that by 2020, India would be able to generate 25% of its power from atomic energy and 50 % by 2050, that is, 700 gigawat. He is optimistic that Indo-US nuclear deal would sharply boost Indian nuclear capability. India has 17 operating nuclear power reactors. It plans to increase its capacity of 4120 megawatts to 10,000 megawatts by 2012. France, Russia and USA are contenders for installing 6-8 new reactors in India.

India has a chequered history in safeguarding its nuclear stockpiles. Hindu extremists and Indian scientists have been involved in theft of nuclear material and in technology transfers between Israel and India . Stealing and selling enriched uranium has accelerated since 2005 and has now become a norm. Ravindar Singh, a RAW agent was caught selling nuclear secrets to other countries. Indian scientists also had a hand in development of Iran ’s Bushehr plant. These untoward incidents when seen in context with huge network of Hindu extremists aligned with Indian military indulging in terrorism against religious minorities in India to establish Hindu Raj in India and depraved role of RAW against all neighbours of India, which has turned into a rogue outfit indicates the depth of malaise set in within Indian polity. 156 theft cases of uranium have been reported in India and registered with Indian police since 1984. These statistics make Indian nuclear program most unsafe and most dangerous and a great danger to world security. Christopher Pine, a nuclear safeties expert working with Natural Resource Council in Washington has branded India’s nuclear safe keeping practices as worse with least safeguards in the whole world.

Instead of raising concerns and taking preventive actions, USA is encouraging India to build more bombs. Indo-US nuclear deal enables India to produce 40 nukes a year. Other than dangers of Indian nuclear program, why the Maoist threat supported by peasants and deprived segments of Indian society which is shaking the very foundations of India not causing any concern to our friends like Bruce Riedel? Instead of undesirably fretting against Pak nuclear programme, the west should be more concerned about security of their own nuclear storage houses which have become vulnerable because of growing animus of Islamists present within and outside the western world. Lapses in US nuclear safety system should be an eye opener. Posting of list of US 103 commercial nuclear power reactors and their locations on internet was a grave lapse. It was not the first or last security breach committed by bumbling Americans who do not tire censuring Pakistan and needlessly losing their health over well secured nuclear assets of Pakistan. Loopholes in US regulations allow people to easily obtain and send overseas sensitive military hardware that could be used in nuclear devices.

The writer is a Rawalpindi-based defence and security analyst.







Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, in his recent statement, indicated that India is losing patience over frequent cease-fire violations by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) and warned that at some stage it would have to retaliate. General Kapoor also claimed that reports about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal needed to be confirmed and after that New Delhi could think about reviewing its own nuclear strategy. General Kapoor said that firing across the LoC was part of the Pakistan Army’s tactics to push infiltrators through. His comments followed a recent alleged cease-fire violation in the Poonch sector in which an Indian soldier was killed. It is strange to observe that Indian Army authorities are either ignorant or overlooking what is happening in and around LoC.

One wonders if the Indian Army authorities are really ignorant of the deeds of their officers and men. The incident, which General Kapoor has taken so hard on his nerves, has even not been properly investigated. The actual story is quite different from the one being projected by Indian Chief, which can also be confirmed from the Intelligence Wing of Border Security Forces (BSF) as well as officers of Rashtriya Rifles deployed in Poonch. The name of the soldier in question was Lance Naik Dag Bahadur Gurung, who was involved in narcotics smuggling through Afghan peddler namely Haji Gul. He was killed due to his refusal to make payment of previous consignments. However, Indian Military Intelligence (MI) alleged that death of Naik Dag Bahadur Gurung was killed as a result of unprovoked firing from Pakistani side. Army authorities did not waste any time and termed the incident as case of ceasefire violation and said that the matter would be taken up with Pakistani authorities. It is pertinent to mention here that often Indian nationals cross over LoC to supply liquor, smuggle drugs and fake currency.

In fact Indian military personnel have started side businesses on LoC in which they are minting millions of rupees through illegal means. To quote an incident relating to Poonch district, which took place a few weeks back, two Jawans of the Territorial Army (TA), posted in the Poonch were arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police after fake currency worth Rs 1.7 lakh was recovered from them. The Jawans were identified as Mohd Aslam and Inayat Hussain of village Kalai in Poonch. Both the Jawans were recruited in the TA battalion more than five years ago and were attached with 27 Rashtriya Rifles. During the investigations by Police to track down the channel of the counterfeit currency notes, it came to light that other Army officers and personnel were also involved in the fake currency business. It also came to light that fake currency is smuggled through Pakistan to Afghanistan, UAE and European Union countries. Accordingly, a Police party was sent to Malti general area near the Line of Control (LoC) to pick other suspects named by the TA Jawans during preliminary investigations. However, when the Police party reached location of 17 Rajput, a group of Army Jawans of 17 Rajput led by two Army officers of the Major rank trashed Station House Officer (SHO) of Poonch Police Station Kuldeep Khajuria and accompanying Police personnel inside the Army camp, snatched their weapons and opened fire to scare them. In this context, Police has lodged FIR against the senior Army officers and their Jawans in the Poonch Police Station under Section 307, 332, 342 and 147.

A separate FIR over recovery of fake currency under Section 489-B and 109 was also filed. There are numerous other incidents which supports the point. However, Indian intelligence agencies in collaboration with Army and security forces keep their country busy in blame game so that illegal businesses remain unhindered.

Both Indian and Pakistani governments desire to ease their relations but the Indian intelligence agencies, especially Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Military Intelligence (MI) are bluffing the Indian government and the Army to attain their vested interest. Ironically, it is on record that Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor himself admitted few days back that border crossing from Pakistani side of LoC has decreased manifolds. India should not forget that election in Indian held Jammu & Kashmir state could not have been possible if Pakistan had nefarious designs. If we recall, it was due to good intensions of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt that both Pakistan and India could reach the landmark joint statement which de-links action on terror from the composite dialogue process between both the countries. However, Indian intelligence agencies made a lot of propaganda on inclusion of Balochistan in bilateral document?

Thus the Indian intelligence was once again successful in developing the gulf between the two countries. It is right time for India and Pakistan to behave mature and end blame game as it would not lead anywhere. India Army Chief, with all the respect, should fix his officers and men involved in initiating fake reports and work above any suspicion with Pakistan. Such uncalled for statement from top brasses of Indian Army would only instigate Pakistan leading to more friction. India must take a new start and stop blaming Pakistan for everything without proper investigations. Keeping in view the security problems faced by both countries, it right time to give up policy of mistrust and suspicion and contribute for peace and harmony in the region.









It may be recalled that the stated goal of the US missile shield was devised during the Bush administration. Its primary role was assigned to defend the US against any missile launched from Iran. This venture was vehemently opposed by Russia ’s Vladimir Putin, as he saw the programme as a challenge to Russia ’s own long-range missiles. Furthermore, according to the plan, the missiles were required to be placed, both in Czech Republic and Poland. Earlier, these two Republics had remained under control of Russia, so their installation in these republics was not approved. Rather, this US unilateral decision was deemed as extremely insulting and provocative for Russia ’s leadership, which thought that this extremely annoying act could end up in military action as well.

With regard to the latest US decision to scrap the system some belonging to Conservative Party, thought that the US decision could be interpreted as capitulation. In this backdrop, keeping in view the intricacies of the challenging situation Obama evolved a multi-faceted strategy which envisaged reaching out to the multi-faceted world. Towards that end to begin with, he tried to win over Muslim minds through his soul-maturing Cairo speech. In addition, he made hectic efforts to stabilize Iraq. He also increased his efforts to arrange talks between Israel and Palestinians. Also, he reached out to Iranian Government through two letters that he wrote to the Iranian supreme leader, as well as to the people of Iran . Interestingly, all these efforts slowly started placing Iran ’s leadership on the back foot and then suddenly, it was deprived from its two battle cries. One was that America was against the Muslim World and the other that the US had ambitions to apply regime change in Iran . These developments panicked Ayatollah Ali Khamenai so much that he decided to back Mahmud Ahmadinejad in presidential elections.

It may mentioned here that Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergery Lavrov recently made a statement that Muslims will not back further sanctions against Iran. After this, the importance of Russia to Iran ’s leaders as one of its two pillars of support in the UN Security Council increased even further. However, this sense of comfort in Tehran was unexpectedly dashed when Russian President completely took a U-turn by making a strong limit in his speech that Russia could now back tougher sanctions against Iran . This is surely a severe set back to Iran , as it is quite possible that Russia would live by his words. Moscow has let Tehran down and this is quite disturbing for Iran .

However, at this critical juncture, one has to see and judge, whether or not, recent Russian U-turn has come alone as a part of deal with Washington . In case of a deal in return from scrapping the missile shield programme Moscow would back the US in its effort to impose tougher sanctions against Iran . In this context, judging the statement made by Obama during a trip to Prague in April this year, Obama had linked the missile system issue to the Iranian nuclear programme, suggesting that it could be discarded. Note his words:

“If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security and the driving force for missile defence construction in Europe at this time will be removed.” The fact that the US virtually scrapped this system the day after Medvedev’s statement made, especially since Russian backing for sanctions could eliminate the Iranians threat, as Obama put it. Here the point under consideration is to see that in case Russia deserts Iran ’s side and join the West, how would China react to this situation? In all probabilities, China could find itself standing alone. Under such circumstances, its leadership could also decide that the cost of supporting Iran for outweighs the benefits. This would mean that the US would achieve two goals, with one move.

Obama’s decision shows that the US President is tackling issues on priority basis. For America , although the missile defence shield is important, stopping Iran from becoming armed with nuclear weapons is far more serious. America could always replace the system in future. It has no “point of no return.” So, the US President seems to be applying smart chess moves to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capability.

To conclude: commenting on Obama’s decision to scrap plan for construction of a missile shield in Eastern Europe, New York Times, in a recent issue remarks that during his scheduled meeting the Medvedev in near future, he must make it clear that this decision is not a pay-off for Moscow’s bullying and that an improved relationship will depend on Russia’s willingness to treat its neigbours and its people better. It is in the fitness of things if the two sides come to a quick agreement on extending START-I. The two leaders have a lot more to discuss including negotiating deeper cut, in their nuclear arsenal or agreeing on a strategy to roll back Iran ’s nuclear programme.









It costs as much as Taka 450,000 to detect defective design of a launch. And to check 400 launches posing high risks to passengers, the total cost comes to a staggering amount of Taka 180,000,000 (18 crore). Whether we believe it or not, there are exactly 400 such launches that ply on different river routes of the country. So no one is interested in undertaking this expensive venture, according to a report carried in a vernacular newspaper. The other disincentive is also quite understandable: if such a massive expense is required for mere tests, what a tall order it would be to correct the design fault?

Then are we fated to be satisfied with perilous journeys on board such defective vessels? The Bureau of Research, Testing and Consultation (BRTC) of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) is the only facility to have the required expertise for testing faulty designs and it demands Taka four lakh fifty thousand for putting a launch to such tests. However, it did carry out a test on a launch for Taka one and a half lakh because the vessel was much too risky.

Now no launch owners are expected to part with the money the BRTC demand for their launches' tests unless they are legally compelled. The reason is understandable. But then lives of thousands of launch passengers cannot be put to risk simply because the launch owners are reluctant to subject their vessels to costly tests. Also implementation of law is obligatory. In this case, the ministry concerned, though, can play a role by making some concessions for the vessels to be tested by way of rebate on taxes. At the same time, it can grant some facilities to the BRTC with the aim to bring down the cost of tests and rectify design faults. That will help the cause and ensure safety of passengers' lives.









The government has announced the export-import policy for the next three years (2009-2012). Not that it has much to say, as under the WTO (World Trade Organization) regime there is very little space for manouver. However, as a LDC (Least Developed Country) Bangladesh has some advantage in the form of waivers on copyright issues for quite some time. This basically affects or will affect the pharmaceutical and IT industries. But for the time being we are kind of free from it. As for imports, there can be no quantitative barriers like quotas or bans except on health or environmental grounds. The ship-breaking industry, which was banned by the High Court on health and environmental grounds, has been given partial clearance in the current policy, although it was not immediately clear how this will work.


Another salient feature of the current policy is the announcement of the shipbuilding industry as an export thrust sector. Already the shipbuilding sector has done quite well over the last few years and it is expected that with government support it will do even better. The major problem facing the industry is land acquisition and if the government can assist the shipbuilders in acquiring land that would be a great boost. Also joint ventures will bring in much needed technology and marketing expertise which can take Bangladesh into the high-end of the shipbuilding industry.

Another thrust sector, pharmaceuticals, will be free of copyright hassle, possibly up to 2015. Hopefully, Bangladesh can cash in on it in the meantime. As for the IT sector there is hardly any breakthrough despite the strong rhetoric from successive governments. What is possibly needed is a sector-specific policy done by national and international experts who have a proven track record in the field. So far, most initiatives have been academic rather than business-oriented. Other thrust sectors have not shown any significant progress over the last few years. Hopefully, the government incentive this time will work better.

Although conditions for import of certain products have been relaxed and for other products like milk powder made tighter, one wonders whether this will work. For optimum benefit to the economy there is no substitute to capacity building of monitoring agencies and developing a more efficient international trade regime. 









A letter to the editor in a leading newspaper caught my eye: "Each day I get out of bed with a spring in my step and a prayer of thanksgiving in my heart. I hug startled wife sleeping next to me then hug an equally astonished dog! I smile as I dream of my morning cuppa and grin thinking of the lovely day ahead, but alas a little later, sitting with your newspaper on my lap, the smile fades away and turns into a frown; all the happiness and joy that came with the morning is lost in the print on the page."

 "I read of suicide bombers, rapes and murders, killings and robberies and as I put the paper down look furtively through door to see whether any of those murderers and gangsters and terrorists you have warned me about wait for me outside. I venture out a little later, petrified, scared and terrified. Your paper dear sir, has done it again, changed me from a roaring lion to a little terrified mouse!"

After reading 'scared reader's' letter and sympathising with him, I turned the page and saw hidden in a corner a picture of a family hugging each other. It looked a little different from the picture of the ruins of a bus shelter that filled the front page after a bomb attack in Israel or was it London? I read the article below the picture and tears flowed freely, not tears of sadness but joy. I read that a mother who was in coma for the last two years after being involved in a road accident in Gloucestershire had come out of it after her seven-year-old son cracked a joke and made her laugh. Suddenly the gloom around me lifted. I looked at the happy family and imagined the absolutely thrilling moment when a woman nearly given up as brain dead filled hospital room with giggle, then chuckles and laughter. I could see the family, first stunned, then jumping up with squeals of joy, hugging each other than carefully hugging Andrea. Oh what a happy scene! I looked at the picture, read story again and mentally placed it on a special page not the front page editor sahib but maybe page three or four; a page reserved for happy news, a page where readers could turn to and be filled with hope and joy. A page which would help them walk out of home and smile at bearded stranger without thinking he was a terrorist or shake hands with a foreigner treating him as friend and brother. Dear Scared Reader, what we need is a page for joyful news, right? A page that will continue the spring in your step you woke up with and increase manifold the thanksgiving in your heart, because in reality there's more good happening at any given moment than evil...!










THE re-election of Chancellor Angela Merkel is good news for Germany, Europe's largest economy, and the world. The result has allowed Ms Merkel to disband the "grand coalition" of convenience with the centre-left Social Democrats that has neutered her government for four years. Instead, her conservative Christian Democrats, despite scoring a mediocre 33.8 per cent of the vote - their lowest percentage since 1949 - will govern with her preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, which secured 15 per cent support. After predictions of a closer result, the two parties will command 332 seats in a 622-member parliament.


After almost outpolling Ms Merkel in 2005, the Social Democrats suffered a bitter defeat, plummeting to 23 per cent. They will be in opposition for the first time in 11 years. The poll saw the Greens vote creep up from 8 to 10 per cent. But both Ms Merkel and the FDP favour a more pragmatic environment policy, and will scrap the closure of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants by 2021, until renewable energy is viable. Short of importing more energy, they had no alternative.


Germany has suffered a serious recession, but the electorate's robust endorsement of market-based policies again illustrates the fallacy of the argument that the global financial crisis signalled a winding back of the influence of the markets. The overwhelming majority of German voters see free markets as the solution, not the problem. The vote illustrates the extent of the crisis for social democracy in Europe, where the heirs of Gerhard Schroder's Neue Mitte have suffered the kind of humiliating defeat that awaits the heirs of Tony Blair's Third Way in Britain next year.


Ms Merkel campaigned on a platform of tax cuts of E15 billion ($25bn) and smaller government, while the Social Democrats pledged to increase taxes for top income-earners. The result frees the Chancellor to pursue a much-needed reform agenda, including cutting some forms of welfare, to reduce Germany's government debt, which the OECD estimates to be 64.8 per cent of annual GDP. Restoring business confidence and profitability is vital for restoring Germany's export performance. Reducing unemployment, which is 8.3 per cent and rising, is Ms Merkel's main priority. The pro-business agenda of the Free Democrats, including labor market reform, will be an essential part of the process.


While the war on Afghanistan was not a prominent issue in the campaign, with all major parties supporting Germany's involvement, the election coincides with the US military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, calling for as many as 45,000 extra troops. Germany, with a population of 82 million, has about 4200 troops in the NATO force, fewer than half the number of Britain. Ms Merkel's victory gives her extra authority in Europe and within the Atlantic alliance, but to be taken seriously Germany will need to lead by committing to the Afghanistan conflict.


Ms Merkel, an East German physicist, has already made history and shown she is an adroit politician, first in becoming Chancellor, then by sharing power for four years with her opponents. In this climate, few established leaders could emulate her success. From now, however, she will be judged on how well she enacts a reform agenda that will restore prosperity - short-term pain for long-term gain. About 30 per cent of Germans stayed away from the polls, suggesting they see a leadership vacuum. Ms Merkel has a rare opportunity to carve a legacy of reform.








IS it time for the Rudd government to invoke the wisdom of 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my mind"? It appears so, but not yet, judging by Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens's comments to the Senate economics committee yesterday. It may well be that emergency policy settings put in place at the height of the financial crisis may not be appropriate when the economy is performing better than expected.


Mr Stevens says Australia has performed well by international standards and makes a sophisticated case for why that may be so. He acknowledges the Howard government's legacy by noting that our financial system was in better shape to begin with without many of the serious problems that caused havoc in Europe and the US. Second, he notes the resilience of our Asian trading partners, especially China and the ongoing strength of the resources market. Third, Australia was in good enough shape to allow the kind of fiscal stimulus applied by the Rudd government while at the same time allowing for monetary easing. Australia, Mr Stevens said, went into the crisis with "ample scope for macro-economic policy action to support demand as global economic conditions rapidly deteriorated".


At a time when Britain is battling youth unemployment of almost 20 per cent, Australians can take heart at the strength of our economy. That strength is forcing Treasury economists to upgrade their forecasts, with a chance that the budget could return to surplus by 2014-15, a year earlier than expected.


Asked yesterday about the prospect of the economy over-heating in the next two years, Mr Stevens suggested "some deferral (of government spending) might have some attractions". If, hypothetically, the remaining $20billion to $30 billion of stimulus spending were cancelled, Mr Stevens said, it would result in interest rates remaining lower for longer. Home buyers, investors and business borrowers should hope that the government has taken note.


At the right time, he notes, fiscal support will have to be wound back and monetary policy tightened. But he says the Rudd government's stimulus is designed to be reduced and the signs are that interest rates will be raised. In other words, he expects a return to business as normal.


Mr Stevens was unsure about whether the government has a "plan B". If so, he said, it should emerge soon as budget preparations for next year get under way. The government has abandoned its December 1 deadline for construction to start on buildings funded under the final round of its $14.1 billion primary schools stimulus package because labour shortages have started pushing up costs. The postponement is understandable, although it runs the risk of adding to inflation next year when the economic recovery is gathering pace.


Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan point to the G20's pledge to "avoid premature withdrawal of stimulus". At the end of the day, however, individual governments, not international forums, are responsible for managing economies. While the seven biggest developed economies in the world contracted by 5 per cent, this economy grew slightly over the past four quarters. Despite dire predictions of a new depression, the GFC, for Australia, has played out as a shallow downturn, milder than the recessions of 1981 and the early 1990s. In facing the challenge of managing Australia's return to prosperity, one-size-fits-all solutions may not suit current circumstances.







AUSTRALIA'S long-term practice of honouring ex-servicemen and women, those who die and those who return, is a vital part of our Anzac tradition. So is looking after the widows and children of those who do not return, or who are too severely wounded to work again. As the war in Afghanistan intensifies, it is vital that those involved, and their families, are as well supported as possible.


Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin's pledge to help a new generation of war widows is welcome. Yesterday, he conceded the struggles that some families are facing after Breeanna Till, the pregnant widow of Sergeant Brett Till, killed by an explosion in Afghanistan six months ago, made her concerns public.


As Mr Griffin acknowledged, the Department of Veterans' Affairs does a good job for war widows - provided they are 80-years-old. It must now turn its attention to younger families.


Others who feel overlooked are some of the Diggers who return with serious physical wounds or suffering post traumatic stress disorders. Often, there are sound reasons for protecting their identities and personal privacy. But as Paul Toohey reported yesterday, Australians are being given little information about what Defence Force personnel are suffering in Afghanistan. Understandably, veterans fear an adverse long-term impact on soldiers if the public has little appreciation of their sacrifices.


Like the Anzacs of the Great War and World War II and other campaigns, we owe the Diggers who have served our interests in Iraq and Afghanistan a vast debt of support.









THE Federal Government is right to be annoyed that state governments intend to raise public housing rents after pensioners get a pay rise. A similar practice is notorious among private landlords, who have been known to raise their tenants' rents by the exact amount of a pension increase from the day the extra payment is received. The state governments, including NSW, have not gone as far as that, taking only a 25-per cent cut of the pensioners' increase in higher rents, and after a 12-month delay. It makes little difference. They should think again.


The excuse initially offered by the NSW Housing Minister, David Borger, for the rent rise was that the extra revenue "could be used to build more homes for those who may currently be homeless''. Could be, note - not will be. Such a loosely worded hint from this State Government is the most throwaway of throwaway lines. Just how flimsy the promise was shown when Mr Borger changed it after 24 hours. The money is now to be used to assist the building of private rental housing for pensioners, he says. But even if Mr Borger himself is genuine, can he guarantee that 12 months from now his Government will keep any of his promises? More important, are they worth keeping? We believe not.


The Federal Government has already made large payments to the states for extra public housing. As part of the stimulus package in response to the global downturn, Canberra has provided $5.25 billion to the states to build new public housing and another $400 million for repairs to old housing stock. That is in addition to other assistance to the states for public housing. The need is indeed great, but action is being taken to meet it, and there comes a point at which extra funds only cause bottlenecks and shortages of skilled labour.


Like the public housing boost, the pension increase was also intended as a kind of economic stimulus. Pensioners are more likely to spend than save the extra funds, and to promote economic activity as they do so. Unlike other stimulus measures, this one has no end date, so the effect will continue - unless, of course, state governments step in to commandeer some of the extra money and reduce its effect. The state governments' decision to claw back some of the pension increase is thus undesirable on a number of fronts. Gouging public tenants undermines a necessary attempt to improve pensioner welfare and to stimulate the economy. The policy should be withdrawn.









IRAN has thrown down yet another challenge to the coalition of world powers trying to restrain its nuclear ambitions. The admission by Tehran that it has been building a second nuclear facility in secret underlines what has already been clear for some time: Iran's leaders have no intention of dealing candidly with the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or anyone else on this issue. But though the offence is flagrant, the response should be carefully considered.


A military strike will be unlikely to succeed, because the facilities are buried so deep that they are untouchable, and will inflame feelings across the region to an unmanageable pitch. But there is at present an uncommon international unity on the Iranian nuclear question which should not be squandered. US, British and French officials have already briefed their Russian, Chinese, Israeli and UN counterparts; and after their one-on-one talks the US President, Barack Obama, appears to have convinced Russia's President, Dmitry Medvedev, to take a tougher stand on sanctions. Tehran has not yet set a course from which it cannot return, and, though it is unlikely that it will agree to all demands, an opportunity exists to press for a resolution to the seven-year nuclear stand-off.


At the meeting in Geneva on Thursday the US must demand that Iran allow, within weeks, unlimited access to the secret plant, including full access to those who built it, and to its blueprints. Further, Iran must be told that to avoid sanctions it must adhere to an IAEA agreement allowing inspectors free access anywhere in the country. Iran would then be compelled to hand over documents involving the design of warheads and the detonation of a nuclear core that the agency believes have been hidden.


An opportunity has also been presented for the world to review the larger question of how nuclear weapons should be used. In the post-Cold War world, they are no longer retained purely as a deterrent to nuclear attack but as a tool for managing world order. Obama apparently believes the latter policy is unethical and unsustainable. Friction exists between his Administration, which wishes to make large cuts to the US and the world's nuclear arsenals, and the Pentagon, which believes it must protect the existing nuclear order to maintain international stability.


The abolition of nuclear weapons is impossible for now, so Obama will instead emphasise elimination as a long-term aspiration. In the meantime Iran, like North Korea, has drawn the inevitable conclusion from decades of Western inaction on nuclear disarmament: only nuclear weapons will keep it safe.








DEATH, injury and trauma are occupational hazards of military service. Every member of the Australian Defence Force knows the dangers. They ought to be able to trust that they and their families will receive the best possible support from the Government and military should the worst happen. Each time an Australian soldier dies in war, the nation's military and political leaders insist their sacrifice will not be forgotten and that the surviving family will not want for support. And each time bereaved families and veterans cannot help but regard those words with scepticism. They know that, year after year, those left behind by our war dead have been let down.


The latest case involves war widow Breeanna Till, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan in March. Two weeks later his pay was cut off. Now seven months pregnant, Mrs Till is caring for his two children, but they were facing eviction from her Defence Housing Authority home six months after her husband's death, consistent with Defence regulations. Although she was paid compensation of about $122,000 and receives a weekly pension of $335, the children have not received compensation - a $73,000 lump sum, plus an $81 weekly payment and education support - because they are from his previous marriage.


In a welcome show of compassion, ADF chief Angus Houston now says Mrs Till will be allowed to stay in the home until September 2010. The Government has also ordered an investigation and asked the Veterans Affairs Department to find a way to compensate Sergeant Till's children. If this case were out of the ordinary, it might then be excused as a tragic bureaucratic oversight. However, Mrs Till's purpose in revealing her circumstances to a review of military compensation was to push for changes in a system that adds to the burden of surviving families.


The system is complex and poorly co-ordinated, the outcomes inconsistent and confusing. Mrs Till, for instance, has questioned the timeframe for cutting off a deceased soldier's pay, when an incapacitated soldier who has to retire from duty is paid for the full time they would have served. Having endured lengthy negotiations, she can also attest to the need to improve official support and liaison services, which are underfunded and understaffed - a fact established by several inquiries.


Others have raised similar concerns before, notably Kylie Russell, whose husband Andrew was killed in Afghanistan in February 2002 while serving as a sergeant in the SAS. She was the first widow of an Australian soldier killed in active duty since the Vietnam War, but a dozen have died since then - 10 in Afghanistan and two in Iraq. In 2003, Mrs Russell recalled her experience after the initial calls and visits from the prime minister, defence minister, veterans affairs minister and army chief. ''Everyone wants to know you, everyone promises they will look after you. Then you start writing a few letters to these people when you start realising that things aren't all that good and then no one all of a sudden wants to be your best friend.''


Many widows and families say Legacy provides a vital safety net, but that is also a reflection of how poorly the Government meets its obligations. Not only widows and families have been let down, but also thousands of veterans who return with physical and mental scars. Last year an inquiry into the suicide of one former special forces soldier who had served in Afghanistan found that the processing of claims was ''exceedingly impersonal'' and that a one-stop-shop approach was needed to ''relieve the burden on incapacitated veterans who find the compensation/payment maze almost impenetrable''. This is not what one wants to hear when one in 10 of the thousands who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq is expected to suffer post-traumatic mental illnesses.

Compensation has improved in recent years, but Mrs Till is entitled to question how well her modest pension reflects the sacrifice her husband made for his country. The Government acknowledged that sacrifice, at least in word, on the day of Sergeant Till's funeral. This was attended by the acting Prime Minister, Defence Force Chief and Defence Minister, who said: ''He is owed a special debt of gratitude that can never be fully be repaid.''


The nation can do much more, however, to honour the debt to its soldiers by caring properly for families and veterans. The Government must ensure that the compensation inquiry helps bring about a level of care and support that truly lives up to the promises that soldiers' sacrifices will never be forgotten. That is the least it can do at a time when 1550 Australians are still risking their lives in Afghanistan.










THE transformation of Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall almost 20 years ago and the reunification of east and west into one federal republic has also, by its nature, wrought substantial political change. The big surprise of Sunday's elections was neither the win of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union nor the losses suffered by its uneasy coalition partner, Frank-Walter Steinmeier's Social Democratic Party, each of which was expected. The real shock, one that will change Germany's political landscape, was the remarkable rise of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, which received 15 per cent of the national vote.


The good news for Dr Merkel, whose centre-right party received 33.5 per cent of the vote, is not only the continuation of her chancellorship but also that she can now form a coalition with the FDP - its leader, Guido Westerwelle, is already being predicted to be the country's new foreign minister - ending her association with the SPD, which polled just 22.7 per cent and is headed for opposition. The new partnership will mean all the difference between a marriage of convenience and one based on at least some form of mutual affection and joint expectations.


The need for the new coalition to manage the country's emergence from its deepest recession since the war is just one of its formidable domestic challenges. On a broader scale, the re-election of a Merkel government ensures continuity: Copenhagen and climate-change talks loom, and there is the ongoing subject of Germany's military presence in Afghanistan. In these matters, Dr Merkel has demonstrated strength and leadership. It is hoped she will continue to build on Germany's reputation as an agent for change.












At every political conference there are two worlds in one town, kept apart by the dreary apparatus of the security state: steel fences, scanners, identity badges and armed police. Labour's task this week is to smash down these barriers cutting the party off from the public, but yesterday the separation grew. This is a conference speaking mournfully to itself and to the past. Ministers are writing valedictory dispatches when they should be fighting for their future. There was no anger, only retrospective regret from a party that feels it is going to lose, but still does not understand why, or think defeat justified.


At least Labour now has a strategy. It is simple, and backward-looking, but it will keep the conference and perhaps Gordon Brown's leadership alive – to remind Britain that the government acted when economic crisis hit, and to warn that the Conservatives would threaten recovery through inexperience and a dogmatic enthusiasm for cuts. The merit of this argument is that it is true, or at least true enough to put to voters. The disadvantage is that it will drive the party further from the electorate. It boils down to telling voters that they are wrong to trust the Conservatives, as every poll shows they do, and wrong not to thank the government for the good things it has done. Protected by the comfort of its secure zone, yesterday Labour turned on the public outside for ingratitude. But the party made no attempt to answer the question that will chase the prime minister until polling day: if you win the next election, what on earth do you want to do with the next four years?


In the hall, Alistair Darling's decency and lack of bombast contrasted with Peter Mandelson's helium-voiced theatricality, but both their speeches indulged in feelgood therapy for a party in denial. "When the history of this period is written, this country and this party will be proud," the chancellor said. He is right. But no minister should talk of history six months before an election is to be fought.


He spoke much of the time in the past tense, while Lord Mandelson played with the hall, a cheeky self-referential game that will have left the country cold. In an earlier guise, the business secretary would have gone on to challenge his party. He still knows that is needed. "We should be a party of insurgents, not incumbents," he said. But he fell flat when he talked of the future, because he does not think there will be one. Both men found it easier to make sly jibes at the Conservatives than to talk of their own plans: the age-old characteristic of incumbency being to demean your opponents. The public will not re-elect Labour just because of its past, Lord Mandelson said. That is true, but only adds to the need to talk about the future.


Too late, Labour is trying to inject passion into its response to the financial crisis, hinting at a populist crackdown on the City. There is certainly much to do. But the plans themselves are messy. Mr Darling enhances the government with a quiet reliability and he was well-mannered enough yesterday not to point out that the prime minister came within hours of sacking him last June. But that does not make him the convincing face of a crusade against the City. He has won an argument inside the government about spending and cuts, but proposed legislation on deficit reduction is an awful idea. The debate over the size of the state should be had in public between parties, not outsourced to a technocratic instrument.


At a Progress rally on Sunday night 11 ministers made a case for Labour's future. As Lord Mandelson pointed out, voters still agree with many of the things that the government has done. The relationship between public and party has fallen into mutual distrust, an emotional separation rather than one over issues of substance. Sitting inside its steel fence, Labour is asking why it is no longer loved. Only when it talks to the people outside will it discover the answer.






In the article below analysing the German election result we noted that the CDU-CSU parnership gained 33.8% of the vote, but went astray in saying this compared with 40.8% of the vote four years ago. In the 2005 election this pairing won 35.2%.


There have been four general elections in the elite group of the world's most powerful economies since the global financial crisis first erupted. Two of them, in the US and Japan, have produced decisive moves to the left in favour of change. The two others, in Canada and the weekend federal election in Germany, have produced much less radical outcomes, keeping competent centre-right governments in power.


The most important feature of the German election result is that Angela Merkel's CDU-CSU has been returned to office in a new coalition with the liberal FDP. But the most striking aspect of Sunday's poll is that the two previously dominant parties have been cut down to size in an unprecedented way. Four years ago, the CDU-CSU took 40.8% of the vote and was forced into a centrist "grand" coalition with the centre-left SPD. This time, Mrs Merkel's vote fell badly, to 33.8%. She has only retained power because the FDP vote soared even more, from 4.7% in 2005 to 14.6% today. This was the liberals' year. Their success means a narrow majority for tax cuts and renewed public service reforms, and for nuclear power; whether the new coalition will be able to put either policy into practice will be the key domestic test for Germany.


Much of that will depend on what happens to the now seriously weakened and divided German left. It is 11 years since the SPD ousted Helmut Kohl and formed a majority coalition with the Greens. Now, however, the SPD's vote has hit its lowest-ever mark of 23% and the CDU-FDP coalition is back. (By coincidence, a ComRes poll in yesterday's Independent showed Labour on 23% in this country too; times are tough for social democrats in many parts of Europe.) The strength of the Left party, which polled 12% and gets its most concentrated support in the old East Germany, is a challenge to which the SPD has failed to respond.


All in all, however, the two big parties which have headed every German government since the second world war are now down to less than 57% of the vote. All the minor parties polled strongly and increased their shares. For the first time in modern Germany, all the parties in the new Bundestag have polled more than 10% but less than 40%. Multi-party politics has never been more deeply entrenched in Germany than it is now. Germans have nevertheless rewarded Mrs Merkel for steering a coalition with the SPD through turbulent economic times, without presiding over economic disaster or abandoning popular social programmes. Germans have not voted for radical change. They have given a vote of confidence to their tried and tested social market model, but in a very different way from before.







Aztec culture is not for the bleeding-heart liberal, not least because it involves so many bleeding hearts. Step inside the British Museum's new celebration of their last great leader, Moctezuma II, and you will be greeted by a great silver eagle used for storing the organ. The Aztecs are said to have chosen the spot for their capital by tossing a heart in the air, and to mark special occasions they would light a celebratory fire in the hollowed-out chest of a victim. The gore extends to the head, with masks fashioned from real skulls, albeit skulls encrusted with alternate stripes of turquoise and lignite. The craftsmanship, however, is less impressive than the complex dual calendar, which achieved great accuracy although it mixed ritualistic and solar elements. Then there is the hieroglyphic-style writing, not to mention the almost-psychedelic art that resembles the cover of Disraeli Gears, which it predates by around 500 years. By the time the conquistadors arrived in 1519-20 in what is now Mexico City, the conurbation already housed 200,000 people, around four times more than London back then. The Aztecs remind us that there is nothing uniquely European about the forward march of technical progress. As for European claims of moral advancement, never forget that gunpowder settled the clash of civilisations. Had things played out differently, Aztec museums might now allow us to marvel at scary savages who slaughtered their enemies by blasting fire out of the end of a tube.








When an extraordinary session of the Diet opens in October, the issue of money in politics will be reignited. The Liberal Democratic Party, now in opposition, will surely assail Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa over dubious political donations.


Some donors listed in Mr. Hatoyama's political funds reports were found to have died by the time they supposedly made the donations. Mr. Ozawa's chief secretary has been indicted and will soon stand trial on a charge related to how donations were channeled from Nishimatsu Construction Co. to Mr. Ozawa's political funds management organization.


Under a 1970 Supreme Court ruling, companies can make donations to political parties unless it runs counter to the public good. The DPJ now proposes a ban on companies, labor unions and other organizations making political donations or purchasing tickets to fund-raising parties. Under the DPJ proposal, the ban would come into effect in three years.


The LDP and Komeito's counterproposal would allow for donations by companies and other bodies, but impose professional sanctions on politicians if their accounting staff were to violate the Political Funds Control Law, such as by submitting false donations reports. The LDP has received a large amount in donations from Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), and has benefited from donations from individual companies. Some DPJ politicians also currently receive donations from individual firms, but the DPJ is expected to strive to create a system in which politicians and political parties finance their activities with donations from individual citizens and public subsidies.


The Political Funds Control Law has been revised many times. Since 2000, company donations to individual politicians' funds management organizations has been banned. But, as the cases mentioned above have made apparent, there are loopholes. Both Mr. Hatoyama and Mr. Ozawa should give full explanations about the donations in question, and both the ruling and opposition camps should work to revise the law to ensure the sources of political donations are fully transparent.









The impact of the H1N1 influenza is increasing across the nation. According to the health ministry, in the week ending Sept. 13 an estimated 180,000 people in Japan were diagnosed with influenza — some 30,000 more than in the previous week — with most cases suspected to be the new flu strain. The current figure is most likely significantly higher. The ministry estimates are projected from the reports of some 5,000 medical institutions. In the week ending Sept. 20 they reported 23,275 new flu cases, up by more than 50 percent from the previous week.


Globally, the World Health Organization reports that more than 3,000 people have died of the H1N1 flu. Compared to ordinary influenza, the new flu spreads at an equivalent speed or slightly faster, and the mortality rate among N1H1 sufferers is equal or slightly lower.


The health ministry fears that the new strain's peak may see some 760,000 people develop symptoms every day. Since most sufferers of the new flu are likely to have mild cases, individuals should do what they can to keep infection at bay: avoid crowds, wash hands frequently and, should they contract the flu, wear a mask. However, the worst case scenario could see medical institutions overrun by serious cases.


The government is taking measures to cope with the situation. It will subsidize 50 percent of the cost of artificial respirators purchased by medical institutions to treat serious cases. It is also making preparations for people to be vaccinated, starting with medical professionials and other people at high risk, such as those with chronic renal or pulmonary disease. The government will also push domestic production of the N1H1 vaccine, mainly for supply to pregnant women and children. The nation's stock of antiviral drugs is at present sufficient for about 50 million people.


But even medical institutions equipped with artificial respirators may be unable to provide complete treatment if they are flooded by seriously ill people. Hospitals and clinics need to establish a communication network and work out an effective division of labor, while the government should help areas suffering from a shortage of doctors or intensive care units.








Many of us thought that the World Trade Organization (WTO) was dead when the world financial and economic crisis demolished the myth of the benefits of free trade regimes, and that the poor of the world could rejoice. But suddenly, by some kind of voodoo trickery, it is back.


Trade liberalization, the WTO promises, will bring benefits to all countries. In reality, rich countries have taken full advantage of the opening of markets in developing countries, while failing to open their own markets. Now the issue is agricultural trade, the most important issue for the poor of the developing world.


At the WTO's Cancun conference in 2003, developing countries were expected to accept a deal whereby, in return for making minor reductions in import tariffs and subsidies, they would be forced to accept a regime of free-flowing investments. The Cancun conference failed mainly because of the combined efforts of India, Brazil and South Africa to stand up against protectionism in developed countries.


Agriculture: If the proposal for the WTO's recently revived Doha Round of Negotiations is any indication, developing countries would have to cut agricultural tariffs by 36 percent, and even the most important products for poor farmers would face cuts of around 19 percent.


Yet, the proposal does not imply real cuts in the huge U.S. and EU farm subsidies — although both pretend to be set to make cuts to subsidies, of 70 and 80 percent respectively. The current U.S. subsidy totals around $7 billion; a 70 percent cut would cap this at $14.5 billion. Similarly, according to estimates, EU subsides by 2014 will be around 12 billion euro; an 80 percent cut would cap subsidies at 22 billion euro.


Agricultural subsidies to farmers in the United States, European Union and Japan have risen to almost $1 billion a day. Together with other measures such as tariffs and quotas, these subsidies make it difficult for developing countries to compete in rich-country markets. Even more damaging, the subsidies enable agricultural exports from rich countries to drive small farmers out of business.


Developed-country subsidies thus threaten domestic food security while undermining export potential. Developing countries wanted this situation to be addressed before they agreed to another round of negotiations, but their request fell on deaf ears.


Public Health: Patent rights, which grant temporary monopolies to drug manufacturers, keep drug prices and company profits up. In 1994, the World Health Organization agreement on "trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights" (TRIPS) mandated that member countries bring their laws into compliance with restrictive standards that maximize the rights of patent holders. Developing countries have proposed a clear declaration from the WHO that "nothing in the TRIPS agreement shall prevent members from taking measures to protect public health."


The U.S., Switzerland, and other rich countries have opposed this statement, and have proposed weaker, similar- sounding language in its place.


Tariffs: In the U.S., the average tariff rate for imports of industrial goods is 4.9 percent with variations up to 350 percent. In Japan, the tariff rate (1998) was 4.3 percent with variations as high as 60 percent. In the EU, the average tariff rate is 4.8 percent with variations up to 89 percent. The variation range is due to specific tariffs on a variety of products that can hide the real degree of protection afforded the rich countries.


Commodities subjected to high tariffs in developed countries tend to be the very products in which poor countries have a comparative advantage. High tariffs against the export of industrial goods from poor countries cover 63 percent of all their export items. High tariff rates against the export of agricultural products from poor countries constitute 97.7 percent of all their agricultural exports. Moreover, tariff rates escalate with the processing of a natural product. Thus the idea that the developed countries have already reduced their tariff rates is a myth.


Investment flow: Developed countries have initiated a strong campaign for the free flow of investments as a condition for WTO membership. The demand is that all countries allow complete freedom for multinational companies to invest in any sector they choose with complete freedom to withdraw their investments and to remit profits across the border.


Member countries would not have any form of control over exchange or capital flows. Foreign companies would be treated on a par with domestic companies. Domestic subsidies for socially needy industrial sectors would not be allowed as they are considered a hindrance to competition. And host governments would not be allowed to discriminate against foreign companies on government purchases or contracts.


The implication is that foreign investors could conceivably gain control of all natural resources, including agricultural land, and home governments would not be permitted to direct investments to socially desirable sectors or to economically backward regions.


Given these conditions, multinational trade negotiations are bound to fail because of the divergent interests of participating nations.


Therefore, for developing countries, it would be better to have a trade management system in which each country, not only developed ones, pays for its imports with its own currency. In that case, a developed exporting country would be obliged to buy from the country to which it exports. The system would not lead to a massive surplus for one country and a deficit for another, but rather to a balanced trade regime that benefits everyone.


The WTO, instead of being an arbitrator and promoter of "free trade," should be an advisory council for planning such a trade system so as to maximize the interests of everyone.


Dipak R. Basu is professor of international economics at Nagasaki University. E-mail:









In large cities, posters on the self-diagnosis of gambling addiction have recently appeared on the walls of subway stations and public bulletin boards. By adding up the 0-3 points for each of the 10 questions, you can find if you are one of an estimated 3.6 million gambling addicts in Korea. The number is growing and a government-supported survey has determined that 870,000 require immediate treatment.


The total scale of gambling business in Korea last year reached 80 trillion won (about $70 billion). Sixteen trillion won circulated in the "legitimate" areas of horse, cycle and motorboat racing, plus Lotto, Sports Toto and casinos last year. Illegal gambling on the internet and at electronic gaming facilities and hidden gambling joints collected 64 trillion won from addicts and addicts-to-be. Enough personal bankruptcies, family breakups and theft from corporate funds have taken place to qualify Korea for the title of "gambling republic."


The previous administration's licensing of the electronic gaming business developed into a huge scandal. The National Gaming Control Commission was formed two years ago under the Prime Minister's Office to oversee the vast gaming/gambling market in this country. The NGCC launched an anti-gambling campaign this month, staging a march in Seoul, holding an international symposium and showing a drama at a Daehangno theater.


The commission's Gamblers Anonymous center operating with an annual budget of 2 billion won is the only state facility to treat pathological addiction to gambling. The center's five experts have offered counseling service for 2,500 addicts - out of the 3.6 million - since the opening of the center. This is compared to, for example, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health of Ontario (the most-populous province of Canada), which spends the equivalent of 36 billion won a year to help an estimated 330,000 gambling addicts.


Here, the gaming supervision panel is pushing a plan to issue smart cards for all people who want to buy Lotto slips, casino chips or horserace tickets. It was a move to impose a comprehensive ceiling for individual expenditures on gambling. As soon as the plan was announced in July, objections spread like wildfire from the entire gambling sector.


Objectors predicted a sharp fall in the proceeds for all gambling-related businesses, probably down by 40 to 60 percent, which will in turn lead to a substantial cut in tax revenues and eventually a reduction of the government's sports promotion programs. The Korea Sports Council, with its 55 affiliate bodies, opposed the electronic card. Regardless of the impact on the diverse groups, the possible leak of personal data in the course of issuing the electronic card is certainly worrisome.


Despite its good intent, the commission was a little too ambitious with the smart card idea. Something, however, needs to be done - on a level higher than the gaming control body of 14 members and a small staff - to arrest the rapid growth of the gambling industry, the illegal sector of which is expanding even faster. Every day millions of Koreans are squandering money at casinos, racetracks, Lotto kiosks and internet gambling sites.


When one-10th of the whole population have been pathologically diagnosed as gambling addicts, it means the whole nation is sick. The government, NGO's and citizens - including the families of addicts - should first of all recognize the seriousness of the problem and join hands in working out a solution. An effective national campaign should start with making more professional help available for addicts, accompanied by stricter control of the users and operators of illegal gambling facilities.








Guess which businesses in Korea see no slump in times of economic recession. Fortunetelling is one of them. Fortunetellers of all sorts have come out of their dimly-lit cottages to downtown offices, busy street corners, subway stations and cafes in university areas, and they thrive with increasing clientele.


Some "cultural centers" in residential districts have tarot lectures for housewives and anybody who would want to give guidance to friends on the basis of the Western-originating picture cards. Art-of-divination institutes have opened to train people who are considering making a career with fortunetelling. A department of divination was established three years ago in a provincial university where "Oriental philosophy" related to fortunetelling is taught in a two-year program. Korea and Dankook Universities operate Oriental divination classes in their non-degree courses for adults.


An estimated 400,000 people live on fortunetelling-counseling nationwide, mostly using the "saju" meaning the "four pillars" of the year, month, day and hour of one's birth. The change of times has introduced the internet for communication between the gurus and their customers while physiognomists and palm-readers continue with their traditional means of trade.


As entrepreneurs and politicians seek to improve their chances of success in their undertakings by hearing advice from noted fortunetellers, sometimes moving the tombs of their ancestors ahead of elections or opening a new line of business, people go to "jeom" experts and tarot masters for consultations on their problems in job seeking and love affairs. It is not a new phenomenon in this shamanism-influenced society. What strikes us is the fact that youthful minds become weaker in these difficult times and they tend to seek answers from totally irrelevant sources.


Fortunetelling can be a joke to enjoy at an affordable cost or a diversion from the hectic world dominated by the increasingly complex rules of science, technology and economics. Yet, it is not desirable to have it interfere with the important decisions of life. Fortunetellers can do something good to society by giving more encouraging verdicts to our innocent youths with boundless futures.








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


But this year is different. The 64th opening of the General Assembly asks us to rise to an exceptional moment. We are facing many crises - food, energy, recession, and pandemic flu - occurring all at once. If ever there were a time to act in a spirit of renewed multilateralism, a time to put the "united" back into the United Nations, it is now.


And that is what we are doing, as action on three issues of historic consequence demonstrates.


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


We at the U.N. have prepared carefully for this moment. For two and a half years, ever since I became secretary-general, we have worked to put climate change at the top of the global agenda. Today, we have entered a new phase. Last week's summit sharply defined the issue and focused attention in capitals the world over. To be sure, the issues are complex and difficult, especially those of financing adaptation and mitigation efforts in poorer countries. Yet leaders left New York committed to clear and firm instructions for their negotiators: seal a deal in Copenhagen.


Japan issued a challenge, agreeing to cut CO2 emissions by 25 percent by 2020 if other nations follow. China's President Hu Jintao spoke about all that his country is already doing to reduce energy intensity and invest in "green" alternatives. He emphasized that China is prepared to do more under an international agreement, as did U.S. President Barack Obama.


Negotiators gathered for another round of U.N. talks on Sept. 28 in Bangkok, and we are considering a smaller meeting of major emitting and most vulnerable nations in November. We need a breakthrough in this make-or-break year.


We saw another turning point on a second issue of existential importance: nuclear disarmament. Finally, the assumption that such weapons are needed to keep the peace is crumbling. At a special summit called by the President Obama, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that opens a new chapter in the U.N.'s efforts to address nuclear proliferation and disarmament.


That resolution improves prospects for expanding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty next May, and offers hope for bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty into force. It also establishes the contours of a legal framework for action against misuse of civilian nuclear technology for military purposes and reflects an emerging consensus, seen in meeting after meeting, that the time has come to increase pressure on countries that fail to respect these principles.

The world is united on a third front, as well. Though some may speak of "turning the corner to recovery," we see a new crisis emerging. According to our recent report, "Voices of the Vulnerable," the near-poor are becoming the new poor.


An estimated 100 million people could fall below the poverty line this year. Markets may be bouncing back, but jobs and incomes are not. That is why, earlier this year, the U.N. put forward a Global Jobs Pact for balanced and sustainable growth. It is also why we are creating a new Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System, giving us real-time data and analysis on socio-economic conditions around the world. We need to know precisely who is being hurt by the financial crisis, and where, so that we can best respond.


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


Rhetoric has always been abundant at the General Assembly, action sometimes less so. Yet listening to the world's leaders speak, last week, I was struck by their passion, commitment, and collective determination to turn a page from a past of countries divided by narrow interests to nations united in the cause of a global common good.


From confronting climate change to creating a world without nuclear weapons to building a more equitable and sustainable global economy, I saw a sprit of renewed multilateralism, with the U.N. at the fore. No country can deal with any of these challenges by itself. But as nations united, the United Nations can.


Ban Ki-moon is secretary-general of the United Nations. - Ed.








MAYNOOTH, Ireland - On Oct. 2, Irish voters go to the polls for a second time to decide whether to adopt the European Union's Lisbon Treaty. The mood in EU capitals is one of nervousness as polling day looms, with the future of the EU in the hands of Ireland's unpredictable voters. On two of the last three occasions that the Irish have been asked to vote on an EU treaty, they have rejected the proposal.


For the EU, the stakes could not be higher. The Lisbon Treaty was the compromise agreed by EU leaders in the aftermath of the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in popular referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005. Much negotiating blood has been spilled on the treaty, and its rejection a second time by Irish voters would leave the European Union unable to ratify and implement its provisions; this would inevitably lead to policy paralysis and institutional decay.


The referendum campaign in Ireland has seen a resurgence of conflict between a familiar constellation of forces. On the "yes" side are all of the main political parties, trade unions, the business community, and a broad network of civil-society groups. Their campaign has been more coordinated and intense than last time, with the aim of mobilizing the maximum number of supporters and ensuring a high turnout, which most commentators assume will assist the "yes" side.


On the "no" side: a disparate coalition drawn from both the far right and the far left, including ultra-Catholics and unreconstructed Marxists, has sought to whip up hysteria about supposed threats ranging from military conscription to euthanasia and abortion. But the "no" side has struggled to find a coherent point of reference and seems to have none of the dynamism and vigor that it projected last time.


The main reason for this is that Ireland has been traumatized by economic misfortune over the past year. The hubris of the Celtic Tiger years is a distant memory, owing to the worst recession in Ireland's history as an independent state. In 2009, economists expect growth to contract by up to 8 percent, with a further steep decline likely next year.


The budget deficit is now the largest in the EU, and public debt has ballooned, as the government has struggled to compensate for the steep drop in revenues. The Irish banking system approached total collapse in September 2008, and was only saved by a 400 billion euro government guarantee of all bank deposits. More recently, the state assumed the liabilities of rogue property developers by setting up a "bad bank" which could potentially saddle Irish taxpayers with a mountain of debt for decades to come.


The depth of the economy's plunge has helped the Irish government in its effort to secure a "yes" vote. The European Central Bank has provided a monetary lifeline that has provided much needed liquidity within the financial system and helped the government to stem the crisis of confidence created by the banking collapse. Government ministers and EU representatives repeatedly cite the example of Iceland in pointing out what might have happened to Ireland if it had been outside the EU.


Thus, the second referendum campaign has brought back into play the economic dimension of Ireland's EU membership, which was largely absent from the 2008 debate on the Treaty. Ireland has benefited disproportionately from EU largesse during its 35 years of membership, and, in 2008, was still receiving a net sum of 500 million euros from the EU budget. When voters are reminded of the potentially catastrophic cost of being excluded, not just from the single market area, but from the decision-making structures in the Council of Ministers and the European Central Bank, what is at stake in the referendum becomes clear.


In addition, the Irish government secured legal guarantees from its EU partners on the issues that most concerned voters who voted "no" or abstained in the first referendum. These compromises state that nothing in the treaties will affect Irish prerogatives on abortion, military neutrality, and taxation. The government also secured EU-wide agreement that, rather than reducing the size of the European Commission, Ireland will be allowed to retain a permanent place at the commission table. This negotiating success has provided the government with considerable breathing space in which to conduct a more effective referendum campaign.


This combination of legal guarantees and changed economic circumstances is helping to mobilize a majority in favor of the treaty. Opinion polls conducted in recent weeks indicate that the "yes" side commands a strong majority of 62 percent to 23 percent, with 15 percent of the electorate undecided.


But the picture is far from clearcut. Surveys indicate that the Irish are strong supporters of EU membership and the integration process. The problem is that these favorable attitudes vary considerably in intensity and constitute a "soft bloc" of support for the EU; in the 2008 referendum, this soft bloc crumbled in the final week of the campaign.


It seems clear that a second rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish electorate would plunge the EU into arenewed crisis and threaten to derail the considerable gains in both democratic legitimacy and collective decision-making capacity deriving from the new Treaty. Everything indicates that voters now look set to approve the treaty. But nobody should take Irish voters for granted in the final days of the campaign.


John O'Brennan lectures in European Politics and Society at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and is

a founding member of the Centre for the Study of Wider Europe ( He is the author of "The Eastern Enlargement of the European Union and National Parliaments within the Enlarged European Union." - Ed.

(Project Syndicate)









On one side of the road in Beijing, winds have been creating ripples in the Summer Palace lake for the past 250 years or so. On the other side, in a stately building surrounded by tall trees, waves are created by ideas, some of which look likely to sweep the entire country now. The building is the Central Party School (CPS) of the Communist Party of China (CPC), or the Party's top institute for political studies.


On Sept 18, the CPC Central Committee decided to intensify and expand intra-Party democracy to "develop people's democracy", says Wu Hui, one of the young faculty members of and an associate professor in the CPS.


The CPC Central Committee said it would "ensure the democratic rights of its members" and strengthen intra-Party democracy at the grassroots level. It vowed to extensively absorb the will and views of all Party members, too, and bring their initiatives and creativity into full play.


In China, the term social organization covers not just NGOs, but companies and collectives, too. It refers to any organization that is more or less independent of the government. Talking to China Daily, Wu says such organizations are becoming an increasing part of civil society in China. Some researchers call them civil society organizations.


Social organizations, however, are a relatively new phenomenon in China. For about 40 years since the foundation of the People's Republic, most Chinese, especially those living in urban areas, had been part of administratively assigned work units for life. The units took care of almost all their need, from income and housing to leisure activities and their children's education. People hardly had any need for social networking beyond relatives.


The developments of the past two decades, however, have allowed more and more people to move from one part of the country to another for jobs and to shift from one employer to another. Many new non-political organizations, not led by government officials or CPC members, have mushroomed in the past two decades. And many old organizations no longer share the interests of their supervising agencies.


At first, millions of small (some of which are no longer small) companies emerged in the private sector. Since the mid-1990s, they have been joined by an increasing number of non-profit organizations, from charitable foundations to middle-class homeowners' committees. For Chinese researchers, non-profit organizations either independent of or partly dependent on government funds are "social organizations" or "civil society organizations". A conservative estimate puts their number in the country to about 3 million, with 400,000 registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Some researchers, however, put the figure to as high as 8 million, Wu says.


Does the proliferation of such organizations indicate a political crisis? Does it suggest the threat of a "color revolution", led by vested political interests thriving on overseas funds? Will it make, as some old guards fear, increasingly difficult for the CPC to call the shots in China? Or, is it a welcome change, as suggested by some intellectuals who regard it as a reflection of the growing assertiveness of the people when it comes to managing their own affairs?


"Wait a minute," Wu says, "before we jump to any such conclusion, let us take off our tinted glasses to avoid seeing non-CPC organizations either as demons or as angels." Their growth is a natural by-product of the economic reform - and there is a need for them.


It is impossible today to consider the government as the only source of protection for society, except during emergencies such as when there is shortage of basic necessities. The economic reform of the past 30 years has created diverse social interests, and the government has neither the need nor the reason to be involved in some of them.


The CPC should, as we recommend, is to work with social organizations and make them contribute to the CPC-led national program.


There are a few groups, of course, which seek to serve some external forces' agenda, and it is not difficult to identify these politically motivated organizations.


There are also shady ones - from superstitious cults to financial crooks to criminal gangs. One most recent example is the case of some Chongqing officials who were exposed during a crackdown on organized crime for having a nexus with criminal gangs.


This is precisely why we need laws and regulations, and the CPC's influence as society's leading force to create a healthy environment for social organizations. "To some extent, China's political reform is to be a process in which the government matches the change in its own functioning with the growth of social organizations," Wu says.


That's the reason why the CPC Central Committee included the concept of social organizations in its final paper in 2006, he says.


At the CPC's 17th National Congress the next year, a general line was adopted to encourage social organizations to expand in a way that would encourage people to participate in various self-governing and self-managing processes as part of general social development. Strengthening inner-Party democracy down up to the grassroots level will make more Party members play an active role in various social organizations.


China has gained a lot of experience from experimental projects that have been going on at the local level. It has gained confidence, too, in dealing with social organizations in a selective way.


There are laws to ban groups causing harm to society, and to prevent organizations and their leaders from seeking ends beyond their stated goals. They may not be enough, but still there are policies to support do-gooders such as those helping the poor and spreading new farm techniques in rural areas.


There are also vague zones where CPC members are yet to be quite sure about their role. But it is here that they can be very helpful in implementing proper policies so that committed social organizations could continue to safeguard citizens' rights, most importantly land use rights.


Land disputes are a main source of social disharmony in China. In the majority of cases, individual farmers fall prey to powerful business groups or individuals that are invited by local governments eager to raise their earnings.



Farm associations in China are not as strong as their counterparts in the US or Japan. Villagers' associations are

often bypassed in transfer of land use rights. Protests would not have been so widespread - and sometimes violent - if organized farmers had the legal right to represent their communities in land negotiations, Wu says.


In fact, the most crucial test of how the CPC can build a cooperative relationship with civil society organizations will be the way it works with rights' groups. This is a challenge that remains.


But a cooperative relationship, or something of a working partnership, is going to be China's goal. That is the ideal model. "We don't want to have the ruling party to dominate all social organizations, as it was under the former Soviet model," Wu says. "Unlike in some other developing countries or transitional societies we cannot let social organizations hold the government hostage, either Nor it is good to have a system in which there is continuous rivalry between the government and social organizations, which exchange roles but do not necessarily make good their promises."


China's job is to foster the best relationship between the government and social organizations as seen in "mature" democracies, where governments and social organizations share a basic political framework, with the latter raising new demands and generating new ideas to help make the former make due policy adjustments.


"That is the model of a harmonious society," he said.







If I were President Hu Jintao, I would have felt dejected after the UN climate summit in New York last week. Indeed, as former US Vice-President Al Gore might have once felt, for any political figure, striving to be green is not easy, and can be at times quite lonely, for your usual supporters may be at a loss about what you are up to; and, your usual critics may pour further scorn on the seemingly idealistic and impractical goals that you have adopted.


As all parties are helplessly locked in the old politics-as-usual and business-as-usual games, they don't like to pay attention to the inconvenient truth of the shared destiny of the mankind - even if they agree to recognize some technical features of the climate change.


Okay, the ice can melt in the Arctic, which is bad. And the weather is getting freakier every season. But if you tell them China is to take a significant cut on carbon emissions, they look at you as if you are kidding.


When you tell them it is going to be China's voluntary action, they even laugh at you as if the word voluntary serves only as a new device to shirk one's responsibility - which, in Chinese, can actually mean an initiative to do something beyond one's call of duty, or that no one else has ever set a standard for a similar case before.


Perhaps this is why the New York Times version of Hu's speech is marked by "inaudible" spaces, especially the paragraphs containing the Chinese action plans. I would be surprised to know if Chinese officials would have denied an English copy of their president's speech to the press on the ground of state secrecy.


Some other media seized the word "significant" ("notable" is the word Reuters used) to ask: How significant is it going to be? It is only an adjective. And it is never verifiable. But were their reporters not reporting from the summit venue? Or were they? Did they miss the press conference by one of China's key national planning officials after the Hu speech promising that Beijing will announce its target soon? Or did they ever bother, if they have the guts, to ask what specific goals other heads of states, those bearing at least equal responsibility for taking action, have pledged?


All this is politics-as-usual, at least at the Freudian level. For some people, the only proper thing that China, or in the climate matter all developing countries, are supposed to do is to listen to their sermons filled with new-age intelligence, mixed with targets from their mandate. Psychologically, they are not prepared for any of their would-be students to take a more creative approach.


Of course, most world press reports welcomed the Chinese position. And, people can expect China to come up with a more detailed pledge of its green program prior to the Copenhagen conference on climate change. After all, there are plenty of people in the world who understand how to check facts, compare figures from governmental as well as independent sources, and call a spade a spade.


Also, as most people can tell, the Chinese government can most probably remain true to its pledge to the world, and meet the specific target it has promised simply because, as international observers have rightly pointed out, it has no one else to pass on the responsibility to.


Having said this, however, the Chinese government does have to make an extra effort to spread its message in the domestic press as well, to ask them to change from their own politics- and business-as-usual mode.

Frankly, it was alarming to read, for instance, in its front-page report about the world feedback on Hu's speech, a usually nationalistic newspaper even thought up the headline "China is being hoaxed (huyou in Chinese) into a world leader."


What's wrong with China joining the leadership of a global green campaign? Perhaps, for the editors who give such headlines, the nation would be better off by never working with the rest of the world. But, if China refuses to go for green, I have to say, their sacred motherland would not remain red either; it will get blackened and buried by sooty pollution.









As the 60th anniversary day nears, young Chinese netizens cordially express their patriotism online in various ways. The criticism, by some conservatives, of the younger generation's unconventional display of patriotism indicates the necessity to expand social space to better realize the citizen's freedom of individual expression, says an article in Qilu Evening News. Excerpts:


Recently, a post-1990 generation girl raised a controversy over what constitutes proper expression of patriotism because she had her back adorned with several paintings showing the historical achievements of New China and displayed it naked online.


Although she sincerely expected her creativity to inspire more patriotic expressions characteristic of the post-'90 generation, a number of conservatives scathingly criticized her behavior as "flamboyant advertising" and "pornographic performance", which deserves to be banned.


Some experts in education call on society to understand and respect the individualized expressions of patriotism of the post-'90 generation, which they think are normal and typical for this generation.


Every citizen has the right to think and express freely. Since the themes of the pictures on the girl's back -"the foundation of PRC", "reform and opening", "Beijing Olympics" etc - are undoubtedly patriotic, it is unjust to deny the earnestness of her individualized behavior just because it is non-traditional.


In the process of ideological liberation, liberating individual expressions should be the first step towards a solid foundation for freedom.


Further, different expressions should be not only tolerated, but also encouraged, which would promote development of political democracy and social harmony.


There are all kinds of patriots in the world and we don't have to stick to one pattern. Participating and watching National Day parade is one expression of patriotism, while painting patriotic theme pictures on the body is another expression of patriotism. As people's expressions of patriotism gradually diversify, and individual freedom is more and more respected by society, our nation will become greater and better.








China's government is making massive preparations for a grand National Day parade in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China's founding. Walking through the square the other evening, I found myself thinking back to when I first began following China's amazing odyssey. The iconic visage of Chairman Mao still gazes out from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, but what was happening all around me suggested how much things had changed.


When I first began studying China at Harvard a half-century ago, China's leaders repeated the superiority of their socialist command economy, which controlled every aspect of life. Hostility between the United States and China, however, prevented students like me from actually traveling there.


But in 1975, while Mao Zedong still lived, the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) still raged, class politics still held sway, and there were no private cars, shops, advertisements, or private property, I arrived in Beijing. Even we visiting foreigners - all dutifully clad in blue Mao suits and caps - were expected to attend regular political "study sessions" to purify our bourgeois minds with proletarian tracts written by the Gang of Four. That trip set an indelible baseline against which I have since been able to measure all the changes China has undergone.


As Deng Xiaoping began to encourage individual incentives over the next several decades - embodied in such slogans as "To get rich is glorious" - I watched with wonder and amazement as China's private economy began to rise. As this process unfolded, it became fashionable for market fundamentalists in the West to bask in a sense of vindication. After all, were the scales not falling away from the eyes of Chinese leaders?


This "end-of-history" interlude, when "communism" was either failing or recycling itself into its opposite, also encouraged many latter-day American political missionaries to proselytize for democracy as well as capitalism - to urge China's leaders to abandon state controls not only over their economy, but over their political system as well.


Of course, China's leaders vigorously resisted that evangelism, especially after the collapse of communism in Europe in 1989, often berating the West for "intruding in the internal affairs of China". As the imbalance between China's ever more dynamic, modern, and globalized economy and its political system hardly changed, many Western specialists predicted that the contradiction would inevitably trip China up. Instead, it was America and the West that went into an economic tailspin.


When, after the eight catastrophic years of George W. Bush's presidency, Barack Obama entered the White

House, it seemed for a moment as if America might be able to arrest its downward slide. But then an unwelcome thing happened. Obama ran right into a perfect storm of the worst aspects of American democracy: red-state provincialism and ignorance, fearful conservatism, Republican Party obstructionism and even some Democratic Party dissidence.


The US Congress became paralyzed by partisan politics. Seemingly lacking a central nervous system, it has become a dysfunctional creature with little capacity to recognize any common national, much less international, interest. Under such circumstances, even a brilliant leader, with an able staff and promising policies, will be hard to pursue his agenda.



As governments across the West have become increasingly bogged down trying to fix a broken economy, China has been formulating a whole series of new, well-considered policies and forging ahead with bold decision-making to tackle one daunting problem after another. Triumphant from the 2008 Olympic Games, its leaders have undertaken the most impressive infrastructure program in history, implemented a highly successful economic stimulus package, and now are moving into the forefront of green technology, renewable energy, and energy efficiency - the activities out of which the new global economy is certain to grow.


In short, China is veritably humming with energy, money, plans, leadership, and forward motion, while the West seems paralyzed.


As I strolled through Tiananmen Square, the paradox that struck me was that the very system of democratic capitalism that the West has so ardently believed in and advocated now seems to be failing us. At the same time, the kind of state-managed economics that we have long impugned now seems to be serving China well.


It is intellectually and politically unsettling to realize that, if the West cannot quickly straighten out its systems of government, only countries with unique political systems such as China will be able to make the decisions that a nation needs to survive in today's high-speed, high-tech, increasingly globalized world.


Orville Schell is Director of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society. Project Syndicate.








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