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Friday, October 30, 2009

EDITORIAL 30.10.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month october 30, edition 000337, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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






































































It is amusing to note that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should have felt it necessary to travel to Anantnag in Jammu & Kashmir the same day US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped in for a chat with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Islamabad. It is entirely possible that Ms Clinton's visit to Islamabad coincided with Mr Singh's Anantnag sojourn, or vice-versa, but that, really, is not the issue. What is worthy of notice is that both Mr Singh and Ms Clinton should have waxed eloquent on the need for resuming the India-Pakistan composite dialogue — it was almost as if both were speaking in tandem, one taking the cue from another. To be fair, Mr Singh was sufficiently cautious not to offer unconditional talks or delink dialogue from terrorism emanating from Pakistan, as he did in Sharm el-Sheikh when he met Mr Gilani. Indeed, a close scrutiny of the Prime Minister's speech in Anantnag on Wednesday would suggest that he has taken care to reiterate the stated Indian position that talks and terrorism cannot go hand-in-hand: Pakistan must destroy the terror apparatus on territory under its control and thus put an end to cross-border terrorism before any meaningful dialogue can take place between the two countries. But this could be more for form than anything else; perhaps Mr Singh wants to avoid the hostility with which his Sharm el-Sheikh surrender was greeted across India. Curiously, Ms Clinton, while hoping that India and Pakistan will begin talking in the near future to "resolve all differences", has been stunningly silent on the need for Pakistan to put its house in order by cracking down on terrorist organisations. On the contrary, she has heaped undeserved praise on Mr Gilani whose Government, flush with billions of American dollars gifted by the Obama Administration, remains unchastened and unremorseful, belligerently blaming India for that Pakistan's justly deserved misfortunes exemplified by the daily massacre of people by jihadis whom the Pakistani establishment has lovingly nurtured all these years with the sole intention of exporting terror to India.

Even if we were to presume that Pakistan is willing to give up its evil ways — which it isn't, or else it would not drag its feet in prosecuting those responsible for the 26/11 bloodbath in Mumbai — the desire for dialogue expressed by Mr Singh and Ms Clinton raises an important question: Whom would the Government of India engage with in discussing a peaceful resolution of outstanding disputes? Clearly the Government of Pakistan is not in command of the situation and its writ does not run even within the secretariat in Islamabad. The Army is in a quandary: It does not know whom to fight in the war against terror as most of the terrorists are from within its rank-and-file. The bureaucracy in Pakistan is in a shambles, pitifully toeing whatever line is dictated to them by their bosses in either Islamabad or Rawalpindi. Those people in Pakistan who desire peace with India are least interested in dealing with bilateral problems at the moment: They just want to protect their lives and property, if not flee the country. Common sense would demand that we should just sit it out as Pakistan burns and descends further into chaos. This is hardly the time to distract those engaged in self-destruction in so vicious a manner. It is not for India to save Pakistan from Pakistanis, but for Pakistan to save itself. Offering talks is not going to achieve that objective.






It is hardly surprising that given Thailand's convoluted politics Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's poor health has become a source of great tension in the country. For, the King is about the only stabilising factor that prevents Thailand from falling into complete political chaos. Adulyadej is the world's longest ruling monarch and enjoys a divine status among the Thais. His importance in Thailand's socio-political system can be gauged from the fact that mere rumours of his deteriorating health on October 24 and 15 caused the Thai Stock Exchange to fall by five to eight per cent, resulting in millions of dollars worth of losses. The problem is compounded by the fact that Adulyadej does not have a successor who is seen to be worthy. It is no secret that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn does not enjoy popular support. He is widely seen to be lacking the respectability that his father exudes and has become indispensible of the Thai monarch given the country's political climate. There is even a possibility that the 19-member Privy Council comprising senior advisers to the King might even change the line of succession to Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Vajiralongkorn's sister. Indeed, all this has made life difficult for the 81-year-old Adulyadej. As he remains under medical care his battle is not only for his own life but also to prevent his country from receding into turmoil.

Things would not have come to this situation had Thailand developed stable democratic institutions. For, the urban Thai elite have traditionally wielded enormous economic and political clout. But over recent years this has come to be challenged by the rural population that has benefitted from increasing per capita income and greater levels of education. Therefore, a clash between the urban middle class and the rural masses was only inevitable. This conflict is what is at the centre of the present political imbroglio in Thailand with exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his red-shirted supporters representing the rural populace and the yellow-shirted members of the People's Alliance for Democracy representing the elite urban middle class. Throw in a few opportunistic political strongmen who are more than willing to auction off their votes to the highest bidder and what one has is the witch's brew that is Thai politics. Notwithstanding their reverence to the ruling monarch, it is this that is making the Thais so jittery about Adulyadej's poor health. Thailand must realise that the solution to its political crisis has to come from within. Unless there is a movement to tackle core issues such as rampant corruption, the country will continue to struggle to mature as a democracy. What Thailand needs are statesmen not politicians. King Adulyadej has tried his best to give his country a democratic set-up. Withering it away would be tragic.



            THE PIONEER




The daring seizure of the Bhubaneswar-Delhi Rajdhani Express on Tuesday has exposed the extent to which the Indian state and civil society is vulnerable to the evil designs of nihilistic and anarchist elements. Given the present socio-political environment, the war against the Maoists will be difficult and long.

Over the years, the Maoists have permeated the system, particularly academic circles and the media. They share an ideological paradigm with the ruling dispensation in West Bengal and Kerala. They also have a working relationship with the Congress with both parties using each other at mutual convenience. Influenced by competitive politics, Ms Mamata Banerjee, with enormous clout in the Union Cabinet, is also the Maoists' ally. She is obviously trying to beat the CPI(M) at its own game. Through this strategy she may reap short-term political benefits, but the overall cost to the country will be great.

While few in the country subscribe to the 'lynch law' propagated by the Maoists, the Indian establishment is full of moles sympathetic to them for various reasons. Apart from their ideological cousins who occupy respectable positions in civil society and operate as the public face of the Maoists, they also find ready support from political formulations that function in India as China's fifth column.

Maoist cadre consist of desperate tribals who have been alienated from the mainstream by the venality and neglect of our political establishment. The vacuum has been filled by an ideology which has failed the world over and created oppressive regimes wherever it has succeeded. The innocent tribals risk their lives thinking that their war against the Indian state is a war for their rights and a better future. But nothing could be further from truth. Destroying schools, roads, bridges, and health centres and opposing industrial development can never lead to any progress or betterment in the lives of the neglected tribals.

Where does the Indian Left, particularly the CPI(M), stand in this war? Marxists and Maoists share a common creed and world view. The differences between the two are superficial. Though they have a common goal, they do differ in detail and strategy. While the Maoists have waged an open war against the Indian state, the Marxists are trying to wreck the system from within. For both, Chinese concerns override that of India.

With so much in common, how does one explain the internecine strife between the two? Since violence is central to Communism, bloodshed is inevitable. One only has to recall how the CPI(M) deals with its political opponents in its strongholds of Kerala and West Bengal to get a sense of this. Evidence abroad include horror stories of Communist treatment to 'class enemies' in the erstwhile Soviet Union and its satellite states in eastern Europe, and the genocide in Cambodia under the regime of Pot Pol.

The handling of dissention within the party by Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pot Pol was no different. Dissent has always been crushed with a heavy hand. So the occasional instances of violence between the Maoists and the CPI(M) in West Bengal are nothing more than friendly fire.

It is in this context that one has to see the trading of 21 captured Maoists accused of waging war against the Indian state for the abducted police officer from Sankrail by the West Bengal Government. The capitulation of the CPI(M)-led State Government to thje Maoists also comes at a critical time when the Union Government is planning to launch an all-out offensive on the Left-wing extremists. Was it ideological affinity that motivated Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to call off the police action against the beleaguered Maoists and provide them with much needed reprieve?

The last Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre and the various Congress-led State Governments were in a stupor vis-à-vis the Maoist menace, especially as long as Mr Shivraj Patel was the Union Home Minister. The present incumbent at North Block has injected some dynamism into the counter-insurgency effort against the extremists and has set into motion some concrete, co-ordinated measures.

But with the surrender in West Bengal, the Maoists are most likely to be strengthened in their belief that the political class can be manipulated through their pressure tactics. Mr Chidambaram might have been tactical in leaving the decision regarding the abducted police officer to the West Bengal Government. It was a clever move on his part. But what happens if the Maoists take to abducting police officers on a regular basis to pressurise the state apparatus?

Recall the Union Home Minister's refusal to surrender in the earlier case of police officer Francis Induvar. No doubt the officer lost his life, but the brutality of his killing had put the Maoists on the back foot and the Government's refusal to surrender had sent out a strong message that the Indian State was not soft. Nonetheless, the Maoists knew that in case of the Marxists the response would be different. Why is this so?

After the shameful surrender of the Marxists to the demands of the Maoists, the people will now be watching the Union Home Minister as to whether he too will succumb to the crypto-Communists or will he stand his ground. The Congress has many moles that condone Maoist violence. They make common cause with the Arundhati Roys and make heroes out of Maoists like Kobad Ghandy.







The US military effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan has virtually made the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and its Hellfire missiles a legend. The Predator drones can be operated from hundreds of miles away, have significant airtime capacity and can be programmed to unleash a lethal barrage of missiles to take out enemy targets. This is a machine that should be respected by peers and feared by enemies.

However, there is a growing section of opinion within Western military circles that feels that the US Predator drone attacks in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan have impeded the military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban rather than help it. This, combined with the recent UN Human Rights Council report that asks the US to reveal how its drone missions do not amount to arbitrary extrajudicial killings, has started a debate on the efficacy of UAVs in achieving combat objectives.

Over the last decade, Western militaries, especially the US armed forces, have moved towards greater development and deployment of UAVs and UGVs — Unmanned Ground Vehicles — in combat theatres. On the face of it, the idea of deploying remote-controlled killer machines instead of putting human soldiers in the line of fire seems to have a great deal of appeal. Robots don't get tired, they don't get stressed, they can do several rounds of missions without a break and, most importantly, even though they cost millions of dollars for development, at the end of the day one would rather lose a robot than a human soldier.

Nonetheless, there are two distinctive drawbacks: First, robots desensitise people to the harsh realities of war, and second, they cannot calibrate the use of force. When you have a drone operator sitting far away from the battlefield, there is a sense of detachment that creeps in. He or she is not bothered about what happens to those around the target as long as the target itself is neutralised. One is also unable to make last minute distinctions between foe and innocent civilian. Plus, given that drones are essentially all-or-nothing systems, collateral damage is more a rule than exception.

It is precisely because of this that the US drone attacks in north-west Pakistan have killed around 600 people since August 2008 but barely a fraction have been terrorists. Looked at in this context the statistics are a huge blow to winning over local hearts and minds. This is enough to merit a serious debate on the future use of these war robots.







October 31 is the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. We should observe it as National Integration Day. His contribution in integrating the nation will remain unparalleled in history.

Hyderabad was the largest Princely State of India. It was of the size of France but was landlocked. The Nizam was toying with the idea of declaring independence. He was perhaps the richest man of the world. There were rumours that he was negotiating to buy Goa from the Portuguese to find an outlet to the sea.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah wanted Hyderabad to accede to Pakistan. The Nizam got Sir William Monckton, the leading lawyer of Britain, to negotiate for him with the Government of India. Endless talks were taking place for nearly a year.

Kasim Rizvi, a Muslim zealot, had organised the Razakar party with nearly one lakh members. He also had a youth brigade armed with an assortment of weapons. The Razakars looked upon Hyderabad-Delhi differences as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. Jinnah had threatened retaliation, if India acted against the Nizam.

There were reports of gun-running by British mercenaries, bringing weapons by air from Pakistan and some European countries. The Razakars were not only committing atrocities on the Hindus, leading to their exodus from Hyderabad, but had got emboldened to raid Indian villages across the border.

The Sardar was not a man to take this lying down. He decided that the time for action had come. Jawaharlal Nehru was on a tour out of the country and the Sardar was holding the fort in Delhi. The Sardar maintained that Hyderabad was a cancer in the stomach of India. The cancer had to be cured if India was to survive.

All the inputs provided to the Sardar urged no military action in Hyderabad. The Army Chief, Gen Sir Roy Boucher, advised that the Indian Army should not be asked to open a second front in Hyderabad when it was embroiled in Jammu & Kashmir.

The intelligence input was that Hyderabad had the largest and most efficient State Army of about 30,000 soldiers with some tanks and artillery. Gen El Adroos, the Turkish chief of the Hyderabad Army, was an able General. The Razakars would support the Hyderabad Army. India would get bogged down in a long-drawn war.

The Sardar sent for the two Indian Army Commanders, Rajendrasinhji in the south and Cariappa in the west. Rajendrasinhji assured him that he could defeat the Hyderabad Army in a swift military action. Cariappa was asked if he could defend the western front against Pakistan without asking for any reinforcements. Cariappa replied in the affirmative.

The Sardar's mind was made up. He ordered military action in Hyderabad. Within a week the Nizam signed the Instrument of Accession.

Not only in the case of Hyderabad but also on other issues, the Sardar displayed great foresight and remarkable ability to take hard decisions. Having opposed the two-nation theory and any division of India all his life, he was pragmatic enough to realise that in the conditions prevailing in mid-1947 there was no alternative to partition.

His decision to salvage the wreck of 1947 was an act of great statesmanship. Had there been any patchwork unity solution with a weak Centre, India may have suffered disastrously. It may not have been possible to integrate all the Princely States.

The minority population in India was 12 per cent in 1947. In an undivided India today, it would have been over 40 per cent. Petro-dollar funded Islamists would have swamped the country. India would have broken up into several countries like erstwhile Yugoslavia or would have become a Lebanon on a bigger scale.

Another instance of his foresight was the letter the dying Sardar wrote to Nehru in 1950 warning him about China. Had his warning been heeded, India would not have suffered the humiliation of 1962.

No memorial has been put up to the Sardar in Delhi where memorials abound. The memorial of the Sardar at Karamsad, his home village, is the modest double-storey house built by his father. Jhaverbhai Patel had fought in the uprising of 1857. He was wounded at Gwalior when the Rani of Jhansi attained martyrdom. He was taken a prisoner and released after a few years.

On return to his village he had built the house in which his two sons, Vithalbhai and Vallabhbhai, were born. No other family in India can boast of such a distinguished record from 1857 to 1947. The room in which the Sardar was born has an eternal lamp burning. The wick and oil for the iron lamp are provided by the village panchayat.

The house built by his father was the Sardar's only immovable property. Fabulously rich Princes, including the richest man in the world, had buckled under him. Yet when he died he had a bank balance of Rs 230.

Disregarding the near unanimous recommendation of all the Provincial Congress Committees, Mahatma Gandhi chose Nehru to be the Prime Minister. As a disciplined disciple, the Sardar readily accepted the unfair decision. Had the Sardar been made the Prime Minister, the history of India may have been different today.

Successive Governments of his own party have tried to ignore the Sardar. Not only no memorial was put up for him in Delhi, he was not even awarded the Bharat Ratna for a long time. Fifty years after his death, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna.

Doordarshan, known as His Master's Voice, displays pictures every day of some dozen great Indians starting from the Mahatma, the members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and others who contributed towards making India great. Sardar Patel is not included in this list. Let the people of India pay tribute to the Sardar in their hearts and observe October 31 as National Integration Day.

 The writer is former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir and Assam.







The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has taken umbrage at a recent episode of the reality show Bigg Boss, for telecasting a male contestant's shorts being pulled down by two of the female inmates of the house, in which participants remain isolated from the outside world for a period of 84 days. The winner, who survives a process of elimination, whereby all but one are ejected from the house by inmates, gains a large amount of prize money at the end. The lure of winning as much as getting noticed by showbiz mughals, therefore, goads some of the contestants to resort to the most undignified antics in a bid to attract attention. The incident alluded to above breaches basic norms of decency since the man is unclothed by female contestants in a show, meant for general viewing. To compound the disgrace, clips of the act were handed over to news channels, for repeated telecast.

A showcause notice was issued by the Ministry to Colors, the entertainment channel which telecasts the programme. The reasons cited for the notice were that the show offended sensibilities of viewers; could have a bad effect on young minds; and was being publicised by means of news clips. Further, the Ministry also objected to the abusive and vulgar language used by some participants. However, the Ministry's threat to cancel the channel's permit is likely to evaporate as it had thrice earlier issued a showcause notice to Colors — during the second season of Bigg Boss too — and also sent it advisories on two occasions. But channels, including news ones, continue undeterred to plumb the depths in their quest for high TRPs.

TV honchos may argue that Bigg Boss is restrained, compared to Big Brother, the British reality show that inspired the Indian version. But that hardly justifies vulgarity in the name of entertainment. This season's Bigg Boss was expected to be ably hosted by cine icon Amitabh Bachchan, and so, boost ratings. While he remains polished, contestants seem bent on proving that low brow fun — if their buffoonery can be called that — is all that they know. One contestant, the first to be ejected, resorted to abuse and throwing an object on a fellow contestant, known to be especially vulnerable because of his sexual orientation. This certainly is not funny. And in the event that the whole show is scripted, with contestants acting on cue, it is even less so. Viewers are not looking for high-brow stuff but certainly want some substance.

It revives the debate on whether programme content of satellite television channels needs to be monitored. The issue has surfaced periodically over the past two decades as Indians become increasingly exposed to all that which passes for entertainment in the West: Reality shows, verging on the obscene; uninhibited sexual intimacy in films and serials; excessive violence; and so on. Recently, Sacch ka Saamna, another reality show, based on the American show, The Moment of Truth (adapted from a Colombian game show), triggered widespread outrage as participants underwent a confessional of sorts in public. They made all kinds of outrageous admissions to the interrogator, enjoying fully their 15 minutes of fame. The programme was probably cut short, given the public disgust it generated. Most people found the excessive candour and washing of dirty linen in public difficult to digest. The media and entertainment explosion, set off by economic liberalisation, has clearly been tempered by prevalent attitudes.

The growing trend for hosting reality shows that are geared towards provoking viewers indicates a corresponding growth in the tendency for exhibitionism. But Indians are largely conservative despite their exposure to alternate lifestyles. Censorship rules reflect this bias. Section 5 of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 has very strict guidelines for programmes content. Shows in poor taste; indecent; obscene, scurrilous; containing falsehood and innuendos; unsuited for wide viewership; and those unsuited for children can be blocked. Not being given to stern monitoring of cinema, television and the arts, the concerned authorities may limit action in this case to a warning.

The channel is required to reply to the showcause notice within five days of receiving it. If it fails to reply, then the Ministry can consider a remedy under the 1995 Act. However, wary audiences are now wondering what could be shown next on reality shows. An abduction? A rape? A murder? As programmes content tether over the precipice in search of titillation, viewers anticipate a fall.







It was a moment in time; it shook India and stunned the world. As Prime Minister Indira Gandhi walked briskly up to the picket gate dividing her home from her office that fateful Wednesday morning 25 years ago on October 31, a hail of gunfire from two of her Sikh bodyguards sent her crumpling to the ground in a blood-soaked heap.

Her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi, still in her nightdress, ran out to the garden as Mr RK Dhawan, Mrs Gandhi's additional private secretary and shadow of many years, scrambled to help the 66-year-old leader.

But 31 bullets fired into a frail body gave her little chance. She was packed off in an Ambassador car with her head resting in Ms Sonia Gandhi's lap to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, but doctors at the operating theatre knew it was a battle they could not win.

Although a police officer who wheeled her in said she was already dead, officially her death was announced several hours later as the Indian establishment tried to come to terms with losing the woman who had ruled for 15 years in two stints, two years less than her father and first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's unbroken 17 years.

Mrs Gandhi had been on her way to give an interview to British playwright and actor Peter Ustinov, who was waiting with his crew in the garden of neighbouring 1, Akbar Road, for the appointed time of 9.30 am. The silence of the morning was broken by the death rattle of bullets that sent flocks of birds scurrying into the sky, its echoes reverberating in Delhi's leafy and tranquil Lutyens' Zone and elsewhere in the days following that October 31, 1984.

Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, the two bodyguards, surrendered after emptying their magazines into her. The two were taken away to the guardhouse, where Beant was shot dead by other guards when he tried to escape. Satwant Singh was hanged to death five years later in 1989.

Her death — in apparent reprisal for the Army's assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984 to confront heavily armed Sikh extremists — left a political vacuum in the capital. Elder son Rajiv Gandhi, her presumptive successor, was away in Kolkata. So was Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the No 2 man in the Cabinet even then. President Zail Singh was away on a visit to Yemen. They all tried to rush back to the capital to deal with a situation for whichno one was prepared.

Rajiv Gandhi was persuaded, first by cousin and political aide Arun Nehru and then by Zail Singh, to step into the void and was sworn in as India's Prime Minister that evening. But by that time violence had already broken around AIIMS and there were reports of Sikhs being targeted in retaliation as extremist Sikh groups abroad hailed her killing.

Mrs Gandhi's body was brought in a gun carriage through deserted roads on the morning of November 1 to what used to be her father's sprawling Teen Murti Road residence. Long queues of supporters and opponents filed past her body, while the world mourned the passing of a leader who was equally revered as she was despised.

Riots had erupted in several parts of the city overnight as organised mobs, alleged to be led by Congress party leaders, picked out Sikhs, assaulted them, snipped their locks, vandalised their property, torched their homes and began an orgy of lynching the like of which had not been witnessed since the partition of India in 1947.

For the next three days, as the country mourned, Delhi burned with the anti-Sikh violence spreading to Kanpur, Meerut and Ramgarh, where the Sikh Regimental Centre was based.

Working class neighbourhoods like Trilokpuri, Tilak Nagar, Seemapuri, that were exemplars of close-knit community living, overnight became monuments to hatred. Entire Sikh neighbourhoods went up in flames, their male members dragged out and burnt alive as vendetta-hungry mobs cheered. Even Sikhs in affluent south Delhi were targeted and their homes razed. Some were even dragged out of buses and trains as they tried to flee the city.

The madness went unchecked for three days before a paralysed administration called in the Army on the evening of November 3. By that time, at least 4,733 Sikhs had been killed, thousands injured and brutalised and a community's collective psyche left so badly scarred that it has not healed even after a generation.

A few days later Rajiv Gandhi, at a massive memorial rally for his slain mother at India Gate, sought to extenuate the violence by saying: "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes."

A quarter century later, Mrs Gandhi's legacy endures.

Her Italian-born daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi, who now leads the ruling Congress, is often compared to her for her style and tight control over the party.

Mrs Gandhi's policy of bank nationalisation, which heralded a state control over the country's fiscal policies and public enterprise, has been hailed as far-sighted and instrumental in preventing Indian banks from going the way of Western banks that collapsed in the wake of last year's economic meltdown.

Her muscular foreign policy, which led to the division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, is still held out as an example of Indian hard power that critics say has been a tough act to follow by successive Governments.

But, as her critics say, the imposition of Emergency in June 1975 blotted her democratic credentials. Though she lifted Emergency 19 months later and called for elections, which she lost, her image took a heavy beating and she never really recovered.

She returned to power in 1980. And, after younger son Sanjay Gandhi's death in an air-crash in June that year, she became a pale shadow of her former self.

She briefly basked in her reputation as a global statesperson when her Government hosted both the Non-Aligned Movement Summit and the Commonwealth Summit in 1983. The following years, she bungled badly when she ordered the Army into the Vatican of the Sikhs — and paid with her life four months later.

-- Tarun Basu, chief editor of IANS, covered the events surrounding Mrs Gandhi's assassination and its aftermath. He can be contacted at








THE Prime Minister has had to tread a fine line in Jammu & Kashmir and by and large he has done it. He has once again put out a hand of friendship to the separatists who seem to find it difficult to say yes to any proposal. He has spoken of the dialogue with Pakistan and the importance of that country's need to end its support to terrorists. At the same time, to get over the ghost of Balochistan, he has emphatically rejected the charge that India was involved with Baloch separatists or the Taliban. But all this seems to be more in the manner of treading water than moving ahead.


The road to J& K seems to be littered with unfinished initiatives. Three and a half years ago the prime minister announced the setting up of five Working Groups on the Kashmir issue. The fifth and most important group on Centre- State relations ( read autonomy) headed by Justice ( Retd) Sageer Ahmed is yet to submit its report.


The group has apparently not held any meeting for the past two years or so. Pakistan's preoccupations are likely to prevent us making any headway on the separatist front. But why not push ahead with what was promised to the people of the state? The PM referred to " humanitarian issues whose resolution required the cooperation of Pakistan" such as visa clearances, people languishing in each other's jails and so on. But there are also humanitarian issues like the fate of the people detained under the Public Safety Act, the accounting of thousands of missing young men, the rehabilitation of former militants and those who have been affected by terrorism. These do not require Pakistani cooperation and their resolution would go a long way in improving the ambience in the state.







DENGUE cases in the capital are on the rise. Outbreaks of the disease have become an annual feature in the city. Given the pathways it follows, this vector- born disease should actually be treated as an ecological problem. Dengue is transmitted by the bite of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. This highly domestic mosquito breeds in stored, exposed water collections such as barrels, drums, jars, flower vases, plant saucers, tanks, discarded bottles, tins, tyres, water coolers and so on. Another typical feature of the dengue mosquito is that it bites during day time. Its highest biting intensity is said to be about two hours after sunrise and before sunset.


The most effective way to tackle the problem is to prevent dengue mosquitoes from multiplying. This can be done at household, community and city wide level.


Everybody needs to be conscious about stagnant water in and around his or her surroundings — be it home, office, school or a housing society. Multi- layered vigilance alone can prevent the spread of dengue.


There's little point blaming the government.


Civic agencies should run awareness and sanitation drives even while punishing people who allow water accumulation that enables the mosquito to breed. The main responsibility is with citizens, communities and employers. If mosquitoes are breeding in uncovered water tanks in your housing society, defrost trays of refrigerators or the flower vases in your drawing room, why blame anyone else?







MAHENDRA Singh Dhoni's match winning innings in the Nagpur one- dayer on Wednesday should silence those who have been raising questions about his somewhat lacklustre performance as a batsman and a captain in the recent past. It reiterates the truth that players like him must not be criticised on account of a temporary dip in form, and that he remains the fittest candidate to lead the Indian cricket team, both in terms of ability and by virtue of having a great head on his shoulders.


Riding the captain's back, India have mauled the world champions Australia in a manner of which there are not many precedents in the past. With the score leveled 1- 1 now, the series has been nicely set up for some exhilarating cricket in the remaining five matches. Perhaps most important, the packed stadiums at Nagpur and Vadodara have proved unfounded the fears that oneday cricket is on its way out.










THOSE debating whether the Bharatiya Janata Party's illness can be cured by " medicine, surgery or chemotherapy" do not seem to realise that the Hindutva moment in Indian politics has passed. This should be clear enough from its electoral performance in two consecutive general elections and the latest state assembly election results from Maharashtra where an incompetent Congress- Nationalist Congress Party government has been preferred over the BJP and the Shiv Sena.


There are several reasons why the BJP in its present form has no political future. The BJP's ' Hindutva' essentially represents a preoccupation with some grievances of the past — the Muslim invasion of India, the subjugation of ' Hindu India', the building of mosques on top of destroyed temples and the need to right these historical wrongs. From this follows its hatred of today's Muslims and ' secularists' who do not share its historical grievances.


Even among its followers, the perceived and politically stoked grievances that existed were symbolically assuaged in 1992 with the forcible demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid structure. There is no doubt that the BJP benefitted electorally from the Hindu ' afterglow' of the event. But then the issue was over.


Though the party continued to harp upon the building of a grand Ram Temple at the Babri site the issue has had diminishing returns since then.


This may be true not only of the Babri issue. Most political parties can use a political issue effectively only once before the returns start diminishing. Mulayam Singh Yadav could use the Muslim- Yadav card effectively just once; a Lalu Yadav in retreat has to remind ingrate Muslims of Bihar that it was he who had arrested L K Advani when he was travelling the length and breadth of the country communalising its politics; and Mayawati has to constantly reinvent her alliances even to push the Dalit cause. The only Hindutva politician who has tried to reinvent himself in the pauses between elections is Narendra Modi.


However, there is a bigger factor at work which is shaping Indian politics today. For want of a better phrase one could call it the politics of the excluded.



The rapid pace of economic growth in India goes hand in hand with the exclusion of vast sections of the population from its benefits. This exclusion may be due to skewed income distribution, traditional economic practices in agriculture and industry getting marginalised under the relentless expansion of the world market, lack of requisite skills or education to participate in emerging economic activity and the displacement from land acquired for private industry.


Development processes result in the sense of being left out among those sections which are undergoing pauperisation while they see others prosper.


This situation is not unique to India.


These things happen in all societies going through rapid industrialisation.


India's problems are compounded by its huge population and the inability of traditional forms of livelihood to support a major proportion of it.


In a large democratic country like India, the negative fallout of economic growth and rapid industrialisation creates peculiar problems for the political parties. Economic liberalisation, which seems necessary for growth, creates large stakeholders in urban areas and political parties have to take them along. At the same time, it leaves out large sections of the population who are unable to partake in that growth. Both the constituencies are necessary to win elections.


Not all political parties are well equipped to harness these two political tendencies especially since they pull them in different directions. One pushes for the process of economic integration with the world economy to be accelerated because of the prospects of direct benefits — although such enthusiasm may have been temporarily dampened because of the recession. The other tendency is for cautiousness and wants the process to be slowed down and more controlled.


The party that is managing this contradiction to some extent is the Congress.


Its prime minister glows under the lights of world approval as an economic liberaliser. His core advisors share his vision. It has the middle classes and the urban elite behind it.


The so- called " youth vote" and the urban vote is for the economic policies of the government and not for the aging prime minister.


Yet the party is smart enough to create a safety net for those getting marginalised by the process — thus whenever in power it starts centrally sponsored programmes centred on providing employment, rural sanitation, housing, water supply, cheaper loans, etc. It makes no distinction about funds going to Congress ruled or other states. The overall aim is to win the constituency of the poor and the marginalised.



The Congress therefore attempts to balance the interests of those pushing for economic reforms and those who get the wrong end of the stick. It sends visible signals to both the constituencies — by reaching out to the world as well as setting up the National Advisory Council with advocates of the poor as its members. While it cannot function without a dyed- in- the- wool liberaliser like Montek Singh Ahluwalia as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission it also needs advisors who have spent their life working for empowering the rural poor. It was also lucky that it had the support of the Left parties in its earlier avatar as the United Progressive Alliance because they provided the necessary balance in its economic policies which in fact eventually helped India's partial insulation from the world economic recession. That cautiousness has remained with the Congress in UPAII also, largely because of Sonia Gandhi and her political advisors.


The appointment of an astute politician like Pranab Mukherjee as the finance minister is indicative of this.



The BJP, however, is not in such a comfortable position to deal with the turbulence being caused in Indian society by these overwhelming economic forces. It neither has programmes and policies for the excluded nor for those who are either direct or potential beneficiaries of economic growth. It only wants to feed them Hindutva. And that issue has no purchase any longer except amongst the lunatic fringe. The BJP has no programme for the rural poor, the displaced tribals, the urban poor and it has nothing more to offer to the urban upper and middle classes than the Congress is already doing.


What explains the electoral debacle of the Hindutva parties is their inability and lack of readiness to come to grips with a changed world. That would require engaging with the world economy but also defining and protecting India's interests. It would also mean protecting the interests of the excluded and offering them alternative prospects or enabling them to participate and benefit from economic growth.


The caste and community based Mandal parties tend to do slightly better than the BJP in the politics of excluded because like the more chauvinist MNS and the Shiv Sena, they project the solutions to exclusion in terms of caste, community and regional entitlements. That too will not work in the long run. Quotas and free markets cannot go together for long and there is an upper limit to government as an employer. So, even castebased politics is set to come apart in the coming decades.


The biggest challenge that the politics of exclusion poses lies in the tribal hinterland of India where displacement, lack of governance, absence of social justice and the onslaught of economic growth is pushing desperate people into the arms of Maoist extremism. No one seems to have picked up the gauntlet here politically. There cannot be a long term military solution — political problems have to be dealt with politically.


And that problem is how to make the marginalised stakeholders in the rest of India's economic growth.








THE US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is visiting Pakistan at a critical time.


The Obama administration is once again reviewing its Af- Pak policy to determine whether to send more US troops to Afghanistan or risk relying upon Pakistan to " do more" in Waziristan against the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network that is threatening to overrun the country.


But Pakistan has its hands full as it is. It is reeling from a murderous bombing offensive by the Taliban that has claimed over 250 lives in the last two weeks.


Indeed, Mrs Clinton's arrival in Islamabad was greeted by a suicide bombing in a crowded street in Peshawar, barely 100 km away, that left over 100 dead.


But rising political tensions within Pakistan's body politics aren't making America's job any easier. The government of President Asif Zardari is largely viewed in Pakistan as incompetent and untrustworthy.


Worse, in the midst of unprecedented anti- Americanism in the country, it is portrayed by a religio- nationalist media as being " servile" in its dealings with the US. The latest example of this is the near- universal rejection of the Kerry- Lugar Bill which aims to cough up US$ 1.5 billion a year over the next five years for bankrupt Pakistan from America's ailing exchequer because some of the conditions attached to it, which the government has shrugged away as being inconsequential, are seen as " humiliatingly intrusive". The Pakistan army, which doesn't see eye to eye with America about its Af- Pak strategy and wanted to send an indirect signal of its unhappiness exploited the situation recently by egging on the media and opposition to " reject" the aid and put the Zardari government on the defensive.


BESIDES, the army and opposition are trying to drive a wedge between President Zardari and his hand- picked prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in order to weaken the government and have their way. The army still doesn't sufficiently see America's war on terror as being its own war — some of the Afghan Taliban groups in safe havens in Waziristan which are creating the greatest trouble for NATO forces in Afghanistan are allegedly protected by Pakistan's security services because of their anti- India stance — while the opposition is in a hurry to trigger mid- term elections and change its fortunes dramatically.


But if Mrs Clinton had her job cut out for her, she shouldn't expect to see quick results after her visit. She tried to assure the Pakistanis that the US aid bill was a strong gesture of support in the war against terrorism that has laid their country low. But the heated controversy over the bill has left the lasting impression that the aid is contaminated in some sense. Her pledge to route it transparently for economic development and poverty alleviation is being taken with more than a pinch of salt: the government through which the funds must pass lacks credibility; and a significant chunk of it is likely to go to a horde of expensive American officials, consultants and auditors who are descending upon Islamabad in droves. The worst aspect of this development is the bad taste left in the mouth of US legislators who drafted the bill and sanctioned the money in the interests of both Pakistan and the US. Therefore they are not likely to be as forthcoming or generous when President Obama's administration asks Congress for supplementary grants for the Pakistan military, or when the US administration has to quickly disburse money by relaxing the auditing criteria, thereby reinforcing the suspicions already in the mind of Pakistanis today.


Mrs Clinton spent all her time explaining things to, and fending hard questions from, the media, civil society and students.


She also met with the leaders of the opposition PMLN who need to be taken on board the proposed US- Pak partnership. But it is equally important to note the message she was given wherever she went. First, Pakistan today is acutely in the grip of religious- nationalist passion and rhetoric.


So US policymakers must be sensitised to this development. Second, a regional approach involves bringing India on board, however difficult that may prove to be the case, and nudging the two neighbours to restart the composite dialogue unconditionally so that conflict resolution leads to building trust and the terrorists are unable to derail the war on terror by driving a wedge between them.


I ndeed, an end to the proxy wars between them in Afghanistan is a pre- requisite to winning the war on terror. Third, the next big issue after the Kerry Lugar Bill is likely to be the role of private security companies in protecting American diplomats and officials in Pakistan. The US needs to sit down with Pakistani security officials and chart out a suitable modus operandi regarding the conduct of these private security companies so that no untoward incident happens.


President Obama's Democratic administration has to clean up the mess left in this region by the neo- cons of the Bush era. This is not going to be easy. But the responsibility cannot be shirked. The US must not cut its losses and run away from the region as proposed by some liberals in America. The sooner Mr Obama announces his decision about the US presence in Afghanistan, and takes Pakistan's security concerns into consideration, the better.


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



HAI BECHARI Furry. Itna hand hua hai na uss keh saath in Isloo, keh bus. Bhai you know na that her daughter- inlaw had a baby boy last week at the Pindi hospital, and that also after four girls. Furry tau I think so had quietly, quietly even started shopping for wife number two for her son because as she says, ' I tau have only child and he can't remain be- aulad.' She has two daughters also but them she doesn't count, although she's found of them and everything, she says they are of ' paraya ghar'. Anyways, the baby boy has come — I think so they've named him Sikander and because his father is called Azam, baby's full name is Sikander- e- Azam. So naturally, they wanted to celebrate. But because this is mother's fifth Sea Suction and also because she nearly died and is still in hospital, they thought we'll do a tabahi function later but in mean time, mithai tau send karein na.


So they got all this chocolate flown in from Dubai because no affording sophisty type would be seen dead distributing luddoos any more. The chocolate came and all hand made it was but obviously they couldn't send it in its own car board boxes so they had these cute se blue silk pocket type things made and put five five chocs inside each with a card saying ' In honour of Sikandere- Azam, world conqueror' and pata nahin kya kya also.


But worst luck. Turkish PMT, sorry sorry I mean PM, what's his name, Astrakhan or Ardogan or something, he arrived in Isloo just then. Now the government as you know is scared spliff keh about where Talibans will strike next and fearing keh voh Sri Lankan cricket team wala haal Turks ka na ho jaye, they closed down hole of Isloo to protect Turkish PMT. I swear you couldn't take three steps without getting stopped by check post and being searched in places you didn't even know you had.


Khair, they sent out 300 blue silk pockets in their silver gray Merc with their old driver to deliver round Isloo and because of fear of zamana he kept his windows up and because of fear of Furry who is a little bit kanjoos, he didn't dare switch on the car AC and because of all the road blocks he left the house at 9 am and didn't get back till 9 pm and all that time the chocs were lying on the back seat and quietly quietly melting onto the cards and getting stuck up to the blue silk and when people opened their pockets they found a small sa brown puddle and a card that they could only read this much ' am world conqueror' and everyone thought haw who is this cheapster? Next day poor Furry sat by her phone all day waiting to get thank you ki phone calls and she sat and sat and finally she called up and asked her friends and instead of thank yous and mubaraks got abuse and insults. Honestly how many more ways are Talibans going to make us suffer.







THIS is with reference to the Question of the Day ' Was Dhoni's Nagpur ODI innings was the best effort of his career so far?' It is an interesting poser because it needs perspective to evaluate all of his important innings in his short but brilliant career.


So far M. S. Dhoni has scored five ODI tons in different circumstances and varying conditions.


His first ODI ton was a scintillating knock of 183 runs against Sri Lanka in Jaipur when he was a rookie. In that swashbuckling innings, he decimated the bowling attack; once even hitting the experienced and exacting bowler Chaminda Vaas when his score was not even 20. Then India captain Sourav Ganguly recognised Dhoni's talent, and had the gumption to promote him to the No 3 slot in the batting line- up.


His second century score of 148 against Pakistan was equally brilliant, effectively silencing his critics and helping India take a 2- 0 lead.


Of course, we botched up that advantage later due to listless performances.


But then, the slide began. In the last ODI World Cup held in the West Indies, he reached his nadir. But he reinvented himself as the Twenty20 captain and India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa.


Since then, he has performed rather inconsistently in terms of large scores. He is probably overburdened with the captaincy role in all three forms of the game, in addition to wicketkeeping and batting.


The Nagpur century was scored after a gap of 16 months at the No 5 slot which speaks volumes about the greatness of Dhoni's innings. It may be termed as one of the best in terms of its utility value alone because it was scored when the chips were down after the early dismissals of the main batsmen.

L. K. Chawla via email



APROPOS of the editorial ' Unchecked build- up is dangerous' ( October 29), the edit writer has rightly pointed out the weaknesses in the system and precisely analysed the need for improving our state of readiness if we are to avoid war with China.


While diplomacy and the connected niceties need to continue, we should not delay our preparations to meet a Chinese challenge if thrust upon us. These preparations may take anywhere between five to 10 years.


Mountainous terrain, adverse climate, high altitudes and the lack of adequate and suitable road communications have an effect on the weapons systems and indeed the troops. Flat trajectory weapons have their limitations in mountains.


Though the Indian Army appears to have a large standing force, troops from the plains cannot be switched to the mountains. It would be like sending our cricket team to play the soccer World Cup. We need to create special mountain divisions suitably equipped for the role. The infrastructure needs, including special logistics, will have to be created on priority.


The strategy to allow Chinese forces into Indian territory and destroying them in a battle has certain limitations owing to the limited space available for maneuvering besides the inability of the mechanised forces to operate in that terrain. This shortcoming should suggest the need for having the capability to take the battle into the Chinese territory at the point of our choosing if warranted so as to defend our sovereign rights and to avoid the humiliation of 1962.


Brigadier V. Mahalingam ( Retd) via email








In his first visit to Jammu & Kashmir after securing a second term in office, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has so far said all the right things. With regard to Pakistan, he has been balanced. On the one hand, he has held out the prospect of broad-based talks on all outstanding issues including Kashmir. On the other, he has called on Islamabad to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani territory. His call for reconciliation builds on gestures made by the previous UPA administration or even the NDA government preceding it. The true import of his message, however, may lie in what he has to say to domestic constituencies.

If New Delhi were to engage all Kashmiri factions in unconditional talks, it could provide sorely needed impetus to a dialogue process that has been moribund for far too long. The state's remarkable voter turnout in the 2008 assembly polls coupled with a period of significantly decreased militant violence could have made the past year a watershed. Instead, it has been a testament to missed opportunities. If the PM's statements do indeed signal a course correction, several steps are necessary. Including all stakeholders must be the jumping off point. Electoral results may indicate that separatists no longer dominate the mainstream. But no progress is truly possible without their involvement. Kashmiri Pandits must have a place at the table as well, and regional faultlines worked around with representatives of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh present at the table.

The PM's peace overtures have been welcomed in Islamabad, which is good news. But Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik's accusation that India is backing Taliban terror leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Even if Islamabad fails to reciprocate, the government can take ameliorative steps in Kashmir, such as the drawing down of military presence, the release of political detainees and a gradual relaxation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. These are all demands the separatists have made at various points. And yet, they have shown little inclination to create the conditions that would make their fulfilment possible.

For Hurriyat Conference (M) leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to say at this point that the gun is part of the struggle in Kashmir shows how much remains to be done. The roll call of death and destruction across the border, from Rawalpindi to Peshawar, shows where the way of the gun leads. If a withdrawal of Indian forces is all that separatists seek, the question needs to be asked who they think will protect Kashmir from the Taliban, whose latest exploit is a mega-explosion claiming 105 lives at a bazaar in Peshawar - the reason being that it was frequented by women who ought to stay indoors.







The Ambani brothers are waging a legal battle on the issue of RIL's gas supply to RNRL. Their businesses are too big for this war of attrition to not impact shareholders, investor sentiment and an energy-hungry nation. The Bombay high court had nudged the brothers towards arbitration within the family. Hearing the case subsequently, the Supreme Court suggested "arbitration, mediation or third party intervention". The two parties want a verdict in favour of one or the other of two seemingly irreconcilable standpoints. The SC points to an alternative, exploring compromise as a way out.

Though one party is reportedly against arbitration, it would serve the interests of all concerned if the apex court's wise counsel were heeded. Nor would the brothers have to look far for guidance. The MoU inked in 2005 - RIL was to supply gas from KG basin's D6 block to RNRL at a rate now disputed - was blessed by their mother Kokilaben Ambani. She had overseen the division of Reliance assets between her sons. For their acrimonious gas row to see closure, frayed fraternal ties need a healing touch their mother can provide. Her arbitration also means the question of anyone playing favourites won't arise. As in the past, she could be assisted by reputed banker K V Kamath. He had a key role in facilitating the 2005 demerger with scrupulous neutrality. He could help with the technical aspects of the negotiations.

Once thought a possible umpire, the government is a stakeholder in the dispute. In any case, government refereeing in business spats isn't desirable. Besides, several ministers and mandarins with views on the matter have come to be seen, rightly or wrongly, as not entirely dispassionate. The controversy over the alleged nexus between the outgoing director general of hydrocarbons and certain industry players deepens such notions.

The government should focus on plugging gaps in the natural gas sector, which is straddled by few players and needs infusion of funds and competitive energies. Gas pricing rules must be transparent and rational. If price decontrol becomes the future norm as the Planning Commission suggests, the watchdog body for exploration can't be seen as the oil ministry's creature. Power and fertiliser firms, the main consumers, get preferential supply at administered prices. With rising demand, these core buyers will need private suppliers. This transition can't occur without incremental dismantling of our subsidy edifice. A recent auction of oil and gas blocks had few takers, which signals investor wariness in a sector open to political interference and opaque pricing rules. Clearly, policy reform is in order.







WASHINGTON: What if Pakistan breaks up? It's a question a friend asked recently. He is a former diplomat, a man of wide international experience who holds reasoned opinions. "Why should we Indians be worked up? If it breaks up, let it go," he said.

We had a cracking debate about it that evening. I wondered whether strategy shops in India, in government and out, had drawn up alternative scenarios of the consequences of such a calamity. "There's no need," he said. "It won't be any different from what we have to face today. If anything, it will be a little easier."

The conversation came back to me when an Islamabad-datelined news item in this newspaper last week said that several Pakistanis had left or were planning to leave their homeland, so dangerous and exasperating life had become there. That doesn't mean that Pakistan will soon be drained of people. It just means some of those who can, mostly from the middle and upper classes, will leave; some, alas, will be the ones with the best minds. The super rich already have a foot in other countries, with villas and estates to care for. Everyone else - the vast majority - will have no option but to stay back. Or, and this is the scary part, will want to run for their lives, helter-skelter, if Pakistan indeed begins to unravel. But where will they go for refuge?

The problem is that if its people start to desert Pakistan, they won't necessarily go in any predictable, orderly manner. There won't be a last person to leave who will turn the lights out and Pakistan will become a dark spot on the map. 'Break-up' is a convenient term in a speculative chat. No one knows exactly how it might happen.

What might a disintegrated Pakistan look like? My friend thinks Balochistan is the province most likely to break away; the north-west frontier area is formally inside Pakistan's borders but is more or less autonomous. The tribes and terrorists there don't care for national borders anyway. So, Pakistan will become Punjab and Sindh, which it has in fact been all these years. How would that make a difference to India?

Well, that's one scenario. But its outcome is not as neat as it might seem. The Pakistani military is unlikely to just let Balochistan go, it will fight tooth and nail to keep the province within Pakistan. As it fights insurgents in Balochistan, its eyes will have to move away from the Taliban, who just might decide to take bold risks.

Here's another scenario: The army, under American pressure, continues to fight the Taliban within Pakistan and the Taliban, with the help of other radical groups spawned and nurtured by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) wing, continues to chip away at the nation's institutional edifice as well as citizens' endurance with an unending series of terrorist attacks in the cities, as it is currently doing. Before long, elements within the army and the ISI, who never wanted to fight their brethren and who hate the Americans, start to break away from the military to go over to the other side. When such a trickle becomes a steady stream, if not a flood, then what?

In other words, if the Taliban, with support from a section of the army, some day takes over in Islamabad, do we say, "Tsk, tsk", and carry on as if nothing happened? Wouldn't Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat have to prepare refugee camps? And, sorry to raise the issue, but won't we have to wonder who controls the nuclear buttons across the border? A fire next door, unfortunately, can singe the neighbourhood.

An unlikely scenario, many might say. But, improbable? Surely not. Remember, ever since the late General Zia-ul Haq began Islamising the military, devout bearded men have existed in good numbers within the rank and file as well as the officers' corps of the Pakistani army and the ISI. Some are already believed to be working with the Taliban and other terrorist groups. If and when the American pressure eases, and if the Pakistani army returns to its old ways, the Taliban's day will dawn once again.

Which brings up a third scenario: A year down the road, US president Barack Obama capitulates to mounting domestic pressure, much of it from his own party, and decides to wind down the American presence in Afghanistan. The ISI tells the Taliban to wait quietly till the infidels have gone. And then move in. Bingo! We can all move back to September 10, 2001. The Taliban, with guidance from the Pakistani forces who are perpetually seeking strategic depth against India, gains effective control over Afghanistan. The Lashkar-e-whatevers and the al-Qaeda are delighted. The Pakistani army is happy that the security of the western flank is outsourced once again to proxies while it resumes directing its low-intensity conflict against India.

Unlikely? Perhaps. Improbable? No. Many Americans are busy comparing their involvement in Afghanistan to Vietnam and asking whether it is worth any more time and effort. There are, however, others who are calling such comparisons nonsensical, since the two situations are entirely different, and are insisting that the stability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan is vital for the world to gain a respite from terrorism. New Delhi can only hope that the latter group wins the argument.

The writer is a former executive editor of this paper.







COPENHAGEN: Will the US Senate pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) before the December meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change? "I don't see why not," says Ed Marke y, chairman, select committee on energy independence and global warming and co-sponsor of ACES, called the Waxman-Markey Bill on climate change. The US Congressman spoke to Narayani Ganesh on the sidelines of a GLOBE International forum where legislators pledged immediate domestic action:

Why the provision for border tariffs on goods from (developing) countries that have no emissions targets?

The purpose of that provision is to have a back-up system that ensured that if there was anti-competitive activity in the steel sector, for instance - because the US has adopted strict control over greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) in the production of steel and if by 2020 there were countries that had not done so yet - the question is, should there be border tariffs for trade that would serve the role of ensuring energy-intensive trade?

Would the tariff also apply to goods from countries to where the US has outsourced its manufacturing activity?

That would be up to the president. We look at limited compensatory action in that area in order to protect a particular company because the company itself would have taken precautions but might continue emitting GHGs.

Many of the policies and measures to increase efficiency and reduce GHGe do not require an international agreement to implement. As legislators we can drive the move to a low carbon economy through domestic legislation to capture efficiency gains using a combination of energy efficiency standards and regulation.

But the Bill - with its low emissions reduction targets of 20 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, 42 per cent by 2030 and 83 per cent by 2050 - is not aggressive enough.

I accept the science of climate change, i do believe that the problem is growing worse. The goals that are established in the Waxman-Markey Bill reflect the science on the one hand and, on the other, it also reflects that President Bush rejected action on GHGs so we started behind the EU and we have to catch up and that's why we have set a strong goal of 83 per cent by 2050.

But the Bill's base year is 2005, not the accepted 1990 base year. Is that fair?

I accept that - but listen, all these figures do not factor in the benefit that will come in the form of forestation and mitigation efforts. If you did, the figure would be closer to 25-30 per cent, and we could reduce emissions to 17 per cent below 1990 levels. The US spends billions of dollars every year on forests. (The funds are got from carbon trading.) Next will be measurement reporting and verification and satellite monitoring. On the climate change issue, the US has sat on the sidelines for more than a generation. Can the US preach temperance from a bar stool? How can we tell the rest of the world what to do if we do not do something ourselves?








There, Narsingh pointed. Tiger's pug mark, he said. I stared hard at the ground. To my untrained eye it looked like any other patch of earth: lumpy, bumpy and humpy. But veteran tracker that he is, Narsingh could read that patch of earth as clearly as you can this printed page. I had thought that all the tigers in India had been killed by poachers. But Narsingh assured me that this particular tiger, a middle-aged male who had eaten not long ago, had passed this way this very morning. I waited for Narsingh to vouchsafe some more personal details about the animal. Perhaps that it had ingrown toenails, a pre-diabetic condition and played golf every Sunday. But Narsingh was busy pointing out a series of holes in the muddy earth. To me it looked, if anything at all, as if a large individual in stiletto heels had done a quick one-two bhangra step. But no. Wild boar, rooting with its snout for grubs and maggots, explained Narsingh. One lives and learns.


I was in Camp Corbett, Kaladhungi, and Narsingh, the guide, had taken my friend Uppi and me on a nature walk through the surrounding forest. Narsingh was a mine of information, pointing out the spoor left by sambhar and spotted deer, alerting us to the cry of the sub-Himalayan hornbill. It was a crash course in the ways of the wild. After a bit, i began to wonder if i should reciprocate in kind. What the heck. City slicker though i am, i too could try my hand at my own kind of guiding, involving the stuff of urban legends. There! See that. Yes, that piece of tinfoil. That is no ordinary tinfoil. It is the sign of that abundant species which ought to be the subject of a National Geographic programme: the Great Indian Gutka-eater. And look here! That wet round patch there? That is the mark left behind by the Common Male Urinator. And see that there? That empty packet of Haldiram's Special Masala Mix? That is a sure indicator that the Ubiquitous Desi Time-passwala has come this way, and not too long ago at that.


There are those who say that there are liars, damn liars and tourist guides. This is uncharitable. The true tourist guide - whatever be his field of expertise, from wildlife to ancient monuments - does not distort or debase truth; he embellishes and exalts it. The tourist guide realises that the stuff of everyday reality is humdrum, dull and boring. And it is in order temporarily to escape this everyday humdrumness, the dal-bhaat routine of reality, so to speak, that the tourist has become a tourist. The tourist, any tourist, is a pilgrim: a pilgrim in search of the savour of the exotic and the extraordinary. He hungers for awe and wonderment. Leaving behind the comforts of hearth and home, the tourist journeys to unfamiliar places, where people speak languages he cannot understand, and eat foods he cannot digest. The tourist willingly suffers all this for the bliss of escaping the mundane clutch of reality to enter the realm of hyper-reality, as supplied by the tourist guide, silver-tongued persuader who turns prosaic fact into the poetry of fantasy.


The ultimate snake oil salesman, your average tourist guide. I remember a particularly inventive chap who, many years ago, took Bunny and me around the Barra Imambara in Lucknow. He led us up to the famed whispering gallery in the building. You stay here, he told Bunny. You go there, he told me. Now put your mouths close to the wall and whisper softly. What magic, no? You can hear each other clearly, though so far apart. You know how it's done? All those ages ago when the Imambara was built, they had a secret masala which they put into the walls. This is the same masala which they are now putting into tape recorders and other sound equipment. What a most wonderful wonder, isn't it?


Yeah, yeah. I know about acoustics and all that. But all these years, and all these guide lines later, i'll still buy the secret masala. Truly a most wonderful wonder, no?







Our landline phone, a constant and reliable companion for decades, was recently given a planned but unwilling farewell. Even though such a farewell was in complete sync with latest trends all over the world, one could not help but grieve for several days until one got used to life without its constant 'tir-tir' throughout the day. With the skyrocketing prices, and incomes frozen, the goodbye became a necessity. But it left a vacuum in our lives for days together. It had become, in a way, as loveable as any chatty family member. We had to give the phone up to deal with these times of economic hardship. I must confess that we got the idea from an international journal that said it was more economical and sensible to replace it with a cellphone. Anyway, there were already several mobile sets in the family. Keeping the landline cord buzzing as well was more a matter of the heart than of the mind. The mind overpowered the heart this time and the familiar 'tir-tir' sound was heard no more.

Quick research shows that the unfailing companion at home is being pushed out all over the world. In the US alone, there were 70,000 disconnections per year over the last two years, a phenomenal 10 per cent of total landline connectivity. If the trend keeps up, the last cord will be cut off in 2025. Guess which country tops in such cut-offs? Netherlands, among the first democratic countries, and the host to five international courts, has the highest rate at 25 per cent a year. Though we have no comparable data about India, one can say from anecdotal experience that this country may not be lagging far behind. A friend was heard telling another when asked about his landline number, ''Which world do you live in?" Not having a landline at home and carrying multiple cellphones has become a status symbol. No wonder then that old handsets are fast giving way to the latest and trendiest smartphones. Gone are the days when only the rich and the famous could be seen showing off their fancy mobile phones. Some of us may even have good reason to take pleasure in the fact that Blackberries and iPhones have become the latest levellers. Who wouldn't like to flaunt the same kind of mobile used by our politicians and top businessmen, after all!








One almost feels sorry for the US as it attempts to gain traction with Pakistan. A common claim: we helped the US drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and were then abandoned. This is disingenuous. Pakistan knew that the US was legally bound to sever ties if it persisted with its covert nuclear programme. It persevered and forced the US to walk away. The John Kerry-Richard Lugar bill provides generous and, compared to past aid packages, remarkably condition-free military and civilian assistance to Islamabad. Yet it was treated as a means to convert Pakistan into the indentured servant of the US.


A deepening trend in Pakistan is a national sense of delusion about the nature and origins of the problems that afflict the country. Unfortunately, the country's leaders have come to believe in these delusions or propagate them for short-term political gain. Just as is the case with individuals, conspiratorial thinking and a bias towards fantastic narratives is born from a sense of powerlessness and disenfranchisement. Pakistanis seem to accept that they are in a sinking ship but prefer to blame the leaking hull on unknown swimmers rather than their unwillingness to plug holes. This is not a surprise.


To look too closely at themselves would require Pakistanis to acknowledge that the militants now waging war against them are their own creation, that they have guided their country away from a modern States's inclusive polity and that if their sovereignty today is mortgaged to Washington, Beijing and Riyadh, it is because of their fruitless attempt to match India in every field.


Countries that require therapy rather than mere material assistance are not beyond a cure. Unfortunately, the cure often comes after a complete political and social collapse. Or a more controlled revolution where an older establishment is replaced with the mindset of a new order. But even this requires Pakistanis to accept that their problems are largely of their own order. There is evidence this is starting to happen. The question will be whether this awareness will be overwhelmed by the strength of the delusions. If so, Pakistan's troubles will be beyond the ability of aid or arms. A failed State first occurs when people begin to blame everyone but themselves for their problems.







After knocking about 'barefoot' in his Bugatti for four years in exile in Dubai, 90 plus and naughty M.F. Husain may be headed home. While for most of us the return of the outré artist, whose works of Hindu gods and goddesses with less clothing than the moral police would like, would vindicate our liberal, secular ethos, for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its offshoots, the news will be greeted with trepidation and horror.


These well-known threat detectors strived with might to 'save' Indian culture every time the artist exhibited his works. Their democratic methods of protest included beating up the organisers, vandalising the paintings and issuing bizarre fatwas against Mr Husain. And, then the ultimate assault on our culture — there arose from among the Hindus those who either spared no thought for these paintings or upheld the artist's right to paint in whichever way he wished. Now it is a bit beyond even the energetic VHP to terrorise all of us pseudo-secularists, so they had to make do with dire warnings that Indian civilisation was in danger of collapse at a very glance at Mr Husain's art.


Unfortunately, we are still chugging along as is Husain in his many Bentleys, Ferraris and Bugattis, all of which he calls art installations in his garage.


Let's hope the messiah of the masses, Prakash Karat, is not reading this. There is one question, however, that our VHP brethren must answer and which they have avoided all along. Why are Khajuraho and the Kamasutra showcased as India's contribution to culture while poor Husain's canvases threaten it? The right answer will get you a weekend at the VHP's moral education camp in a hill station. So let Mr Husain return and we'll settle all these issues once and for all. We suspect that at the end of the day, the cliché 'different strokes for different folks' will prevail.








In the corridors of North Block, the shadow of Sardar Patel, India's first home minister, looms large. Every person who has since occupied the office is constantly reminded of the Iron Man of India: a life-size portrait of the Sardar stares down at them. It's a burden which has weighed heavily on his successors, which is perhaps why the country's roll call of home ministers is littered with notable failures.


There was SB Chavan who fiddled while the Babri Masjid was brought down; Brahmanand Reddy who silently acquiesced in the Emergency; Buta Singh, whose act in bowing his head at the feet of VHP mentor Deoraha Baba was a new low in Indian politics; Charan Singh who was constantly plotting on how to become prime minister; Indrajit Gupta, who like a good leftie spent more time on pay commission hikes than on fighting militancy; and, of course, the serial dresser Shivraj Patil who changed his wardrobe every time there was a terror attack. Even L.K. Advani, who claimed to be inspired by the Sardar, was a rather rusted home minister in the end, his rhetoric on Dawood Ibrahim and the ISI hardly being matched by concrete action on the ground.


Enter P. Chidambaram. A little less than a year ago when PC took over, it was the worst of times. The 26/11 terror attacks had shaken the security establishment, the state had been exposed as effete and inept. The home ministry had been pushed into bureaucratic irrelevance, one reason perhaps why even Chidambaram was self-confessedly reluctant to take up the job.


And yet, 11 months into office, PC is poised to be recognised as perhaps the toughest home minister the country has had, if not since Patel, then certainly in the last three decades. In a sense, PC's no nonsense persona — his critics term it as arrogance — is ideally suited for the ministry that needs a tough talking jailorsaab at the helm. As finance minister, PC's style of functioning appeared at times ill-suited to the demands of  coalition politics. But in the home ministry, the combativeness has been rewarding.


Take for example the recent conference of  directors-general of police: PC used the opportunity to lambast states for treating policemen as 'political footballs'. Similarly, PC's repeated questioning of Pakistan's blatant attempt to protect Lashkar boss Hafiz Saeed may yield little, but at least it sends out a strong signal that New Delhi isn't a wimpish state which will allow Islamabad to win the propaganda war once again.


But there is another, more complex challenge that faces PC: tackling the Naxal menace. Unlike Pak-based terrorism where the enemy is clear, the Maoists cannot be seen in black and white. Yes, those who behead police constables, who mine roads and blast bridges must be seen as armed militias who have to be either disarmed or eliminated. But should every armed tribal be seen as an 'enemy of  the state' who must be shot dead?


In a recent speech, PC had warned against romanticising Naxalism: "If the Naxalites accuse elected governments of capitalism, land grabbing, exploiting and displacing tribal people, what prevents them from winning power through elections and reversing current policies? We have not heard a logical answer to this question, not from naxalites, not from left-leaning intellectuals, and certainly not from human rights groups that plead the naxalite cause but ignore the violence unleashed by Naxalites on innocent men, women and children. Why are the human rights groups silent?"


It's a question that has enraged human rights groups who believe that it's not just their ideology, but their patriotism that is being challenged. It's equally the kind of remarks that have drawn applause from a vocal, middle-class constituency driven by the 'enough is enough' slogan that echoed after 26/11. In the process, the debate over how to tackle Naxalism is being polarised into a 'them' and 'us' binary conflict that offers no solution. Yes, we must condemn the cult of violence spawned by Naxalism in the strongest terms. But does that mean we turn a blind eye to the random violence of our own forces? Francis Induwar's killing must make the headlines and his family must get justice. But what of Dudhi Muye, 70, who was murdered after her breasts were cut off in a security 'operation' in Dantewada on September 17? Does her family too not deserve justice?


If the cycle of violence is to end, then Naxals who murder in cold blood must be dealt with as murderers but equally security forces who believe they have a unbridled licence to kill cannot be let off  under the guise of  inevitable 'collateral damage'. Who better than a home minister who started life as a trade union activist and then became a senior lawyer to understand the primacy of the rule of law and justice?


Postscript: In the last month, both Chidambaram and Arundhati Roy have been interviewed separately in our TV studios. Next time, they should consider coming together in the spirit of encouraging a meaningful dialogue as the way forward.


Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief , IBN Network








In 1973-74, India had emerged from the 'Bangladesh War' against Pakistan and providing succour to as many as 5 million refugees from the then East Pakistan for almost a year. Both the cost of the war and the refugee effort had put a huge burden on India's economy — roughly around Rs 500 crore each at 1971-72 prices. As if these two events were not enough, India was hit by the first global oil crisis in August 1973, when international prices suddenly rose from $ 15 a barrel to $ 40  a barrel.  Inflation shot up. Then, the monsoon of 1973 failed and we had a huge drought plus a food shortage on our hands.  The Soviet Union loaned us 4 million tons of wheat. 'Artificial rain-makers' descended on the country and tried to sell us 'pup' technologies at huge prices. Fortunately our meteorologists did not fall for such sales pitches.

It was against this background that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched a massive austerity drive. She started by symbolically giving up her Dodge car and using an Ambassador (keeping the same '2800' number plate). All ministers and Congress  leaders were required to travel by economy class flights both at home and abroad. Not only were their salaries cut, but their perquisites — where the real expenditures were (and remain) — were cut by half.  She herself took a 70 per cent cut.  MPs, MLAs and chief ministers had to do likewise.


All ministerial and secretarial conferences both at home and abroad were cancelled.  All repairs/extensions to government houses were frozen.  All overseas visits were stopped except those cleared by Mrs Gandhi on a case by case basis.  For her part, she cancelled all her foreign visits even to Non-Aligned Movement (Nam) and Commonwealth summits as well as annual prime ministerial visits to the United Nations General Assembly sessions.


There was not a murmur from anyone. People at large realised that these measures weren't gimmicks. Mrs Gandhi meant them and they knew she was concerned about how people, especially the poor, were suffering. It made a difference  to see the elite cutting down on their lifestyles and incomes, making people face rising inflation, dying crops and  water shortage with resoluteness.


Mrs Gandhi travelled across the country by train to console and inform them in public meetings of what her government was doing to alleviate hardships. Meanwhile, many of her key ministers and officers designed and implemented massive holistic sets of economic programmes working 18–20 hours a day.  They were not only steering the largest austerity programme in the country but also kickstarting the largest alleviation programme in India's  history.


As a result of this multi-pronged 'attack', starvation deaths shrunk drastically, the condition of the poor improved, inflation came down with food prices crashing down, and the economy somewhat improved.  Moreover, the people's faces brightened with hope writ large on them.


Today's government must follow Mrs Gandhi's hugely successful austerity drive and make the measures undertaken 'bite' wide and deep. Like in 1973-74, rural India is in deep crisis today and needs this government's sustained help. And Indira Gandhi's measures are the perfect model to pursue such an agenda.

Ashok Parthasarathi was the Science and Technology Advisor to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi



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While there is always the thrill of holding people hostage against their desire, the Maoists, of late, seem to have discovered the pleasure of release.


Having spanked the State into submission by beheading Francis Induwar; by freeing policeman Atindranath Datta and 'peacefully' vandalising the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, the Maoists appear to be signaling a new phase in their troubled relationship with the State.


Now that the State and the media know that the Maoists are capable of taking the pleasure equals pain principle to its logical climax, freeing hostages and good-naturedly scribbling slogans on trains appears like a far more civilised way of fomenting revolution.


Just recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed their willingness to break free from the handcuffs of current discourse and engage with those who abstain (from violence).


Maoist leader Kishenji has insisted that while the rebels shall not lay down their arms, talks with the West Bengal and central governments must be preceded by the unconditional release of all prisoners taken captive since military operations began in Lalgarh in June, a withdrawal central forces from the area and a declaration of ceasefire by both sides.


In the meantime, Home Minister P Chidambaram has warned that he can keep his velvet gloves on for only so long; thereafter it's steel fisting all the way. The victims of military operation shall inevitably be the poor tribals who have love for neither State nor rebel. Now if only the Maoists would take themselves in hand.








PEERZADA ASHIQ IN SRINAGAR Is a blood-splattered chapter in Kashmir's recent history coming, after 20 long years, to an end? Maybe, maybe not, but at least one man believes change is coming: India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "I believe that a new chapter is opening in the peace process in the state and we are turning a corner," Singh told a news conference in Srinagar on Thursday.


Singh's statement followed one by Home Minister P. Chidambaram in Srinagar on October 13. Chidambaram said, "Kashmir has a unique history and geography and needs a unique solution".
He also mentioned, "Any solution to the problem has to be acceptable to the vast majority of people...New Delhi will talk to all shades of opinion to address the political dimension of the problem".


Prof Gul Wani of the Department of Political Science in the University of Kashmir in Srinagar hears in these words signs of a new seriousness in Delhi towards resolving the dispute in Kashmir.
"Unlike the past statements made by political dignitaries where they would use words like reconciliation and peace process,Chidambaramusedacompletely different vocabulary", Wani said.


According to Wani, these statements areanindicationthatKashmirhasmoved from the conflict management phase to the conflict resolution phase. "It seems a lot of ground has been covered on back channels. Chidambaram's statements are not only bold, but positive, probably preparing the ground to institutionalize a dialogue process", he said.


Prof Radha Kumar, director of the Nelson Mandela Peace and Resolution Centre at Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi, is among those in the know about the back-channel discussions on Kashmir.
She sees elements of a dialogue process taking shape. "It's too early to say a dialogue process has started but I can see some semblance", Kumar told HT. She added that no open invitation had gone to the Hurriyat Conference because it had earlier rejected such an invitation.
"However I can tell you an invitation is already on the table", she said.


The lack of trust is a problem in taking matters forward. "We were open when we entered into a dialogue with New Delhi in the past. All we demanded was that people on the ground should feel a change is taking place. We asked for confidence building measures like the release of political prisoners and repealing those laws that gave unbridled powers to soldiers, stopping human rights abuses, and troop withdrawal.
But none of these demands were fulfilled", said Mirwaiz Unar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference.


Kumar thinks confidence-building measures are a must to institutionalize the dialogue process. "India can start with withdrawal of Disturbed Area Act and allow rule of law to follow its course", she said. Removal of the Act would mean the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives soldiers the right to kill on mere suspicion, would no longer operate in Kashmir.


People who are associated with the peace process in and outside the government are wary of pushing up expectations from the dialogue process in the short term. "The attempt is to broaden the base of the people you are talking to... build a commonality of approach not just with you but amongst themselves so that when they have move forward, they do not have to worry of allegations of selling out," an official said.

Nearly half a dozen interlocutors are already reported to be on this job, holding preliminary discussions with the separatists to appreciate their positions, and share their assessment of the peace process with Pakistan that itself has been held hostage by home-grown terrorists. Meanwhile, things in Srinagar are better than they have been in two decades.


On Wednesday, around 8 p.m., shikara owner Ghulam Qadir Dar (58), anchored his boat on the banks of the Dal Lake, 500 m from where the Prime Minister Singh was staying.


There are an awful lot of soldiers and paramilitary soldiers, about 3 lakh across Kashmir, India's most militarised state, to keep Singh safe, but for once, Dar wasn't stopped for one of those ubiquitous security checks that make Kashmiri men feel like prisoners in their own land.


"I have lost one of my sons during the militancy years," said the 58-yearold. I want my other son to live in peace now in a resolved Kashmir",










Major rivers of the world, including the Ganga and Brahmaputra, are facing a big human onslaught, a point to note ahead of the climate change summit in Copenhagen in December.


The areas drained by the Ganga (2,510 km) and Brahmaputra (960 km in India) in India are getting regularly submerged due to the construction of dams and canals, and rising sea levels.


The Ganga and Brahmaputra river basins are important to India because they support close to 40 per cent of India's agricultural production and some of the unique bio-diverse hot spots.


Any change in the water flow systems of these rivers could result in a 15-20 per cent fall in India's farm production, a source of livelihood of around 400 million people. The two rivers play a major part in 25 per cent (more than 50 million tonnes) of India's agricultural production.


Not only humans, even nature will face the music as the two river basins support 30 per cent of Indian biodiversity, especially in the upstream Himalayan region.


Similar has been the case of 22 other large rivers of the world like the Irrawady in Myanmar and the Mekong in Indo-China, whose deltas (landmasses formed at the mouths of the rivers) are critically threatened.


The University of Colorado, in the central United States, has published this finding in the journal Nature Geo Science.


The study highlights a two-way process. On the one hand, pebbles and silt brought in through man-made canals are obstructing the flow of the rivers, causing an elevation in their level and the consequent overflowing of the banks.


And the rise in the sea level, due to the melting of glaciers, is blocking what might have flowed into the sea, leading to rivers remaining laden with impurities. "This phenomenon is called the extension of the salt wedge and it will salinate the groundwater of Kolkata and turn agricultural lands barren in adjoining rural belts," said Pranabes Sanyal, head of the School of Oceanographic Studies in Kolkata's Jadavpur University, in his recent study of the impact of rising levels of the Bay of Bengal on the Ganga. Sea levels in some parts of the Bay of Bengal are rising by 3.14 mm annually against a global average of 2 mm, threatening the low-lying areas of eastern India.


Around the world, about 500 million people living in major river deltas are likely to be hit by this process, causing more frequent floods.


"Our data analysis ... clearly shows that human activity has fastened the process of the sinking of deltas and has caused increase in the frequency of severe floods," said the lead author James Syvitski, dean, department of earth sciences, Colorado University.

Syvitski is directing a $4.2 million effort funded by the National Science Foundation to model large-scale global processes like erosion and flooding.

In India, studies have shown that the severity of floods in river deltas has also increased by 3-5 per cent in the last few years.


"Disturbances caused in the hydrogeological structure of a particular river basin can increase the frequency of floods," said S.P. Gautam (54), chairperson of the Central Pollution Control Board, who contended that no research has been done in India on the impact of human activity on the rivers' hydro-geological structures.


In such a situation, Indian scientists say there would be more human loss on account of sudden flash rains, especially during monsoons. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology has found that in the past 50 years, the prevalence of sudden flash rains has increased.


"There are already 7,000 environmental refugees in the Sunderbans (close to 100,000 people live in the Sundarban islands) and the numbers can only increase with the sea devouring more islands as a result of global warming," said Sanyal.









If MPs on a Lok Sabha panel get their way, they could soon give themselves and their colleagues a five-fold increase in the monies they can disperse on capital works in their constituencies. At a meeting of the Lok Sabha Standing Committee on MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) on Wednesday, unanimity was had on moving a proposal to increase the annual allocation per MP from Rs 2 crore to Rs 10 crore. The initiative is in its early stages, and therefore its passage far from guaranteed — but given the gusto with which MPs have sought such a hike, Parliament and the government should take this as a nudge to consider whether the MPLAD scheme should be even continued with, let alone enhanced with greater funds.


Under the scheme, MPs are allowed to recommend capital works in their constituencies — in their states, if they happen to be in Rajya Sabha — for a total of Rs 2 crore per year. Guidelines and checks are in place on how the money is sanctioned and on what works it may be spent. The scheme is administered at the Centre by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and projects must be sanctioned and coordinated by the district collector. Nevertheless, there have been incidents of irregularities. But these irregularities — and remember some MPs lost their membership of the last Lok Sabha on this count — by themselves could be a simple case for better oversight and procedures. As would the criticism that sanction for projects does not adequately factor in maintenance and upgrade. The fact is that the MPLAD scheme — and it finds replication at the state assembly and even municipal level — is flawed not just in its execution but also in its very conception.


By giving legislators a direct role in disbursing funds for capital projects, the scheme erodes the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive. In fact, it is precisely on this count that the Administrative Reforms Council headed by Veerappa Moily, now Union law minister, recommended that the MPLAD scheme be scrapped. The National Advisory Council, now defunct but seen to be a guiding influence in the UPA-I heady period of social spending, too was critical. It was felt that such capital expenditure was more gainfully undertaken by local bodies. These arguments are sound and substantive. Yet, this scheme, begun in 1993 by P.V. Narasimha Rao as a legitimate way to give MPs a stake in seeing out their Lok Sabha's full term, is routinely sought to be deepened and enhanced. That is regrettable.







There are moments in history when wrong decisions are taken; the effects of which are felt for ages," said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at the end of a long peroration on the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Right decisions, however, also ripple through the years. Consolidating the gains of democratic victory with steady investment in infrastructure and governance reform should top UPA-II's to-do list, given that the PM has repeatedly said he considers J&K one of his biggest priorities.


Inaugurating a new Anantnag-Qazigund rail route (planned for over a century), he spoke of the government's commitment to improving connectivity and infrastructure, and helping trade flourish. While the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalkot roads are already open to trade, the Centre will rebuild the heritage Mughal Road to connect Shopian with Poonch and Rajouri. Trade across the LoC has intrinsic and symbolic value. No matter how thin the trickle of commercial activity currently underway, opening up these routes for trade and exchange will make a difference. Throwing cash at J&K has never been a durable solution, but spurring self-sufficiency and prosperity is bound to work. In recent years, J&K has seen a tremendous scaling-up of educational infra-


structure up to the university level, but this process has been largely unregulated, and not geared towards academic excellence or job-market gaps. The state is awash with unemployed, overqualified young people — and addressing their restlessness is an obvious need. The PM announced a "skill development to employment" scheme and promised ITI training to prime the state's young population for better career prospects. And this employment must not remain confined to growing apples and creating handicrafts, or even the hospitality industry.


The PM expressed the hope that "the era of violence is at an end", and held out the offer of unconditional dialogue with all Kashmiri groups — a demand that has gathered momentum recently. Dialogue with Pakistan has been temporarily abandoned after the Mumbai attacks, but Dr Singh again


renewed the offer to talk. What that portends is unclear — after all, it isn't exactly within India's control to get Pakistan to crack down on non-state actors or play its part in "productive dialogue". Either way, the PM has struck all the right notes — now there must be an urgency of executing these fine plans.







This could have made news 60 years ago. And even then, it would have been shocking. For the fact of Dalits entering a temple to make headlines in the 21st century only goes to show that untouchability is far from a bygone evil.


The injustice is so stark, the story makes easy telling. When a group of Dalits had previously tried to enter the Ekambareshwarar temple in Tamil Nadu's Nagapattinam district, they found it locked by the temple management. After many rounds of negotiations with the village panchayat, a group of Dalits reattempted entry — this time under police escort — only to have stones hurled, and the situation spiralled out of control. This is a scandal, an insult to our Constitution and the enlightenment that it embodies. Not only is there a specific proscription against untouchability in the Indian Constitution, but temple entry for Dalits had also galvanised our early social reformers in much the same way school desegregation galvanised the American civil rights movement. It is, in these extremely imperfect and regrettable circumstances, a relief that on Tuesday a group of 80 Dalits, under full police escort and accompanied by district officials, finally entered the temple and prayed.


But prayers are not enough, if the government wants to prevent a repeat incident. The law is not the problem. As it is, many of the caste Hindus in the village apparently piped down after they were told that their actions were illegal and merited consequences — an example of how the law can be made to work. The initiative then must lie with the government, especially the district administration. The message they send out must be loud and clear: preventing Dalits from entering temples is a crime, and those who prevent them from doing so will be made to pay.








 Indira Gandhi's place in modern Indian history is deeply paradoxical. Her policies, actions and outlook on power made Indian democracy fragile to the point of destruction. The Emergency was simply symptomatic of a larger trend towards institutions. She had, during her tenure, wilfully assaulted every single institution: the judiciary, federalism, the police. Her own party had become excessively centralised. She tolerated and created a style of politics that was lumpen at its core: an odd combination of corruption, violence and the use of arbitrary power. Her tenure created the politics of anxiety in the shape of several secessionist movements. And despite some retrospective credit being given to her for bank nationalisation, and interventions in agriculture in the early seventies, her economic policies were largely a disaster, making the seventies the truly lost decade of Indian economic growth.


Her assassination and the brutal massacre of Sikhs that followed were, in different ways, profoundly tragic events. But both traced their origins to a politics that Indira Gandhi had tolerated, if not positively encouraged. In many ways, the Punjab crisis, of which these two events were the violent denouement, embodied the worst aspects of her legacy. The Congress consistently fished in troubled communal waters in Punjab, using sectarianism rather than rising above it. The state first let the crisis develop through sins of omission and commission, and then when pushed to the brink responded with brutal force. The legitimation of the violence that followed was premised largely on the deification of her persona. Only in the context where her party members believed that "Indira is India" could the massacre of three thousand people be so easily justified. Even the political shock troopers of the Sikh massacre, most of whom have since become icons of political respectability, were products of a violent street politics she had done little to curb during the Emergency. It was almost as if the context in which her assassination came to be embedded made it difficult for her death to achieve the status of martyrdom. The Congress will be doing itself a disservice by remembering her assassination as a day of martyrdom. Instead it is a day to recall how democracies can become vulnerable to their own worst tendencies.


And yet, the reverence and nostalgia for her has survived this indictment. In part, this is because her personal qualities seem to transcend her politics. While she fomented communal politics, there is little doubt that she did not have a communal bone in her body. Even as she was subverting institutions, she could project an aura of democratic grace; her authoritarianism worked precisely because her persona seemed not dictatorial. As the Congress inches towards becoming an unchallenged force once again, it will be better served by examining how a leader of many remarkable personal qualities could preside over so much conflict and bloodshed. The lessons it will have to take on board are these. Leaders are more effective when they work through institutions rather than attempting to subvert them. Second, sound economic policies are not a matter of simply projecting good intentions; they require a concerted understanding of the causal conditions that make for successful intervention. Third, being personally secular is neither here nor there. The important thing is to fish in the treacherous waters of communal identification, from wherever it comes. Fourth, as the Punjab crisis demonstrated, when the state does not act impartially and in time, it sows the seeds of greater violence in the future. Fifth, democracy is not just about the practice of popular authorisation. It is about a whole gamut of constitutional values that have to be zealously guarded.


But Indira Gandhi's mystique is perhaps best captured by her famous by-election slogan "ek sherni sau langoor, chaalo chaalo Chikmanglur". She has come to represent the paradigm of a decisive leader, someone who not only knew how to create her own power against great odds, but also knew how to decisively use it. Perhaps the most admired aspect of her legacy, one that even her bitterest critics from the BJP envy, is her foreign policy. The nuclear tests signalled India's decisive independence. But they also for ever altered the strategic landscape of the subcontinent in ways we are still coming to terms with. Her intervention in the Bangladesh crisis was a remarkable combination of realpolitik and humanitarian concern. But it has to be said that, though India won the war, it lost the peace. Not only did the Shimla agreement not decisively resolve outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, the traumatic effects of that war still reverberate in Pakistan's psyche. It is difficult for us to now imagine the global context in which India stood in the early seventies. The US was not just hostile to India, but had been actively subverting democracy around the world. And it is important not to forget that the shadow of Allende loomed large on every democratic country in the world. Indira Gandhi converted a legitimate sense of being under siege into a state of paranoia, where every opposition was identified with a foreign hand. But she gets credit for standing up in the face of immense pressure.


But the other side of the slogan "sau langoor" is equally important. While Indira Gandhi's intoxication with power was dangerous, there was nothing petty about it. Even when most misguided, she drew confidence from the fact that she was acting on behalf of a people. We have forgiven her in part because she was a Napoleonic figure of sorts. Even in her subversions of democracy, she could embody an abstract idea of the people; popular identification with her survived all institutional perfidies. Most of her opponents by contrast, even at their most virtuous, seem never to be able to rise above their narrow interests. In retrospect, with a couple of exceptions, almost all political forces that crystallised in opposition to her — from the motley crew of Lohiates, to the trench warriors of the BJP — could do everything but project the idea that they stood for India, broadly understood. The nostalgia for Indira Gandhi is based on a kernel of truth. She was the last leader who could truly belong to the whole of India. And the profound question Indian democracy has faced since is this. Are we safer with a fragmentation of interests, however narrow they appear, checking and balancing each other? Or do we need a leadership that is an embodiment of the people as a whole, with all the risks that such personification of popular power entails?


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi








The unrest in Iran since the June 12 presidential election is, without a doubt, the most significant sequence of events in the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. It is now clear that Ahmadinejad's government manipulated the June election results in part to boost Iran's leverage in the anticipated nuclear talks with the US. The intent of the manipulation was to show the world and especially the Obama administration that the hardliners were still popular in Iran.


It is often said that the hardline violence in Iran is the ticket to compromise abroad. But the overall crackdown on the demonstrators will not be sufficient to reassert the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad's government even if there is a nuclear deal with the US. On the other hand, the revelation of Iran's secret enrichment facility outside Qom has greatly undermined the leverage of any policy-making inside or outside the US government which supports diplomatic and dialogical alternatives to the tougher options of sanctions or military intervention. The chances that diplomacy will convince the Iranian regime to change course and truly abandon its nuclear ambitions seem next to nil.


It is true that Iran has strongly and repetitively denied that its nuclear programme is aimed at developing atomic weapons and insisted it is civilian in nature. The Obama administration, however, while trying to restore the role of diplomacy and to take the military option off the table, is under enormous pressure both domestically and internationally not to pave the way for Iran to advance its nuclear plans with relative impunity. Even before news of the Nobel peace prize to US President Barack Obama, Israel had deep worries about the new US diplomatic engagement with Iran. The concern is the more likely scenario of a US-Iran dialogue that fails to produce conclusive results, sucking the Obama administration into a long process that the Iranian government can use as a cover to advance its nuclear activities. The concern persists despite the US secretary of state's reassurance that "the international community will not wait indefinitely for evidence that Iran is prepared to live up to its international obligations". It is possible that the new turn of events in Iran brings closer than ever before the possibility that Russia, certainly, and perhaps even China might lend their support to a new round of sanctions. That will make the threat of real consequences for Iran's defiance of the UN Security Council much more credible and strengthen the hand of the Western negotiators. But there is no guarantee that Ahmadinejad and his administration will simply roll over and comply with whatever is demanded of them. There is no evidence whatsoever that if increased sanctions are actually applied Iran will dismantle its enrichment programme.


One should not forget that Iran is plagued by political divisions at home, and the latest revelations of the new nuclear site could undercut the international arguments of Ahmadinejad's government. Just a month ago, he arrived in New York on very shaky international standing with internal turmoil alive and well in Iran. For that matter, in addition to holding the Iranian government to account for its nuclear ambitions, the Europeans and Americans should use the new negotiations to raise substantive human rights issues in Iran, and not just behind closed doors. It's high time to include Iran's human rights violations in the multilateral negotiations with the Iranian government. The absence of strong condemnation of human rights abuses in Iran simply means that Iranian civil society has to fight two fronts, one against human rights violators and another against inattention by the international community. In an isolated country like Iran, where there are limited human rights protections and no human rights mechanisms to bring attention to the plight of victims, the role of international instances in spotlighting abuses becomes even more critical. Many Iranians inside and outside the country believe that the negotiations should not be interpreted as a stamp of approval of Iran's grave human rights record. The nuclear negotiations should, therefore, press Iran on human rights abuses and democratisation.

In any event, Iran's nuclear programme and the government's defence of it is probably the last thing all Iranians, even the opposition, generally agree on. During the aftermath of the presidential elections in Iran, the protesters have been primarily concerned to curb arbitrariness and strengthen the rule of law in the Islamic Republic. But they have also chanted a slogan on Ahmadinejad's blustery rejection of any and all international entreaties regarding uranium enrichment: Ahmadi-ye hasteyi, boro bekhab khasteyi (Nuclear Ahmadi, go to sleep, you are tired).


It goes without saying that the Iranian people can take pride one day in Iran's peaceful use of the nuclear energy and its breakthroughs if they see it as putting the country on the pathway to respect and, ultimately, improved relations with the world. But Iranians are significantly less excited now that the nuclear programme appears to be a mere trump card in the hand of hardliners who desire a confrontational foreign policy with no end in sight. One can only hope that the Americans and the Europeans would understand this.


The writer is a Toronto-based Iranian scholar ( )









A c J S A DISPUTE over land and statehood, the Israeli-Palestinian onflict is combustible enough. But recent clashes over the site in Jerusalem that Jews call the Temple Mount and Muslims call Haram al-Sharif are injecting religious passions into one of the world's most dangerous confrontations. Extremists on both sides are playing with fire. But since Israel is the dominant power, the governmentofIsraeliPrimeMinisterBenjaminNetanyahubears primary responsibility for smothering that fire before it erupts into a much larger conflagration.

The current crisis originates in Palestinian fear and anger over archaeological excavations near, but not underneath, the Al Aqsa mosque.
The digs are under the control of an ultra-nationalist Israeli group intent on justifying a Jewish claim to Jerusalem by locating remnants of what is called the City of David. Those excavations have weakened the foundations of nearby Arab houses and led critics across the Muslim world to warn of a plottocausethecollapseoftheAlAqsamosque.Thefuroreovertheexcavations has given new force to Palestinian demands that Israel stop settlingJewsinEastJerusalem,whichwouldmakeitmuchharder todividetheancientcitybetweenIsraelandthePalestinianAuthority. Israel maintains that the influx of Jews into East Jerusalem is asimplematteroffamiliesbuyinghomesinaneighbourhoodthat appealstothem.Butthat'snotthewholestory.TheIsraeligovernmentknowsthatatleastsomeofthepeoplebehindthepurchases of Palestinian homes have a political motive... From a leader in `The Boston Globe'







In a previous column in this series (IE, September 4), the narrative of the 1965 India-Pakistan War was brought up to the crucial date of September 11, 1965 when Ayub Khan, a realist for all his faults, knew that for Pakistan the war was over. Its carefully crafted counter-offensive in the Khem Karan sector had flopped totally. After a rather long interruption for reasons entirely beyond my control, let me pick up the threads.


While Ayub, with a map on his lap, was gleefully telling his confidant, biographer and alter ego, Altaf Gauhar, that Pakistani Patton tanks would soon be reaching Delhi, his military secretary burst into the room agitatedly to announce that the counter-offensive had foundered because the Indians had cut a nearby canal and inundated the battlefield. The village of Asal Uttar in the Khem Karan sector had become the graveyard of Pakistani tanks. What tormented the field marshal even more was that India's obsolete Sherman and Centurion tanks of World War II vintage had got the better of Pakistan's US-supplied, state-of- the-art Pattons. Yet it took him another 12 days of senseless fighting and avoidable casualties to accept the UN-sponsored cease-fire on which the Security Council was insisting every afternoon. Why?


Not only were Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his hard-line cohorts totally opposed to a cease-fire (even though they knew that Pakistan was running out of ammunition as well as spare parts) but also Ayub's loyalists — including Gauhar — were telling him that there could be no cease-fire unless it was accompanied by some mechanism to "solve" the Kashmir dispute. When the president testily asked his acolyte: "How do I achieve this", Gauhar replied: "Sir, you have the China card. Please play it".


Ayub promptly decided to do so. That night a plane carrying him flew to Beijing in even greater secrecy than that surrounding Henry Kissinger's historic flight to China five years later. The pilot of Ayub's aircraft was the recently retired first Pakistani air force chief, Air Marshal Asghar Khan. The journey to Beijing and back, after talks with Zhou Enlai, lasted only 24 hours but it was enough to bring home to the military ruler the limitations of the China card. Zhou candidly told Ayub that the only way Pakistan could and should fight India was to follow the Maoist doctrine of withdrawing when the enemy was able to advance, and organise, with the widest participation of the people, a long-term guerilla war against the "aggressor".


However, even before Ayub had returned home to keep up the fight for some more days, China gave him such succour as it could without getting militarily involved in the Indo-Pakistan conflict. It issued an "ultimatum" to India to demolish the illegal structures it had built on Chinese territory opposite Sikkim, and to return to China the yaks and sheep it had stolen.


Most of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri's advisers told him that China's threats were hollow but he seemed not to be convinced. For he told K. R. Narayanan — then director of the China division in the ministry of external affairs and later President of the republic — "whatever you might say, a Chinese attack is coming". He therefore offered China a "joint inquiry" into the location of the controversial structures which Beijing blithely ignored. Meanwhile, angry crowds in Delhi had collected a herd of sheep and goats which they drove to the Chinese embassy displaying placards: "Eat them but keep the peace in Asia". At the same time most Sinologists world over were agreed that the irate China-India exchanges were in fact a "typewriter war".


At first the Chinese extended their ultimatum by a couple of days. Then they demolished the structures themselves and announced that India had complied with their demand. At this distance of time, it should be admitted that the disputed structures were on the other side of Nathu La. By then Ayub had informed Zhou that his choice was between a draw of some kind and defeat, and he was opting for a draw. International pressure on him had mounted because, on the advice of the army chief, General J. N. Chaudhuri, Shastri had already accepted the cease-fire that eventually became effective from the mid-night of September 23. Unsurprisingly, the cease-fire was fragile and was breached too often, especially by the Pakistani side, greatly embarrassed by the presence of Indian troops in close proximity to Lahore. That is where the now deceased Soviet Union's invitation to Shastri and Ayub to meet in the Central Asian city of Tashkent (now capital of Uzbekistan) to end the state of war came in. The Soviet offer was first conveyed to the two leaders by Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin soon after the war had begun. Both India and Pakistan had ignored it. But both took it seriously later.


The Tashkent talks began on January 3, 1966 and, after teetering on the brink of collapse for several days, succeeded in the wee hours of January 10. The credit for this must go to Kosygin's tireless mediatory efforts. The much-applauded Tashkent Declaration was signed at 4 p.m. and festivities the like of which I have rarely seen — heavy drinking of toasts was their hallmark — began immediately. These, too, proved to be short-lived.


For, within a few hours, the "triumph" at Tashkent was superseded by the tragedy of Shastri's sudden death. The story of the Tashkent talks, I have already told on this page in some detail (IE, January 9, 2009) and there is no need to repeat it. In any case, the truce that Tashkent brought to the subcontinent was tattered and the "Tashkent Spirit" evaporated fast.


On return home Ayub found himself at the receiving end of a vigorous agitation. His government had foolishly misled the Pakistani people into believing that it had "licked the Indian invaders". If so, they asked, how come there wasn't a word in the Tashkent Declaration on Kashmir? However, it took them four years to force Ayub to abdicate in favour of another military dictator, Yahya Khan.


In India, the impact of Shastri's death was instant and long lasting. It ushered in the Indira Era.


The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator








During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis the Kennedy government had released aerial photographs of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Analysts feel that these images shaped the course of the Cold War. Subsequently, significant investments were made by the Soviets and the Americans for aerial and space monitoring systems. This was the beginning of the usage of satellite technology for military as well as diplomatic purposes. However, in those days satellite technology was mainly used as a tool to forewarn opponents. Today satellite technology is also being used as an instrument to win friends.


In a recent initiative, India has offered to share satellite data with ASEAN countries. While addressing the seventh India-ASEAN Summit in Thailand Mr Manmohan Singh has made this offer to the 10 member association of Southeast Asian nations. He has promised that India would share satellite data — for the management of natural disasters — with these countries. It has also been proposed that India could help these states towards launching small satellites built by them. Today, with its well developed space programme India is in a position to offer help towards manufacturing and launching various payloads for experiments in remote sensing and communication for space agencies and academic institutions in these countries.


This initiative should be considered a welcome step towards increasing India's influence in the region. Asia is expected to lead the global space development in the 21st century. In Asia Japan, India and China are the leading space powers. Amongst these powers India's space programme is considered as a unique programme with a strong socio-economic bias. India has invested itself successfully in various arenas of space technologies from remote sensing and education to communication and planetary missions. The commercial utility of India's programme is well known. Today, India offers the cheapest commercial launch facilities. However, to date India has not been found proactively using its space achievements as a tool for increasing its regional influence. Is Mr Manmohan Sing's offer to ASEAN countries a step in that direction?


India as a major rising power in Asia needs to look beyond economic and military means for expanding its influence in the region. Technology in general and space technology in particular offers India an additional tool for this purpose. Countries in ASEAN need the help of satellite technology for various purposes from communication to disaster management. States like Indonesia and Philippines are extremely prone to disasters and satellite technology has much utility for them. Countries like Malaysia have ambitious plans for possessing their own space infrastructure and have done significant investments towards this. India could play a positive role in this regard where states have both needs and ambitions.


China has already started engaging few ASEAN states in the space arena. China is generally viewed as a country with an "aggressive intent". However, there is another side to China where it is using various methods to quietly widen its influence over the last couple of years. China is using its space proficiency to engage many nations. They are providing help to countries like Nigeria and Venezuela in order to develop their space programmes. Naturally, here one cannot overlook the "oil" factor. It is perceived that China is using "space" as a tool to secure access to key global natural resources and commodities.


As per industry estimates, within the next two years over US$2 billion worth of new satellites may be launched over Asian region. Southeast Asia is expected to offer a major portion of this business. Today, satellite technology is being viewed more as a tool of influence in this region because many ASEAN states are not in a position to fund their space ambitions. Americans know this and they have already launched satellites for Vietnam and sealed deals with Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines backed by loan guarantees. China has promised to build and launch a communications satellite for Laos. At the backdrop of this India needs to 'carve' a new 'space' for itself in this region.


Even though China is not able to establish a sizeable footprint over the ASEAN region its efforts to engage states in other parts of the world in the space loop are noteworthy. It has recently signed an agreement with Pakistan, granting a $200 million loan for satellite construction. It would also be establishing ground control segments at Lahore and Karachi. China is engaging Bolivia and would be helping it to launch its first satellite within the next three years. Its relationship with Brazil, another developing space power, is well-known. China has also managed to base the headquarters for Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation (APSCO) in Beijing. Incidentally India is not a member of this group.


India has a well established space programme and has major plans for the future. This expertise should be constructively used to engage powers within the region. The Indian space programme offers an opportunity for the Indian state to extend its soft power status. Making friends by bartering space technologies may not be the sole solution, but is definitely an important step in that direction.


The writer is a research fellow at the Indian Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses








 "Shame. On. You. BBC!" "Nazi. Scum! Off. Our. Streets!" Facing a wall of policemen, anti-fascists and anti-racists screamed at the top of their lungs.


The outrage over the decision to invite the racist British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin onto a respected show like 'Question Time' had reached the BBC's doorstep in Wood Lane, London. Inside, Griffin shared a panel for the first time with members of mainstream parties taking questions from a studio audience. He was hounded but never cornered. Although that doesn't really matter because a man with views as odious as his should never have been on Question Time (QT) in the first place. The BBC was wrong to invite him.


A glance at some of the BNP's claims to fame reveals its racist agenda. It was only a few weeks ago that the party was forced by the court to change its constitution which earlier allowed only white people to become members. Griffin himself was convicted in 1998 for inciting racial hatred. His anti-Semitic past goes back to having read Mein Kampf at 13. He later said it had "some really useful ideas."


Where this becomes sinister is that he has been trying to give the BNP a veneer of respectability by talking about his extremist agenda in code or when it suits him, not at all. He has said, "This is a life-and-death struggle for white survival, not a fancy-dress party. Less banner waving and more guile wouldn't go amiss."


A more undeserving candidate for QT's panel is hard to find.


The BBC was wrong for one principal reason. The format of QT legitimises Nick Griffin. Having worked in television I know that the only way to get close to nailing down a double-speaking politician is to interview him or her individually and at length. However, with four other panelists, a moderator and an audience pulling the "discussion" this way and that, Griffin wriggled out just fine and for a while even managed to turn the tables on his fellow panelists who yammered on about failed immigration policies.


By placing him on a panel, he received the status of an "equal" or worse, won sympathy, going by the complaints the BBC received about unfair treatment towards Griffin. As if on cue, Griffin has complained that he was confronted by a "lynch mob" in London (where QT was shot) which according to him is "no longer a British city."


After angry demands that the invitation to Griffin be withdrawn, the BBC dug in further saying censorship was the job of the government and not the BBC. I agree. And in fact, its not censorship that I want but a display of better editorial judgment. The BNP should not be removed from the airwaves. When their party wins an election or incites violence or does anything "newsworthy" then they must be covered. Nick Griffin must be interviewed, but just not on shows like QT that throw a cloak of respectability around the BNP.


The chief counter-argument in this debate is that not inviting Griffin violates his freedom of speech. This is a slightly uni-dimensional way of looking at it because this line of reasoning ignores the fact that words can be used as codes — understood by the right audience, while staying within the law or simply as lies that suppress a darker agenda.


Griffin has said as much while sharing a platform with a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, whom he ridiculously called "non-violent." Standing before a crowd of white nationalists, Griffin told them it was all about using "salable words" such as "democracy", "freedom" and "identity". "Perhaps one day, by being rather more subtle, we've got ourselves in a position where we control the British broadcasting media, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say yes, every last one must go (non-white immigrants)."


Words can be sweet and sinister. Such tactics allow the BNP to become more and more acceptable, while completely deflecting attention away from its real thuggish agenda. It is exactly that kind of creeping extremism that any society needs to guard against. This brings me back to my argument. If we have genuinely committed to the dustbin of history, the notions of racial purity and white supremacy, what we need today is not censorship but a much more rigourous cross-examination of the return of such destructive politics The BBC, which otherwise does this so well and which has truly earned the trust of its audiences, betrayed them this time.


The writer is a freelance journalist based in London







I felt a twinge of envy when I heard that my pal Tom Friedman had played golf with the president for five hours one September Sunday. Tom learned a lot about Barack Obama's positions on weighty issues and sporty ones. (This president doesn't cheat and he does expect bets to be paid off.) My natural impulse was to shrug it off. Men have always craved private realms — the golf club, men's club, garage, workshop, shed; a place to get away from the chatter and clatter of women and kids.


Gordon Thorburn, the British author of the book Men and Sheds, explained that the word shed derived from the Anglo-Saxon "scead," or shade. It was, in a metaphorical sense, obscure, an "intellectual pantry" or "spiritual home" where a man could reflect and dawdle with tools and toys. But I don't kid myself that the presidential playing fields are merely about play. After Tom's golf outing, Politico ran the headline: "Friedman jumps to the front of the influence list."


Like other bosses, presidents surround themselves with people who make them comfortable. Poppy Bush liked racy humor, but was too gentlemanly to use it with women. So male advisers bonded with him by telling dirty jokes.


Obama likes to play sports, watch sports and talk sports. So the Obama aides who can do that, like Robert Gibbs, have a deeper personal connection with the president than someone like Rahm Emanuel, the former ballet dancer who prefers yoga to golf. Just as some men can't ingratiate themselves through sports, some women can. Condi Rice drew close to W. — nudging away Cheney — by working out with him and talking football.


As long as I've covered politics, there were always women running up against "The Boys." In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro complained about the "smart-ass white boys" from Walter Mondale's campaign who tried to boss her around. As first lady, Hillary Clinton had to deal with Bill's coterie of cocky "white boys."It was a bit surprising that the same dynamic recurred with the first black president. But it is the very enormity of the change Obama represents that makes him cautious at times about more change. Because Obama regards himself as the change, he didn't immediately see the need to alter what his aide Anita Dunn calls the "optics." His race also gives him cover; it took quite a while for anyone to accuse Obama of being exclusionary. After stories about the frat-house atmosphere in the spheres of economics and national security, and snipes about an all-male basketball pickup game at the White House with cabinet secretaries and congressmen, the president took Melody Barnes, his chief domestic policy adviser, golfing on Sunday. "I wanted women to still hold their heads up so I didn't want to shoot triple bogies every hole," said Barnes, who was hailed by the press for "smashing the grass ceiling."


Just as the hoops-playing president is getting knocked for being too traditionally male, the hula-hooping Michelle is getting knocked for being too traditionally female. "She's mostly played it safe," Allison Samuels writes in Newsweek, "dabbling in traditional East Wing issues — much like the first ladies before her — without yet gaining much traction on any particular front." The First Couple is trying to let America digest the huge change that they signify. They know that Fox News is always ready to pounce with that "radical" label.


Besides, if Obama starts using a quota system for recreation, it will give fuel to the Republican campaign to paint him as a hand-wringing, Mom-jeans-wearing girly-boy. Churlish Cheney charged the president with "dithering" on Afghanistan and nerdy potential 2012 rival Tim Pawlenty, the Terror from Minnesota, accused Obama of "projecting potential weakness" on national security.

Since the president is finally willing to let women in on the games, I offered up my own challenge: Scrabble. I'm curious about what X and Z words the smarty-pants Y chief executive can come up with.








The government is set to implement a major overhaul of its sugar pricing policy, a policy that until now had led to distorted and less-than-efficient outcomes in the troubled sugar sector. Earlier, the central government set a statutory minimum price (SMP) for the procurement of sugar. States had the option of increasing this under what was called the state advised price (SAP). Some states consistently opted to use the higher SAP as procurement price, while others used the lower SMP. This obviously led to the development of an uneven playing field for millers across states. Under the new policy, the Central government will have just one procurement price called the fair & remunerative price (FRP), which will take into account cost of inputs and fair returns to farmers. And if states wish (their local millers) to pay more, they will have to bear the additional costs themselves. The government argues that FRP will guarantee a better price to growers. It will discourage states from playing politics with cane pricing. It will also help to wipe off long-standing cane dues accruing to farmers, which mills had to pay, but did not, because of the unreasonable SAP fixed by state governments. Sugar mills are, therefore, quite pleased with the change—shares of major sugar companies jumped by almost 21-30% over the last one month—outperforming the BSE—in expectation of the change in policy.


There may be problems in implementation, though, with resistance from states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab which have already announced a state advised price (SAP) of more than the proposed FRP of Rs 130 per quintal. These states are unlikely to agree to reimburse the millers for the difference between SAP and FRP. In this battle, the real losers may turn out to be farmers and consumers. The farmers may lose because the revised policy will discourage mills from paying more than FRP—they used to pay more than the SMP to ensure timely and quality supply quite regularly. And the consumers will lose if mills pass on their additional burden to them. At a time when the government should be looking at lower sugar prices, the FRP may actually raise them further. All the FRP will end up doing is adding another distortion to the sugar economy, where the government still decides how much millers can sell in the open market each month. In the current scenario (when production is expected to remain almost 70,00,000 tonnes less than consumption in 2009-10), a deregulated sugar sector would have enabled higher returns to farmers, ensured more sugar for the open market and also encouraged mills to import or optimise their crushing. Instead of meddling with non-market mechanisms, the government should simply let the market set the price of sugar.







Exactly 40 years ago, the first message on what we call the Internet today was transmitted. That transmission, brief as it was, wasn't completed before the system—linking together machines at UCLA and the Stanford Research Institute crashed. Only the 'lo' part of the 'log in' went through. Poetic prescience you could argue, given that synecdoche is so triumphant in our times. But that was just one among many points of clairvoyance showed in the moment. A second concerned how it was the Russians' launch of the Sputnik that impelled the Pentagon to help devise a technology for better, faster and vaster communication. Staying ahead of the Soviet Union, and China to a lesser extent, was an explicit goal. Many years of a full circle later, those are still the countries of origin for the most prevalent data attack—in the form of viruses, worms and so on. But, while it's all very well to read tea leaves in hindsight, the fact is that on October 29, 1969, US defence department researchers had no idea that their baby would explode agnostically, disseminating information and its power without consideration of origin. Think about it in terms of sheer impact over the past year, the real competition for the Internet campaign in favour of Barack Obama has come from that in favour of Mir Hossein Mousavi. Mobilising political engagement with comparable impact across Iran and the US, that's a substantive coup.


By the end of 1969, the Internet had expanded from two to four computers. By July 2009, it reached across around 700 million machines, having added more than two computers every second of its life. But most of the meteoric growth only occurred in this decade, at the beginning of which there were only 93 million computers with Internet access. What about India? We only got into the game in 1988, with full Internet access for the public launched on Independence Day in 1995. In India, the next Internet frontier is obviously the wireless phone, as there are around 65 times more cellphone connections than broadband Internet links. The future lies in synergies between the cellphone and the Internet, between filing an RTI application online and getting the results via SMS. And the latest inklings of this future are that Google is looking for a local partner to participate in the upcoming 3G auction. In India, the company already represents 88% of searches. Even if one disregards the established corporates, the fact is that from education to business, today the Internet provides our entrepreneurs a virtual infrastructure for international competition. For that level playing field, we say thank you today.








The recent speech by the RBI governor has some useful ingredients in financial reform. These small steps represent progress when compared with RBI's stance of recent years of blocking all progress in finance. For a comparison, in the one year of Governor Subbarao's tenure, there has been just one achievement in financial reforms: the delicensing of ATM installation by banks. However, there are two problems. First, these tinkering changes will not yield results. Second, the conceptual framework that underpins this tinkering continues to be one of a licence-permit raj, of central planning.


Issues such as STRIPs fall in the former case. Deep and fundamental problems bedevil the Indian bond market. Minor moves, whether unbanning STRIPs trading or unbanning repos on corporate bonds, are merely tinkering at the margin.


The deeper diagnoses of why India does not have a sensible Bond-Currency-Derivatives Nexus has been done by top experts in the RH Patil, Percy Mistry and Raghuram Rajan reports. The key action points of these reports continue to languish. Minor thing s that will not threaten the status quo are finding their way into announcements. But the essence of what is required is changing the status quo. Speeches by RBI staff in coming weeks will proudly show a great deal of effort on setting up a bond market. What matters is results, not effort. RBI way on the bond market has been tried and failed for 15 years. There is no reason to think that more of the same will now get results.


The deeper problem is the ethos of central planning, of a licence-permit raj. RBI has set itself up as the super-CEO of a set of financial firms. All the product launches of these financial firms are controlled by RBI. Whether we discuss trading in STRIPs or CDS or currency futures or the time at which trading should start and stop: all these decisions are made by the central planner.


This approach has been tried before in India, in the real economy. It failed dismally, and was abandoned. For central planning and a licence-permit raj to work, an omniscient central planner who is maximising the interests of the people is required. Both these conditions are not satisfied in India or anywhere. Growth in India only got started when the central planner started getting out of the way.


To take a specific example, consider currency derivatives. At present, a full array of currency derivatives are traded 'OTC', which means that the players talk to each other on the telephone and strike up deals. The phone market is a bad way to organise financial trading. It features non-transparency, unfairness to customers, and counterparty credit risk.


The right position for policy makers is to frown on the phone market, and allow exchange-traded derivatives to come about. On exchanges, there is full transparency. Counterparty credit risk is eliminated through the clearing corporation. Thousands of financial firms from all across India are able to participate: their diversity of views yields greater liquidity and market efficiency when compared with the monoculture of banks in South Bombay on the phone market, all of whom think alike.


Prior to the global financial crisis, the international picture was one where governments were neutral about OTC versus exchange. That has changed after the crisis: now governments are encouraging exchanges.


In India—before and after the crisis—RBI has steadfastly favoured the phone market. This is partly an analytical failure at RBI (that is, a central planner that was less than omniscient). In addition, RBI is keen to foster the phone market (where it is the regulator) and not keen on exchanges (since Sebi is their regulator). Here, the central planner is placing its own interests first.


All exchange-traded currency derivatives are banned in


India, unless specifically permitted by RBI. Now RBI will permit rupee-dollar and rupee-euro futures, but it continues to ban dollar-euro futures. This third product would close the 'currency triplet', where the three contracts—rupee to dollar, dollar to euro and euro to dollar—would be linked up and strengthen each other. With one of the three legs missing, all three will suffer from inferior price discovery.


In similar fashion, RBI continues to ban options trading on the rupee-dollar on exchanges, while permitting it through the phone market. FIIs and NRIs continue to be banned from the exchange-traded market but permitted on the phone market.


In the Indian discourse, we request RBI to see one issue at a time (for example, "please unban trading in rupee-euro futures"). However, the entire apparatus of central planning needs to be questioned and dismantled. The phrase 'RBI has launched rupee-euro futures trading' is a throwback to the age of central planning. Economic reforms were not about a government that permitted Tata Motors to launch the Nano in blue and white: they were about a government that got out of licensing.


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







The kind of political regimes that much of the third world has been saddled with over the last many decades have ensured an absence of real development, even if there have been periods of growth in GDP. Issues such as independence in policy-setting, whether domestic or foreign, land reforms or their absence, dictatorship vs democracy, political patronage and social embeddedness of economic networks are central to their lagging development. These countries are living proof that politics still trumps economics and none more so than Pakistan.


Whereas Pakistan took giant strides in the initial three decades after its formation, its once lauded economy was pulled down by the weight of its unreconstructed politics thereafter. In the 11 years of Zia-ul-Haq's regime Pakistan's entire politico-business landscape changed, with businessmen going into politics and politicians setting up a range of businesses. Then came the major shift under Musharraf. And the supposed economic boom that ensued as a result of this political shift under Musharraf concealed a continuous corrosion of its economic strength.


Nearly a decade after this policy shift, Pakistan's economy lies in doldrums, with external debt standing at $50 billion or over 30% of GDP, GDP growth at 2%, inflation close to 20%, and industry gasping for breath due to chronic energy shortages and exorbitant costs. This is particularly ironic since Pakistan received record inflows of capital right after 9/11. Whereas prior to 9/11, Pakistan received around $1 billion in remittances, after 9/11 this jumped to approximately $5 billion/year. Apart from this, there was a substantial increase in bilateral and multilateral assistance. Combined with investment from the Middle East and other countries, Pakistan received nearly $60-65 billion over six years after 9/11. Unfortunately, the liquidity boom that this transfer produced became fodder for ongoing political cronyism under Musharraf. Army generals, who developed, acquired and sold land, were some of the biggest beneficiaries from the real estate bubble that this liquidity led to. Under Musharraf, the army also became the largest business conglomerate in the country, owning and operating over 50 businesses.


The capital that did not go into real estate was used for speculation in the stock market, which remained largely decoupled from the actual industrial base of the country. Whereas the stock market became one of the fastest growing in the world, there were hardly any IPOs (reflecting the actual business activity in the country).


Thus, while Pakistan suffered the negative consequences of its foreign policy shift post-9/11, it did not benefit from the enormous capital inflow that it brought. Impressive growth rates in the 2000s were largely a result of cheap credit fuelling conspicuous consumption and the real estate bubble. None of this money was invested in large developmental projects. Most frustrating was the governments' reluctance to transform the vast coal reserves (one of the largest in the world) into a source of energy, or to build sufficient hydel power generation capacity. As a result of energy shortages most industries have come to a grinding halt.


Musharraf's era was one long party, where everyone made merry, but which left in its wake a hugely polarised society, massive political instability and completely wrecked political and economic institutions.


If things were bad then, they turned worse in 2008. Pakistan was now teetering on the brink of default. The government blamed the financial crisis, but in fact the global financial crisis had little negative impact on the Pakistani economy. The exposure to subprime mortgages and other securities was limited in Pakistan. The seeds for the economy's decline had been sown much earlier. Like many countries, Pakistan struck a Faustian bargain with the IMF. This meant an end to price subsidies, tighter monetary policy and reducing social spending. This meant further polarisation of society, and price hikes putting everyday articles beyond the reach of most Pakistanis.


Now, US and Pakistani action in the federally administered tribal areas has unleashed a terrible vicious cycle of violence. The situation is such that ordinary freedoms that people in other countries take for granted, are denied to Pakistanis. Only the hiring of security guards is booming. The country is passing from one crisis to another, first energy, then wheat followed by sugar, but the real crisis remains that of political institutions.


Politics still comes first. Multilateral institutions creating economic policies for Pakistan in isolation from its political reality are wasting everyone's time. And the political change will have to come from within.


The author teaches strategy and policy at the University of Cambridge & Lahore University of Management Sciences







The battle for the Indian cellular service provider market is gaining momentum. With the availability of 'number portability' option in 2010, mobile phone users are now checking out the merits of various players in this sector. Major cellular service providers such as Vodafone , Airtel and Idea Cellular are scripting fresh game plans to retain existing customers as well as lure new cellphone users across the country.


Just walk into any Vodafone gallery in Mumbai and you will see company's uniformed employees answering endless queries from prospective customers. No need to say it's also action time at AirTel and Loop Mobile galleries. However, Idea Cellular franchises in Mumbai wear a dull look despite the bright painted interior.


Operators are responding. For instance, with an estimated customer base of 82.84 million, Vodafone Essar is beefing up its marketing operations to woo new customers. Enthused by the response to its 'ZooZoo' ad campaign featuring egghead mascots, it has tied up with retailer Shoppers' Stop to launch ZooZoo merchandise across the country. Remember how these animated characters created a splash during the second season of the IPL.


With a subscriber base of 110 million people, Airtel, the market leader in this category, is not far behind. It is in the process of rolling out its power-packed ad campaign featuring Shah Rukh Khan. According to AirTel, the new campaign was launched to demonstrate the power of the largest people network in the country. "With 110 million people together, good things are bound to happen to everyone," says SRK in Airtel latest ad campaign. Across the road, Idea Cellular has recently launched a high voltage television campaign with tagline 'Walk when you talk".


At present, the Indian mobile market consists of more than 400 million mobile subscribers and is growing at 15 million new connections per month. In essence, service providers and handset manufacturers across the country are looking forward to explosive growth of this sector as India skips the copper wire and heads straight for wireless networks.




This study* analyses the factors responsible for transport sector CO2 emissions growth in selected developing Asian countries during 1980-2005:


To identify the driving factors, we decompose the emission growth into fuel switching, modal shifting, per capita economic growth, population growth and changes in emission coefficients and transportation energy intensity using the Logarithmic Mean Divisia Index (LMDI) approach. We find that population growth, per capita economic growth and change in transportation energy intensity are generally found to be principal drivers of transport sector CO2 emission growth in Asian countries, whereas fuel switching, modal shifting and change in emission coefficients are not found to have a sizeable influence on the growth of transport sector CO2 emissions. The per capita economic growth effect and the population growth effect are found to be primarily responsible for driving transport sector CO2 emissions growth over the study horizon in all countries, except Mongolia. The transportation energy intensity effect is found to be the main driver of the reduction of CO2 emissions in Mongolia. However, improvement in transportation energy intensity is also found to restrain the growth of transport sector CO2 emissions in some countries, significantly in China and India.


GR Timilsina and A Shrestha, Why Have CO2 Emissions Increased in the Transport Sector in Asia? Policy Research Working Paper 5098, The World Bank, September 2009




This is the second working paper* by the Macro Team in Icrier on the state of the Indian economy


The review has shown that the industrial sector, which underwent a severe downturn in 2008-09, is beginning to recover from early 2009-10, but it is not yet clear that the pick-up is underpinned by a strong revival in real demand. The monsoon failure has created uncertainty as to whether demand growth will be sustained. The fiscal stimulus has helped in substituting for lost private demand to some extent and prevented a steeper fall in GDP growth. However, we do not expect a further boost over and above what happened already so far from fiscal expansion. While the growth in the non-agricultural sector in the current year would be somewhat higher than last year, a marked decline in agricultural output is expected to bring down this year's growth in GDP below last year's level. In this context, high inflation, which has emanated from the agricultural shock and may be spreading to non-food products, will pose a big policy challenge. At a time when last year's aggressive monetary loosening measures seem to have just started boosting growth, the central bank may have to start tightening sooner than later.


Mathew Joseph, Karan Singh, Pankaj Vashisht, Dony Alex, Alamuru Soumya, Ritika Tewari and Ritwik Banerjee, The State of the Indian Economy 2009-10, Working Paper No 241, Icrier, October 2009









Even by terror's gory standards, the bomb attack in Peshawar city that killed 105 people was of an order of savagery that surpassed anything Pakistan had seen before. It targeted the most vulnerable among civilians — women and children — and capped a month-long orgy of violence unleashed by extremist militants across the country. The timing of the attack with the arrival in Pakistan of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might have been a coincidence. Even so, it was a horrific demonstration of the challenges to the U.S.-Pakistan partnership in the "war on terror." The terror attacks are clearly aimed at sapping the nation's morale as its army, under pressure from the U.S., battles the Taliban in its South Waziristan stronghold. The thinking seems to be that a terrorised nation will lose the stomach for military operations against the militants — but the attacks are having the opposite effect. Pakistanis are asking what kind of beasts are these who deliberately set out to target young students, women, and children. The suicide bombings at the International Islamic University earlier this month was an indication that the militants would stop at nothing. The realisation that the national mood has hardened against the militants and that Pakistanis own the war against the Taliban more than before will strengthen the army in its ongoing operation in South Waziristan. But if the idea is to root out terrorism and extremism, the time for selective operations is long past. The security establishment needs to stop making distinctions between militant groups that have turned against the Pakistani state and those that can still be viewed as 'assets' against India. Some of the recent attacks have shown that al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the so-called jihadi groups are acting in concert.


It is unfortunate that instead of articulating this huge internal threat and educating the nation about it, a senior Pakistani government functionary has chosen to hurl the senseless accusation that India is funding the Taliban. The same Taliban were described less than a year ago as 'patriots' willing to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakistani armed forces against India. Making anti-India statements is one sure way for officials under pressure to earn political brownie points. But each such statement makes it more difficult to retrace the path to better relations. At this difficult time, Islamabad can clearly do without ratcheting up tensions with India. Equally, New Delhi must stop poking Pakistan in the eye with gratuitous comments after every other terrorist attack in that country.







In a long, cathartic journey of personal redemption, bravely enacted in the full public gaze, Andre Agassi may have arrived at a defining moral point. In admitting to taking crystal methamphetamine — a highly addictive stimulant that causes numerous neurotransmitters to be released in the brain — the eight-time Grand Slam champion may be sending out a simple message to his fans and the tennis community worldwide. Image doesn't matter to him; truth does; and he can't live any longer with a "central lie." The irony that underpins Agassi's mea culpa is the fact that it might not have been a big shock had it happened in 1997, when he consumed the hard drug. That was a year when the flashy anti-hero from Las Vegas went through a time of troubles on and off the tennis court. His marriage with actress Brooke Shields was collapsing and with that his world ranking plummeted to No.141. He was emotionally at his most vulnerable and susceptible to all kinds of influence, as the former world champion points out in his forthcoming autobiography, Open, excerpts from which were published in The Times (London). From that low point, Agassi authored one of the most stirring comebacks in sport — to pole-vault back into the Top Ten in 1998. The following year, he won the French Open title to become only the fifth man in tennis history to complete a Career Grand Slam.


Remarkably, the start of the most productive part of Agassi's career coincided with the beginning of his relationship with Steffi Graf, winner of 22 Grand Slam singles titles. The great German provided the American the emotional bulwark that had proved elusive in his personal life. Enduring a rocky relationship with an overbearing father, Mike Agassi, a former Iranian Olympic boxer of Armenian-Assyrian descent, the future champion was exploited from an early age by avaricious agents and promoters. He was assigned a role and told who he was before he had the opportunity and the emotional maturity to find out who he wanted to be. Nothing better exemplified this than the 1990 camera advertisement tagline featuring him, "Image is everything." But the rebellion slowly brewing inside Agassi came out in the open post-1997, as he distanced himself from his former persona. It is hard to believe that this highly intelligent man with an analytical bent has spilled his guts in a book just to sell it. Agassi and Graf have been two of the biggest philanthropists in modern sport. Almost certainly, it wasn't about money. It was his way of telling us all: 'Hey, watch out, there are pitfalls on this road.' Agassi did not set out to be a role model; he only wanted to be the best player and person he can be. He may have achieved that goal by living a well-examined life.









It seems that one way or the other, and at some time or the other, the Taliban will form part of the governing structures in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has been talking about this for a long time. The British have been advocating it and now the Americans too are quite willing, and perhaps anxious, to open a dialogue with the Taliban; in fact, it would be safe to assume that they might be already talking to it directly or indirectly. Underlying this willingness to deal with the Taliban is an implicit acceptance of the fact that it cannot be defeated. Indeed, Gen. Stanley McCrystal has acknowledged that the insurgents are getting more sophisticated, that there is at least a loose coordination among the different groups of insurgents and that time is not necessarily on the side of the coalition forces.


The Taliban, for its part, knows that it can win by not losing and the coalition loses by not winning. Now, the Taliban has added a new weapon to its arsenal, diplomacy. In a statement on October 8, to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban has declared that it has had no intention of attacking any western country. "We had and have no plan of harming countries of the world, including those in Europe ... Our goal is the independence of the country and the building of an Islamic state. Still, if you [the U.S and NATO troops] want to colonise the country of proud and pious Afghans under the pretext of a war on terror, then you should know that our patience will only increase and that we are ready for a long war."


This statement of the Taliban, the initiative for which probably came from its friends in Pakistan, was clearly meant to further harden public opinion in European countries against maintaining troops in Afghanistan and has undoubtedly been taken note of in western capitals, including Washington.


Barack Obama is faced with perhaps the most important and difficult decision of his presidency, as he ponders over Gen. McCrystal's recommendation for sending 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. The general has not made it easy for his commander-in-chief. 'Send the additional troops or be prepared for defeat' is essentially his message. The easy option for Mr. Obama is to accept the recommendation, since he could always justify it by going along with the military's unanimous proposal. Mr. Obama has shown impressive courage by not giving in immediately to his general's demand. Of course, he too has public opinion to contend with, not just generally in the country but more so in his own party. He has got more time to make up his mind, now that Afghanistan will go for a run-off for the presidential election.


The current offensive by the Pakistan armed forces in South Waziristan could have implications for the situation in Afghanistan. Given its overwhelming superiority, Pakistan's army ought to prevail over the Taliban of Pakistan, though judging by media reports, this does not appear to be a walkover. It will not be easy to define 'victory' in South Waziristan, just as it is not clear what form 'victory' should take in Afghanistan, from the American perspective. If the majority of casualties turn out to be civilians instead of militants, the impact of the war in Waziristan could be counter-productive. A significant number of militants could spread out in the rest of Pakistan and/or cross over into Afghanistan. It would be interesting to watch the attitude of the Afghan Taliban: will it go to the help of its brothers in Pakistan or simply stay on the sidelines? As of today, it is sitting on the fence. If it goes over into Afghanistan, it would pose an additional threat to the American forces there.


As is widely acknowledged, the Americans do not have any problem with the Taliban; their fight is against the al-Qaeda. If the Taliban were to convey that it would not permit the al-Qaeda to operate from Afghan territory against America or any western country, as per its October 8 statement, it might provide enough of a fig leaf for President Obama to clothe his decision to make a deal. The overwhelming priority for the U.S., which India shares, is to save Pakistan from imploding further, in effect, to save Pakistan from itself. Depending on the course the operation in South Waziristan takes, a scenario in which the Pakistan military might feel compelled to take over the reins of the government or even be requested by the people to formally assume power cannot be ruled out. That might oblige the Americans to discontinue the $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan, but survival will trump everything else. Afghanistan's evolving situation has immense consequences for Pakistan. As a result, Mr. Obama would be inclined to find some political solution to the Afghan situation in a comparatively short time. Pakistan's army can be counted upon to do everything within its power to facilitate such modus vivendi between the Taliban and the Americans.


What should India do? A Taliban or Taliban-associated governing structure in Kabul is clearly not in our interest. We should not expect the U.S. to worry about India's concerns; it will and must do what it believes to be in its interests. To the extent that India's interests coincide with theirs, the Americans would be happy to suggest to us that they are mindful of our concerns, but we should not expect anything more than that. This writer suggested in an article published in this newspaper (April 18, 2009) there is nothing India can do to influence the course of events in Afghanistan. We are not much of a player there. True, our development assistance of over $1 billion has been effectively used to generate goodwill for India among the Afghans, thanks largely to the good work done by our ambassador in Kabul. But, going by the top American commander in Afghanistan, it is this very economic assistance which is creating a backlash against us in Pakistan. What is more — and highly objectionable —, Gen. McChrystal has, in advance, shown at least an implicit understanding in case Pakistan takes countermeasures against India either in India or in Afghanistan.


However, it would at best be naive to build relationship with another country on the basis of goodwill or gratitude. Mutuality of interests can be the only basis for a meaningful relationship. And, clearly, there will be no such mutuality between India and a Taliban-influenced government.


It seems that Iran has hedged its bets. It too does not cherish the idea of the Taliban's return to Kabul but apparently it has, at the same time, kept contact with and even funded sections of the Taliban. Iran has certain advantages which India does not have. It is an Islamic country and its Shia state has willing supporters among the Shias in Afghanistan's western region. We do not have practicable options. We should, in any case, not pledge any more aid to Afghanistan until the situation there becomes clear and stabilised, even if that takes a few years.


In an article published in this newspaper on April 25, this writer suggested a two-stage conference to replace Afghanistan in its traditional neutral status. The first stage would consist of a conference of Afghanistan and its neighbours which would undertake a mutually binding pledge of non-interference and non-intervention in one another's internal affairs. This idea has considerable support among observers. Henry Kissinger has independently floated an idea whereby the U.S. would set up a task force consisting of neighbours as well some important countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Gordon Brown have asked the U.N. Secretary-General to convene an international conference on Afghanistan. Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani Ambassador in Washington, in an article in Hindustan Times on October 19 has, inter alia, called for a regional compact.


While it would not be politic for India to issue a call for such a conference — the idea would immediately be rejected by Pakistan since it comes from India — India should take some soundings on the subject. If we still have a special envoy for Afghanistan, he should be asked to visit a few capitals — Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, Berlin, Paris and some of the neighbours — to ascertain their views on the idea of a regional conference. Eventually, the initiative must come from the U.N. Secretary-General.








According to the Douglas Harper Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001, the word "peace" was first used in 1140 AD to mean "cessation of hostilities". It was spelt "pace." In 1200 it also started to mean peace of mind while the modern spelling was introduced around 1500.


Some days ago, "peace" finally passed into oblivion after holding forth for around eight centuries. Until October 9, when United States President Barack Obama was declared winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, it used to exclusively mean "absence of hostilities." But no longer. It can now mean a "state of war" too.


As President of the United States, Nobel Peace laureate Obama has been unable to contain leave alone resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, his troops are still very much present in Iraq and there is no sign that the U.S. and allied troops are in any position of control in Afghanistan.


The much-enlightened Norwegian Nobel committee that awarded Mr. Obama said he was chosen for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Dialogue and negotiations are (his) preferred instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts, it said.


No doubt Mr. Obama brought in an air of sanity after his war-mongering predecessor George W. Bush. He warmed the heart of most of the Muslim world with a direct appeal to make a new beginning in relations with the West. Instead of belligerent statements aimed at Iran by the Bush administration, Mr. Obama proposed dialogue.


All the actions, interestingly, were a reversal of decisions taken by the previous Bush administration. In other words, one U.S. administration stoked fire all round while the next one attempts to douse them. Where does that leave Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama as individuals since the Nobel committee has chosen one of them?


When in office, George W. Bush was considered President first and so is Mr. Obama now. Mr Obama may have a style of functioning different from that of Mr. Bush, may be more endearing in his approach to conflicts around the world but ultimately he is functioning as the U.S. President.


In the nine months since Mr. Obama took office, it has become increasingly clear that a change of individual at the helm does not translate into an immediate change in fundamental U.S. foreign policy, the rhetoric notwithstanding. The reason is obvious. Policies may be mouthed by individuals, but it is conceptualised by an establishment of which the President is only a part, though a significant one. If Mr. Obama or Mr. Bush were tin pot dictators presiding over a banana republic one could have possibly expected a complete about-turn with a change of guard. But then, the U.S. prides itself as the world's sole hyper power with a reputed superstructure, an advanced economy and a supersized military. As the world's dominant democracy, decisions cannot be entirely unilateral and on the whims of an individual even if it happens to be Mr. Obama.


Take the case of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When Mr. Obama was installed President in January this year, the Gaza strip was under siege, the Israeli government was constructing settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the Fatah and Hamas were engaged in an internecine battle. Until now, nothing has changed, despite the conflict ostensibly being on top of his agenda. In the first flush of victory, Mr. Obama called on Israel to freeze settlements in Palestinian-dominated East Jerusalem. But in September, the President backtracked after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nentanyahu. They had merely discussed the modalities for a possible pause in settlement activity, not a total freeze as the US President had demanded.


As for relations between the Hamas and Fatah, not only have they not reconciled, they are now even more opposed to each other, thanks to the U.S. pressure on Fatah chief and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recommend putting off the discussion in the United Nations on the Goldstone report which has indicted Israel for its attack on Gaza last year. The Gaza strip meanwhile continues to reel under a humanitarian crisis. Peace is a far cry in the region.


As writer and journalist Robert Fisk pithily remarked in a piece in, "For the first time in history, the Norwegian Nobel committee awarded its peace prize to a man who has achieved nothing — in the faint hope that he will do something good in the future. That's how bad things are. That's how explosive the Middle East has become."


In Iraq, U.S. troops have moved out of the cities, but they are very much present on the outskirts waiting to move in if necessary. A timetable for withdrawal exists, but that is until two years later. In the meantime, violence continues. Bombs regularly go off killing civilians across the country.


Afghanistan is no different. Mr. Obama has in fact accepted the failure of U.S. attempts to weave in a viable nation free of violence. More troops are necessary, conceded the U.S. President. The Taliban continues to target U.S. and NATO troops besides perceived enemies, including the Indian embassy, at will. Worse, the Taliban has spread to Pakistan where its fighters are deeply involved in an escalating insurgency. Violence is clearly spreading.


As for the diplomatic offensive against Iran, the Obama administration has decided to hold fire for a while. But the underlying tensions continue. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has unequivocally stated his country will not abandon its nuclear programme to appease western critics.


In this context, was the Nobel Prize for Mr. Obama as an individual or as U.S. President? Since Mr. Obama is organically linked to the presidency the corollary is that the prize has gone both to Mr. Obama and the U.S. presidency. In which case, yes, it was George W. Bush who led the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but in his role as U.S. President. In other words, one U.S. President embarks on a contentious invasion against the country while the successor gets a peace prize even as fighting goes on unabated there with over 100,000 civilians killed.


For those who argue that a U.S. president who mouths peace is fit to win a Nobel, does it not follow that another one responsible for a controversial invasion is a fit candidate for prosecution?


If logic is one casualty, another is peace itself. Unless of course, after the latest Nobel prize, one redefines peace to mean "a continual state of war."


(K.S. Dakshina Murthy was formerly Editor of Aljazeera based in Doha, Qatar.)







The blood spilt daily means Afghanistan is rarely out of the headlines. Fresh attacks, presumed to be by Taliban militants, in Kabul and Peshawar, only increase the pressure on the US and Nato to settle on a new strategy. The proposed options range from a troop surge of 45,000, to a cut and run policy, with numerous prescriptions in between. But there is an alternative approach. It calls for replacement of western forces with an international Muslim peacekeeping force under UN control, a focus on training and equipping the Afghan army and police, a new political setup through an intra-Afghan dialogue, and seeking a regional understanding involving Afghanistan and its neighbours as well as other regional and world powers.


Western forces' foremost problem in Afghanistan - and the reason why a troop surge is untenable - is that they have become part of the problem, so cannot be part of a solution. General Stanley McChrystal's efforts to change the behaviour of those forces, and their image among Afghans, are commendable. However, as facts on the ground show, it is almost impossible to avoid civilian casualties and rein in soldiers during such fraught operations. Even if troops' behaviour was to change, however, it would remove only one element of the Afghans' resentment and would not change their overarching perception. How can he erase Afghans' historical memory of foreign invasions? How can McChrystal counter the Taliban propaganda that the western "infidel" troops are in Afghanistan because of their animosity to Islam? How can he put an end to conspiracy theories prevalent among non-Taliban Afghans that the US and its allies have let Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar go free and are secretly supporting the Taliban to provide an excuse to stay in the region?


Focus on training and equipping the Afghan army and police is a must. However, we should remember that the soldiers and policemen are also Afghans, sharing other Afghans' historical memory and concerns. They join the security branches because they need to earn a living. They lack the motivation and the high morale necessary to wage a war against the Taliban, though. This hurdle will remain as long as US and Nato forces are in the country. Withdrawal of those forces without the necessary planning, however, will certainly lead to a quick collapse of the government in Kabul. A cut and run policy would be morally repugnant and politically irresponsible, leaving Afghanistan at the mercy of its warlords. Making it a battleground for the ambitions of its neighbours and regional powers would not only contribute to further misery of the Afghan people, it would destabilise the entire region.



Some have advocated a "real and strong middle option" - calling for a small increase to the current level of western troops and a push to "divide and rent the Taliban", while supporting the warlords and tribal leaders to defend themselves. This option in fact combines the worst of both worlds. It will not lead to peace and stability and will mean the indefinite presence of foreign forces. It is doubtful, moreover, that many insurgents would choose to be "rented". Even if they did, for how long would the rent last? What happens when the rent is not paid?


It is not a middle way that needs pursuing, but a different way. Replacement of western forces with Muslim troops under UN leadership will prevent chaos and warlordism and provide an opportunity for the training of Afghan forces. It will also open up the way for negotiations with the insurgents, who have refused any talks until the withdrawal of the US and Nato is at least on the agenda. Western decision-makers must start taking this approach seriously - it could be their only path out of the quagmire.

(Note: Najibullah Lafraie was Afghan Foreign Minister from 1992-1996 and now teaches at the University of Otago, New Zealand.)







For many of its 300 million enthusiasts, Facebook is a convenient way to keep in touch with friends, track down old sweethearts and share drunken photographs with the world. But the global power of the social networking site is now being harnessed for a rather more laudable aim: the pursuit of world peace.


A joint project between Facebook and the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University — called — is trying to bring together opposing sides in some of the most bitterly divided areas of the planet, encouraging online friendships between Jews and Muslims, U.S. liberals and conservatives, and Turks and Greeks.


By tracking Facebook friendships and crunching the numbers, the site provides a daily snapshot of who is talking to whom and where.



On Wednesday, for example, peace.facebook revealed that over the previous 24 hours, there had been 7,339 India-Pakistan connections; 13,790 Greece-Turkey connections, and 5,158 Israel-Palestine connections.


A click on the button for religious contact showed that over the same 24 hours, there had been 53,100 Christians and atheists in touch with each other, 1,250 Muslims and Jews talking, and 667 Sunni-Shia connections. In the U.S., meanwhile, the number of conservative-liberal connections was 27,896.


Every day, the site also asks thousands of Facebook users the same question: Do you think we will achieve world peace within 50 years?


The answers — broken down by country — reveal fluctuating geographic levels of optimism. In Colombia, nearly 40 per cent said yes; in the U.S., the figure was just 7.8 per cent. Facebook says it is proud to be doing its bit for world peace by using technology to "help people better understand each other." A statement on its website adds: "By enabling people from diverse backgrounds to easily connect and share their ideas, we can decrease world conflict in the short and long term." B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab and a pioneer in the field of using computer technology to influence people, said the Facebook page was just one component of a larger Stanford university project called Peace Innovation.


The Peace Dot initiative, of which the Facebook page is part, aims to encourage people to create web pages using the peace. address in an effort to highlight the strides already being made towards peace around the world.


To date, 19 very different groups have signed up to the Peace Dot project, registering addresses ranging from to and even Fogg said he was confident "substantial global peace" could be brought about in the next 30 years. "The process for increasing world peace is innovation," he said. "Lots of it. There's no single answer, no single solution. Together we must innovate to create more empathy, understanding, tolerance, and so on.


"We must innovate to help people everywhere have basic needs met, like access to clean water. These are the roots of peace. We can create new ways to strengthen these roots of peace."The list of Peace Dot sites, he said, is "evidence of what works and inspiration."








Prof. Sir Gordon Conway, the outgoing chief scientist at the British government's Department for International Development, and former head of the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, said in a scientific paper that the continent is already warming faster than the global average and that people living there can expect more intense droughts, floods and storm surges.


There will be less drinking water, diseases such as malaria will spread and the poorest will be hit the hardest as farmland is damaged in the coming century, Conway wrote.


"There is already evidence that Africa is warming faster than the global average, with more warm spells and fewer extremely cold days. Northern and southern Africa are likely to become as much as 4C hotter over the next 100 years, and much drier," he said.


Conway predicts that hunger on the continent could increase dramatically in the short term as droughts and desertification increase, and climate change affects water supplies.


"Projected reductions in crop yields could be as much as 50 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2100," the paper said. Conway held out some hope that east Africa, presently experiencing its worst drought and food shortages in 20 years, will become wetter. But he said the widely hoped-for 8-15 per cent increase in African crop yields as a direct result of more CO{-2} in the atmosphere may fail to materialise.


"The latest analyses of more realistic field trials suggest the benefits of carbon dioxide may be significantly less than initially thought," he said.


Instead, population growth combined with climate change would mean countries face extreme problems growing more food: "We are going to need an awful lot more crop production — 70-100 per cent more food will be needed than we have at present.


"Part of [what is needed] is getting more organic matter into Africa's soils, which are very depleted, but we also have to improve water availability and produce crops that yield more, and use nitrogen and water more efficiently."


Conway, now professor of international development at Imperial College London, oversaw a major expansion in the U.K. government's support for GM research in developing countries, and said new technologies must be part of the African response to tackling droughts.


"In certain circumstances we will need GM crops because we wont be able to find the gene naturally. GM may be the speediest and most efficient way to increase yields. Drought tolerance is governed by a range of genes. It is a big problem for breeders of [both] GM and ordinary plants," he said.


 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








The Reserve Bank of India has sent out a polite but strong alert to the government to tackle rising food prices as it cannot be tackled by monetary instruments. In the credit policy announced on Tuesday, RBI governor D. Subbarao repeatedly expressed his concern about inflation, which this time round has been fuelled by domestic factors, primarily rising food prices. Last year, inflation was fuelled by rising commodity and oil prices that have since moderated considerably. Prices of food articles this year have increased by 14.4 per cent (year-on-year) so far. Excluding food items, the WPI inflation remains depressed at minus 3.4 per cent. The Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments second-quarter review released on the eve of the credit policy announcement had clearly mentioned that the rise in prices of food articles "suggests both short supply as well as inefficient distribution channels". This poses a serious challenge for the RBI while trying to anchor inflation expectations in the face of sustained high inflation in essential commodities, the report said. There is a view that the government should have flooded the market with imports, at least of pulses, which is the only source of protein for the poor. The prices of pulses had shot up to nearly Rs 80 per kg.


The other wake-up call for the government in the credit policy was the declining share of agriculture in GDP. In 2008-09 it was 17 per cent and is a drag on GDP growth. This is an anomaly that the government has to take seriously, where 61 per cent of the population depends on farming but contributes just 17 per cent to GDP. Agriculture, as analysts point out, is the largest provider of employment in rural India despite its steady declining share from 32 per cent in 1991 to 17 per cent in 2009. The performance of agriculture is critical for overall growth because of its interlinkage with the industrial and services sector. Last year, tractor manufacturers, for instance, saw their tractors piling up as farmers had no purchasing power. Moreover, sharp fluctuations in agriculture lead to farmer indebtedness, erratic use of agricultural inputs and very low penetration of agricultural extension services which, analysts point out, have also acted as constraints for raising long-term productivity of agriculture.


It is disturbing that the government has not said anything on these aspects when commenting on the RBI credit policy. It seems more concerned with the stimulus, which is a stopgap arrangement. The solutions required are long term because with no major elections on the horizon, the government is unlikely to offer more loan waiver packages. The government has to change its attitude and mindset towards agriculture and the farming community while at the same time finding ways and means seriously of shifting the farming and landless labour population into the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. Agriculture can never be remunerative because of the government's bias towards urban India, and particularly the vocal middle classes that resent paying a little more for food articles but don't mind splurging on electronic items, white goods and cheeses priced way beyond their intrinsic values. The government's subsidies to agriculture too are skewed, and there is no thought going into handling the public distribution system where the poor are cushioned against high food prices. The scales are heavily weighed against the farmer. But that apart, the fragmentation of land as families grow cannot sustain families, and so jobs have to be provided in the tertiary and secondary sectors. In short, the government has to change the mismatch in the various sectors contributing to the GDP.








Most analyses of India's rising stature in the world in recent years rest on the all-too-familiar indices — dazzling economic growth, military might, globally-acknowledged IT prowess and so on. But India has another trump card — its natural soft power advantage — which it could leverage better.


The latest to remind us of how we can convert our soft power into a valuable instrument of our global strategy was Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Mr Roth, who was in Delhi last fortnight for HRW's international board meeting, the first such in the capital, argued that the world needed India to raise its voice for human rights around the globe.


His case, in brief: Traditionally, India has had a foreign policy with a pro-rights strain. However, of late, a certain ambivalence has crept into India's public position on regimes with dubious records on human rights, especially those in the country's backyard. Burma is a case in point. India does not want to strengthen China's hand in that country and hence is on a mute mode on the military junta's treatment of political prisoners. In Mr Roth's view, by addressing human rights violations within the country and having a more rights-oriented foreign policy, India would actually be strengthening its claim for leadership within the region and in international affairs.


Is India's global leadership on human rights increasingly becoming necessary to counteract the negative role played by other powerful states? What about the more prickly human rights issues related to our internal affairs? Should India end laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, be more mindful of rights violations against dalits, religious minorities, adivasis etc?


There are two ways you can take Mr Roth's message.


You can either dismiss everything he said by citing the standard critiques against human rights activists and their sympathisers: they are bleeding heart liberals, out of touch with realpolitik, a bunch of busybodies whose advice one takes at one's own peril. Those wired to reject everything that emanates from the United States of America would also point out that Mr Roth is an American, HRW is headquartered in the US, and ergo, there has to be a deep, dark conspiracy underlining his statements.


Alternatively, you can read what a reputed international organisation like HRW is saying in the context of questions pivotal to our emerging role in world affairs: What kind of global power is India going to be? What role can India's democratic credentials play in Asia's emerging security environment?


Significantly, some of what Mr Roth said has also been articulated by many eminent Indians in academia and in public life who prescribe hard power along with a nuanced soft power strategy.


Respect for human rights within and beyond the country's borders is part of this critical mix to make the idea of India more attractive.


Soft power, a term coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye, is usually considered to be the ability to attract friends and allies and mitigate adversarial situations by way of the attraction of your nation, society or group. Soft power is increasingly viewed today as an alternative to hard power as well as a necessary complement to it.


The US provides the best example of a nuanced mix of soft and hard power. The appeal of its films, TV, music, books etc and the allure of the American lifestyle which they represent traditionally gave the US the ability to attract and persuade others to adopt the US agenda in many instances. Use of just coercive "hard power" of military force would not quite have had the same outcomes. No doubt, a lot of the sheen of the US' attraction has worn off in the wake of the economic downturn.


Within Asia, the hard power-soft power discourse has been fuelled by the meteoric rise of India and China. Almost all discussions about international affairs today focus on the two countries as future agents of change. And not surprisingly, there is heated debate about the merits and demerits of the two sharply divergent models.


US-based political scientist Maya Chadda, for instance, has argued that while security has trumped democracy in India's foreign policy perspective, democracy has become increasingly important as an underpinning for an Asian security architecture that could be in India's interest. India's liberal democracy is its soft power asset, and its democratic identity can be a stepping stone to international alliances and collective diplomatic engagement.


In an article written for the Global Brief — a top-tier international affairs magazine published in Canada — some days before he became the minister of state for foreign affairs, Shashi Tharoor outlined his vision of India's strategic, soft power. A country's soft power emerges from the world's perceptions of what that country is all about. "The world of the 21st century will increasingly be a world in which the use of hard power carries with it the odium of mass global public disapproval, whereas the blossoming of soft power, which lends itself more easily to the information era, will constitute a country's principal asset", Mr Tharoor wrote.


As far as India is concerned, it is not just its economic progress that will enhance its soft power. The values and principles for which India stands would be equally important. Mr Tharoor's article makes clear that the author does not advocate reliance on just soft power. That will be foolish as New Delhi knows all too well. "Soft power cannot solve its security challenges. To counter the terrorist threat, there is no substitute for hard power. Where soft power works is in attracting enough goodwill from ordinary people to reduce the sources of support and succour that the terrorists enjoy, and without which they cannot function", he said.


Distilled to its essence, this is a recipe for better public diplomacy as well as better governance. India needs to solve its internal problems before it can play any leadership role in the world.


This entails ensuring that the country's population is healthy, well-fed, and secure. It also means preserving our

precious pluralism.


"It adds to India's soft power when its non-governmental organisations actively defend human rights, promote environmentalism, fight injustice", Mr Tharoor argued.


To liberals in India and elsewhere, this may seem plain common sense, But it is good to remember that in today's fractious climate, such common sense is becoming less common.


Patralekha Chatterjee writes on contemporary development issues, and can be contacted at







This year is memorable in more ways than one. It's a year of anniversaries — of Galileo Galilei and Charles Darwin, and of the fall of Berlin Wall. This is also the anniversary of what I call the Summer of '69 — when man landed on the moon, rock music staged its biggest show, and the Internet was born, all within a month of each other. For baby boomers still searching for the answer to the Ultimate Question of the Life, the Universe and Everything, this is also the anniversary of the publication of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.


Four hundred years ago, in 1609, Galileo Galilei, an Italian mathematician and inventor, redesigned a telescope, peered through it, and shocked the world by telling them that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun.


Galileo was the first to give us some clarity on where we are in the universe. The belief of the day was that the earth was the centre of the universe. Galileo confirmed what Copernicus had stated before him, that the universe was heliocentric (sun at the centre) — a belief for which he was charged with heresy by the Catholic Church. When he defied the church, he was found guilty and put under house arrest for life. It was only in the year 2000 that the Vatican apologised for putting Galileo on trial.


In 1831, Charles Darwin, a young naturalist, boarded a Royal Navy ship, the HMS Beagle, that was sailing to South America, the Pacific islands, Australia and Africa on a scientific survey. Through the five-year journey, he studied animals and collected fossils, and made his famous observation about the finches on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of South America: the birds differed in shape and beak size because each species had to adapt to different conditions to feed and survive.


On his return Darwin formulated his theory on the evolution of species: that all life on earth evolved gradually over millions of years from common ancestors through a process of natural selection ("the survival of the fittest"). He questioned the Biblical concept that God had created man, and stated that man had evolved from an ape-like ancestor. This is the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work, On the Origin of Species. It is also the bicentenary of his birth.


As with Galileo, the church condemned Darwin's findings which contradicted the prevailing view on the creation of man. Last year, in the run-up to the Darwin anniversary, a senior official of the Church of England was quoted in the Guardian as saying that the Church owes Darwin an apology. "The trouble with homo sapiens is that we are only human", he said.


Galileo and Darwin challenged orthodoxy; they changed our views about the universe and the origins of man.


Nearly 350 years after Galileo saw the craters of the moon through his primitive telescope, Apollo 11, a man-made spacecraft, landed on the moon after a four-day, 250,000-mile journey. On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface and said, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind". This year is the 40th anniversary of man's landing on the moon.


As the world was celebrating this fantastic voyage, engineers at two American universities located 400 miles apart — the University of California at Los Angeles and Stanford — were trying to connect their computers through a network. On October 29, 1969, UCLA typed a one-word message, "LOGIN". Only "L" and "O" were transmitted; after that the system crashed. Nevertheless, it marked the birth of the Internet. Two years later, in 1971, the first electronic mail was sent using the character @ to separate the name of the user from the name of the computer. The rest, as they say, is history.


I have distinct memories of listening to the live radio broadcast of the moon landing. As for Woodstock, I still listen to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sing Judy Blue Eyes and CCR's Born On The Bayou.


My nostalgia of that era includes The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (often abbreviated H2G2) by Douglas Adams. This is the 30th anniversary of the publication of that cult book. I have quickly glanced through the recently-released sixth book in the H2G2 series, "And Another Thing…" written by Eoin Colfer — best known for his Artemis Fowl children's books — and I am delighted to see that my favourite H2G2 character Zaphod Beeblebrox is still around.


Of all the anniversaries the one I remember the most is the Berlin Wall because I lived there for a few months in 1972, saw the fence and the no-man's land from close quarters, and made friends on both sides. I wasn't there when angry protesters pulled it down 20 years ago in November 1989, but a good friend who had managed to flee when Hungary opened its border with Austria told me the whole story a year later in West Berlin.


In retrospect, the man who brought down the Iron Curtain and ended the Cold War was the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. When Hungary, a Communist bloc country, informed the Soviet leadership that it was opening its border, Moscow just shrugged. From Budapest to Berlin was only a matter of time. Yes, Hungarian Prime Minister Miklos Nemeth dared to take the first bold step, but only because he knew Gorbachev would look the other way.


This is one anniversary I would have liked to attend.


Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at








Ever noticed that it's the people we love the most that we also take for granted the most? It's easy to spend less time with your family because they will always be there for you (or so you assume). It's easy to put off expressing your love to your loved ones because there seems to be no urgency to do so. It's easy to let home relationships slip because you assume there are more pressing things to deal with. But what could possibly be more important than your family? What's the point of being über-successful, but alone? A full family photo album is far more impressive than an overflowing bank account.


So pick up the phone and tell your parents that you love them. Before you leave for work, give your spouse a kiss — like you really mean it. And please, hug your kids and tell them that you adore them because when your kids won't be kids anymore, this opportunity won't come knocking again.


Excerpted from The Greatness Guide 2


by Robin Sharma. Published by Jaico


Publishing House,








The Dalai Lama's impending visit to Tawang has raised the hackles of the Chinese government, leading to yet another contretemps between Beijing and New Delhi. The Indian government has quite properly observed that the Dalai Lama is at liberty to travel to any part of the country, but that he could not undertake any political activity. Yet it is important to understand why China has reacted so sharply; for the underlying issues have bedevilled Sino-Indian relations over the past five decades.


The short answer is that from Beijing's standpoint the Dalai Lama's itinerary puts the spotlight on two tightly interconnected problems: the contested boundary with India, and Tibet.


China formally claims all of Arunachal Pradesh, but it views Tawang as an area where its historical claims are particularly strong. India, however, insists that the boundary in this entire sector should follow the alignment formalised in the tripartite Shimla Conference of 1913-14. The McMahon Line, as it came to be called after the then foreign secretary of India, was defined in a set of notes exchanged between Henry McMahon and the chief Tibetan delegate. This line was then marked on the map of the draft convention, which was initialled by the Chinese as well as British Indian and Tibetan representatives.


The Chinese government, however, repudiated the Shimla Convention owing to their disagreement vis-à-vis the boundaries between Tibet and China, and their desire to curb British attempts at enhancing Tibet's autonomy. China would later insist that Tibet had no right to conclude an agreement with India; for this would amount to accepting that Tibet had de facto independence in 1914. Independent India would hold that Tibet was part of China, but that in 1913-14 it had possessed treaty-making powers.


After the Shimla Conference the Indian government did not make efforts to extend its administrative presence right up to the McMahon Line. Republican China was a shambles, and posed no significant threat in the Assam Himalaya. The McMahon Line came to the fore in 1935, following an incident involving a British botanist studying the frontier tracts and Tibetan officials who controlled the area surrounding the Buddhist monastery in Tawang. Between 1938 and 1944, the Indian government belatedly sought to make good on the McMahon Line; but to no avail. Lhasa refused to withdraw its personnel from Tawang; and the British were chary of offending the Chinese - now their ally in the struggle against the Axis powers. Consequently, the Raj's administrative control could not be extended to Tawang.


Following Chinese invasion of Tibet, New Delhi decided in February 1951 to bring Tawang under its administrative hold. Interestingly, the move evoked no response from Beijing, but Lhasa protested vehemently. China's current claim to Tawang rests largely on the fact that it came under Indian control only in 1951. India's stance relies on the fact that Tawang fell on the Indian side of the McMahon Line; that its populace are Monba not ethnic Tibetans; and that Tawang had a religious not political relationship with Lhasa.


Territorial claim apart, Tawang also impacts on China's policies towards Tibet. Up to the 1950s the Tibetan administration - under the present Dalai Lama - had strongly contested India's takeover of Tawang. Beijing is concerned that if it dilutes its claims on Tawang, the Tibetans (especially the exile community) could denounce it as a sell-out on Tibetan interests and as underlining China's lack of legitimacy in Tibet. More important, there are deeper concerns about the intentions of the Indian government and the Dalai Lama vis-à-vis Tibet.


Back in 1954 India signed agreement with China recognising Tibet as a region of China and renouncing the special privileges in Tibet inherited from the Raj. These, as the then foreign secretary observed, were "a concession only to realism". However, the activities of Tibetan émigrés in border towns like Kalimpong stoked China's suspicions about Indian intentions. These steadily intensified as a rebellion broke out in Tibet in 1958. Beijing assumed, wrongly, that India was colluding with the rebels. India's decision to grant asylum to the Dalai Lama gave further credence to these suspicions. By mid-1959 the Chinese were convinced that India sought to make Tibet an independent, buffer state. These perceptions played a major role in China's decision to go to war in 1962.


Over the years, these concerns have been diminished but never fully allayed. This is mainly owing to presence of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India. The Indian government does not recognise the government-in-exile and has repeatedly stated that it would not allow the organisation to undertake political activities. But the Chinese are sceptical of India's disavowals.


The Dalai Lama, for his part, has moved away from his claim for Tibetan independence towards the "middle way" aimed at securing autonomy. But the mistrust between the two sides persists. As part of his autonomy proposals, the Dalai Lama seeks the integration under a single administrative entity of all the areas populated by ethnic Tibetans. The Chinese believe that the creation of a "greater Tibet" is merely a tactical ploy, designed to establish a platform for eventual independence. Hence, they insist that the Dalai Lama must accept that Tibet has always been a part of China. The Tibetans are unwilling to make such a concession as it might further undermine their case for autonomy. Besides, the Tibetan exiles are not a monolith. Chinese are wary of the influence of groups like the Tibetan Youth Congress that continue to demand independence.


The situation inside Tibet in the last year-and-a-half has heightened Beijing's sensitivities to the Dalai Lama's activities. From its perspective, the Tibetan leader's visit to Tawang brings together a number of thorny issues at a difficult time. New Delhi has handled China's response with tact and maturity. But it has to ensure that the Dalai Lama does not make any political statement that could lead to further acrimony with China. Beyond this, however, it has to think of ways to assuage the lingering Chinese concerns about its attitude to Tibet.


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








Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh says he did not actually say that the BJP needs chemotherapy; he was misquoted by a television channel. What a pity; that pithy comment well sums up the situation and is a good analogy to make. The BJP does need some drastic treatment and chemotherapy, though painful and with terrible side effects, can often cure the patient by killing off the dangerous cancer cells.


Almost five months after the Lok Sabha elections, when it posted its worst electoral performance in a decade or so, the BJP continues to be in a tizzy as it searches for answers. If the parliamentary elections knocked the wind out of the party's leadership, the assembly polls in three states almost gave a knockout punch. In Maharashtra the party at least put up a reasonably creditable job, but in Haryana, its wrong judgment call of breaking up with OP Chautala's INLD resulted in a washout.


Meanwhile, bush fires continue to spread in state units. The Rajasthan imbroglio has barely subsided with Vasundhara Raje taking her own sweet time to quit that another problem has broken out in Karnataka, the only southern state that the party rules.


These are not problems that the BJP can ignore any longer. It is now clear that the rot is not symptomatic, it is systemic. The leadership issue is nowhere near being settled and cannot be postponed any longer. The current president's term ends in December; by now a new name or a set of names should have been announced  so that the rank and file can look forward to new blood at the helm of affairs. That could galvanise the party units, though of course the new president and his/her team will also have to come up with a cogent plan to revive the organisation.


From being a national party that ran the government at the Centre for six years, the BJP is now reduced to ruling only six states; Karnataka and Gujarat are the only large and significant ones. It has no one of stature at the national level apart from LK Advani. After a very brief show of resoluteness in the Lok Sabha when the new government took office, it has fallen into its typical stupor when it comes to strategy to make the UPA accountable. This is not what a good opposition party should be.


Bhagwat has met Advani and no doubt the party —and the RSS — elders are applying their mind on reviving this slowly fading organisation. For the moment, if not chemotherapy, at least a booster shot is called for.







Three months after the embarrassing faux pas at Sharm-el-Sheikh, when India appeared to have made some gratuitous concessions to Pakistan, Manmohan Singh has seized the initiative by coming up with a nuanced formulation on improving relations with the neighbour.


Like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Singh has made a direct overture to Pakistan for peaceful negotiations while at the same time making it clear that Islamabad has to ensure that anti-India terror groups stop operating from Pakistani soil.


Two other points about this offer are worth noting: one, it was made in a speech in Kashmir and secondly, he said this while Congress president Sonia Gandhi was sitting next to him. The political message cannot be ignored, given that there was a wide divergence of views between the government and the party after Sharm-el-Shaikh.


Coming as it does at a time when Pakistan is passing through daily convulsions of Taliban-led terror attacks, it might appear that neither the Pakistani leaders nor the people are in a position to discuss the Kashmir question. Some of the hidebound hardliners in Islamabad are sure to carp on Kashmir being the core issue between India and Pakistan. But they have to understand — the scene is changing and changing drastically.


At the same time, the offer has to be seen in context. Singh has made it clear that it is about bringing peace in Kashmir by ending terror since public sentiment was for peace and peaceful resolution of power. He has made a pointed reference to the successful participation of the state's citizenry in recent elections to the assembly and to Parliament.


That indicates the decreasing influence of the secessionists who are still stuck in the past.

The Indian state owes to the people of Jammu and Kashmir development. The minuscule minority in the state which insists on involving Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue are getting marginalised. The younger generation is looking forward to economic opportunities and not looking back to dead disputes of the past. Here the railway line that the prime minister has inaugurated in the state will be of great help.


By promoting the idea of people to people contact across the LoC, especially for greater trade, travel and humanitarian causes, Singh has extended a welcoming hand to Pakistan and brought about a change in the discourse.







Although China invaded India in 1962, provoked a bloody clash at Nathu La in 1967 and triggered border skirmishes in 1986-87 by crossing the line of control in Samdurong Chu, this is the first time it has opened pressure points against India all along the Himalayan frontier in peacetime.


This pressure long predates the Dalai Lama's plans to visit Arunachal Pradesh. Indeed, it gradually has been building up since 2006, largely in reaction to the Indo-US strategic partnership, which was set in motion by the separate unveiling in 2005 of the nuclear deal and defence-framework accord. By muscling up to India, is China aiming to browbeat India or actually fashion an option to wage war?


Prime minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian officials have publicly sought to tamp down military tensions. But in contrast, the Chinese leadership has been mum on the Himalayan border situation even as the bellicose rhetoric in China's state-run media has affected public opinion with 90 per cent of respondents in a Global Times online poll citing India as the No 1 threat to China's security. The Communist Party's official newspaper, the People's Daily, after asking India to consider the costs of "a potential confrontation with China," ran another denunciatory editorial recently on New Delhi's "recklessness and arrogance."


The current situation, in some aspects, parallels the one that prevailed in the run-up to the 1962 attack, which then Chinese premier Zhou En Lai declared was designed "to teach India a lesson."


Whether Beijing actually sets out to teach India "the final lesson" will, of course, depend on several calculations, including India's defence preparedness, domestic factors within China and the availability of a propitious international timing of the type that the Cuban missile crisis provided in 1962. But why should New Delhi repeatedly and gratuitously offer explanations or justifications for the continuing Chinese incursions? If such intrusions are due to differing perceptions about the line of control, let the Chinese say that. But note: Beijing hasn't proffered that excuse. 


The issue up to 1962 was Aksai Chin. But having gobbled up Aksai China, an area almost as big as Switzerland, China now claims Arunachal, nearly three times as large as Taiwan, to help widen its annexation of resource-rich Tibet. Since ancient times, the Himalayas have been regarded as India's northern frontiers. But China is laying claim to territories south of the Himalayan watershed. Having lost its outer buffer — Tibet — India cannot lose its inner buffer — the Himalayas — or else the enemy will arrive in its plains.


Yet, instead of putting the focus on the source of China's claim — Tibet — and on Beijing's attempt to territorially enlarge its Tibet annexation to what it calls "southern Tibet" since 2006, India fights shy of gently shining a spotlight on Tibet as the lingering core issue. 


Both on strategy and capability, India is found wanting. Unable to define its own game-plan, it plays into China's containment-behind-the-façade-of-engagement strategy by staying put in an unending, barren process of border talks going on since 1981, even though it realises Beijing has no intent to reach a political settlement. Worse still, it agreed in August to let the border talks go off on a tangent and turn into an all-encompassing strategic dialogue, thereby arming Beijing with new leverage to condition a border settlement to the achievement of greater strategic congruence. 


Now consider capability: More than 11 years after it gate-crashed the nuclear-weapons club, India conspicuously lacks even a barely minimal deterrent capability against China. Instead of giving topmost priority to building a credible deterrent against China — possible only through a major augmentation of indigenous nuclear and missile capabilities — India is focused on the spendthrift import of conventional weapons.


Let's be clear: No amount of conventional arms can effectively deter a nuclear foe, that too an adversary that enjoys an inherent military advantage against India by being positioned on the commanding upper reaches of the Himalayas.


Although China is playing provoker, New Delhi helped create the context to embolden Beijing to up the ante. Can it be forgotten that New Delhi for long has indulged in ritualised happy talk about its relations with Beijing, brushing problems under the rug and hyping the outcome of every bilateral summit?


Even today, as New Delhi stares at the harvest of a mismanagement of relations with China by successive governments that chose propitiation to leverage building, attempts are being made to pull the wool over public eyes by calling the Himalayan border "peaceful". Speaking honestly about a relationship fraught with major problems and lurking dangers is an essential first step to protect India's interests.







The British Council, which has always laid out good wine and food when they've invited me to read from one of my books, does other useful things. Among their recent acts is a survey of the opinions of 12,000 people in 20 countries, including India, America, Britain, Mexico, Russia and Argentina as to the teaching of the theories of creation. 'What should be taught?' was the question.


People were asked whether theories other than Charles Darwin's theory of the evolution of species should be on school syllabuses.


In all the countries polled, there was support for the teaching of evolution and other 'theories' of creation. Most of those questioned in the Christian world, in differing proportions in different countries, believed that the story of creation as told in Genesis in the Bible ought to be taught alongside the theory of evolution. That would mean that pupils, Christians and others would have to make up their own minds, to decide between the scientific ideas of evolutionary theory and the story of Adam and Eve and the creation by God of the universe, the earth and all life in six days.


In Britain, nominally a Christian country, most people don't believe in the literal truth of Genesis. There is undoubtedly a tiny minority of Jews and Catholics and perhaps some fundamentalist sects who take the biblical myth of the creation and of the Garden of Eden and man's temptation and fall on tasting the forbidden fruit as a literal truth.


A more enlightened version gives the creation myth a metaphorical status. In this avatar the 'sin' of Adam is not the taste of an apple but the act of sex and procreation, a defiance of the singularity of God as the creator. If humans can perpetrate themselves through sex then God becomes redundant and time and death become a reality.


Though I have no research evidence for this, I feel that of the thousand people from Britain who were questioned in this poll, most would go for the metaphorical interpretation of the biblical story and would not see it, as it is seen in the bible belt of the USA, as the true alternative to Darwinian evolution. Britain would make a distinction between the latter as science and the biblical story as religion, a dedication and faith that may embrace ritual and provide solace but does not displace explanation or scientific reasoning.


It was not so in Argentina and Mexico. Even though the sample questioned in these countries said they would allow the teaching of Darwinian evolution in schools, they overwhelmingly supported the Catholic belief that God created life and all living creatures. Again, without any scientific evidence, I can vouch for the fact that the Indian statistical sample was all in favour of teaching many truths but believing literally in only the scientific one.


In college in India, I had to suffer the, for me, tedious and smelly discipline of Biology for the first year. My teachers, devout and dedicated Brahmins, were enthusiastic about evolutionary theory. The lecture halls and labs were plastered with anatomical charts demonstrating the growth of backbones and with a large poster display of the ascent of man in several steps from ape-like ancestors. This chart was, predictably, replete with graffiti which labelled each of the apes with the name of one of our professors.


Whereas the Christian creation myth is in direct conflict with Darwinism and caused poor Charles himself great anguish in his relationship with his devout Christian wife, the Hindu idea of creation does not conflict in the same way.


In the Advaita Vedanta of Shankara, the question of how the Universe was created becomes nonsensical or at least otiose, because the universe itself is an appearance and not the reality. It is avidya or maya that makes the universe and the separateness of all things from Brahman which is the ultimate reality. And that must apply to Darwinism too.







The Buddhists who have preserved the original doctrines of the religion in their greatest purity, teach the following cosmogony: Padnapani, one of the original Five Emanations, created Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, or the Principles of Creation, Preservation, and Destruction. Adi-Buddha first created thirteen mansions for his own eternal abode, and for the dwelling-place after death of Buddha's followers. Below these are eighteen mansions made by Brahma; lower yet are six made by Vishnu; and lowest of all, three, the work of Siva. These three abodes receive the souls of the followers of their respective creators.

Below all these lie the mansions of the Planetary gods, Indra and Chandra; and after these there comes the Earth floating upon the face of the waters like a boat. Below these waters are the Seven Patala, or regions of Hell, the abode of evil spirits and the damned.

The promulgation of these Indian speculations from so remote a source — a difficulty at first sight insurmountable — may nevertheless be readily explained. The spirit of this religion was the spirit of proselytism; the Buddhists from the very beginning sent out their missionaries with all the zeal of the old Propaganda. From the mainland they converted Ceylon, Japan, and penetrated into regions where their existence are now little dreamed of.

Buddhism had been actually planted in the dominions of the Ptolemies before the end of the fourth century, at least, before our era is shown by a clause in the Edicts of Asoka. Asoka, at first a licentious tyrant, had embraced the newly preached doctrines of Buddhism, a Brahminical Protestantism, and propagated them by persuasion and by force through the length and breadth of his immense kingdom, with all the usual zeal of a new convert.


From The Gnostics and Their Remains by Charles William King






As Barack Obama prepares for his trip to Beijing next month, he'd be wise to cast an eye toward New Delhi, where prime minister Manmohan Singh is showing the rest of the world how to deal with Beijing when it gets into a bullying mood.


At issue is the Dalai Lama's proposed trip next month to visit Tibetan Buddhist believers in Arunachal Pradesh, a province governed by India but claimed by China since the border war in 1962. Chinese spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu said last week the trip "further exposed the anti-China and separatist nature of the Dalai clique." But India stood firm. During a regional summit over the weekend Manmohan Singh says he "explained to premier Wen [Jiabao] that the Dalai Lama is our honoured guest; he is a religious leader." The prime minister went on to imply that the Dalai Lama was free to travel where he pleased, so long as he did not engage in political activities. Singh's stance stands in sharp contrast to Obama's decision not to meet with the Dalai Lama earlier this month. His cave-in broke presidential precedent and emboldened Beijing to step up anti-Dalai Lama rhetoric, particularly in—guess where—India, which has hosted the Tibetan government-in-exile for more than 50 years. Singh will face further China tests soon, given the other conflicts with his northern neighbour. China and India still dispute their 2,200-mile long border, and according to the Indian ministry of defense, Chinese incursions into Indian territory are on the rise. The countries are also butting heads in Kashmir and Nepal. Those irritants are more reason for Singh to stand firm on the principles for which India stands — the very same principles of democracy and freedom that America holds. Therein lies a lesson for Obama, too.

Wall Street Journal (USA)






Comparing the political scenario and the religious fundamentalism prevailing in the two neighbouring countries, Pakistan and India, Ranjona Banerji has very rightly analysed in 'The vote for religion has run its course', (DNA, October 27) that Pakistan took the route that was soon after taken by Israel — religious identity. If we look at the current state of affairs prevailing in Pakistan, it seems that the country is on its way to self-destruction, while in India the narrow religious or caste sectarianism is losing its appeal as proved by the results of the last few elections. The electoral losses being suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party mean many things but paramount among those is the fact that Hindutva by itself is no longer a winner.

Dilbag Rai, Chandigarh



The men in blue have made a resounding comeback, having annihilated the Aussies in the 2nd ODI at Nagpur by a whopping margin of 99 runs ('Defiant Dhoni lets his bat talk, slams Aussies, critics with ton', DNA, October 29). The Indian batsmen pummeled a lacklustre Aussie bowling attack to set an imposing target of 354. It was heartening to watch skipper MS Dhoni bat with such gay abandon. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Suresh Raina also made useful contributions with the bat. Having drawn level now, Team India ought to capitalise on this victory if they are to stand a chance of winning this series.

Pradyut Hande, Mumbai


Apropos 'Maoist supporters seize Rajdhani, abduct drivers', (DNA, October 28), it has
exposed the claim of security agencies to combat Naxal terror with an iron hand. It is astonishing to know that not a single security guard was with the train. The hapless commuters were left at the mercy of terrorists for five hours and that they did nothing to harm the passengers was their own decision. Rather than resorting to rhetoric on television, the home ministry should initiate a strong action plan to counter the rapidly spreading terror strikes.
Ashok Goswami, via email


CPM leader Sitaram Yechury's allegation that the Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express hijacking was planned by Maoists and Trinamool Congress was absurd ('Why is Mamata still in the Cabinet, CPI(M) asks PM', DNA, October 29). Is it possible that an astute politician like Mamata Banerjee would indulge in self-flagellation by hijacking a train whose upkeep and prestige are vested in her hands?

KP Rajan, Mumbai









PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh's offer at a public meeting in Anantnag on Wednesday and his unambiguous message at a subsequent Press conference in Srinagar to engage in talks with any group in Jammu and Kashmir as long as they shun the path of violence are well-meant and deserve to be welcomed. The underlying message in the Prime Minister's offer is that the government is prepared to go the extra mile to bring an end to the strife and to ensure the fruits of development to the people of Kashmir. Even during talks with all shades of opinion on his two-day Kashmir visit Dr Manmohan Singh made it amply clear that his government was willing to talk to all sections of the people in Jammu and Kashmir, including the separatists. With hardline leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq having recently supported a dialogue and some others veering round, the time is indeed propitious for resuming the talks. That the Prime Minister's olive branch has followed some silent ground work done by several persons leaves cause for hope and cautious optimism.


That the parleys were held outside the glare of cameras and prying newsmen has evidently helped in clearing the cobwebs more meaningfully. That an important separatist leader like Mirwaiz Farooq came out into the open with his support for a dialogue was an index of the encouraging response to the Prime Minister's "quiet diplomacy." It would now be interesting to see if more hardline leaders come round to accepting the logic of a solution to the long-festering problem within the ambit of India's sovereignty.


The Prime Minister's well-calibrated support to opening up people-to-people contacts with those across the Line of Control through increasing the list of tradable commodities, creation of banking channels and streamlined Customs facilities would predictably go down well with the people of Kashmir. All in all, the Prime Minister's visit is a promising initiative at an opportune time. The hopes of a dialogue now need to be carefully built upon so that the state no longer has to live in an atmosphere of distrust and violence that have cost its people dear.








BY holding the Bhubaneshwar-New Delhi Rajdhani hostage on Tuesday, Maoists have indicated their growing ability to disrupt train services in the country. They have hijacked passenger trains before, notably in Jharkhand, and disrupted the movement of trains by uprooting tracks, damaging signals and attacking railway stations, usually in the darkness of the night. This time they mobilised several hundred sympathisers during the day and demonstrated how easily even a fast train like the Rajdhani can be halted at a wayside station. They could have damaged the train if they wanted because the Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel seemed to be missing from the scene. Whether they would have made any difference is a separate issue but in case they are deployed in trains only at night, the dramatic hold-up will certainly prompt the Railway Board to have second thoughts. In any case, the objective was clearly not to inflict any damage but to show the flag and extract publicity. Maoists, unfortunately, would be tempted to repeat their audacious act.


The government, however, has itself to blame for the tight corner it is in. Trains have always been a soft target with political parties, and also mobs protesting anything and everything under the sun. This has taken place with monotonous regularity during bandhs despite the Supreme Court's explicit order banning such political protests which damage public property and inconvenience people. But hardly any political party or their supporters have been made to pay for such lawlessness. The state governments' failure to take action against mainstream political parties and their associated organisations considerably weakens their ability to take tough action against extremists.


While there can be no dialogue with Maoists, the PCAPA ( People's Committee Against Police Atrocities), formed a year ago, does provide an opening. It is impossible to secure every yard of the railway track in the country and at all hours. Maoists must, therefore, be isolated from the masses. With Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's known proximity to the PCAPA, the government must seize the opportunity.








RURAL healthcare in Punjab is plagued by many ills. Besides the paucity of doctors, the medical infrastructure is lacking in rural areas. In the given scenario, the setting up of the Electronic Health Points at three villages in Muktsar district in collaboration with the state government is a laudable initiative. The pilot project, in operation for the past two months, has so far fared well. If extended to other villages, the innovative scheme can go a long way in providing basic medical care to the people living in the villages.


Essentially, the project involves the use of telecommunication to provide medical information and services. Employing multi-media technology saves both time and money. Patients don't need to travel to get specialist medical advice. In India where there is a glaring gap between urban and rural health care, telemedicine can to some extent reduce the pressure on urban facilities.


However, there are many constraints en route its successful implementation. Since it is relatively a new concept, rural people will have to be not only familiarised with its benefits but their misgivings about the efficacy and reliability of long-distance advice will also have to be allayed. The medical fraternity, too, needs to take its job seriously. In the age of technology it is only in the fitness of things to use means to help those who need it the most. At the same time, efforts have to be made to revamp Punjab's overall rural medicare which remains a picture of neglect and apathy.









FOR a long time, in election after election, including the inspiring Lok Sabha poll less than six months ago, some ominous trends, threatening the very integrity of the already distorted Indian political system, have been in evidence. The rather drab tri-state assembly elections indicate that these have escalated, not abated.


To take the worst four of them, in no particular order, the first is the political promiscuity of an insidious kind. The Ayaram-Gayaram era might have ended, but the mindset remains the same. A Shiv Sena veteran, ratting on mentor Balasaheb Thackeray on poll-eve, was welcomed by the Congress with open arms and instantly given the party ticket for an assembly seat. Of the more revealing case of Mr Narayan Rane, a rather rabid former Shiv Sena Chief Minister — immediately made Revenue Minister but later rapped on the knuckles for recalcitrance and now enjoying much greater clout than before — the less said the better.


All this in the midst of overblown rhetoric by the standard-bearers of secularism about their zero tolerance of communal, parochial and divisive elements! And in a very short time there has already been an acrimonious spat between Ms Mamata Banerjee and the Congress because of a flip-flop in the latter's fidelity to the Trinamool ally and the Marxists on the wrong side of the fence.


The second and the more serious menace to the system is the lethal dimension that big money has acquired in manipulating the entire political structure. To be sure, money it is that makes the mare go. But never before has it done so to such a gargantuan extent. Nor is it a matter any longer of a few multi-billionaire tycoons buying Rajya Sabha or even Lok Sabha seats. The number of crorepatis that have won both the Lok Sabha and the three-state assembly elections, belonging to all parties, has risen by leaps and bounds. In the Maharashtra assembly with a total membership of 288, the count of those commanding tens or even hundreds of crores of rupees has shot up from 108 in 2004 to 184 this time around. In Haryana the situation is staggering. Sixty-seven of its 90 members are crorepatis; 32 of them belong to the 40-member Congress legislative party! A lot more worrisome is the stark fact that every super-rich who was elected in 2004 admits to having doubled or even trebled his hoard since then.


The big money's almost total triumph over the electoral process is corrosive and scandalous beyond measure. Moneybags ensconced in the seats of power cannot but be in deep collusion with their counterparts outside, whether in the corporate sector or solo, to mutual advantage. Every observer of the Maharashtra scene has also reported that a distressingly large section of the media, print and electronic, has partaken of the splurge of lucre, often enthusiastically and at its own initiative. TV channels and newspapers have sold themselves at a heavy price. The scale seems to be much larger than during the parliamentary poll.


Yet another consequence of black money's supremacy over all norms of democracy is the horrendously widespread distribution of cash to the voters. Before the Lok Sabha poll, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP, iconic film star Chiranjeevi in Andhra and the then BJP leader, Mr Jaswant Singh, in Rajasthan, were caught on camera brazenly dolling out crisp currency notes to the people, especially the poor. This was only the visible tip of the iceberg. Now this evil practice, too, has multiplied. There are authentic reports that since the gap between the rich and the poor is widening and the privileged are wholly impervious to the plight of the dispossessed, the poor are developing a vested interest in receiving hard cash from those wanting their votes. Election-time bribery is thus acquiring what Shakespeare called the "quality of mercy" that "blesseth him who gives and him who takes". In short, Indian elections, once famous for their fairness, are being corrupted to the core.


As if this was not enough, the stranglehold of the dynasties has suddenly become as comprehensive and strangulating as that of big and tainted money. To be sure, political dynasties — the Gandhis in power in New Delhi, the Karunanidhi clan in Chennai, the Abdullahs in Srinagar and so on — have been around for a long time. But what has happened this time around is mind-boggling. Rare was a candidate in both Maharashtra and Haryana, whether elected or defeated, who wasn't a son, daughter, wife, daughter-in-law or a relation of some bigwig in the party on whose ticket he or she contested. Sadly, this dismal trend has developed a momentum of its own. Bloodline, it seems, is becoming the lifeblood of Indian polity. Witness, Mr Mulayam Singh's determination to get daughter-in-law Dimple elected to the Lok Sabha to join her husband.


The catastrophic combination of kinship and money power cannot but play havoc with the political system this country has tried to develop with only partial success. How would talented youngsters with potential but without "right parentage" and adequate resources have any chance of entering politics if every legislative seat and every ministerial office is reserved for the progeny of the incumbent? Perhaps the only political space available to them would be the one occupied by extremists of the one kind or the other. A foretaste of what this would mean is already visible in what is called the red corridor across the country's tribal lands.


The fourth and the last threatening trend is the overall weakening of the Indian polity because of the virtual decimation of the BJP, which is really a case of self-destruction, as even its staunch supporters admit. This party was brain dead after its second consecutive defeat in the Lok Sabha election and remains so because it is bereft of any viable ideology or even idea, leaderless and highly fractious. Its cadre is demoralised. To expect it to come back to life would be a triumph of wishful thinking over ground reality. The rest of the Opposition, largely state-specific, is also divided and opportunistic. This may be good for the Congress that can hope to be dominant for another decade or two. But that dominance won't have the sheen that it did through the bulk of the Nehru era. Nor the authority it wielded in the era of Indira Gandhi's supremacy. It would be a "muddle of the road party" like it was from 1967 to 1971.








IN  the old days when means of transport and communication were extremely limited, each geographical region, bounded by rivers or mountains, attained a distinct linguistic identity.  In Punjab, for example,  the Doaba region had a very individual and distinctive dialect as did the regions of Majha and Malwa. 


 In residential schools, which too tend to be "isolated geographical regions", this phenomenon is duplicated and each school develops its own very individualistic brand of slang. For an outsider this slang becomes sometimes a totally strange, almost foreign, language. For instance, what does one make of the remark, "Oh yaar, he was badly chepoed!"? It becomes an experience of real enlightenment when we are told that the speaker means:  "he"  was severely scolded or reprimanded.


Another unique example of this slang is: "They khup created after lights out."  One would think  this would mean that they created a lot of noise after the lights had been switched off. But "khup" takes on a connotation that goes far beyond noise.  In fact, "khup" could be created even with a total absence of noise. "Khup" really means a minor infringement of the rules for the sheer thrill of doing something forbidden.


But what really takes the cake is a remark like "He was in solid luck". The non-initiated could be forgiven for concluding that the person referred to, if he hadn't won a lottery,  had at least managed to be included in a school team.  Unfortunately, he would be completely off the mark:  the "luck"  here is anything but lucky.  It means getting into very serious trouble.


Like all languages, schoolboy slang evolves and develops constantly.  When I was in school "p.c." meant polite conversation.  When you said:  "She is very good at making p.c." you were paying a grudging compliment to her social skills.  Today, probably in recognition of the changed social environment,  p.c. is a totally derogatory term.  When you say "He is  lagaoing p.c. to Heady," you mean that he is attempting "personal chamchagiri" in an effort to worm his way into the Headmaster's confidence through sycophancy.


Schoolboy slang extends not only to vocabulary but also to the tone and inflection of voice. Some years ago I was in Oxford and found the local branch of "Dillons," the well established chain of bookstores.  I decided to buy some books so that my children too could see the similarity of name on the carry bags. Penguin was celebrating its sixtieth year by bringing out 60 titles at 60 pence each.  While I was choosing three titles I heard a delightful conversation on the other side of the book rack. "They are all so good, can't we buy all 60 of them?" said a female voice.


"Oye, are you ma-a-d?" came a sharp male retort.


My heart gave a leap. The tone and inflection of that last retort could only have come from my school. I went around the racks to enquire. Yes, they were both from Sanawar.









THE disinvestment programme has started unfolding. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave its nod on October 19 to divest a 5 per cent stake in NTPC and 10 per cent in Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam. The disinvestment of SAIL is also in the pipeline.


Historically, the revenue side has dominated the disinvestment programme. Other objectives of disinvestment like (i) encouraging wider public participation, including that of workers; (ii) penetrating market discipline within public enterprises; and (iii) improving performance, etc. have not succeeded in getting adequate attention.


While preparing a roadmap for the disinvestment, it is suggested to evolve a balanced approach by assigning adequate weightage to each objective. This will help not only in achieving the revenue targets, but also creating a performance-oriented culture in public enterprises.


The experience of the disinvestment programme in India suggests that it is basically used as a vehicle to raise resources for bridging the fiscal deficit. Unfortunately the programme is not a success story even on the achievement of the financial targets.


For example, the pooling of targets and achievements from 1991-92 to 2004-05 clearly shows that the disinvestment programme succeeded in achieving (Rs. 47, 671.96 crore) only half of the target (Rs. 96, 800 crore). The target for the years 2005-2008 was not fixed and the disinvestment receipts during this period were to the tune of Rs 3,936.62 crore.


The major factors responsible for the dismal picture are ad hocism in policy; the absence of systematic efforts for preparing public enterprises for disinvestment; qualitative judgement for selecting public enterprises for disinvestment; problems associated with time schedule of disinvestment and share valuation methods; absence of incentives for enterprises in the form of getting back a percentage of disinvestment proceeds; opposition from the administrative ministry concerned, employees, trade unions and interest groups; lack of capital and lukewarm response of international capital; and the absence of political consensus on disinvestment.


In case the disinvestment programme in the pipeline succeeds in overcoming the inadequacies of the earlier programmes, the possibility of making disinvestment a success story is not ruled out.


Resource mobilisation is a one-time achievement of disinvestment. For getting rich dividends from disinvestment the other objectives of disinvestment deserve equal treatment.


The empirical evidence reveals that only lip service has been paid to them. Progress on account of the objective of encouraging wider public participation, including that of the workers is unsatisfactory.


In the first two rounds, disinvestment was opened only to the public financial institutions and mutual funds. In the third round, disinvestment was opened to the public but with a minimum bid of Rs. 25 million, which was in later phases reduced to Rs. 2,500.



Given the glaring income inequalities achieving the objective of wider public participation by fixing a minimum bid beyond the reach of common citizen is a very difficult task.


In the proposed disinvestment programme the public issue mode is likely to be adopted and hence there is a ray of hope that 'aam admi' may reap the benefits of disinvestment.


This objective can only be achieved if small applicants are preferred over large applicants as it was done in the U.K. privatisation process. The government this time is planning to give a 5 per cent discount to small applicants.


Penetrating the market forces within public enterprises has also been very weak. It is mainly due to the majority shareholding held by public sector financial institutions and cross shareholding by other public enterprises.


Further, PEs have to maintain an interface with a large number of ministries and institutions. The select few include Parliament, the administrative ministry, the Department of Public Enterprises, the Finance Ministry, CAG, the Planning Commission, the CVC and the CBI.


The cumbersome administrative procedures and plethora of guidelines to be followed by the PEs while dealing with various government institutions hinder the penetration of market forces in decision-making in PEs.


No doubt, the Vittal Committee (1997) and the Nair Committee (2001) have suggested the deletion of a number of guidelines and modifications in others, still the existing guidelines are large enough to constrain the culture of market forces.


The performance of public enterprises after disinvestment has not experienced any perceptible improvement mainly due to the predominance of risk-averse management style (i.e. bureaucratic approach) and work culture not fully conducive to performance.


The policy instruments which can help in encouraging the penetration of market forces in public enterprises and improvement in performance after disinvestment are professionalisation of their Boards, of Directors and granting more autonomy to the PEs, thus promoting an entrepreneurial approach.


According to the Office Memorandum of the Department of Public Enterprises, dated March 16, 1992, one-third of the directors would be non-official part-time directors.


The institution of non-official director helps in reaping the benefits of expertise available in the PEs. The professionalisation of the Board of Directors also helps in bringing in new and alternative ideas at the policy level, the execution of which enables the enterprises to improve their physical and financial performance.


Granting autonomy on the pattern of Navratnas or Miniratnas and now Maharatnas after disinvestment also needs the attention of policy-makers. An autonomy package becomes all the more necessary in the background of a very impressive performance by many public enterprises, such as, BHEL, CIL and NTPC.


BHEL has the distinction of paying dividends to the government continuously for 20 years now. The CIC and NTPC success stories are equally impressive.


The autonomy package finally would strengthen the conventional philosophy of keeping the government at an arm's length. Cutting down drastically the guidelines to be followed by the PEs and reducing the number of interface institutions can also help in improving the performance of the PEs after disinvestment.


Revisiting the relevant recommendations of the Disinvestment Commission spread over its 13 reports will be of immense help for evolving a balanced approach towards the disinvestment programme.n


The writer is the Dean, Faculty of Arts, Panjab University, Chandigarh









IT is rather unfortunate that unnecessary questions have been raised about the quality of the rice variety called PAU-201 released by Punjab Agricultural University in 2007.


It is a semi-dwarf stiff-strawed variety with dark green erect leaves that remain green until maturity. The average plant height of the variety is 101 cm. It takes 144 days to mature after seeding. It produces long and slender grains with good cooking quality.


The variety is resistant to the attack of most of the pathotypes and insect pests such as hoppers prevalent in Punjab. Its average yield is 30 quintals per acre. The actual yield of the variety in farmers fields is 32-35 quintal per acre that could go even higher in more fertility soils. The variety meets all the permissible limits of shelling and has more nutritional value than other rice varieties since it contains high contents of iron, manganese and phenols (anti-oxidants). The biggest advantage of this variety is that it requires much less water as compared to other long-duration varieties which mature in 158-160 days after seeding.


Punjab is facing a serious problem of the falling water table. It is feared that in the next 10-15 years many areas of Punjab will not be able to grow rice. Rice plantation in Punjab should start from June 10 onwards. Even if this practice continues for another 15 years, it is projected that by the year 2025 the water table in 42 blocks of central districts of Punjab will reach more than 100 feet deep.


In 31 blocks the water table will go more than 135 feet deep, in 10 blocks the water table will go down to more than 170 feet and in four blocks the water table depth will touch 200-270 feet. To overcome the rapidly falling water table problem in Punjab, farmers will have to delay rice plantation to June 20 instead of June 10.


The studies carried out by me over the years(1998-2008) based on the data generated from 653 observation wells in the state by the Directorate of Irrigation Research and Environment and the Ground Water Cell of Agriculture have indicated that during 1998-2005, the transplanting of paddy before June 10 had a total fall of the water table in 132 blocks (98.5% area) and only two blocks experienced a rising water table due to the natural water flow.


During 2005-08, when transplanting was delayed up to June 10, these figures were 99 blocks (73.9%) and 35 blocks (26.1%), respectively. The studies projected that if paddy transplanting is further delayed to June 20, the water table will fall in 72 blocks (53.7% area) and will rise in 62 blocks.


Further, with paddy transplanting delayed up to June 30, the water table will fall in only 54 blocks (40.3% area) while it will rise in as many as 80 blocks (59.7% area) of the state.


It implies that the major problem of water depletion in the face of contemporary agriculture can be addressed by following a proper transplanting date for which early maturing and short-duration paddy varieties are suitable.


If the varieties happen to be high yielding, farmers can gain ecologically and economically, a step for sustainability of agriculture. The two recently released varieties of Punjab Agricultural University, namely PAU-201 and PR-120, are of medium and short duration maturity, respectively.


PR-120 is a semi-dwarf variety that matures in 132 days after seeding. It possesses long, slender clear translucent grains with a good cooking quality. It is resistant to all the eight pathotypes of bacterial blight pathogen prevalent in Punjab. Its average paddy yield is 28.5 quintal per acre. The water resources of Punjab can be conserved by cultivating these recently developed varieties that have been well received by farmers.


As far as PAU-201 is concerned, it has remarkable characteristics with multifold advantages. It is already covering around 30% area of Punjab. The variety is well received by farmers due to high yield, disease resistance and less water consumption due to its short-duration maturity.


The Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad and other agencies have approved the variety as grade 'A' category. The variety is also resistant to hoppers and has no aspergillus (toxin producing fungus). It also fits in the permissible limits of shelling.


Besides, the rice bran of this variety is richer in oil content than others. The Ministry of Consumers Affair, Food and Public Distribution has also accredited this variety as 'A' grade rice and has never complained about its colouration. The following suggestions should be considered:


Shelling of PAU-201 variety should be done separately as its polishing requirement is 1-2% or more. Despite that it has a better rice recovery than other varieties.


Better quality, efficient machines should be used for shelling of this variety as the obsolete machinery leads to more breakage.


The rice of PAU-201 variety could be sold as brown rice.


On the market floor several impurities contaminate the lot leading to its spoilage. It should, therefore, be lifted and shelled on priority. The ware housing conditions should also be revamped.


I strongly feel that the variety PAU-201 is in the larger interest of humanity due to its highly nutritive grains, of the nation due to its high yield and of the state due to its being less water requiring.


Further, the farmers can use their land for other crops due to its short duration. I, like many other scientists, am convinced that this variety can be a boon to the Punjab agriculture and serve the cause of national food and nutritional security.n


The writer is a former Additional Director of Research (Agri.), Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana








I STARTED flying small airplanes when I was 18, and after I got out of the service, I used my GI Bill money to adorn my pilot's license with a Lear Jet rating. Most of the training consisted of takeoffs and landings at Bakersfield, Calif.; we never climbed above 10,000 feet or went very fast.


But at the end of the course we made a real flight — to Las Vegas and back — and I finally got to climb to something like a jet's cruising altitude and experience something like a jet's speed.


The cockpit of a Lear Jet — these were old Model 24s, the jet equivalent of a '55 Chevy — was a tight place, with a steeply slanted windshield grazing your forehead, a tall instrument panel in front of you and a console projecting back between the seats. You couldn't move around much.


And there was nothing to do. The airplane flew itself, holding heading, speed and altitude with greater precision than any human could. The sound of the aft-mounted engines resembled that of a distant vacuum cleaner. The Mojave Desert crept by almost imperceptibly, too remote to be interesting except to geologists.


This was what it was be a jet pilot! Immobility, inaction and silence. It was almost like being one of those victims of locked-in syndrome who are fully aware but cannot move or speak.


So I have no trouble imagining that the two pilots of Northwest Airlines Flight 188 — whose licenses were revoked Tuesday by the FAA — could have been sleeping when they overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles.


I don't know whether they were — alternative explanations are still coming in — but if so, it wouldn't be that surprising. Airline flying, with its time-zone shifts and irregular schedules, poses obvious fatigue risks. And besides the fatigue, there's the monotony.


Crews intermittently receive instructions from the ground — mostly just to change radio frequencies as they move from one air traffic sector to another — while computers do the bulk of the work. One of the problems of cockpit automation, in fact, is finding ways to keep uninvolved pilots aware of where they are and what the airplane is doing as it traverses the experiential void between takeoff and landing.


We may never know for certain what happened, because the cockpit voice recorder preserves only the most recent 30 minutes. But I have to admit that I find the laptop explanation a bit hard to believe. I'm sure the merging of the Northwest and Delta seniority lists is fascinating, but still.


When I'm on an instrument flight plan, I start to feel uneasy if I haven't talked with a controller in 20 minutes or so. These guys were in their own world for more than an hour — what were they thinking? But then, they've logged a lot more hours of suspended animation than I have.


 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post








The serial blasts on October 30 last year, the worst ever terrorist attacks in Assam, exposed the lack of preparedness of the law and order machinery to deal with such an eventuality, but unfortunately, the Government is yet to take adequate steps to deal with such a situation. With militancy still continues to haunt Assam and the State having long international border with Bangladesh where a number of anti-India forces have their bases, the possibility of attacks of such nature in future cannot be ruled out and the State Government must have taken adequate precautionary steps to deal with such attacks. The gory sites of the serial blasts are still vivid in the minds of the people of Assam and though the Government paid compensation to the next of kin of those killed, that will not bring back those killed and all out efforts must be made to deal with the problem of militancy. The blasts exposed the fact that the police and the Fire Services were not prepared to deal with such a situation and little efforts have been made in the past one year to strengthen the two organizations. Only recently, the Government initiated steps to increase the strength of the city police force and provided additional funds for procuring extra vehicles to improve the mobility of the men in uniform, while, a proposal to strengthen the fire service is still under consideration of the Government. But at the same time, a proposal for appointment of a Police Commissioner for Guwahati city is gathering dust in Dispur because of the reasons best known to the people at the helm of affairs , while, the suggestion given by former DGP DN Dutt, who investigated into the circumstances leading to the serial blasts and reasons for mob violence, for creation of a State Disaster Response Force with training and equipment like the elite National Security Guards (NSG) is yet to be implemented by the Government.

On the other hand, the Government of India also failed to play its part to deal with the problem of militancy in Assam. Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the then Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil visited Assam after the serial blasts and they saw for themselves the devastation caused by the blasts. But when it came to extending a helping hand to Assam to deal with terrorism, the Centre was found wanting. Only the terror attacks in Mumbai made the Centre realize the importance of setting up hubs of the NSG in different parts of the country to deal with such attacks but unfortunately, despite repeated requests from the State Government, the Centre refused to set up such a hub in Assam to cater to the requirements of all the States of the region. Moreover, it is now a well established fact that the explosives used in the serial blasts were brought from Bangladesh and the Government of India should have taken up the matter strongly with the Government of the neighbouring country.








The absence of a reliable public transport – an imperative requirement for any modern city -- has been a bane for Guwahatians. Not just that we have a public transport which is inadequate to cater to the needs of an expanding metropolis but, more importantly, the modes are unreliable and often dangerous – something that operates as per whims of the operators. Nowhere are the rules and norms governing safety and dignity of the commuters violated as brazenly as has been happening in the city. Name any mode of public transport – be it city buses, trekkers or auto-rickshaws – the operators function as if they are a law unto themselves, giving a damn to passengers' and other commuters' safety and convenience. Rash driving, utter disregard to all rules of the road, carrying passengers well beyond what is allowed, etc., are some of the blatant infringements taking place with impunity every day. All this makes travelling in public transport a hazardous exercise. Given this state of anarchy, it is hardly a surprising consequence that a majority of the road accidents in the city involve some mode of public transport.

What, however, merits even greater surprise is that such acts of brazen defilement of the law should be taking place under the very nose of the agencies that are supposed to enforce the law. The police, administration and the Transport Department are largely responsible for maintenance of discipline and order on the road but their role has been reduced to one of mute onlookers with hardly any visible intervention on their part. The Transport Minister has a direct responsibility in streamlining the system but his role has been utterly uninspiring. The Chief Minister, as the Head of the Government, too, cannot absolve his responsibility on such a matter of vital public interest. Along with disciplining the public transport operators, another urgent need is to have a rapid and affordable public transport like metro rail. With the city set to expand further, the resultant growth in population is bound to bring the vehicular movement to a standstill unless the pressure is eased through such a mechanism. The roads are choking under the burden of thousands of vehicles that are being added to the city every month. Only a reliable and fast public transport can address this deteriorating situation. Ensuring sufficient parking lots is another challenge before the authorities, who would do well to construct a few multi-storey parking places at different locations.









It was the autumn of 2008; the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" was just round the corner. The month of October was at its fag-end; October 30 being the exact calendar date; a working-Thursday in the humdrum-lives of countless sane homosapiens gleefully embracing their myriad, daily errands.

Common man's tryst with mundane life had only just begun. Office-goers hurrying and scurrying to their respective workplaces; young juveniles, ever restless and desperate to reach their classrooms in time, not to miss out on their 'favourite' first-periods; poor vegetable-vendors, with their unmistakable trade-cry, 'Aahok Baideo! Aahok Dada! Aji ratipuwa aha natun pasoli loi jak, (Come here Mam Come here Sir! Take away fresh vegetables); a love-struck young couple, passionately clutched together on a bike, madly besotted in love, out on a 'special-date', planning to spend their entire day together, celebrating a birthday, perhaps! City-buses were also plying brazenly with break-neck speed, transporting 'hopes and dreams' to their respective destination. It was life as usual. It was also a day, just after the doppelganger celebrations of Diwali on October 28 and 29. The festive-hangover of Durga Puja was even reverberating in the city-envelope, inducing a sense of quaint deja vu. The common man's quintessential dreams: his eagerly awaited month-end salary, which in essence, has become the lifeline of the working middle-class; his daily struggle to make his two ends meet, earn his bread and butter, provide that elusive succour to his large and extended family; all these and many more 'dreams' were already set in motion.

The time was roughly around 11:15 am, on that very fatal morning of October 30, exactly a year ago, when all these very 'dreams' were set in motion; when common man's tryst with mundane life had only just begun. Four year-old little Moromi was returning home with her father from the government Junior Basic School at Hengerabari, Dispur, when her father, Sagar Sarma, was struck down by a deadly and lethal explosion at Ganeshguri. He was blown to smithereens; his 'dreams' too were instantly dashed to smithereens. What about little Moromi? Did she survive? Was she alive? Her mother, Sunita, after losing her husband was hoping against hope to at least take her daughter back home from hospital. Moromi though did return, but only in a shroud, after battling for life for four days from severe burns. Little Moromi too, couldn't survive the blast. Destiny, it seemed, was in no mood for benevolence!

This ghoulish Ganeshguri blast was just one, among a spiralling series of nine synchronised blasts that rocked Assam on that very cursed morning of October 30, 2008. Roughly in between 11.15 am to 12 noon, the entire social fabric of Assam was left profusely bleeding, ripped and torn apart, by a brazen act of terror, perpetrated by a hare-brained coterie of numskulls, possibly, as a direct outcome of an enduring, not ephemeral lapse of a civilized-humanerationality. Such was the frequency and magnitude of these deadly blasts vis-a-vis its lethal trail of devastation, that it became somewhat reminiscent of a mini-holocaust of sorts. These serial blasts were the worst ever in the history of militancy-ravaged Assam. Thick smoke billowed after these high intensity blasts turned a number of cars, cycles and two wheelers into mangled heaps of metal. Parked vehicles bore a mute testimony to the carnage, with many reduced to smouldering metal and several others with splinter marks. The blast sites wore a gory look with mutilated, charred bodies and human flesh strewn all over the blood-splattered roads. People ran helter-skelter and many lay on the ground as total chaos prevailed at the blast sites.

At least 84 innocent lives were lost, with around 470 hapless people injured; being bruised and scarred forever, physically as well as psychologically. Among the places in Assam which were subjected to these acts of mayhem and madness, the worst affected being the bustling conurbation of Guwahati, in the district of Kamrup. The blasts were triggered at three different places in the city including Ganeshguri, Panbazar and Fancy Bazar areas within a span of roughly 15-20 minutes. The first blast took place at around 11-15 am under the Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha Flyover at Ganeshguri, just a few metres away from the high-security capital complex housing the Assam Assembly and Assam Secretariat buildings. This was followed by blasts in Fancy Bazar (Kamarpatty, near Panbazar Sadar Police Station) and Panbazar (Chief Judicial Magistrate's court premises) areas. At around the same time, bombs also went off in crowded market places in western Assam's districts of Kokrajhar (three blasts), Barpeta (two blasts) and Bongaigaon (one blast) in lower Assam.

All the blasts in the four districts of Assam took place in busy, crowded public places within a space of 30 minutes. Police reports suggested that RDX and plastic explosives were used in the blast to cause maximum damage and were detonated within five minutes of each other using timer devices. Three Maruti cars with ammonium nitrate, plasticisers and programmable time devices (PTDs) planted in them were used in the three bomb blasts in Guwahati. On December 19, 2008, the Assam police formally handed over all the cases of the October 30 serial blasts to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Till date, the CBI has arrested several persons in connection with the blasts. Most of these arrested persons are either National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) cadres or persons having links with the outfit. The CBI has also submitted charge sheets against 19 people, including Ranjan Daimary, self-styled chairman of NDFB's anti-talk faction. But given the somewhat convoluted antecedents of myriad such enquiries and investigations into terror attacks, which only seem to grossly outlive their stipulated tenure, merely compounding the untold miseries of the kith and kin of those innocent victims.

Today, exactly a year after those ghastly serial blasts that shook the very foundations of humanity, 'Black Thursday' of October 30 still continues to haunt us, deeply lacerating our very psyche; 'Black Thursday' still continues to take its traumatic toll, especially on those wives and mothers like Sunita Sarma, who lost both her husband and little daughter Moromi; 'Black Thursday' still reminds us of those two unfortunate grieving mothers, both of whom had claimed the charred remains of a body as that of their son. What's even worse was the fact that they had to request for a DNA test to ascertain their motherhood. 'Black Thursday' still reminds us of cherubic-young advocate and upcoming singer Dipamoni Saikia (Bobby), whose body was charred beyond recognition in the CJM blast and who was the only bread earner for her widowed mother. These were only a few random instances, who had lost their lives for no fault of theirs, and who would never return back to their families. Today, as we remember Moromi, Bobby, Santosh, Rana and many other's with tears in our eyes, we know for sure that life would never be the same for these families and many others for generations to come. Their wounds may heal, but their scars shall forever remain!

(Published in memory of those innocent lives who were killed in bomb blasts)








The unasked question if Nobel prize should go for not so noble ideas still remains to be asked. The matter comes to our mind when on October 9, 2009, the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, announced that the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Barack Obama "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". As specific examples of the work that led to the award, the Nobel Prize Committee highlighted efforts to promote nuclear nonproliferation particularly in Iran and a "new climate" in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world.

President Obama is the third sitting US President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Theodore Roosevelt won the award in 1906 and Woodrow Wilson won in 1919. Former President Jimmy Carter won the award in 2002, then sitting Vice President Charles Dawes shared the award in 1925, while former Vice President Al Gore shared the 2007 prize with the UN panel on climate change

Should prudence in awarding Nobel Prize to a sitting President of USA, which occupies eminent position in various international forums nowadays be thrown to scrutiny? The question likely to create ripples. Humbled by the award, President expressed his willingness to continue with his efforts. Be that as it may, barring the pet media in western world, it seems a very difficult proposition to digest, for rest of the world. President Obama, one of 205 original nominations that included several civil rights activists working in the field for decades was chosen for this coveted Prize. When one compares with the maturity of works and deeds of Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and their likes in the Nobel laureate in Peace, it becomes too premature. More so when the fact remains that nomination for this year's peace prize was closed on February 1, 2009 and barely ten days after President Obama assumed his Office where from he could materially undertake so called peace initiatives that have been recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee originates.

Looking back observers may find that in recent past, Nobel Peace Prize has been used for purely political reasons and there has been a veiled attempt to farther US foreign policy. Last ten years, as many as eight Nobel laureate directly pursued or indirectly facilitated the US foreign policy. The who's who include South Korean President Kim Dae-jung (2000) The United Nations and Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2001) Former US President Jimmy Carter (2002) Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi (2003) The International Atomic Energy Agency and its head Mohamed ElBaradei (2005) Former US Vice-President Al Gore (2007) and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari (2008). The exceptions were in 2004 and 2006 when Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai and Bangladesh's Grameen Bank & its architect Muhammad Yunus were awarded the prize respectively. But then most of them possessed certain great qualities. Kim Dae-jung known for his voice for democracy was also known as the "Nelson Mandela of Asia" for his long-standing opposition to authoritarian rule. Kofi Annan, though subject of severe criticism for inaction during Iraq war, had little creditable record in his past. In "Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda" author Canadian ex-General Romeo Dallaire, who was force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, claimed that Annan was overly passive in his response to the incipient genocide. General Dallaire explicitly asserts that Annan held back U. N. troops from intervening to settle the conflict, and from providing more logistical and material support. In particular, Dallaire claims that Annan failed to provide any responses to his repeated faxes asking him for access to a weapons depository, something that could have helped defend the endangered Tutsis. Ten years after the genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed, Annan admitted "I could and should have done more to sound the alarm and rally support." Naturally, eye brows were raised when Kofi Annan was awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Prize to International Atomic Energy Agency and its head Mohamed ElBaradei in 2005 was also not above criticism going by their role in preventing nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy, for peaceful purposes, is used in the safest possible way. It is a well known fact that India still maintains its divergent standpoint from IAEA on these issues in the interest of world peace and India's position has been widely acclaimed internationally.

Most laureate, however, bears creditable records. Even the Capitol Hill representative, 2007 Awardee US Vice-President Al Gore had three decades of socio-polifical activity. He is also an environmental activist and authored the book– An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi had long credentials of fighting for democracy and human rights, especially for the rights of women and children. Ex-US President Jimmy Carter after retirement founded "The Carter Center" in 1982, a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that works for promoting human rights and contributed to various peace negotiations, disease prevention programme in developing nations and has been a key figure in the Habitat for Humanity project and remains particularly vocal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unfortunately, Observers are still busy locating worthy attributes to colour the new awardee. But one must agree, nine months in office is too short a time to do something big.

For international community, it remains to be seen how President Barack Obama looks at the current conflicts in Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Korea (in conformity with his election promises or otherwise) more than how he fits to his new look.








Zenobia Aunty is in a sombre mood these days. Various niggling issues are plaguing her. She feels that there is so much each of us can do to make this world a better place. Some of us don't merely because of lack of time, or information on how to help. Initiatives such as Teach-India, Joy of Giving Week, etc., help but much more needs to be done.


Fortunately, business entities are increasingly expected to devote some of their resources towards social welfare (corporate social responsibility, as it is called). Today stakeholders look beyond mere numbers. The World Bank conducted a survey, albeit some years ago, of 107 MNCs.

Eighty per cent or more MNCs reported analysing the CSR performance of potential partner firms in developing countries; 50% or more chose certain partners over others because of CSR concerns; and 88% reported that CSR issues are more influential today.

From a sheer business standpoint it makes sense to report on CSR activities. It makes greater sense for intermediaries involved in policy initiatives to track such activities and for the government to support disclosure practices either directly or indirectly.

The World Bank in its report, 'Opportunities and Obstacles for CSR responsibility reporting in developing countries', (World Bank Report, March 2004) points out intermediary groups are critical in analysing and deploying information and in creating demands for improved reporting. Stakeholder groups with built-in incentives for using, analysing and monitoring the quality of the information are central to its long-term sustainability.

In India, while a lot of companies and groups are actively engaged in CSR activities, CSR reporting is not obligatory under the Companies Act, 1956 nor prescribed in the proposed Companies Act. Way back in 1978, it was the Sachar Committee that had first recommended that a social report be made mandatory in annual reports to shareholders. Today we see a hotchpotch of reporting styles, if at all any.

Zenobia Aunty also learns that an NGO or two, do rate companies based on their CSR activities. But government backing and that of its stakeholders would create a better reporting environment and help in rewarding the socially conscious companies.

The World Bank states that there is no single reporting system or model of corporate transparency that fits all social or environmental problems. However, it suggests that matrices for reporting should in general be agreed upon by key stakeholders (representing what matters to them); factual, accurate and verifiable; reported at regular intervals in relatively simple language or data; comparable across locations, firms and products; flexible and dynamic — so that the metrics can change over time; usable by key stakeholders and easily accessible.

Zenobia Aunty adds: "Professional institutions such as the ICAI or trade associations such as Ficci, CII, Assocham, etc, can play an important role in bringing uniformity and in encouraging companies to take firm steps towards CSR accounting/disclosure." Further, awards for those companies which give back to the society would also provide an extra impetus.

It may be easy to argue that a particular company has sponsored a village merely because its labour force is based in that village. Whatever be it, by adopting the village it has helped Indian society.

While some companies do report their CSR activities, others do not. There is no uniformity. In fact, lack of standardized reporting also means that those who do not contribute to society do not suffer any adverse impact at all, nor are those who give back to the society benefited in any manner.

Steps must be taken to create a standardized CSR Index across India Inc. It could comprise essentially of 4-5 elements such as contributions towards the environment, education, healthcare and lastly donations for disaster recovery plans. Weightages for each element could vary but disclosure of the parameters and weightages would be a must in the CSR Index.

It may be too much to ask the government to provide additional tax concessions (other than those available — say for donation to a PM's National Relief Fund), to companies that are actively engaged in CSR activities. However, in the long run, market forces would reward such companies.

Other policies also need to change and it is here that the government can help. Zenobia Aunty wanted XYZ company to divert her dividend income to a reputed NGO's bank account. Alas XYZ company as per the Companies Act is required to send the dividend cheque to Zenobia Aunty or to transfer the dividend directly to her bank account.

Companies must have the option of crediting the bank account of an NGO with the dividend amount, at the direction of a shareholder. In fact, they can then even sponsor a particular NGO and provide for a form in their Annual Report or newsletter that would facilitate such a transfer. Small things can go a long way.







The split in the sangh parivar, psychoanalytically speaking, extends to the disorders afflicting the respective parts. If one were to imagine the saffron family as a unified body of sorts, it'd make for a neat little split-personality disorder.


Thus, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's recommendations that the BJP should opt for a remedial dose of chemotherapy, or even downright surgery, was ill-advisedly wrong. A dose of radiation, it is generally believed, can't do much for states of mind. Neither, it is safe to say, does a surgery contribute much on that score.

Such comments, given the state of the BJP, do nonetheless make room for further mischief. For instance, in the rational interests of creating good copy, someone from the media could have done well to ask the RSS headman just precisely which parts, or members, of the BJP did he consider cancerous —the clinical prescriptions suggested fits malignant things most. Imagine the media delight if in answer Bhagwat actually had named a few names!

But we digress. The point is that the diagnosis seems entirely misplaced. We would suggest the BJP is in denial. In the psychiatric sense. Or, perhaps as some would suggest, it is more the case with Rajnath Singh.


Denial being defined as a "primitive ego-defence mechanism by which a person unconsciously negates the existence of a disease or other stress-producing reality in his environment, by disavowing thoughts, feelings, wishes, needs, or external reality factors that are consciously intolerable." Rarely does something like political psychology sound so eminently plausible.

To continue, the RSS, on its part, could possibly be afflicted with a bad case of hypochondriasis. Commonly called hypochondria, equally succinctly defined as "an excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness which often persists even after reassurances that such concerns do not have an underlying medical basis".

Maybe the answer, and remedy, lies in the political realm. Would the parivar be able to digest the reality that divisive agendas can only work so far in our climes? Much illness and analysis could then be avoided.







Warped policy is turning base-metal ore into pure gold in the stock market, distorting incentives, prices and value-addition in minerals and well beyond. National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), our largest iron ore producer and exporter, has an embarrassingly huge market cap, thanks to price arbitrage.


Its tiny floating stock is a factor for the bloated valuation, but the main reason is that NMDC gets premium global prices for iron ore while its costs in terms of mineral royalty, cess and other levies are rock bottom. These have not been revised in years, often decades!

Worse, the opacity in licensing and leasing norms for mineral blocks is perverse incentive for graft, delays and scant value-addition downstream. Where is the incentive, say, to make value-added, high-grade steels when iron ore is available literally dirt cheap from captive mines?

The Centre, reportedly, is planning to divest stake in NMDC. It makes perfect sense to unlock value, particularly when, as now, government finances are grossly over-extended. But in tandem, comprehensive reform in minerals and mining has to be fast-tracked. We need prompt revision of royalty rates, linking them to ore value, as is the standard global practice.

And ore prices must become market-determined. It's absurd that extant royalty rates for ferrous ore can be as low as Rs 11 per tonne. We also need clear-cut rules to ring-fence the royalty payments accruing to state governments, for local-area development and to shore up social and physical infrastructure.

It is fortuitous that three states with high poverty ratios, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, are also mineral-rich. They are also the most affected by Maoist violence and lack industry. What's clearly lacking is visionary policy to step up productivity in minerals and metals, for truly inclusive growth.






The world's largest economy has turned in a positive rate of quarterly growth, after four straight quarters of decline. The US economy's 3.5% growth in the third quarter (July-September) is a big positive for global recovery, never mind that it rode on state-sponsored car and home sales that would not continue in the coming months.

However, an offsetting feature is the 21% jump in US exports in Q3, driven both by recovery elsewhere and the dollar's weakening, which makes American goods cheaper in the importers' currencies. But will the dollar now remain weak?

Perversely enough, rising economic confidence in the US is likely to result in further depreciation of the dollar. Restored confidence would reverse the flight to safety in the wake of the Lehman collapse in September 2008. The funds that had fled emerging and other markets to take refuge back home in the US in a bid to minimize uncertainty are now likely to retrace their steps back to markets where the returns are higher.

Just as the influx to safety had driven up the dollar, the funds' redeployment across the globe would drive down the dollar. While restoration of economic health in the US would boost growth around the world and enlarge the market for India's exports globally, oil prices would go up, too.

India must free up fuel prices. Since the dollar is likely to depreciate against most currencies, India's export competitiveness is not the main problem. Export volumes would go up, export revenues at a more sedate pace. The bigger challenge, however, would be the resumption of capital inflows in excess of what the Indian economy can absorb.

As one of the fastest growing economies, India would get more than its fair share of investments, direct and portfolio, and that would drive up the rupee and boost valuations on the stock market. An appreciating rupee improves dollar returns on investment and induces further capital inflows.

To moderate the rupee's rise, the RBI would buy up dollars and then sell government bonds to mop up the rupees created to purchase the dollars, so as to avoid inflation. The cost of holding down the rupee would, thus, be rising yields, as bond prices dip. The government has to start thinking now, whether it should follow Brazil's example and impose restrictions on excessive capital inflows.







Even by Third World standards of 30 years ago, the crumbling rundown police mortuary on the outskirts of Kolkata was a dishonour to humanity — dead or alive. Non-airconditioned and windowless, it was designed to hold about 50 bodies when originally built but was being crammed with over 300 unclaimed ones.


As a result, bodies decayed freely outside its four walls — in the verandas, the perimeter yard and amid the sparse vegetation that grew around the structure. In summer the smell of putrefaction was terrifying for hundreds of metres. The lone living occupant was an old uneducated Dom outcaste who functioned as pathologist, autopsy surgeon and mortician rolled into one, who was permanently high on pot.

One day he noticed an imported car stop at the gate and a man in his thirties with a little nine-year-old girl in school uniform get out of it. Both held handkerchiefs over their noses and were breathing through their mouths. As they came closer, the young man smiled and greeted him cordially — an unusual event in the Dom's experience — entered his name and address in a frayed register and went inside the building.

They came out after a while and started walking around the perimeter, stopping beside various wasted remains of what used to be human beings with the man often pointing out totally unnecessary details as far as the Dom was concerned to the girl and talking amongst themselves.

At the end of about half an hour the two thanked him pleasantly and were about to leave when curiosity got the better of the Dom's hash hit haze and he basically asked the man the equivalent of just what the hell did he think was going on. The man thought for a moment and replied cheerfully that he had picked up his kid from school and decided to bring her to the mortuary so that she could see for herself the impermanence of it all. The Dom was not impressed. He grunted and dismissed them away.

But a month later he traced the address and landed up at the young man's fancy apartment with a little boy at his side. "I've been thinking about what you told me that day," he said to the surprised man when he opened the door, "and I think you're right. This is my grandson, he's eight. I decided to bring him here so that he could see for himself the impermanence of it all. May we look around?" The man was not impressed. He grunted and waved them inside. Moral: Idiots can be found everywhere.







M&M on Thursday announced record quarterly financial results. Its net profit for the September quarter soared 242% to Rs 703 crore. In an exclusive interview with ET NOW's Abhinaba Das and ET's Sachin Dave, M&M CFO Bharat Doshi and president (finance) Uday Phadke shared the strategy ahead. Excerpts:

The results are fantastic with the company posting one of the best financial numbers in the history of the firm. Do you think this is the revival of the auto industry or is it temporary?

Doshi: If the conditions (external conditions including stimulus, easy finance) that were there this time around continues to remain, this is surely a permanent phenomenon. Now what can change is, if the interest rates harden in the time to come and if the money (liquidity) is not available in the short run, then sustaining
this growth may be little difficult.

This time the raw material cost was low. Do you think there are any other reasons that you think has contributed to the good result?

Phadke: If you look at all items of cost, everything has been kept under control. So yes, volumes and even the raw material costs are the major reasons, but there are so many other factors, which has affected the huge increase in the operating margins.

The company for long had been perceived to be dependent on rural demand, however lately the urban consumers have contributed to the sales. Do you think the poor monsoon would affect the company's margins in the time to come?

Doshi: Due to lower monsoon, there could be a marginal dip in the demand by around 20%, but it would not be as drastic as we would have experienced about three years ago. Now a major chunk of our volumes comes from our urban market. Moreover, even in the rural areas, agriculture is not the only mode of income generation, and so demand may not fall drastically even in rural area.


And how do you think the lack of monsoon would affect the tractor demand?

Phadke: We may not have the similar growth that we have experienced in the first half due to this. At the same time, the monsoon deficit will not have very negative effect, as there is lot of liquidity in the market at the moment due to the bank loans and other aspects.


There are indications as far as the company's exports are concerned that there is a revival. But what are the kind of signals that you are getting from international market?

Doshi: We have seen that export demand is picking up in the Asian countries and this is important, as you are seeing the engine of growth coming from Asia as far as the exports are concerned. Asian and to some extent even the African countries. The developed countries are lagging behind a little, but that could happen (increase in this market) in the future.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The Reserve Bank of India has sent out a polite but strong alert to the government to tackle rising food prices as it cannot be tackled by monetary instruments. In the credit policy announced on Tuesday, the RBI governor, Mr D. Subbarao, repeatedly expressed his concern about inflation, which this time round has been fuelled by domestic factors, primarily rising food prices. Last year, inflation was fuelled by rising commodity and oil prices that have since moderated considerably. Prices of food articles this year have increased by 14.4 per cent (year-on-year) so far. Excluding food items, the WPI inflation remains depressed at -3.4 per cent . The Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments second quarter review released on the eve of the credit policy announcement had clearly mentioned that the rise in prices of food articles "suggests both short supply as well as inefficient distribution channels". This poses a serious challenge for the RBI while trying to anchor inflation expectations in the face of sustained high inflation in essential commodities, the report said. There is a view that the government should have flooded the market with imports, at least of pulses which is the only source of protein for the poor. The prices of pulses had shot up to nearly Rs 80 per kg. The other wake-up call for the government in the credit policy was the declining share of agriculture in GDP. In 2008-09 it was 17 per cent and is a drag on GDP growth. This is an anomaly that the government has to take seriously where 61per cent of the population depends on farming but contributes just 17per cent to the GDP. Agriculture, as analysts point out, is the largest provider of employment in rural India despite its steady declining share from 32 per cent in 1991 to 17per cent in 2009. The performance of agriculture is critical for overall growth because of its interlinkage with the industrial and services sector. Last year, tractor manufacturers, for instance, saw their tractors piling up as farmers had no purchasing power. Moreover, sharp fluctuations in agriculture lead to farmer indebtedness, erratic use of agricultural inputs and very low penetration of agricultural extension services which, analysts point out, have also acted as constraints for raising long-term productivity of agriculture. It is disturbing that the government has not said anything on these aspects when commenting on the RBI credit policy. It seems more concerned with the stimulus which is a stop-gap arrangement. The solutions required are long term because with no major elections on the horizon the government is unlikely to give more loan waiver packages. The government has to change its attitude and mindset towards agriculture and the farming community while at the same time finding ways and means seriously of shifting the farming and landless labour population into the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. Agriculture can never be remunerative because of the government's bias towards urban India and particularly the vocal middle classes that resent paying a little more for food articles but don't mind splurging on electronic items, white goods and cheeses priced way beyond their intrinsic values. The government's subsidies to agriculture too are skewed and there is no thought going into handling the public distribution system where the poor are cushioned against high food prices. The scales are heavily weighed against the farmer. But that apart, the fragmentation of land as families grow cannot sustain families and so jobs have to be provided in the tertiary and secondary sectors. In short the government has to change the mismatch in the various sectors contributing to the GDP.








The Dalai Lama's impending visit to Tawang has raised the hackles of the Chinese government, leading to yet another contretemps between Beijing and New Delhi. The Indian government has quite properly observed that the Dalai Lama is at liberty to travel to any part of the country, but that he could not undertake any political activity. Yet it is important to understand why China has reacted so sharply; for the underlying issues have bedevilled Sino-Indian relations over the past five decades.

The short answer is that from Beijing's standpoint the Dalai Lama's itinerary puts the spotlight on two tightly interconnected problems: the contested boundary with India, and Tibet.

China formally claims all of Arunachal Pradesh, but it views Tawang as an area where its historical claims are particularly strong. India, however, insists that the boundary in this entire sector should follow the alignment formalised in the tripartite Shimla Conference of 1913-14. The McMahon Line, as it came to be called after the then foreign secretary of India, was defined in a set of notes exchanged between Henry McMahon and the chief Tibetan delegate. This line was then marked on the map of the draft convention, which was initialled by the Chinese as well as British Indian and Tibetan representatives.

The Chinese government, however, repudiated the Shimla Convention owing to their disagreement vis-à-vis the boundaries between Tibet and China, and their desire to curb British attempts at enhancing Tibet's autonomy. China would later insist that Tibet had no right to conclude an agreement with India; for this would amount to accepting that Tibet had de facto independence in 1914. Independent India would hold that Tibet was part of China, but that in 1913-14 it had possessed treaty-making powers.

After the Shimla Conference the Indian government did not make efforts to extend its administrative presence right up to the McMahon Line. Republican China was a shambles, and posed no significant threat in the Assam Himalaya. The McMahon Line came to the fore in 1935, following an incident involving a British botanist studying the frontier tracts and Tibetan officials who controlled the area surrounding the Buddhist monastery in Tawang. Between 1938 and 1944, the Indian government belatedly sought to make good on the McMahon Line; but to no avail. Lhasa refused to withdraw its personnel from Tawang; and the British were chary of offending the Chinese — now their ally in the struggle against the Axis powers. Consequently, the Raj's administrative control could not be extended to Tawang.

Following Chinese invasion of Tibet, New Delhi decided in February 1951 to bring Tawang under its administrative hold. Interestingly, the move evoked no response from Beijing, but Lhasa protested vehemently. China's current claim to Tawang rests largely on the fact that it came under Indian control only in 1951. India's stance relies on the fact that Tawang fell on the Indian side of the McMahon Line; that its populace are Monba not ethnic Tibetans; and that Tawang had a religious not political relationship with Lhasa.
Territorial claim apart, Tawang also impacts on China's policies towards Tibet. Up to the 1950s the Tibetan administration — under the present Dalai Lama — had strongly contested India's takeover of Tawang. Beijing is concerned that if it dilutes its claims on Tawang, the Tibetans (especially the exile community) could denounce it as a sell-out on Tibetan interests and as underlining China's lack of legitimacy in Tibet. More important, there are deeper concerns about the intentions of the Indian government and the Dalai Lama vis-à-vis Tibet.

Back in 1954 India signed agreement with China recognising Tibet as a region of China and renouncing the special privileges in Tibet inherited from the Raj. These, as the then foreign secretary observed, were "a concession only to realism". However, the activities of Tibetan émigrés in border towns like Kalimpong stoked China's suspicions about Indian intentions. These steadily intensified as a rebellion broke out in Tibet in 1958. Beijing assumed, wrongly, that India was colluding with the rebels. India's decision to grant asylum to the Dalai Lama gave further credence to these suspicions. By mid-1959 the Chinese were convinced that India sought to make Tibet an independent, buffer state. These perceptions played a major role in China's decision to go to war in 1962.

Over the years, these concerns have been diminished but never fully allayed. This is mainly owing to presence of the Tibetan government-in-exile in India. The Indian government does not recognise the government-in-exile and has repeatedly stated that it would not allow the organisation to undertake political activities. But the Chinese are sceptical of India's disavowals.

The Dalai Lama, for his part, has moved away from his claim for Tibetan independence towards the "middle way" aimed at securing autonomy. But the mistrust between the two sides persists. As part of his autonomy proposals, the Dalai Lama seeks the integration under a single administrative entity of all the areas populated by ethnic Tibetans. The Chinese believe that the creation of a "greater Tibet" is merely a tactical ploy, designed to establish a platform for eventual independence. Hence, they insist that the Dalai Lama must accept that Tibet has always been a part of China. The Tibetans are unwilling to make such a concession as it might further undermine their case for autonomy. Besides, the Tibetan exiles are not a monolith. Chinese are wary of the influence of groups like the Tibetan Youth Congress that continue to demand independence.

The situation inside Tibet in the last year-and-a-half has heightened Beijing's sensitivities to the Dalai Lama's activities. From its perspective, the Tibetan leader's visit to Tawang brings together a number of thorny issues at a difficult time. New Delhi has handled China's response with tact and maturity. But it has to ensure that the Dalai Lama does not make any political statement that could lead to further acrimony with China. Beyond this, however, it has to think of ways to assuage the lingering Chinese concerns about its attitude to Tibet.

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








The reports that the military operation in South Waziristan may be completed sooner than many expected will no doubt assuage Pakistani people's anxieties to some extent. But the question that will continue to worry them is: will the conclusion of this phase of the anti-terrorism drive bring an end to the threat to Pakistani state and society?

As regards the preliminary purpose of the military operation, namely, gaining control over the terrorists' strongholds, the security forces have succeeded beyond expectations. The speed with which they flushed the extremists out of Swat and other parts of the Malakand division won them praise at home and abroad. The experience gained in that theatre of conflict and a somewhat less difficult terrain seems to have helped them improve their performance in the South Waziristan Agency. However, there is little room for complacency about what remains to be done before final victory over terrorism can be claimed.

It is easy to appreciate the fact that the objective of the operation in South Waziristan is materially different from that in Swat. There the main challenge came from alien militants that had gathered local adventurers around them and the primary task was to force the outsiders to retreat. Success in this manoeuvre and the infliction of heavy losses on local militias created conditions in which the large number of displaced people could return home. Still, the Swat operation was not without warning that the terrorists were capable of widening the area of conflict by launching attacks on military and police posts and personnel across Pakistan, especially in the Frontier and Punjab.

In South Waziristan the extremists, at least most of them, have been attacked in their homes. Unlike the outsiders in command in Swat, who could retreat to their own habitats, the Waziristan militants cannot abandon their homes, not for a considerable period at any rate. The question of what is perceived as an attack on traditional autonomy also is far more serious here than it was in Swat. This explains the element of despair in the militants' response to the Waziristan operation — their decision to harass the Pakistan establishment by raiding General Headquarters (GHQ) and tell the population that their schools and colleges, their highways and marketplaces, civilians as well as security personnel were more unsafe than ever.

The information available to ordinary citizens suggests that the security forces are primarily interested in destroying the terrorists' command structure thus rendering them incapable of making forays beyond their settlements. The leadership of the South Waziristan militants is said to have split already. At the same time considerable reliance is being placed on the mobilisation of moderate Mehsuds and Wazirs as the first line of resistance to militants.

The effectiveness of this strategy cannot be assumed beyond a certain point, that is, beyond the period the militants will take for regrouping and raising new cadres of young men determined to die for what they are told is a holy cause. This period may not be very long since Al Qaeda and the Taliban pursuing the war in Afghanistan are unlikely to give up their safe havens in South Waziristan or in any other part of the Federally Administered (in name only) Tribal Areas. Thus, nobody should dismiss the possibility that terrorist attacks in Islamabad and elsewhere, like the ones witnessed over the past fortnight or so, will continue to test the people's will to win the battle against the militants.

In the short run, the new phase of terrorism in the Frontier and Punjab — will expose the militants' collaborators and sympathisers across the country. These allies of terrorists include those who help them with boarding and transport facilities, and provide them with information about the targets of attack. Even more crucial is the role of political factions and their leaders that do not condemn terrorism and, instead, go out of their way to drape the killers of innocent children and old men and women in robes designed for the holiest of heroes.

That there is room for difference of opinion on what can be achieved by military action alone cannot be denied. But it is impossible to agree with those who rule out the use of force against terrorists altogether. These elements become hysterical when action against militant organisations in Punjab and Sindh is suggested. The battle of ideas with the elements that are claiming a monopoly on the jihadi culture is far more important than the clash of arms or a competition in the use of explosives.

Two things about the terrorist threat must be borne in mind. First, the fight against terrorism is going to be long, bitter and costly. The conflict in Afghanistan is a major contributing factor but Pakistan will not be rid of the terrorist threat even after peace has returned to Afghanistan.

This because of the second reality that the roots of terrorism in Pakistan are indigenous; they lie in the enormous work the state has done, by its acts of omission and commission, to eradicate the ideas of liberal Islam and facilitate the rise of obscurantists leaving the entire area of intra-religious discourse open and clear to utterly conservative and dogmatic twisters of texts and exploiters of the faithful's vaguely understood belief. Pakistan will not be safe from terrorists' depredations unless a crash programme to build a tolerant, pluralist society is seriously executed.

Unfortunately, that seems unlikely at a time when the country is being treated to a dirty political intrigue and a mad jockeying for power. Nobody should take offence on being told that the roots of terrorism lie in Pakistan's political culture.








Most analyses of India's rising stature in the world in recent years rest on the all-too-familiar indices — dazzling economic growth, military might, globally-acknowledged IT prowess and so on. But India has another trump card — its natural soft power advantage — which it could leverage better.

The latest to remind us of how we can convert our soft power into a valuable instrument of our global strategy was Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Mr Roth, who was in Delhi last fortnight for HRW's international board meeting, the first such in the capital, argued that the world needed India to raise its voice for human rights around the globe.

His case, in brief: Traditionally, India has had a foreign policy with a pro-rights strain. However, of late, a certain ambivalence has crept into India's public position on regimes with dubious records on human rights, especially those in the country's backyard. Burma is a case in point. India does not want to strengthen China's hand in that country and hence is on a mute mode on the military junta's treatment of political prisoners. In Mr Roth's view, by addressing human rights violations within the country and having a more rights-oriented foreign policy, India would actually be strengthening its claim for leadership within the region and in international affairs.

Is India's global leadership on human rights increasingly becoming necessary to counteract the negative role played by other powerful states? What about the more prickly human rights issues related to our internal affairs? Should India end laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, be more mindful of rights violations against dalits, religious minorities, adivasis etc?

There are two ways you can take Mr Roth's message.

You can either dismiss everything he said by citing the standard critiques against human rights activists and their sympathisers: they are bleeding heart liberals, out of touch with realpolitik, a bunch of busybodies whose advice one takes at one's own peril. Those wired to reject everything that emanates from the United States of America would also point out that Mr Roth is an American, HRW is headquartered in the US, and ergo, there has to be a deep, dark conspiracy underlining his statements.

Alternatively, you can read what a reputed international organisation like HRW is saying in the context of questions pivotal to our emerging role in world affairs: What kind of global power is India going to be? What role can India's democratic credentials play in Asia's emerging security environment?

Significantly, some of what Mr Roth said has also been articulated by many eminent Indians in academia and in public life who prescribe hard power along with a nuanced soft power strategy.

Respect for human rights within and beyond the country's borders is part of this critical mix to make the idea of India more attractive.

Soft power, a term coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye, is usually considered to be the ability to attract friends and allies and mitigate adversarial situations by way of the attraction of your nation, society or group. Soft power is increasingly viewed today as an alternative to hard power as well as a necessary complement to it.
The US provides the best example of a nuanced mix of soft and hard power. The appeal of its films, TV, music, books etc and the allure of the American lifestyle which they represent traditionally gave the US the ability to attract and persuade others to adopt the US agenda in many instances. Use of just coercive "hard power" of military force would not quite have had the same outcomes. No doubt, a lot of the sheen of the US' attraction has worn off in the wake of the economic downturn.

Within Asia, the hard power-soft power discourse has been fuelled by the meteoric rise of India and China.


Almost all discussions about international affairs today focus on the two countries as future agents of change. And not surprisingly, there is heated debate about the merits and demerits of the two sharply divergent models.
US-based political scientist Maya Chadda, for instance, has argued that while security has trumped democracy in India's foreign policy perspective, democracy has become increasingly important as an underpinning for an Asian security architecture that could be in India's interest. India's liberal democracy is its soft power asset, and its democratic identity can be a stepping stone to international alliances and collective diplomatic engagement.
In an article written for the Global Brief — a top-tier international affairs magazine published in Canada — some days before he became the minister of state for foreign affairs, Shashi Tharoor outlined his vision of India's strategic, soft power. A country's soft power emerges from the world's perceptions of what that country is all about. "The world of the 21st century will increasingly be a world in which the use of hard power carries with it the odium of mass global public disapproval, whereas the blossoming of soft power, which lends itself more easily to the information era, will constitute a country's principal asset", Mr Tharoor wrote.

As far as India is concerned, it is not just its economic progress that will enhance its soft power. The values and principles for which India stands would be equally important. Mr Tharoor's article makes clear that the author does not advocate reliance on just soft power. That will be foolish as New Delhi knows all too well. "Soft power cannot solve its security challenges. To counter the terrorist threat, there is no substitute for hard power. Where soft power works is in attracting enough goodwill from ordinary people to reduce the sources of support and succour that the terrorists enjoy, and without which they cannot function", he said.

Distilled to its essence, this is a recipe for better public diplomacy as well as better governance. India needs to solve its internal problems before it can play any leadership role in the world.

This entails ensuring that the country's population is healthy, well-fed, and secure. It also means preserving our precious pluralism.

"It adds to India's soft power when its non-governmental organisations actively defend human rights, promote environmentalism, fight injustice", Mr Tharoor argued.

To liberals in India and elsewhere, this may seem plain common sense, But it is good to remember that in today's fractious climate, such common sense is becoming less common.


 Patralekha Chatterjee writes on contemporarydevelopment issues, and can be contacted at [1]








Dispatching more troops to Afghanistan would be a monumental bet and probably a bad one, most likely a waste of lives and resources that might simply empower the Taliban. In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there.

It's hard to do the calculation precisely, but for the cost of 40,000 troops over a few years — well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D. The hawks respond: It's naive to think that you can sprinkle a bit of education on a war-torn society. It's impossible to build schools now because the Taliban will blow them up.
In fact, it's still quite possible to operate schools in Afghanistan — particularly when there's a strong "buy-in" from the local community.

Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, has now built 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan — and not one has been burned down or closed. The aid organisation CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban. The Afghan Institute of Learning, another aid group, has 32 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with none closed by the Taliban (although local communities have temporarily suspended three for security reasons).

In short, there is still vast scope for greater investment in education, health and agriculture in Afghanistan. These are extraordinarily cheap and have a better record at stabilising societies than military solutions, which, in fact, have a pretty dismal record.

In Afghanistan, for example, we have already increased our troop presence by 40,000 troops since the beginning of last year, yet the result has not been the promised stability but only more casualties and a strengthened insurgency. If the last surge of 40,000 troops didn't help, why will the next one be so different?
Matthew P. Hoh, an American military veteran who was the top civilian officer in Zabul Province, resigned over Afghan policy, as the Washington Post reported this week. Mr Hoh argues that US military presence is feeding the insurgency, not quelling it.

Already American troops have created a backlash with Kabul University students this week burning US President Barack Obama in effigy until police dispersed them with gunshots. The heavier the military footprint, the more resentment — and perhaps the more legitimacy for the Taliban.

Schools are not a quick fix or silver bullet any more than troops are. But we have abundant evidence that they can, over time, transform countries, and in the area near Afghanistan there's a nice natural experiment in the comparative power of educational versus military tools.

Since 9/11, the United States has spent $15 billion in Pakistan, mostly on military support, and today Pakistan is more unstable than ever. In contrast, Bangladesh, which until 1971 was a part of Pakistan, has focused on education in a way that Pakistan never did. Bangladesh now has more girls in high school than boys. (In contrast, only three per cent of Pakistani women in the tribal areas are literate.)

Those educated Bangladeshi women joined the labour force, laying the foundation for a garment industry and working in civil society groups like BRAC and Grameen Bank. That led to a virtuous spiral of development, jobs, lower birth rates, education and stability. That's one reason Al Qaeda is holed up in Pakistan, not in Bangladesh, and it's a reminder that education can transform societies.

When I travel in Pakistan, I see evidence that one group — Islamic extremists — believes in the transformative power of education. They pay for madrasas that provide free schooling and often free meals for students. They then offer scholarships for the best pupils to study abroad in Wahabi madrasas before returning to become leaders of their communities. What I don't see on my trips is similar numbers of American-backed schools. It breaks my heart that we don't invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.

For roughly the same cost as stationing 40,000 troops in Afghanistan for one year, we could educate the great majority of the 75 million children worldwide who, according to Unicef, are not getting even a primary education. We won't turn them into graduate students, but we can help them achieve literacy. Such a vast global education campaign would reduce poverty, cut birth rates, improve America's image in the world, promote stability and chip away at extremism.

Education isn't a panacea, and no policy in Afghanistan is a sure bet. But all in all, the evidence suggests that education can help foster a virtuous cycle that promotes stability and moderation. So instead of sending 40,000 troops more to Afghanistan, how about opening 40,000 schools?


By arrangement with theNew York Times








I have to say that I don't particularly like newspaper and magazine columnists, as people. Smug, not terribly bright, usually cowardly, lazy, always self-obsessed, self-important and narcissistic. I don't excuse myself from most of these character traits, by the way, so I suppose you can add self-loathing to the list as well. I don't really have any friends who are columnists and the Fleet Street writers I particularly admire — Laura Barton, Alexis Petridis, Craig Brown and our own Jeremy Clarke — seem, from their writing, to be not quite part of that gibbering throng, although maybe that's wishful thinking on my part.

My argument isn't that columnists aren't good at what they do — some are very artful indeed. It's just that personally I don't like them very much; on the increasingly rare occasions when I am required to mix with people who do the same job as me, I experience the peculiar and frightening sensation that I am being eaten alive by mice. And I put down my drink and run and promise myself that I will be a better person henceforth.

We have lots of columnists now because this is how things are; the good stuff about journalism — reportage — has been left behind, bullied out of existence by the Internet (which, ironically, is actually useless for accurate, intelligent reportage, but that's another story). Instead, we have this moronic inferno, a high-pitched fugue of endlessly self-referential squeaking, the sonar of a thousand bewildered but nonetheless blithely confident pipistrelle bats, all mothless. And so we have the Jan Moir affair.

Moir writes a column for the Daily Mail — by all accounts a very good column, for the Mail pays better than any of its rivals, and Moir is its most avidly read writer by some margin. I'd never read much of her stuff until this week, the week she came under the cosh from her columnist colleagues on every other newspaper, especially the liberally inclined newspapers. She may also have a Press Complaints Commission (PCC) case to answer, given that 22,000 people complained about the piece in question.

Moir had suggested that there might be something more to the death of the boy-band singer Stephen Gately than the "sugar-coated" encomiums which had appeared in every morning newspaper. She was right about the sugar coating; as always, when a minor and not terribly talented celebrity dies, we had all that fatuous stuff about his incredible, life-affirming genius, how out of the blue it all was. Gately died, apparently of fluid within the lungs, on the sofa of his apartment after a night out in Majorca with his "civil partner" and a mysterious and handsome young Bulgarian chap whom the homosexual couple picked up at a nightclub. Moir implied that Gately's death might not have been quite so unexpected and simple as it appeared, but was perhaps a consequence of his lifestyle and that we needed to know more, rather than simply lay the wreaths while streaming with crocodile tears. There was the intimation of sleaze.

I suspect there was not one person in Britain who, upon hearing the sad news about Gately, did not — even if the thought were quickly banished to the back of their mind — think likewise. I suspect that most of the columnists who complained about Moir's piece — and these include some of the most fabulously stupid people in Britain — will have had that idea at the front of their minds immediately. But it remained unsaid, apart from by ordinary people.

Moir's article provoked swift and misplaced allegations of homophobia against the author; but her comments were homophobic only if you subscribe to the homophobic view that all homosexuals have the sort of lifestyle enjoyed by a minority of homosexual celebrities. The Guardian's Charlie Brooker suggested that Moir was "dancing on the grave" of Gately "for money". As of course, by extension, was Brooker himself. Dance away, Charlie, mate: it's what we do. Those twin pillars of British journalistic idiocy, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Janet Street-Porter — the latter of whom has never yet said or done anything for the benefit, enlightenment, amusement or entertainment of the human race — weighed in with their polystyrene cudgels. Yasmin even linked the Moir article to a perceived failure of the British press to report how absolutely bloody awful the fascist state of Israel is. No, really, just take my word for it; you will not be any better off if you read her characteristically incoherent article. Anyway, there are demands that Moir should apologise, that the Daily Mail should apologise, probably that we all should apologise. As you might imagine, Stephen Fry has become involved.

I do not much like the mindset of the Daily Mail; it seems to me a sour and vengeful and narrow place to inhabit — an arid, airless planet. But if columnists are to have any use at all, other than simply to entertain, then it is surely to have the bravery to say what cannot, in polite company, be said; either to give a voice to a mass opinion which is in some way samizdat and unnaturally repressed, or perhaps to defy the consensus entirely and risk censure for so doing. It seems to me that Moir did the first of those admirably and that there was a kernel of truth to her article. We will find out how much truth in time, I suppose.


By arrangement with the Spectator








IN trying to achieve too much too soon, the present HRD minister, if an improvement over the previous, has promised the moon at the cost of the earth, so to speak. Kapil Sibal, in his anxiety to set up 14 world-class universities, appears to have given short shrift to the mandatory regulations if the concept note is any indication. To begin with, the embroidery "world class" is a matter of subjective reflection. And if the parameters are to be determined by the government or the private players (read entrepreneurs), the idea scarcely inspires much hope. Autonomy is to be welcomed, but it ought to be logical. Mr Sibal's blueprint indicates that the universities on the anvil will be unshackled from the regulatory oversight on such critical issues as the required qualifications for faculty appointments. The apparent underpinning is an excess of riches; expenditure on research and teaching shall be beyond the remit of the CAG.  Arguably, to justify the "world class" tag, the faculty will be drawn predominantly from what the concept note calls "the highly skilled Indian diaspora".

It begs a few questions: (a) will this help check the brain drain? (b) why did they leave the country in the first place? and (c) is there any guarantee that they won't return to their campuses abroad? And if the compulsion was the quest for better pastures, both the national and the state establishments are to blame. Home-grown talent could well be held at a discount. Indian academics may find the dichotomy in the pay-scales frustrating, and the risk of the UGC being reduced to irrelevance is substantial.

"World class" is not synonymous with excellence. And there is little or nothing in Mr Sibal's  plan of action that can ensure that these 14 campuses will be centres of academic excellence. The quality of instruction, learning and research can never be dependent on the financial bounty, in this case delightfully unaudited and with no questions asked in the matter of usage or/and misusage. Unwittingly or otherwise, Mr Sibal has relegated Indian education to the footnotes. The anxiety to rope in private players is all too overriding. Education can never be a corporate enterprise, as he perceives. A still more bloated superstructure can render the foundation out of joint. The minister needs to spare a thought on the primary segment, where kids are dropping out for want of food at midday. Learning can't be posited between Silicon Valley and sub-Saharan Africa, to summon Amartya Sen's analogy.







Afghanistan is in a flux as must be the USA's dealings with that volatile and fractious country. It must also be a bitter irony for the administration that a month that witnessed Barack Obama winning the somewhat denuded Nobel prize ~ and not for peace alone ~ has also been one of the deadliest in terms of American involvement in the eight-year war against the Islamist militant. The setback additionally has been suffered in terms of diplomacy. The death of 55 US soldiers this week was shattering enough for the morale of those engaged in the operations. The very rationale of the engagement is once again open to question with the resignation of Matthew Hoh, a senior American diplomat in Afghanistan, in a move that mirrors his disagreement with US policy. He is the first diplomat to put in his papers, and the discord within the administration is now in the open. Mr Hoh has asked a crucial question, "why and to what end?".

Decorated with the Nobel, this is the question that President Obama must now address. And almost inevitably, the deaths in the span of a week and the diplomat's resignation will intensify the pressure as he sets about charting his course of action. Indeed, the formulation of any strategy will be influenced, if not hobbled, by the deaths and dissent. The choice will not be easy as he is already under pressure to increase the number of troops. He can either accede to the army commander's pitch for a "surge" in troop numbers or reorient US policy altogether. The contours may not be clear anytime soon not least because Afghanistan will have to go through the motions of a run-off election after another fortnight. The country's internal stability or otherwise will almost certainly be a crucial determinant. In a way, the delay has been caused by Hamid Karzai's belatedly grudging acceptance of a second round. The US strategy can be spelt out only after a clear-cut winner emerges. In other words, the electoral fraud must first be out of the way before America refashions its engagement, if at all.







AMONG cricket's many features is the attention the umpires attract. True, some critical decisions are made by referees in football, boxing and so on, but the "men in white coats" (that's what they donned before TV demanded coloured clothing) are special. Only diehard fans would recall the names of arbiters in other sports but Dickie Bird, Steve Bucknor, Piloo Reporter, Simon Taufel, Billy Bowden ~ a few more perhaps ~ roll off the tongue so very easily: so too one or two others not mentioned, but not for the best of reasons. Experts and novices alike would be unable to come up with a determination of who was the best of them all: but there would be no two opinions that the most lovable in recent times was David Shepherd, who was stumped by cancer on Wednesday. For even as ultra-sophisticated technology offered instant analysis of umpiring decisions, using data not available to the man required to raise, or not raise, the dreaded finger, "Shep" enjoyed the confidence of the most competitive of players even in tense, "needle" situations. Sure he made his share of mistakes, a couple of howlers perhaps, but nobody on the field or off it ever accused him of bias. His credentials were a high degree of professionalism, experience, and requisite firmness. All animated with the "human touch".
Shep's record is impressive: officiating in 92 Tests, 172 ODIs which took in three World Cup finals, and a rather successful batting career with Gloucestershire before opting for the demanding job. Yet even more memorable was the good-natured, humorous way in which the portly gentleman undertook his duties. Not just his "signature" dancing on one foot when the score was on 111, 222 or 333, but the smile when he turned down a vociferous appeal or directed some hotheads to "cool it". His allure was international: is it not a shame that umpires no longer "stand" before home crowds in Test matches? For if a request was made for a genuinely "neutral" umpire, Shep's name would top the list. Many a rich tribute has been paid to him, but one line from equally competent Dickie Bird's eulogy strikes at the heart ~ "he was a good bloke".







UNHQ, 29 Oct: Train drivers from all over the world will be on board a one-time train that will start from Kyoto in Japan and will reach Copenhagen in one month, to galvanise political will and garner public support for reaching a comprehensive global climate agreement in December.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched this symbolic expedition, which will cover a 9000 kilometre journey to connect the city where the last binding climate change treaty was negotiated (Kyoto Protocol) to the stage of next critical agreement.

"We are on the road to nowhere if existing policies and economic models prevail with their over-emphasis on private cars and on shifting shipments of goods to the roads," UNEP chief Mr Achim Steiner. 
"The Train to Copenhagen project is a showcase of sustainable transport solutions that will be part and parcel of a resource-efficient, low-carbon Green Economy of the 21st century," he added.

The train, actually a carriage, will travel across the globe through Russian Siberia and into Europe. Environmental experts will report on global warming on their journey.








THE Maoists have launched an all-out war on the Indian state with attacks on police stations, security patrols and the hijacking of the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express. This has provoked the government to plan indiscriminate action. However, as the Indian State makes verbal assertions of meeting the Maoist challenge, the chinks in its frontline armour are exposed with the Maoists retaliating at will. Also, the debate on the strategy, such as the use of the IAF and the Army, has spilled over from within the government and sounds rather puzzling.

A particularly worrying aspect of the government's response is to totally de-legitimise the intelligentsia and the fears expressed by them regarding the poor tribal population falling in the collateral damage zone. They are in any case bearing the brunt of doubled-edged violence ~ from the Maoists and the security establishment.
There can be no questioning that the space the Indian State has conceded to the Maoists over the past 25 years has to be retrieved. The legitimacy of the democratic Indian State is unexceptionable. That the mayhem and violence perpetrated by the Maoists in the so- called Compact RevolutionaryZone (CRZ) and other areas has to be ended is also beyond question, whatever the revolutionary logic they may use.
'Surgical operation'

HOWEVER, a series of complex questions arise. Notably, the accuracy of the Union government's 'surgical operation' without any damage to other social organs, the nexus of the Maoists with mainstream politicians in all the states, the general weaknesses of the police, the inherent brutality in the police culture for which innocents have to suffer, the efficacy of the use of paramilitary forces, the implications of using the defence forces and the critical question whether a violent solution would be a lasting one.

Let me begin with the last issue. Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionary politics in India has a history going back to the Telangana movement (1946-51). It was tamed through land reforms (including the Bhoodan movement), force and finally after Stalin's diktat in 1951. However, a similar movement at Naxalbari in West Bengal (1967) had an enduring trajectory, compared to Telangana.  It demonstrated that revolutionary politics was not dead in India. The Naxalbari movement was suppressed with force in 1972, but the glowing embers got ignited in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh in the late 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the graph of Maoist politics has been moving upwards with each decade.

The beginning of the new millennium witnessed an unexpected union of three discordant groups, making them even more lethal. As we move on to the second decade of this century, 223 districts (out of about 626) and 2000 police stations in twenty states are afflicted with Maoist violence. The present movement is not even an ideological shadow of the three previous ones. Which makes it obvious that Maoist politics in India has not been conclusively tamed with violent repression.


For over two decades when the challenge was building up, the Indian state, ruled by a rainbow of parties at the Centre and in the affected states, had issued strong warnings after every incident. The extremists kept exposing the chinks in the state's armour. The needle of responsibility turns to the governments (state and Union), the political parties and the leadership in general. The national parties ~ the Congress, the BJP and the Left ~ and the regional parties that have shared power at different levels are in the dock for allowing the menace to expand.
The nexus between mainstream politics and politicians and the so-called revolutionary politics has created avoidable complications in confronting Maoist violence politically and strategically. A critical analysis of what has actually led to the expansion of the Maoists and how they have succeeded in creating a CRZ and a 'red corridor' has never been attempted. A mix of political imprudence and inefficiency as well as the deficit of governance have created pockets of discontent that have been exploited over the years.

Police weaknesses

WHILE the areas under the Maoist zone expanded, the securitymen suffered casualties. And yet the governments merely issued warnings. Recent incidents on attacks on cops and police stations expose the weaknesses of the first line of defence, which in any case has been notorious only for corruption, inefficiency and its violent culture. To the extent that a section of the police is now demanding security to meet the Maoist challenge.

Obviously, the onus of doing away with this challenge has been placed on the paramilitary, with the defence forces lurking in the background. The damage, collateral and political, is being accepted as the unavoidable price. Of course, the less said about experiments such as Salwa Judum the better. Political expediency and incoherence have ruled the roost.

That the likes of Kobad Gandhy and Anuradha, Vernon Gonsalves, Saketh Rajan, Sridhar Shriniwasan, Sabyasachi Panda, Ravi Sarma and B. Anuradha, all well-educated middle class persons, sacrificed their comfortable lives to struggle for the poor and the exploited illustrates that there is something substantive beyond the romance of revolution. Which is why these people are part of the movement. Recent events from Kalinganagar to Singur and Nandigram have demonstrated the adverse impact of globalisation and liberalisation if local factors are not taken into consideration.

The key to success is to make the Maoists irrelevant. It is surprising that the government seems to have ignored the report on the extremist-affected areas, prepared by the Planning Commission's expert group.








Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has launched a drive to speed up liberalisation of the EU's trade with the Third World. And there are increasing indications that the Obama Administration in Washington is soon likely to join with Europe and Japan and indicate its willingness to attempt to complete the Doha trade round, meant to lower tariffs across the board. The trade ship, which seemed to have hit the rocks just over a year and a half ago, has been prized free and is once again sailing on the high seas with the wind behind it.

And so it should. Eighteen months on it appears even more nonsensical than it did at the time that the seasoned diplomats and politicians gathered together for earnest negotiations on freer trade should have allowed their plans to be scuttled. Moreover, the journalistic reporting was shoddy in the extreme, making it appear as if Third World delegates were of the same wrecking spirit, when it has been obvious for years now that the pacesetters in the Third World are the ones who favour freer trade the most.

Thus, it has taken the best part of a year for the smoke to clear and now at last some sense is starting to be spoken. As Mexico's finance minister has argued, rapid wage growth among workers in Mexico's export industries proved that developing countries have the most to gain from globalisation. "It is the privileged who have lost because of globalisation, and it is the poor who have better opportunities," he said.

Third World countries have come to realise the last thing they need to do is to emulate the cripplingly expensive system of protectionism and subsidies that the industrialised countries hand out, mainly now for agriculture but, in the not so distant past, for a whole range of industries. On agriculture alone the West is spending $350 billion a year. As one wag has observed, "That is enough to pay to fly every cow in the Western countries around the world once each."

Nicholas Stern, the former chief economist of the World Bank, has said that as a start rich countries should unilaterally open their markets to duty-free imports from the 48 poorest countries. In too many cases the industrialised countries discourage imports of precisely those products that developing nations can produce most competitively, costing these impoverished countries far more in lost export opportunities than they receive in aid. Fruit and vegetables face some of the highest tariffs. Why should the US have a tariff of 120% on groundnuts, Europe a 130% tariff on above-quota bananas and Japan a 170% tariff on raw sugarcane?
Cynics will say the World Bank and other liberal observers have been making such points for decades and what is new? What is new is that no one in power in the industrialised countries is today seriously querying the argument. As the Financial Times recently reported, "Representatives of rich countries make no effort to defend themselves against bitter complaints from developing countries that trade barriers were an obstacle to lifting their economies off the floor".

The right is squared and ready to go. It is the left of the industrialised world's political spectrum that is holding things up. After decades of making arguments like those above it has switched to arguing that the impact of tariff removal will be to encourage western multinationals to invest in Third World countries and then will engage in savage cost-cutting in their drive for profits.

Yet, the evidence available suggests that the "race to the bottom" in labour standards is something of a myth. If there were less trade barriers and therefore fiercer international competition then, as a study of the Organisation for European Cooperation and Development argues, "pressure from other employers will ultimately force a firm that has cut its wages to return the total compensation package to the original level if the firm expects to be able to hire workers."

This is not to say that serious problems such as child labour will disappear overnight but subsidies to keep children in school, as successfully practised in Brazil and Mexico, are more effective than trade sanctions in eradicating such exploitation.

A further opening of the world economy will lift all boats both in the industrialised and the developing world. It is time overdue for making this point the centrepiece of anti-poverty campaigns everywhere. If the lobby groups of the western countries devoted the emotional energy they pour into disaster, famine and war relief into this cause it would within a decade change the whole nature of poverty. Free trade must be their clarion call too.

A tribute to Proudhon

Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-65) is described by Bakunin as the father of Anarchism. In the 1840s, along with Bakunin and Marx, he was a major figure in the socialist and revolutionary movements having exerted considerable influence on the Paris Commune of 1871, the French Syndicalist movement and the First International (1864-76). He provided Bakunin with concepts, theorems and ideas which were essential to create an Anarchist doctrine. He was responsible for transforming Bakunin's instinctive revolt against authority into a conscious Anarchist creed establishing the differences between Anarchism and Marxism, both in theory and practice and thus making explicit the split in the international revolutionary movement.

Proudhon was essentially a libertarian identifying freedom to mean total liberation from every possible form of hindrance. He shared his century's optimism that reason and science would bring about social progress and expansion of human freedom. His influence and popularity was also due to catchy sentences like "property is theft", "Anarchy is order" and "God is evil". Unlike Godwin, he was not a philosopher who erected a consistent rational doctrine for he distrusted them as much as he distrusted government structures. He looked upon government as an evil since it represented violence and coercion. He voted against the 1848 French Constitution, despite it being a well formulated document, because it was a constitution. He distrusted and hence rejected the Jacobin tradition during the French Revolution that of a centralised state and economic monopoly.

His analysis of the government and law provided the starting point for the Anarchist creed. He regarded Rousseau's test that none should obey a law, unless the self consented to it, as a yardstick to denounce autocratic governments.

Proudhon's main contribution to political theory was his model of a mutualist society in which social cooperation was ensured without the coercive power of the state. He remained committed to the idea of a social individual thereby arguing a case for the fullest self-development with communal unity. He rejected legal governments because it represented concentrated and coercive authority which was executed by a small group of public officials through fixed and general rules and by threats of physical punishment. However, the only plus point of legal government is its ability to maintain the social order. Proudhon sought to emphasise that while human beings could be compassionate, loving and caring they could also be greedy, vindictive and passionate. Egoism and love are two sides of human nature, most often contradictory and irreconcilable. He sees individualism and desire for association as complementary.

Proudhon found the state as an evil which is why he denounced governments. He did not find the idea of anarchy as absurd and that it was quite rational and concrete as any other proposal. Anarchy implies subordinating political functions to industrial ones and that social order is tantamount to nothing more than transactions and exchanges. This is because contract between autonomous federal units provides the basis for free and fair transactions between individuals or groups without undermining autonomy. His quest was for a free society and here the anarchists, like the early socialists, advocated the ideal of small community of autonomous individuals. Proudhon's ideal is a world of small independent producers ~ farmers and craftsmen who contract with one another freely for their mutual benefit. He disliked parties, rigid structures of thought in form of theories or programmes that everyone had to agree to.

Proudhon refused to label his ideal society as a "utopia" for the term suggests finality and fixity. Utopias place intolerable limits on freedom while Proudhon advocated freedom for every generation to solve their own problems in a way that they think fit. He repudiated class war and opposed trade unionism. He did not advocate sudden expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the abolition of the state. He proposed, instead, the need to create within the capitalist society, cooperatives and exchange banks as that would convince, those who desire justice, of the immorality of the capitalist system and would end both exploitation and the state. For him, socialism is primarily a solution for a moral problem, namely the deliverance of the individuals from the fetters that are imposed on them by the industrial system. He was not a communist as communism for him had nothing to offer except the extremity of police despotism. He visualised society based on equality, law, liberty and independence. He did not see justice as being ensured by state or government. Instead, it emerges only through a series of free contracts between free individuals as producers would produce goods and commodities and ensure thereby the right to the entire product of their labours. However, this idea of ownership of the means of production by small groups and individuals is in tune with the reality of modern industry. He was ambivalent about industrialism as accepting it meant enforcing the overtly centralised state which he essentially distrusted.
The later Anarchists set aside Proudhon's ideal in favour of Bakunin's reconciliation of industrialism and anarchism, and collective ownership for that makes the doctrine more viable for modern times. An Anarchist society, for Proudhon, would be established by a revolution which would emerge from the bottom rather than the top.

Proudhon was not against the institution of private property as he was against its abuses or the power it gave to the owner. He thought it was essential that every individual owned his own home together with the tools and land necessary for one's work. A minimum of property was necessary for maintaining one's independence and liberty. He objected to communism as it did away with personal ownership of property altogether. He defended the law of inheritance. He defined liberty as absence of restraints. The only obligation that he recognised was the one that is self-imposed.

Liberty manifests itself into free association and contract and exemplifies the true nature of society. Liberty is not possible with centralised government. For the protection of human liberty the role of the state is to be limited. Liberty and state lie at the opposite end for the state stands for power and power is incompatible with liberty. In his defence of liberty against the state, Proudhon focused on the social contract and political obligation. The essence of the social contract is mutuality, free exchange and reciprocity. Proudhon favoured the use of universal suffrage for no radical transformation of society could be brought about by means tied to the existing order of things. He also ruled out war and institutionalised violence to bring about basic changes though he defended spontaneous violence for that would help the anarchist cause before the revolution and rectify the balance of power after it.

Proudhon, like Marx, did not attempt to sketch a blueprint about the future society though he gave us full details about the shortcomings of the existing order. Having rejected centralised authority he defended the idea of federalism, the political framework of his future society. The main reason for Proudhon's rejection of the state and political authority was because of his belief that the contract was the only moral bond between free individuals. Human dignity demands respect for autonomy and the true justice could only be founded on liberty and dignity. His rejection of authoritarian centralised conception of politics, particularly that of Robespierre and the community oriented theories of Saint Simon and Fourier was because Proudhon regarded these as a threat to individual freedom. These very sentiments became the basis of his subsequent dislike for communism. Hence, he proposed economic reforms rather than changes in the political structure. Moreover, if changes are to be brought about then it is workers who should do so.

In April 1848, he proclaimed: "That the proletariat must emancipate itself without the help of the government" and reiterating the same on 15 October, 1848: "The people alone operating on itself without intermediaries can complete the economic revolution whose foundation was laid in February. The people alone can save civilisation and make humanity advance".

Proudhon insisted that the state should play an active role and bring about the social and economic reforms and transformation. "It is necessary to centralise commerce, agriculture and industry; to proportion production to needs; to treat with care mineral resources, to support and augment vegetables; (and) it is necessary to regulate the workshop, to police the market, to convert into tax the rent of the capitalist, to Republicanise... Property".
Prior to 1849, Proudhon favoured active state intervention in the economy. The position shifted later for he began to doubt whether politics would cure society of its social evils.

For Proudhon, federalism represented a way of life, of developing a new conception of civic virtue. It provides the potential framework within which people learn to govern themselves by reason. It facilitates the development of freedom and decentralisation of political life. His federalism is non-hierarchical and decentralised. The authority of the federal government should not exceed those of the local authorities. Unlike the centralised authoritarian state, the new federation would encourage active participation of citizens and resurrect the civic or republican ideal that unitary states foster. He felt that there was not much to choose between a monarchy and a democracy when it came to the question of freedom of citizens.
Though Proudhon's name is intrinsically linked to Anarchism he may not be labelled as an anarchist because of three reasons: First is the economic reason; he saw exchange as an integral part of his vision of society. Since exchange also implies mutual transfer of property it is difficult to reconcile his idea of economic contract with his declaration of property as theft, a proposition that forms the basis of his moral critique of capitalism. Similarly, his stress on workers' associations to mediate reciprocal and equitable exchange within a federal framework does not tally with his claim of being an anarchist. His belief that the state would be eliminated if the control of the productive process was returned to the workers was diluted when he realised that such associations were driven by competition. He hoped optimistically that economic gain would be eliminated if the workers assumed control, though he acknowledged that personal gain is the motivating factor in individual and collective labour.

A society based on mutual exchange of property would need the necessary incentives to work and also provide the requisite safeguards for the protection of personal liberty. With many associations in the fray, the state is also needed as a referee or an arbiter to settle contractual disputes. The second concerns Proudhon's conception of the political. He admitted the need for the state in federalism but was unwilling to concede that the state far from withdrawing would entrench itself even more. While discussing the relationship between liberty and authority he accepted grudgingly the permanence of politics preventing him from depending on the state.
Thirdly, since human egocentrism is enduring it would result in economic and political dispute. Even the federalism would not be free form this and hence the need for a state as a restraining machinery.
Production was against the state conceptually and authoritarian state socialism specifically. This set him apart from utopian communists like Cabet and moderate socialists like Blanc, both of whom he criticised relentlessly. He favoured centralised authority like Rousseau though he described the latter as "the Geneva charlatan". He was against the authority of the state and the church and helped in the formulation of the theoretical basis of Anarchism.

Marx criticised Proudhon for his lack of knowledge in economics, his misunderstanding of Hegelian philosophy, a moralistic conception of socialism and a reactionary petty bourgeois utopia. He dismissed Proudhon as an apologist for petit bourgeois private property. Proudhon's socialism is Janus faced, according to Lichtheim as he "pointed simultaneously to the past and to the future, to rural populism and to urban syndicalism, to the peasant and to the worker. The founder of Anarchism was also the defender of a traditional life which the industrial revolution had disintegrated".

Many of Proudhon's arguments were revived by Sorel, the father of the French Syndicalist movement. Proudhon's outlook was puritanical and conservative. He was anti liberal. He considered the principle of federalism as the alpha and omega of his political and economic ideas as he was not thinking of a confederation of states or of a world federal government but of a basic principle of human organisation.

It is for the aforesaid reasons that despite lack of clarity and despite his formulations containing plenty of contradictions he has wielded considerable influence on contemporary political discourse.

Subrata Mukherjee is former

Professor of Political Science,

University of Delhi, South Campus,

and Sushila Ramaswamy is the

Associate Professor in Political Science, Jesus and Mary College, New Delhi








Friendship, almost by definition, is a two-way process. Unrequited friendship is as empty a concept as a relationship without trust. Thus the prime minister's announcement in Kashmir that India would not be wanting in friendship towards Pakistan if the latter sincerely addresses the problem of terrorism. The condition stated by the prime minister somewhat negates the expectation of reciprocity embedded in the statement of Manmohan Singh. As is evident, the people and the government of Pakistan are also victims of terrorism. Islamabad, at one time, sponsored terrorist attacks on India, but it has now become the target of the monster that it created and unleashed. What is even more dangerous for the region is that no one in Pakistan seems to be in any position to suppress and eradicate terrorism. This means that the hand of friendship that Mr Singh has extended towards Pakistan on behalf of the people of India will be hanging in mid-air without another hand to shake it on the other side. This is a surreal situation.


What is important to appreciate in this situation is the position of the Indian prime minister — not just of Mr Singh but even of most of his predecessors. Mr Singh is committed to the development of India. He knows that this is not possible — or at least it is not possible at the rate at which Mr Singh wants India to develop — unless there is peace in the region and with Pakistan in particular. It is with this perspective in mind that the prime minister has repeatedly spoken about India's desire to establish a durable peace with Pakistan. But this noble desire cannot be divorced from the political reality, however mundane it might be. India cannot sacrifice its interests and allow foreign nationals to carry out acts of violence on Indian territory. At the intersection of India's intentions to establish friendship and the hard reality falls the shadow of political uncertainty in Pakistan. Whatever might be the sentiments of the political leadership in Islamabad, it is in no position to guarantee that terrorism will be brought to an end. There is no doubt that there are strong and entrenched vested interests within the Pakistan establishment that do not want peace with India. India cannot ignore those interests and the policies they push for and often perpetrate. The fissures in the Pakistan polity help the terrorist and undermine sincere efforts to actualize the promise of peace.








Pakistan must be looking at the face of terror with unceasing wonder and disbelief. Peshawar has been attacked twice within days, and with even greater impunity the second time, resulting in a staggering death toll. What the ghastly bombing of the Meena Bazar establishes beyond doubt is that terrorists not only continue to escape the dragnet of security in Pakistan but are also privy to the best-kept State secrets. The Peshawar bombing coincided with the first visit of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state of the United States of America, a fact zealously kept away from the public owing to security reasons. The re-targeting of Peshawar seems aimed at both making a mess of a meticulously orchestrated public relations exercise between the US and Pakistan governments and, perhaps more importantly, reiterating a simple point that the Pakistan Taliban have been harping on: Pakistan's friendship with the US is doing it more harm than good. Given that a majority of Pakistanis who have to risk journeys to marketplaces already believes that, the idea, it is being expected, may soon prove to be too overwhelming for the civilian government to sidestep. The drone attacks before, and now the South Waziristan operation, which continues to displace and imperil the lives of increasing numbers of people, could be trusted to add force to the reshaping of public opinion in Pakistan. In Afghanistan, similar scare tactics are at work.


It is unlikely that the Taliban strategy will work in as simple a way as it looks. In Afghanistan, the US has re-stated its commitment to stay put and even to increase troops. In Pakistan, greater damage wrought by the Taliban has brought about greater cooperation between the two governments and more civilian aid (Ms Clinton only just announced an aid bonanza). But it is precisely because of these developments that the Taliban may be getting closer to their goal. The rapport between the US and its allies in the war against terror might not have been greater, but never before has it been made to appear more 'unholy'. Hamid Karzai, steadily losing his grip on power despite all the help from his Western allies, is keenly aware of this. So is perhaps Pakistan's civilian government, in the line of fire from both the army and the Taliban for betraying the nation and the faith. The pressure is showing. Unable to take responsibility for either the army or the Taliban, it now blames India for its difficulties.









Nearly 25 years ago, I shared a pot of afternoon tea at a hotel in St. James's with Enoch Powell, then on the margins of British politics as a Unionist member of parliament for the idyllic South Downs in Northern Ireland. It was a freewheeling conversation that touched, among other things, on his memories of wartime India, his obsession with the classics and the massacre of the English language by journalists. But the conversation inevitably veered to that infamous "Rivers f blood" speech of April 1968 which lost him his position in the Conservative Party and cast him as an untouchable.


Powell initially tried to make light of the fact that his allusion to the Sibyl's prophecy of the "River Tiber foaming with much blood" had been completely misconstrued by hacks, presumably untutored in the classics: "Maybe I should have said it in Latin." In a more serious vein, he lamented the breakdown of traditional communities and the disorientation of ordinary, decent people by widespread immigration into the United Kingdom. "Tell me," he asked piercingly, "was it fair to either the Brummie or the Pathan? They are very different peoples; they have different cultures."


Powell was not speaking from ignorance. He knew the English Midlands, having represented Wolverhampton, a town that grew out of the Industrial Revolution; he knew the "Pathan", his shorthand for the Pakistani immigrants who had taken advantage of their Commonwealth status to work in the factories during the immediate post-war boom; he knew Urdu, having studied it during the war; and he had imbibed the romance and grandeur of India in a manner reminiscent of Lord Curzon and Rudyard Kipling. In an article in 1974, he had touchingly compared the relationship of Britain and India to a "shared hallucination".


Ironically, on all the four counts invoked by Hain, the Cambridge-educated Griffin, who speaks with a pronounced non-U accent, deserved a hearing regardless of how repugnant his views were. Diversity, after all, cannot be confined to merely a celebration of cultures that originated outside the Sceptred Isle. Minority currents include the angry, under-achieving white working classes, particularly in the rust belts of northern England, which have provided sustenance to the BNP.


A Joseph Rowntree Foundation-sponsored research released earlier this month admitted that "traditional white, working-class communities have been left behind by the pace of social change in modern Britain". In a construct reminiscent of the deprivation rhetoric hitherto reserved for vulnerable ethnic minorities, it argued that "the reduction in social housing, greater competition for jobs, unstable employment, and breakdown of traditional community bonds through institutions like trade unions and clubs and societies has [sic] turned what were some of the country's strongest communities — celebrated in soaps like Coronation Street and EastEnders — into isolated, fractured groups, where perceptions of unfairness can drive people to take extremist views". Educationally, says the report, children from poor, white working-class families are the worst under-achievers.

Pepper the narrative of the Rowntree report with declamations against a "sham" democracy and venal multinational corporations, and Arundhati Roy's characteristically feisty understanding of Maoist extremism in India isn't very dissimilar.


Britain has a serious white problem on its hands. Logically, there isn't a direct correlation between immigration and the decline of manufacturing in northern England. If anything, cheap labour from the New Commonwealth helped sustain British competitiveness for longer than economics warranted. And in sectors such as coal mining, where communities preserved their ethnic compactness, the decline was linked to militant trades unionism rather than cheap, foreign labour.

The sense of white vulnerability, it would seem, is nominally economic. In the rust belt of the Midlands, the Pakistani and black communities aren't comparatively better off — though the Asians have a better record of generating self-employment. A pre-existing cultural schism has been deepened by the feeling among whites that no one cares and that there are no serious attempts to either stop immigration from within the European Union or detect and deport illegal immigrants and spurious asylum seekers.


White rage has been fuelled by the antipathy to a liberal consensus that makes it illegitimate for the non-kosher side of the immigration debate to be heard. When marginalized white English folk read of Islamist outrages in Britain and encounter people who want to reproduce the culture of Waziristan, including the sharia law, in Lancashire, they are both bewildered and angry. This resentment has given the likes of the BNP the political opening to rail against the cosy consensus in Westminster.


Griffin is not Powell. His anti-immigration populism and his concern for British and Christian values conceal a warped mind. The BNP leader believes in eugenics, dotes on the Ku Klux Klan, comes close to questioning the Holocaust and has a taste for pseudo-history. He truly belongs to the fringe. Yet, the BNP polled nearly a million votes this year, much, much more than the charismatic Sir Oswald Mosley and the National Front could ever dream of. What made the difference is not the economic recession or even Britain's visible descent into irrelevance. At the heart of the BNP surge is the despair over the collapse of a way of life and visceral rage against a cosmopolitanism that happened too fast and without sensitivity.


History will record whether the BNP is actually a threat to the British consensus or just a freak storm. For the moment, what strikes an outsider is the iniquity of suppressing a rounded debate on immigration and multiculturalism. Ethnocentric views of national identity cannot be silenced by legislation or, worse, drowned in a sea of condescension. Had Powell not been edged out of the mainstream after 1968, English nationalism wouldn't have turned so nasty.








Twenty-five years ago, on the morning of October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi was mercilessly gunned down by her personal bodyguards. Nothing merits this kind of mindless violence, and Indians were stunned. It seemed like a repeat of the frightful assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Both leaders were victims of sectarian madness and, ironically, both were intrinsically secular in the best definition of the word. What followed the two tragedies was the exact opposite of what Gandhiji, Indira as well as her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, would have wanted to witness, let alone condone. The wide scale killings of innocent Sikhs across Delhi were carried out by bands of Congress workers under the direction of scheming and corrupt office-bearers of the party who wanted to win brownie points and to assert their 'loyalty' to the 'high command' by taking revenge. The riots scarred our nation forever.


Indira Gandhi was an extraordinary leader. A complex personality with a strong and determined exterior that complemented her vulnerable traits, she cared deeply for her country. Her antecedents had infused her with a passion and a commitment for India. Some opposed her vehemently, others embraced her and forgave her when she went wrong. She left a distinct impression on the political and intellectual landscape, and in this she remains unmatched.

There hasn't been an adequate biography that portrays the many nuances of her character, her dreams and aspirations and her failures that stemmed from having to deal with volatile personal contradictions. Diverse traits of her personality — some fine and evolved, some raw with sharp uneven edges — came together and created a very unusual, lonely woman. Reappraisal and assessment of the personal and political life of Indira Gandhi are required. Her home, which is now a museum, attracts approximately 10,000 visitors every day. They come from different parts of India to pay homage to a woman with whom they connected.



She was a deft politician who meticulously moved to split the Congress party. She stood apart from the then old, archaic leadership. India was electrified with hope — the people were looking at this woman, a young leader, for a better future. In those days, in the late 1960s, Indira Gandhi represented someone who had broken away from the dull and predictable political class that resisted generational changes in values, aspirations and demands. By her sheer proactive presence at the helm of India, she empowered women with a strong sense of belonging, which, in turn, generated much pride in them.


Her aura, in those early years, was overwhelming. Indira Gandhi honoured traditional artisans and fiercely protected the natural treasures of India by instituting laws to protect what was left. She was also the architect of a non-government organization to protect the larger culture of India — its inherent skills and its natural environment. She tried hard to ensure that the fundamental strengths of our pluralistic civilization are respected and allowed to blossom.


She understood India and Bharat and, unlike other politicians, knew that any alienation from the cultural roots would impoverish India. She intervened forcefully to conserve and rejuvenate everything in India's cultural ethos that Indians everywhere were familiar with. Her colleagues and the babus who ruled India — every one of them trying to escape their cultural reality for an alien, plastic world in the sterile West — let her down and destroyed the strengths of this subcontinent. Today, the desecration of the country's forests, natural resources and the skills of this land is all too apparent. The prevailing anarchy and governments in denial of critical issues have diluted our sense of personal and collective pride.








The turf war that has broken out between Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa and his opponents in the BJP led by the 'Reddy brothers' could not have come at a worse time. The entire north Karnataka which was devastated by unprecedented floods last month, is yet to recover fully and thousands of families that were rendered homeless are still languishing in inadequate relief camps. The chief minister and some of his colleagues were trying hard to raise adequate funds and gear up the administrative machinery to rehabilitate the dispossessed, but the political turmoil that has hit the ruling party has completely derailed the relief operations.
According to government's own estimates, nearly Rs 20,000 crore is required for restoring the collapsed infrastructure and building homes for about two lakh families. Contributions had been pouring in from the general public, corporates as well as the Central government and the next few months were crucial for bringing succour to the unfortunate victims of the calamity. But at this very critical juncture, ministers Janardhana Reddy, Karunakara Reddy and Sriramulu have raised a banner of revolt against Yeddyurappa's 'style of functioning,' bringing the state administration to a grinding halt. Several other ministers and ruling party MLAs, who were also unhappy with the chief minister for one reason or the other, have joined the Reddys' bandwagon, sending the less than 18-month old government into a tailspin. An angry and frustrated Yeddyurappa has sought to hit back at his detractors by shuffling senior officials considered close to the Reddy brothers, but since these officials were working in flood-hit regions, the chief minister's precipitate act has merely exacerbated the situation.

The BJP high command has dispatched senior leader Arun Jaitley on a fire-fighting mission. But the rag-tag central leadership, immersed in its own internal strife and totally demoralised in the face of successive electoral reversals across the country, is hardly in a position to enforce discipline or restore order in its Karnataka unit. Yeddyurappa and his colleagues should realise that they have already done immense damage to their government by indulging in power politics even in the midst of a huge natural calamity. If the chief minister's high-handed style of functioning is the cause of all the troubles, he needs to quickly mend his ways and the others also should retrace their steps from the rebellious path to bring back sanity. It's the least expected of elected leaders in this hour of crisis before the state.









The quest to bring to justice those who masterminded the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims during the 1992-95 wars in the Balkans has moved another step forward. The trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has begun at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. The trial is the most high-profile since that of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. Karadzic faces 11 counts of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities in the Bosnian war. This includes his alleged role in the shelling of Sarajevo during the 44-month-long siege of the city, in which around 12,000 civilians were killed. He is also said to have ordered the massacre of 7,000 Bosniak men in Srebrenica. Until a year ago, it did seem that getting Karadzic to face justice was impossible. For years he enjoyed the protection of the Serbian leadership and remained in hiding. It was only in July 2008 that his luck finally ran out. He was arrested in Belgrade. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

But the sentencing of Karadzic is still a long way off. There are early signs that the trial will not be a smooth process. Karadzic, who has said he would like to plead his own case, has refused to show up at the trial. He claims he needs more time to prepare his case. Indeed, he has over around 1.2 million pages of prosecution evidence and statements of hundreds of witnesses to read. Judges at the ICTY are keen to complete the trial by 2012. It may be recalled that Milosevic had engaged in endless delaying tactics too during his trial. The trial ended without a verdict when the Serb leader died suddenly in 2006, dealing a severe blow to the pursuit of justice. It is likely that the Karadzic is hoping to avoid a verdict as well.

The ICTY must ensure that Karadzic's trial does not go down the Milosevic route. But in trying to speed up the trial judges must preserve legal fairness. The wounds of war are yet to heal in the Balkans. And a trial especially that of someone like Karadzic who still enjoys immense popularity among Bosnian Serbs, that is perceived as unfair, will only reopen the wounds. The ICTY must tread carefully.









Twenty years have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the shameful symbols of the Cold War and the dangerous division of the world into opposing blocks and spheres of influence. Today we can revisit the events of those times and take stock of them in a less emotional and more rational way.

The first optimistic observation to be made is that the announced 'end of history' has not come about, though many claimed it had. But neither has the world that many politicians of my generation trusted and sincerely believed in: one in which, with the end of the Cold War, humankind could finally forget the absurdity of the arms race, dangerous regional conflicts, and sterile ideological disputes and enter a golden century of collective security, the rational use of material resources, the end of poverty and inequality, and restored harmony with nature.

Another very important consequence of the end of the Cold War is the realisation of one of the central postulates of New Thinking: the interdependence of extremely important elements that go to the very heart of the existence and development of humankind.

Naturally, we politicians from the last century can be proud of the fact that we avoided the danger of a thermonuclear war. However, for many millions of people around the globe, the world has not become a safer place. Quite to the contrary, innumerable local conflicts and ethnic and religious wars have appeared like a curse on the new map of world politics, creating large numbers of victims.

Clear proof of the irrational behaviour and irresponsibility of the new generation of politicians is the fact that defence spending by numerous large and small countries alike is now greater than during the Cold War, and strong-arm tactics are once again the standard way of dealing with conflicts and a common feature of international relations.

Alas, over the last few decades the world has not become a fairer place: disparities between the rich and poor either remained or increased not only between the North and the developing South but also within developed countries themselves. The social problems in Russia, as in other post-communist countries, are proof that simply abandoning the flawed model of a centralised economy and bureaucratic planning is not enough and guarantees neither a country's global competitiveness nor respect for the principles of social justice or a dignified standard of living for the population.

New challenges can be added to those of the past. One of these is terrorism. In a context in which world war is no longer an instrument of deterrence between the most powerful nations, terrorism has become the 'poor man's atomic bomb,' not only figuratively but perhaps literally as well.

The uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the competition between the erstwhile adversaries of the Cold War to reach new technological levels in arms production, and the presence of the new pretenders to an influential role in a multipolar world all increase the sensation of chaos in global politics.
The crisis of ideologies that is threatening to turn into a crisis of ideals, values, and morals marks yet another loss of social reference points and strengthens the atmosphere of political pessimism and nihilism. The real achievement we can celebrate is the fact that the 20th century marked the end of totalitarian ideologies, in particular those that were based on Utopian beliefs.

Yet new ideologies are quickly replacing the old ones, both in the East and the West. Many now forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall was not the cause of global changes but to a great extent the consequence of deep, popular reform movements that started in the East and the Soviet Union in particular. After decades of the Bolshevik experiment and the realisation that this had led Soviet society down a historical blind alley, a strong impulse for democratic reform evolved in the form of Soviet Perestroika, which was also available to the countries of eastern Europe.

But it was soon very clear that western capitalism, too, deprived of its old adversary and imagining itself the undisputed victor and incarnation of global progress, is at risk of leading western society and the rest of the world down another historical blind alley.

Today's global economic crisis was needed to reveal the organic defects of the present model of western development that was imposed on the rest of the world as the only one possible; it also revealed that not only bureaucratic socialism but also ultra-liberal capitalism are in need of profound democratic reform — their own kind of Perestroika.

Today, while we sit among the ruins of the old order, we can think of ourselves as active participants in the process of creating a new world. Many truths and postulates once considered indisputable, in both the east and the west, have ceased to be so, including the blind faith in the all-powerful market and, above all, its democratic nature.

(The writer was a leader of the Soviet Union (1985-1991), who won Nobel Peace Prize)IPS









There is a growing suspicion among an increasing body of economists about taking gross domestic product (GDP) as the true yardstick for development of a nation. Conventional measures of economic success do not take sufficient stock of the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century, they say. GDP, since the 1930s, which calculates the total final market value of all goods and services produced in a country over a set period, has been the main economic indicator used internationally to assess wealth and it is beginning to be discredited on the plea that the welfare of a nation cannot be inferred from a measurement of national income.
The inadequacy of the GDP has been underlined yet again in the poor ranking of India — 134 among 182 on the human development index of the UNDP, an index which goes beyond the GDP of a nation to measure the general well being of people under a host of parameters such as poverty levels, literacy and gender-related issues.

The fundamental weakness of the GDP is that it "cannot distinguish between activities that have a negative and a positive impact on the well-being" of society. India has been buoyed up on a surging GDP, refusing to accept that all is not well.


The World Bank report however took respectful note of India's growing economic might and increasing GDP but added that increasing equality and distribution of wealth is the need of the hour. At a time of global recession, when the growth rate in the USA is zero, India is about to clock a 6 per cent growth rate this year, as a result of cumulative buoyancy in the services sector, manufactures, foreign exchange and stock market.

Some five years ago, the much-hyped BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) report by Goldman Sachs predicted that in dollar terms, India would be the country with the third largest gross domestic product in the world in the next 50 years, which means that India would overtake countries like Japan, Germany and the UK in terms of its GDP. While it is taken as matter of relish, GDP does not take into account important aspects such as leisure time, environmental quality, freedom, or social justice.

That's the paradox in India, high on GDP growth rate but faring poorly in the human development index. The ranking clearly shows India has slipped in comparative terms in ensuring a better quality of life for its citizens as in the previous index, published for 2007 and 2008 together, it ranked 128, while the position the year before was 126.

As migration comes under the banner of 'Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development' in the latest HDI, development-induced displacement in India in infrastructure projects is the new menace, resulting not only in asset and job losses but also in the breakdown of social and food security, credit and labour exchange networks, social capital and kinship ties.

What gives a special tangle to the tale of economic development in India is that in the recent wrangle over the cause of the rise of naxalite violence, lack of development has been cited as the main reason. Union home ministry has urged civil society to ponder over how Maoist violence has not only 'pushed back' the government's development efforts but also affected the poor on many fronts.

Development vs violence

The convergent view that does the rounds is that it is years of underdevelopment and state negligence that are the root causes of the Maoist violence to prosper, that is, the Maoist movement thrived on legitimate grievances unaddressed by the state. Trouble is, both versions hold true of the Indian context. "Develop first and then we lay down arms" runs contrary to "Lay down arms so that we can develop" rigmarole while the message for the government must be to incentivise the poorer chunks consisting mostly the tribal population.

Yes poverty, in sheer statistical terms, is on the decline, compared to what the scenario was, say, in the 1960s or the 1970s. But if one sees the demography of less developed states, some of which are prone to naxalite violence, poverty has been seen to be concentrated in the four least developed states in terms of average Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa.

A UNICEF report says that two-thirds of all maternal deaths in the country come from nine states: Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Assam. Even as urban India witnesses economic progress, technological leap and the software boom, rural India continues to struggle for the fulfilment of basic needs.









Golf is a great teacher, they say. One thing it has taught me is how to make tea. For, rare is the wife who would rise early to fortify his man with a cuppa so he could whack the hell out of dew-dipped grass and a dimpled ball.

But I saw more in the simple chore — an opportunity to ingratiate my sleeping half. So I would make the tea for both of us. I would have mine and leave her in the flask. A few days into it came the compliment, "I can tolerate only one thing — your golf or your tea. Choice is yours." Well, for me the choice was not difficult, for in those days life seemed an endless endeavour to achieve the single digit handicap. Thus, as days passed my golf improved but tea stayed where it was — pedestrian.

But when I hit the plateau ie, a handicap of 17, I looked around for a more substantial activity through which I could actualise my self. The thing that came to mind was tea making. No prize for guessing as to whom I turned for help. One day she watched my effort. In a jiffy I put the ingredient together and set it to boil. She tasted a spoonful and said, "You have two problems. One, you have no taste for tea and two, you are not methodical."

I couldn't figure out which part was more crushing. Having savoured all kinds of tea in the hurly burly of the job of a cop, one gulped down whatever tea was available. One never came to judge the stuff and went by the mantra, "All tea is good tea".

What really amazed me was the second part. That there could be method to tea making one found hard to swallow. But watching her in the act I realised my mistake. To help me she reduced the chore into easy-to-follow steps. The steps one learnt but mastering the precise proportion of the ingredients and the timing when each was to be added took time.

The red-letter day for my tea is best summed up in the diary entry of the day. It reads: I achieved in tea making which is equivalent to a single digit handicap in golf. I was at the course when I got her SMS, "Tea was good".








It's been another dreadful week in the war of civilizations. On Sunday, 153 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in back-to-back car bombings in Baghdad. On Tuesday in Kabul, five UN staffers and three Afghans were killed in an attack on a UN guesthouse. And on Wednesday in Pakistan, 100 people - mostly women and children - were killed and 160 wounded in a shopping district bombing in Peshawar. The week also saw 24 American service personnel killed in Afghanistan, making 58 fatalities for the month - the deadliest since 9/11.


This is a war of civilizations in the sense that Muslim extremists with imperial ambitions are engaged in a zero-sum struggle against the values associated with modernity - liberty, enlightenment and tolerance.


For now, the battle is being played out mostly in Muslim-majority lands, though New York, London, Madrid and Israel's cities have also been killing fields. Western elites have tended to deny, downplay or reject outright the systemic nature of the Islamist menace. Under these circumstances, there has been no real will to mobilize Western publics for the sacrifices ahead.


IN THIS context, a policy review by the Obama administration is now under way, aimed at developing a strategy for Afghanistan. The mission is to keep the country from again becoming a staging area for attacks against Western targets.


Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who commands the 100,000 US and NATO forces on the ground, is asking for an additional 44,000 troops in order to create a string of Taliban-free zones. But regardless of how many more troops are inserted and how they are deployed, no one suggests the Taliban can be defeated militarily or politically.


This week also saw Washington stunned by news of the poignant resignation of Matthew Hoh, a 36-year-old State Department Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain, out of exasperation over the Afghan war.


"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," he wrote to his superiors. "I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."


Hoh continued: "If honest, our stated strategy of securing Afghanistan to prevent al-Qaida resurgence or regrouping would require us to additionally invade and occupy western Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen…"


Hoh's well-founded fear is that a troop presence in xenophobic landscapes fuels indigenous support for the Islamists.


While each front in this global war has its own set of historical, ethnic and religious circumstances, any approach that requires permanently holding territory, combined with an open-ended commitment to nation-building, will prove so costly as to sap what little resolve the American and other Western publics have for the fighting.


Arguably Osama bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks to draw the US into an Afghan quagmire that had chastened the British Empire in the late 1800s and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Empire in the late 1900s. Then-president George W. Bush wisely avoided falling into that trap, but tragically fell into another: Iraq.


AN ALTERNATIVE approach, workable in many theaters, is to employ advanced technologies, preemptive strikes and overwhelming firepower to make it hard for the enemy to organize attacks against Western targets. Of course, this would mean disregarding the whinging of the UN Human Rights Council's Philip Alston, who this week took the Obama administration to task for its policy of targeted assassinations of terrorist chieftains.


Israelis have demonstrated that it is possible to defend their country with precisely the means Alston finds so distasteful against an enemy that is driven by an unfortunate - some would say perverted - reading of Islam. Like other Islamist groups, both Hamas and Hizbullah have no compunction about launching attacks from behind their civilian populations. Yet contrary to the mendacious assertions of the Goldstone Report, our army has protected us without losing its soul.


IT IS too early to say whether the attack on two members of a California synagogue early Thursday was the work of a Muslim extremist. But Thursday's shootout between FBI agents and the imam of a jihadi sect in Detroit can legitimately be tallied together with the week's litany of mayhem - in a war some deny is taking place.








Syrian President Bashar Assad is interested in renewing the negotiations with Israel on getting back the Golan Heights in return for peace. Assad initiated an indirect dialogue with Israel, until recently through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the minute Erdogan fell out with Israel, through Croatian President Stjepan Mesic.

Last week Mesic met with Assad and separately with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to offer his services as mediator and host.

Netanyahu in theory accepted the proposal but in practice turned it down by insisting that the negotiations be direct and without preconditions (translation: without an Israeli commitment to withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines and without reverting to the point when talks stopped under prime minister Ehud Olmert). So Netanyahu set preconditions under the guise of opposing the setting of preconditions.



The Israeli approach to relations with Syria needs to be managed from the end to the start, and the end is a vision of regional peace between Israel and its neighbors. In parallel to efforts to reach a permanent settlement with the Palestinians and without hurting their interests, Israel must seek peace with Syria in the context of Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967: full and secure peace in return for complete withdrawal. Those who do not want such a deal will seek to undermine it using arguments of procedure.


Assad wants to move closer to the bridge of indirect talks, and to do so in two stages. The mediator during the first stage, a non-American, may be a Turk, Croat, Frenchman or someone else; this person would identify the points of dispute and seek to remove them. Only as the two sides approach the bridge would an American mediator be expected to bring the talks under his aegis and prepare a tripartite summit. But the Obama administration should not be idle before this stage. U.S. special envoy George Mitchell and his deputy for Syria and Lebanon, Fred Hof, are meeting with politicians and experts in the region.

What Syria wants to achieve through negotiations is obvious: returns from Israel, and no less important, from Washington. What Israel wants is also clear: in addition to regional peace, the weakening of the Arab opposition front that is being assisted by Iran and which includes Hezbollah and Hamas. Netanyahu thinks Iran is behind nearly everything, but is hesitant to exercise the leadership required by this conclusion.

In the past, Netanyahu spoke indirectly with Hafez Assad, the late father of the current leader in Damascus, through U.S. businessman Ron Lauder. The contacts failed and there is some dispute over what happened. There is no dispute, however, that seeking peace with Syria, through talks between chiefs of staff and shuttle diplomacy by secretaries of state, is a key element in Yitzhak Rabin's diplomatic legacy, which Netanyahu's defense minister, Ehud Barak, says should be seen through. Rabin's memory should extend beyond flowery speeches, eulogies and arguing over the Oslo process. Energized efforts toward peace with Syria would perpetuate the Rabin legacy.









One day many years ago, Haaretz's editor in chief, Gershom Schocken, phoned me at the newspaper. "Mr. Marcus, can I have a word with you?" I hurried over to his room and sat down across from him. When he pushed his glasses up onto his forehead, I understood that something was bothering him. He leaned back in his chair and approached the subject something like this: I've been following your interesting writing, but I've noticed that you focus too much on the same three or four "marbles" - Golda Meir vs. Shimon Peres, Yigal Alon vs. Moshe Dayan, Pinhas Sapir and again Pinhas Sapir, and Moshe Sharett and Pinhas Lavon and so on.

"What can I do? These are the people in the news," I said. Schocken responded that there had to be other subjects as well, from architecture that obscured the scenery to whether to let Wagner be played in Israel. It's important to broaden readers' horizons, and you can do it, he said.

In the years since, I find myself, like many colleagues, concentrating on the same three or four marbles. The names (other than that of Peres) have changed but the ritual repeats. This week Defense Minister Ehud Barak boasted during a tour in the north that calm had returned to the Lebanese border and that not one shot had been fired from there. Unlucky for him, a Katyusha rocket was fired at Israel that very evening. A similar incident happened to Alon; a day after he declared that no Syrian aircraft had been invented that could cross the border with Israel, a Syrian plane flew over the border and caused a sonic boom over Haifa. Excessive arrogance didn't benefit politicians in those days, just as it doesn't now.

Alon, who traveled a great deal, knew that it was unacceptable to stay in ostentatious hotels like the Waldorf Astoria. He chose a hotel in New York named Essex House, which sounded like the equivalent of a simple bed-and-breakfast in Safed, but which was in fact a luxurious and expensive hotel that Sapir loved. This reminder is meant to point out that the names change but the lust for the good life at the public's expense doesn't.

Today's problems are the same old problems. The implementation of UN Resolution from 1947 about dividing Palestine into two countries has not yet succeeded. One time it's the other side's fault, the other time it's ours. Meir decided that there was no Palestinian people while the Palestinians hoped to throw us into the sea. The political rivalry between the nationalist Herut and socialist Mapai parties of blessed memory bordered on seething hatred. When Menachem Begin would get up to speak in the Knesset, David Ben-Gurion would leave the chamber. When B.G. wanted to criticize Begin, he would never use his name but called him "the man who sits next to MK Bader."

But of all the politicians, it was the "fascist" Begin who signed the historic peace treaty with Egypt, dismantled settlements and withdrew to the very last millimeter. And it was he who signed the document recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. Nevertheless, he kicked Moshe Dayan out of the cabinet when he tried to put this into effect.

The leaders of pre-state Israel who were prepared in 1949 to give up large sections of the land in return for recognition from the Arabs took advantage of the Arab's refusal to expand. It was the left's leaders who started the settlements. A settlement policy was never on the right-wing Revisionists' list of things to do. Slowly, war after war, and in the 60th year of its establishment, Israel remains the only country in the world without permanent borders.

The politicians have been lucky over the generations that the United States supports Israel. During one of my visits to South Africa, a tough Afrikaner said to me that if they had had 5 million Afrikaners in America, they would never have given up South Africa. Maybe this is so and maybe not. But there is no doubt that the American Jews' strength has caused even those presidents who have not especially loved Jews to support Israel, or will win their support for Israel in the future.

Israel's leadership today is prepared, on the face of it, for a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Our experience with Yasser Arafat, who won the Nobel Peace Prize with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, was a failure. Even though Arafat truly had the ultimate authority to make decisions, he chose the path of terror. "The leader of a liberation movement cannot bring himself to make concessions," he explained once to an interviewer. Now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is proposing two countries for two peoples. But the status of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has gone to his head; Abu Mazen is threatening that he will not begin talks unless Israel immediately stops all construction in the territories.

Abu Mazen is a weak leader. If he goes ahead with his threat to hold elections, he will lose Gaza. If he goes ahead with his threat to resign, he will fade away completely. Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni held talks with Abu Mazen for about two years but didn't achieve anything. The result will be the same if the talks are renewed.

True, it's easy to write articles about Israel's achievements and values, but we'll wait until the next Independence Day supplement to do so. Meanwhile, the marbles are the same old marbles that lead the country nowhere, and we'll continue to hit them until they learn to be leaders.









Once Israel was known as an exporter of Jaffa oranges. Now it is an exporter of arms, one of the largest in the world. Israel exports arms worth about $6 billion a year. Dozens of former senior officers travel the world trying to sell arms. Their slogan: What is good for the Israel Defense Forces is good for you.

Most of the defense industries are part of the Defense Ministry. They are a few sizes too big for Israel. Therefore, unless they are able to export much of their production, manufacturing their products will not be worthwhile. After all, the IDF is not big enough, and it buys plenty of its equipment in the United States to boot.

India is one of the biggest customers of Israel's defense industries. It buys armaments worth $30 billion a year throughout the world, so the potential is huge. That's why the defense industries went into shock this week when Ilana Dayan's investigative TV show "Fact" detailed grave suspicions that Israeli companies pay bribes to win arms-supply contracts in India. Several reports on this matter have also appeared in Haaretz and TheMarker.

The defense industries are worried about two developments. One is internal - that the report will engender criticism at home about their activities in India. The second is external - that the Indians will stop buying arms from Israel until all the suspicions have been investigated. This concern is not groundless: Israel Military Industries was blacklisted in India following a bribery scandal. That's why Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are very worried.

The defense industries claim that the Indian opposition, which is seeking to embarrass the government, is behind the probe against them there, along with Israel-hating Palestinian groups. But the truth is that American and European diplomats are the ones who are putting all possible pressure on Israel to "behave itself." They in turn are being pressured by defense industries in their own countries, which charge that Israel competes against them unfairly, as the Israelis turn a blind eye to the activities of their agents, who, according to sources in India, do pay bribes.

Until a few years ago, bribes were customarily used to move deals along in the developing world. But today, the West considers this unacceptable. The United States passed a law under which a company's CEO found guilty of paying bribes abroad can be jailed for 20 years. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (whose members are the 30 most developed countries in the world) signed a covenant prohibiting the payment of bribes. Israel has also signed this agreement.

The attorney general recently directed the defense industries to examine their contracts abroad to ensure that they meet OECD guidelines. He also ordered the industries not to pay exaggerated commissions (of 10 to 15 percent), because it would then be clear that some of this money was being allocated for bribes.

If the Indian reports are true, the companies themselves should also be interested in stopping the custom of giving bribes, because there is no end to bribery and it has a tendency to destroy the giver as well as the recipient. The Indian agent might bribe senior officials of Israeli companies (and not just senior officials in India) to continue receiving fat contracts. The moment bribes become acceptable, they give rise to cases like that of Rami Dotan, the former head of equipment procurement for the Israel Air Force, who took bribes from American companies.

The Swedish company Ikea recently decided not to open stores in Russia despite the huge and promising market there. Ikea said it would not enter markets where bribes had to be paid. Plain and simple.

Bribery is like a cancer spreading through society and consuming everything good. The moment business in a certain country can only be done by bribery, good, honest manufacturers will never go there, because they have no chance of winning a tender against corrupt competitors. The inevitable outcome is a failing, backward and poor country.

Therefore, if we want to become a member of the OECD, we have no choice but to adopt its rules of conduct. It is just like wanting to become a member of an exclusive club: You understand that you can't show up there in khaki shorts and sandals; you know you have to buy three-piece suits, wear a tie and be very polite. Otherwise they'll throw you out. But you also know that despite the restrictions club membership imposes and the expenses it entails, you will reap substantial benefits, including new business relationships that will make the expenses worthwhile.

The defense industries, which in fact represent Israel, must take OECD regulations upon themselves because bribery knows no boundaries. Even if it starts abroad, in the end it creeps back home. As the Jewish sources say, once the destroyer is let loose, he does not differentiate between the righteous and the evil.








This week's meeting of the Labor Knesset faction was so interesting that flies fell off the wall at what they heard. "The left is acting like a little boy when it says 'I want peace,'" said the leader who is now also filling his deputy's role. "Like a little boy who wants a toy now and needs an adult to understand," he clarified.

The adult in question, as you've surely guessed, is certainly no little boy. He is already a big boy, with special needs, very special needs. When other, smaller children try to build something out of Lego, he takes apart their watches and their chances, their governments and their parties, their friendships and their commitments, everything in sight. Ehud B., as his name appears on the faded towel from the kibbutz, quite likes immediate gratification and the most expensive toys, but he is willing to share them only with his family, not with the friends he doesn't have; they have had it with the damage done by this problem child.

For about 10 years now, like a mockingbird, he has been leading the chant that there is no one to talk to. In the faction meeting he added a reason: Mahmoud Abbas - who is now preparing for an impending election, for a fateful campaign against Hamas - cannot be a reasonable partner because he will radicalize his positions for the election.

Hold on now - wasn't it Barak who, just a few days before he himself faced elections, and without a majority in the Knesset, held talks with the Palestinians in Taba? Did he not clutch at them, like a drowning man clutching at a straw, in the hope that some "nonpaper" paper would save him from defeat at the last minute? But he pushes Abbas away with this very same straw.

He raked Daniel Ben-Simon, that tamed rebel, over the coals at the meeting: "You should be careful in your criticism because the other side can hear you." We have not heard such a charge since Golda's day. True, it is not always pleasant when the "other side" listens, writes things down and even quotes you. Sometimes I would be informed that the official Syrian newspaper Tishreen had printed quotes attributed to me. I would be embarrassed for a moment, but just for a moment. If we don't want to be Syrians, there is no choice but to speak in, and listen to, more than one voice. Does Barak, deep in his heart, want to be Assad, without all the nudniks around him?

Imagine Barack Obama castigating his vice president, who is known to object to sending more troops to Afghanistan: "Joe, watch your mouth, the Taliban and Al-Qaida are listening closely." But what a ridiculous comparison that is, considering the people involved: their people of tomorrow as opposed to our people of yesterday.
Everyone has their own nightmares, particularly in the autumn. Lately, when I sleep, I've been hearing a voice whispering: "There are only two candidates left in this country, and you have no alternative but to choose between them - Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak."

A gun is pressed against my head. I break out in a cold sweat, cry out in my sleep and wake up terrified. If that happened in reality, and not only in a nightmare, I might vote Bibi rather than Barak, if only to redeem just a little of the honor of the Israeli left, which Rabin's "heir" will be representing at tomorrow's memorial rally. And why should Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon, who also hails from a kibbutz, not be part of the Labor movement as well? Next year in Rabin Square.








It is a bitter irony that Israel's international image has plummeted so low precisely during the term of Benjamin Netanyahu, that well-known "Mr. Public Relations," the diligent reader of biographies who is convinced that with a polished speech of the Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy variety (but without their deeds), he can change the zeitgeist and reverse historic trends.

The irony is even more bitter because Netanyahu today cannot even capitalize on those traits that normally redound to his credit: his indecision, his ability to correct himself and his vacillation - traits that his predecessors, from Shimon Peres through Ehud Barak to Ehud Olmert, lacked, and whose lack caused them to become embroiled in brutal military operations whose bitter fruits we are now harvesting.

Moreover, during the terms of those brutal men, who spoke broken English with a terrible accent, Israel was welcomed throughout the world with open arms - whereas today, despite relative quiet on the security front, an American accent and rhetorical talent, Israel has become ostracized and is under attack in almost every international forum.

Of course it is possible to place all the blame on the dramatic change in the White House, which has removed the umbrella of the "total war on terror" from over Israel's head. Under this umbrella, Israel received a free hand with regard to the army and the settlements even as it cultivated and reaped the fruits of victimization. It is thus an irony of fate that Netanyahu, the most obvious personification of this mentality, has been punished by achieving his dream of returning to the premiership just at the moment when this approach lost its relevance and legitimacy, at least in the eyes of the world and the spirit of the times.

But if the irony of history has a strange and frightening tendency to laugh mainly at Israel's expense, perhaps it is because we never take it into consideration. Israel's basic point of departure is maintaining the status quo at any price, unless forced to shatter it by external compulsion or a round of fighting. This being the case, any global change is considered a temporary disturbance of our permanent doctrine: In another moment, Barack Obama will grasp with whom he is dealing; in another moment, with the correct kind of PR, the world will wake up and once again understand who the victim is and who is correct from a historic standpoint; in another moment, a terrorist attack or some other event will occur to "prove we are right" - that is, in the approach we have always taken - and then we can go on our merry way with creeping annexation peppered from time to time with military assaults.

One of the main elements on which this approach rests was once summed up by one of our more blunt officers and leaders - who later paid for this approach with his life - in the words "Ishmael tembel" ("the Arabs are idiots"). We generally phrase it in terms that are more diplomatic, but no less haughty: "The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity." And that - said in a tone of disappointment to which an overtone of relief has been added over the years - means we have exempted ourselves from having to change our conception, since we assume that in any case nothing about the Arabs will change: neither their hostility nor their military capabilities nor their general level of sophistication (at least relative to the "Jewish genius" that expresses itself in smart bombs).

Therefore, we once again prepared for the previous round, and were once again hit by an intelligence surprise: Ishmael is no longer such an idiot. He not only blows himself up and fires guns, but also knows how to operate cameras and third-generation cell phones, to juggle his propaganda and activate the long arms of the law all over the world in the most sophisticated fashion. The "electronic intifada," which appears to be more effective than any of its predecessors, has caught us with our pants down. Suddenly, even our most senior officers and cabinet ministers, who are holed up inside the country for fear of lawsuits abroad, have begun to realize that it is not possible to respond to everything with fire.

There used to be an idee fixe here: We thought we could "explain" our way to remaining in the territories and continuing the settlements. But - as in some past actual wars - it has once again turned out that our explanatory gears grew rusty in their warehouses, that we did not move the correct guns to the front. It turns out that a Jabotinsky-inspired conservative Republican, who wishes to annex territory and explains our historic right to the rocks of our existence with the aid of the Holocaust, not only cannot constitute an effective and suitable response to the electronic intifada of the 21st century, but is even forcing us to retreat - from our defensive lines against accusations about the occupation to the green lines of having to justify our very existence.

So who is the idiot here - Ishmael or Israel? Even after 100 years, it is too soon to decide.








Too many American Jewish groups have their heads in the sand when it comes to the damage the settlement project has done to Israel. They embrace those on the American religious right who endorse settlement as a religious principle, without realizing that the influence of these groups is declining. They talk to each other or to themselves, but not to their own children on campus who must deal with this topic every day. Yet those of us who do the actual work of making Israel's case in local communities know full well the damage the settlement issue causes in grassroots America.

You can convince Americans of the miracle of Israel's founding and the justice of her struggle against terror and rejection. You can convince them that it makes demographic and political sense for Israel to trade settlements near Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority in return for land elsewhere in Israel. But you cannot convince Americans that it makes sense for an Israel that supports a Palestinian state to maintain a large settler population in the heart of the West Bank.

Too much of the American Jewish community responds to this problem by saying things that convince no one. Settlements are not the issue, they say. They may not be the only issue, but they are certainly a critical issue - and one that we ignore at our peril. Jews should be able to settle anywhere in the Land of Israel, they say. But only if they are prepared to live under Palestinian sovereignty, and the overwhelming majority of settlers are not - which means that what they are really calling for is permanent occupation.

American Jewish leadership is rightly focused on the threat of Iran, and I favor the immediate imposition of tough economic sanctions on Iran - multilateral if possible, unilateral if not. Sanctions are preferable, but no option should be off the table. If Iran becomes a nuclear power, some Arab states will quietly drift into Iran's orbit, while others will move quickly to acquire nuclear weapons. Any possibility of an Israeli-Palestinian peace will evaporate.

Time is not the ally of peace in this situation; inaction is not an option. Those on the left who appear content to do nothing puzzle me. But I ask those on the right: If you fear that you will wake up in a few years and confront a radical Iranian state brandishing nuclear bombs, why do you not fear that you will wake up shortly to confront an emerging consensus - not only from our enemies but also from our friends - that a two-state solution must give way to a one-state solution? The latter possibility is no less likely and in some ways no less dangerous than the first.

We should not demonize the settlers. They have done what Israeli governments, of both the right and the left, have permitted them to do. With strong government leadership, I believe that most will be prepared to relocate. But to those who will not - those who embrace an ugly fundamentalism and misread the Torah for their own purposes - we must be prepared to say: maspik. Enough. No more messianic dreams that have held Israel hostage and put the destiny of the Jewish people in their hands. It would be pragmatic for the government of Israel to offer generous incentives to the settlers to leave so that the process can begin now. And if need be, let military installations be put in place to deal with security issues.

I am troubled by the positions of Arab and Palestinian leaders. I do not know if they are ready for an agreement. While I am convinced that the great majority of the Palestinian people yearn for peace, they have not been well served by those who speak in their name.

But none of this is an argument for maintaining or expanding ideological settlements. If it is true that peace is not possible at this moment, this is not a reason to advocate policies that will make it impossible for there ever to be peace.

It is certainly not an argument against U.S. President Barack Obama doing all he can to promote an agreement. Precisely because the prospects for peace are uncertain, it is more important than ever for the administration to search out every possibility for moving forward. The president has been right to reach out to Palestinians, the Arab world and the Muslim world. He, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell know that Middle East peace requires an American presence and that nothing happens unless the United States is involved. They are absolutely correct that the status quo does not serve Israel's interests.

If Palestinian moderates are not strengthened, the only party left will be Hamas. Therefore, reaching out to the moderates and strengthening their hand is a vital and pressing interest of the U.S. government.

The government of Israel needs to do everything it can to maintain the support of the American government and the American people, and to demonstrate Jerusalem's commitment to a two-state solution and to a Jewish and democratic Israel. American Jews, untiring partners in the building of Zion, need to join in this effort. After all, Israel's fate rests not only in the hands of Israel's citizens, but also in the hands of the Jewish people.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America.








The most interesting aspect of the debate surrounding the Goldstone report has attracted no attention. The cabinet and its supporters are dealing only with the question of damage control as far as image is concerned, and how to deflect international criticism. The question of what really happened in Gaza is considered to be tainted with anti-Semitism. The ever-quiet conscience of the average Israeli deflects the question effortlessly. But as time passes the legal aspect will be increasingly shunted aside, and it will be the moral dimension of the report that is etched in our consciousness and that of the world.

Everyone understands that the army's opposition to a probe of the accusations against it can have only one reason: There is something to hide. There is a simple way to convince people that any further investigation is unnecessary. That is, of course, to publicize the the army's own investigations. Publicity is one of the foundations of law. There is no reason to believe the army more than any other public body. Therefore, all that needs to be done is to present the material to the public.

But that coin has two sides. On the one hand, in principle everything is known. The directives handed down by the decision-making troika - the prime minister, the defense minister and the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff - were as clear as day. The army was to carry out its mission without losses and at the same time break the spirit of the Gazan population, punish it for the past and deter both militants and civilians from any future provocation. That is the other side of the problem, and Israel's Achilles' heel: The operation in Gaza was a campaign of punishment and intimidation. That is why Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi refuse to allow an investigation of the operational echelon. It is reasonable to assume that to every question a field commander is asked, he will respond that the mission was carried out in accordance with orders approved in advance by all the appropriate authorities. These include the military advocate general and the Justice Ministry, which it may be assumed was also involved. It is no coincidence that Daniel Friedmann, who was justice minister at the time of Operation Cast Lead, attacked the Goldstone report with a vengeance.

By the same token, all that is needed to counter the harsh and legitimate criticism is to respond to specific claims of war crimes. The sweeping claim that the IDF is completely irreproachable is no more persuasive than the self-righteous outbursts of anger by Israel's leaders. Many people have been repulsed by the Israeli demand to change the rules of warfare. What is it that Israel wants? Permission to fearlessly attack defenseless population centers with planes, tanks and artillery? The likelihood that international institutions will accept this demand is practically nil.

The army will have to find the middle ground between the methods of the British in Northern Ireland, which focused on removing the terrorists from the general population, and the Israeli method of placing responsibility for terror on the entire population. It is this method that leads to horrors like the killing of children and the wiping out of entire families, not to mention the destruction of civilian infrastructure and the means for the population to earn its livelihood. Thus responsibility, both moral and political, devolves on Israel's government and the top brass, which in any case has controlled the cabinet for many years. Sanctions are inevitable, and as usual the temptation to blame everything on the field command will be great. For now, this should be avoided. The primary responsibility is always that of those who loosened the reins. However, this does not absolve those who committed criminal acts, if there were any, of responsibility.

It is not the Goldstone report that has opened another painful phase in the erosion of Israel's credibility, but rather the cavalier attitude here toward the heavy Palestinian losses. In broad circles of Western European and American intelligentsia - in the universities and among cultural and media figures - Israel arouses ever-deepening hostility.

To have friends is power, Thomas Hobbes said in the mid-17th century, but Israel's friends are dwindling. Even those who remain, except for the usual mouthpieces, find it difficult to accept as legitimate the huge gap between the capabilities of the two sides. Most cannot understand the clear conscience of "the only democracy in the Middle East," which does not hesitate to hold an entire people under occupation and siege, and at the same time punctiliously presents itself as always, in any situation, as the innocent victim of the hostile gentiles.








This month marks the 15th anniversary of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, signed by prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Abdel Salam al-Majali, respectively. The date offers an occasion to reflect anew on an old Middle East truism: If Israel did not exist, the elites of its neighboring states might have found it necessary to invent it.

At an international conference held earlier this month in Amman, co-sponsored by the Project on Middle East Democracy and the University of Jordan's Center for Strategic Studies, it became apparent that in Jordan's case, as for other Arab states, the reason for that truism has everything to do with domestic pressures.

Much of the talk at the conference centered on Jordan's pressing domestic problems. These were elaborated with candor by speaker after speaker at the two-day gathering, which happened to take place in the former Radisson SAS hotel where 38 people died, when coordinated suicide bombings shook three Amman hotels on November 9, 2005.

Many of Jordan's problems are social. Ever since then-colonial secretary Winston Churchill installed it in power, the Hashemite clan has ruled over a heterogeneous population in a state with artificial borders. (Churchill liked to boast that he created Jordan "on a Sunday afternoon.") Given how deeply intermeshed the Jordanian and Palestinian populations have become by now, it is hard to say precisely what percentage of the country's more than 6 million citizens - the vast majority of whom are Sunni Muslims - is Palestinian. But it is clear that indigenous Jordanians, though a minority, still dominate the country's political and security institutions, as well as the army. Jordan's Palestinians remain for the most part marginalized, underrepresented, second-class citizens. And since Palestinian militants threatened to overthrow the monarchy in September 1970, Palestinians' loyalties have been routinely called into question.

Other problems are more political in nature. Jordan's parliamentary elections in 1989, after decades of martial law, made it one of the first Arab states to make strides toward democracy. Since then, however, progress has stalled. Ahmad Obeidat, Jordan's prime minister in the mid-1980s, expressed to the conference his sense of frustration that reform efforts, some of which he initiated two decades ago, have failed. Jordan's 110-member House of Representatives remains impotent and dominated by the monarchy. The king, who directly appoints the prime minister and cabinet, has the right to dissolve parliament (as in fact King Abdullah did from 2001 to 2003) and to rule by decree when parliament is not in session. It is a punishable offense to criticize the king in public. Election districts are gerrymandered: In some districts an MP represents 2,000 to 3,000 constituents, while another district might have as many as 90,000 voters. It's little wonder, then, that Jordanians profess little faith in their parliament. Obeidat was recently asked whether he had retired from political life. "Everyone involved in political reform in this country is in effect retired," he replied.

Since acceding to the throne in 1999, King Abdullah has often promised reform, but very little has changed. One reason is that he must deal delicately with the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The party, which opposes Jordan's peace treaty with Israel and seeks the implementation of sharia law in Jordan, is the country's largest opposition group.

King Abdullah also must contend with the anti-Western proclivities of many of his subjects. After Israel, Jordan is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid per capita, much of it military and some of it devoted to democratization initiatives. And yet in a 2006 Zogby International poll, only 10 percent of Jordanians said that American democracy promotion efforts have positively affected their opinion of the United States; 72 percent said the impact has been negative.

Meanwhile, Jordanians still do not enjoy meaningful rights of peaceful demonstration or legal protection from arbitrary arrest. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture found in 2006 that "torture is systematically practiced" by Jordan's General Intelligence Department. There is widespread abuse of state security courts, as well as self-censorship in the press. In March 2008, five Jordanian journalists earned three-month sentences for "insulting the judiciary and commenting on its rulings." Freedom House, a Washington-based nongovernmental research and advocacy organization, downgraded Jordan's civil-liberties rating this year after a series of arrests brought citizens' right to speak freely into question.

What does all of this have to do with Israel? Not much, on the face of it, except that many of the speakers at the conference proved bewilderingly preoccupied with their neighbor to the west. Indeed, they repeatedly found it convenient to invoke perceived Israeli offenses - almost ritualistically so - even when these were not on the agenda. The social scientist Fayiz Suyyagh, for instance, one of the authors of the UN Arab Human Development Report, dilated upon the appalling levels of poverty and illiteracy in Jordan, where the unemployment rate hovers at approximately 30 percent, only to conclude his remarks with harsh criticisms of Israel's settlements and nuclear weapons program.

In this part of the world, such a rhetorical leap is anything but a non sequitur.

Benjamin Balint, a writer living in Jerusalem, was the only participant from Israel at the 2009 Emerging Leaders for Democracy conference in Amman.








BUDAPEST - At a recent conference of newspaper editors, I attended a discussion on journalism and new media. When I told the group I had begun my career as a magazine fact-checker, several people grew misty-eyed, like priests hearing about someone's childhood as an altar boy.

I brought up my past because I think that fact-checking is the single best form of training, not just for journalism, but for life in general. It teaches you to think skeptically. It is easy to believe something when someone who appears knowledgeable asserts it. But if you are responsible for checking facts, you pay more attention.

What sources did the speaker use? Is there something in it for him - a higher stock price, an advertising fee, or someone's gratitude? Or is he simply biased because of the people he knows, the company he works for, or the attitudes he was raised on at home?

I spent hours picking through sources - mostly dusty newspapers, in the years before the Internet, or strangers on the telephone - to clarify facts: Was this really the first such product? Was Mr. Smith 42 or already 43? Was his claim that revenues had grown for the last five years true merely because of acquisitions his company had made? And so on.

My life was ruled by "tk," which stands for "to kum" - or "to come" - in reporters' jargon. We fact-checkers would joke about the lazy reporters who handed us copy that read, for example: "Juan Tigar, tk years old, grew up in tk before studying at tk. Now tk title at Widgets Corp., he ..." Our job was to fill in the tk's.

But we learned an enormous amount. We learned not just thousands of facts that I have since forgotten, but skepticism coupled with reverence for the truth.

That contrasts with the skepticism I once heard a Russian reporter describing: "Whenever we read an article about the dangers of butter to our health, we would immediately run out and buy as much butter as we could find," she told me. "We knew it meant there was about to be a shortage." In other words, Russians looked only for the agenda, the motivation behind the assertion. The actual truth was irrelevant.

Of course, spin, propaganda and censorship persist in journalism, but there's one big difference: Almost anyone can be a reporter now. How can we ensure that self-nominated reporters respect the truth?

In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has announced plans to require bloggers and celebrity endorsers to disclose gifts or payments from vendors and others seeking positive coverage. But what about other kinds of bias?

As the journalistic priesthood erodes and everyone can become a citizen reporter or commentator, regulating or training all would-be journalists is not the answer. In line with the grassroots, do-it-yourself ethos of the Internet, where people book their own flights, publish their own photos and sell their own second-hand goods, it should be the responsibility of the readers to do their own fact-checking.

This is not to say that journalists should not check their own facts (or that priests should not observe the tenets of their own religion). But in the end, everyone has to become a better reader - more skeptical and more curious. Why is this story getting so much attention? Does this blogger ever say anything negative, or is she always talking about the great products she uses? Does she include any kind of disclosures on her blog? Why is this politician saying nice things about that politician? What company does the product reviewer work for?

Governments can impose regulations, but that will not give us the kind of journalism we want. If we ask for it, Web sites will offer not just content, but ways to rank reputations, so that contributors can build theirs up as reliable sources (or not).

We should not outlaw anonymity (which has its benefits), but we can ask for information about the people whose words we are reading. Someone may legitimately want to remain anonymous, but we can draw our own conclusions about their reasons.

That much thinking may sound like a lot of work, but it is what is required of a responsible adult these days. Compared to a century ago, people spend less time laboring to ensure their physical existence. But, in this increasingly confusing world, we need to spend a little more time laboring to ensure our own intellectual integrity - a task that we cannot outsource to governments or even to the media. Facts are holy, but not all media sources that claim to report them, "new" or old, can be trusted.

Copyright Syndicate, 2009.







The Senate should pay attention to the health care reform bill unveiled on Thursday by House Democratic leaders. The bill would greatly expand coverage of the uninsured while reducing budget deficits over the next decade and probably beyond. It includes a public option that is weaker than we would like, but it still deserves to be approved by the House.


The coverage expansions would carry a net cost to the federal government of $894 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Yet the bill would generate enough revenue from new taxes and from savings in Medicare to offset that cost and reduce the deficit by $104 billion over the course of the decade.


The chief source of tax revenue would be a surcharge on the portion of annual income above $1 million for couples and $500,000 for individuals. The wealthy prospered enormously from tax cuts under the Bush administration. It is fitting that they pay a heavy share of the cost of health care reform.


The bill requires employers, except for small businesses, to offer health coverage to their workers and pay a substantial share of the premiums or face a big penalty. That would be a useful prod to make insurance more available and affordable to employees.


The bill would meet President Obama's insistence that health care reform not add to the deficit — provided Congress holds firm on slowing the growth rate of payments to health care providers serving Medicare. Of special importance, the trend line for deficits would be heading down toward the end of the decade, suggesting that it would continue on down thereafter. This is a fiscally prudent bill, not a reckless dash toward ever-higher deficits as Republicans contend.


(To make ends meet, the Democrats dropped a costly fix for the unrealistic formula used to reimburse doctors under Medicare. That will be tackled in separate legislation, and ought to be paid for with new revenue.)


Under this bill, the number of uninsured would plummet. Since Congress is determined to exclude illegal immigrants, the salient fact is that by 2019, the bill would provide insurance to 96 percent of all nonelderly citizens and legal residents, leaving about 12 million of them uninsured. It would achieve this feat by making a lot more people eligible for Medicaid, a program for the poor, and by helping tens of millions of low- and moderate-income people buy policies on new insurance exchanges, in which private plans and possibly a public plan would compete for people who lack employer-provided insurance or work in small companies.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted a strong, money-saving public option that would pay hospitals and doctors based on Medicare rates, but she could not win over enough conservative Democrats. Her fallback is to have the secretary of health and human services negotiate rates with health care providers as private insurers do.


The Congressional Budget Office considers this so weak that it might attract only 6 million of an estimated 30 million people buying insurance on the exchanges in 2019. Its premiums might exceed the average private plan, in part because the sickest people might migrate to the public plan.


Still, the House bill has a lot of provisions for consumers to like. It would require insurers to allow young people through age 26 to remain on their parents' policies. It would provide immediate help to people who have been uninsured for several months or denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. It would speed elimination of a gap in drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries (the so-called doughnut hole) and would give the government power to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries, a promising way to reduce costs.


The bill would take a long stride toward universal coverage while remaining fiscally responsible. Senate leaders should try to do as well.







Hillary Rodham Clinton's first trip to Pakistan as secretary of state was never going to be easy. The day she arrived, extremists detonated a car bomb at a crowded market in Peshawar that killed at least 100 people. The Nation newspaper dismissed the visit as a mere "PR exercise, but who will buy what the US is selling is difficult to imagine, beyond the already compliant government."


Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis dislike and mistrust the United States. They blame Washington for using and then abandoning them after the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan. And they resent Washington for pressing their government now to fight against extremists — and suspect that they will be abandoned again. The fact that many of the extremists are on Pakistan's territory and threatening Pakistan's government has not shifted that thinking or mitigated that resentment.


A good part of this, of course, is the failure of Pakistan's government, which has still not adequately explained that this is not just America's fight. But the United States is also to blame. For eight years the Bush administration coddled the Pakistani Army at the expense of the rest of society.


Mrs. Clinton challenged Pakistan's government to do more to shut down Al Qaeda, but she was, rightly, determined to use this visit to also broaden the relationship.


Instead of just courting President Asif Ali Zardari and the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Mrs. Clinton also held talks with the top opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif; parried questions from an audience of deeply suspicious college students; met with civil society leaders, including women and Pashtun elders; gave interviews to Pakistani journalists; and visited religious and cultural sights.


She promised to refocus American aid on the "needs of the people" and announced targeted commitments, including $85 million for microloans for poor women to start businesses and $125 million for the first phase of an electricity project aimed at reducing blackouts and improving energy conservation.


Those grants are welcome but still small change when compared with a five-year, $7.5 billion — nonmilitary — aid package approved by Congress and signed into law this year. That package was supposed to demonstrate to Pakistanis that, this time, the United States is in it for the long haul. Instead, it has become another focus of popular resentment. The Army and some Pakistani news media whipped that up with disingenuous complaints that the legislation (Islamabad was consulted beforehand) compromised Pakistan's sovereignty by conditioning disbursement on adequate civilian control of the military.


If Washington is ever to enlist Pakistan as a reliable ally, it is going to have to do a much better job of explaining itself. And it is going to have to insist that Pakistan's leaders start explaining the real stakes to their citizens and the real benefits of an alliance with the United States. Mrs. Clinton's trip was an important start — but only a start.







In his midnight mission to honor the returning war dead, President Obama did more than personally extend the nation's condolences to grieving families gathered at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Without uttering a public word, Mr. Obama erased President George W. Bush's shameful attempts to hide the pain of war from Americans and to shield himself from paying public tribute to the thousands who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The long-overdue display of national gratitude and regret by the commander in chief rekindled a note of most solemn ritual that the country owes sons and daughters in uniform sacrificed in war. The president was restoring a post-Vietnam tradition that included the graphic embraces and wrenching words personally extended by President Ronald Reagan to the families of the 241 soldiers, sailors and Marines who perished 26 years ago in the bombing of the Marines' camp in Lebanon.


The Bush policy was to prohibit any news media coverage of the returning war dead and to never show the president within a camera-lens' length of the dolorous homecomings. Under Mr. Obama, the Pentagon reversed the no-coverage policy in February. On Thursday, the president himself took the necessary next step.


He silently saluted in the morning darkness as the remains of 18 Americans killed this week in Afghanistan were transferred from a military transport. He spent close to two hours talking in private with stricken families. One of them gave approval for the news media to show the nation its loved one's arrival before the president and assembled officers. Within minutes, of course, bloggers were reacting. Some were grateful. Others denounced Mr. Obama for photo-op exploitation even as they demanded he hurry up and decide whether to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan.


The true cost of war must never be denied by the nation or its leader. Mr. Obama's visit was entirely appropriate as he faces the decision of what comes next in Afghanistan. The pity is President Bush never dared as much.







In April, NASA's space-based Swift satellite sent back a text message announcing that it had detected a gamma-ray burst, the remains of an extraordinarily violent explosion that ended the life of a distant star. Since then, astronomers using ground-based telescopes have been able to measure the spectrum of the burst's infrared afterglow and estimate its distance from Earth.


When you look at the stars, you are looking at light that comes from the past. This gamma-ray burst, officially GRB 090423, is, in fact, the most distant, and oldest object, yet detected in our universe; it is some 13.1 billion light-years away. In other words, this is the vestige of an explosion that took place a mere (when it comes to the life of the universe) 630 million years after the Big Bang.


Light coming to us from such a distance is stretched because the universe is expanding. The greater the stretching — called redshift — the more distant the object. The previous most-distant object, a galaxy, has a redshift of 6.96. GRB 090423 has a redshift of 8.2 and appears to observers as an extremely red point of light. When that explosion took place, the universe was more than nine times smaller than it is now.


It's one thing to explore such remote recesses of time in theory. It's something else again to witness their afterglow. And GRB 090423 is an invitation for all of us to unfetter our imaginations. We imagine looking outward from that distant point knowing that our own exploration still lies some 13 billion years in the future.








Today, President Obama will lead another meeting to debate strategy in Afghanistan. He will presumably discuss the questions that have divided his advisers: How many troops to commit? How to define plausible goals? Should troops be deployed broadly or just in the cities and towns?


For the past few days I have tried to do what journalists are supposed to do.


I've called around to several of the smartest military experts I know to get their views on these controversies. I called retired officers, analysts who have written books about counterinsurgency warfare, people who have spent years in Afghanistan. I tried to get them to talk about the strategic choices facing the president. To my surprise, I found them largely uninterested.


Most of them have no doubt that the president is conducting an intelligent policy review. They have no doubt that he will come up with some plausible troop level.


They are not worried about his policy choices. Their concerns are more fundamental. They are worried about his determination.


These people, who follow the war for a living, who spend their days in military circles both here and in Afghanistan, have no idea if President Obama is committed to this effort. They have no idea if he is willing to stick by his decisions, explain the war to the American people and persevere through good times and bad.


Their first concerns are about Obama the man. They know he is intellectually sophisticated. They know he is capable of processing complicated arguments and weighing nuanced evidence.


But they do not know if he possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.


Their second concern is political. They do not know if President Obama regards Afghanistan as a distraction from the matters he really cares about: health care, energy and education. Some of them suspect that Obama talked himself into supporting the Afghan effort so he could sound hawkish during the campaign. They suspect he is making a show of commitment now so he can let the matter drop at a politically opportune moment down the road.


Finally, they do not understand the president's fundamental read on the situation. Most of them, like most people who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, believe this war is winnable. They do not think it will be easy or quick. But they do have a bedrock conviction that the Taliban can be stymied and that the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be strengthened. But they do not know if Obama shares this gut conviction or possesses any gut conviction on this subject at all.


The experts I spoke with describe a vacuum at the heart of the war effort — a determination vacuum. And if these experts do not know the state of President Obama's resolve, neither do the Afghan villagers. They are now hedging their bets, refusing to inform on Taliban force movements because they are aware that these Taliban fighters would be their masters if the U.S. withdraws. Nor does President Hamid Karzai know. He's cutting deals with the Afghan warlords he would need if NATO leaves his country.


Nor do the Pakistanis or the Iranians or the Russians know. They are maintaining ties with the Taliban elements that would represent their interests in the event of a U.S. withdrawal.


The determination vacuum affects the debate in this country, too. Every argument about troop levels is really a proxy argument for whether the U.S. should stay or go. The administration is so divided because the fundamental issue of commitment has not been settled.


Some of the experts asked what I thought of Obama's commitment level. I had to confess I'm not sure either.


So I guess the president's most important meeting is not the one with the Joint Chiefs and the cabinet secretaries. It's the one with the mirror, in which he looks for some firm conviction about whether Afghanistan is worthy of his full and unshakable commitment. If the president cannot find that core conviction, we should get out now. It would be shameful to deploy more troops only to withdraw them later. If he does find that conviction, then he should let us know, and fill the vacuum that is eroding the chances of success.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal has said that counterinsurgency is "an argument to win the support of the people." But it's not an argument won through sophisticated analysis. It's an argument won through the display of raw determination.








O.K., folks, this is it. It's the defining moment for health care reform.


Past efforts to give Americans what citizens of every other advanced nation already have — guaranteed access to essential care — have ended not with a bang, but with a whimper, usually dying in committee without ever making it to a vote.


But this time, broadly similar health-care bills have made it through multiple committees in both houses of Congress. And on Thursday, Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, unveiled the legislation that she will send to the House floor, where it will almost surely pass. It's not a perfect bill, by a long shot, but it's a much stronger bill than almost anyone expected to emerge even a few weeks ago. And it would lead to near-universal coverage.


As a result, everyone in the political class — by which I mean politicians, people in the news media, and so on, basically whoever is in a position to influence the final stage of this legislative marathon — now has to make a choice. The seemingly impossible dream of fundamental health reform is just a few steps away from becoming reality, and each player has to decide whether he or she is going to help it across the finish line or stand in its way.


For conservatives, of course, it's an easy decision: They don't want Americans to have universal coverage, and they don't want President Obama to succeed.


For progressives, it's a slightly more difficult decision: They want universal care, and they want the president to succeed — but the proposed legislation falls far short of their ideal. There are still some reform advocates who won't accept anything short of a full transition to Medicare for all as opposed to a hybrid, compromise system that relies heavily on private insurers. And even those who have reconciled themselves to the political realities are disappointed that the bill doesn't include a "strong" public option, with payment rates linked to those set by Medicare.


But the bill does include a "medium-strength" public option, in which the public plan would negotiate payment rates — defying the predictions of pundits who have repeatedly declared any kind of public-option plan dead. It also includes more generous subsidies than expected, making it easier for lower-income families to afford coverage. And according to Congressional Budget Office estimates, almost everyone — 96 percent of legal residents too young to receive Medicare — would get health insurance.


So should progressives get behind this plan? Yes. And they probably will.


The people who really have to make up their minds, then, are those in between, the self-proclaimed centrists.


The odd thing about this group is that while its members are clearly uncomfortable with the idea of passing health care reform, they're having a hard time explaining exactly what their problem is. Or to be more precise and less polite, they have been attacking proposed legislation for doing things it doesn't and for not doing things it does.


Thus, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut says, "I want to be able to vote for a health bill, but my top concern is the deficit." That would be a serious objection to the proposals currently on the table if they would, in fact, increase the deficit. But they wouldn't, at least according to the Congressional Budget Office, which estimates that the House bill, in particular, would actually reduce the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade.


Or consider the remarkable exchange that took place this week between Peter Orszag, the White House budget director, and Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post's opinion editor. Mr. Hiatt had criticized Congress for not taking what he considers the necessary steps to control health-care costs — namely, taxing high-cost insurance plans and establishing an independent Medicare commission. Writing on the budget office blog — yes, there is one, and it's essential reading — Mr. Orszag pointed out, not too gently, that the Senate Finance Committee's bill actually includes both of the allegedly missing measures.


I won't try to psychoanalyze the "naysayers," as Mr. Orszag describes them. I'd just urge them to take a good hard look in the mirror. If they really want to align themselves with the hard-line conservatives, if they just want to kill health reform, so be it. But they shouldn't hide behind claims that they really, truly would support health care reform if only it were better designed.


For this is the moment of truth. The political environment is as favorable for reform as it's likely to get. The legislation on the table isn't perfect, but it's as good as anyone could reasonably have expected. History is about to be made — and everyone has to decide which side they're on.








The death toll from the blast that ripped through a crowded bazaar in Peshawar has risen to over 100. Almost 24 hours after it occurred bodies continue to be pulled from the rubble of charred buildings. There is, tragically, nothing new about the scenes we all saw. Fathers carried bleeding children to hospitals; stunned shoppers stared at bodies all around them; chaos prevailed at hospitals. We all know that this may not be the last time we see such misery. The fact is that there is no guarantee at all that we will be able to swiftly overcome the monster of terrorism that is destroying society. But perhaps there are aspects to the issue that we need to think about. In Peshawar, the difficulties faced in rescuing people may have pushed the death toll higher. According to the media, people remained trapped in debris for hours because the rescuers were unable to reach them due to the fires that broke out all around. We have seen similar problems after other terrorist attacks. In some cases injuries have been aggravated due to well-meant but inept efforts to help victims. This is something that can be improved considerably with relatively little effort. Rescue work calls for expertise. The situation we face today suggests we would do well to acquire it as fast as we can, with foreign help where necessary.

In all our cities we need top-notch ambulance and fire services. The model of the 1122 Squad in Punjab needs to be emulated and expanded to smaller towns. We also need medical staff that specialize in trauma. This is an area of specialty that focuses on saving the lives of those caught up in violence. Having at hand more doctors able to tackle the kind of injuries we see after bomb blasts could help save at least some lives. Each time there is an incident of terrorism, we also see mayhem at hospitals. Crowded emergency rooms, where cameramen and onlookers cluster around beds, can only hamper attempts to save lives. Hospital administrators with the assistance of police need to find ways to avoid this happening. We have, reluctantly perhaps, accepted that we live with terrorism. The security guards who stand poised with guns outside schools are evidence of this. It is time to adopt other measures to cope with the bloodshed that takes place almost every day by improving rescue capacity and equipping doctors with the skills they need to limit death when wards fill with those struck down by terrorists.







Hillary Clinton is clearly on a mission in Pakistan. She is obviously eager to set Pakistan-US relations on the right footing after the angst created by the Kerry-Lugar Bill. In her comments to the media, she has emphasized that the contents of the bill were badly communicated to Pakistan and also repeated Senator John Kerry's reminder that Pakistan was not being forced to accept the aid under the bill if it did not want it. On the whole, Ms Clinton made a very deliberate effort to bridge the divide that has recently grown and talked of constructing a special relationship with Pakistan. But it was obvious too from her words that the Obama administration is not quite sure how to go about this. Talk of 'good' and 'bad' Taliban suggests an increase in desperation and a possible willingness to do business with some factions if there is no other choice. This would be a mistake. We have seen moderates turn into extremists before. Better options need to be found in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We must hope Ms Clinton's detailed talks during her visit can help suggest a way forward.

Ms Clinton's challenge to extremists, to come forward and let the Pakistani people decide, brought out the degree to which the US is aware that extremism is not favoured by people. In this context the efforts made by the US secretary of state, despite immense security concerns, to reach out and interact with ordinary people are a good omen. Perhaps Washington has gained a greater understanding than before that the key to battling militant trends lies in empowering people. It is also a fact that for the moment Pakistan needs Washington's help to help these people. It cannot offer them jobs, education and welfare without this. For all the rhetoric, a partnership is essential for the moment. Hillary Clinton spoke several times of winning over hearts. Perhaps she and her staff, for her next visit, should also keep in mind that the blocking of roads and the consequent problems imposed on people are one way to lose goodwill rapidly! In Lahore the disruption caused due to the massive security measures put in place for her visit must have cost the US and Ms Clinton a number of friends. These may be minor considerations, but they all play a part in winning over people and persuading them to see friends where at present many see enemies.







The terrible incident at a university in Faisalabad where campus security guards found a couple sitting beneath a tree and 'punished' them by shaving their heads is an appalling example of the fact that almost everyone in society sees it fit to impose their own brand of morality on others. The fact that the unfortunate couple belonged to a low-income group may have played some part in the treatment they received. The poor after all rarely complain. There are few whom they can complain to anyway.

From another educational institution offering courses in aeronautical sciences, a female student has, in a letter, written of the small number of girls at the institute being warned by the faculty to avoid interaction with their male peers, so that their 'reputation' is not damaged. At other campuses, self-imposed morality brigades have forced girls and boys apart. Our obsession with 'morality', or this one aspect of it, is quite absurd. There is a great deal else to worry about in society. Corruption, mismanagement and exploitation are just some of the issues we should be worrying about. No one should be able to impose their notions of 'right' on others. It is a reflection on all of us that this continues to happen regularly. Authorities need to step in to ensure those responsible are punished so that we can grow as a progressive society rather than one stumbling backwards in the darkness.







The resort to arms, as any armchair strategist will tell you, can never be an end in itself. You go to war to achieve a political aim. And if you don't have that aim -- if you are not clear what you are hoping to achieve -- picking up arms is the height of folly.

You can be the strongest military in the world -- as the Wehrmacht was on the eve of the Second World War, or the US armed forces are now -- but if there is no clarity in your mind about why you are going to war, or if your aims are open-ended and not rigorously thought through, in the face of a determined opponent your efforts are likely to be doomed.

Horace put it well: "Brute force bereft of reason falls by its own weight. Power with counsel temper'd even the gods make greater. But might which in its soul is bent on all impiety, they hate." In war impiety is the absence of reason.

America's Vietnam venture was bereft of reason. It made no sense at the time, it makes less in hindsight. Against a weak foe this impiety would have succeeded. But the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong were anything but weak. Eventually America had to drink deep from the cup of humiliation.

The invasion of Iraq was another exercise in folly (and therefore impiety). It had no aim beyond the display of arrogance. Meant to "shock and awe" the world, it has done incalculable harm to American prestige and power. Where the US strode the planet like a colossus after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Iraq has made it look like a wounded giant.

Afghanistan was a bit different. With the Taliban giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, the invasion of Afghanistan, to much of the world, appeared as a legitimate response to the Sep 11 terrorist incidents on American soil. But with the US occupation of Afghanistan in its eighth year (two longer than the Second World War), and doubts on the rise in Washington about US war aims, America's Afghan enterprise makes less and less sense. Indeed, far from achieving anything, the US occupation is now the prime cause of Afghan turbulence.

Indeed, unfolding in Afghanistan is a popular insurrection, people drawn to the Taliban not out of love for their primitive philosophy but out of hostility to the foreign occupier. With more troops the Americans can probably hold Afghanistan's cities, as the Soviet army did before them in the 1980s. But that is not the same as imposing their will on the entire country.

General Westmoreland was the American commander in Vietnam who called for more troops until he had half a million men under his command. Gen McChrystal is the Westmoreland of Afghanistan who is also calling for more troops to stem the tide of Taliban resurgence. But just as domestic support for the Vietnam war plummeted, the same is now happening in relation to Afghanistan.

There is no shortage of armchair warriors in Washington urging President Obama to go with the McChrystal recipe of 40,000 more troops for Afghanistan. But the president is right to take his time. This is a critical moment for him. He makes a wrong move and it is him, not the sofa gladiators, who will have to take the fall.

Cambodia was a sideshow in the Vietnam conflict. Pakistan is not Cambodia to Afghanistan's Vietnam. It is the buttress which sustains America's Afghan enterprise. Take away the Pakistan army from this equation, and America's continuing presence in Afghanistan becomes untenable. Pakistan's role is thus not that of a satellite. It is the central point of the Afghan constellation. It is a failure of Pakistani leadership that instead of being in the driving seat of strategy formulation Pakistan is made to look like a supplicant holding on to America's coattails.

This is all the more strange when set against another phenomenon: whereas anti-war sentiment is on the rise in the US, over the last few months we have seen a burgeoning pro-war movement in Pakistan, expressed in the feeling that enough is enough and extremism must be countered head on. A small body of critics apart -- spearheaded by the Jamaat-e-Islami and Imran Khan -- all the signs suggest that there is popular backing for the army. After a long time (and may this never end) nation and army are marching to the same tune.

But where is the higher direction of this war? Who is laying down the political parameters of this conflict? We know that Gen Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, is directing the military effort. There are no doubts on this score. But who is the political commander-in-chief, the Churchill -- and I will have to be forgiven this analogy, but just to make things clear -- to Kayani's Montgomery?

Gen Giap was the North Vietnamese military commander in the struggle against America. But the overall direction of the war was in the hands of the Vietnamese Communist Party, led by Ho Chi Minh and after his death by the collective leadership with succeeded him. As our army moves against the strongholds of the Taliban in South Waziristan, where is the higher direction of war? Where is the political leadership? Who will attend to the political aspects of this struggle?

The foremost political aspect relates to our relationship with the US. This is a relationship full of contradictions. The US is our ally -- or rather we are doing the donkey's work in this partnership -- but its continued presence in Afghanistan is turning out to be our biggest headache. We are engaged in a grim struggle to defeat militancy and subversion. But the US presence in Afghanistan is the principal factor now keeping militancy alive.

Vietnam knew no peace until the Americans withdrew from there. Afghanistan will know no peace, and Pakistan will not be able to insulate itself from its effects, until the last American soldier gets out of Afghanistan.

Clearly, the Americans won't get out of Afghanistan because we tell them. They will exit, when they finally do, out of their own calculations and compulsions. But the political direction of the war from our side demands that Pakistan not appear as a sentry man at America's door, because that compromises our position and fighting the Taliban becomes all that much harder. We should be seen as our own masters, acting in our own interests, not America's. But for this fine balancing act to succeed it is essential that we keep some distance from the Americans and engage in a dialogue of equals with them.

Equals, you might ask in some consternation? Pakistan and the US engaging in a dialogue of equals? Well, adversity is a great equaliser. What the US is now beginning to undergo in Afghanistan is a trauma. We may be a cash-strapped country with a perpetual begging bowl in our hands but America is stuck in a quagmire. Between a begging bowl and a quagmire there is not much to choose.

The objection to the Kerry-Lugar act is not that it compromises our sovereignty -- which is a pompous way of putting it -- but that it makes us look like a lackey receiving his wages. Pakistan may have done foolish things in the past but the Swat and South Waziristan operation are tokens of a new beginning. Our soldiers' sacrifices don't go with a lackey image.

The Americans are telling us what to do, which is strange given that they are not doing too well in Afghanistan. They should be listening rather than giving sermons. Being their allies, and taking more hits than they are, it is now time for us to tell them that their occupation can't last much longer. Sooner than they now think possible, it will have to be rolled back and other options examined. When they depart we will still be here. Bolstering Pakistan and its military should not be seen thus as a favour. From America's point of view it should be a strategic necessity.

But such exchanges are possible only if the political direction of this conflict is in firm hands. This is where our weakness lies: where there should be leadership there is a yawning chasm. The military is on its own and that is never a good thing.









Peshawar has again become the victim of terrorists who believe in imposing a religious dictatorship by spreading terror for the achievement of their political objectives. One hundred and five Pakistanis lost their lives in the narrow and congested lanes of Meena Bazaar and hundreds of others were maimed and injured. Once again we hear the all-too-familiar cries of "Muslims can't to this." ---Of course they did.

Pakistan is accused of being the epicentre of terrorism. Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism but that does not absolve us from the responsibility of controlling and curbing the activities of non-state actors such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed or other jihadi outfits bent upon unleashing death and destruction.

In an interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel President Barrack Obama's advisor Bruce Ridel said about Pakistan: "International terrorism, nuclear proliferation, drugs, democracy deficit, the threat of nuclear war, and Islam, all come together in an extraordinarily combustible way."

Blaming others will not solve our problems. We have to take stock of the situation and take serious or even unpopular measures to win back our rightful place in the world. Pakistan today is not under threat by any external power, the threat is internal and the very existence of the country is at stake. If the religious fanatics and obscurantist forces are not reined, in the country could end up on the dust heap of history. Our founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah advised the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan to ensure that the lives and properties of all citizens are protected. He also made it crystal clear that religion is not the business of the state and that Pakistan will not be a theocracy ruled by the mullahs with their myopic, obscurantist so-called divine mission. Jinnah's vision and objective was betrayed when the Constituent Assembly adopted the Objectives Resolution on March 12, 1949, just six months after the death of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. The Objectives Resolution introduced the element of religious discrimination and prejudice in the body politic of Pakistan.

The Kashmir conflict spawned a number of jihadi organisations. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan resulted in a bitter and bloody struggle leading to the formation of more and more jihadi groups. The Zia regime capitalised on the Afghan war for promoting its own agenda based on fundamentalist policies. After the fall of the Najibullah regime in Afghanistan the Americans and other Western countries washed their hands of the problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan was saddled with numerous militant groups armed and prepared to die for their cause. The American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq added fuel to the raging fires of religious fanaticism. Pakistan today is faced with the multiple horrors of religious fanaticism and home-grown militants who have challenged the writ of the government again and again.

Political leaders, intellectuals, influential media personalities and the military leadership of the country have to be united on a single-point national agenda: the elimination and total destruction of all militant organisations and their supporters from the soil of Pakistan. The blame game has to stop. We just cannot afford to indulge in conspiracy theories and blame every body under the sun for our own home grown indigenous misfortunes. Our self created terror structure has to be destroyed; we just cannot afford to support, pamper and nourish the jihadi outfits mistakenly labeled as our strategic assets by successive previous regimes and our intelligence agencies.

Political parties, irrespective of their manifestoes, have to be united on the question of religious fanaticism and terror. This issue should be treated like the Kashmir cause or the nuclear issue. Since the birth of Pakistan, the leaders and parties have never differed on Kashmir or the nuclear policy why can't they unite on the policy on terrorism? Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and the leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami have to stand up and be counted; Either they are with Pakistan or with the evil forces of religious fanaticism. The Zardari-Gilani regime must ensure sincerity, transparency and seriousness in their efforts to root out the scourge of religious fanaticism. The government of the day has issued stringent security guidelines for all educational institutions to implement or face closure. Do these rules apply to the innumerable deeni madaris mushrooming all over the country? Our leaders and security agencies are not blind to the fact that many of the religious seminaries are the breeding grounds of terror and religious intolerance. Have we forgotten the lessons of Lal Masjid? Why have we not heard anything about reining in fanatical mullas preaching hatred and sectarian violence in the madras?

Pakistan of today is held hostage by many religious militant organizations. We are looked upon with suspicion by various western countries. Foreign capital is flying out of the country and Pakistan is fast becoming the most difficult country to govern. The choice before the elected government is clear: face the forces of fundamentalism and obscurantism and defeat them, or hand over the country to these forces so that they can implement their own version of Islamic law in the country.

The writer is a teacher and freelance contributor. Email:







Lahore was brushed up and made to look its best yesterday in anticipation of Hillary Clinton's "surprise" visit. It gave the commuters stuck in the morning traffic a chance to reflect on just how pretty a city it is. There was also a nervous edge in the air. The tragic attack in Peshawar the day before, the attack on the Islamic University and its effect on every household – the closure of all schools in the country – certainly set a heavy tone. But I was pleased to find myself stuck in traffic along with other Lahoris who had, despite the security situation, woken up and got ready for school, work or whatever (like me).

The "security situation" – the phrase we've given to the violence in our country, is a reality. But it shouldn't be an excuse to make fools of the millions of Pakistani who expect and deserve to go about their business and lives.

Take, for instance, the reaction of the Government of Punjab in announcing that the responsibility of providing 'security' to privately owned educational institutions was not the responsibility of the state.

It is using the security situation to show to the world that it is doing something, and has ordered the formation of "security committees" or something (a camel is a horse designed by a committee). In reality, the steps private schools are expected to take will not go further than a body search and display of photo ID of the people who enter or leave them.

The "security situation" should not be used to humiliate people in this manner. It should be a chance to reform the police so that they do something more than VIP protection and traffic management.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued a warning about unauthorised SIM cards, and has requested phone users to immediately find out whether or not their CNIC numbers have been used to procure unauthorised mobile phone connections. The warning comes with undertones that these illegal SIMs are what the terrorist network relies on. The reality is probably far less 'James Bond' than this. The fellow who found five illegal SIMs on his CNIC, and wrote a letter to this paper's editor, should know that chances are the five connections were sold by some enterprising young man on a roadside somewhere to people who wanted an extra number to call that 'special' friend than to one of Baitullah Mehsud's henchmen. The security situation should not be used to make us think things exist when, in fact, they don't.

I read somewhere an article about a checklist, issued, I think, by the police, of how to identify a suicide bomber. Vigilant citizens are told to look out for freshly trimmed beards and hair, someone who looks as if they had a few sleepless nights, someone who is repeatedly reciting something, walking in a straight line and not easily distracted.

Vigilant citizens are told that suicide bombers are accompanied by handlers who stay with their human bomb until only the last few minutes of the attack, but they are not told anything of what the handler would look like. The security situation should not be turned into an excuse to make ordinary Pakistanis suspicious of one another or set about the odd hapless insomniac on his way home from the barbershop.


At the research symposium on "The Impact of Water and Sanitation and Health: Our Problems, our Solutions" held at the Aga Khan University last week, Pakistan's Director General, Health, Dr Rashid Jooma reminded that the cost of environmental degradation in Pakistan is approximately Rs365 billion per year, of which Rs112 billion is caused by things like inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. The 'security situation' shouldn't be used to ignore the facts that nearly 40 per cent of Pakistanis do have access to safe drinking water; that over 50 million of us do not have the facility to clean ourselves; that one in four patients lying in a hospital bed right now their because of a water-borne disease. It should not be employed to forget the fact that, over the years, millions of dollars and rupees, much of it aid, have been spent on drinking water and sanitation programmes with little to show for it. And it should certainly not be used as an excuse for the government to continue to ignore Pakistan's other pressing issues.

The traffic jam I was stuck in was full of Pakistanis who get up and go about their work and live their lives, despite the 'security situation'.

They are owed more than feeble excuses for governance and the Don King charms of Rehman Malik. Pakistani's are reeling under the effects of asymmetrical psychological warfare, and the dedication they show in face of it earns respect enough not to be treated like fools. The 'security situation' should not be an excuse for bureaucrats to treat public space as their own, as has been done in Lahore's GOR and, for instance, outside the office of the city's CCPO. The footpaths in GOR were ripped out (who does that sort of thing, anyway) apparently because that's where the Taliban can plant bombs, and the students of the two government schools there were told to find somewhere else to go. The security situation is no reason for government officials to go berserk.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote (in the article "The beginning of the Talibanisation of Lahore", October 14, 2008): "There may not be bombs at Lahore's DVD stores. At least not yet. But the Talibanisation of Lahore has begun.

This is a major development. For centuries, Lahore has been the beacon of culture in this region. It is one of the cities of the Sufi tradition. It was a capital of the Mughal Empire, the seat of the Sikh Khalsa and a jewel of the colonial crown. It is the second largest city in Pakistan and, as capital of the Punjab, arguably the most politically significant. Lahore has been the seat of great learning and scholarship.

The Government College, University of Punjab, National College of Arts, Kinnaird and Aitchison Colleges and, more recently, LUMS, LSE and BNU. It has given the world Kipling, Manto and Professor Abdus Salam and can claim the likes of Ganga Ram, Diyal Singh Majithia and Imran Khan as its sons (yes, Imran Khan – one must never take his gift of the Shaukat Khanum Hospital for granted). It has been home to Faiz and Patras Bokhari and a million other shining lights of Pakistani culture. Now one thinks twice before going out."

A year later, as I sat in a traffic jam in the middle of this beautiful city, I realised the fear and intimidation so many Pakistanis share comes as much from the terrorism as it does from what we are being fed in the form of this security situation. My friend Fasih Zaka wrote in yesterday's paper ("IIU, me and you – II", October 29, 2009) about how a "confusion" was affecting us. The security situation is a reality, but we shouldn't allow it to make fools out of us.


The writer is an advocate of the high court and a member of the adjunct faculty at LUMS. He has an interest in urban planning. Email:







I feel I should set the record straight on certain points of Farhat Taj's article "Imperatives of the Waziristan operation" (Oct 26). A lot has been written about the miseries faced by the people of Waziristan but so far the government has not taken any step whatsoever to address the problems

It is not only the so-called Islamabad-based armchair analysts who are questioning the military operation in Waziristan, but also the entire population of the two Waziristans, including people like me born and bred there. They have seen that in the last eight years of operations during only the innocent suffer and the militants go Scot free. They have paid more than anyone else for the elimination of militancy. They are hit by both the government and the militants.

In the past, each time an operation took place it raised hopes in the local people that the militants would be eliminated but each time their hopes were dashed, when deals were made with the militants for reasons I would rather not dwell on. The deals provided respite and succour to the militants who emerged stronger after each deal. How long are we going to test the patience of the unfortunate people? How many times are we going to launch inconclusive operations in Waziristan?

Large-scale displacement of people, which had never before happened in that area, began with the operations in 2003. It is unfortunate that their sacrifices have gone waste and militancy increased. The government, instead of addressing the core issue, has resorted to the use of force. Militancy cannot be eliminated through the barrel of the gun alone. It should be complemented by other means.


The crucial point, as I see it, is the involvement of local people or taking advantage of their collective wisdom in finding a durable solution to the problem that we face in Waziristan. This has never been done and decisions made in the palatial houses in Islamabad are imposed upon the people.

It is not true that the rich had left the area because they could afford to do so while the poor had to stay because they had no choice. To begin with, there is hardly any rich person in Waziristan by national or international standards. Even if they are, they used to maintain two houses, one in Waziristan and the other in the settled areas of Pakistan. In summer, without fail, they used to take their families to their ancestral homes in Waziristan. These operations have forced both rich and poor to run away from the area.

Who was responsible for the collapse of the three institutions around which the tribal system revolved? Was it done by the tribesmen themselves? Was it done by a foreign power or non-state actors within the country? Who elevated Nek Mohammad overnight to new heights of popularity by entering into a deal with him? Who was threatening the Yargul Khail tribe in Waziristan of dire consequences? It certainly was not the tribesmen to be blamed for collapse of the system.

Let us not confuse Waziristan and Swat with each other. The two are different in many respects. The state of Swat was merged into Pakistan almost forty years ago. All the law-enforcing agencies, including police, were present in the area. It was as good a settled area as anywhere else in the country. It has the provincial government backing it, and the central government available with all its resources. On the contrary, in Waziristan there was no army or police stationed in the area. The Scouts and Khasadar, a force mostly raised from within the tribal areas maintained law and order. Maintenance of law and order or looking after the people of the area is not the responsibility of the provincial government as Swat was. It is the responsibility of Islamabad only.

We have members from the tribal areas in the Parliament making laws for the country but Waziristan is not within their remit. The Parliament has no control over it, nor has the Supreme Court any say in the matter. It is directly under the control of the president who has not bothered to visit the area even once.