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Friday, November 27, 2009

EDITORIAL 26.11.09

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Editorial

month november 26, edition 000360, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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THE PIONEER

  1. REMEMBERING 26/11
  2. A RED CARPET WELCOME
  3. THE SHIA-SUNNI FAULTLINE - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. NOTHING HAS CHANGED - KHIMI THAPA
  5. HACKERS FINANCED 26/11 - B RAMAN
  6. TRIUMPH OF JUSTICE - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  7. NEEDED, CULTURE OF ETHICS - SHAILAJA CHANDRA
  8. SCARED AMERICAN SANTAS LOBBY FOR SWINE FLU SHOTS - HOLLY RAMER

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. MATURING TIES
  2. DOWN AND DIRTY
  3. STILL SITTING DUCKS? -
  4. A GOOD WAY TO REVIVE POLITICS
  5. DON'T MESS IT UP FURTHER -
  6. THE SAVIOUR AT MY TABLE - BACHI KARKARIA 
  7. IT'S SIESTA TIME -
  8. CHERISH GOOD MEMORIES,SEE WHAT HAPPENS -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE AMERICAN GRAFFITI READS...
  2. PRATIBHAJI-FORCE
  3. ARE WE READY NOW? - B RAMAN
  4. TALK US OUT OF THIS MESS - MALEEHA LODHI
  5. SEARCH FOR THE ULTIMATE REALITY - MN KUNDU

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. BETWEEN FRIENDS
  2. THE ROAD TAKEN
  3. SYMBOLIC SORTIE
  4. WHAT'S INDISPENSABLE? - K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  5. RAGING OVER ROAD RULES - ANISHDAYAL
  6. MIRROR UNTO OURSELVES - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  7. THE MEASURE OF OUR STRENGTH - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  8. VIEW FROM THE RIGHT - SUMAN K JHA
  9. A REAGAN-IN-REVERSE
  10. HAVE WE WASTED 26/11? - VIVEK REDDY

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. 26/11/09
  2. IN BAD COMPANY
  3. ON OUR OWN, NOT DOING THAT BADLY - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
  4. BUSH FIRES DO NOT WIN WAR AGAINST TERROR - MICHAEL WALTON
  5. SMALL IS BOUNTIFUL - YOGIMA SETH
  6. REPORT CARD

THE HINDU

  1. THE CHALLENGES OF MAXIMUM TERROR
  2. "NON-EVENT" TO ORCHESTRATED MOVEMENT - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  3. INDIA'S WAS THE BEST POSSIBLE RIPOSTE - RICHARD STAGG
  4. FROM KARACHI, WITH LOVE - RAFIA ZAKARIA
  5. THE RETURN OF THE BONUS CULTURE - ADITYA CHAKRABORTTY
  6. FUTURE BASED ON MUTUAL TRUST - ILYA KRAMNIK

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. A YEAR LATER, KEEP OUR RESOLVE FIRM
  2. THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE - ANTARA DEV SEN
  3. DON'T HANDCUFF THE HANDS OF LAW - NITEEN PRADHAN
  4. TALKS WITH PAK CAN'T BE HOSTAGE TO 26/11 - S. NIHAL SINGH

DNA

  1. WASHINGTON FACTOR
  2. LOOK BACK IN ANGER
  3. HOW INDEPENDENT IS PAKISTANI MEDIA?
  4. LIBERHAN'S WASTED EFFORT - R JAGANNATHAN

THE TRIBUNE

  1. BOOST FOR TIES WITH US
  2. IT'S UNPARLIAMENTARY
  3. SAVE SHEESHAM, KIKAR
  4. SECTARIAN CRISIS IN W. ASIA - BY G. PARTHASARATHY
  5. REMEMBERING ASHOK KAMTE - BY ANUPINDER SINGH GREWAL
  6. RELATIONS WITH CHINA - BY MOHAN GURUSWAMY
  7. AIDS OFFICIALLY IN DECLINE - BY JEREMY LAURANCE
  8. MONOGAMY ISN'T EASY, NATURALLY - BY DAVID P. BARASH

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. LIBERHAN REPORT
  2. REMEMBERING 26/11
  3. SEARCH FOR AN ELUSIVE PEACE - PATRICIA MUKHIM
  4. POST-MORTEM OF 26/11: ERROR DURING TERROR - DR DC MAHANTA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BURQA BARBIE TO THE FORE
  2. NEGOTIATE HARD AT COPENHAGEN
  3. AWAKEN, NOT MOURN
  4. EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE - PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA
  5. REINING IN ROGUE BONUSES - T T RAM MOHAN
  6. 'THE BEST WAY FORWARD IS AN APPROPRIATE MIX'
  7. 'ONLY A FORWARD-LOOKING POLICY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE'
  8. MEASURING CORPORATE EFFICIENCY - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  9. 'HP PARTNERSHIP MAKES US VERY DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS' - PANKAJ MISHRA
  10. WE WILL TAKE CARE OF THE AFFECTED FOR LIFE - VINOD MAHANTA & NANDINI RAGHAVENDRA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. A YEAR LATER, KEEP OUR RESOLVE FIRM
  2. TALKS WITH PAK CAN'T BE HOSTAGE TO 26/11 - BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  3. ARE WE GEARED TO TACKLE ANOTHER TERROR ATTACK? - BY R.D. PRADHAN
  4. THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE - BY ANTARA DEV SEN
  5. DON'T HANDCUFF THE HANDS OF LAW - BY NITEEN PRADHAN
  6. EVOLVE-BY DATE - BY OLIVIA JUDSON

the statesman

  1. 26/11~ONE YEAR ON
  2. BACK TO CLASSES
  3. EMPTY GESTURES
  4. ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING - CAHAL MILMO 
  5. STRATEGIC SHIFT - BY SALMAN HAIDAR

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. CAPITOL IDEA
  2. BITTER AFTERTASTE
  3. FLYING INTO HOPE  - BRIJESH D. JAYAL
  4. MAN OF THE PEOPLE - NEHA SAHAY
  5. THREE DAYS THAT SHOOK THE COUNTRY - SOMAK GHOSHAL
  6. WAITING WITH TREPIDATION - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
  7. WAYS OF SHOWING - UDDALAK MUKHERJEE

DECCAN HERALD

  1. TOUGH TASKS
  2. 9/11 AND 26/11
  3. AFRICA NEEDS DIVERSITY, NOT A GREEN REVOLUTION - BY HOWARD BUFFETT.IPS :
  4. ROLE REVERSAL - BY MEERA SESHADRI

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. PRISON BREAK
  2. WASHINGTON WATCH: TALKING TURKEY - DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD
  3. RATTLING THE CAGE: WELCOME, OBAMA, TO THE MARCH OF FOLLY - LARRY DERFNER
  4. CANDIDLY SPEAKING: WHY DOES SO MUCH OF THE WORLD HATE US? - ISI LEIBLER
  5. ONE FOR ONE - CHARLEY J. LEVINE
  6. REFUSING TO REMAIN SILENT IN THE FACE OF EVIL - JONATHAN AND ESTHER POLLARD
  7. WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM INDIA'S 9/11 - ABRAHAM COOPER

HAARETZ

  1. 0WANTED: A NEW JUSTICE MINISTER
  2. WHY CAN WE TALK TO HAMAS ABOUT SHALIT, BUT NOT PEACE? - BY GIDEON LEVY
  3. ISRAEL MUST PROVE SHALIT DEAL IS WORTH THE PRICE - BY ARI SHAVIT
  4. GROVELING IN THE DUST - BY ISRAEL HAREL
  5. THE RIGHT TO USE FORCE - BY YEHUDA BEN MEIR

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. A THANKSGIVING TOAST
  2. IRAN PUNISHES ITS PEOPLE
  3. NEW JERSEY'S MARRIAGE MOMENT
  4. A THEATER ILLUMINATES AN IMMIGRATION BATTLEFIELD - BY LAWRENCE DOWNES
  5. THE RELIGIOUS WARS - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. A TALE OF TWO TURKEYS - BY GAIL COLLINS

I.THE NEWS

  1. GOODWILL FOR BALOCHISTANSS
  2. VIOLENT TRENDS
  3. PRAGMATIC SOLUTIONS
  4. 'REDEFINING' THE KASHMIR ISSUE? - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  5. LEADERS, NOT SOAP STARS - ZAFAR KHALID FAROOQ
  6. AL QAEDA HIERARCHY IN A POCKET? - IKRAM SEHGAL
  7. THE NYT AND PAKISTANI ROCK - FASI ZAKA
  8. POWER, PEOPLE AND POVERTY - KAMILA HYAT
  9. CONSPIRACY THEORIES - FAROOQ SULEHRIA

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. BALOCHISTAN PACKAGE A GOOD BEGINNING
  2. INDIA'S MOST DANGEROUS NUCLEAR DOCTRINE
  3. SBP SHOULD DO MORE FOR ECONOMY
  4. INDIA BLAMES CHINA FOR MAOIST UPRISING - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  5. WAGING JEHAD AGAINST TERRORISTS - KAMRAN SAADAT
  6. KASHMIR DESERVES OBAMA'S ATTENTION - DR GHULAM NABI FAI
  7. THE TALIBAN MINDSET - DR KHALIL AHMAD
  8. OBAMA IN HIS LABYRINTH - ROGER COHEN

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. CHILD LABOUR
  2. SAVING FORESTS
  3. COMMISSIONS AND COMMITTEES…!
  4. LAND DEGRADATION IN BANGLADESH - DR MIR MUHAMMAD HASSAN
  5. RACE AGAINST TIME TO REDUCE POVERTY  - MEHREEN WITH AMANULLAH KHAN AND ABDUR RAHMAN JAHANGIR
  6. A TIME TO RECOMMIT TO THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS - AMES F MORIARTY

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. NOW COMES REAL TEST FOR TURNBULL'S LIBERALS
  2. TOUGH LOVE ACROSS THE BOARD
  3. FIGHTING FOR THE WORKERS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. TURNBULL'S CHANCE TO REBUILD
  2. FIRST STEPS FOR INDIGENOUS PLAN
  3. EXTENDING INDIGENOUS WELFARE RULES TO ALL IS FAIRER
  4. TURNBULL SURVIVES, BUT THE LIBERALS REMAIN DIVIDED

THE GURDIAN

  1. BANK REFORM: WHAT A CARVE UP!
  2. OBAMA IN COPENHAGEN: A FLEETING PRESENCE
  3. IN PRAISE OF… MINT

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. ROSY OUTLOOK
  2. NTS SCANDAL
  3. PRESIDENT OBAMA'S VIETNAM SYNDROME
  4. JONATHAN SCHELL
  5. THE TRIUMPH OF POWERLESS CZECHS TWO DECADES AGO
  6. MICHAEL MEYER

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. PATCHING UP A DIET RIFT
  2. WORRIES ABOUT DEFLATION
  3. U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS SHIFTING - BY FRANK CHING
  4. THE LONG JOURNEY FROM KAFKA TO GORBACHEV - BY NORMAN MANEA
  5. THE IRRESISTIBLE RISE OF THE CHINESE RENMINBI - BY BARRY EICHENGREEN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. A CENTURY OF MUHAMMADIYAH AND MODERN INDONESIA  - M. HILALY BASYA
  2. MORE SACRIFICE THAN FEAST
  3. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR POVERTY IN PAPUA? - TRI HARMAJI
  4. UNIVERSAL JURISDICTION AND GLOBAL GOVERNANCE - JENNIE S. BEV
  5. MUHAMMADIYAH, 100 YEARS ON

CHINA DAILY

  1. MEDICAL SERVICE PRICES
  2. PUNISHMENT TOO LIGHT
  3. CHINA NOT IN SEARCH OF MONEY OR POWER
  4. GREEN YOUR BUILDINGS TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. EUROPE'S VISION-FREE LEADERSHIP - BY CHRIS PATTEN
  2. THE FIGHT AGAINST FASCISTS - BY BORIS KAGARLITSKY

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

REMEMBERING 26/11

A YEAR ON PAKISTAN REMAINS UNREPENTANT


As the nation completes a full year since that dark day when the city of Mumbai was ravaged by fidayeen terror, there is bound to be a barrage of homilies all around. There will be discourse on whether India has moved on and if we are prepared in case, god forbid, we ever have to put up with another similar terror strike. Much will be said of our security systems and intelligence agencies with various experts giving their own unique brand of analysis of how 26/11 has changed India. But there are moments in life when silence says more than a thousand words. As we remember those who were ruthlessly butchered by Ajmal Amir Kasab and his jihadi brethren on this November day last year, our silent protest will reflect the rage and anger at having, time and again, been made to suffer the scourge of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. For, even though 26/11 is the most vivid image of terrorism in the national consciousness today, we as a nation have been putting up with incidents of jihadi terror since long before. So numerous have been the attacks on this country and its people that documenting them all will be a task in itself. Yet, there are some that have, on account of their gruesomeness and barbarity, left an indelible mark on our psyche. The Kaluchak massacre of 2002 when jihadis attacked a bus full of unsuspecting tourists and then an Army residential compound in Jammu & Kashmir, killing 34 people, definitely counts as one of them. Though the State of Jammu & Kashmir has witnessed countless terrorist attacks since the 1990s that continue till this day, it is for its sheer audacity and daringness that Kaluchak will not be forgotten. Similarly, the fidayeen strike on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar in 2002 is yet another example. On that occasion as many as 30 devotees were gunned down in cold blood and 80 others seriously injured. Delhi too bears the scars of terrorism. The December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament will forever remain etched in our memories. The national capital has also borne the brunt of two separate series of terror bombings in 2005 and 2008 that left 90 people dead and maimed at least thrice that number. The Ahmedabad bombings last year wherein 22 bombs ripped through the city killing 60 also figures prominently, as do the Mumbai train bombings in 2006, in the list of jihadi monstrosities.


The shock value of 26/11 has no parallels. The day 10 death mongers who came via the sea route from Pakistan and indiscriminately slaughtered innocent men, women and children has been permanently burned into our collective frame of reference. And over the past year, our rage has only increased with having to see Pakistan mock at what happened. At every step Islamabad has frustrated us and made a joke of our restraint, proving its complicity in promoting terrorism against this nation. It is clear that the powers-that-be in that country have no intention of abandoning the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India. It will never act against the jihadis whom it treats as friends and 'strategic assets'. It is pointless and futile to even expect Pakistan to crack down on terrorists operating from its soil against this country. It would actually be a better bet to expect the authorities there to confer Hafiz Mohammad Saeed with the Nishan-e-Pakistan. As we reflect on how 26/11 has changed us all, perhaps it is time we recognised Pakistan's single-point agenda of hostility against India.

 

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THE PIONEER

A RED CARPET WELCOME

BUT WHAT'S THE OUTCOME OF PM'S US VISIT?


There is cold comfort in the fact that the Prime Minister got a red carpet welcome at the White House followed by a formal banquet because apart from reiterating stated positions and polite niceties, neither Mr Manmohan Singh nor US President Barack Obama had anything new to say after their meeting on Tuesday. If symbolism is worth writing home about, then India should feel gratified that its Prime Minister was accorded the exalted status of being the first state guest of the Obama Administration. But mere symbolism cannot carry forward India-US relations, nor lend it the momentum that was gained during the years when Mr George W Bush was President. A strategic relationship is not merely about words, but deeds and actions. It is here where the relationship appears to be floundering. The Obama Administration's mollycoddling of Pakistan — which, had it not impacted India adversely, would have been of no concern to us — and the attempt to re-hyphenate a relationship that was de-hyphenated during the Bush years has raised genuine worries. These are linked to Mr Obama's much-hyped AfPak policy which crashed even before taking off. A new Afghanistan policy, we are now told, will be unveiled after Thanksgiving and could reveal the path which Mr Obama plans to tread, notwithstanding his promise to take the war on terror to its logical conclusion. It would also show how the US views India's role in the region, specifically in Afghanistan — provided it feels New Delhi has a role to play at all or Kabul should once again be placed under Islamabad's control. Mr Singh would have no doubt mentioned India's concerns; we are yet to know Mr Obama's response.


Enthusiastic supporters of the India-US nuclear deal, including those who are not perturbed by the Government compromising our strategic interest, were eagerly looking forward to a grand declaration at Tuesday's joint Press conference. After all, American and Indian officials, if reports in a section of the media are to be believed, were working overtime to remove all glitches to operationalise the civil nuclear cooperation agreement. But apparently those glitches still remain; meanwhile, the Prime Minister has offered to give further undertakings and dot more 'i's and cross more 't's in the hope that Mr Obama will be sufficiently impressed to allow reprocessing of nuclear fuel and give the green signal for spanking new all-American nuclear power plants to come up in India. Amazingly, with nothing to show in return, we have agreed to participate in talks on the proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. It could be argued that we have no option but to agree to participate in the talks. But that's because the options that were there have been squandered.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

THE SHIA-SUNNI FAULTLINE

G PARTHASARATHY


Just as the hapless people of Iraq emerged from the trauma of the American invasion and the consequent ethnic and sectarian violence that engulfed their country, the fledgling democratic Government was confronted with new challenges. On August 21 the Shia majority Iraqi Parliament called on its Sunni dominated neighbour, Saudi Arabia, to "cease funding anti-Government terrorists in Iraq". A senior official of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ruling Dawa Party, Mr Haidar al-Ibadi noted on August 20 that "there are regional powers that pay billions of dollars to push for the failure of Iraq's democracy". He criticised a "multi-billion-dollar plan by Saudi Arabia and other states" to launch terrorist attacks across the country and to undermine public confidence in the elected Government. Another leading Iraqi MP, who is a member of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Sami al Askari, averred: "Saudi Arabia is not happy that Shias lead this country." The Iraqis note that three Sunni Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt — are yet to establish diplomatic missions in Baghdad.


While Iraq accuses Saudi Arabia of meddling in its internal affairs, Saudi Arabia and Yemen accuse Shia-dominated Iran of promoting unrest in their Shia minorities. In September, Yemen claimed it seized a vessel carrying weapons from Iran for rebels of its minority Zaidi Shia sect and detained its Iranian crew. As internal tensions in Yemen spilled across its borders into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Air Force strafed rebel bases along the Yemen-Saudi border. On November 11, Saudi Arabia imposed a naval blockade of the Red Sea coast of northern Yemen. The Saudi Army is now operating against Shia rebels along its borders with Yemen. Saudi Arabia fears Iranian instigation of its Shia population in its oil-rich eastern provinces. Responding to Saudi actions, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned: "Regional and neighbouring countries should not interfere in Yemen's internal affairs," adding, "Those who choose to fan the flames of conflict must know that the fire will reach them."


Iran asserts that neighbouring Pakistan is joining Saudi Arabia, with American encouragement, to promote terrorist violence in its Sunni majority border Province of Sistan Balochistan. Iran accuses Pakistan of arming and supporting a shadowy Wahaabi-oriented Balochi group, Jundallah, to destabilise Sistan Balochistan. On May 28, the Jundallah struck at the provincial capital Zahidan during ceremonies by the Shia community to mark the death of the daughter of Prophet Mohammed. This terrorist attack left 25 worshippers dead and 125 injured. On October 18 the Jundallah again struck at a meeting convened by the Deputy Commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, killing 42 people, including the Deputy Commander. An outraged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused "certain officials" in Pakistan of cooperating with the Jundallah and providing shelter and support to its leader Abdelmalek Rigi. Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Saudi Arabia has backed the Taliban in Afghanistan and Wahaabi-oriented groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Pakistan, Iran has responded by aiding the Shia minority and anti-Taliban groups along its borders with Afghanistan and sectarian Shia groups in Pakistan.


Superimposed on the rivalries, conflicts and prejudices that have characterised Persian-Arab relations for centuries, matters have been further complicated by the roles of the US and Israel, which significantly influence developments in the region. While Jews and Persians have historically been allies, Iran's Revolutionary Government has adopted a policy of hostility towards Israel and the US. The Israelis, in turn, have covert links with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Israel has stridently opposed Iran's nuclear programme, claiming that Tehran has ambitions to make nuclear weapons. The Obama Administration is trying to find a solution that permits Iran to enrich uranium, while ensuring that it neither qualitatively not quantitatively possesses enough highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons. Israel, however, continues to warn that if Iran, which has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", is not stopped, it will strike militarily at Iranian nuclear facilities. Any such action could well lead to Iran seeking to cut off access to two-thirds of the world's oil supplies coming from the Persian Gulf, sparking a global economic crisis.


India has a vital stake in the stability of the region, extending from Pakistan and Afghanistan, across the Straits of Hormuz. An estimated four million Indians now live in the six Arab Gulf kingdoms — Oman, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. India gets around 75 per cent of its oil supplies from these countries. Indians living in these countries remit the bulk of the $ 55 billion that India gets as remittances. Tensions and conflicts in this region could send global oil prices skyrocketing. This will adversely affect our balance of payments and send our foreign exchange reserves spiralling downwards, as we already have an adverse balance of trade of around $ 120 billion. Apart from India's increasing dependence on the Gulf Arab states for its oil supplies, there is now a growing demand for natural gas, for which an agreement was signed with Qatar. While Qatar has fulfilled the terms of the agreement signed with India, Iran has proved to be an unreliable supplier, unilaterally repudiating a contract signed with India in 2005 for supply of an estimated $ 40 billion of natural gas over 25 years. Iran, however, remains an important source of natural gas. Given the political situation within Pakistan and growing regional tensions, India will have to secure foolproof guarantees of assured supplies before inking any deal on a gas pipeline from Iran, which traverses through not only the violence prone Sistan Balochistan province of Iran, but also through volatile Pakistani Balochistan.


Given the complexities of the emerging situation in its western neighbourhood, India will have to steer clear of getting involved in Persian-Arab rivalries. But, at the same time, given its close relations with Iran, Israel and the US and as a member of the Board of Governors of the IAEA, India should play a more active role in resolving the stand-off resulting from Iran's nuclear ambitions. Samuel Huntington had prophesised a "clash of civilisations" between the Christian and the Muslim worlds. What we are witnessing in our neighbourhood is a clash between Persian and Arab cultures, superimposed on a sectarian Shia-Sunni divide.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

NOTHING HAS CHANGED

KHIMI THAPA

 

A year after 26/11 when terrorists wreaked havoc on Mumbai, nothing seems to have changed, although, we might have been able to prevent any major terror incident thanks to foreign help.


Exhibiting 'resilience', the common man, not just Mumbaikars, has returned to the normal rhythm of life. Celebrities, who were hysterical in their condemnation of the attack given that Ajmal Amir Kasab and his gun-totting colleagues had refused to distinguish between the elite of our society and ordinary citizens, are back to their Page 3 parties. Mr RR Patil, who had to resign as Maharashtra's Home Minister for his utterly callous remark — "Bade shehron mein aisi choti baatein hoti rehti hai"— is back to his old job.


Although 26/11 laid bare the pathetic state of our security apparatus, the process of overhauling and reorienting the same is still in limbo. While Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive in the Mumbai terror strike, is living his 'mutton biryani' moments, many fear the case will go the Afzal Guru way.


Further, India has failed to diplomatically corner Pakistan with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh having delinked terrorism from bilateral dialogue and agreed to include Balochistan in future talks in a joint statement issued with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh in July last. The feeble diplomatic manoeuvring has failed to compel Islamabad to take action against the 26/11 conspirators, including mastermind Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba chief. The latest from Mr Singh is that he does "not know whom to deal with in that country".


Besides, no breakthrough has been achieved in the investigation into the purchase of faulty bullet-proof jackets that Maharashtra Anti-terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar were wearing on the fateful night when they were shot dead by Kasab and his fidayeen colleague. Shockingly, Karkare's jacket has reportedly disappeared and so has the official file pertaining to the procurement of these jackets.


Moreover, despite knowing that financial aids are being used to fund terrorism, a new five-year $ 7.5 billion 'assistance package' for Pakistan was passed by the US Congress in September to 'fight terror'.


Not only this, we as a nation have failed to go beyond the rhetoric that terrorism has no religion and translate this into action. So what has changed a year after 26/11? Nothing.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

HACKERS FINANCED 26/11

INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE ACTIVITIES OF ITALY-BASED MADINA TRADING COMPANY HAVE REVEALED THE ROLE OF THE PAKISTANI DIASPORA IN FINANCING TERRORIST ORGANISATIONS LIKE LASHKAR-E-TAYYEBA. FUNDS FOR THE FIDAYEENATTACK ON MULTIPLE TARGETS IN MUMBAI A YEAR AGO CAME FROM PAKISTANIS IN THE WEST

B RAMAN


On June 12, 2009, US and Italian investigators arrested some persons on the charge of stealing phone services from phone companies around the world and using the illegal profits thus earned for funding terrorism.


They were accused of hacking phone lines and selling the phone services thus illegally obtained through call centres and via phone cards. It was stated by the investigators that many of the phone calls were made over lines owned by AT&T Corp. While AT&T was not hacked, 12 million minutes of its phone services valued at $ 55 million were allegedly stolen by the arrested persons.


The three hackers, who were indicted by a grand jury at New Jersey in the US on June 12, were residents of the Philippines. They were accused by the investigators of helping Madina Trading Company of Brescia, Italy, in obtaining stolen phone lines for providing phone services to the customers of the company in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 13 that Madina Trading Company, which paid the three hackers, also "financed the communications of the terrorists" in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.


According to the US indictment, Mahmoud Nusier (40), Paul Michael Kwan (27), and Nancy Gomez (24), residing in the Philippines, conspired to break into the phone systems of 2,500 entities in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. The three hackers were arrested by the Philippines Police last year, but were released on bail.

On getting information of their hacking into the phone systems of US companies, American authorities took up the investigation and have sought their extradition from the Filipino authorities. It is not known what action has been taken by the Filipino authorities on the extradition request from the US. The Wall Street Journal has quoted the Filipino authorities saying that Nusier, a Jordanian national, had links with Al Qaeda.


On June 12, the Italian police arrested five Pakistani nationals during raids on 10 call centres suspected of involvement in the conspiracy. Among those arrested were a husband-and-wife team who managed call centres in Brescia, Italy — Mohammad Zamir (40) and Shabina Kanwal (38).


According to the indictment filed in the New Jersey court, Madina Trading Company is owned by one of the call centre operators involved in the conspiracy. However, the owner of the company was not named.


Two employees of the same Madina Trading Company in Brescia —Mohammad Yaqub Janjua (60) and his son Aamer Yaqub Janjua (31) — who were managing the company, were arrested by the Italian authorities on November 21 on the charge of aiding and abetting international terrorism as well as illegal financial activity.

According to Mr Stefano Fonzi, the head of the anti-terrorism police of Brescia, on November 25, 2008, they sent money using a stolen identity to a US company to activate an Internet phone account used by the terrorists involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The funds were transferred under the identity of another Pakistani who had never been to Italy and was not involved in the attacks, Mr Fonzi said.

That person's identity was probably stolen when he used another money transfer agency in Pakistan. The order to open the account that allowed the terrorists to communicate during the attack came from two men in Pakistan. The Italian police say the identities of these Pakistanis have been intimated to the Pakistani authorities.

The transfer of money by the Mumbai conspirators through Madina Trading Company had come to the notice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Indian authorities shortly after the 26/11 attacks, but the manager of the company and his son could not be arrested immediately by the Italian authorities as they had fled the country — reportedly to Pakistan. They were arrested when they returned to Italy. If it is correct that they had fled to Pakistan, it is not clear why they were not arrested by the Pakistani authorities.


The investigation into the activities of Madina Trading Company brings out the involvement of members of the Pakistani diaspora in the West in the sale of stolen phone services and the use of such companies by terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba based in Pakistan. These organisations seem to have an up-to-date database of Pakistani-owned or run companies which can be used for facilitating terrorist attacks.

 The writer is a former counter-terrorism expert. His book, Mumbai 26/11: A day of Infamy, has just been published.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TRIUMPH OF JUSTICE

GALLOWS FOR MUJIB'S KILLERS WILL END A DARK CHAPTER

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


Bangladesh Supreme Court's confirmation of the death sentence passed on former Armymen who were among those who killed the nation's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on August 15, 1975, is a landmark event. Along with him, the murderers killed all but two members of his family, Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana, who were abroad. This was a sinister crime irrespective of the identity of the victims.


Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a charismatic leader who had led his people to freedom. This and the fact that his assassination was followed by 15 years of military dictatorship and a serious attempt to destroy the secular nature of Bangladesh's society, made it a crime against the entire people. Article 38 of 1972 Constitution, banning communal parties and organisations, was revoked in 1976 when Gen Zia-ur Rahman was Chief Martial Law Administrator. Later, as President, he removed, in 1977, the declaration in the same Constitution of secularism as a principle of state policy, and a definition of what secularism meant in practice.


Rehabilitation of the leaders and activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and allied organisations, who had aided and abetted in the genocide of three million people and rape of thousands of women to squelch the fight against Pakistani colonialism, and murdered the country's leading intellectuals, ran as a parallel process sharply underlined by the permission granted to Golam Azam, leader of those collaborating with Pakistani forces, to return to Bangladesh from where he had fled before liberation, and stay on illegally.


Gen Zia-ur Rahman and Gen HM Ershad, who became President a brief while after the former's assassination on May 30, 1981, put Bangladesh on a course of Islamisation underlined by the 1988 declaration of Islam as the country's state religion. Islamist fundamentalists became increasingly assertive and violent. The ouster of Gen Ershad in 1990 and the installation of an elected Government following the 1991 general election, brought no change. Begum Khaleda Zia allowed terrorist organisations to grow. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh was formed in 1992 and became active in promoting terrorism in Bangladesh and India. Meanwhile, Dhaka continued to harbour, train and arm terrorist groups from north-eastern India.


Sheikh Hasina tried to reverse the process during her first stint as Prime Minister from 1996 to 2001 but failed. Pro-Pakistan elements and Islamist fundamentalists allied with the Jamaat were strongly entrenched in the police, the Directorate-General of Forces Intelligence, the country's all-powerful intelligence agency, the armed forces and the civil administration. The Prime Minister's writ did not run beyond a point.


The 2001 parliamentary election and the formation of Government by a four-party coalition spearheaded by Begum Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat, was followed by a relentless attempt to destroy the Awami League and the country's civil society through murder and intimidation. A grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka on August 21, 2004, left 23 dead. Sheikh Hasina escaped by a whisker. The ISI had a free run of the country. Fundamentalist Islamist terrorist groups like the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, Ahl-e-Hadith Andolan Bangladesh and the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh flourished until international pressure led to their banning on February 23, 2005. While they continued to function, the massive arms haul at Chittagong Port on April 2, 2004, underlined Bangladesh's emergence as a major transit area for global arms smuggling, and its complicity in aiding Indian insurgent outfits.


The Supreme Court's verdict is a striking symbol of the attempt to reverse the process which began with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's murder. It, however, needs to be followed by a trial of the collaborationist war criminals of 1971, the murderers of Awami League leaders in Dhaka jail on the night of November 3-4, 1975, those behind August 21, 2004 grenade attack and the landing of the arms seized in Chittagong. The perpetrators are all linked.

The mutiny by personnel of the Bangladesh Rifles in Dhaka in February—the trial of the accused has just begun — indicates the seriousness of the opposition Sheikh Hasina will face. She must not, however, relent. Her own survival, and the legacy of the liberation war and her father, are at stake. India needs to extend every assistance she needs. She is New Delhi's best friend in South Asia.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NEEDED, CULTURE OF ETHICS

SOCIETAL PRESSURE FORCES US TO EXHIBIT SUCCESS BY SOCIETY'S STANDARDS. IT'S TIME WE SHUN CORRUPT PRACTICES AND REALISE THAT ETHICAL PRINCIPLES LEAD TO RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS

SHAILAJA CHANDRA


I have often wondered why there exists a compulsive need in our society to display oneself and one's family as always being on top of the world. Why is it necessary to make known, howsoever subtly that one has achieved more than one's peers? Why is there a societal need to conceal failures — lost jobs, broken marriages, wayward children, financial difficulties, and career and post-retirement frustrations? Why is there a societal obligation and an internal pressure to conform, to compare, to judge and to comment on the performance of others, while suppressing what is murky in one's own world?


Increasingly the world is looking for ways of admitting the truth, be it in viewing relationships at the level of the individual or the relationship of large multinationals with their clients. That being so, there is a need to think differently about so-called successes and achievements and to take a look at how efforts are being made elsewhere to face the truth and build a climate of trust.


Recently I was asked by a French television company that had been conducting thousands of interviews around the world to participate in an impromptu interview. First I saw the preview. It could be a farmer in Cambodia, a scarfed Sudanese student, a French grandfather or a Swiss fisherman. All the interviews were recorded straight into the camera and the questions were extremely basic but actually seeking answers to what people across the world were asking to be told. Because no one had ever asked these questions of me and because I was certain none of my friends and acquaintances would ever see the photo exhibition, I found myself opening up to a complete stranger and the camera.


The questions went like this: What is your earliest memory? What does family mean to you? Which was the happiest day in your life? Which was the saddest day in your life? What is the meaning of love for you? Did you feel inferior to your husband when you were working? Did you feel superior? Is there someone you have never forgiven in life? Do you feel that your life has been happier than your parents'?


The idea of such video-based interviews was to capture what people actually thought and how they responded when asked personal questions when the mask was down. Unexpectedly I found myself answering what I would never have admitted, face to face. Because all of us are conditioned to fall into stereo-types and wear a mask of contentedness before the outside world; because there is societal pressure to exhibit success by society's standards of success. And because I knew I was not being judged by viewers across the globe, and there was little likelihood that anyone in India would ever see my responses, I spoke from the heart and truthfully.

And soon thereafter another unrelated but relevant experience came my way. I was a part of a conference on Re-Introducing Integrity and Trust in Business held at the Asian Plateau at Panchgani. Again I heard a constant plea to shun the mask that businesses don in the quest for winning the battle to lose the war. The managing director of Siemens, Mr Armin Bruck and Mr JJ Irani from the House of Tata shared the dilemmas that had beset their companies and laid bare examples of how success pegged to unethical practices was ultimately a disgrace to the company and no success at all. Attended by participants from Japan and a few other countries the underlying theme stressed the need to stop judging success by man-made standards and instead nurture more trustful relationships. Because in the ultimate analysis ethical principles lead to responsible business — companies that respect not just shareholders but a wider world of stakeholders. In the long run, adherence to principles was shown to have earned respect and better business.

The conference highlighted how in 75 countries covering over 2,50,000 employees, the strength of ethical culture was being reassessed. 'Tone at the top' openness of communication, whether unethical behaviour was addressed quickly and fairly, comfort levels in speaking up had become the new benchmarks to judge the integrity quotient of companies-not cutting corners for quick profit making.


In this it was important to understand what misconduct in business included. Harassment, inappropriate behaviour, fraud, stealing company property, accounting irregularities and business information violations were higher across Asia than overall in the world. On the other hand Asian countries fared better than the rest of the world when it came to aspects like avoiding conflict of interest, following health and safety policies, avoiding alcohol and drug abuse and insider trading. So there were cultural differences in attitudes to conducting business which ultimately stood rooted in individual behaviour.


It is evident that there is now an effort both at the individual and collective level to respect frankness and truth over subterfuge. It will take decades if not centuries for this ethos to percolate into politics. But in everyday life it is possible to salute honesty and integrity when we see it. Only then can these attributes get the nourishment they need to grow and spread.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SCARED AMERICAN SANTAS LOBBY FOR SWINE FLU SHOTS

SNOTTY-NOSED CHILDREN WITH COUGH AND COLD ARE NOT WELCOME THIS YEAR, WRITES HOLLY RAMER


Forget cookies and milk. Santa wants the swine flu vaccine. Many of America's Santas want to be given priority for the vaccine and not just because of those runny-nosed kids. There's also the not-so-little matter of that round belly. Research has suggested obesity could be a risk factor.


Swine flu has become such a concern that the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas featured a seminar on the illness at a recent conference in Philadelphia. The group also urged its members to use hand sanitiser and take vitamins to boost their immune systems.

 

The president of the organisation said he also hopes parents will keep sick kids away. "We don't want any child to go without seeing Santa, but it's not worth bringing your child to the mall, infecting the Santa and infecting the other children," Mr Nicholas Trolli said. He recalled a boy who informed him last year that he had a fever and had stayed home from school. But, the child said, his mother thought it was a good day to visit Santa.


Mr Ernest Berger, president of another group called Santa America, asked an Alabama Congressman last week to designate Santas a priority group for the swine flu vaccine, like healthcare workers or infant caregivers. Mr Berger hopes Santas will use hand sanitiser and encourage children to do the same, without turning the experience into a hygiene lecture. "It's a delicate balance here. This is not an exercise in healthcare. This is visiting Santa," he said.


Mr Berger estimates that about two-thirds of all American Santas are overweight, and about a third are morbidly obese. That raises health concerns because some research has suggested obesity could be a risk factor for severe swine flu. A high proportion of those who have gotten severely ill from swine flu have been obese or extremely obese. But health officials have also said that might be due to the fact that heavy people tend to have asthma and other conditions that make them more susceptible.


The 200 or so Santas who volunteer to visit sick or grieving children through Santa America will be washing their suits daily instead of weekly and will not be wearing gloves this year so they can wash their hands frequently, Mr Berger said.


In Nashua, New Hampshire, hand-sanitising stations have been set up around the Pheasant Lane Mall, including just outside the picket fence surrounding the Santa Claus area. But on a recent Saturday, not one of the dozen or so families who passed through used it.

Ms Susan Mesco, owner of American Events and Promotions in Denver, Colorado, which runs a five-day Santa school, said her Santas will be wearing gloves but changing them every three hours and washing them in anti-bacterial soap. Dr Jodie Dionne-Odom, New Hampshire's deputy state epidemiologist, said going gloveless and using gel between each child would be the best option. She cautioned that viruses can live on unwashed hands for two to eight hours.


"If your hand was warm and moist, it could live longer," she said. "It depends on whether you have a glob of mucus on your hand where it's going to live happily versus a tiny speck. It's kind of disgusting, but it would depend on what was on your hand."

Dr Jack Turco, director of health services at Dartmouth College, said Santa might consider greeting children from a few feet away rather than holding them on his lap, or asking children with cough to stand in a separate line. "If we take this really seriously, and I think we should because people are dying, it wouldn't be inappropriate to say this is a year maybe we shouldn't do these mass gatherings," he said.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MATURING TIES

 

There's plenty of pomp as well as good atmospherics on display during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington - billed as the first state visit of the Obama presidency. The joint press conference held by Obama and Singh was full of platitudes about the power of democracy, values India and America share, and the personal virtues of the two leaders. But beyond platitudes Obama, instead of raising the NPT or the CTBT, unequivocally referred to India as a nuclear power.


In terms of substance, the Singh-Obama joint statement did well to emphasise the necessity of eliminating terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries in India's neighbourhood, an obvious reference to Pakistan. It also recognised India's role in Afghanistan. Both of these are pressing Indian concerns. But there were no big-ticket announcements, pertaining either to resolving the issues holding up the implementation of the India-US nuclear deal or a counterterrorism and intelligence sharing agreement.


But perhaps that is as it should be. Some Indians may be nostalgic about the lovefest of the Bush era, but both India and the US need to have realistic expectations of each other. The most important things happen in the background, and sometimes, quiet, steady consultations and commitments bode better for mutually beneficial ties between two countries. Here India and the US have been engaged on a lot of fronts, and that engagement will continue. For example, the contents of the Singh-Obama joint statement matter for less than whether the US will stay engaged in Afghanistan and counter-terror cooperation continues between Washington and New Delhi.

Too much emotionalism, whether in the sense of triumphalism or excessive cynicism, is not going to pay off in the manner in which Indians look at the US. New Delhi is not going to abandon its relationship with Beijing in order to please Washington. Similarly, it must recognise that Washington is going to prioritise its relationship with Beijing, thanks largely to its economic might. As far as Pakistan is concerned, Washington will continue to pump in aid and offer support to Islamabad at this critical stage of its internal war. India must rely on its own resources rather than look to Washington for deliverance, but also leverage its ties with Washington to serve its interests. That can be the only basis for an enduring and sustainable relationship. The outlook for Indo-US ties going forward is substantive, though it might not be spectacular, and promises decent dividends. It is in India's interests to push through more market reforms and scale up its economic clout as it seeks a solid equation with the US and a greater say in global affairs. Upon his return, this should top Singh's agenda.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

DOWN AND DIRTY

 

In a certain made for TV film, a very young John Travolta plays a boy born with a deficient immune system, forced to live out his short life in a plastic bubble. The film's only success beyond its saccharine sweetness was that it telegraphed the anxieties of modern parenthood, where parents are so afraid of getting it wrong with their kids that they wrap them in metaphorical plastic bubbles. Well, parents, worry no more! Scientists have ridden to the rescue of the poor children deprived of their God-given right to make a mess, and said that it is necessary for kids get their hands dirty and, you know, behave like kids, if they are to grow up to be healthy adults.


They do offer scientific reasons to do with immune systems and allergies and the like. But really, anyone with an ounce of common sense could tell parents today that wrapping their children in cottonwool couldn't shield them from all the hard knocks life deals out. Not only are many kids barred from playing in literal dirt, anything that might 'damage' their tender, innocent minds - like the truly terrifying nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty or the horror story that is Snow White - is duly sanitised and inspected for political correctness before it is put out for the consumption of the movers and shakers of tomorrow.


The end result is that these kids grow up without ever knowing the joys of splashing around in the rain or the singular sensation of earth crusting under their fingernails. But now science too is supporting the conclusion that a little bit of dirt and germs is all right, and kids are unlikely to keel over if anyone so much as sneezes on them. Considering the number of allergies their equally cosseted cohorts probably have, this could be, oh, every five minutes or so.


But perhaps humanity's future can still be rescued from the clutches of antiseptic cleanliness. If anxious parents realise their kids can muck around without contracting some dreaded disease - much like they presumably did - children may grow up much healthier physically. Not to mention having greater fun during their childhoods.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

STILL SITTING DUCKS?

It's a year since the terror attacks on Mumbai stunned India and the world. But even now, there is an absence of comfort at how we might deal with another terrorist blitzkrieg that could possibly surpass last year's 26/11 attacks in intensity. After an initial flurry of activity and pronouncements - from military threats to Pakistan, where the attacks came from, to promises that our police and intelligence agencies would be geared up to prevent such a fiasco - the government's responses have been far from reassuring. Even the political heads that had symbolically rolled have now been rehabilitated and, worse, it is business as usual with Pakistan!


On both counts, New Delhi has sent out the worst signal to Pakistan on how we will respond in the event of another big attack, a 'Mumbai-II'. Much of the responsibility for reacting to a terror strike in a city rests with the chief minister, and as Vilasrao Deshmukh, the then incumbent, was found wanting, he was removed. But he is now a Union cabinet minister. To add a smile to Pakistan's smirk, our prime minister's meeting with his Pakistani counterpart led to a contestable joint statement despite Pakistan's rejection of several volumes of proof that India has provided the Pakistanis. The message that has gone out is: India always comes around. Diplomatically, we've simply lost the plot even though world opinion was with India after 26/11. Even the trial of the lone captured terrorist, Ajmal Kasab, despite all the evidence is still dragging on.


On the ground, our police force - whether in Mumbai or elsewhere - still remains ill equipped and unfit to battle terror. In an era when a terrorist carries an automatic AK-47, many of our policemen still carry the antique bolt action rifles. While a terrorist uses sat-phones and GPS navigational systems, our policemen and soldiers use VHF radio sets that cannot function in cities like Mumbai with highrise buildings. And as lethal explosives are now a norm amongst terrorists - often referred to as improvised explosive devices or IEDs - our men need sensors, night vision devices, body heat detectors and regular rounds on training simulators, so essential to keep their skills in shape. In short, we have to equip the police to fight the terrorist like a terrorist.


Our hopes continue to be pinned on the NSG's Black Cat commandos. And by locating them near Mumbai and other metros, it is assumed that we are ready for the next attack. But nothing can actually deter a motivated terrorist. And what if the next target is a city which has no NSG unit? Moreover, if news reports are to be believed, NSG men have received little cooperation from local cops, nor the maps or heli-lift capability to find their way through crowded traffic in case of another attack. There is little synergy between the Special Forces (largely from the army), the police and intelligence agencies, with each guarding their turfs of influence.


The police apart, our biggest weakness remains the inefficient dissemination of actionable intelligence. Apparently, the intercepts of the Research & Analysis Wing about terrorist movement towards Mumbai were sent to the national security advisor. But nothing was done. Instead, the entire blame was laid on the failure of maritime intelligence. So, the government decided to set up a coastal command - with maritime defence zones, aerial and ISR surveillance equipment - under the Indian navy. However, a year later, there is little to show on this front.


Over $40 billion have been set aside for India's defence modernisation by 2012. Another $80 billion could be spent a decade later. But procedural delays allow nothing to happen. The Mumbai attacks have brought home the need for us to re-examine our military acquisition plans. It's all very well to have force multipliers but big ticket battlefield toys cannot help you battle terror or even punish Pakistan, as the aftermath of 26/11 has shown. These are at best for purposes of deterrence, as we saw from our measured responses following 26/11. It wasn't just to keep Pakistan guessing but, because Pakistan's nuclear doctrine states that they could use nuclear weapons in case Indian troops or aircraft cross their borders, India's military options were hugely restricted.


What we need immediately to prevent a Mumbai-II are not two or more aircraft carriers and 126 new fighter jets, but new maritime reconnaissance aircraft - like Northrop Grumman's Nimrod MRA4 or the Boeing P81 multi-mission aircraft - and more 'eyes in the skies' with AWACS and remotely flown UAVs, as well as replacements for our aging fleet of AN32 and IL76 transport aircraft. More than longer range artillery guns, the army needs to replace its old war horses like the HSA316B Chetak and the HS315B Cheetah helicopters. But above all, we must modernise the cutting edge of our sword - the infantry units - as a multi-terrain force to fight tomorrow's dirty wars. And we must do that fast, because terrorists aren't going to wait eternally before they hit us again.


The writer is a defence analyst.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

A GOOD WAY TO REVIVE POLITICS

 

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress was recently in the news because of an outburst by party MP and singer, Kabir Suman, against Trinamul's political culture. But that has not stopped Mamata from declaring that she would like more intellectuals, technocrats and bureaucrats to be Trinamul candidates in future elections.

Mamata has got it right on this one. Indian politics needs an overhaul if it is to be regarded with less cynicism than it is now. A recent survey on the state of democracy in South Asia puts the citizen's faith in political parties way below that of the Election Commission, courts and the bureaucracy. A post-election survey earlier this year found that nearly 70 per cent of voters feel that elected representatives care little for their problems and concerns. So it's apparent politicians and the political class are held in very low esteem in India. The poor quality of politicians is reflected in Parliament. In the last Lok Sabha, nearly a quarter of MPs had either criminal cases registered against them or pending in court. This has not changed for the current Lok Sabha where 153 MPs have criminal cases pending against them, a nearly 20 per cent jump from last time.


What better way to improve things than to induct more professionals into parties and nominating them for elections? This will kill two birds with one stone. One, people who aren't tainted by the politician tag are likely to be regarded with less cynicism by voters. Two, candidates who have made their mark in different fields can bring their expertise to governance and legislation if they do get elected.


The induction of people who are non-politicians into politics is, however, not going to be easy. This was illustrated in the last general elections when several professionals contested but a majority of them lost. This has a lot to do with the money power and organisational muscle needed to win elections, which is something independent candidates lack. But if established parties like Trinamul are willing to give a share of election tickets to professionals that problem is taken care of.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTER VIEW

DON'T MESS IT UP FURTHER

The dissatisfaction with our current crop of politicians is understandable. Their conduct, especially as legislators, leaves a lot to be desired. But is that a sufficient reason to ask for more "non-practising politicians" in legislatures? Not necessarily.


Politics as a profession calls for a set of skills that are different from other jobs. A politician must be interested in public affairs and should have good people-management skills. There are, of course, exceptions, but the successful one, usually, is the one who is willing to be at the beck and call of people 24x7 throughout the year. Most importantly, you can't always choose the people you want to be with.


As a legislator, a politician is expected to make public policy and oversee its implementation. He must have qualities to judge what is best for the people by sifting through suggestions given by experts. He has to be the bridge between the expert and the citizen. His choices have to be moral as well as practical. Those non-politicians who have succeeded in public affairs are mostly those who ride the popularity of a political party or a movement without necessarily leading or organising them. If other professionals want to turn legislators, they are welcome to join politics and contest elections. There are already many such people active in politics.

The assumption behind the demand for a new set of politicians is that the present ones have failed because they don't have any specific skills that could help in running the country. That more technocrats, engineers, retired bureaucrats etc could improve the situation seems to be the belief. It belies a lop-sided understanding of the governance process and singles out politicians for all the collective failures to improve the lot of citizens. This is a gross overestimation of the role of legislators in governance and underestimates the contributions made by other professionals active in the system. The corrupt politician is a stereotype. So are the efficient technocrat and the capable engineer. They all come with various levels of capabilities some efficient, some corrupt and the system benefits when they deliver together. It is naive to expect the honest and brilliant professional to turn around the system single-handedly.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

THE SAVIOUR AT MY TABLE

BACHI KARKARIA 

 

Morning shows the day, they say. But on that Wednesday exactly a year ago, even the balmy evening had given no inkling of the shadows to come. Oblivious of the Kuber offloading its unlisted cargo of massacre and mayhem, Mumbai had gone about its business of  jostling, gyming and jaywalking, not for a moment imagining  the imminent bonfire of  its vanities. Or the end of its unsung ordinariness.

 

We were  in the throes of celebration, glowing, smiling, welcoming. How could we have even dreamt of the coldblooded killers who would come unbidden to the feast, and snatch away the friend who had made the effort to come from Delhi especially for my son's wedding reception.

 

Today, I will make the return journey that Sabina made in a coffin 362 days ago, after the Taj was finally sanitized and its stunning toll fully revealed. As I sit tonight with her friends, enraptured by Ustad Rashid Khan who used to move her to tears, we will try to hide our own.

 

 Recording this personal loss, my column was titled 'The Terrorist At My Table' . It agonized over my responsibility for Sabina's violent end, my part in a family suddenly left unmoored. It was not easy to come to terms with, despite the many reassurances, including those of her husband, the awesomely brave Santanu.

 

A year later, I would like to honour the memory of  the friend I lost by writing about the friends who were saved by the same circumstance. There were many guests on that occasion that night   for whom the Taj and the Oberoi are nightly ports of call. If they hadn't been at my son's wedding reception in the Colaba agiary --just slightly more than a grenade's throw away -- they would have been at an official cocktail party or a not-so-quiet private dinner at either of these fatal venues.But our wedding dinner wasn't only an incidental saviour. For some it was a deliberate denial of destiny. Take Munna and Sudha Javeri, who for the past  30 years had unfailingly celebrated their wedding anniversary at the Taj's Golden Dragon along with  their growing and growing up family. Last October, when our invitation arrived, they decided to break  the long tradition for the sake of an almost-as-long friendship. So they were here instead of there.

 

Arun Arora was in fact there but left in the nick of time to be here. He was at an Indo-Korean  trade dinner at the Taj, and finally excused himself because "I simply cannot miss my friend's reception." Ten minutes after his car slid out of the porch, the terrorists shattered in. Members of the two delegations spent 10 traumatised hours before being rescued; not all of them made it. Suhel Seth and Raian Karanjia, also from Delhi, were also staying at the Taj like Sabina, but unlike her were still savouring our traditional lagan nu bhonu. The hotel sms-ed  them not to return. But our first alert came for Rahul Akerkar: the first innocent bystander was felled at the door of Indigo, and the guests inside cowered for hours in darkness as the carefree Colaba night  outside turned into a monster.

 

Almost everyone at the reception had a just-escaped tale. Those who had left, or not arrived, by the time the news socked the city had narrowly missed the whizzing bullets at the Metro junction or Chowpatty. My colleagues coming straight from the office had been waiting on the TOI pavement. Had the delayers taken 15 minutes longer, all of them would have been in the deathly path of  a Kasab and Ismail swaggering out of  CST's suburban station exactly opposite. 

 

Which is why 26/11 for me will always be as much about thanksgiving as tragedy.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

AFTERNOON DELIGHT

IT'S SIESTA TIME

'Don't disturb between 2 p.m.-4 p.m.' I've seen such boards outside many houses in Pune. I wondered why, until someone told me that people sleep at that time and they don't like to be disturbed by unwanted visitors. A siesta, or Vamkukshi in Sanskrit, is a luxury nowadays. But there are people who enjoy their 40 winks even at office. It's euphemistically called a 'power nap', which rejuvenates you. JFK loved his post-lunch snooze so much that there was a presidential order, not to disturb him for an hour during the daytime. The first Mughal emperor, Zahiruddin Babar, wrote in his autobiography, Tuzuk-e-Babri, that 'India's warm and humid climate makes one feel drowsy after having lunch.' When it comes to the siesta, Bengalis and Italians are number one in the world. I, however, am of the view that this is because of the food. Rice and pasta are sleep-inducing food items. Fish adds to it because it has phosphorous, which makes one feel sleepy. The practice of the siesta is also held responsible for the Parsi community's historic uprooting from Persia. According to legend, the Arabs who invaded Persepolis in modern-day Iran during the Islamic incursions in the 10th century soon realised that the only way to conquer Zoroastrian warriors was to attack after the traditional Sunday lunch of Dhansaak. The thick mutton stew served with cardamom-scented brown rice is heavy enough to lull anyone into a long and peaceful siesta afterwards!


The word siesta is said to have originated from ancient Latin word 'siennete', which meant 'sleeping under a tree', but not specified whether at night or during daytime. Even 'Sexta' in Spanish and Latin means the 6th hour, which's the time for rest. I've read that some corporate offices have sleeping rooms for their staff to have a power nap after lunch. But, it mustn't exceed 30 minutes. Siestas are very addictive. Just sleep one day for an hour after having lunch and the next day exactly at that time, you'll feel sleepy and start yawning. There are people who're so fond of it that they can give a miss to all regular things in life for a few minutes of stolen slumber, as Allan Wanbridge aptly called it. After all, stolen moments, such as stolen kisses, are always the sweetest, aren't they?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

CHERISH GOOD MEMORIES,SEE WHAT HAPPENS

The older we get, the larger our memory banks become. Our memories, like everything else in life, are a medley of the good and bad, the positive and negative.

 

Memory is more than just a receptacle of past experiences. We can review the contents of our memory bank and either energise ourselves and live a full life, or put ourselves down and feel blue.


Memories are also made up of our attitudes and behaviour. That is why it is important to watch what we feed into our memory banks. If we continue to focus on the negative, we will look back to situations that have not been helpful for our growth. If we strengthen positive memories, we will remember all that challenges us to maturity.

Memories need not only be those of bountiful nature. Blue skies, birds, trees, flowers in full bloom, quiet lakes and waves thundering against the seashore â€" all these memories seem to put us in a happy mood. Memories can also be of crowded streets, overflowing bridges, hectic flip-flops and the anonymity of daily commuting. These memories might leave us cold and indifferent to others and to life.


The memories that ought to stay longest with us are those that resonate with experiences of love, giving and compassion. We have keen memories of our life-supporting systems and people we have interacted with and continue to interact with that have been instrumental to our growth.


Our daily interactions with people might expose us to those who have destructive traits. There are those who are violent, others insist that only their view is right. They might ridicule us or be aggressive towards us. It is these memories that we should try to overcome. If we do not give them too much importance, they will not overpower us. On the contrary they could contribute to our growth.


Spiritually mature people are usually brimming with good memories. For them every challenge or difficulty has been a chance to learn. They have stored in their memory banks useful lessons from a variety of experiences. If a rose can bloom in the midst of so many thorns, why cannot we too prosper wherever we bloom?


No one can be expected to be euphoric in all situations in life. We probably cannot escape the ups and downs of life. But, our memory banks can help us to remain balanced with a quiet contentment, which is only possible for discerning minds.


Bad memories do leave scars, emotional and spiritual. If we do not spend time and energy in dealing with them, they sink into oblivion. Our experience of God is coloured by memories. He takes away the pain of the past and the uncertainty of the present and future. Like a true artist He paints in black and white, shade and shadow, darkness and light. That is why memories can be interesting, inspiring and enabling.


The memory slate cannot be wiped absolutely clean. However, every negative memory can also bring us to a point where we begin to see ourselves in a new light. All experiences, negative and positive, can lead us to live life more abundantly.


If we let memories of good experiences, of faith, love, hope, empathy, compassion and beneficial relationships predominate, our ship will not end up on the rocks. Our memory banks could help us to steer ourselves towards safe waters, and maybe help anchor us in tranquility. Let’s ask ourselves: What are we feeding into our memory banks and what are we making of our lives?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE AMERICAN GRAFFITI READS...

 

The overriding goal of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's summit with his American counterpart was to determine what position India held in the worldview of Barack Obama's administration. The impression is that Mr Singh has been reassured. The rhetorical contrast with the American president's recent visit to China is striking. The India-US joint statement speaks of the two countries' common values, of a bilateral partnership that was good "for peace, stability and prosperity in Asia, and for the betterment of the world." Mr Obama said the United States welcomed India as "a leader in Asia and around the world" and became the first US leader to publicly adopt the Indian formulation of the two being "natural allies". When he was in Beijing, Mr Obama spoke of the US and China moving from rivalry to mere competition. The only value the two countries agreed should undergird their relations was a bland "respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

 

Nonetheless, principles are relevant because of their ability to ease the way for tangible cooperation. The summit lacked for path-breaking agreements, including the leftovers of the civilian nuclear agreement, and only had a set of high-sounding tie-ups in climate change and education. This partly reflects the speed with which the summit was put together: Mr Obama is the first US president to host an Indian leader in the first year of his presidency. The evidence is that the diplomatic paper trail to the summit was incomplete. Over the coming years, he will have to show that he's prepared to go out of his way to promote the trajectory of Indian power. Mr Singh understands that the greatest US assistance lies in helping sustain the country's economic growth, making up for India's many deficits in education, food security and technology.

 

But security cannot be outside any India-US parley. India lives in a tough neighbourhood and the US is a military force in the region. Pakistan barely makes an appearance in the summit's formal communications — a fall-out of India's determination to dehyphenate itself from its neighbour. Yet Mr Singh was certainly relieved by Mr Obama's promise to "finish the job" in Afghanistan. A US withdrawal would have been the stuff of nightmares for India's security. The summit was a success in sketching a roadmap for the future of the relationship. The test will be to see how well the map can be navigated in the real world.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

PRATIBHAJI-FORCE

 

President Pratibha Patil exchanged her sari for overalls and got inside  a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet. Well, not only did she fly herself into history as the first female head of State as well as the oldest woman ever to get inside a fighter aircraft's cockpit, but she also drove home the message that the demure Pratibhaji of the long-sleeved blouses can look Top Gun in Sukhoi couture. The Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces did more than wave her gloved hands and take the salute from a ceremonial guard of honour. So what if the nation was a bit nervous as it saw the image of the 74-year-old pull herself slowly up the staircase with both hands that led to the plane. Patil in a G-suit and a cap was 'All Systems Go Sister!' Pratibha.

 

One wonders about President Patil's warm'n'fuzzy sensation of feeling "reassured" about the nation's "skills, expertise and strength" to defend its borders after a 40-minute sortie. But hey, can't a girl in a Sukhoi suit feel well-protected if she wants to be? It's the other issue — which was the matter of a brief debate among the chattering classes last week — of whether women should be allowed in the Indian Air Force as combat pilots that still remains in the air. After all it takes more than power yoga,  a few hours on the treadmill, and the uncanny ability to look like former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam from far to make the grade.

 

Or maybe, taking a cue from our president, aspiring women pilots should bide their time, make sure their kids have grown, gather up those tidy savings from jobs that throw in some maternity leave and hit the 70s at supersonic speed. If President Patil can, why not you grandma?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

ARE WE READY NOW?

B RAMAN

 

Our capabilities for prevention of an act of terrorism as well as for its effective termination  were found wanting in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. Some prior intelligence was available, but it was found to be inadequate by the navy and the police that were responsible for follow-up action. Coordination between the intelligence agencies and those responsible for physical security was weak. There was inadequate interaction between government agencies and the management of the hotels.

 

P. Chidambaram himself admitted in the Lok Sabha after assuming charge as the Home Minister that responsibility for follow-up action was diffused. The agencies responsible for termination after the terrorists had struck took time to mobilise themselves and act against the terrorists.

 

One could see from the various steps initiated by Chidambaram — such as the decentralisation of the deployment of the National Security Guards (NSG), the creation of regional hubs of the NSG, and strengthening its capacity for rapid mobilisation and movement — that we should be in a better position to confront the terrorists today than we were on 26/11 last year. Certain steps have also been initiated for strengthening our prevention capability. The Multi-Agency Centre in the Intelligence Bureau, which is responsible for intelligence collection, sharing and coordinated action, has been revamped. There has been a regular monitoring of  the intelligence process by the minister himself. Action has been taken for creating a constantly updated database of information that could help in prevention and making this database accessible to senior officers.

 

Cooperation with foreign intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies has also been strengthened. We have not hesitated to borrow good practices from foreign agencies and adapt them to our needs. After a visit by Chidambaram to America, there has been a talk of our setting up a national counter-terrorism centre on the lines of the centre set up in the US after September 11, 2001. Joint command and joint action are among the operating principles of the US centre. These concepts are meant to ensure that there is no buck-passing in counter-terrorism.

 

Now for the downsides.The National Investigation Agency set up post 26/11 to strengthen our capability for coordinated investigation of terrorist activities of a pan-Indian nature has had a slow start. The reasons for this aren't clear. The public has a right to ask whether as a result of these measures, we are in a position to prevent another 26/11 just as the US has been able to prevent another 9/11. If, despite our best efforts, prevention again fails, then are we in a better position to confront the terrorists more effectively than we did last year?

 

Till the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) detected the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's (LeT) Chicago cell comprising David Coleman Headley and Tahawuur Hussain Rana, and discovered the outfit's plans to mount another terrorist attack in India using its US-based assets, we had a certain satisfaction about our 'improved' capability and alertness. After the FBI detected the cell and tipped us off that the LeT's US-based assets had been operating in India for nearly two years before 26/11 and even after 26/11, we should be seriously bothered about 'improvement' not being up to the mark. The undetected activities of Headley and Rana clearly show the shocking state of our immigration controls and our failure to investigate the 26/11 strikes thoroughly.

 

Casualness in action and leadership has always been the bane of our counter-terrorism machinery. We wake up and act energetically for a few weeks after a terrorist attack and then go back into our casual mode. That is what has happened even after the traumatic strike of 26/11. What we needed after 26/11 was a shake-up of our counter-terrorism machinery to improve leadership, enforce accountability, strengthen capacities and weed out casualness and incompetence. That the machinery continues to function in the same haphazard manner as it was functioning before 26/11 should be all too evident to any objective analyst.

 

Most of the jihadi terrorism continues to originate from Pakistan and Bangladesh. In the past, the terrorists used to come across the border or through the seas. Now, they are trying to come from third countries in the West by assuming non-Muslim, non-Pakistani and non-Bangladeshi identities. They are faster in thinking up new ways of surprising us than we are in refusing to be surprised. There has hardly been any thinking in policy-making circles as to how to deal with the source of this evil. Their command and control — exercised from Pakistan — is still intact.

 

If any more surprises are to be averted, we have to act at home as well as in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

B Raman is former Additional Secretary, Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW)

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TALK US OUT OF THIS MESS

MALEEHA LODHI

 

A year after the terrorist attack in Mumbai rocked relations between India and Pakistan, the diplomatic impasse persists between the two nuclear neighbours. Formal talks, halted by Delhi in the wake of the Mumbai attack, are yet to resume. The suspension of the peace process has reinforced the wearingly familiar on-off pattern that has characterised the bilateral engagement for over half a century. Today the normalisation process is frozen, and bilateral exchanges have been reduced to meetings or re-statements of positions on the sidelines of multilateral conferences. The promise of Sharm-el-Sheikh — where the prime ministers of the two countries met in July — has been lost in the fog of mutual mistrust.

 

At a time when Pakistan's counter-militancy efforts have entered a decisive phase, after a successful campaign in Swat and the military offensive in South Waziristan nearing conclusion, calmer relations between Islamabad and Delhi can help consolidate the efforts to defeat terrorism. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani put it plainly: Pakistan's focus on countering terrorism is being affected by the continuing tensions with India.

 

India continues to reject Pakistan's argument that the peace process should not be held hostage to acts of terrorism. Delhi is still insisting on prior and decisive action by Islamabad before talks can be revived. For its part, Islamabad wants the unconditional resumption of the composite dialogue even as it seeks to reassure Delhi of its commitment to deal with the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. Delhi has also turned down the offer of re-starting the back-channel that operated between the two countries during 2005-2008.

 

Doubts about the fate of the formal dialogue process have been accompanied by uncertainty about the structure and agenda of future talks. Indian officials have questioned the utility of the composite dialogue, indicating that they now envisage future talks to be recast around the single issue of terrorism. This notion of a selected and fragmented dialogue has only deepened the impasse. The broad-gauge structure of Pakistan-India diplomatic engagement drawn up in 1997 and sustained — with some fits and starts — over the past 12 years, enabled multi-layered talks that covered the entire gamut of issues, reflecting the two countries' differing agendas and priorities.

 

For now, Delhi's 'won't-talk' posture has ended up handing Pakistan a disincentive rather than an incentive to cooperate. Non-engagement is unsustainable. It translates into a do-nothing approach that is a gain-nothing one. There are many reasons that argue for a resumption of the peace process. Four are especially important. One, it's in an environment of reduced tensions with India that Pakistan can focus decisively to deal with militancy. Pakistan's ability to address the militant threat requires stable relations with India involving efforts by both countries to address the causes of their adversarial relationship.

 

Two, Pakistan can't attain its overarching objective of economic stabilisation — nor can India achieve its full economic potential — while engaged in confrontation. Three, there is a manifest sense in both countries that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute or to other problems. Kargil and the 2001-02 military stand-off served to confirm this to both sides.

 

And four, the two countries need to carefully manage their relations in a nuclearised environment. The strategic relationship between the nuclear neighbours remains undefined and potentially unstable. There is no substitute for dialogue for stability here.

 

Ultimately the future of the dialogue will depend on whether the two countries can address and overcome their differences and identify and build on the areas of convergence. The former will have to include Kashmir, nuclear-military issues and postures, and Afghanistan, while the latter can embrace trade, regional economic cooperation and North-South issues as also common threats including terrorism.

 

What will determine stable relations is whether a habit of dialogue to solve problems can be built. The alternative to dialogue is the perpetuation of the cycle of mistrust, tension and confrontation that will mire the region in a stalemate in which everyone will lose.

 

Maleeha Lodhi is former Pakistani ambassador to the United States and was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics, Harvard University, US

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SEARCH FOR THE ULTIMATE REALITY

MN KUNDU

 

A young man called Bhrigu developed deep metaphysical quest, but he could not get a satisfactory reply from bookish learning.

 

His father Varuna was a realised master and as such he approached him.

 

Spiritual learning has to be developed from within. Varuna advised that to realise the Absolute, one must adopt self-discipline and concentrate on repeated self-inquiry.

 

He also provided a clue that whereby the entire universe is sourced and sustained and where it finally gets dissolved is the ultimate.

 

Bhrigu plunged deeper within and found that everything apparent springs from the universal matter, in matter they abide and into matter they finally get dissolved.

 

We live in material world and our body is made of and nourished by the five elements. The ultimate, therefore, must be the universal principle of matter.

 

Now doubt entered his mind. Everything cannot be explained in terms of matter.

 

The universal life force or élan vital is the subtle force behind matter.

 

Everything comes into being out of life force, nourished as long as it is there and finally gets dissolved into the universal flux.

 

Hence, life force must be the ultimate.

 

Again his father told him to search further. Mature spiritual progress is driven by honest doubts. Bhrigu found out the inadequacy of his findings and made his third discovery that ultimate reality is cosmic mind. We all live in psychological reality. Objective world is relative to the subjective recognition and acceptance — "I think, therefore, I am."

 

Hence, the ultimate is universal mind.

 

Again Varuna just smiled and advised him to carry on. Bhrigu found that mind is highly fluctuating with so many currents and cross-currents of thinking, feeling and willing. Rather, he found universal intellect has a common basis and firm foundation.

 

Therefore, he felt that the principle of universal intellect must be the ultimate.

 

Varuna advised him to carry on. Now, Bhrigu found that intellect is pure abstraction and too neutral to be the ultimate. The ultimate reality must be infinite existence, consciousness and joy.

 

Thus, he found the guiding factors behind creation, preservation and transformation.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BETWEEN FRIENDS

 

Sceptics would say that the substance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's White House meeting with President Barack Obama did not really match the pomp and ceremony surrounding the occasion. There were no major new agreements; nor did the two sides wrap up the residual issues relating to the implementation of the nuclear deal. But a breakthrough comparable with the historic civil nuclear initiative of July 2005 was never on the cards. And Delhi's lack of political ambition for the visit was quite evident. The principal emphasis of the Indian delegation, instead, was on finding out if Obama's head and heart were committed to advancing the bilateral relationship that had been transformed during the Bush years. Obama's excessive deference to China during his recent Asian tour and his deepening dependence on Pakistan to achieve US goals in Afghanistan had raised genuine questions about the place of India in Obama's foreign policy.

 

On his part, Obama appears to have addressed most of Delhi's apprehensions. First, on the non-proliferation front, Obama acknowledged India's status as a nuclear power and reaffirmed the US determination to implement the civil nuclear initiative. While the last mile — in terms of the arrangements for reprocessing the spent fuel — needs to be traversed, the two sides are confident it is now a matter of time before American firms start building nuclear power plants in India. Second, on the question of relegating India to a sub-altern position vis-à-vis China, Obama went out of the way to make amends to the probably unintended impressions given in Beijing. Obama called the partnership with India "indispensable" for the management of the new global order and declared that the US "welcomes and encourages" India's "leadership role" in shaping the new Asia.

 

The most consequential outcome, however, is on a third set of areas relating to Afghanistan, Pakistan and counter-terrorism. The joint statement issued at the end of the talks underlined the shared interests of India and the US in a stable and independent Afghanistan. It also called for the "defeat of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan". To translate this into effective action, the two sides have agreed to intensify their intelligence exchanges and step up their counter-terror cooperation. On the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, nothing is more important for India than preventing a similar outrage and the cooperation with the US is proving to be critical. Having won the necessary strategic reassurance from the White House, it is now up to Delhi to think more creatively about the India-US relationship and develop some big ideas for Obama's planned visit to Delhi next year.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE ROAD TAKEN

 

The sudden explosion of the politics of the early '90s into the headlines of 2009 is unlikely to change the basic direction in which India's politics is moving, pushed as that is by long-term trends: a reforming economy, an ever-maturing electorate, a more aspirational middle class. But within that broad trend there is scope for much backsliding, whether by an individual, a faction or a party.

 

The Babri Masjid demolition was for many ultimately a failure of the state administration, and thus of the man ultimately responsible: Kalyan Singh, then UP chief minister. Singh has walked a long road since then. His chumminess with Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party before the Lok Sabha elections was a cynical coming together of two players without an effort to create a common ideological space — which did nothing to bolster either's reputation as a reliable player. And now that the folly of that tie-up has been made painfully clear following the wipeout of the SP in the recent UP bypolls, Singh is looking back to his old position as the hero of the '90s politics of Hindu revivalism, making statements about the Ram temple being his "main aim in life" and telling this newspaper that it was he who had made the BJP a "potent force", after taking over when the BJP had a mere six MLAs in the UP House. A more obvious job application can hardly be imagined.

 

For the BJP, there are two roads to be taken. For Kalyan Singh to revel in the politics of the '90s is one thing, and it might make limited political sense for a man otherwise out in the wilderness. But the BJP, however much it might feel that it too is in the wilderness, is not. It is Parliament's second-largest party and the natural opposition. Along one road lies the ability to re-imagine the centre space in India's politics, and to dump the exhausted politics of tired complaint. Along the other lies Kalyan Singh, and a self-defeating attempt to recapture a mis-spent youth. Which path the UP state party chooses in the lead-up to assembly elections will be instructive.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

SYMBOLIC SORTIE

 

There are myriad associations and images evoked by the word "sortie". Derived from the French "sortir", literally meaning "to go out" but connoting — as connotation-loaded words in the quantitatively limited French vocabulary do — a pre-determined, specific objective. It conjures up depictions of sorties into Occupied France during World War II for instance, missions that donated the word to popular discourse with an almost exclusive, and severely reductive, reference to aviation. You think of those daily nocturnal flights, every pilot knowing he might not be returning to base. Or you think of Antoine de Saint Exupéry, writing the meditative Flight to Arras on his sorties during the war and then disappearing on one offshore Marseilles in 1944.

 

The original associations of aerial sorties, although not very happy, are nevertheless of a dangerous but necessary adventure, of presumed heroism. Perhaps part of the reason is the fact that flying and going to war are the last boundaries of human experience in most societies.

 

Today, we are long-accustomed to "sorties" in non-combat situations, meaning routine flights from air force bases. But President Pratibha Patil donning a G-suit and flying on a half-hour sortie in a frontline, multi-purpose fighter jet — a Sukhoi-30 MKI from the family of India's most advanced fighter jets — just under supersonic levels amounts to a fully fledged adventure on a personally heroic scale.

 

In India, political and statutory figureheads aren't usually celebrated for their native adventurousness or sportsmanship. At what cannot be called an age of advantage, Pratibha Patil may just have enriched the symbolism of her office. Only one president — her predecessor A.P.J. Abdul Kalam — had flown in a fighter jet, another Sukhoi. In doing so, President Patil has associated herself, and her country, with a distinctly exclusive club.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT'S INDISPENSABLE?

K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

As happened in July 2005, it will take some time to grasp the full scope of the evolution in the Indo-US partnership that has been achieved as a result of the state visit of the Indian prime minister to Washington, DC. Looking through the rosy haze of the time elapsed, there is a widespread nostalgia about George W. Bush and his warmth for India. There is no denying that Bush very successfully persuaded the entire international community to agree to the modification of an international regime and give India waiver from the technology denial to which it had been subjected for three decades. The US at that stage recognised India as a responsible power with advanced nuclear technology. Today President Barack Obama accepts India as a nuclear weapon power, though it may still not qualify under the definition of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That should set at rest the nightmares of some of our people who conjure up any number of Machiavellian tricks the Washington nuclear ayatollahs could play on India. The three Democratic Senators who lent powerful support to Bush in getting the Indo-US nuclear deal through, Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, are the leaders of the present administration and therefore are likely to ensure the fruition of the deal.

 

While Bush was extraordinarily friendly to this country and liberated India from nuclear technology denial, he was unfortunately extremely permissive of Pakistan nurturing terrorism as an instrument of state policy. General Musharraf used Pakistani terrorist organisations not only to perpetrate acts of terror on India but also to make a number of attempts on the US itself. Thanks to the efficiency of the US intelligence and security agencies none of them succeeded. It was necessary for Pakistani generals to keep the US under threat of terror to milk from it billions of dollars under the pretext of fighting terrorism. The maximum growth of terrorist capabilities of Pakistan took place on Bush's watch. This is not to play down his extraordinary support to India in its attempt to become a world-class power, but to recognise a very unfortunate reality.

 

It is Obama who told Pakistan that India did not pose a threat to that country and that the extremist threat, if not tackled effectively, is a cancer that will kill Pakistan. He has identified not only Al Qaeda but also its associate organisations as the enemy. His administration has exposed the Lashkar-e-Toiba as a terrorist organisation operating in the US. Washington came in with full support to the

 

Indian investigation in the wake of 26/11 and the cooperation in counter-intelligence between

 

India and the US has made very significant progress. On Obama's watch the Kerry-Lugar legislation has been tightened to ensure accountability of the Pakistan army. Finally Obama has been able to compel the Pakistan army to act against their own Taliban at present and is keeping up the pressure on them to act against others.

 

No doubt, for the US the bilateral relationship with China is the most important one at present because China has made itself the banker of the US and holds $800 billion in dollar assets and continues to buy US treasury bonds as the US is running monstrous budget deficits. It should be obvious that US-China bilateral relations are the most important not only to the US but to the world as a whole reeling under the financial crisis since the dollar is the world's reserve currency.

 

Obama termed India as an indispensable nation for the 21st century the US wants to build. While China is the present nemesis of the US,

 

India is the future hope for the US if it were to realise what many Americans used to term "the American century". Therefore the emphasis is on economic, technological and R&D cooperation and joint efforts to bring about a knowledge century, through partnership and on new emerging technologies, such as clean energy and green products. An understanding to this end and follow-up strategic planning are perhaps the most meaningful result of this summit. That does not have the sex appeal of the Indo-US nuclear agreement with spectacular displays of Congressional hearings and voting. But this is the solid foundation on which the Indo-US cooperative effort to shape an international system based on values they share has to be built. It is fortunate that both countries have at present self-avowed liberals with commitment to pluralism as leaders. They are also pledged to work for a nuclear weapon-free world.

 

Much has been made in India and elsewhere of the reference to South Asia in the US-China joint statement. The reference read, "The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region." The prime minister has brushed aside the whole issue with his remark that he was not concerned about what the two leaders did between themselves. The history of South Asia in the last 40 years is one of continuous Chinese intervention in favour of Pakistan, including the proliferation of nuclear weapons and strengthening Pakistani capabilities to use terrorism as state policy and the US looking away to the longer-term detriment of its own interests. If they are to engage in a dialogue to promote peace and stability, good luck to them.

 

A comparison of the joint statements issued between US and China last week and the present joint statement makes abundantly clear the qualitative difference in the two relationships. The Beijing statement mentioned that the two countries believed that to nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust was essential to US-China relations in the new era, implying that is not available in abundance at present. It did not talk of partnership. While it mentioned interdependence it did not refer to indispensability or shared values. Though there is a large Chinese expatriate population in the US, they have not been cited as a vibrant linkage between the two countries as has been done in respect of the Indian-American community in the absence of shared values between the US and China.

 

Underlying all this talk of partnership is an unspoken understanding. The US is under challenge by China in respect of its pre-eminence as an economic, technological and military power. Inevitably in the next two to three decades, China will have the world's highest GDP. Given China's population and efforts to impart higher education and skills to its population four times the size of that of the US, the economic and technological pre-eminence of the latter is also likely to come under challenge. If the US is to forestall that, it needs a partner with a population approximately equal to China's. India, English-speaking, democratic and pluralistic, has a vibrant people-to-people relationship with the US.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst

 

express@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

RAGING OVER ROAD RULES

ANISHDAYAL

 

Demonic Delhi traffic is part of many a conversation piece. Yet, when we are out on the roads in our fancy vehicles, we become a part of a large chaotic, uncivilised, uncaring and jostling bunch of road users, who neither know the law which governs us (since we were never told) nor are deterred by challaning policemen (since that is always negotiable). Let's face it — no authority in the world can possibly police every inch of the road; so to expect miraculous laws and idealistic enforcement to keep us moving in straight lines, with controlled speed and with due care and respect for other road users, is rather far-fetched.

 

What is required is implementing an extremely strict and incorruptible driving licence regime, preparing a standardised road lane/ road signs policy and then effective campaigns targeted at drivers spread over months/ years. And then bringing in zero-tolerance.

 

The alarming statistics necessitate a re-look at our road safety legislation, the framework within which discipline and deterrence operate. The global status report on road safety issued by the WHO recently observes that "comprehensive and clear legislation, enforced with appropriate penalties and accompanied by public awareness campaigns, has been shown to be a critical factor in reducing road traffic injuries and deaths". In another report, issued a couple of months ago by the Law Commission of India on legal reforms to combat road accidents, the recommendatory body deals largely with enhancing punishment for offences — but only peripherally recommends enforcement measures, like media campaigns and recognised driving schools through public-private partnership. Most importantly, it recommends that we amend the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution to bring non-motorised transport within the purview of Parliament, and that there should be an over-arching Central enactment to cover all traffic in India.

 

The background for this is the constitutional quagmire regarding road safety legislation. As per the Constitution, while Parliament can enact laws relating to national highways, non-motorised transport is a state subject; and motorised transport is shared between the Centre and the states. It is under this power that the Central Motor Vehicles Act has been enacted. The states too, therefore, have their own Motor Vehicles Acts. Pan-Indian legislation doesn't exist, and is needed.

 

After all, there is no point in discussing enforcement if a road user does not even know what he needs to do in order to be on the right side of the law! Start by using

 

Section 12 of the MV Act to regulate driving training schools. It could be made mandatory to be certified from such carefully-audited schools. This would circumvent, at least to some extent, unchecked and rampant tout-led licence procurement at RTOs.

 

The driving licence should be used as the most potent weapon to deter road indiscipline. Follow Section 24 of the MV Act and introduce an endorsement system on licences, so it records each serious driving offence of its holder. Apparently, the digitisation and networking of all RTOs in the country is on; this should make it easy for the police or the traffic offence courts to record a black mark on the licence; frequent black marks could cause automatic suspension. An over-reliance on enforcement and penalty requires dependence on an already over-burdened and highly inefficient criminal justice system. Therefore, it is important to shift focus to a more practicable deterrent.

 

A rather important but largely ignored regulation is the Rules of the Road Regulations 1989, which prescribe directions for traffic flow and traffic discipline (including pedestrian rights, emergency services rights). These govern everyday flow of traffic on the roads. There is no specific penalty prescribed for their violation; and the only penalty is under Section 177 of the MV Act — a fine of Rs100 for the first offence and Rs 300 for the second and subsequent offences. Not enough deterrence by any means.

 

Lane markings and complete compliance to those are critical to the flow of traffic. Markings are the only method by which each user predicts the behaviour of other users. And yet India has no detailed standards for laning and markings.

 

The hope for a civilised and disciplined city traffic must not be lost. It cannot be deadline 2010 (we have lost that opportunity) but can certainly be deadline 2012. We just need a simple robust medium-to-long-term policy of coupling education with enforcement and the "bhagidhari" of me and you. As the Supreme Court ruled in a 1997 order: "the control and regulation of traffic in NCR and NCT, Delhi, is a matter of paramount public safety and therefore is evidently within the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution" — the right to life itself.

 

The writer practises at the Supreme Court

 

express@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MIRROR UNTO OURSELVES

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

One of the abiding tragedies of modern India has been that the Babri Masjid dispute could never be dealt with within a forensic legal framework. The central proposition of a constitutional democracy, that law must be allowed to take its own course, rang hollow when law was not taking any course. That the dispute itself languishes in courts, decades after it was originally instituted, is itself testament to the limited power of the law in framing this dispute. In the meantime every single political entity acquired an investment in keeping the dispute alive. The Congress ran with the hare and hunted with the hound by allowing shilanyas on the site (read Narasimha Rao's account of Buta Singh's conduct as home minister). Many secularist parties were less interested in finding a solution than in using the dispute to display their credentials, and many groups used the dispute to politically use minorities. Ayodhya, to borrow Emily Dickinson's phrase, became the narcotic that nibbled away at India's soul.

 

None of this context can detract from the central culpability of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar in the destruction of the mosque. The destruction was a denouement of a movement that baited minorities and left death and destruction in its wake. The only question was whether the Liberhan Commission could translate culpability into a forensically legal framework. This remains to be seen. On the face of it there is very little surprising in the revelations in relation to the BJP. When it came to the BJP it was politically convenient for all of us to hold on to distinctions without a difference. What did the distinction between saying the movement and the frenzy was planned but the destruction was not amount to? Even Rao acknowledged that the BJP leaders were pleading with the kar sevaks to stop. But that was like trying to stop an already fired bullet in mid air. Even Vajpayee's self-exoneration, personal decency and expressions of regret were always compromised by the fact that his government did not give the slightest evidence of pursuing the perpetrators of this enormous crime. The BJP tried to dissociate itself from the act, while continuing to nurture the actors. The surprise is not in the revelations. The surprise is in our feigning surprise. For if all this is true, the report actually indicts our democracy. We were the ones trying to hold on to the ceremonies of innocence, so that we could allow a space where Hindutva was politically acceptable, but no one had to own up to its consequences.

 

But this will also make it difficult to read the report as anything but a political document. For one thing, phrases like "could have" will remain a question of political judgment, not legal settlement. What was exactly the point at which the Indian state opened the doors to the destruction of the mosque? Shall we stretch that inquiry back to Rajiv Gandhi's tenure? Narasimha Rao argued that he did not have enough of a legal basis to invoke Article 356. But he also hinted that the real reason was that it was a matter of political judgment whether invoking it would not have had the effect of galvanising Hindutva forces even further. How do we judge a claim like that? There can be very little doubt of the Kalyan Singh government's widespread complicity in the final outcome. But would it have been easy for any political leader to order firing on that mob at a very late stage? In hindsight, we can even speculate whether India in the long run was saved from Hindutva because the Babri Masjid could not be converted into a site of martyrdom; instead it remained a sordid political crime. The exoneration of Rao's role will credibly invite charges of partisanship. The commission seems to have taken Rao's own self-exoneration at face value.

 

Finally, the list of people indicted is long. From some of the accounts it is clear that the movement had widespread support amongst state functionaries. But in a sense the enlarged list of indictments will also contribute to the sense that this was a genuinely widespread social movement, not simply a conspiracy of the few.

 

If we are honest we have to acknowledge that just as many of the core participants may have felt a tinge of regret, there were also tens of thousands of others who, while not condoning the act, nevertheless felt a momentary catharsis when the Babri Masjid was destroyed.

 

In a way the success of the Liberhan report will not be measured in narrowly legal terms. The state must carry out what its legal obligations are, although these are likely to be another endless grind. But it will have to do so in a way that carries the undisputed imprimatur of credibility. And while it is a minor issue, the leak does not speak well of the state. Given how selectively commission reports have been followed, this will be hard to achieve. It will also not escape people's notice that if the law works in this case, it will do so only when the relevant are on the political back foot. The delay in the report means that law's triumph, if it does, will still carry the odour of politics.

 

The second challenge is managing the politics. India has, as many have observed, moved beyond Hindutva. But it has done so in the peculiar Indian way, which is not by the creation of a first principles based normative and legal consensus. It has done so simply by rejecting a politics of extreme polarisation. We moved on by wishing the issue away, not by resolving it. And it is also a little bit of a mistake to confuse the cultural receptivity of Hindutva with its electoral fortunes. In some ways, the report will keep the cultural politics of Hindutva alive. The BJP needs reinvention. But there is no doubt that the BJP will have to close ranks on this issue. In some ways it will make the party's move beyond Hindutva more complicated. It cannot jettison the indicted without inviting the charge of betrayal or cowardice.

 

The Ayodhya disaster was facilitated by a play of ambivalences, exploited by determined groups in the Sangh Parivar. But this report will unleash two conversations. One, a public, legal and political conversation. This will be partisan and acrimonious, divisive, predictable, and given the current arraignment of political forces, not hugely consequential. But there will also be the internal one, not explicitly articulated, which will once again force us to confront all those silences, ambiguities, wishes and evasions that made Ayodhya such a symbol of our contradictions as a nation.

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE MEASURE OF OUR STRENGTH

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

The The terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26/11 wanted to attack the Indian state. Instead, they unwittingly ended up displaying the power of the Indian people. It is difficult to forget the vivid sense of anger, helplessness, that this colossal national humiliation, carried live on TV induced, in all of us. Ten orchestrated attacks, one hundred and seventy three deaths, more than three hundred injured.

 

The barbarism of the act was horrific enough; but the sense of profound sense of vulnerability and foreboding it produced was perhaps even stronger. No one expected that the state could always prevent such attacks. But that it did not even have the minimal capacity to respond at any level was shocking beyond belief. Even more vivid was the disjunction between the bravery of so many police officers and civilians that day, and the deep corruption of the system that sent them to their needless deaths. The staff at both hotels was extraordinary in their bravery and good sense, while the state slept. We had police officers who were willing to die doing their duty; but not state officials who could buy bulletproof vests that were not sub-standard. The rage we felt was palpable; but the depth of our discontent was directed more at our own state than the perpetrators.

 

Foreboding and anger could have been a combustible mix, just the sort India's enemies were waiting to exploit. The standard narrative of the year since 26/11 casts it as typical transition of citizens from anger to indifference. But this is simply wrong. Instead what shone through was the sense of self-possession on display. American politics after 9/11 was so marked by fear, that it allowed political discourse to be captured by it. India, instead had elections the day after, and choices were exercised with the coolest heads possible. There was no clamour of revenge externally or internally. This was not because we are weak, but because there was a much more clear-eyed sense of the limits of force and the complicated politics of violence.

 

But what made this self-possession possible was the absolutely extraordinary dignity with which the victims of this horrible affair conducted themselves. Watch any clips of the survivors or those who lost their loved ones, whether the families of the slain police officers; the hotel staff; or even the extraordinary poise of ten-year-old Devika and the first thing that strikes you is their self-possession. There is unfathomable grief that we should not pretend to even understand. But more strikingly, there is not a trace of self-pity or a wallowing in victimhood. Instead, their quiet dignity and strength was a message to terrorists: even in the face of extreme provocation we have the power to deal with the world on our own terms. This message was for more effective than any sabres the state could have rattled.

 

And this was exactly the strength that allowed them to cut the sense of presumption anyone in power might have about the Indian people. The greatest strength they demonstrated was their refusal to be used by politicians; for once even Narendra Modi was rendered speechless. But politicians will do their best to dissipate these gains. The attack showed the sense in which Mumbai is a truly world city: in the range of sympathies it elicits, in the diversity of people who have made it home. But if the kind of unanswered parochialism that is creeping in Maharashtra politics triumphs it will be a bigger blow to the spirit on display 26/11 than anything outside powers can inflict.

 

The fact that there has not been another attack of similar scope for a year may or may not be a cause for reassurance. The one place perhaps where the state has channelled the anger constructively is the home ministry. By all independent accounts, this is one ministry which is systematically putting in place measures and institutions that might serve us well in the future. Admittedly, this was a ministry starting with an abysmally low base of performance after years of neglect. How far these improvements will go remains to be seen. But there is an important issue on which the government has fully abdicated its responsibility: of telling the Indian people the truth about this event. The one hurried inquiry into this remains classified, ostensibly on the grounds that it might influence ongoing prosecutions. But the government owes it to the victims to at least ensure that there is one authoritative diagnosis of this event. Truth is the least of the tributes their courage demands.

 

There are so many other layers to this extraordinary event. Each life involved is a reminder about how global impact shapes every individual. The event has also given us complicated narratives about global terrorist networks, whose lines extend from Karachi to Chicago, with Italy and Canada in between. But the face that we put on this atrocity, Ajmal Kasab, is so eerily commonplace that it unsettles all our easy assumptions about what produces an atrocity like this.

 

26/11 was also an event in a geopolitics whose lines have become very convoluted. For all the global sympathy this attack elicited, we should be under no doubt about one thing. We are fundamentally alone in this fight. The Americans may share our objectives at the highest level of abstraction, but they certainly do not share our priorities. Indeed, India should worry that what little political sympathy it gained globally has dissipated; and how quickly mention of 26/11 moves into a construction that India's attitude has been the source of the problem in region.

 

Pakistan is beginning to have a serious internal debate about its future. But its elites are still too enamoured of a narrative that presents Pakistan as victim constantly under threat, to be able to really come to terms with what it needs to do to restore the region to sanity. In short, we will be living in a fool's paradise if we outsource or slacken our defence and security. But the chaos in Pakistan, and the American activities should not obviate the need for us to do our own political thinking on the future of the region.

 

There is disappointment that the surge of civic anger we saw in the aftermath seems to have dissipated. But it was always unrealistic to expect that to last. But if 26/11 is not to become another one in an endless series of fatalities, we need to keep asking the question: how can a people who have much to be proud of, be endowed with a state that has much to be embarrassed about?

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE RIGHT

SUMAN K JHA

 

The editorial in the latest issue of the RSS mouthpiece Organiser titled "Obama is wrong. He need not meddle here," says: "India has done the right thing by rejecting a US-China attempt to involve the latter in India-Pak issues after a joint statement in Beijing appeared to give China a greater monitoring role in the region. Ever since Barack Hussein Obama became the US President, Indo-US relations seemed somewhat adrift. The new US administration has been giving the impression of patronising Pakistan in a way to make India suffer and trying to hyphenate the growing, democratic India with an imploding Pakistan whose collapsing, US-dependent regime has become reduced to a caricature. It is interesting how Obama has misread Indian sensitivities at a time when India's Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, considered unduly concerned about US proclivities, is undertaking an official visit to the US. America has its reasons to be kowtowing before China. It is in decline as a superpower. Its economy is in free fall. It is beholden to China. The latest pursuit of sharing the hegemonistic role with an ambitious China raring to usurp a larger role in the international arena is more a necessity of the US than the needs of ushering in world peace".

 

The editorial adds: "The best both China and America can do is not to meddle in other nation's affairs. World would be a better place, more peaceful and prosperous without their policing. The US is a declining power. China is rising. Both face its peculiar challenges. Rude and crude intrusive diplomacy is not helpful for either. China's relentless pursuit of strategic clout at any cost has only vitiated the Asian scene. So is the case with the US flawed policy on fighting terrorism with its eye on West Asian oil wealth. India does not need either the US or Chinese intervention in its dealings with Pakistan. Even in that country, if truth be told, the US is unwelcome, India is more popular, if many opinion polls are any indication. The US economic downturn is clearly the compulsion for Obama to sing Chinese tune. But India is under no obligation to let either China or the US interfere in its bilateral affairs".

 

Elect a new people

In an opinion piece titled "All that politicians do is rob India!" Jay Dubashi writes: "You get the government you deserve, but not always. Most of the time, you get the government you don't deserve, as if you had sinned in your previous birth and have now to suffer for it. Anyway, that is what most Maharashtrians must be thinking, for they now have a government which they will do anything to get rid of, if only they can. Actually, it is the same government they had before the latest elections: The same chief minister, the same deputy chief minister, and almost the same gang of ministers. It was the most incompetent, lazy and corrupt government in recent memory, and the new one is also going to be the most incompetent, lazy and corrupt government you could think of. The Maharashtrians, an enterprising lot, are now saddled with the same lot for the next five years, unless there is an earthquake. The elections have cost Rs 1500 crore, money down the drain".

 

He adds: "Of course, the people of the state asked for it. They voted for the same parties, give or take a few seats, and now they have to make do with what they have got. Why did the voters vote for the same faces? The only reason I can think of is that there are times when you are so confused you cannot distinguish between good and evil, and you are so fed up with the whole thing you just close your eyes and press the first button on the infernal machine and make a quick exit. I am quite sure that the so-called new government will end up doing nothing, exactly like the last one. The last government was not able to set up a single power station in five years, maybe longer. In other countries, including China, they set up new giant power stations at the rate of one a week, but in Maharashtra , the old chief minister had no time for such mundane things".

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A REAGAN-IN-REVERSE

 

A democratic president, you'd think, would stick to Franklin D. Roosevelt or Jack Kennedy as role models. Not Barack Obama. As he faces tough times — economically and politically — I am told that he and his advisers are turning to an unusual source for inspiration: Ronald Reagan. Looking back, it shouldn't be a total surprise. On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama said nice things about the Gipper. Reagan, Obama said, "tapped into what people were already feeling, which was: we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to a sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

 

At the time, Obama's ode to Ronald seemed nothing more than a jab at the Clintons (who were infuriated), and a bid for Republican votes. But now I see that it was Obama's tell: the clue to how he views himself, politics, and the presidency. He thinks he is Reagan in reverse — a patient, genial game changer for the ages — and his confidence helped soothe the economic panic of a year ago. But it isn't clear whether the president really understands the causes of the Old Man's successes, or the sobering lessons of his failures.

 

There are some remarkable affinities, personal and historical. Like Reagan, Obama shares a celebrity's sense of comfort on the (public) stage, a belief in sticking to the script, and a faith in the power of the written word spoken from an imposing rostrum. He also shares Reagan's reverence for the power of a narrative in politics — Reagan, because he was an actor; Obama, because he is a writer. Obama came of age politically when he arrived on the mainland in the Reagan years. He watched Reagan attack with bold ideas the Carter era's sense of hopelessness and "malaise"; saw him and his party get hammered in the first midterm election in 1982; saw him, during a severe economic downturn, rebound to a sweeping second-term "morning in America" victory in 1984. Around the White House right now — beset by a weak economy and dire midterm election prospects — the story of the Gipper is uplifting, at least to the man in the centre chair at the cabinet table.

 

As much as anything, the Reagan-Obama harmonic explains the president's decision to launch his tenure with a mammoth health-care-reform bill in the midst of economic chaos and heavy military commitments. Health care is his statist remix of Reagan's first-term launch party: the antigovernment supply-side income-tax cuts of 1981. And although a massive "stimulus" bill wasn't part of Obama's campaign plan, the measure was folded into his Reagan-in-reverse strategy. Obama fully expects Democrats to get clobbered in 2010, and then, he hopes, a revived economy will validate his decisions and win him reelection in 2012.

 

But following Reagan's script is harder than it looks. It requires an obstinate clarity of message that the current president has not always achieved, and an outsider's agitating stance that does not fit Obama's equable insider mentality. And while mimicking Reagan may be politically shrewd, it may not be fiscally wise. The Old Man's sunny optimism had a dark underside: a penchant for insisting that 2 plus 2 equals 5, and a willingness to ignore inconvenient facts.

 

There are signs that Obama shares these Gipperish traits. Reagan proclaimed that he could simultaneously cut taxes, double defence spending, and balance the budget. This was impossible, of course, as even his budget director eventually confessed. When he left office, Reagan had not shrunk the size of government, but he did spawn a new era of scary deficits. A generation later, Obama insists that his $850 billion health-care-reform bill will "bend the cost curve" in the long run. Almost no one in Washington believes this. I am waiting for his budget director to confess as much.

 

Obama isn't looking to Reagan — but should — as he deals with global security dangers. Reagan was a hawk. Yet he was very cautious about deploying troops without a "clear mission or strong odds of success," as Obama's own secretary of defence, Bob Gates, said recently, It is a lesson Obama should remember in Afghanistan. He might also study Reagan's dealings with the Evil Empire. He cornered the Soviet Union by amping up defence spending, then cut a deal to unwind the Cold War. Today the pressing issue is Iran. If Obama wants to be Reagan in reverse, he must find a way to use his Nobel street cred to rally the world against the bullies of Tehran. That might make us all safer, and make Obama a role model of his own.

 

Newsweek

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HAVE WE WASTED 26/11?

VIVEK REDDY

 

The current White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, while commenting on the far-reaching financial reforms of the Obama government in response to the economic crisis, said: "Never let a serious crisis go to waste. It's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." When the 1991 balance of payment crisis happened, Dr. Manmohan Singh as a finance minister was able to use that crisis to bring about structural reforms which fundamentally altered the course of Indian economy. The series of terror attacks last year culminating in 26/11 Mumbai attacks did create a serious security crisis. But have we used this crisis to bring about fundamental changes in the anti-terror legal framework and security infrastructure? Did we waste 26/11?

 

What critical lessons have we learnt after 26/11? Did we rectify the institutional failures exposed by 26/11? Are we confident that our security apparatus has improved after 26/11? Are we ready for the next round of terror attacks which are likely to be chemical or biological in nature?

 

After 9/11, the United States government engaged in a serious public deliberation by establishing the Bipartisan Commission, consisting of Repuplicans and Democrats, to examine the causes of 9/11 and suggest action for the way forward. The US government then went ahead to revamp the legal framework dealing with anti-terror and upgraded the security infrastructure. India does not need to follow the same steps taken by the US government, but should certainly take steps to see how to prevent future terror attacks.

 

Post 26/11, the Indian Parliament enacted the National Investigative Agency Act, which created the National Investigative Agency (NIA). The stated objective of the NIA Act was to improve our anti-terror response and ensure that a future 26/11 attack does not occur again. In principle, the concept of National Investigative Agency is a good step because state governments — however aggressive — are confined by territorial boundaries and do not have the required legal powers and security infrastructure to deal with globally coordinated terror attacks. But a closer examination of the institutional design of the NIA reveals three fatal flaws, which precludes it from responding to global terror attacks.

 

First, the NIA is structured to deal only with the investigation of anti-terror offenses and not detection and prevention of anti-terror attacks. Religion-based terrorism is not deterred by post-attack investigation and prosecution, however effective, since the terror attack is the end objective for the terrorist. Any anti-terror effort should focus more on gathering intelligence which could help in the prevention of anti-terror attack. This is particularly so when the next round of terror attacks are likely to be chemical and biological.

 

Second, the NIA is handicapped since it lacks the powers to take action on its own initiative. There is a heavy bureaucracy in the investigation of offenses by NIA. The jurisdiction of NIA is confined only to certain stipulated offenses in the NIA Act and even with respect to those offenses, the NIA cannot initiate the investigation. The NIA Act mandates that any offense which has to be investigated by NIA, the local police officer should first submit the report to the state government and the state government should in turn submit that report to the Central government, who will then examine if the case should be referred to NIA. Agility is a critical virtue while dealing with terror and unfortunately the NIA Act sacrifices it in favour of governmental approvals.

 

Third, the NIA Act does not address the crucial issue with respect to fighting global terror — co-ordination among various governmental agencies and security agencies. The perpetrators of terror have a synchronised approach while committing acts of terror, but a democratic and a federal polity like India tends to have a compartmentalised and segregated approach to dealing with terror attacks. Any effort to detect, prevent and adequately respond to terror attacks requires co-ordination across multiple layers of government. The NIA can be an effective anti-terror agency if it has powers to simultaneously take inputs from the local policemen on the road with the highest intelligence official operating out of the country; an agency which deals with an official in the finance ministry who is responsible for monitoring money laundering with a defence ministry official who is monitoring external attacks. The NIA must be an agency which can synthesise intelligence from multiple sources into operational planning.

 

The crucial lesson which the US learnt from the 9/11 crisis was not to create agency, but rather ensure that there was "unity of efforts" among various agencies. The Bipartisan Commission set up to investigate the 9/11 attacks found that one of the biggest impediment in the anti-terror attacks is that multiple security agencies simply don't talk to each other and critical intelligence information inevitably ends up falling in the gap. The objective is not centralisation, but rather co-ordination.

 

For too long, the political discourse on terrorism has been confined to stringent criminal laws vis-à-vis civil liberties. We need to go beyond this discourse. The larger question which needs to be asked is — how can we organise government differently to deal with future terror attacks?

 

The author is a practising lawyer.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

26/11/09

One year after 26/11, India's external strategy looks to have been proved right by time, and its internal strategy seems to have improved, although it's too early to vote for a paradigm shift. The external strategy was based on not responding to Pakistan-based Pakistanis' attack in Mumbai with a show of state military force, but rather use coercive diplomacy. True, Pakistan's response remains frustrating when compared to the ideal. True, too, as some Indian commentators say, American pressure on Pakistan hasn't delivered the big prizes either. But this is an immature thesis. First, Pakistan was forced to do a lot more than it is accustomed to doing. Second, India will be making a big mistake if it wants America to get Pakistan to behave and change. Third, following from the first two and noting that some sort of democratic government in Pakistan is better than no democratic government, India needs to find ways to engage with less-dodgier parts of the Pakistani establishment. The internal strategy was based on India recognising that its security apparatus was seriously ineffective at many levels. That 12 months have passed since 26/11 without any terrorist outrage should not be taken as conclusive proof that internal security has dramatically changed. Certainly, local level policing doesn't seem to have undergone a radical reform. Bigger reforms like more NSG hubs and hopefully better intelligence gathering and collation—there's now the National Intelligence Agency—have had better reception. Undoubtedly there's a Union home minister whose worst critic can't complain about his determination to do things differently. Cooperation with US intelligence would seem to have improved. But domestic security is a big beast, in part because of the Centre-state dimension. Safe to say, therefore, that the first 26/11 anniversary isn't seeing a complete overhaul, but safe to say, too, that unlike in the past, real work is in progress.

 

This anniversary should also be an occasion to highlight an aspect that all official security types seem to give little importance to, and the policymaking establishment buys that argument: India's options vis-a-vis Pakistan get bigger if it offers, as by far the bigger economy, economic carrots. Yes, Islamabad is bloody minded about trade. But India can be generous, offer trade and other incentives. If we can to Pakistan, and we should, why can't we talk economics? There's nothing to lose if Pakistan doesn't reciprocate. Plenty to gain if it does. Pakistan in part gets away with being cussed about this because India takes a rigid stand. We should make an unilateral offer—that will test Pakistan better.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IN BAD COMPANY


The corporate scam that took down India's fourth-largest IT firm at the beginning of the year continues to spurt out tales of crime. CBI has arrested the Company Law Board's acting chairman, R Vasudevan, for allegedly accepting a Rs 7 lakh bribe. What's the Satyam connection? Vasudevan has been overseeing CLB's Satyam probe since the superannuation of chairman S Balasubramanian. His previous posting was as director of investigations in the corporate affairs ministry. In the short term, this arrest raises the question of whether the government needs to relook at the investigations hitherto handled by Vasudevan—not just Satyam, but also Sesa Goa and others. Corporate affairs minister Salman Khurshid has nixed the idea, which is as per precedent. Consider that, while the elevation of Karnataka's Chief Justice, PD Dinakaran, to the Supreme Court has been effectively put on hold following allegations of land-grabbing, there is no question of revisiting his judgments. But the long-term issue is more challenging—what does this incident say about corporate oversight in India? How unpleasant an image does it reflect?

 

India obviously lags China on many fronts, but most observers agree that Indian companies are better governed. This is especially true of companies that aspire to become world-spanning multinationals—they aim to satisfy all stakeholders at a level comparable to the US. Even on fronts where the Indian system lags, such as dissemination of information, we have been seeing progress. For example, Sebi has recently introduced a plan to mandate half-yearly disclosure of balance sheets. These columns have taken note of why this is good news for investors—as shareholders of erstwhile Satyam realised, the earnings figures at times can be manipulated, but the cash flow is a more difficult animal to tame. The episode also put a spotlight on India's difficulties in the zone where promoters' interests override company interests. But the CLB scandal draws attention to a different aspect, which is how robust are the agencies mandated to investigate frauds like Satyam. It's common knowledge that from the SFIO to Sebi and CLB, all the agencies charged with investigating the Satyam scandal have nowhere near the resources they deserve. They are all understaffed. At CLB, backlog is high—2,870 cases were pending as of March 31, 2009. Balasubramanian had warned that without increased allocations, the CLB would collapse. The pathetic amount for which the man in charge of investigating crores worth of scams sold himself just underlines how resource-starved India's premier investigating agencies are. Appropriately arming them is absolutely critical to ensuring high corporate governance standards.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ON OUR OWN, NOT DOING THAT BADLY

DHIRAJ NAYYAR


Anniversaries, the frivolity and pomp associated with some aside, are useful occasions. They are an important way to celebrate, mourn and remind ourselves of landmark events. And on the first anniversary of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai we celebrate the bravado and sacrifice of our security forces along with Mumbai's spirited response to a dastardly terror attack, we mourn all those who lost their lives on that fateful day, and we remind ourselves in no uncertain terms of the grave and persistent threat of terror, which waits to strike us at the next opportunity.

 

The real challenge for the Indian state and citizens since that day has been to make the country more secure. There continue to be two broad ways to tackle the challenge. First, by trying to bring pressure on Pakistan, the epicentre of terror groups, to put a lid on them. And second, upgrading our internal security apparatus to deal with any potential threat.

 

On the first, we have had only limited success. And for many reasons, we may not have much success in the near future. Going to war with Pakistan was never going to solve the problem. But the problem with dialogue, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh just recently said, is that the government of India isn't quite sure who calls the shots in Pakistan. It's reasonable to assume that the army, Pakistan's only genuinely functional institution in the larger state apparatus, still wields the most power. But, increasingly, it seems that neither the army nor the ISI nor the civilian state is in complete control of all the militant groups operating in Pakistan. That may eventually work to our advantage—if the army and ISI are hit by terror repeatedly, they may actually retaliate.

But there is an additional problem rooted in history. Whether Pakistan admits it or not, the state has officially sanctioned the use of militant Islamic groups to operate beyond its territorial borders—in Afghanistan and India, since the time of Zia Ul Haq. This was a conscious part of Zia's strategy to legitimise his rule under the guise of establishing a true Islamic country. Going back into history, remember that right- wing Islamists never wanted partition of India on religious grounds because they believed that Islam could not be restricted or defined by territorial borders. General Zia sought to win over the Islamic right by making jihad abroad (ostensibly in the interest of promoting Islam) a legitimate enterprise.

 

Such is the fragility of institutions and legitimacy in Pakistan that none of his successors, including the 'secular' Benazir Bhutto or the allegedly 'liberal' General Musharraf, reversed this policy. Musharraf, who used irregular forces in Kargil, only withdrew from propping up the Taliban in Afghanistan because he had no choice after 9/11. But the army, then and now, couldn't possibly turn all their friendly Islamist allies into enemies. Hence the only limited clampdown on the India-focused LeT, never mind the rather delayedchargesheeting of seven 26/11 accused by a Pakistan court—not coincindentally, and perhaps only symbolically, on Wednesday, 25/11.

 

The US, focused as it is on Afghanistan, will be satisfied as long as the Pakistan army fights the Taliban. And while the US will condemn the LeT and JeM in no uncertain terms, it is unlikely to extend its help into material terms. Prime Minister Singh's visit to the US seems to have confirmed that.

 

So, on terror, we seem to be very much on our own. Pakistan, because of its complicated history and polity, is unlikely to come down hard enough on LeT and JeM. The US, because of its interests, will only give moral, not material support.

Fortunately, we seem to have done reasonably well on the home front in the year after 26/11. The appointment of the energetic and competent P Chidambaram as home minister has revitalised the previously moribund internal security apparatus. The fact that we have had no terror attack since 26/11 (in comparison with multiple strikes before that) may be part luck, but credit should also go to the revamping of the intelligence apparatus—with more competence and coordination at the top. Much more needs to be done in terms of equipping and training our security forces properly, but under Chidambaram we are heading in the right direction. The reappointment of the bungling RR Patil as home minister of Maharashtra is, however, a regressive step. There can be no room for slack at the top echelons of our internal security apparatus.

 

The private sector, in the meanwhile, has worked on its own solutions. Almost every premier hotel now conducts an almost airport-like security check on all visitors. Shopping malls, cinemas and other places of public interest are also better protected.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BUSH FIRES DO NOT WIN WAR AGAINST TERROR

MICHAEL WALTON


The 26/11 attack on Mumbai had striking parallels with the 9/11 attack on New York: spectacular and horrifying assaults on iconic targets, at the heart of the richest, most cosmopolitan cities in India and the US. For a moment, both state and society seemed acutely vulnerable. A year later, what is most noteworthy is the difference. India comes out well. The leadership of the US effectively played into the terrorist's game in the wake of 9/11. India's leaders displayed impressive restraint, and this was backed by societal resilience and electoral rewards.

 

After 9/11, President Bush briefly flirted with a conciliatory stance, but soon shifted to the War on Terror—and especially Islamist terror—also proclaiming a heroic fight against the Axis of Evil, essentially comprising Iran and Iraq, with North Korea reportedly added so that it was not exclusively about Islamic countries. The subsequent unfolding is all too familiar: the invasion of Iraq, Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, the continued failure to confront Israel over Palestine. All these fed the polarisation that is the lifeblood for the terrorists. While Saddam Hussein's regime was vile, it had no connection with Al Qaeda; the US invasion converted Iraq into a recruitment ground for jihadists. The collective heritage of alienation, anger and felt injustice can be extraordinarily hard to turn. Obama's remarkable Cairo speech had important symbolic value, but Afghanistan and Palestine remain quagmires, and change in attitudes to the US is understandably slow in coming.

 

Back in the US, Major Hasan, an American soldier reportedly increasingly radicalised by his perception of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, went on a killing spree of his army colleagues in Fort Hood, Texas.

 

This tragic trajectory was not just the product of Bush and his leadership cabal—though sometimes it felt like that. After all, the Iraq invasion was initially popular, a polarising discourse worked with much of the US electorate, and Bush was voted back.

 

By contrast, India's government displayed restraint, and Indian society impressive resilience. This was in spite of a much tougher context. The terrorists were clearly linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the government of Pakistan has a history of tolerance of this group. Mumbai has a recent history of conflict and political mobilisation around identity. The Hindu-Muslim violence following the destruction of the Babri Masjid occurred just 16 years ago. Yet the attack did not further the Hindutva cause, notwithstanding Narendra Modi and co suggesting the terrorists must have had Indian accomplices, representing an alien enemy within. The May elections either rejected this, or saw it as irrelevant.

 

This contrast has a physical manifestation. The Taj was swiftly re-opened. The reconstruction on the site of the Twin Towers in New York is still unresolved. The New York Times described this as "a development plan crippled by politics, petty self-interests and the weight of the site's history." It is like an unresolved wound.

 

There are, of course, major issues to be dealt with. Flaws in the Indian security apparatus were vividly shown—a manifestation of the broader weaknesses of accountability and functioning of the Indian state. The shock over failings, investigation and action is a necessary response.

 

More fundamentally, there remains a potentially dangerous complementarity between conflict with Pakistan and the risk of deepening alienation of India's Muslim minority. India cannot solve Pakistan's internal problems, and it is hard to tell if that country is further or closer to the precipice. But the potential for deepening alienation of Muslims is a domestic issue. As the UK experience has shown, generalised alienation can provide the breeding ground for the tiny numbers of potential terrorists. It is impossible to fully protect against organised individuals willing to die for their cause. The real protection comes from a genuinely inclusive society, with thick networks of information and social engagement, and mutual trust with state actors. Unfortunately, the trends in urban India appear to be of rising ghettoisation of Muslims, a product both of extreme events and of collective violence, and of daily discrimination in housing, work and encounters with the police.

 

A year after the trauma of the Mumbai attacks is a time for remembrance and grieving. It is also a time to draw lessons. One of these is the great value of leadership and maturity. There may well be further major attacks. Pakistan's internal conflicts make it hard to negotiate with. It could be increasingly hard to sustain such mature restraint. But the long-term costs of playing into the terrorists' polarising game are all too vividly shown by the strategy of the US in the years following 9/11.

 

The author is at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Institute of Economic and Social Change, and the Centre for Policy Research

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SMALL IS BOUNTIFUL

YOGIMA SETH


Stimulus or no stimulus, compact cars from India are selling like hot cakes in European markets and the trend is expected to continue over the next few years, courtesy low manufacturing costs in India and several new products, especially in the compact car category.

So much is the demand that total export of passenger cars from the country went up by 32.4% between April and October, at 2,48,277 units compared to 1,87,459 units in the corresponding seven months last year. In October, exports jumped by 16.8% at 38,189 units vis-à-vis 32,676 units in October last year, and 94.6% has been compact cars.

 

The segment, which comprises exports mainly of i10 and i20 from Hyundai, A-Star from Maruti Suzuki India, and small numbers of Tata Indica, Skoda Fabia, Honda Jazz, and Spark and U-VA from GM India, registered a growth of 16.8% last month at 36,114 units, compared to 28,014 units during the same month in 2008.

 

All this comes on the back of scrappage incentives that were given by various governments in the West to boost the sale of small cars in their respective countries.

 

The growth prospects are so bright that Nissan had entered into contract manufacturing with Maruti to source nearly 54,000 units of A-star from India and sell it in the overseas markets as Pixo under its own badge.

 

Going forward, players like GM India, Ford India and Toyota Kirloskar Motors are developing their bases in India for compact cars at a total investment of around Rs 6,000 crore. While Ford has already unveiled Figo that

will hit the roads next year, GM India will shortly unveil its all new small car and the two big global players are betting big on India to cater to the rising demand of compact cars, both in the domestic market and overseas.

 

This is contrary to the 17.5% jump in domestic demand in the first seven months of the current financial year at 8,21,954 units, as compared to 6,99,790 units in the corresponding period last year due to higher base. However, sales in the domestic market surged by 33.8% in October at 1,32,615 units vis-à-vis 99,052 units in October last year mainly because of festivals and the wedding season in the northern part of India.

 

yogima.seth@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

REPORT CARD

 

The literature on conflict and terrorism has paid little attention to the economic costs of terrorism for the perpetrators. This paper* aims to fill that gap by examining the economic costs of committing suicide terror attacks:

 

To the best of our knowledge, the current paper is the first to uncover systematic evidence on the economic cost of harbouring terrorism. As such, we document an important part of the terrorism equation: while trying to inflict real economic costs on targeted societies, terror organisations also cause significant economic harm to the population they claim to represent. While in this study we were able to uncover the costs of harbouring terrorism for the average population, an important next step for direct policy recommendations is to disentangle that effect across different subpopulations. That is, it is crucial to identify the characteristics of the individuals most harmed by harbouring terrorism. Those should be the first ones mobilised by policymakers trying to create a moderate coalition against terrorism. International organisations often claim that the general civilian population of countries harbouring terrorism is nothing but another victim of terrorism. This population often relies on terror organisations for the provision of public goods. In return, they provide safe havens, support, or at least turn a 'blind eye' to terror activities. Promoting education and development in these areas will free the civilian population from their reliance on terror organisations and, over time, cause a decrease in the level of violence.

 

* Efraim Benmelech, Claude Berrebi and Esteban F Klor; The Economic Cost of Harbouring Terrorism; Working Paper 15,465, National Bureau of Economic Research, October 2009

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE CHALLENGES OF MAXIMUM TERROR

 

"I have been warning Pakistan," Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in a speech early this month, "not to play games with us. The last game should be the Mumbai attacks. Stop it there…If terrorists from Pakistan try to carry out any attacks in India, they will not only be defeated but will be retaliated against." Today India and the world will mourn the 166 children, women, and men who died in the carnage executed by a Lashkar-e-Taiba assault squad on November 26, 2008. It will honour the sacrifice of the 18 police and National Security Guard personnel and the dedicated staff of the hotels who gave their lives fighting the terrorists. Mr. Chidambaram's strong words underline the challenge that stares us in the face. Unfortunately, India's response to the challenges thrown up by Mumbai has been limited. For our cities and their citizens to be protected from future mass-casualty attacks as best as possible, a dispassionate assessment of two issues becomes imperative. First, how well has the country done in meeting the internal challenge of ensuring that its cities are better protected against large-scale terrorist attack than Mumbai was a year ago? Secondly, how much has been achieved in the diplomatic and political effort to ensure that Pakistan dismantles the infrastructure of jihadist groups operating against India from its soil? The answer to both questions, sadly, is less than heartening.

 

In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, the Union Home Ministry began providing States resources for an ambitious programme of police modernisation. In the handful of major cities where such programmes have been initiated, the results have been mixed. Police in Mumbai have acquired new weapons and mobility platforms — equipment, it must be noted, on the reliability and appropriateness of which experts are divided — but remain woefully deficient in training and emergency-response procedures. Many of the special forces set up in the wake of the attacks have drawn on the resources of military instructors who simply do not have the special skill-sets that counter-terrorism policing demands. Part of the problem is that India does not have adequate numbers of experts in training special weapons and tactics units as well as other emergency response teams. Nor does it have a national programme to redress this capability-deficit. While cities from Singapore to New York have carried out full-scale field exercises to test their preparedness against large-scale terrorist attacks, not one Indian city has conducted comparable rehearsals. Delegates from across the world who visited New Delhi to review security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games were dismayed by their quality. Given the fact that the infrastructure of Pakistan-based jihadist groups remains largely intact, efforts to address the capability deficits in India's police system must be given top priority.

 

Dealing with Pakistan poses another kind of difficult challenge. In the wake of November's carnage, Islamabad assured the United Nations Security Council that it would proscribe the Lashkar's parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. A year on, it is yet to do so. Key suspects believed to be involved in the Mumbai attacks, like Lashkar military commander Muzammil Bhat, have not been held. Worse, offices of the Lashkar and groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammad continue to function; and their propaganda magazines, so critical to recruitment, are still being published. Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's detectives arrested Chicago residents Tahawwur Rana and David Coleman Headley on charges, among others, of participating in a Lashkar plot to attack the National Defence College in New Delhi. The National Investigation Agency is now exploring the possibility that the men may have run an undercover Lashkar cell in India, which facilitated pre-attack reconnaissance by the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation. Bangladesh authorities, for their part, have held suspects involved in an alleged attempt to attack the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. To their credit, since last year, India's intelligence services have prevented at least half a dozen jihadist operations. Pakistan's military-led security establishment seems reluctant to act against jihadists targeting India, partly because of the long-term policy of building such 'assets' against a traditional antagonist and also because it is unwilling to confront new enemies at a time when it is engaged in a grinding struggle against Islamist guerrillas in the country's northwest. While engaging constructively with its neighbour, India needs to find new ways and means to get it to deliver on its promises to shut down terrorism directed at its citizens. This, of course, is easier said than done.

 

Home Minister Chidambaram's words point us in the direction of just why these issues need to be taken seriously: another major terrorist attack on India could have consequences that would destabilise both countries, and could conceivably precipitate a regional crisis. In both Islamabad and New Delhi, Mr. Chidambaram's speech was interpreted as a warning that India would respond to future mass-casualty attacks by targeting jihadist bases and logistical facilities in Pakistan. That, in turn, could snowball into a conflict that would bring misery to all of the peoples of South Asia. No rational person would seek such an outcome, but another major terrorist attack could generate a hawkish public mood in India that politicians would not be able to resist. India, Pakistan, and the world must beware of the possibility that the last shots of last November's maximum terror attacks on Mumbai might not yet have been fired — and do all that is in their power to avert a far larger tragedy.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

"NON-EVENT" TO ORCHESTRATED MOVEMENT

BURIED IN THE LIBERHAN REPORT IS THE STORY OF HOW A LOCAL DISPUTE BECAME A BLOT ON THE NATION'S CONSCIENCE.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

Does the Liberhan Commission report on the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid add substantially to our understanding of the event Justice M.S. Liberhan describes as "one of the worst abhorrent acts of religious intolerance in the history of this nation and the Hindu religion?"

 

A superficial reading of the report would suggest that he has merely regurgitated many of the details already known to us — the role of the sangh parivar and its affiliates; Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh's systematic connivance in the demolition and his unapologetic defiance of court orders; the exploitation of the issue by hardline elements in the Bharatiya Janata Party led by Lal Krishna Advani and so forth.

 

And yet, thanks to the painstaking documentation the judge provides — recording the many internal meetings of the sangh parivar, the threats, warnings and speeches emanating from the saffron fold, the forewarning available in the form of previous gatherings and agitations at the Babri Masjid site, the gradual collapse of the administration, not to mention the flurry of messages from the Centre conveying its apprehensions to Kalyan Singh — we have with us today a wealth of information that enables construction of the exact sequence of events leading up to the demolition.

 

Not only this. Buried in the 1,000-odd pages of the humongous volume is the fascinating story of the Ayodhya dispute's transformation from an unsung "non-event" to an orchestrated movement that finally, and inevitably, led to the destruction of the dilapidated 16th century mosque whose survival and security became over time the touchstone of India's secular constitutional framework.

 

Space constraint prevents the telling of the story in detail but even a summary should suffice. The temple town may have witnessed successive battles over the ownership of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in the distant past, but its recent history was relatively peaceful. Indeed, the judge notes that Ayodhya was a non-event till 1975, finding no mention in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly proceedings, or in the records of the Centre. It was not an issue even with the Jana Sangh, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue was confined to Ayodhya and limited to the parties to the legal dispute — Mahant Ramchandra Das Paramhans and his akhara, and the Wakf Board.

 

The temple town stirred into action in 1980 when it became a campaign tool of the VHP, till then a non-descript rag-tag organisation that attracted little interest in Uttar Pradesh, much less nationally. In November-December 1983, the VHP issued a formal call for "liberating the temple" and simultaneously announced a programme of rath and kalash yatras. The impact of this was minimally felt, even in Ayodhya.

 

In April 1984, the VHP set up two executive committees, the Kendriya Marg Darshak Mandal and the Dharam Sansad, which would henceforth act as the nodal decision-making bodies for the Ayodhya issue. With the birth of the VHP's rampaging youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, the same year, the temple campaign acquired a thuggish new face. The Dal revelled in anarchy and violence and, significantly, one of its first acts was to call for a bandh in support of opening the locks of the makeshift temple.

 

In March 1985, the VHP decided to raise a 50-lakh strong cadre of Ram Bhakts. Ramchandra Das Paramhans threatened to immolate himself — the first of many such threats — if the lock was not opened. He also declared that the movement could not succeed without political support at the national level. At this point, the RSS came fully into the picture and formally declared its support to the VHP.

 

With the opening of the locks on February 1, 1986 — the judge unfortunately fails to record the role played by the Rajiv Gandhi government in this — the stage was set for a confrontation with Muslim leaders who organised themselves into the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee. The AIBMAC observed the opening of the locks as a "black day". From its side, this would mark the start of a long but futile struggle to protect the Babri Masjid from its future assailants.

 

In January 1986, the Dharam Sansad drew up plans for an elaborate shila pujan, to protest which the AIBMAC announced a "long march." The VHP programme gave a foretaste of the sangh's organising capability which would grow manifold over the next three years. In February 1989, the VHP declared that the foundation stone for the construction of the temple would be laid in November of the same year. By this time, a full model of what Mr. Advani would subsequently and frequently refer to as "a resplendent temple" was ready for public viewing.

 

In June 1989, the BJP, till then insistent that the campaign was the VHP's baby, jumped on the mandir bandwagon, obviously sensing the political potential it offered to a party that had been reduced to two Lok Sabha seats in the 1984 general election. In the cool environs of Palampur in Himachal Pradesh, the party resolved to not only support the movement but also participate in it, arguing that this had become necessary to counter the Congress' anti-Hindu propaganda. The BJP also entered into a confrontation with the judiciary by disputing its jurisdiction on matters relating to the temple which, it said, symbolised the faith of Hindus.

 

The judge does not dwell too much on this part, but BJP watchers would know that the "historic" decision would indelibly alter the course of the country, which would now be perennially haunted by the demons of communalism. The Palampur resolution energised the BJP's cadre and pitchforked Mr. Advani to the centre of the battle, which role he performed to perfection, coining such immortal phrases as "minority appeasement" and "pseudo-secularism," and declaring that there were only two ways to resolve the dispute — by a negotiated settlement or by legislation. Needless to say, both routes led to the construction of the temple.

 

With Mr. Advani in command, the once "non-event" metamorphosed from a semi-religious, on-again, off-again affair into a full fledged political agitation whose central objective was to polarise Hindus and Muslims and harvest votes from the division. From here on, events would gallop at break-neck speed, each milestone in the sangh calendar adducing to Mr. Advani influence and clout — he would force the Rajiv Gandhi government to acquiesce in the November 1989 shilanyas ceremony, restore the BJP's respectability with the Janata Dal's support, inflame passions from atop his rath yatra, unmindful of the death and destruction that came in its wake, and finally create an environment for lawlessness at Ayodhya by deliberately and repeatedly announcing from every available platform that the mandir would be built — with or without the court's permission.

 

Whether or not the "loh purush (iron man)" was aware of the plan to destroy the Masjid on December 6, 1992 will never be known. Justice Liberhan himself takes the view that Mr. Advani may not have been involved in the actual decision-making. He calls him — as also Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi — a "pseudo-moderate" who became a willing tool in the hands of the RSS.

 

Ultimately, it is immaterial whether or not Mr. Advani was involved in the cataclysmic climax. As is clear from the elaborate evidence laid out by Mr. Justice Liberhan in his report, the kar sevaks had become a Frankenstein's Monster created jointly by the RSS, the BJP and other parivar affiliates. The stage was irreversibly set for the "non-event" of the 1980s to turn into a tragedy of epic proportions.

 

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THE HINDU

INDIA'S WAS THE BEST POSSIBLE RIPOSTE

U.K. IS DETERMINED TO STAND SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH INDIA IN THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM.

RICHARD STAGG

 

A year ago this week, the world was horrified by the scenes unfolding on 24-hour news channels in the heart of one of Asia's great cities. Those who were there, or who witnessed it on television, will never forget those images — especially those from the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mumbai's waterfront. The cold-blooded killers who planned the attack had deliberately sought to make it as public and horrifying as possible, in the hope of terrorising all who saw it.

 

It is hard for rational, civilised people to understand what could drive young men to carry out such atrocities — or what sort of people could dream up such macabre plans. But, a year on, it seems clear that this was an effort to spark conflict in the region — and that it failed in this aim.

 

The reason why it failed was the way India reacted to the attacks. While the people of India were understandably furious that such events should take place on Indian soil, the calm restraint and steadfast resolve shown by the Indian government was the best possible riposte to those who were trying to create havoc and heighten tension around the region.

 

HUGE IMPACT ON U.K.

As my Prime Minister made clear during his visit to India shortly after the attacks, the U.K. was — and is — determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism. Over the last year, we have been true to our word, and U.K. and Indian authorities have worked closer than ever to stop further attacks from happening.

 

It was quickly recognised that the Mumbai attacks emanated from Pakistan. The British government has been working with the Pakistani authorities over the last year to try to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, and further such attacks do not happen. I don't say this simply through empathy for the victims and their families of bombings and shootings across South Asia — of which there are far too many — but because terrorism with roots in this region also has a huge impact on my country. As I have said before, three quarters of the most serious terror plots being investigated by U.K. authorities have links to South Asia. Unless and until this threat is dismantled, people in Europe and Asia will continue to face the sort of indiscriminate killing that we saw in London in 2005 and in Mumbai last year.

 

Despite these regional security problems, this is a hugely exciting moment in India's history. The economy is booming despite the global downturn; it has a huge workforce; and India is educating more of its young people than ever before. We have long argued for India to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and India's leading contributions in recent G20 meetings and in discussions in the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit have shown that India deserves a place at global top tables.

 

I see it as part of my job as High Commissioner to ensure that the U.K. does whatever it can, in partnership with India, to make sure that India's enormous potential is not held back by murderous and utterly misguided terrorists. The British High Commission here in Delhi, and the British government more widely, will do what it can to support India in its efforts to eradicate this scourge of terrorism.

 

(Sir Richard Stagg is U.K. High Commissioner to India.)

 

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THE HINDU

FROM KARACHI, WITH LOVE

LAST YEAR'S CATASTROPHIC ATTACK IN MUMBAI BROKE THE HEART OF MANY CHILDREN RAISED BY ITS GHOSTS IN KARACHI.

RAFIA ZAKARIA

 

The Karachi I grew up in was haunted by memories of Mumbai. My father, grandparents and aunts had all left Mumbai in the decades after Partition, chasing jobs and the promises sold to the Muslims of the subcontinent. At every dinner table conversation, every afternoon tea reminiscence, and every late night stroll, we were accompanied by the omnipresent ghost of Mumbai. Against the mythic Mumbai of their memories, Karachi always fell short: the fish was fresher in Mumbai, my father sighed, and the nights were cooler, my grandmother complained.

 

The imagined Mumbai that punctuated my Karachi childhood was an idyll of fresh food, better infrastructure, kinder people and those glorious Bollywood movies that lit up our screens courtesy of borrowed VCRs. Impressionistic remembrances muted all dissonance. The imagined Mumbai my father brought with him had been delivered of the daily annoyances that everyday life in the city would undoubtedly have had.

 

The Karachi of my childhood thus existed very much in relation to and in conversation with a Mumbai whose reality for me was only defined by other people's recollections. Saddened by the discontent of the transplanted grown-ups, I wanted to exorcise the ghost that seemed to be the ever present lament of my father that inevitably distanced him from loving Karachi, the only city I knew and loved. How could he love me and not love Karachi, I wondered? My twin brother and I, united in our devotion to Karachi would mount vehement arguments in its favour. Our childish reasons for loving Karachi were constructed both from our childlike love for the only home we knew and the propaganda about India that we were regularly fed at school.

 

Karachi may have fallen short against the idealisations of my father's memory, but it offered much to the children. My brother and I both went to Zoroastrian schools that had helped form pluralistic core of the city more than a hundred years before Pakistan had ever been in existence. I grew up in classrooms where religious pluralism was not an abstract concept but an everyday reality. Close friendships between the Muslim, Hindu, Parsi and Christian children who shared classrooms were so commonplace that writing about them as exercises in diversity seems somewhat odd. We went to separate rooms to pray in the morning and during religious classes, but our shared personal dramas and competitive hysteria over tests defined us as similar in a way that could not be divested by our religious differences. Karachi's locale, and its conglomeration of migrants from all over India and Pakistan, offered a cornucopia of culture and cuisine. Chapli kebabs in Shah Faisal Colony, Dahi baras in Hyderabad Colony and delicious dossas near the Agha Khan Jamatkhana became the varied flavours of our childhood.

 

The foundation of tolerance that was such a part of our lives was valued because it was often tested. In the early nineties, Karachi was torn and bleeding from ethnic violence between migrants from India and indigenous Sindhis over control of the city. Karachi was rocked with shootings that often killed hundreds in the span of a week. Curfews would be imposed in various parts of the city and schools like ours in the centre of the city would often be closed. The first bomb blast I remember as a child was one that hit Bohri Bazar, a market in the heart of the city in the late eighties. It had hit a store called Liberty Uniforms, where we had purchased our first school uniforms a few weeks earlier. The charred, inside stairway, suddenly exposed because of the blown up store front, was an image that would soon define the city. As the first democratic governments of our lifetimes sputtered in the face of ethnic identities, violence and Karachi became a compound word. That ubiquitous question, "what are you", became a part of Karachi children's vocabulary. It defined our allegiances, our origin and for some others who saw our transplanted parents as suspect, also our loyalties. This period of violence defined Karachi's break from Mumbai: the calcification of ethnic identities, the hatred toward the transplanted "other" entrenched violence into Karachi's political landscape just as surely as the Arabian Sea defined its geographical one.

 

As I write this today, the irony of my childhood consternation at my father's memories of Mumbai does not escape me. I make my home far from Karachi, in the United States but am haunted by its pain as I watch my native country all but unravel in the face of insurgent terror. It is a curious exercise for Karachiites when they have to digest the news of bomb blasts in other Pakistani cities. Reactions are complex. Some scoff at the fear of our fellow Pakistanis while we, oddly proud of having already borne nearly every sort of terror, can make a spectacle of our resilience. Others, point optimistically to our having learned by necessity the lessons of security decades before the rest of the country, where ethnic contiguity inured then from the ravages that plagued Karachi. The latter point to the fact that going through metal detectors and having our cars searched are all old hat to Karachi, a city that has never been able to take peace for granted.

 

CHANGING CLIMES

But the tough-guy badness that makes Karachiites wear their war ravaged history as a badge of resilience cannot hide the weight that the current conflict is having on the emotional and spatial psyche of the city. Women's bodies, always a mirror of the politico-religious landscapes of a city have again become testaments of these changing climes. In years past, women in burqas existed side by side with women in brightly coloured shalwar kamiz but the latter are now harassed by the former. My mother, who has worn shalwar kamiz without covering her hair her whole life, was lectured by another woman at a park about how she ought wear a hijab. A cousin was spat upon at a traffic light because she has short hair. Another friend was threatened with an acid attack for wearing capris in a crowded market. The onslaught has begun here; in a place where diversity of religious practice, if not ethnic diversity, was heretofore taken for granted. Women swathed in black are everywhere; and while it is difficult to tell whether their new garb is the product of intimidation or choice it is tangible presence pointing to the constriction of psychological and cultural vibrancy which was such a trademark of Karachi.

 

Mumbai's ghost remains ever-present in this new Karachi; whether it is the sweet shops that sell delicacies from there, or the Bollywood blockbuster screened at one of the new cinemas or the many boutiques that promise clothes straight from Bombay. Last year's catastrophic attack in Mumbai broke the heart of many children raised by its ghosts in Karachi; children who have envisioned Mumbai as a realisation of all they hope for in their own city. Perhaps also it made those who live in Mumbai also realise how the ravages of terror have harangued its estranged twin where a second generation is now growing up with terror and insecurity as a historical constant. There is much that Karachi and Mumbai have in common, megacities peopled by those fuelled as much by dreams and ambition and food and water; they both tread the tightrope between the harshness of survivalism and the tempering kindness of strangers in crowds. Yet as their political narratives fall farther apart and the generation that kept the ghost of Karachi alive fades into the past, their estrangement threatens to become a permanent break. It is this possibility; so proximately real, that represents the most terrible tragedy to befall both Karachi and Mumbai.

 

(Rafia Zakaria is a Director of Amensty International, U.S.A.)

 

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THE HINDU

THE RETURN OF THE BONUS CULTURE

ADITYA CHAKRABORTTY

 

The week that Lehman Brothers went bust, in September 2008, American TV networks began referring to the "end of the age of greed." It was a neat phrase that summed up how a system had generated unprecedented riches for a tiny elite — and then broke down. From now on, vowed politicians, things would be different. The banks would have to be reformed. Fat chance. Next month (December), the investment banks that are off government life support will stage thei r annual drama, as traders and executives demand, plead and haggle over their year-end bonuses. Goldman Sachs has amassed a global giveaway fund for this year of £10bn and rising, so that staff will scoop an average GBP323,000; the outlook is similarly sunny at Barclays.

 

How did crisis turn into business-as-usual? There are plenty of reasons — supine governments, soaring stock markets (the Dow is well over 10,000 again) — but a strong one is suggested by John Cassidy in his book: stratospheric bonuses and telephone-number salaries continue to be treated only as a narrow technical problem.

 

Get the incentives right, runs this thinking, and the rest will fall into place. Convince the shareholders - who ultimately own Barclays, Goldmans and other institutions — to work alongside government regulators in keeping pay deals under check, and the madness will be held at bay. In other words, the same system that brought us to this crisis but, in theory at least, tougher.

 

This is the approach taken by the British premier Gordon Brown and the British finance minister Alistair Darling. They have commissioned City of London (the U.K.'s financial heart) insiders to come up with proposals on how banks should be better regulated, which is a bit like asking the tigers to design their own cages. One of those reports will be published on Thursday by Sir David Walker, former chairman at Morgan Stanley. Early indications suggest it will have some good ideas — stricter rules in the boardroom, greater transparency over City pay — but it won't go far enough.

 

As a recent report from the Bank of England shows, governments in the U.K., U.S. and eurozone alone have spent over $14 trillion to prop up the banks — almost a quarter of global GDP.

 

Bankers' pay was once a subject pondered over by academics while financiers played the system with abandon. Now, however, it is public and political.

 

The gauge of progress on runaway City pay will be if Brown helps bring in an international tax on bank trading, or if (his probable successor as PM) David Cameron demands a strict cap on investment-banker bonuses. And what are the odds on that happening? — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

FUTURE BASED ON MUTUAL TRUST

INDIA HAS MANY RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT, PLANS TO BUY MORE.

ILYA KRAMNIK

 

President Pratibha Patil became the first woman head of state to fly aboard a Su-30MKI fighter on Wednesday (November 25). She has done this to demonstrate the importance of cooperation with Russia for India's defences.

 

The Indian Air Force, the fourth largest by the number of aircraft and helicopters after the United States, China and Russia, has mainly Soviet and Russian-made planes. The Su-30MKI fighter is one of the key projects of the current decade. India has approximately 100 such planes and intends to increase the number to 280-300 in the next decade.

 

Su-30, which has a considerable flight range, combat payload and modern weapons, can fulfil many tasks, from ensuring air superiority to fighting surface warships. It largely determines the Indian Air Force's combat possibilities and forms of warfare.

 

Work on the project started in the 1980s, when the command of the Soviet Air Defence Force considered turning the Su-27UB two-seater into a fighter that could also be used to control the operation of one-seat fighter planes. At that time, only the heavy MiG-31 interceptor had such capabilities but was considerably more expensive.

 

The new aircraft passed all trials in 1987-1990 and its mass production began in 1991. However, the Russian Air Force received several new planes only because the disintegration of the Soviet Union led to sizeable cuts in Russia's defence spending. Seeking other markets, the Sukhoi Design Bureau and the Irkutsk Aircraft Production Association (IAPO) overhauled the aircraft into a Su-30MK, its export variant, where "MK" stands for "modernised, commercial."

 

The aircraft was turned into a multi-role fighter capable of attacking both air and surface targets and was equipped with a variety of air-to-surface weapons and also the cutting-edge R-77 air-to-air missiles.

 

India showed interest in the new plane. In 1996, it signed a contract for the delivery of 40 planes, which were adjusted to India's requirements and called Su-30MKI. The first plane of the series performed its maiden flight in 1997. It was equipped with a thrust vectoring nozzle previously installed on the Su-37 fighter.

 

Following a trial period, India decided to order more such planes and later acquired a licence for the production of 140 Su-30MKI aircraft. The number was subsequently increased and now the Su-30MKI planes make up the core of the Indian Air Force. By the end of the next decade, they will constitute the majority of fighter planes in the Indian Air Force.

 

Another crucial event in Russian-Indian cooperation is a tender for the purchase of 126 medium-range fighter planes, which are to replace the old MiG-21s made in the 1970s. The MiG-35 fighter is one of the favourites at the tender.

 

The MiG-35 Fulcrum is a 4++ generation multi-role fighter that has made a highly positive impression on the Indian military, which saw it at many air shows and attended its air trials. It is a fundamentally new plane based on the MiG-29, one of the best fourth generation fighters. It has a much better manoeuvrability, thanks to a thrust vectoring engine and competitive electronic equipment, and costs less than its American analogues.

 

The Indian Air Force has the MiG-29 fighters and India has ordered the MiG-29KUB two-seaters for its Navy. The country is also creating the maintenance and repair infrastructure for these planes, which will simplify the use of technologically similar aircraft. Taken together, this should boost the Russian plane's position at the tender.

 

An additional argument in favour of MiG-35 is extensive cooperation between the Mikoyan design bureau and India's Air Force, which received the first MiG-21 planes in 1963 and subsequently used nearly all modifications of that plane, as well as the MiG-23 and MiG-25 fighter planes, the MiG-27 fighter-bomber, and the MiG-29 fourth generation fighter.

 

Moreover, the MiG-35s are to be purchased under the rearmament programme for the Russian Air Force. Practice shows that planes on combat duty in the producer country usually sell abroad better.

 

Nevertheless, it is unclear if the plane will win the Indian tender. The contract may be divided between two or three frontrunners, and the choice may be influenced by political considerations. But regardless of the outcome, India will continue to buy Russian aircraft in the next decade.

 

In particular, it plans to buy the Il-214 medium-class aircraft with a payload of up to 20 tons designed under the multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) project by the Ilyushin design bureau jointly with the Irkut aircraft producer and India's Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

 

The first plane of this series is to start trial flights in 2013 and enter mass production in 2015. The plane is designed for both Russia and India. It should replace the An-12 and An-72 planes in Russia and the An-32 planes in India.

 

Another Russian-Indian project is a fifth generation fighter based on the T-50, an advanced frontline aviation aircraft system that is a stealth-enabled fighter jet designed to compete with the U.S. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Aircraft and the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor.

 

Unlike the Russian modification, the two-seat plane built for India will have a different set of equipment, including some western-designed systems, and will be adjusted to operation in India's conditions.

 

India is also using other Russian-made aircraft and buys and develops jointly with Russia different types of aircraft equipment and weapons, in particular the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, one of the most promising international projects in this sphere.

 

Russian-Indian cooperation under other joint projects has a good future based on mutual trust. The Indian President's sortie in a Russian fighter plane is evidence of this. — RIA Novosti

 

(The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

 EDITORIAL

A YEAR LATER, KEEP OUR RESOLVE FIRM

 

Summoning anger or swearing revenge, as we recall the horrible day in Mumbai a year ago when our equilibrium as a nation was shattered by Pakistani terrorists, offers a less fruitful way to look ahead than calm resolve and measured preparation to brace ourselves against unsettling eventualities. A country retaliates to the extent of its capabilities. The United States went first into Afghanistan and then into Iraq to avenge itself for the attacks of September 11, 2001. After the expending of men and materials for eight years, the American people now wonder if that was the best way to have gone about meeting the imperatives they faced. Had we too given vent to our natural feelings in response to 26/11 and privileged the military course of option, it is worth reflecting on the unforeseeable costs, which are not only financial in such matters, that might have accrued. The likely gains, of course, could only have been a matter of speculation. On the other hand, what has been the past year like in the context of the actions we chose? We are pulling out of the world economic recession relatively unscathed, with our development and growth trajectories more or less steady.

 

This would have been an unlikely outcome had we preferred war.

 

Jihadists, or for that matter the Pakistan Army, cannot take on India in an open military encounter. That question has been long settled if it ever needed settling, whatever the claims on behalf of nuclear weapons undoing the asymmetry in conventional power between the two countries. It is this which has given rise to the intensified implementation of the unspoken Pakistani doctrine of a "war of a thousand cuts" against India, and the numerous variants of the notion of sub-optimal or proxy war. The underlying aim of such thinking is to disrupt India's unity by seeking to exploit presumed communal or religious cleavages which are portrayed as being so deep as to cause havoc if only a prairie fire can be lit. By sticking together in times of trouble, Indian society has made a mockery of such "war-gaming". When Indian Muslims gave the 26/11 desperadoes and their mentors social and intellectual hot chase, it became clear that the designs made in Muridke or Rawalpindi had been stillborn. That was our seminal reply. Shorn of that basis, it would have been hard to construct further political and diplomatic responses. Those, in part, caused a set of circumstances to come into being that obliged the Pakistani armed forces to militarily confront sections of the ISI-fuelled jihadi establishment, causing schism and mistrust between partners. Our political and diplomatic response has also produced confusion and rethinking among sections of Pakistan's society and state that see themselves as being under threat from extremist thought and terrorist actions, although it is early to gauge the extent of this new phenomenon. Showing forbearance in the face of extreme provocation has also earned India goodwill in the international community. In the event of an episode like 26/11 being re-enacted, considered military action on India's part will be deemed to be politically and morally valid. Using the vocabulary of the security professional, Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor has pointed to this recently.

 

Several steps of an institutional and systemic nature have been taken by the government in the past year: setting up of the National Intelligence Agency, establishing NSG hubs, and revitalisation of the Multi-Agency Centre. These need to be coaxed into a higher level of efficiency. Expansion and deepening of human and technical intelligence resources are also required. But India's morale remains high on the anniversary of a national tragedy.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

 EDITORIAL

THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

ANTARA DEV SEN

 

It has been exactly a year since the horrific terror attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 170 and wounded the entire nation. Never again, we roar in desperate anger. The guilty must be punished, we scream. And a year later we have Force One, a special counter-terror unit on the lines of the National Security Guard, in place in Mumbai. The trial of Kasab goes on, the exasperating dialogue continues with Pakistan about "proof" and its tangible and philosophical dimensions. Meanwhile, we have also embarked on the Headley chase.

 

The 26/11 attacks were certainly the most dramatic in our recent history — especially since they played for almost three days on live television, and happened largely in luxury hotels, shocking the privileged classes into the realisation that they too are vulnerable. But the attacks were in no way an isolated event — these belonged to a larger terrorscape that took shape over two decades as sectarian polarisation laid us open to hate attacks and counterattacks and plunged us into a murderous cycle of violence. And this week we are revisiting perhaps the biggest fountainhead of that religious polarisation, with the Liberhan Commission's report being tabled in Parliament.

 

Almost 17 years ago to the week, the Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindutva forces with the blessings of the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership. The ground had been prepared by L.K. Advani's rath yatra in 1990 and with the destruction of the mosque, the dominance of politicised Hindutva over other religions, as well as over certain constitutional guarantees, was established. "The state had become a willing ally and co-conspirator in the joint common enterprise to announce the revival of a rabid breed of Hindutva, by demolishing the structure they had denounced as a symbol of Islam", states the report. And it took 17 long years just to place before the country the facts of the event as found by this enquiry commission set up 10 days after the demolition on December 6, 1992.

 

Such a long wait just for the facts defies the very purpose of an enquiry and the hope of justice. Several of the accused are now dead. And the rest may never be punished. For with every passing year we have lost eyewitnesses, individual memory, official documents and trust in the secular fabric of India. With every passing year the polarisation between Hindus and Muslims has hardened, making us more vulnerable to terrorism both from within the country and beyond its borders. Once the cycle of violence is established, any spark can set off the next attack.

 

Especially when there is no justice in sight. What passes as spontaneous fury is usually a response to the spectacular failure of governance and law. The Mumbai riots in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition left at least 1,000 dead and almost 3,000 wounded in two phases of bloodshed. Then the retaliatory bomb blasts in March 1993 killed another 300 and left about 1,000 wounded. The Srikrishna Commission's report on the 1992-93 Mumbai riots still remains unimplemented and the guilty remain unpunished.

 

This shameless impunity of the powerful fuels the cycle of hatred that endangers India. Which is why it is essential to implement the recommendations of enquiry commissions, however late they may be.

 

Justice Liberhan's report mentions the guilty in clear and precise terms, holding 68 people individually culpable. We need proper action against them, at least against those still alive. It is criminal to spend crores of the taxpayers' money on a report if its recommendations are not implemented.

 

But the report gives recommendations beyond its mandate. And this, I believe, was most important. There is hardly anything in the report about the day's events that we — except perhaps the post-Babri generation — did not know. The report vindicates those truths that were in danger of being erased by organised lies.

 

And it also points out other things that we know, but still need to see in official recommendations. Like, it hits out against the cosy nexus between politicians, the police, bureaucrats and other power-mongers: "The nexus between the politicians, religious leaders, civil servants and the police officers should be disrupted and rooted out". It suggests police reform, which has been identified repeatedly by commissions and individuals as the primary step to improve both security and governance.

 

The report also comes down heavily on the misuse of religion for political gain. It suggests a "separate law providing exemplary punishment for misuse of religion, caste, etc for political gains" — and the government has accepted the recommendation. The government is thinking of the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, and will set up special courts, they said. And it promised to expedite the hearing of three cases registered in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition.

 

In the same thread of thought, Justice Liberhan's report suggests that the Election Commission must ensure that any complaint by any Indian citizen about "attempts to misuse religious sentiments" for the sake of votes would be dealt with immediately and could result in the candidate's disqualification. It has also recommended that members of the civil and police services are periodically screened to "identify and weed out the communal or biased elements".

 

Curiously, it has also asked for a body to regulate media with a permanent tribunal, in the lines of the Medical Council or the Bar Council. Given that neither the councils mentioned have managed to contain either corruption or negligence among the members of their respective professions, I am not sure that this will have much effect. But the report does mention the very important role played by the media in reporting the truth, braving considerable danger and harassment by the Hindutva fanatics.

 

In short, Justice Liberhan has indeed offered a rather comprehensive and balanced report. Let's hope it will not go the way of the Srikrishna Commission report — tucked away and forgotten. For unlike other enquiry commissions, the Liberhan Commission investigated the original sin — the demolition of the Babri Masjid that is till today the reference point of all incidents of sectarian strife and any violence that may have sectarian elements.

 

What happened on December 6, 1992 made India less safe. And by not punishing the guilty we have continued to make India more dangerous for us all. At least now that we have a formal report and recommendations, hopefully the government will take appropriate action. The guilty need to be punished, the flaws in the system need to be corrected if we really want a safer and more secure India.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

 EDITORIAL

DON'T HANDCUFF THE HANDS OF LAW

NITEEN PRADHAN

 

The crime perpetrated on 26/11 shook India out of her slumber. This is the country and we are the people most affected by Islamist fundamentalism since time immemorial. In recent years, India and Indians have been targeted by the Pakistan government on one pretext or the other.

 

A.N. Roy, Maharashtra director-general of police, recently said that terrorist activities increased manifold after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and, thereafter, cited another reason for the rise of terror attacks on India — the Godhra riots in Gujarat. History, however, does not bear this out.

 

It should be noted that in 1981-82, the Sikh separatist movement started with the overt and covert involvement of the Pakistan government, which led to killings of Hindus in Punjab and bomb blasts in Delhi. The Babri Masjid had not been demolished then and the Ram Janmabhoomi issue was yet to surface. Escalated terrorist activities ultimately led to the enactment of the Tada (Prevention) Act, 1985. The life of this act was two years, with the expectation that it would be possible to control the menace within that time.

 

The menace, however, continued, especially in Punjab. Parliament, therefore, extended the life of Tada by another four years, and then till April 1995, by which time, however, due to the clamour of leaders of the minority communities, the act was allowed to be repealed.

 

Then came the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) in 2002. This law came into force on October 24, 2001, by virtue of the promulgation of an ordinance which was subsequently converted into enactment by Parliament. Pota was to be in force for three years. In 2004, this act was also put to rest.

 

In the meanwhile, the trial of the accused in the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai had started. It progressed at a snail's pace. Various transactions that could have been separated for a speedy trial were brought together under one trial. This trial started in 1994 and went on till 2007, benefitting no one but the prosecution. For the record, the paternity of the delay was extended to the defence as if, after the examination of witnesses, the right to cross-examination was unnecessary and redundant.

 

In any event, the terrorist acts of 1993 and the proceedings against the accused thereof are yet to be terminated since the appeal is still pending in the Supreme Court. This trial was a frustrating experience.

 

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, the right to lead sufficient evidence is left to the discretion of the public prosecutor. The relevancy thereof is decided by the court, as commanded by the Evidence Act. The courts seldom interfere with the prosecution's discretion mainly because they would not like to be seen as pro-defence.

 

The need to revamp the criminal justice system has often been directed towards the procedural rights provided to the accused and not towards the effect of joining the charges and bringing the accused from various transactions under one mega trial, which makes it more difficult for a judge to assess evidence and harder for the defence to conduct its case.

 

The field left open and the vacuum created by the absence of Tada and Pota probably led the government to make necessary amendments to the existing laws. This need arose mainly because of the spread of Islamic militancy and Marxist atrocities in the name of the Naxalite movement.

 

The neighbouring countries were contributing to the menace of terrorism in a big way. The world knows the support given by the Pakistan government to the so-called jihadis, though there is hardly any talk of or public discussion on Chinese support to the Maoists.

 

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 was first amended in 2004 and then again in 2008. The said law was enacted mainly to give effect to the resolutions of the United Nation Security Council which requires states to take action against certain terrorists and terrorist organisations — freeze their assets and other economic resources, to prevent the entry or to block transit routes through their territory, and to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms.

 

The said law of 1967, though amended twice, lacks the teeth which other earlier acts had, including that a statement made before a police officer by an accused be admissible during trial.

 

The scope and ambit of this act has been enlarged by including punishment for the terrorist act, running terrorist

training camps, for possession of arms and ammunition etc. But this act is not sufficient in view of the procedural constraints in tackling terrorism and, more particularly, in carrying out investigations. The 2008 Amendment Act came into being on December 31, 2008, i.e. a few days after 26/11. Despite that the government has not felt it necessary to amend this law by further providing the most important and potent weapon to the investigating agency, i.e. the confession of the accused to a police officer being admissible in court.

 

My experience shows that statements made in police custody to a police officer by the accused are, by and large, truthful and factually correct.

 

The Mumbai terror attacks were a wake-up call for all Indians, including the criminal justice system. It needs appropriate amendments to ensure thorough investigation to book the culprits. It must ensure speedy trial and punishment to the savage "messengers of doom" who visited Mumbai on that shameful day of 26/11 so that the common man feels that the shedding of innocent blood has not gone unanswered.

 

Niteen Pradhan is a noted criminal lawyer

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

TALKS WITH PAK CAN'T BE HOSTAGE TO 26/11

S. NIHAL SINGH

 

The first anniversary of the Mumbai tragedy holds two lessons for the country. It reminds us about how a determined set of trained people can drive a coach and four through the security apparatus and the Indo-Pakistani equation remains a matter of constant concern. There has indeed been a burst of energy on the security front and the kind of turmoil Pakistan has been facing sends a clear signal of an unstable situation lasting well into the future. India must have a coherent longer term plan to cope with the consequences of these disturbing developments, rather than resort to knee-jerk reactions that feed into the traditional volatile mix of emotion and desire to teach Pakistan a lesson.

 

It must be said for the new home minister, P. Chidambaram, that he has set in motion a long-neglected task of improving training and weapons for the police and paramilitary security forces. But the bane of any national endeavour has been lack of persistence and stamina. Mumbai and our other major cities must be made secure on a long-term basis with trained, well-equipped forces co-ordinating their actions flowing from a well thought out strategy. One can only hope that the nature and scale of the Mumbai outrage will serve as a constant warning about the dangers of complacency.

 

The second issue thrown up by Mumbai and the events in Pakistan that have followed 26/11 is an even harder nut to crack because it impinges upon an unravelling political equation, the American pressure on Islamabad in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda and the fixed mindset of the Pakistani establishment, particularly the Army, on the perceived threat from India. The fact that the terrorist elements nurtured by Pakistan's spy Inter-Services Intelligence agency are biting the hand that fed it has served to muddy the waters further.

 

India's objective must be to hold on to the central verity that there can be no alternative to seeking good relations with Pakistan in the larger scheme of things. Second, that one cannot choose one's neighbours has become a cliche, but it is true. At the same time, New Delhi has no alternative but to work on a set of contingency plans depending upon the variables thrown up by the situation in Pakistan. These plans must take into account the stark fact that some of America's moves to bolster Pakistan to fight the Al Qaeda have an inevitable fall-out, to India's detriment. Even as Pakistan is bleeding by the various kinds of terrorists seeking revenge for Islamabad's actions against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, it is acquiring more modern US weapons and aircraft while its faltering economy is being bolstered by a whopping American civil assistance programme.

 

At present India is in the unenviable position of facing another, larger neighbour that has chosen to keep New Delhi off balance by launching a series of strident statements and declarations. China's moves, in fact, help Pakistan psychologically, if not materially, and has forced India to try to balance its stated position on Arunachal Pradesh with an attempt to temper the tone of the Dalai Lama's visit to the state. And we witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of analysts and some politicians asking that the Tibetan leader's visit be scrapped or postponed.

 

Such panic reaction is totally uncalled for. There are ways of making India's point while refraining from offering gratuitous provocation. But the fact remains that India's problems with Pakistan have really become a three-way game, with China and the United States becoming part of the larger equation. While China is obviously safeguarding its close relations with Islamabad as a lever against India, having assisted it in the past in nuclear technology and missiles, the American interest is enhanced by its dependence on Islamabad for pursuing its AfPak strategy and it is willing to be strung along by Islamabad to achieve its minimal objectives in Afghanistan.

During Mr Barack Obama's visit to China, he was the second US President after Bill Clinton to offer some kind of a supervisory role to Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, despite the stark fact that China's policy towards Islamabad for decades has been to cement ties with it to exercise a check on India's growing economic and geostrategic presence. The kindest interpretation that can be offered for American moves is that it considers placating Pakistan to the extent of disregarding India's security interests as the lesser of two evils in pursuing its regional policies. In an earlier phase, Washington had chosen to turn a blind eye to Pakistan's military nuclear programme because it was useful to remove the then Soviet military presence in Afghanistan.

 

The Manmohan Singh government has done a bad job in sensitising Indian public opinion on the stakes involved in pursuing sensible policies on Pakistan. Any sane Indian policy must have the following elements. Pakistan has an important place in India's policy, given the nature of the subcontinent's division but it should not be allowed to overshadow India's larger worldview and interests. China's major objective seems to be to relegate India to a subcontinental setting, to preclude it from playing a larger regional and world role. New Delhi must therefore place relations with Pakistan in perspective and try to convince Opposition parties that they are harming the national interest by indulging in extravagant rhetoric. To begin with, India has to be clear in its mind on its own strategy. Hesitation in pursuing a clear policy is likely to prove expensive. Partly, Pakistan is not the master of all it surveys.

 

Belatedly, the Union government has realised that any dogmatic approach to negotiations with Pakistan is counter-productive. Any real investigation into Pakistani links to 26/11 is unlikely simply because it will lead to a web of conspiracies involving official agencies at various levels. While New Delhi is right to make its points to set the record straight, simply to continue insisting on Pakistan coming clean as a precondition to talks can only lead to an impasse. While New Delhi should continue to insist on receiving satisfaction on the horrendous terrorist attacks in Mumbai, it should not make it a precondition for holding talks. Rather, it should set out new markers for Islamabad.

 

If India has chinks in its armour, so does China. There is no cause for panic.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

WASHINGTON FACTOR

 

The excitement of prime minister Manmohan Singh's first state visit to the Obama White House — a friendly and symbolic gesture on the part of president Barack Obama — has receded into the background and there is a reality check on India-US relations after Tuesday's meeting between the two leaders and the joint statement that was issued at the end of it. It turns out that though there have not been major takeaways on Singh's visit to Washington, the visit has reaffirmed the deepening of India-US relations, which seem to extend beyond political leanings and fancies in Washington and in New Delhi. It is true that president Obama had other things on his mind — the issue of American troops in Afghanistan was uppermost — but he was perceptive about the long-term bonds between the two democracies.


The fact that the agreement on nuclear fuel reprocessing was not signed need not be seen as a sign of indifference on the part of the new administration. It will go through sooner than later because of the business compulsions at work. Obama's fleeting reference to India as a 'nuclear power' and how the two countries will have to strive together for nuclear disarmament is more than flattering. The Americans are learning to deal with the new scenario where India is the new nuclear weapon state which does not pose a threat to the existing global order.

It is evident that India's position on the US political and strategic radar is not bigger than that of China but that need not be a worrying issue. It was unfortunate that the prime minister should have allowed himself to speak in comparative terms about India and China. He should have flatly refused to be drawn into it. The India-US relations follow an independent trajectory of their own and it is not necessary to compare it to US-China ties. A few years ago, it was Pakistan that loomed large in discussions of relations with the US. This betrays a sense of insecurity in the Indian establishment which is both strange and illogical.


Singh seems to believe, and many would disagree, that India needs US investments and technical know-how to power its economic growth. The US will certainly be a major partner in India's economic growth for quite some time to come but its importance is likely to decline because of the post-economic crisis contours of the global economy. India will have other major trade partners in Asia and elsewhere. All this requires a sober assessment of India-US equations.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

LOOK BACK IN ANGER

 

The horror which visited Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008 kept the city, the country and indeed parts of the world awake for the next three days. The fact of 24-hour news television made the attack, its chilling audacity, its heartless execution and its terrible end all the more real, close, personal and unpalatable. Life goes on is not just a cliché; it is the truth. But the anger that was born on 26/11 still lives within us.


A week after the event, the Gateway of India and the roads around the Taj were filled with almost three and a half lakh people who had swarmed there in a spontaneous uprising against the administration, the government and the politicians who had allowed their country to be invaded in such a shameless manner. Many people misread that anger and felt that it would translate politically. That it did not is testament to a deeper rage that speaks more of despair than cynicism. And yet, we remained calm with each other, displaying a great maturity and resilience.


There will be much public breast-beating today, some genuine, some manufactured for those ever-present television cameras. But it is also true that this remembrance of things past is vital. It helps with the recovery process, it shows respect for those who made immense sacrifices and it sends out a message to the world that this atrocity will not be forgotten.


Of all the various attacks and misfortunes this city has suffered, the events of last November have carved a separate space for themselves in our collective consciousness. The underlying feeling, then and now, is that this was an act of war. Part of the anger was to do with that. These were not nameless, faceless shadows which left bombs behind them or vaporised themselves with them. These were assailants who attacked with military precision. The answers we wanted were from our politicians and those who had sworn to serve and protect us.

The much-acclaimed spirit of Mumbai still carries that simmering rage. The past year has seen, unfortunately, a series of unseemly finger-pointing accusations within the Mumbai police which has not helped the recovery process. On the other hand, the trial of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist has reaffirmed the strength of India's commitment to the Constitution and to the principles of jurisprudence. In that, perhaps, we have demonstrated our greatest strength to the world.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

HOW INDEPENDENT IS PAKISTANI MEDIA?

 

It has not been long since the Geo News journalist Musa Khan was brutally murdered by Taliban with 32 bullets in his body. Though the journalistic fraternity of Pakistan tried to put up a brave face, saying it was undeterred by the killing and would continue its fight against Taliban, if only it was so simple. Musa is third journalist in a series to be murdered by Taliban in the tribal regions. This takes the toll of journalists killed in violence in Pakistan up to nine this year, according to the World Association of Newspapers.


This threat to life is keeping even the brave hearts away from Swat and other tribal regions, and the ones who are able to dig out a story or two are suspected to have struck a deal with Taliban not to tell the 'full truth'. Noted journalist Hamid Mir — only journalist to have interviewed world's most wanted fugitive Osama Bin Laden twice — was spotted on Geo TV disapproving of the military offensive in Waziristan against the Taliban, branding it as an absolute failure. He indicted the army for killing dozens of civilians dubbed as 'terrorists'.  


If Hamid Mir is to be believed, then what about the government's version of scores of terrorists being killed and that the lawless South Waziristan was soon to be liberated from the Taliban? Are the 30,000 odd Pakistani troops and millions of dollars directed at killing innocent Pakistanis? Is it really something which can be seen in clear black and white or does the truth lies somewhere in the grey? Ironically, there is hardly any third view emerging from this war zone which may be measured, authentic and unprejudiced. Yet, trustworthy news is as crucial to Pakistan as it is to South Asia and the world at large.


Most of the Pakistani media invariably lives under threat and pressures both from the government and the militants. And the rest, a strong section of the Urdu press, have a soft corner towards Taliban and deem its government's action as part of an international conspiracy to break up their country. This view is endorsed by a section of society as well. The Urdu press reflects an image of Pakistani society which is transforming its views from promoting jihad to just being soft on it while some of them still denouncing it thunderously.


Though free media is still a new phenomenon for Pakistan, there are a number of new private players, usually established businessmen. For advertisers, mostly multi-national companies, the Urdu media is an ideal vehicle to reach their target audiences. However the low literacy rate — the UNESCO puts the figure at 50 per cent —   as well as the high cost of newspapers (Rs18) does affect readership figures.


Journalists working in English, Urdu and local languages use different prisms to see their nation and its policies and hence have different world views. For the government what matters is what Urdu media is writing about and this can make Urdu language journalists more susceptible to establishment pressure.


The electronic media in Pakistan has undergone tremendous changes in last five years and has become a money-spinning business.


The government's sole concern seems to be the large licence fee and as a result, anyone with the ability to pay the stipulated amount can run a 'news' channel and advertise his own interests and ideology. This leads to a compromise with the standards and ethics of journalism as well as degradation of people's faith in it. This would have been fine anywhere else but is a treacherous trend in a country which is currently fighting the worst ideological battle of its history.    


Today Pakistan's crisis is highlighted by this a war of information vs misinformation, where battles are fought not on the ground but in the cyberspace. Pakistani media needs to return to its past, show its true mettle and do true journalism, not bow down to dictators.  This too is vital for Pakistan's future existence.

 

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DNA

LIBERHAN'S WASTED EFFORT

R JAGANNATHAN

 

Seventeen years of effort have yielded a mouse. The Liberhan Ayodhya commission, set up to probe the demolition of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid structure, has not said anything that we have not heard before. We all know who was responsible for bringing down the domes (some hardcore members of the Sangh parivar), who failed to stop the demolition (the Narasimha Rao and Kalyan Singh governments), and who was responsible for the build-up and escalation of communal tension before after the events of December 6, 1992  (the Sangh Parivar, and rabid elements of the Muslim leadership).


A close reading of the report shows that Liberhan wasted everybody's time and the taxpayer's money in these 17 years. His disclosures do not add anything significant to our knowledge of what really transpired that day.

 

He did not need 1,029 pages and Rs8 crore to pronounce judgment on the Sangh Parivar, for the latter has never hidden its agenda from anyone.


After fulminating against all and sundry, Liberhan does not even clearly answer the central question: which specific individuals actually brought the structure down? While he blames everyone in the parivar for conspiring in word and deed to crash the structure so that a Ram temple can be built, we don't know who wielded the pickaxes and crowbars. His best stab at the question is an incredulous one: "The hands that tore down the disputed structure and shredded the very fabric of society belonged to the common man".


Democracies celebrate the common man and his uncommon wisdom; Liberhan has reduced him to a gullible goop. The common man he is blaming is really a mob that was egged on by the Parivar's agent provocateurs.


But let that pass. If you are the suspicious kind, you would wonder whether Liberhan is really batting for the Congress party. The general naming of all Sangh Parivar outfits cannot but serve the party's propaganda interests. The party can now quote chapter and verse from the Liberhan scripture because it gets off lightly. The Narasimha Rao government is off the hook and Kalyan Singh gets all the blame. Even the apex court's rapporteur, Tej Shanker, is shown like a village bumpkin who is taken in by the state government's promises to protect the structure.

The Congress should be happy with the commission's efforts to caricature the top leadership of the BJP. Always smarting under the BJP's efforts to label it as "pseudo-secular", Liberhan has now given the Congress a comeback line: the BJP's leadership's pseudo-moderate leadership. Was it any part of Liberhan's brief to demonise the country's main opposition party — even if many of its members were guilty of aiding and abetting the demolition? This is no different from blaming all members of one community for the acts of a few. Liberhan's effort to tar the entire party, including the easy-going Vajpayee, with the pseudo-moderate label is condemnable. With this one phrase, he has demolished his own credibility.


The best parts of his report relate to disclosures on Kalyan Singh's sins of omission and commission, and the failure of the police and bureaucracy in the events leading up to the demolition. But this is the story everywhere. In Maharashtra, even after 26/11, the police are not free from political interference. Mayawati uses the bureaucracy as a pliant tool in UP, exactly the way Kalyan Singh did in the early 1990s.


Liberhan's recommendations will thus fall on deaf ears. None of his pious recommendations will pass muster in the current political climate of suspicion between castes, religious groups, linguistic minorities and coalition partners. He wants the Centre to have the power to send in the riot police without state consent. The suggestion is dead on arrival. He wants a commission of experts to decide whether the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri area housed a temple or a mosque. This is what an Allahabad court asked when the NDA was in power, and the expert verdict was that there was some kind of temple under the structure. But several secular scholars have disputed this. So how is a new commission going to solve the problems left by history?


Liberhan's suggestion to bar political parties from raising religious or caste issues is downright foolhardy. It is one thing to exhort them to eschew parochialism, quite another to ban them for it. Parochialism cannot be abolished this way, for politicians will then develop their own coded language to communicate their thoughts. Narendra Modi used "Mian Musharraf" effectively to demonise Muslims; Rajiv Gandhi used the Anandpur Sahib resolution to canvas for Hindu votes after Indira's assassination. Not only that. Where will it leave parties that are already overtly religious: the Akali Dal, the All-India Muslim League and the Majlis-Ittehadul-Muslimeen, to name just a few, are all parochial even in their identities. Will they all be banned?


In the final analysis, Liberhan's opus is — to use the ex-judge's own coinage with some modification — little more than a pseudo-liberal's rant against communalism.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BOOST FOR TIES WITH US

INDIA'S 'PIVOTAL ROLE' IN ASIA ACKNOWLEDGED

 

Tuesday's talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington cleared the doubts, if there were any, about US intentions to continue the process of strengthening its strategic relations with India set in motion by the previous US administration. It is not without reason that Mr Obama expressed his administration's commitment, in unequivocal terms, to the operationalisation of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal clinched after considerable efforts. Hopefully, negotiations for a reprocessing and enrichment agreement will be concluded soon to the satisfaction of both sides. "Much progress has been made" on this front, as Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao pointed out, though a number of issues remain to be discussed. The agreement is primarily aimed at ensuring that the nuclear fuel to be supplied to India is not diverted to a weapons programme.

 

The bitterness that was created by the joint statement issued at the end of President Obama's visit to China has got removed. The US appears to have realised why China cannot be allowed to play the monitoring role in South Asia. Describing India as a "rising and responsible global power", the US President dispelled all doubts about his commitment to boosting relations with India. Mr Obama made it clear that India has to play a "pivotal role" in Asia and the world. The two countries were, no doubt, "separated by distance", as Dr Manmohan Singh noted, but they shared values of democracy, rule of law and respect for fundamental human freedoms. Building upon "these values", they have "created a partnership that is based upon both principle and pragmatism", the Prime Minister stressed.

 

It is a matter of great satisfaction that India's stand on resolving disputes between New Delhi and Islamabad without any third-party involvement has been upheld. Mr Obama, who discussed with Dr Manmohan Singh a number of issues, including terrorism, security in South Asia and the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, highlighted the point that Pakistan has to deal effectively with the terrorists operating from its territory. The US has to continue to put pressure on Pakistan to force it to eliminate all kinds of terrorist networks, including those operating against India. This is essential as Pakistan truly has "an enormous role to play in securing the region", as President Obama has admitted. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IT'S UNPARLIAMENTARY

MAINTAIN THE DIGNITY OF THE HOUSE

 

Noise and pandemonium are not exactly unknown in Parliament, but this session has been exceptionally bad, with unparliamentary behaviour being regularly on display right from the word go. First, the sugar issue saw the Houses drowned in the din, with everyone trying to be the benefactor of the sugarcane growers by making bitter comments at the top of their voices. Next, there was chaos over the leakage of the Liberhan Commission report, but the worst came on Tuesday when even the Rajya Sabha witnessed the sorry spectacle of Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Amar Singh pulling up the BJP's S S Ahluwalia by the collar. Such behaviour would be a disgrace even for a village-level function and here an honourable MP indulged in it. Since this happened in the Rajya Sabha, it was far more reprehensible than a similar ugly episode in the Maharashtra Assembly recently where SP MLA Abu Azmi was slapped by MNS workers for daring to take oath in Hindi instead of Marathi.

 

That was not all, both BJP and SP members also raised religious slogans in the House of Elders. If one party wanted to appease its "core constituency", the other tried to refurbish its "secular" credentials. Both forgot that Parliament was not the forum for such politicking and in the process did considerable damage to the highest law-making body of the country. If this is how the Elders behave, one can well imagine what message goes down the line.

 

It is painful to remind the representatives of the people that they are sent to the august body by the voters to hold discussions in a genial manner and not to indulge in slogan shouting and fisticuffs. In any case, violence is no way to settle scores in Parliament or any other place. Most of the MPs indulge in such unacceptable behaviour for the benefit of the TV which beams pictures of their "bravery" back home. Unfortunately, these videos are also telecast to civilised sections of society within the country and abroad who are appalled at this boorish conduct. Things have gone too far and it is time to restore the parliamentary code of conduct.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SAVE SHEESHAM, KIKAR

CARE AND EXPERT INTERVENTION NEEDED

 

Kikar (Acacia nilotica) and sheesham (Dalbergia sissoo) trees are a common sight in the land of five rivers, and it comes as a shock that fully grown trees of these varieties are fast diminishing. Excessive tree cutting could have explained the phenomenon, but this is not so. The trees are dying a slow death, but the decline in numbers — 82,183 to 30,000, in Bathinda district alone in eight years — is alarming.

 

The kikar tree tolerates a wide range of soil types and, when used in land reclamation, can be planted onto degraded saline/alkaline soils with a soluble salt content below 3 per cent. It adapts itself to annual rainfall of between 300 and 2,200 mm, and tolerates extremes of temperature, so the assertion by some officers that "this denudation is due to changing climatic conditions and altering soil conditions," does not hold much ground. Proper investigation is needed to determine the causes and also find a cure to save the remaining lot. In certain areas, water-logging has been blamed for the demise of sheesham or tahli trees. Again, this needs to be investigated and remedial measures taken.

 

The flora and fauna of the state have been given a short shrift for a long time, and now the ill-effects are showing in the way the land has been polluted, as well as the increasingly dangerous level of chemicals in the produce. Forest lands have all too often been encroached upon, and even now dead trees are auctioned by the Punjab Forest Corporation. Punjab once had a great forest cover. Now even indigenous trees are under threat.The Forest Department would hopefully get out of its "can't see the wood for the trees" attitude and help restore green forest cover to the land of the Green Revolution.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SECTARIAN CRISIS IN W. ASIA

INDIA HAS A VITAL STAKE IN THE REGION'S STABILITY

BY G. PARTHASARATHY

 

Even as the hapless people of Iraq emerged from the trauma of the American invasion and the consequent ethnic and sectarian violence that engulfed their country, the fledgling democratic government was confronted with new challenges. On August 21 this year the Shia-majority Iraqi Parliament called on its Sunni-dominated neighbour, Saudi Arabia, to "cease funding anti-government terrorists in Iraq". A senior official of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's ruling Dawa Party, Haidar al-Ibadi, earlier noted on August 20 that "there are regional powers that pay billions of dollars to push for the failure of Iraq's democracy". He criticised a "multi-billion dollar plan by Saudi Arabia and other states" to launch terrorist attacks across the country and to undermine public confidence in the elected government. Another leading Iraqi MP who is a member of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Sami Al-Askari, averred: "Saudi Arabia is not happy that Shias lead this country." The Iraqis note that three Sunni Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt — are yet to establish diplomatic missions in Baghdad.

 

While Iraq accuses Saudi Arabia of meddling in its internal affairs, Saudi Arabia and Yemen accuse Shia-dominated Iran of promoting unrest in their Shia minorities. In September, Yemen claimed it had seized a vessel carrying weapons from Iran for the rebels belonging to its minority Zaidi Shia sect and detained its Iranian crew.  As internal tensions in Yemen spilled across its borders into neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the Saudis joined the fray with their air force striking at rebel bases along the Yemen-Saudi border. On November 11, Saudi Arabia imposed a naval blockade of the Red Sea Coast of Northern Yemen, warning that it will search any suspect ship. The Saudi army is now operating against Shia rebels along its borders with Yemen. But what the Saudis fear most is Iranian instigation of its Shia population in their oil-rich eastern provinces.

 

Responding to Saudi actions, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned, "Regional and neighbouring countries should not interfere in Yemen's internal affairs", adding that "those who choose to fan the flames of conflict must know that the fire will reach them".

 

Iran, in turn, fears that neighbouring Pakistan is joining with Saudi Arabia, with American encouragement, to promote terrorist violence in its Sunni-majority border province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Iran accuses Pakistan of arming and supporting a shadowy Wahabi-oriented Baluchi group, Jundallah, to destabilise Sistan-Baluchistan. On May 28, 2009, the Jundallah struck at the provincial capital Zahidan during ceremonies by the Shia community to mark the death of the daughter of Prophet Mohammed. This terrorist attack left 25 worshippers dead and 125 injured.

 

On October 18, Jundallah again struck at a meeting convened by the Deputy Commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard, killing 42 people, including the Deputy Commander. An outraged President Ahmedinejad accused "certain officials" in Pakistan of cooperating with Jundallah and providing shelter and support to its leader Abdelmalek Rigi.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While Saudi Arabia has backed the Taliban in Afghanistan and Wahabi-oriented groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Pakistan, Iran has responded by aiding the Shia minority and other anti-Taliban groups along its borders with Afghanistan and sectarian Shia groups in Pakistan.   

 

Superimposed on the rivalries, conflicts and prejudices that have characterised Persian-Arab relations for centuries, matters have been further complicated by the United States and Israel, which significantly influence developments in the region. While the Jews and the Persians have historically been allies in the region, the Iranian government has adopted a policy of unremitting hostility towards Israel and the US. The Israelis, in turn, have covert links with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Israel has stridently been opposed to Iran's nuclear programme, claiming, not without justification, that Iran has ambitions to make nuclear weapons.

 

The Obama Administration is frantically trying to find a solution that permits Iran to enrich uranium while, at the same time, ensuring that it neither qualitatively not quantitatively possesses enough highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons. Israel, however, continues to warn that if Iran, which has threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", is not stopped, it will militarily strike at Iranian nuclear facilities. Any such action may well lead to Iran seeking to shut off access to two-thirds of the world's oil supplies coming from the Persian Gulf, sparking off a global economic crisis.

 

India has a vital stake in the stability of the region, extending from Pakistan and Afghanistan, across the Straits of Hormuz. An estimated four million Indians now live in the six Arab Gulf kingdoms — Oman, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. India gets around 75 per cent of its oil supplies from these countries. Indians living in these countries remit back the bulk of the $55 billion that India gets as remittances from its nationals working overseas.

 

Tensions and conflicts in this region could send global oil prices skyrocketing. This will adversely affect our balance of payments and send our foreign exchange reserves spiralling downwards, as we already have an adverse balance of trade of around $120 billion. Apart from India's increasing dependence on the Gulf Arab states for its oil supplies, there is now a growing demand for natural gas, for which an agreement was signed with Qatar. While Qatar has fulfilled the terms of the agreement signed with India, Iran has proved to be an unreliable supplier, unilaterally repudiating a contract signed with India in 2005 for the supply of an estimated $40 billion of natural gas over 25 years. Iran, however, remains an important source of natural gas.

 

Given the political situation within Pakistan and growing regional tensions, India will have to secure foolproof guarantees of assured supplies before inking any deal on a pipeline from Iran, which traverses through not only the violence-prone Sistan —Baluchistan province of Iran, but also through the turbulent Pakistani Balochistan.

 

Given the complexities of the emerging situation in its western neighbourhood, India will have to dexterously steer clear of getting involved in Persian-Arab rivalries. But, at the same time, given its close relations with Iran, Israel and the US and as a member of the Governing Council of the IAEA, India should play a more active role in resolving the standoff resulting from Iran's nuclear ambitions.

 

Samuel Huntington had prophesied a "clash of civilizations" between the Christian and Muslim worlds. What we are seeing in our neighbourhood is a clash between Persian and Arab cultures, superimposed on a deep, sectarian, Shia-Sunni divide.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

REMEMBERING ASHOK KAMTE

BY ANUPINDER SINGH GREWAL

 

I have been attending the annual St. Stephens College Reunion frequently ever since I passed out of college in 1987. However, on December 14 last year, it turned into memorial service for Ashok Kamte and I was entrusted the painful task of paying tribute to Ashok.

 

It was a tragic personal loss as besides being his classmate in college, I had the privilege of living with Ashok and his family at his mother's flat in Hira Mahal on the Amrita Shergill Marg for about a year while studying law.

 

Ashok had joined us at St. Stephens College for his postgraduation after he had graduated from St. Xavier's College, Bombay. What stood him apart from the rest of the Stephanians was the enormity of his physical stature, which along with his quest for academic excellence was a unique combination.

 

What surprised many was why the National Power Lifting Champion was pursuing postgraduation at St. Stephens. Ashok always strove for excellence, whether in the classroom or the playing field.

 

Power Lifting is one of the toughest sports and Ashok would train for hours in complete solitude. He was extremely agile and could sprint quite fast. He loved swimming, squash and cricket.

 

Ashok was proud of the fact that he had the blood of two martial races, the Marathas and the Sikhs. While his father is a retired Colonel, settled in Pune, his grandfather was in the Imperial Police. His mother, Mrs Paramjit Kamte, who now lives in Gulmohar Park, is from the well-known Bawa gamily of Goindwal Sahib and is grand-daughter of Late Bawa Budh Singh of the Indian Service of Engineers. Bawa Budh Singh was the 14th descendent of the Third Sikh Guru, Guru Amar Dass.

 

Perhaps he inherited his fair features from his maternal grandmother, Mrs Surinder Bawa (maiden name Violet), an English Lady. His sister Sharmila is a model and a ballet dancer, settled in Dubai. His wife, Vinita, stays at Pune along with sons Rahul and Arjun. Besides serving the UN Force in Bosnia, Ashok had also trained in Punjab for some time.

 

Ashok was known for his high integrity and efficiency which was evident in his earlier stints in Maharashtra, especially in Solapur, where he had brought an inflammable communal situation under control within a few hours.

 

It was his conscientiousness, patriotism and devotion to duty which made him the target of the 26/11 terrorist attack at Mumbai. He was the Additional Commissioner, (East) and even though the area around the Cama Hospital (South) did not fall within his jurisdiction, he had reached there as he had undergone specialised training in handling terrorism and hostage situation.

 

He would lead from the front and was not the kind to send subordinates to do risky jobs. He lived for others and had a proactive approach. He made the supreme sacrifice and attained martyrdom in the battlefield and made his family, friends and the nation proud.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

RELATIONS WITH CHINA

BEIJING PLAYS A DUPLICITOUS ROLE

BY MOHAN GURUSWAMY

 

Ironically enough, the slide in India-China relations began in just days before the November 2006 visit of Hu Jintao, supposedly intended to showcase an upswing in the relations. It began when the then Chinese Ambassador to India, Sun Yuxi, made a rather indiscreet and untimely comment to a TV news channel that the status of Arunachal Pradesh was still an unresolved issue between the two countries.

 

Whether Sun Yuxi made this comment as a mere restatement of the old Chinese position for the record or to deliberately stir the pot will be debated for a long time.

 

Sun Yuxi himself told me that he did not intend it to stir things up and that the partly American-owned TV channel deliberately played it up to blight the improving ties.

 

Sun Yuxi also, quite significantly, added that while he might have been indiscreet, his statement won him a great deal of support from groups in China who favour a hard line with India, ever since it began to draw closer to the USA.

 

Many in China believe that India is now part of a US attempt to encircle it and even Prakash Karat of our CPM has echoed this view.

 

The result of the Sun Yuxi statement was that what had become a mere border alignment issue was once again transformed into a territorial issue.

 

The thaw in our ties was initiated when Deng Xiaoping made an offer to Rajiv Gandhi in December 1988 to settle the border dispute on an as-is-where-is basis.

 

The politically beleaguered Rajiv Gandhi felt that he did have the political capital for a deal to essentially forego claims on Aksai Chin in exchange for an alignment generally corresponding McMahon Line. The two leaders then agreed to keep the issue frozen for settlement "at some future time".

 

Following this and the agreements consequent to the visits of Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee, it was generally believed in India that the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh was now in the past.

 

While releasing my book "India China Relations: The Border Issue and Beyond" earlier this year, in response to a pointed question from a journalist, the then Foreign Secretary strongly hinted that a settlement along the status quo might now be more acceptable to the Indian leadership.

 

As if the border row wasn't enough to heat up relations, other issues too have cropped up. There is the question of the Dalai Lama's continued residence in India which surfaced even as the waters of distrust began receding. China's inability to deal with the increasing Tibetan restiveness also makes it angrily point a finger at India.

 

When in India the Dalai Lama is restricted to just performing his ecclesiastical duties, which include tending to the spiritual needs of a large Indian flock adhering to the Tibetan school of Mahayana Buddhism.

 

The Chinese have now taken umbrage over his visit to the ancient monastery at Tawang.

 

Let alone the Dalai Lama's visit, they were even critical of Dr. Manmohan Singh's visit to the state last month. In the recent days the situation has been further vitiated by stories, many of them false, in the Indian media.

 

The global economic crisis has exacerbated problems within China's rapidly growing economy. With US markets' rapidly shrinking, it needs to find markets elsewhere to sustain its export-led growth model.

 

The rapidly growing Sino-Indian trade, but increasingly tilted in China's favour mostly due to an undervalued Yuan, is yet another festering issue.

 

China derives much of its export prowess due to its undervalued Yuan and exploitative labour practices.

 

The economic profligacy of the USA and China's somewhat naïve hoarding of trillions of dollars as reserves

make it the USA's co-equal in causing the global economic mayhem. There is no sign that China has derived

lessons from this and will revalue the Yuan.

 

The misuse of business visas by Chinese construction companies to bring in tens of thousands of workers into India is now another issue.

 

On the other hand, the issue of visas on a separate sheet of paper to Indian residents of J&K and Arunachal Pradesh in a bid to highlight their disputed status is seen as deliberately provocative by India.

 

Providing a backdrop to all this is China's rather duplicitous role at the Vienna conference to ratify the IAEA's exemption for India from the stringent provisions instituted after our 1974 nuclear test; and its opposition to the expansion of the UN Security Council's permanent membership and by extension India's entry into it.

 

In the recent days several new publications and books have exposed how extensively China assisted in the development of Pakistan's nuclear programme and their delivery systems.

 

Since Pakistan's nuclear programme is entirely India centric, this is in itself is quite revealing about the intensity of Chinese hostility then towards India.

 

The Chinese have been insisting that it was in the past and China is now committed to improving ties with India. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and China, despite its much vaunted policy culinary abilities, has not yet put it on the table!

 

The writer is a well-known commentator and the author of the recently published "Chasing the Dragon: Will India Catch-up with China?"

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

AIDS OFFICIALLY IN DECLINE

BY JEREMY LAURANCE

 

The HIV pandemic which started 28 years ago is officially in decline, two of the world's leading health organisations said yesterday.

 

The number of new HIV infections peaked in the mid-1990s and has since declined by almost a third, according to the annual update on the pandemic for 2009, published yesterday by the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) and the World Health Organisation.

 

It is the first time that UNAids and the WHO have confirmed that the pandemic is on a downward trend and represents a landmark in the history of the disease. In their 2008 report, they said suggestions the epidemic had peaked were "speculation" and that it was "difficult to predict the epidemic's future course".

 

That report warned: "The HIV epidemic has repeatedly defied predictions... HIV is likely to have additional surprises in store that the world must be prepared to address."

 

But the 2009 update throws scientific caution to the winds and instead states clearly that the pandemic has passed its zenith: "The latest epidemiological data indicate that globally the spread of HIV appears to have peaked in 1996 when 3.5 million new infections occurred. In 2008 the estimated number of new HIV infections was approximately 30 per cent lower than at the epidemic's peak 12 years earlier."

 

It says that, in sub-Saharan Africa – the worst-affected region – new infections in 2008 were "approximately 25 per cent lower than at the epidemic's peak in the region in 1995".

 

It adds: "Asia's epidemic peaked in the mid-1990s and annual HIV incidence has subsequently declined by more than half. Regionally, the epidemic has remained somewhat stable since 2000."

 

The annual report from UNAids and the WHO is the official record of the progress of HIV/Aids, and confirmation that the worst disease of modern times is in decline will be widely welcomed. Two years ago the organisations admitted that they had overestimated the numbers affected and revised the total down from 40 million to 33 million.

 

Despite the fall in new infections, the number living with HIV increased last year to 33.4 million as people are surviving longer with the roll-out of antiretroviral drug treatment. Greater access to drugs has helped cut the death toll by 10 per cent over the past five years.

 

There are now 4 million people on the drugs worldwide, a 10-fold increase in five years. The report says 2.9 million lives have been saved since effective treatment became available in 1996 but less than half the patients who need them are currently getting them.

 

The reasons for the decline in new infections are disputed. UNAids said prevention programmes involving sex

education, HIV awareness campaigns and distributing condoms had had an impact.

 

Critics said the pandemic was already in decline before prevention programmes were widely implemented and the disease was burning itself out. Ties Boerma, a WHO statistics expert, said countries whose HIV prevalence declined dramatically, like Zimbabwe, were not always those that got the most HIV cash.

 

Experts at UNAids said new infections had fallen 17 per cent since 2001, when the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/Aids was signed, triggering a global push to deliver anti-retroviral drugs and prevention programmes to the hardest hit parts of the world.

 

Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAids, said: "We have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention. However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark and that, if we do a better job of getting resources and programmes to where they will make most impact quicker, progress can be made and more lives saved."

 

But Philip Stevens of International Policy Network, the London-based think-tank, said with HIV declining it was time to rethink global spending priorities and switch funds currently being spent on HIV to other conditions that kill more people. Globally, HIV causes about 4 per cent of all deaths, but gets 23 pence in every pound spent on development aid for health ($21.7bn in 2007, or £13.1bn).

 

Mr Stevens said: "In most countries HIV is a relatively minor problem compared with other conditions such as malaria and diarrhoeal disease. The exception is sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa has a 23 per cent prevalence but in many other countries [in the region] it's 3 to 5 per cent.

 

"They have a problem but it is not the huge problem that UNAids is claiming. We shouldn't let this single disease continue to distort overall global funding, especially when bigger killers like pneumonia and diarrhoea in developing countries are far easier and cheaper to treat."

 

Mr Stevens said the "single issue advocacy" by UNAids, which existed solely to draw money to the disease, had distorted global health priorities. "Governments are now talking about placing a bigger emphasis on primary care and building up public health systems."

 

Dr Karen Stanecki, senior adviser to UNAids, said repeated studies in different parts of the world, comparing the reduction in new infections with what happened where there was no intervention, had demonstrated the effectiveness of prevention programmes.

 

"The decline was over and above the natural decline in the epidemic. They showed it could only have been explained by behavioural change."

 

She denied that too much was being spent fighting HIV/Aids. "We are facing a great many challenges. There

are still 7,400 new infections a day. For every five people who become infected, two start on treatment. So we still have a long way to go."n

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MONOGAMY ISN'T EASY, NATURALLY

BY DAVID P. BARASH

 

Right-wing pro-marriage advocates are correct: Monogamy is definitely under siege. But not from uncloseted polyamorists, adolescent "hook-up" advocates, radical feminists, Godless communists or some vast homosexual conspiracy. The culprit is our own biology.

 

Researchers in animal behavior have long known that monogamy is uncommon in the natural world, but only with the advent of DNA "fingerprinting" have we come to appreciate how truly rare it is. Genetic testing has recently shown that even among many bird species – long touted as the epitome of monogamous fidelity – it is not uncommon for 6 percent to 60 percent of the young to be fathered by someone other than the mother's social partner. As a result, we now know scientifically what most people have long known privately: that social monogamy does not necessarily imply sexual monogamy.

 

In the movie "Heartburn," the lead character complains about her husband's philandering and gets this response: "You want monogamy? Marry a swan!" But now, scientists have found that even swans aren't monogamous. (Nor are those widely admired emperor penguins, whose supposed march to monogamy was misconstrued from another popular movie; their domesticity lasts only for the current breeding season – next year, they'll find new mates.)

 

For some, findings of this sort may mitigate a bit of the outrage visited on the current and future crop of adulterers du jour, recently including but assuredly not limited to Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Ensign and John Edwards. For others, it simply shows that men are clueless, irresponsible oafs. The scientific realty, however, is more nuanced, and more interesting, especially for those looking to their own matrimonial future.

 

First, there can be no serious debate about whether monogamy is natural for human beings. It isn't. A Martian zoologist visiting planet Earth would have no doubt: Homo sapiens carries all the evolutionary stigmata of a mildly polygamous mammal in which both sexes have a penchant for occasional "extra-pair copulations."

 

But natural isn't necessarily good. Think about earthquakes, tsunamis, gangrene or pneumonia. Nor is unnatural bad, or beyond human potential. Consider writing a poem, learning a second language or mastering a musical instrument. Few people would argue that learning to play the violin is natural; after all, it takes years of dedication and hard work. A case can be made, in fact, that people are being maximally human when they do things that contradict their biology. "Doing what comes naturally" is easy. It's what nonhuman animals do. Perhaps only human beings can will themselves to do things that go against their "nature."

 

Add to this the fact that people have big brains, and hence, an ability to rescue monogamy from monotony, as well as the capacity to imagine the future and a visceral dislike of dishonesty, and the effect of biology on monogamy becomes complex indeed. Not to mention the adaptive significance of that thing called love. To be sure, monogamy isn't easy; nor is it for everyone. But anyone who claims that he or she simply isn't cut out for monogamy misses the point: No one is. At the same time, no one's biology precludes monogamy either. As Jean-Paul Sartre famously advised (albeit in a different context): "You are free; choose."

 

The writer is a professor of psychology at the University of Washington

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LIBERHAN REPORT

 

The Liberhan Commission report, tabled in Parliament a day after the fracas over its alleged leak to media, has made some significant observations, but strangely falls short of recommending any punitive action against any of the 68 people it has indicted. At the core of the report lies the conclusion that the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was the result of a pre-planned conspiracy hatched by the RSS, which virtually ran a parallel government in UP at the time, with the then Chief Minister Kalyan Singh removing every perceived stumbling block in the run-up to the demolition. This rejects the contention of the Sangh Parivar that the dismantling of the mosque was a spontaneous expression of the sentiments of Hindus favouring construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. While hitting Kalyan Singh hard, the report also suggests it's not possible that the top BJP brass including Atal Behari Vajpayee, LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi – whom the report calls "pseudo-moderates" – were unaware of the brewing plan. The accusation against Vajpayee is significant: he hasn't been put in the same league as the Advanis and Kalyan Singhs, but Liberhan does not think he was entirely clean. This opinion has ruffled many feathers because it shatters the well-crafted reputation of the former Prime Minister as a moderate, someone venerated even by his political enemies. While coming down on the Sangh brigade, the report however gives a virtual clean chit to the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. Liberhan, appointed by Rao to probe the sequence of events that led to the destruction, merely thought that the late premier was guilty of being caught by surprise by the turn of events, after having taken the then UP Governor's assurances at face value.


It took Liberhan 17 painstaking years to prepare a report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. This inordinate delay included 48 extensions, and cost a whopping eight crores of rupees. Yet, what the report has finally come out gives the impression that unnecessary amounts of time and money were spent on an inquiry that has produced too little too late. The report seems to be a mixture of truths, half-truths and some judgmental impropriety, and devoid of much sting. This raises the doubt over the very need of such commissions of inquiry. There is no point in setting up such panels if no punitive action can be taken on their basis. Liberhan merely recommends a law to punish those misusing religion for political gains and disqualify candidates pursuing a communal agenda. The Action Taken Report (ATR) too speaks of no punitive action against anyone, though the government promises a bill to check communal violence. In the report aftermath, no party has emerged as a clear loser or gainer, although it gives parties like Samajwadi Party and the Left an opportunity to question the government's 'secular' credentials. The report, however, brings the Ram janmabhoomi movement back in focus, allowing BJP a chance to reassert its arguments hoping to claw its way back to political centrestage.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

REMEMBERING 26/11

 

One year has passed since Mumbai was hit by one of the worst ever terror attacks faced by the country and the memories of the attack, which killed over 170 persons and injured more than 300 others, are still vivid in the minds of all Indians. The attack clearly exposed the loopholes in the security system of the country as terrorists from Pakistan managed to sneak into Mumbai through the sea routes and were able to create mayhem and the damage had been done before the elite National Security Guard (NSG) commandos swung into action. The terrorists managed to hold on for 60 hours in the face of the operations by the elite commandos of the NSG by taking advantage of the topography of the places they attacked including Taj and Trident Hotels and the Nariman House before the latter managed to secure the places killing all but one of the terrorists. It was apparent that India was not prepared to deal with such an attack and the NSG commandos were called three hours late and even when they received the call, there was no pilot or crew in Delhi airport to take them to Mumbai immediately. Finally, the commandos reached late and vital time was lost. To deal with such problems, the Government of India decided to establish hubs of the NSG in different parts of the country and Maharashtra has raised its own specialized counter-terror unit, but unfortunately, the Centre did not pay heed to repreated requests by the Government of Assam to set up an NSG hub in the State to deal with terror attacks in the region. With the North East region, hit by insurgency, has long international borders with the countries where insurgent groups along with other forces inimical to India have their bases, the possibility of Mumbai-type attacks cannot be ruled out, but the Centre decided to establish a hub of the NSG for the Eastern region in Kolkata. One hopes that the Centre will soon realize the ground situation in the North East and establish NSG hub in the region so that any major terror attack can be thwarted without loss of vital time as it happened in Mumbai.


Unfortunately, the Government of Pakistan is yet to act against the terrorist groups using the territory of the country to launch attacks in India and the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh also made it clear that India would be willing to discuss all contentious issues with Pakistan only after the neighbouring country takes action against the terrorists. However, India's efforts to generate world opinion against terrorism have started paying dividends as during his visit to America, Dr Singh and US President Barack Obama issued a joint statement calling for action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and said that credible steps must be taken against the terror groups. The joint statement and the growing worldwide public opinion against terrorism will definitely put pressure on Pakistan to take action against the terrorists using the country as safe sanctuary, but it remains to be seen whether the Government of Pakistan has the will and resources to root out terrorist groups from the territory of the country in near future.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SEARCH FOR AN ELUSIVE PEACE

PATRICIA MUKHIM

 

Some more blasts shake the even tenor of life in Assam. The blame game begins although no one is any wiser as to who has exactly triggered the blasts. Mr Tarun Gogoi wakes up, fumes and frets, threatens to punish the perpetrators and then goes back to 'noddy' land. Things have assumed a predictable pattern in Assam. And yes, life is definitely not worth much. All the talks about rights are meaningless when the right to life is itself under constant threat.


This time the ULFA is quick to deny they had any hand in the blasts at Nalbari. But are we not familiar with the phrase, 'the right hand does not know what the left hand does?' How many times have we heard of fragmented units carrying out exercises that do not have the sanction of the top leadership? Was that not the excuse trotted out when Sanjoy Ghosh was abducted and later done to death? The thirst for easy money which comes from extortion necessitates such bloodthirsty measures if only to jolt those who resist the threats to pay up.


However, it is for the first time perhaps that one hears the voice of ULFA Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa echoing from across the borders denying that the outfit had anything to do with the blasts. His call to the government to ensure that those injured were given proper treatment and surviving relatives of the dead compensated also sounds like the erstwhile voice of terror repackaged in sage-like sanity. There is at this very moment a civil society group proposing yet another peace formula between the state and ULFA in Delhi. It is not uncommon for violence to escalate when such peace overtures are in the offing. Peace means the de-escalation of violence. The question is whether everyone within the ULFA wants peace. The more sinister question is whether ULFA is a master of its own destiny or whether the hands that pull the trigger or fuel the blasts are not that of agent provocateurs.


Conflict and the violence that accompany it is never black or white. There are devious shades that we often fail to decipher. Sri Lankan peace analyst, Eleazar S Fernandez in his discourse, 'From War to Peace' speaks at length on the predatory corporate globalization which he says thrives on violence either through direct military action or by sowing seeds of violence and terrorism. There are enough theories which support the fact that the market prefers to negotiate with individuals than with communities. It is interesting to look at the patterns of ethnic conflicts in the North East and how in the midst of such conflicts there are simultaneous attempts to corner the rich resources of tribal areas. It is not as if the conflict in Bodoland has stopped the looting of forests. Or for that matter Karbi Anglong. In fact conflict helps to distract the attention of people from the insidiousness of a predatory global market economy.


The sudden realization that resources need to be appropriated by a certain ethnic group within whose territories the resources are found, while it sounds judicious and equitable, needs to be looked at from different prisms as well. However, Fernandez also argues that armed confrontations and violent conflicts are not simply instruments of predatory corporate globalization but are outcomes of this phenomenon. It seems reasonable to pursue this theory a bit further especially in a region which is resource-rich like ours. There are sufficient studies from around the world to prove that predatory corporate globalization breeds armed conflict and terrorism because it creates and also promotes social inequities, a sense of fatalism and despair among its victims. It also undermines the sovereignty of states and fragments communities and families, destroys the ecosystem, 'desacralizes' sacred places for profit, and disperses population as migrants and refugees.


In terms of 'desacrilizing' sacred places, we in Meghalaya can very well testify to the fact that people who no longer follow the indigenous faith tend to discount the notion of 'sacred groves' which are heritage sites and natural conservatories of water, while those following the indigenous faith continue to nurture these sacred groves across Meghalaya because they believe that destruction of these sacred forests is attended by some form of holocaust. When the market fails to demolish long held beliefs among indigenous communities, it perpetrates divisions and suspicions which fragment the once close-knit communities and breeds individualism because that it what serves the market best.


Peace scholars are now more in agreement that what appears like an ethnic conflict is actually rooted in predatory globalization. In the North East this feeds very well into the multiple ethnic identities that strive for political space but above all for an assertion of ownership of resources in those geographical spaces. A casual analysis of the present situation in Meghalaya where uranium has created radioactive fissures amongst the communities is a case in point. While a section argues that uranium means development, the other obstinately persists that uranium mining will devastate the health of the communities and environment. Ironically both arguments seem to be fuelled not so much by native intelligence but by acquired western ideologies. This is where the problem lies.


The rapid privatisation of community land, particularly water sources and catchment areas among the Khasis tells us that the market has arrived and is negotiating a market price with individuals, for resources that were once owned by communities. Needless to say, this has fragmented the tribal society. The divide is growing and as the chasm widens the seeds for future conflicts are also sown.


It is rather sad that we are unable to adequately fathom the evils of a beastly market economy even today and that we continue to attribute simplistic motives to violence. The breakdown of filial ties among tribes and the weakening of the clan system are some of the more visible outcomes of the market invasion. So while looking at ethnic conflicts it is important to understand the underlying causes that exacerbate such conflicts. Besides, who gains from the sale of arms in the North East? This is a billion dollar market. In other words, though we are not at war with anyone but amongst ourselves we are in some ways helping the war economy which is the sale and proliferation of arms. Does not the arms bazaar create the biggest economic spin-off for the global mafia?


Conflicts in the North East might have had their genesis in sound and noble ideologies but with time they have all mutated. Today the conventional methods of conflict transformation and management might have become passé. The arms market creates its own demands and there are too many who benefit from this than we are willing to admit. Peace, therefore, is neither easy nor simple. The road ahead is tortuous and tricky.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POST-MORTEM OF 26/11: ERROR DURING TERROR

DR DC MAHANTA

 

One can't forget the last year's terror at Hotel Taj, Mumbai on 26/11, when the commando operation was taking place to apprehend the Pakistani terrorists, in which, many got killed while hundreds left injured seriously. If observed closely, one might have noticed that the extended emergency medical services for the incident was not at all systematic and perfect, as no paramedics accompanied the commandos nor appeared later to assess the extent of injury and alert the treating hospital to keep the operation theatres ready or provide initial treatment. All that apparent was an ambulance in standby to transport the victims or dead bodies like any other animals evacuated during such situation. No emergency medical help was provided to the injured, not until they were taken to the hospital.


In this regard, the lack of trained paramadics can be cited as an excuse at this instance. It is true that, the country still today does not have a formal certified course either at the undergraduate or graduate level for paramedics on trauma and emergency situation, all you get is a ward boy of general category or an ambulance driver for help. If somebody is lucky enough then he/she might be aided by a nurse. We, in our State also, struggled without proper and systematic emergency medical services.


Our country is still coming to terms with its battered image. One of the 10 unsafe destinations of the world – India, is still reeling under the wounds inflicted by the terrorist attacks on November 26, 2008. However among all the whys and hows that have been making the rounds, a gap in understanding of 'emergency' and its requirement is predominant. The question that no body is asking today is, why do we not have an appropriate paramedical force to tackle emergency situation? Any medical practitioner would tell you that the most important thing while handling an emergency case is the first one hour after the incident called 'Golden Hour' – eg, if one lost this hour after injury without treatment he may experience a fatal situation!


It is in this crucial phase that the paramedics or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) comes handy. Their existence revolves around saving lives. People's lives often depend on the quick reaction and competent care of paramedics or EMTs. Incidents as varied as automobile accidents, road-traffic accidents, bomb blast, gun-shot wounds, slips and falls, poisoning, homicidal and suicidal attempts, heart attack, complication during child-births require immediate medical attention. EMTs or paramedics provide this vital service and transport the sick or injured to a hospital. They are not only well versed with the medical emergencies, but are also taught the protocols of law, so that when a person is dying on the road it's treatment that's important and not the struggle to find the police station and file an FIR.


The next most important issue is the security measures in the sensitive places like academic institution, bank, offices and even in the hospital premises. These loopholes or lapses are nothing but the negligent behaviour or the reluctant attitude of the concerned authorities. We can't ignore the news of frequent bomb-blasts and bomb-hoax in these places. The inhumanely attack on Cama and Albless Hospital on women and children and GT Hospital at south Mumbai near the Mumbai Central was another heart breaking story on the same day of 26/11. These are government hospitals, which did not even have a decent guard leave alone a security guard.

Security has never been a pivotal issue for any hospital administrator, be it a government-run institution like GT Hospital or a private hospital. At the most, a hospital does it to have armed guards to man its entrance and a few other important areas. Some big corporate hospitals have close circuit TVs (CCTV) installed to monitor its corridors and general wards. In our State, though some of the hospitals have this CCTV system, specially to monitor the reception area, they also have private security agencies to look after the premises, to facilitate parking of cars and to switch on the generators during power failure, just as any other business enterprise would have. On the contrary government hospitals, barring a few, do not have the minimum security arrangement in place. Infact, security is not even a priority at these hospitals which struggle with funds for supplies like water and electricity and also for minimum required food. What then is the road ahead for these hospitals to secure the safety of their patients?


Earlier, a hospital would only grapple with the issue of mob fury as security concern, directed either against its staff or the infrastructures. One could have never imagined that hospitals could be the targets of terrorists. But today, they are! Recent terror incidents have brought these security issues to the fore. Probably, in the coming years, apt security measures will be the trend in most board meetings of the hospitals.


What will be the other trends the ever-growing dynamic healthcare industry will witness in the years to come? Before this dastardly inhumane act on 26/11 at Mumbai, we have barely had any such dastardly inhumane act by any terrorist group except a few occasional mob furies and of course frequent bomb blasts. As such hospitals are recession proof, but certainly not terror proof. Patients are the most important and valuable visitors to a hospital. But with the rise of different terrorist groups globally one may deal with gun wielding terrorists who could frequently enter into the hospital premises for committing dastardly crime against humanity. So this is the time for us not to remain complacent but to realise the gravity of our loopholes and lapses without any knee herk reactions. We have to frisk all the individuals coming to the hospitals and to request them not to resist being checked in the process which is the small but the most important step towards their own safety.


Let it be an eye opener for us and keping these factors in mind, the government as well as the private healthcare provider should try to enhance the proper emergency medical care with ambulance services and at the same time, proper security in hospitals should be provided without delay. All should work together for this purpose so that no such dastardly act will repeat in future due to the loopholes and lapses in our health care system.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BURQA BARBIE TO THE FORE

 

At age 50, maybe many women feel they should dress in clothes that are more sympathetic to their changing silhouettes, but Barbie opting for a burqa on her landmark birthday has surprised everyone.


The world-famous Mattel doll appears in three burqa-clad avatars — one all-black, with only her tanned face showing, and two head-to-toe numbers with just a meshed peephole for the eyes, in orange and lime-green — for a golden jubilee birthday fundraiser featuring 500 Barbies that will be auctioned in Florence for an international children's charity.


This has predictably raised hackles again about what image the doll wants to project, though it is a considerable departure from her original anatomically-incorrect yet undeniably all-American leggy, buxom blonde appeal.

Indeed, her charms have attracted a worldwide fan club of collectors, and an exhibition of some 250 Barbies in her many and sometimes outlandish ensembles, is slated for 2012 at London's V&A Museum.


Significantly, it is precisely her usually risque dress sense that had led the Saudi Arabian government to outlaw the doll in 2003, for her "revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories, and tools are a symbol of decadence of the perverted West".


But Mattel is not the first to think of a 'Muslim' Barbie, though last year, a toy baby from the same company created a furore when some buyers mistakenly thought it was programmed to say 'Islam is the light'. Thanks to Barbie's popularity, Iran — which slammed Batman, Spiderman and Harry Potter last year — created alternatives called Sara and Dara dolls in 2002.


They did not click, though the Chinese-made toys cost less than half what the American doll did. The UAE's dusky, doe-eyed and demure Fulla doll, however, has done very well ever since it launched in 2003 as has an Indonesian doll called Arrosa.


While Christmas shopping may not be big in those quarters where the burqa has wide acceptance, this burqa-clad Barbie may certainly open up new markets for the toymaker's iconic doll, given the lean pickings in western countries at present.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEGOTIATE HARD AT COPENHAGEN

 

There is needless controversy over India's position on climate change. We need to negotiate hard for green technologies and finance at Copenhagen next month.


But domestically, we surely need to be more proactive and climate-friendly, to rev up energy efficiency, supply and induce better allocation of resources economy-wide. Which is why climate change talks are similar to global trade negotiations. Just as our bound tariff levels are much higher than the actual applied rates, there's really no contradiction between chalking out an ambitious green agenda at home while refusing to take on binding reductions of green-house gas emissions in multilateral talks.


India's current per-capita energy consumption levels remain no more than those in the least developed countries. Hence the need for stepped-up investment to boost energy supply. But concurrently, our utilities, corporates and even households do need to function energy-efficiently, to reap huge benefits.


There would be other benefits as well in going green. For instance, developments in solar photovoltaics could spur innovation in related fields.


So, alternative-energy technologies could yield competitive advantage in more ways than one. Hence the need to be proactive, green and environment-friendly even as we remain firmly energy-deficient. New domestic legislation would be in order, say, to mandate stricter emission norms, to bring about more efficient combustion of global warming-causing fossil fuels.


Yet there's no reason why India's climate-change negotiators abroad need to be on the backfoot when questioned about domestic policy. Actually, a forward-looking policy on climate change at home can rightly be emphasised in talks abroad to keep up the pressure for climate action in the mature economies.


The fact remains that emission-reduction targets for the developed countries, as per the Kyoto Protocol, have simply not been met. It's reason enough to seek significant emission reductions in the North by 2020 and beyond. India must do its share, for its own sake.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

AWAKEN, NOT MOURN

 

On the anniversary of the attack on Mumbai in 2008, it is easy to be cynical: to the casual eye, little has changed. The state government that stood petrified as gunmen took 163 lives has been voted back to power, ministers and cops, who disgraced themselves with inertia when they needed to act, are back at their jobs.


Can anyone guarantee that another attack will not happen? If one does occur, will we be better prepared to tackle it? Such scepticism, however natural, is misplaced, for two reasons: one, we are, indeed, better prepared; and, two, little purpose is served by further scrutiny, however passionate, of spilt milk.


What is needed is for Indian democracy to recognise dysfunctionality as a curable condition and take resolute action to that end. We need political reform to make governance work.


How precisely are we better prepared today than we were a year ago?


Things have improved at the levels of both policing and politics. Policing has changed, thanks to Mr P Chidambaram, who remade the home ministry as a going concern, making different intelligent agencies pool information, filling key vacancies in the police and intelligence ranks, getting state and central security agencies to coordinate and getting a system that had lost morale back on track.


This, however, would not have been possible if the UPA government had not been voted back to power. If political forces that seek to redefine Indian nationhood in terms of the religion of the majority had come to power at the Centre, it's not just the Chidambaram reforms that would have been scuttled.


A certain political climate has made refugee camps of the 2002 Gujarat pogroms a vital life support system for its inmates even today, nearly eight years later. If that sort of climate change had spread to the rest of the nation, as a result of the elections in May this year, local support for Mumbai-like assaults would be far more readily available.

Misbegotten ideologies and their fanatical followers can sprout in limited numbers under any given conditions. But if conditions favour their growth across the minority space of the polity, policing would cease to be effective. But then, conditions have, if anything, turned more positive for inclusive growth. That is a plus.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS A CHOICE YOU MAKE

PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA

 

Life is nothing but a totality of conscious choices that you continuously make. Whether you want it or not, directly or indirectly, you are choosing everything. Someone else does not choose for you in your life. It is you who makes the choice.


An employee approached his boss, 'Sir, my wife said I should ask you for a raise.' The boss replied, 'Oh, I will ask my wife tonight whether or not I should give you a raise!'


Understand, continuously it is your choice, your decision. You may think somebody else decides. But it is only you who makes decisions. For example if somebody criticises you, you choose to get offended. If somebody praises you, you choose to get flattered.


Because of your habit, you may choose it unconsciously and think that someone else is influencing your decisions.

All your continuous choices every minute put together decide your life. If you don't decide and if you allow incidents to decide your life you go into a mode of 'paralysis'. Our life as of now is nothing but paralysis. Only when you decide to live your life without any outside events, situations or decisions being forced on you, you actually decide to be alive.


A man was invited by a scientist for lunch at his home. The man was sitting at the lunch table when he saw a horseshoe hanging on the wall. A horseshoe is believed to bring good luck. The man was surprised and asked the scientist, 'Sir, I can't believe you are a scientist and you also believe in this superstition that a horseshoe brings you luck!'


The scientist replied, 'No, no! I don't believe in such stupidity. But the person who gave it to me said whether I believed it or not, it would bring me luck all the same!'


Your responses to different situations, decisions you make are completely your choice. But you fool yourselves and others into believing someone else is responsible and is making you execute things their way. We constantly believe we have been given unfair results.


This is because we are not able to connect the cause and the effect of many of the things that happen in our lives. We are blissfully unaware that we are the ones responsible for the consequences. We have made it happen by the way of unconscious living.


Continuously, it is only your choice, your decision. You may think that somebody else decides your life. Understand you can decide to respond differently. For example, when someone criticises you, you can choose not to get offended and remain calm, relaxed and collected. You can choose to live consciously. Be Blissful!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REINING IN ROGUE BONUSES

T T RAM MOHAN

 

The time may have come to regulate and monitor executive pay in banks. This may be jarring to
many ears but it must be seen as part of the effort to contain systemic risk, says T T Ram Mohan Goldman Sachs is set to pay record bonuses this year. Word of the impending bonus — which could take average compensation per employee to close to a million dollars — has sparked outrage in the US and elsewhere.


Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said in an interview that his firm was 'doing God's work'. On innumerable blogs, the statement drew immediate comparisons with Satan.


Politicians have expressed their displeasure over outsized bonuses being made in the present conditions. There has been harsh comment in the media. Protesters gathered outside the Washington headquarters of Goldman carrying wanted signs bearing the face of Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein.


Outrage over executive pay is not new. But it is interesting that two of the biggest votaries of market forces, Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf and the Economist, are among those who argue in favour of curbing banking bonuses in what they regard as today's exceptional situation.


What is different this time? Many things. First, the taxpayer's safety net for banks, which exists even in normal times, has since been extended to non-bank players, including Goldman Sachs. The net itself has grown bigger and stronger.


It has included not just lender of last resort backing from the central bank but guarantees for various liabilities.


Secondly, some players, notably Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, were allowed to fail while others were rescued through capital infusion and other means. This meant that the survivors stood to prosper in a more concentrated market.


Thirdly, banks have benefited from attempts to stimulate economies through sharp reductions in interest rates. In other words, bankers have gained from policy measures that were required to clean up the mess that they had created in the first place.


It is hard to make the case that booming profits today at banks such as Goldman are the result entirely of sound risk management or superior investment banking skills or even a favourable trading environment.
So, what is to be done?


Two sets of solutions have emerged. The first addresses the problem of 'unfair' bonuses in today's conditions. The other addresses the long-term issue of systemic risk posed by bankers' pay.


The short-term solutions proposed are:


A 'windfall' tax on bonuses

Mr Wolf wants a 'windfall' tax on bonuses. He argues that bonuses have resulted from fiscal costs incurred in saving banks and economies. It is only fair that some portion of it is recouped by government. Mr Wolf would like the tax to be imposed on the bonus pool.

But then, banks are not the only institutions to have benefited from easy money; so have other institutions and also ordinary investors.

 

It is not clear why banks alone should be subject to a 'windfall' tax. Moreover, no government can impose such a tax by itself when others are not — it would only cause financial services to relocate to places where there is no such tax.


Recover 'funding premium' from banks

The Economist points out that state guarantees have lowered banks' costs of funds. Assuming that they would pay two percentage points more without state guarantees, the costs of the top five banks would rise by $36 billion.

Central banks should levy a 'funding premium' just as they charge a premium for deposit insurance. The difficulty here is in quantifying the 'funding premium'. It is bound to vary across banks.


The long-term solutions proposed are:

 

Ensure bankers' compensation is strictly on a risk-adjusted basis

This is the solution favoured by the G-20 and most committees that have looked into the sub-prime crisis and it involves linking compensation to return on capital allocated to a business unit.


The snag is that capital allocated may not be commensurate with risk and this may become known only over a long period.


Several other things need to done to ensure that bankers are not rewarded for short-term profits: paying bankers mostly in the form of stock options that vest over a long period; minimising cash bonuses; including 'claw-back' provisions whereby bonuses paid in times of profit are suitably adjusted when bankers inflict losses.

 

Many doubt that such measures are feasible in a competitive market for talent.

 

Link bankers' pay to the value of all bank liabilities, including preferred shares and bonds

The conflict in any firm is not just between the interests of managers and shareholders. There is also a conflict between the interests of equity holders and bondholders. This conflict is particularly acute in banks because banks are more highly leveraged than the typical industrial firm.

 

Any design for pay must also address the second conflict, Lucian Bebchuk and Holger Spamann of Harvard Law school argue (Discussion paper No 641). They would like executive pay to be linked to the value of not just equity shares but all securities including preferred shares and bonds.


But this assumes that the market has correctly estimated the value of preferred shares and bonds. This does not always hold true — we know how badly flawed credit ratings can be.


How far do these solutions take us? Not very far. The problem is fundamental. One aspect of it is abnormal returns in banking made possible by a unique combination of high leverage with implicit government backing in the event of failure. This problem must be tackled head-on.


First, leverage in banking must be brought down by mandating higher capital requirements — this is on the cards but nobody has spelt out the details. Secondly, we may need regulatory limits on the scope or size of banks or both in order to address the "too big to fail" syndrome.

Another aspect of the problem is the sheer futility of expecting governance reform to bring about a better alignment of interests between managers and providers of funds. To be sure, this problem is not confined to the banking sector, it is a malaise that cuts across industries. But it is less affordable in banking.


The time may have come to regulate and monitor executive pay in banks. This may be jarring to many ears but it must be seen as part of the effort to contain systemic risk. The RBI approves bank CEOs' pay. In this area, as in so many others, the RBI may have something to teach other regulators.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'THE BEST WAY FORWARD IS AN APPROPRIATE MIX'

 

By its nature, the game of farming that is played between developed and developing nations, the concept of imports and incentives will remain opposite to each other. It will remain so till there is a unified rule of the game and, pragmatically, the tariff and non-tariff barriers are removed.


Till then, given the intent behind the use of these tools and the stakeholders that try to reach out, they can't substitute each other. Imports would be effective in the short run and incentives would take a fairly longer time to show results.


Both are similar: for them to effectively serve the intent, leakages would have to be plugged.


Food shortages can occur due to an unpredictable natural event or due to a lack of economic advantage arising out of policy, institutions, technology, etc. While the former runs for a short time, the latter exists for a long term and has marginalised arid and semi-arid farmers.


Inventories remained the traditional tool to address risks arising out of natural calamities. Imports too add to it. Given that climatic aberrations and natural calamities create fear among domestic market participants pushing up prices, inventory release and imports tend to mitigate the same.


Maintenance of an appropriate inventory level using both domestic procurement and imports would play a key role in effectively managing price expectations among market participants.


However, given the size of our population and the frequency of natural calamities, appropriate inventory level and its administration through domestic procurement and imports would help manage shortages at optimal fiscal burden coupled with incentives to the farmers.


Fiscal burden can also be optimised through staggered imports, to be managed through public and private sector and leakproof distribution. Staggered imports should be linked to an efficient advance price signal to effectively manage market expectations.


The chronic pulses and oilseeds supply shortages in the country would need to be tackled through the policy of incentivisation and increased public investments, especially in arid and semi-arid regions to tap the opportunities of higher marginal productivity gains, hitherto overlooked in these less-favoured regions. Imports help manage expectations to some extent.


But in the absence of transparent markets and efficient supply chain, imports in today's merely manage supplies while triggering global market expectations, resulting in costlier imports.


As a result, the profits arising out of higher domestic consumer prices and sometimes lower global prices tend to accumulate in private hands and, hence, do not incentivise farmers to augment production capacities. Vice versa, exports are rarely allowed for the farmers to take advantage of rising global prices.


Even the benefit to the producers remains small due to market inefficiency and opacity. Thanks to our dependence on these intermittent imports, the effect of global prices was managed through tariff dynamism.


With the gradual lowering of tariffs, it is imperative to augment the supply gap through incentives of technology, institutions, markets and even cash transfers.


In a nutshell, an appropriate mix of imports, incentives backed by policies and institutions that promote market efficiency and provide advance price signals is the best way forward.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'ONLY A FORWARD-LOOKING POLICY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE'

 

Farmers need incentives to produce more. The incentives can come through better technologies, better pricing of outputs or subsidised prices of inputs. The policymakers' job is to ensure that incentives are market-friendly and stimulate higher production but, at the same time, also promote efficiency and sustainability of the production systems.

 

If the incentives are right, countries specialise in commodities in which they have greater comparative advantage, export the surplus and import those goods in which they have less comparative advantage. These are the fundamental principles of building efficient production structures that are compatible with trade.


However, policymakers have to take care of the interests of the consumers too, and hence, the need to balance the interests of producers and consumers.


India is facing a severe drought in 2009, and the prices of most farm commodities are under pressure. The inflation rate of food prices in October-November is already touching 13-14%, much higher than the tolerance limit of the poor consumers.


To rein in the food prices, increasing imports have to be resorted to. This may appear depressing the 'incentives' of the farmers, but it is critical to bring stability in the system. Imports and exports are part of this equation.

In 2007-08, the country's exports of agricultural commodities amounted to about $19 billion while imports were less than $8 billion. In 2008, the global prices of several agri commodities spiked to unprecedented levels. The price of rice crossed $1,000-a-tonne mark in world markets, and the government resorted to export controls of rice to ensure that domestic prices do not flare up unduly.


Hardly had we stabilised when the country was hit by a drought, and hence, the need to import more. In a society where the large mass of poor does not have any effective safety cover, taming prices through increased imports is the only option.


If the government wants to improve incentives for farmers, it should work towards compressing value chains by linking farmers to processors and organised retailers. Remember that in much of the high-value agri segment — horticulture, livestock, fisheries, etc — farmers do not get more than a third of what the consumers pay.


This must change, and the best way to do that is by 'clustering' farmers into groups, and linking them directly to consumers, reducing the intermediaries to the extent possible. The government needs to do this, and so should the NGOs and private companies that are in food and agri business. For this, the APMC Act has to be amended and notified — very few states have notified the changes — free flow of agri commodities throughout India as a unified single market has to be promoted, all levies on millers (rice mills or sugar mills) need to be abolished, and taxes on primary agri commodities (like purchase tax) need to be replaced by only value-added taxes.


Only then can you improve the incentives for farmers in an efficient manner. Never forget that technology is the prime driver for increasing production, and we are lagging behind on that.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MEASURING CORPORATE EFFICIENCY

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality, noted a corporate honcho some years ago.


That was then, in the era of vertically-integrated utilities. Fast forward to the here and now, and the relationship between performance measurement and reality is more nuanced.


A recent working paper on corporate finance is on five divisional performance measurement methods: cost centres, revenue centres, profit centres, investment centres and expense centres. What's proffered is a theory that explains when each of the methods is likely to be the most efficient.


The insight that's presented is that each methodology offers a different way of aligning decision-making authority with valuable, organisational 'specific knowledge'. The phrase is used to denote idiosyncratic knowledge, for instance, about people, machines, entities, customers, suppliers as well as issues of timelines and place.


The paper suggests that cost and revenue centres best reveal performance measurement of corporate sub-units in cases where the headquarters has — or can readily obtain — 'good information' about costs and demand functions, product quality and on investment opportunities.


In contrast, decentralised profit and investment centres will tend to better gauge performance when business units have a significant 'informational advantage' over headquarters, it is stated. Now, cost centres are designed to focus on efficiency in the production process, without being distracted, say, by fluctuating demand conditions.

The paper opines that it is only when the optimal quantity, quality and product mix decision can be 'confidently' made outside the division that cost centres would best reveal performance.


But when the knowledge required to make the optimal quantity, quality and attendant product mix decisions is specific and not accessible by those higher in the corporate hierarchy, it would be difficult to keep tab of the division as a cost centre.


As for revenue centres, there's no doubt scope for 'greater controllability', and without being exercised by factors that impact production costs.


For example, revenue centres do tend to specialise in marketing and sales. But proper performance measurement in revenue centres would require that the knowledge required to make the necessary quantity and product mix decision is available at a low cost at 'higher levels in the hierarchy'. Otherwise, the revenue centre structure will tend not to be effective for evaluation and performance.


Next, divisional profit centres are defined as business units whose managers have responsibility for overall profits, but not the authority to make major capital spending decisions. But for effective performance, it is vital there are few interdependencies (read synergies) between such centres.


It is well known that focus on profits by each division does not lead to maximisation of corporate profits. In evaluating the performance of profit centres, rate-of-return measures like return on assets are likely to be effective when unit managers do not have a major influence over the level of new investment.


As for investment centres — profit centres in which unit managers are allowed to make major investment decisions — economic value added, or EVA, is likely to be the most-effective single-period measure, for it is designed to encourage only value-increasing investment decisions.


But for projects where EVA is negative in the early years, market value — or the discounted present value of net cash flows less the required investment is what needs to be optimised. As for expense centres; the private equivalent of the classic public bureaucracy — it is difficult to decentralise the monitoring of such activity, it is averred.

Hence, the need for 'directly' measuring performance in such circumstances, the paper suggests. What's outlined is a theory of the determinants of performance measurement.


(Specific Knowledge & Divisional Performance Measurement, Michael Jensen, Harvard Business School working paper, Oct 2009)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'HP PARTNERSHIP MAKES US VERY DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS'

PANKAJ MISHRA

 

WITH Rs 4,263 crore in revenues for the year to October 2009, HP-owned MphasiS is proving to be a critical offshore partner for the computer megacorp's global services business. Ganesh Ayyar, the company's chief executive, tells ET in an interview that in a year where many firms had to struggle for new businesses, MphasiS was able to achieve volume growth because of its partnership with HP. MphasiS also outbid rivals to acquire AIG's India captive centre earlier this year. Excerpts:


More than half your revenues come from HP-related work, including their internal IT jobs, as well as new businesses gained from HP-Mphasis joint go-to-market initiatives. How do you see this evolving going forward?


The HP partnership offers us an opportunity to be a critical piece of their jigsaw puzzle. They obviously are one of the biggest IT companies. Other way to look at it is to classify us as a pure-play, nimble organisation. The partnership makes us very different from everybody else.


As for the revenues from HP and others, I think that both the engines need to fire. This partnership is externally-linked and is not causing any dependence. We have been increasing the number of joint wins. In fact, this quarter, 13 of the total new wins came from HP. Within that, 12% is HP's internal projects, 16% is migration work and 43-45% comes from our joint go-to-market moves.


Having acquired AIG's captive, do you still see more acquisition opportunities? What are the gaps you plan to fill through these inorganic initiatives?

We are looking at acquisitions across three dimensions — vertical strengths, delivery capabilities and geographic presence — which is close to the 'string of pearls' strategy. On the vertical front, banking, financial services and insurance is what we want to grow more. AIG was aimed at growing insurance business. Healthcare, life sciences and pharma are other areas we feel that have potential to grow. Even telecom sector offers opportunities.


We have $200 million in cash, which will be used for acquisitions. During the fourth quarter, we added around $66 million in cash. So our entire strategy is built around operational excellence and using that money for appropriate opportunities.


How do you plan to expand your delivery centres in India and overseas? Would you be trying to avoid any overlap with HP's delivery centres?

We are still pursuing the first stage of growing our offshore delivery centres. In around four weeks from now, we will announce a centre in one of the emerging markets. We will have to keep in mind the overlap with the partner for any delivery centre we open. But that is not going to be a constraint. We are already in negotiations for two locations for this new centre. We already have a centre in China for serving Japanese as well as local customers. On the sales front, we have restructured the entire organisation across three service lines.


For IT outsourcing, the business head also looks after markets in the Asia-Pacific and Japan. We have another president heading sales for application business across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and another business head for the BPO business focused on America.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WE WILL TAKE CARE OF THE AFFECTED FOR LIFE

VINOD MAHANTA & NANDINI RAGHAVENDRA

 

NOT just Ratan Tata, but the entire nation wants the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers hotel to reclaim its original grandeur — and it's this man and his team who are painstakingly making sure that the new Taj matches up to or even betters the original.


RK Krishna Kumar, the Tata Sons director and Indian Hotels Company vice-chairman and a close confidant of Mr Tata, not only dreams of an iconic new Taj but harbours even bigger aspirations for Brand Taj.


The man who transformed IHCL into a market leader and a strong emerging global hospitality brand, says 26/11 left Taj with a spirit that will spur the next generation to continuously achieve excellence. In an hour-long chat with ET, the Tata Group veteran talks about the new Taj and IHCL's journey ahead. Excerpts:


Rebuilding the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers is like a personal mission for you and your team. There seems to be a vision driving, spurring each member on — what is this vision?

In fact, 26/11 was a shattering experience in terms of casualty, loss of people, guests and staff. There is a lingering anger, defiance as well as frustration that this could happen in this world today; it is something that can ever be put to rest. We are trying our best to see if we can do a kind of closure to a tragedy that took place. So, what we do at the Taj today, will be very private.


Having said that, we decided that we did not want to replicate what was there in terms of the heritage structure. What the founder Jamsetji Tata built was a phenomenon, just in the scale of his vision. For those times, it was a great tribute to a man of immeasurable courage.


After 26/11, we had two options before us — one was a very business issue. To repair the damage and bring the hotel back into operation. There was also the issue of revenue, finance as well as the issue of retrenching staff for the time of the reconstruction. But, we recognised that the real strength of the Taj Mahal hotel and the Taj group, was the staff of the Taj. I was outside the hotel all three days and the people of the Taj taught us a couple of new things. They revealed a new bond, a kind of relationship, which is a very, very unique; it's something that I would treasure as a great asset, discovered in tragedy.


That spirit is the powerhouse for what we do. I saw that there is some process of transmission that takes place — this new spirit that was discovered after the aftermath of this tragedy, seems to be one to resolve, continuously excel in service, pushing towards that magical goal. They have absorbed the drive to reach that magical goal and strangely this has been imbibed even by people who had been in service for years.


There is a streak of idealism I see very strongly present in the Taj. We decided not to retrench and carry them till the hotel was rebuilt. It will take time but we will try and fulfill the vision of the founder to create a hotel enterprise of which the world can be proud of.


What's the Taj that you are going to hand over to GenNext?

I think in physical terms it will be a great property. I would say we would have gone down 60% of the road to bring what the founder may have had in mind, something which Ratan Tata has in mind. I remember interacting with him on the need for redefining what the Taj should be.


I recall walking up and down the corridors with him. Those were lonely days for me ... because I was pitchforked from outside and put in here for specific reasons. I was not an hotelier and still am not one. We had to do a lot of cleaning up of legal issues, compliance issues, bring back standards which had collapsed before we got here... We did it all, cleaned it all up.


So what we are leaving behind is an organisation that has got a start, and the momentum will only increase. One day maybe through acquisitions or by organic growth, the Taj will truly be the number one in the hospitality industry in the world.


By the time we are through with the Palace, the Heritage wing, it will live up to that expectation. I think we will do better than what we done at Rambagh Palace which has been voted the No 1 hotel in the world.


When the Heritage wing comes into operation, we will not be creating just another hotel, we will be creating something which stands on its own as the only one of its kind in the world. Whether it is the people, the service, the standards, the dedication, the facilities; the class, the style, will be classic in my view.


What was group's view on dealing with the human aspect of the crisis?

We declared that not even a temporary employee would be laid off. Thereafter, we created a public welfare trust. We reached out to every single family that was affected by the loss of life or by injury and said that we will be taking care of them all for life. Mr Tata and I visited all the hospitals and we met the families who had lost their loved ones. I remember an associate, who worked in Wasabi, was shot dead.


And his family talked about the tragedy and the loss with a great sense of pride because he laid down his life in the course of duty. For me, it has reset the fundamentals of how people think and react in times of stress. I am humbled by the thought that people can rise to such great heights of service and sacrifice in an institution like this. And with that act alone they have greatly strengthened the Taj as an institution. We will learn from them. It's a first step towards a new future for this organisation.


Indian Hotels is a work in process. What new can we see in next 3-5 years?

The brand architecture has been redefined by Raymond, (Bickson, CEO & MD) Abhijit (Mukerji, executive director-operations) and various others. We have the luxury brand, we have the Vivanta by Taj brand, Gateway, and Ginger at the bottom of the pyramid. It will take a little while to get them all stabilised, launched and a well-established practice. What I see in the future is the brand extensions to Taj.


It's a new experience. Across the world, we are witnessing a lot of movement in the socio-economic ladder, including the emerging economies. People are moving up, there is more disposable income, more people want to do extra things in life. I would imagine Taj would be an edifice from which the hospitality business will be run and the brand will be so shining, so luminous that it could easily be transferred to other experiences in luxury and comfort.


What's it that you look for in the leaders of tomorrow?

I look for a couple of things in young people. One, strong conviction and character; and there are many ways to test this. I would also look for hard work. Most young people today are already on that road. They lead and are very inspirational in some ways. The young in India is the best insurance for this country. I had lost hope for India. I believed truly that our generation failed the country.


They were giants at the time of Independence but after that there was a sense of hopelessness, till I interacted with the young people throughout the Tata organisation. There is a new India in the making. I feel very hopeful that this generation will deliver on the promise of the founding fathers of our country, something I feel our generation failed to do. That is my strong conviction.

It won't be long before other regional blocks fall and then it will truly be a global village. That's the direction in which technology, communications and processes are taking the world. The best hope for mankind is the youth of the world. There are still millions below the poverty line, there's a job to be done there to lift that up, even if you do it one family by one family. If I do that, I've done my job. That's the way I see it, the way Tata group sees it.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A YEAR LATER, KEEP OUR RESOLVE FIRM

 

Summoning anger or swearing revenge, as we recall the horrible day in Mumbai a year ago when our equilibrium as a nation was shattered by Pakistani terrorists, offers a less fruitful way to look ahead than calm resolve and measured preparation to brace ourselves against unsettling eventualities. A country retaliates to the extent of its capabilities. The United States went first into Afghanistan and then into Iraq to avenge itself for the attacks of September 11, 2001. After the expending of men and materials for eight years, the American people now wonder if that was the best way to have gone about meeting the imperatives they faced. Had we too given vent to our natural feelings in response to 26/11 and privileged the military course of option, it is worth reflecting on the unforeseeable costs, which are not only financial in such matters, that might have accrued. The likely gains, of course, could only have been a matter of speculation. On the other hand, what has been the past year like in the context of the actions we chose? We are pulling out of the world economic recession relatively unscathed, with our development and growth trajectories more or less steady. This would have been an unlikely outcome had we preferred war. Jihadists, or for that matter the Pakistan Army, cannot take on India in an open military encounter. That question has been long settled if it ever needed settling, whatever the claims on behalf of nuclear weapons undoing the asymmetry in conventional power between the two countries. It is this which has given rise to the intensified implementation of the unspoken Pakistani doctrine of a "war of a thousand cuts" against India, and the numerous variants of the notion of sub-optimal or proxy war. The underlying aim of such thinking is to disrupt India's unity by seeking to exploit presumed communal or religious cleavages which are portrayed as being so deep as to cause havoc if only a prairie fire can be lit. By sticking together in times of trouble, Indian society has made a mockery of such "war-gaming". When Indian Muslims gave the 26/11 desperadoes and their mentors social and intellectual hot chase, it became clear that the designs made in Muridke or Rawalpindi had been stillborn. That was our seminal reply. Shorn of that basis, it would have been hard to construct further political and diplomatic responses. Those, in part, caused a set of circumstances to come into being that obliged the Pakistani armed forces to militarily confront sections of the ISI-fuelled jihadi establishment, causing schism and mistrust between partners. Our political and diplomatic response has also produced confusion and rethinking among sections of Pakistan's society and state that see themselves as being under threat from extremist thought and terrorist actions, although it is early to gauge the extent of this new phenomenon. Showing forbearance in the face of extreme provocation has also earned India goodwill in the international community. In the event of an episode like 26/11 being re-enacted, considered military action on India's part will be deemed to be politically and morally valid. Using the vocabulary of the security professional, Army Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor has pointed to this recently. Several steps of an institutional and systemic nature have been taken by the government in the past year: setting up of the National Intelligence Agency, establishing NSG hubs, and revitalisation of the Multi-Agency Centre. These need to be coaxed into a higher level of efficiency. But India's morale remains high on the anniversary of a national tragedy.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TALKS WITH PAK CAN'T BE HOSTAGE TO 26/11

BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

The first anniversary of the Mumbai tragedy holds two lessons for the country. It reminds us about how a determined set of trained people can drive a coach and four through the security apparatus and the Indo-Pakistani equation remains a matter of constant concern. There has indeed been a burst of energy on the security front and the kind of turmoil Pakistan has been facing sends a clear signal of an unstable situation lasting well into the future. India must have a coherent longer term plan to cope with the consequences of these disturbing developments, rather than resort to knee-jerk reactions that feed into the traditional volatile mix of emotion and desire to teach Pakistan a lesson.

 

It must be said for the new home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, that he has set in motion a long-neglected task of improving training and weapons for the police and paramilitary security forces. But the bane of any national endeavour has been lack of persistence and stamina. Mumbai and our other major cities must be made secure on a long-term basis with trained, well-equipped forces co-ordinating their actions flowing from a well thought out strategy. One can only hope that the nature and scale of the Mumbai outrage will serve as a constant warning about the dangers of complacency.

 

The second issue thrown up by Mumbai and the events in Pakistan that have followed 26/11 is an even harder nut to crack because it impinges upon an unravelling political equation, the American pressure on Islamabad in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda and the fixed mindset of the Pakistani establishment, particularly the Army, on the perceived threat from India. The fact that the terrorist elements nurtured by Pakistan's spy Inter-Services Intelligence agency are biting the hand that fed it has served to muddy the waters further.

 

India's objective must be to hold on to the central verity that there can be no alternative to seeking good relations with Pakistan in the larger scheme of things. Second, that one cannot choose one's neighbours has become a cliche, but it is true. At the same time, New Delhi has no alternative but to work on a set of contingency plans depending upon the variables thrown up by the situation in Pakistan. These plans must take into account the stark fact that some of America's moves to bolster Pakistan to fight the Al Qaeda have an inevitable fall-out, to India's detriment. Even as Pakistan is bleeding by the various kinds of terrorists seeking revenge for Islamabad's actions against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, it is acquiring more modern US weapons and aircraft while its faltering economy is being bolstered by a whopping American civil assistance programme.

 

At present India is in the unenviable position of facing another, larger neighbour that has chosen to keep New Delhi off balance by launching a series of strident statements and declarations. China's moves, in fact, help Pakistan psychologically, if not materially, and has forced India to try to balance its stated position on Arunachal Pradesh with an attempt to temper the tone of the Dalai Lama's visit to the state. And we witnessed the extraordinary phenomenon of analysts and some politicians asking that the Tibetan leader's visit be scrapped or postponed.

 

Such panic reaction is totally uncalled for. There are ways of making India's point while refraining from offering gratuitous provocation. But the fact remains that India's problems with Pakistan have really become a three-way game, with China and the United States becoming part of the larger equation. While China is obviously safeguarding its close relations with Islamabad as a lever against India, having assisted it in the past in nuclear technology and missiles, the American interest is enhanced by its dependence on Islamabad for pursuing its AfPak strategy and it is willing to be strung along by Islamabad to achieve its minimal objectives in Afghanistan.

During Mr Barack Obama's visit to China, he was the second US President after Bill Clinton to offer some kind of a supervisory role to Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, despite the stark fact that China's policy towards Islamabad for decades has been to cement ties with it to exercise a check on India's growing economic and geostrategic presence. The kindest interpretation that can be offered for American moves is that it considers placating Pakistan to the extent of disregarding India's security interests as the lesser of two evils in pursuing its regional policies. In an earlier phase, Washington had chosen to turn a blind eye to Pakistan's military nuclear programme because it was useful to remove the then Soviet military presence in Afghanistan.

 

The Manmohan Singh government has done a bad job in sensitising Indian public opinion on the stakes involved in pursuing sensible policies on Pakistan. Any sane Indian policy must have the following elements. Pakistan has an important place in India's policy, given the nature of the subcontinent's division but it should not be allowed to overshadow India's larger worldview and interests. China's major objective seems to be to relegate India to a subcontinental setting, to preclude it from playing a larger regional and world role. New Delhi must therefore place relations with Pakistan in perspective and try to convince Opposition parties that they are harming the national interest by indulging in extravagant rhetoric. To begin with, India has to be clear in its mind on its own strategy. Hesitation in pursuing a clear policy is likely to

 

prove expensive. Partly, Pakistan is not the master of all it surveys.

 

Belatedly, the Union government has realised that any dogmatic approach to negotiations with Pakistan is counter-productive. Any real investigation into Pakistani links to 26/11 is unlikely simply because it will lead to a web of conspiracies involving official agencies at various levels. While New Delhi is right to make its points to set the record straight, simply to continue insisting on Pakistan coming clean as a precondition to talks can only lead to an impasse. While New Delhi should continue to insist on receiving satisfaction on the horrendous terrorist attacks in Mumbai, it should not make it a precondition for holding talks. Rather, it should set out new markers for Islamabad.

 

If India has chinks in its armour, so does China. There is no cause for panic.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ARE WE GEARED TO TACKLE ANOTHER TERROR ATTACK?

BY R.D. PRADHAN

 

The 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks were unlike what our police has ever faced. Similar to a well-planned military operation, with obvious support from outside, the 72-hour-long attacks were carried out by highly-motivated terrorists. These attacks, we are told, may not be the last. What does that mean for the people of Mumbai, and India?

 

Mumbai has a work culture and attitude to life that is exceptional in India. It's people spend most of their time and energy in creating wealth. That is, perhaps, why they have no time for discussions on terrorism and terrorist attacks. They believe that the government is responsible for their safety and well-being and will take care of it. Though they are not wrong, we must review if our government is equipped, and has adequate tools at its disposal, to face such attacks.

 

The high-level enquiry committee (HLEC) appointed to probe the 26/11 attacks was a challenge because both V. Balachandran, former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and I have been closely associated with the police.

 

The HLEC report remains classified. The state government found it inconvenient to make it public. This was surprising as we strictly observed our terms of reference: we looked into systemic failures rather than failures of individuals.

 

Though we were conscious that police's effectiveness depends on the means and equipment made available to them — funds for acquiring equipment, raising and training manpower, providing infrastructure and organisational structures — we found plenty of systemic failures, both at the field level and command level in the police administration, and in working within the state government headquarters. We suggested measures to strengthen the system's ability to face any attack in the future.

 

Our police officers' level of motivation and their will to face death was exhibited by anti-terror squad chief Hemant Karkare, additional commissioner of Mumbai Police, Ashok Kamte, senior police inspector and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar, inspector Shashank Shinde and head constable Tukaram Ombale. There were countless others. We have recounted their role in the report. If we have to fight such attacks, we must recognise the sacrifices and valour of our martyrs.

 

Today, knowing what is happening in Pakistan, one can imagine the horror that may visit our cities. Fortunately, we have in Mr P. Chidambaram a home minister who knows the value of "system improvement". He has offered the support and funding necessary to fight terrorism. Our police forces must at least be able to quickly react to attacks and engage in a holding operation till paramilitary forces or specialised forces like the National Security Guards (NSG) arrive.

 

In the Mumbai terror attacks, the response from young police officers was mostly spontaneous. But there was absence of visible command and control at the top — this led to rumours and wasteful deployment of striking manpower.

 

It is heartening that the Maharashtra state government has raised Force-I and set up a centre of NSG in Mumbai. Whenever the government tables its action taken report, it should also present its "action to be taken" agenda as that is of greater and direct relevance to the civil society.

Everyone imagines that the next attack may again be on Mumbai. What if it is on sensitive targets outside Mumbai? Last attacks were concentrated in a limited area. What if the next one is on targets spread over two-three administrative areas? How are the security forces to respond against simultaneous attacks? Who will direct the overall operations? These are serious matters that should not be ignored.

 

It ought to be noted that the HLEC was under the constraints of terms of reference and time. We would have liked to look into the role of other agencies and organisations as well. For example: the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, especially security of water supply to the city; the fire brigade services which seemed to lack proper equipment; the hospital services and their readiness to respond to such emergencies.

 

I am mentioning this to emphasise that the HLEC report is not the last word. It should be viewed as the beginning of a process.

 

On the role of the civil society, there should be no hesitation to accept their help to look into non-police matters and to help and assist families of persons who have been killed or injured. There should be recognition of the fact that terrorism cannot be fought by the police alone.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

BY ANTARA DEV SEN

 

It has been exactly a year since the horrific terror attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 170 and wounded the entire nation. Never again, we roar in desperate anger. The guilty must be punished, we scream. And a year later we have Force One, a special counter-terror unit on the lines of the National Security Guard, in place in Mumbai. The trial of Kasab goes on, the exasperating dialogue continues with Pakistan about "proof" and its tangible and philosophical dimensions. Meanwhile, we have also embarked on the Headley chase.

 

The 26/11 attacks were certainly the most dramatic in our recent history — especially since they played for almost three days on live television, and happened largely in luxury hotels, shocking the privileged classes into the realisation that they too are vulnerable. But the attacks were in no way an isolated event — these belonged to a larger terrorscape that took shape over two decades as sectarian polarisation laid us open to hate attacks and counterattacks and plunged us into a murderous cycle of violence. And this week we are revisiting perhaps the biggest fountainhead of that religious polarisation, with the Liberhan Commission's report being tabled in Parliament.

 

Almost 17 years ago to the week, the Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindutva forces with the blessings of the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership. The ground had been prepared by L.K. Advani's rath yatra in 1990 and with the destruction of the mosque, the dominance of politicised Hindutva over other religions, as well as over certain constitutional guarantees, was established. "The state had become a willing ally and co-conspirator in the joint common enterprise to announce the revival of a rabid breed of Hindutva, by demolishing the structure they had denounced as a symbol of Islam", states the report. And it took 17 long years just to place before the country the facts of the event as found by this enquiry commission set up 10 days after the demolition on December 6, 1992.

 

Such a long wait just for the facts defies the very purpose of an enquiry and the hope of justice. Several of the accused are now dead. And the rest may never be punished. For with every passing year we have lost eyewitnesses, individual memory, official documents and trust in the secular fabric of India. With every passing year the polarisation between Hindus and Muslims has hardened, making us more vulnerable to terrorism both from within the country and beyond its borders. Once the cycle of violence is established, any spark can set off the next attack.

 

Especially when there is no justice in sight. What passes as spontaneous fury is usually a response to the spectacular failure of governance and law. The Mumbai riots in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition left at least 1,000 dead and almost 3,000 wounded in two phases of bloodshed. Then the retaliatory bomb blasts in March 1993 killed another 300 and left about 1,000 wounded. The Srikrishna Commission's report on the 1992-93 Mumbai riots still remains unimplemented and the guilty remain unpunished.

 

This shameless impunity of the powerful fuels the cycle of hatred that endangers India. Which is why it is essential to implement the recommendations of enquiry commissions, however late they may be.

 

Justice Liberhan's report mentions the guilty in clear and precise terms, holding 68 people individually culpable. We need proper action against them, at least against those still alive. It is criminal to spend crores of the taxpayers' money on a report if its recommendations are not implemented.

 

But the report gives recommendations beyond its mandate. And this, I believe, was most important. There is hardly anything in the report about the day's events that we — except perhaps the post-Babri generation — did not know. The report vindicates those truths that were in danger of being erased by organised lies.

 

And it also points out other things that we know, but still need to see in official recommendations. Like, it hits out against the cosy nexus between politicians, the police, bureaucrats and other power-mongers: "The nexus between the politicians, religious leaders, civil servants and the police officers should be disrupted and rooted out". It suggests police reform, which has been identified repeatedly by commissions and individuals as the primary step to improve both security and governance.

 

The report also comes down heavily on the misuse of religion for political gain. It suggests a "separate law providing exemplary punishment for misuse of religion, caste, etc for political gains" — and the government has accepted the recommendation. The government is thinking of the Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, and will set up special courts, they said. And it promised to expedite the hearing of three cases registered in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition.


In the same thread of thought, Justice Liberhan's report suggests that the Election Commission must ensure that any complaint by any Indian citizen about "attempts to misuse religious sentiments" for the sake of votes would be dealt with immediately and could result in the candidate's disqualification. It has also recommended that members of the civil and police services are periodically screened to "identify and weed out the communal or biased elements".

 

Curiously, it has also asked for a body to regulate media with a permanent tribunal, in the lines of the Medical Council or the Bar Council. Given that neither the councils mentioned have managed to contain either corruption or negligence among the members of their respective professions, I am not sure that this will have much effect. But the report does mention the very important role played by the media in reporting the truth, braving considerable danger and harassment by the Hindutva fanatics.

 

In short, Justice Liberhan has indeed offered a rather comprehensive and balanced report. Let's hope it will not go the way of the Srikrishna Commission report — tucked away and forgotten. For unlike other enquiry commissions, the Liberhan Commission investigated the original sin — the demolition of the Babri Masjid that is till today the reference point of all incidents of sectarian strife and any violence that may have sectarian elements.

 

What happened on December 6, 1992 made India less safe. And by not punishing the guilty we have continued to make India more dangerous for us all. At least now that we have a formal report and recommendations, hopefully the government will take appropriate action. The guilty need to be punished, the flaws in the system need to be corrected if we really want a safer and more secure India.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine.She can be contacted at sen@littlemag.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DON'T HANDCUFF THE HANDS OF LAW

BY NITEEN PRADHAN

 

The crime perpetrated on 26/11 shook India out of her slumber. This is the country and we are the people most affected by Islamist fundamentalism since time immemorial. In recent years, India and Indians have been targeted by the Pakistan government on one pretext or the other.

 

A.N. Roy, Maharashtra director-general of police, recently said that terrorist activities increased manifold after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and, thereafter, cited another reason for the rise of terror attacks on India — the Godhra riots in Gujarat. History, however, does not bear this out.

 

It should be noted that in 1981-82, the Sikh separatist movement started with the overt and covert involvement of the Pakistan government, which led to killings of Hindus in Punjab and bomb blasts in Delhi.

 

The Babri Masjid had not been demolished then and the Ram Janmabhoomi issue was yet to surface. Escalated terrorist activities ultimately led to the enactment of the Tada (Prevention) Act, 1985. The life of this act was two years, with the expectation that it would be possible to control the menace within that time.

 

The menace, however, continued, especially in Punjab. Parliament, therefore, extended the life of Tada by another four years, and then till April 1995, by which time, however, due to the clamour of leaders of the minority communities, the act was allowed to be repealed.

 

Then came the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) in 2002. This law came into force on October 24, 2001, by virtue of the promulgation of an ordinance which was subsequently converted into enactment by Parliament. Pota was to be in force for three years. In 2004, this act was also put to rest.

 

In the meanwhile, the trial of the accused in the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai had started. It progressed at a snail's pace. Various transactions that could have been separated for a speedy trial were brought together under one trial. This trial started in 1994 and went on till 2007, benefitting no one but the prosecution. For the record, the paternity of the delay was extended to the defence as if, after the examination of witnesses, the right to cross-examination was unnecessary and redundant.

 

In any event, the terrorist acts of 1993 and the proceedings against the accused thereof are yet to be terminated since the appeal is still pending in the Supreme Court. This trial was a frustrating experience.

 

Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, the right to lead sufficient evidence is left to the discretion of the public prosecutor. The relevancy thereof is decided by the court, as commanded by the Evidence Act. The courts seldom interfere with the prosecution's discretion mainly because they would not like to be seen as pro-defence.

 

The need to revamp the criminal justice system has often been directed towards the procedural rights provided to the accused and not towards the effect of joining the charges and bringing the accused from various transactions under one mega trial, which makes it more difficult for a judge to assess evidence and harder for the defence to conduct its case.

 

The field left open and the vacuum created by the absence of Tada and Pota probably led the government to make necessary amendments to the existing laws. This need arose mainly because of the spread of Islamic militancy and Marxist atrocities in the name of the Naxalite movement.

The neighbouring countries were contributing to the menace of terrorism in a big way. The world knows the support given by the Pakistan government to the so-called jihadis, though there is hardly any talk of or public discussion on Chinese support to the Maoists.

 

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 was first amended in 2004 and then again in 2008. The said law was enacted mainly to give effect to the resolutions of the United Nation Security Council which requires states to take action against certain terrorists and terrorist organisations — freeze their assets and other economic resources, to prevent the entry or to block transit routes through their territory, and to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms.

 

The said law of 1967, though amended twice, lacks the teeth which other earlier acts had, including that a statement made before a police officer by an accused be admissible during trial.

 

The scope and ambit of this act has been enlarged by including punishment for the terrorist act, running terrorist training camps, for possession of arms and ammunition etc.

 

But this act is not sufficient in view of the procedural constraints in tackling terrorism and, more particularly, in carrying out investigations. The 2008 Amendment Act came into being on December 31, 2008, i.e. a few days after 26/11. Despite that the government has not felt it necessary to amend this law by further providing the most important and potent weapon to the investigating agency, i.e. the confession of the accused to a police officer being admissible in court.

 

My experience shows that statements made in police custody to a police officer by the accused are, by and large, truthful and factually correct.

 

The Mumbai terror attacks were a wake-up call for all Indians, including the criminal justice system. It needs appropriate amendments to ensure thorough investigation to book the culprits. It must ensure speedy trial and punishment to the savage "messengers of doom" who visited Mumbai on that shameful day of 26/11 so that the common man feels that the shedding of innocent blood has not gone unanswered.

 

Niteen Pradhan is a noted criminal lawyer

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

EVOLVE-BY DATE

BY OLIVIA JUDSON

 

November 24, was The Big Day: it was exactly 150 years since Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was first published. In this book, Darwin described how evolution by natural selection works — and presented a huge body of evidence, drawn from every field of biology then known, that evolution can account for the patterns we see in nature.

 

I want to mark the occasion by looking at the limits of evolutionary potential. To see what I mean by this, consider the following paradox. Whenever we do evolution experiments in the laboratory or on the farm, we can cause pronounced and rapid change in the traits we are interested in — we can evolve bigger horses, smaller dogs, cows that make more milk, viruses that thrive at higher temperatures and so on. In the laboratory, in other words, evolution has huge potential. But if it has that much potential — how come organisms keep going extinct in nature? In other words, why does evolution keep failing?

 

The question matters as never before. We humans are busily changing the environment for most of the beings on the planet, and often, we are doing so very fast. To know what effect this will have, we badly need to know how readily different creatures can evolve to deal with changes to their environment. For if we're not careful, many groups will soon be faced with an evolve-by date: if they don't evolve rapidly enough to survive in this changing world, they will vanish.

 

The basis of evolutionary potential is clear enough in principle. Whether a population can evolve to cope with new circumstances depends on how much underlying genetic variation there is: do any individuals in the population have the genes to cope, even barely, with the new environment, or not? If not, everybody dies, and it's game over. If yes, evolution may come to the rescue, improving, as time goes by, the ability of individuals to cope in the new environment. What determines the extent of the underlying genetic variation? Factors such as how big the population is (bigger populations usually contain more genetic variation) and how often mutations occur.

 

Let me give an example: Imagine you have a population of algae that have been living for generations in a comfy freshwater pool. Now suppose there's a ghastly accident and, all of a sudden, the pool becomes super-salty. Whether the algae will be able to survive depends on whether any individuals already have any capacity to survive and reproduce in salty water. If none of them do, they all die, and the population goes extinct. But if some do, then the survivors will reproduce, and over time, beneficial mutations will accumulate such that the algae get better and better at living in a high-salt environment.

 

This isn't just hypothetical: many experiments have taken organisms, be they algae, fungi or bacteria, from an environment to which they are well-adapted to one where they are not, and watched what happens. The result is reliable: at first, they tend not to cope that well (measured, as usual in evolution, by their ability to survive and reproduce). However, as long as the environment doesn't change again, their coping ability rapidly improves.

 

But here's the thing. A big drawback of experiments of this type is that the initial change the organisms experience is not that severe — it is not, in fact, so severe that no one can cope, and the population goes extinct. The reason is simple: if the population immediately goes extinct, you have no experiment. Which means that we have the illusion that evolution is more powerful than it is: we keep studying evolutionary rescues, not evolutionary failures.

 

Moreover, where no previous capacity exists, evolving a brand new trait can be a slow and haphazard affair. Suppose you put bacteria into test tubes where their usual sugar source is in short supply, but an alternative one — which they can't consume at all — is abundant. (If you put them with just this alternative source, they would all die of starvation.) Then, you can watch how long it takes for the bacteria to evolve so they can digest the alternative. The answer, in one famous case, was more than 31,000 generations! Which just goes to show: just because a particular trait would be useful does not mean that it will soon evolve.

 

To me, all this is a bit sobering. If most organisms have to wait 31,000 generations to evolve a useful new trait — they will probably go extinct first. Worse, many natural populations are shrinking fast, further reducing their evolutionary potential. In short, we can expect that — if the environment continues to change as rapidly as it is at the moment — many creatures will fail to meet their evolve-by dates.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

26/11~ONE YEAR ON

ARE WE MORE SECURE?


EXPECTEDLY, as the "anniversary" of the most vicious terrorist strike to which the country has been subjected approached there was much re-telling ~ and disturbing additions ~ to the stories of both horror and individual valour. By now there is almost total agreement that the intelligence and security agencies were woefully unprepared, ill-equipped and clueless about how to deal with such developments. The orchestrated jingoism has worn thin, and the general conclusion is that there was little sophistication and professionalism in the counter-strike, including the operations of what is billed as the crack commando/anti-terror force. There was limited focus on rescuing those trapped in the hotels and Jewish centre, the collateral damage hit unacceptable levels. It boiled down to who could sustain the firepower longer, and that only one terrorist could be captured alive ~ that too some distance from the main action ~ must ever remain a blot on the picture that was then sought to be painted in rosy hues. That failure to apprehend rather than kill has resulted in a situation in which we are still groping to establish critical details of how the strike was planned and executed, its masterminds and sponsors. Shamefully, in recent days there have been more alibis on offer than enlightenment. True what took place in Mumbai is now history, but history provides vital insights to preventing a recurrence. What have we learnt from that history?


Sure a high degree of international pressure was brought on Pakistan but has it paid dividends? Major figures in the LeT remain at liberty to plot further terror against India, there is nothing to suggest that the jihadis operating to the east of the Radcliffe Line have been constrained or crippled. The Prime Minister may have pressed his case even as recently as a day or two ago in Washington, but to what purpose? Internally there has been a change of guard at North Block (did it require such awful bloodshed to oust an ineffective home minister even if he was a palace favourite?), and P Chidambaram has brought much energy to the office. Alas, apart from a couple of NSG "hubs" there would appear to have been more talk than action. A couple of innocent sailing boats have penetrated the coastline cordons, and that the intelligence/security agencies have huge gaps in their screens is evident from bombings in the North-east, and the Naxals/Maoists running a parallel administration in vast swathes of central and eastern India.


Tragically, much of the remedial/upgrade action has been confined to the central agencies and forces, and they too have several shortcomings to fill. Very little has trickled down to the state and local police, and as this newspaper has consistently stressed it is the constable patrolling his beat who is the basis upon which any security system is built. In the ultimate analysis the key question is not to be answered by experts, statistics and so on. It is what aam aadmi feels about his safety that must be the determining factor. But can the public repose much confidence in a system which has as its apex a unit that cannot keep even a document secure?

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BACK TO CLASSES

MAKING IT EASIER FOR THE ALLIANCE


THE idea of Congress workers returning to classrooms in Pranab Mukherjee's constituency for a crash course in the party's ideology appears to be a belated attempt to revitalise the organisation. The Union finance minister is also Pradesh Congress president but while he spends time in Jangipur, he has left it to the working presidents, Subrata Mukherjee and Pradip Bhattacharya, to hold the factions together. That they have been thrown into embarrassing situations is evident from hiccups in Siliguri and Goalpokhar while the party has consolidated its position in other parts of North Bengal. It is on weaker ground in South Bengal which has been left to Trinamul, its alliance partner. If it was a question of expanding its sphere of influence, leaders with stronger bases may have been engaged in the south. If Mr Mukherjee has chosen an easier route, it is perhaps because the turf is clearly divided between the alliance partners. Even if Congress workers are enthusiastic about the classes, all that the camps may do is to preserve the status quo.


All this is in striking contrast to the classrooms envisaged by the CPI-M as part of its cleansing exercises. This also may be too late when cadres are either so demoralised or tainted that they are beyond corrective measures and party leaders have thus quite desperately launched personal contacts in the districts. Congress workers, on the other hand, have never been accustomed to regimented indoctrination even if they are ignorant about Congress policies and programmes which, Pranab Mukherjee complains, the CPI-M is passing off as its own. Congressmen rally around local leaders who have their own styles quite different from those prescribed in the six books handed over to the workers. While the party would find it difficult to impart knowledge through the new method, Congress workers themselves may believe this is an exercise in futility. When Mr Mukherjee has declared Mamata Banerjee to be the undisputed leader who will take vital decisions for all coming elections leading up to 2011, it should be just a matter of controlling pulls and pressures rather than educating workers on ideological issues. All that he may be doing is to implement the wishes of the high command ~ and make it easier for the alliance.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

EMPTY GESTURES

WHAT ARE NEPAL'S MAOISTS REALLY AFTER?


AS a gesture to the people, Nepal's Maoists have allowed parliament to function for three days to enable it to pass the budget. The session had been deadlocked since 6 August after parliament refused to concede the demand of then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, for a debate on President Ram Baran Yadav's action in reinstating army chief Rukmangud Katuwal (since retired) whom the former had dismissed. This also provoked Prachanda to step down. With the Maoists now announcing their third "people's movement", which, Prachanda said, would be much "stronger", the people are in for more trouble. December will see a three-day general strike and if even after all this the Communist-led government of Madhav Kumar Nepal does not step down to make room for "civilian supremacy", they will go in for an indefinite shutdown.

 

The sudden turn of events was unexpected because only last week Prachanda and Nepali Congress chief GP Koirala had met in Singapore ~ it is not clear whether it was prearranged or accidental ~ and they reportedly agreed to form a government. On his return to Kathmandu, Prachanda even predicted the fall of the government and said that since Koirala "does not want to hurt the President" he would "follow a middle path", an obvious reference to his demand for a debate. That even before Koirala's return to Kathmandu on Sunday the Maoists announced their fresh movement would suggest the Singapore meeting hardly stirred the Nepali Congress. Recently the party held its maha samiti conclave, ignoring Koirala's advice against it, and reportedly opted for a collective leadership. Now comes defence minister Bidhya Bhandari's assertion that the "bulk integration" of former Maoist combatants with the Nepal Army would not be possible, arguing that it would only disintegrate the country's fighting force. This has been another sticking point. All indications suggest Nepali citizens will have to wait for many more years to enjoy the fruits of democracy. The revolution, it seems, was only a self-serving exercise.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING

CAHAL MILMO 

LONDON, 25 NOV: Armed with rock chisels, it took the thief only a few minutes to wipe out 135 million years of history. The fossilised iguanodon footprint was hacked out of the limestone slab where it had lain in a Dorset quarry and spirited away by an illicit collector.


Some 5,000 miles away in southern India, scientists last month issued a plea for villagers and even student palaeontologists to halt the mass looting of hundreds of dinosaur eggs whose petrified embryos could shed new light on the extinction of a species.


Fascination with the ferocious beasts has never been greater, with scientists announcing almost weekly the discovery of new prehistoric species from giant crocodiles to feathered lizards that bear testimony to an evolutionary link with birds. But with a pristine Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen fetching up to $8.3m, there is growing concern that a booming trade in stolen or illicit fossils is wrecking unique sites and seeing previously unknown species disappear into private collections, where they are lost to science.


One of the world's leading palaeontologists told The Independent that fossil rustling had become a "huge international problem" stretching from developed markets like Britain to dinosaur hotspots such as Mongolia and China. The speed and anonymity of the Internet has led to a thriving black market linking unscrupulous dealers to private collectors interested in "trophy" fossils for display rather than study. Once a fossil is dug out of the ground without proper recording of information such as its location and depth, at least half its scientific value is lost.


Even a correctly-recorded specimen which ends up in private hands is lost to science because scientific journals do not publish research on specimens which cannot be readily accessed or peer reviewed.

 

The Independen

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

STRATEGIC SHIFT

RESHAPING OF THE BALANCE WITHIN ASIA

BY SALMAN HAIDAR


President Obama's visit to China, and to Singapore before that for the APEC meeting, has directed new attention to Asia and to the emerging security architecture of that continent. In both Singapore and in China, there appeared to be a considerable concord on major issues between the USA and China. The differences between them that were widely expected to dominate their exchanges were not permitted to become the main focus. On the contrary, the leaders met in an air of deliberately smooth and constructive engagement.
Mr Obama is a popular figure in China and received a warm welcome from his hosts and the people in general. He was careful not to harangue China on issues like human rights, minority affairs, revaluation of the yuan, happenings in Tibet, and other such that have been areas of contention between the two countries. His readiness not to give offence was to be seen even before he went to China, when he turned down the possibility of meeting the Dalai Lama, judging that this would not be an appropriate curtain raiser to his visit. In China, common ground between the two parties was identified that strengthens their relations and could have considerable international impact. They joined together, for instance, in holding out the hope that the coming meeting in Copenhagen on climate change could agree on specific targets for limiting emissions: this came hot on the heels of a larger meeting that had regretfully concluded that such targets were not attainable within the projected time-frame, but with the USA and China now having expressed a different view, expectation of a positive outcome at Copenhagen may have revived.

 

PLACATORY GESTURES

Noteworthy, too, is the marked contrast in the tone and tenor of this meeting from what had been witnessed on earlier such occasions, when Chinese observers were moved to remark that it took six months or more for a new Administration in Washington to trim down unrealistic expectations of China and learn how to deal with it. Clearly that has changed.


No less visible is the change in China's ways. Prior to the visit, it did not feel it necessary to make placatory gestures, as it was wont to do in the past: no release of a few prisoners or the easing of one or two stringent regulations. China was obviously mindful of the importance of the visit, but not to the point that it felt it necessary to forbear from clearly stating its own interests and intentions. Thus the joint statement makes no bones about asking for acceptance of China's 'core interests', meaning Taiwan and Tibet, and obtained reiteration of the US position that Tibet was part of China. Mr Obama did not go beyond calling for early talks with the Dalai Lama. On some issues, notably Iran, the joint statement showed something less than identity of views, but on the whole, mutuality was much more in evidence than differences.


All in all, China was seen to be conducting itself with new confidence during the visit. There was no undue assertiveness, and the tone was carefully measured, but objective realities have brought about significant change, most particularly as a result of China's economic success. Nobody needs reminding that China's reserve of US financial assets, mainly treasury bonds, approaches the trillion dollar mark. Its successful management of its economy is manifest, and it does not have to heed those who try to push it towards measures like revaluing its currency. Moreover, China has been less affected by the global economic crisis than almost any other major economy (India has also succeeded in minimizing the damage). Its continued good economic health is important to the global recovery, so this is no time for reviving the chorus of demands that several Western countries have been making. Indeed, the USA and China seem locked in an economic embrace that is vital for each of them and which does not encourage radical change, whose consequences may be unpredictable. At the same time, China's increased leverage is to be seen in its reiterated demand for an alternative to the US dollar as an international reserve currency, for which support seems to be growing. In the political arena, too, China has avoided the kind of morasses in Afghanistan, and Iraq before that, in which the USA and other Western countries have bogged themselves. China's system of governance, for all its democratic deficiencies, can thus claim to have served well, and external pressure for reform, once so strident, is currently muted. If anything, it is China that feels it can push for reform of undesirable US policies and practices, witness the demands made to Mr Obama to cut out protectionism.


Restrained reaction

Much attention has been directed in India to the portion of the US-China joint communiqué that is devoted to South Asia. This has come as a surprise, and not a welcome one. The statement expresses belief that the USA and China could work together to promote peace and stability in South Asia, which is a maladroit formulation that harks back to an uncomfortable past and gives wrong signals today. Not too long ago, it would have provoked a rather strident response from New Delhi, which is always touchy about anything that looks like a call to third party intervention in the problems of South Asia, especially Kashmir. But the reaction in New Delhi has been restrained and sober. India's position on the issue has been firmly placed on record without the rhetoric that could complicate India's relations with either of the countries concerned. Disclaimers by official spokesmen from both China and the USA are all to the good, having clarified that no specific measures were discussed by the leaders during the Beijing visit ~ though why the matter should have been mentioned at all remains difficult to fathom. Nor is it merely fanciful to suppose that there can be an adverse impact within the region: already we have seen opportunistic politicians in the Valley trying to make capital of it.
Mr Obama's China visit is only one of the significant events that are part of the reshaping of the balance within Asia, and between that continent and the rest of the world. Before long, the US President will be visiting Russia. The Indian Prime Minister is the most recent foreign visitor to Washington. Major multilateral meetings of Asian countries have recently concluded or are about to take place. These are all important occasions where the strategic future of Asia is being shaped. India must play its full part, in keeping with its enlarged capacity and widening interests. Age-old problems with neighbours should not be permitted to reduce India's effectiveness as an interlocutor on a larger stage. That is a fresh challenge at this time of strategic shift within Asia, when a new regional architecture is in the making.


The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

CAPITOL IDEA

 

The rhetoric of India and the United States of America being natural allies, vintage 2009, received some substance when the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, met the US president, Barack Obama, in Washington on Tuesday. There was the lurking fear that the bonhomie that existed between India and the US during the presidency of George W. Bush — especially at the individual level between Mr Singh and Mr Bush — would not endure during Mr Obama's term. All such gloomy predictions have been dispelled. The special partnership between the two countries was signed and sealed in the course of the meeting. At one level, there is nothing surprising in all this since the Indo-US nuclear deal had made it clear that the superpower was according to India a special status. But it was important for the new president and the prime minister to talk and recognize that they were on the same wavelength despite some amount of external crackle. What needs to be realized is that the goodwill between the two countries is actually based on common interests, the bedrock of all foreign policy decisions. The US needs India's cooperation to counter the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the growth of China as an economic giant. India needs the US to fight terrorism and to be placed at the high table of international relations. Both Mr Obama and Mr Singh expressed this commonality of interests in their different ways.

 

The general optimism of the meeting was prefaced by Mr Singh, the economist prime minister, who announced that there were no reasons to see the end of the dollar. This was good news to a nation that is creeping out of recession and has been for a variety of reasons very nervous about the future of its currency. Mr Singh's statement on the dollar also opened up the door for his comments on the Indian economy, especially the opportunities that exist — and will open up — for increased US investments. Thus both in terms of politics and economics, the Indo-US relationship is buttressed by genuine areas of cooperation that benefit both countries. Those who live in the perennial fear that Mr Singh is poised to sell India off to the US need to follow the content and the tone of the dialogue between the two leaders. India and the US have entered an era of partnership, they have not signed a merger deal. On the Indian side, confidence needs to replace fear.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BITTER AFTERTASTE

 

When it comes to sugar, prices are not set by supply-demand equations, but by regulation, making it inefficient and possibly wasteful. Both houses of Parliament adjourned on the first day of the winter session after Opposition parties protested against the government's attempt to 'impose' fair and remunerative pricing on the sugar industry through an ordinance which sought to amend the Essential Commodities Act of 1955. The protests reflect the differences of opinion between two sets of people, both on the supply side: farmers who want better prices for their cane, and the millers and refiners who take issue with having to supply 20 per cent of their output to the public distribution system at a subsidized price of Rs 13.50 a kilogram. Basically, it is about which one of the two parties carries more of the risk relative to the other. The dispute stems from the multi-layered patchwork of regulation that rules the industry. It also has to do with the way different states not only price sugarcane — and subsidize its production — but how payment is settled between refiner and farmer, all of which come with a legacy. In all states except Maharashtra, farmers deposit their harvested sugarcane with refiners, who use them as and when needed. Terms of settlement are negotiated about six months after refiners receive the cane, and at a price that is mutually agreeable.

 

Refiners provide 20 per cent of their production to the PDS, for which the government pays them late. Refiners say they are unable to pay farmers on time as a result, and in Uttar Pradesh, the Allahabad High Court has had to step in to clear dues to the farmers each year. Dues have been cleared for 2007-08 thus far. The story in Tamil Nadu is similar; only in Maharashtra have all dues to farmers been settled, largely because the co-operatives ensure payment on delivery. Farmers are affected by delayed payments because they carry interest and other costs, and the global shortage in sugar production has given them additional leverage to demand Rs 2,500 per tonne for their cane. Refiners do not want to pay this price because that would set the base price for the following years, and if there is a glut, the refiners will have to carry losses if open market prices for sugar fall from their current very high levels of Rs 44 per kg. It is time to open up sugar pricing to market forces, rather than have it imposed on both the input (cane) and output (sugar) sides.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FLYING INTO HOPE

THE INDIAN MILITARY NEEDS THE HEALING TOUCH OF THE PRESIDENT

BRIJESH D. JAYAL

 

By the time this article is published, the president of India and supreme commander of the armed forces will have bestowed a singular honour on the armed forces by having flown in a Sukhoi combat aircraft. To anyone other than jet fighter pilots just the preparation for such a flight is forbidding, quite apart from the flight itself. The flying gear, the anti-gravitation suit, the survival kit, the heavy crash helmet and the stifling oxygen mask are but some of the tedious add-ons. To then get strapped into an ejector seat and be firmly locked into a cramped cockpit with little freedom to move leaves the uninitiated flustered. That the president did all this must surely display a determination on her part, not just to be known as the supreme commander of the armed forces of India, but to be seen as one. To mingle at the operational end of her command and expose herself to the accompanying risks will, therefore, be perceived by every soldier, sailor, airman and veteran as a great symbol of hope for the future of the institution of the armed forces of India. A future that in recent times has looked progressively fragile.Ceremonially, the president is adequately exposed to the armed forces of which she is the supreme commander. She must regularly see the President's Bodyguard at Rashtrapati Bhavan, an elite unit of the Indian army tasked with her security and ceremonial duties. Her military secretariat consists of a three-star rank military secretary, carefully chosen, as also three aides de camp from each of the three wings of the armed forces. Also, the three chiefs and a select few seniormost commanders from each service are honoured to be designated as honorary ADCs to the president. This entitles them to add the suffix, ADC, proudly to their decorations.

 

At one level, the immaculate turn-out, the glittering medals and crisp demeanour of the military that she sees around her must assure her that she commands the best that the nation has to offer. At another, she will have seen, perhaps for the first time, the operational end of a force and been suitably impressed that the nation remains secure in such hands. When she chooses to sail a ship of the Indian navy or visit our army colleagues defending some of the cruellest terrains in the country, her confidence will be only further enhanced.

 

Upon return to the heady air of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and buoyed by the experience of her day in the field, she may be tempted to call in her military secretary and wonder at the deeper significance of medals adorning his chest. She will be pleasantly surprised to learn that these pieces of metal and ribbon that look merely decorative represent a deep emotional attachment in the wearer. Each signifies service rendered through sweat and blood. Those for distinguished service and gallantry are conferred by the president herself and each has a story to tell. Stories that are passed on and etched in institutional memory of operational units such that they inspire successive generations of men and women to draw sustenance from them and not be found wanting were the moment of reckoning ever to come.

 

The military secretary may be emboldened to delve deeper and explain that the design of each medal has significance, as have the colours of the accompanying ribbons. Red, the colour of blood and fire, stands for courage and bravery. Saffron for self-effacement and dedicated service. White for faith, glory and purity. Blue for devotion to duty and sacrifice, and so on. Above all, each medal has etched on its rim the rank, name and number of the individual on whom it is conferred. A medal, therefore, to a soldier is far more than the service and sacrifice that he or she has rendered through thick and thin; it is a personal recognition of this sacrifice by the nation. This makes it an invaluable part of a soldier's life in and out of uniform.

 

Recognizing that the constitutional role of the supreme commander is a ceremonial one, the president may well ask her military secretary what the ordinary soldier would expect from their supreme commander. The secretary could explain that the credo of the armed forces is: "The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time; the honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next; your own ease comfort and safety come last, always and every time." It is this code by which the armed forces conduct themselves and judge their success or failure. It is also the one by which they judge higher national leaderships.

Having got thus far and finding the president in a mood to learn more about the strange ethos of a body of men and women, of whom she is the supreme commander, the military secretary may be emboldened to reveal to her that at that very moment there are stored in some obscure corner of the Rashtrapati Bhavan hundreds of such medals that have been neatly labelled and packed by their proud recipients, but returned as a symbol of solemn and dignified protest at being perceived to have been let down by the very nation that had bestowed the honour on them. More such medals keep coming at regular intervals.

 

He may explain this unfortunate chapter as having its roots in the anomalies of the sixth pay commission and the denial of the frequently promised "one rank one pension" principle. Since knocking on various doors evoked no response, many veterans held silent gatherings at various memorials across the cities and towns. These gatherings were in tribute to their fallen colleagues and also intended to convey their pain and anguish at the neglect and apathy in addressing various issues concerning the welfare of veterans. The surrendering of medals was the next step in this inglorious first in the annals of free India's military history and one that a sensitive leadership should have made every effort to nip in the bud, but chose to ignore instead. As indeed it continues to do.

 

While the veteran community was one with the cause, the above means of redressal followed by some succeeded in dividing the veteran community itself, pitching senior and distinguished veterans, including commanders, on either side of the divide. Clearly, here was another dubious first, this time in the history of veteran solidarity.

 

He may even explain that when the unprecedented step of surrendering their valued medals to their supreme commander was contemplated, rather than facilitate an audience with the president to assuage hurt sentiments and show due courtesy to senior veterans, some lower functionary in the president's secretariat received their valued medals. Clearly the dignity which steered these veterans through their years of sacrifice was missing at the doors of their erstwhile supreme commander. A wound that could have been healed by an audience with the president had callously been allowed to deepen, as more and more medals were sought to be returned.

 

The military secretary may venture to suggest that since today's forces are tomorrow's veterans, this state of affairs is deeply distressing to the entire institution of the armed forces and needs the supreme commander's healing touch. He may add that this is the first time in the history of the Indian republic that the supreme commander is actually being called upon to exercise her authority in furtherance of her welfare responsibilities.

Even as the president mulls over this burdensome background, she may begin to wonder why, as supreme commander, she was not expected to lay a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti on the occasion of the annual Republic Day military parade. Further, she may wonder why Amar Jawan Jyoti, which symbolizes an eternal Indian soldier in whose memory the flame burns, was the shadow of India Gate, which is a fitting memorial that the British built in memory of our soldiers who died fighting their wars — not ours. Where indeed was the national war memorial commemorating all those who have laid down their lives fighting India's wars and the proposal regarding which has been shuttling up and down the corridors of national governance for decades? These disturbing questions would now weigh heavily on her presidential responsibilities.

 

If the symbolic gesture of stepping into the cockpit of a combat aircraft and getting a feel of what the defence forces are doing to keep this nation secure generates some of the emotions and welfare concerns that afflict the institution of our defence forces and their veterans, then the hope generated by this symbolic event may well translate into reality — that of a more active role of the supreme commander in the realm of welfare of the men and women she commands.

The president has the distinction of being the first woman to hold this exalted position. Let her choose to be the first to exercise her obligations towards the welfare of those under her supreme command.

The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

MAN OF THE PEOPLE

CHINA DIARY -NEHA SAHAY

 

Barack Obama may not have minded. But the authorities were taking no chances. After all, Chairman Mao isn't exactly a favourite with the Americans. So they hurriedly ordered the 'Oba-Mao' T- shirt that has become a hit here to be taken off the shelves, before the president of the United States of America reached Shanghai, his first stop. The shirt has Obama's face in place of Mao's, wearing the signature green Communist Party cap with a red star, and a green jacket. The Chinese characters on the shirt spelt out one of Mao's most popular sayings: "Serve the people.'' But the authorities weren't fast enough — a CNN reporter covering the US president's visit last week was holding one of the T-shirts up for the camera when security men pounced on her and tried to snatch it away.This kind of ham-handedness was again seen in what was touted as the highlight of the president's visit — his interaction with Shanghai students. It turned out that the interaction was limited to students handpicked by the Communist Youth League; in fact, one of them was actually a lecturer. But the president's men were up to their own games —they managed to get questions online of the kind they wanted. Then the president asked his ambassador to China to ask one of them, relating to the internet. No less ham-handed! But Obama's reply was true to the persona he has built for himself — self-critical, yet saying exactly what he wanted to — that though at times it annoyed him, the free flow of information on the internet made him a better leader and the US a stronger democracy.

 

This interaction came about only after a lot of negotiation on both sides — on the size of the audience, whether it should be telecast live around the country (it was, but only in Shanghai), about questions from netizens. The Chinese were naturally worried about what might be asked — the charismatic and unconventional US president was to meet President Hu Jintao the next day. Already, the US embassy had made its intentions clear by inviting prominent bloggers for a briefing on the eve of the visit.

 

ICONIC IMAGE

The authorities need not have worried. Before Obama landed, the official newspaper, China Daily, carried opinions from ordinary people about what they expected from the US president's visit. The US' protectionist measures against Chinese products was a major issue, but what came across most strongly was the feeling that China was now an equal to the US, and the US should get that straight. A lot of giggling girls gushed about the president's good looks, too. Some Chinese websites asked for questions from netizens.These were an eye-opener, proving the fears of both the Chinese and the Americans wrong. It wasn't their own lack of freedom that bothered the netizens; what bothered them was the US's denial of human rights to others, like Iraq and Afghanistan! So the US authorities benefited as much as the Chinese from the controlled interaction in Shanghai.

 

Notwithstanding all this, Obama swept China off its feet the moment he landed, according to a China Daily columnist. It was raining when his plane landed in Shanghai, so Obama opened his umbrella and started down the aircraft steps. The most powerful man in the world opening and carrying his own umbrella was an iconic image that spoke more than any rhetoric Obama could have mustered, wrote the columnist. In China, even presidents of organizations do not hold their own umbrellas. It showed that this president was a man of the people, like Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who not only held his own umbrella but also got down in the slush to talk to a child trapped under debris after the Sichuan earthquake. Ironically, the prime minister's assistants all had underlings holding their umbrellas

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

THREE DAYS THAT SHOOK THE COUNTRY

HAVE POLITICS AND DIPLOMACY, NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE MEDIA, CHANGED IN THE YEAR SINCE 26/11?

 

A year ago, ten gunmen took a city hostage for nearly three days and pushed a nation into a deadly void. That city was Mumbai, and the country, Pakistan. But what impact did 26/11 have on India? Thinking back on the political record of the past one year, the answer is pretty obvious and just as baffling: not much.

 

Mumbaikars were expected to vote in huge numbers at the general elections this year, ostensibly to give their verdict on the Centre's mixed performance during the siege of their city. (Though security forces did a sterling job in the end, it was evident all along how tragically unprepared the government had been to tackle a terrorist attack of such magnitude.) Yet barely one out of two people stepped out to exercise their ballot. Not only did the United Progressive Alliance return to power in New Delhi, Mumbai also voted back the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine in the assembly polls. A few hours into the attacks, NCP's R.R. Patil had memorably said, "Big cities face [such] small problems." He is back as the home minister of Maharashtra.

 

However, it is the glorious comeback of the great defender of Marathi manoos that takes the cake. A year ago, urban India erupted with rage not only against the armed young men who shook the country's financial capital but also against the notorious Raj Thackeray, who advocated a virtual ban on non-Maharashtrians seeking employment and residence in his home state. Emails and text messages mocked Thackeray's parochial passions while praising the heroism of the security forces, mostly comprising north Indian men, who put their lives at stake to rescue Mumbai. Neither was Thackeray nor were his thuggish sena anywhere on the scene.

 

Ironically, Thackeray had never minced words — his demand, however foolhardy, had been that his home state be kept free of non-Maharashtrian settlers; he had never refused any help from the Centre. Thackeray's brand of chauvinism had at best a tenuous connection with national security. So it is perhaps not all that surprising that a large section of the electorate welcomed back its native darling with open arms. The canniness of the Indian electorate is often underestimated.

 

Recalling the various catastrophes that have befallen Mumbai over the years — serial blasts, explosions in crowded stations, gruesome communal riots — the 26/11 attacks do not appear unique. The scale of the devastation was familiar, although the careful planning and perfect execution that had gone into the attacks were unprecedented. As a spectacle unfolding over several days, 26/11 was also the first of its kind, documented meticulously by the media from its inception. No other terror attack in the history of India has received such a blow-by-blow presentation on prime-time TV. It was also the first time that five-star hotels, bastions of the rich and the famous, were invaded, alongside the usual haunts of the aam admi. 26/11 became a leveller of sorts.

 

Mumbai's capacity to spring back to normal life is the stuff of legend; so is the dilly-dallying of the political classes. This chalta-hai attitude has also rubbed off on Indo-Pak diplomacy. Faced with the testimony given by Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the gunman from Faridkot who was caught alive, Pakistan's initial reaction was to deny all evidence. The denial went on for weeks even as foreign media traced Kasab's roots, interviewed his parents, and found links between the Lashkar-e-Toiba and al Qaida. Finally, with the United Nations security council and the United States of America stepping up pressure, Asif Ali Zardari decided to take matters into his 'able' hands. He legalized sharia in the tribal areas, but wove a few conditions into the bill so that the Taliban would refuse to accept it. This provided Zardari with the perfect opening to send the army into mad-mullah country. But poor man, all his cleverness backfired in civil war and a trail of terror attacks all over Pakistan.

There is not much that Zardari can do as the head of a State governed by forces beyond his control. Even foreign aid fails to elicit promises of good behaviour from the Pakistani establishment. When the US offered a golden carrot of $7.5 billion as part of the Kerry-Luger Act, Pakistan, despite its imminent bankruptcy, turned up its nose and refused to compromise on its "sovereignty" (read, its licence to make mischief). No doubt India has a great deal to reckon with one year on from 26/11. Yet it is Pakistan that still has too many ghosts to exorcise — and it is increasingly mixing up its friends with its foes.

 

SOMAK GHOSHAL

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

WAITING WITH TREPIDATION

 

Nothing usually changes in Mumbai except the real estate. Being the commercial capital of India and being the biggest investment banking headquarters of South Asia, Mumbai is a natural target for any organization bent on hitting the Indian economy. As the headquarter of the western naval command, coast guards and various intelligence agencies, Mumbai and its surrounding area have never had any dearth of operational forces, but always suffered due to the absence of those two crucial requirements — cooperation and coordination.

 

Every department had the command and control in place, but did not have the space for cooperation with and coordination among one another in a crisis. Hence no intelligence could be thought of as an 'actionable intelligence' — could not be followed and acted upon because of a possible waste of time, energy, money and manpower. This single drawback in the system persisted rather too long, giving miscreants the chance to hit Mumbai hard, and India harder. Thus the Mumbai blast of March 12, 1993 resulted in mayhem, and 26/11 created an unprecedented fear psychosis across the country. Maritime threat can no longer be ignored.

 

For a change perhaps, a sense of urgency can be felt as the Indian navy is made responsible for overall maritime security, thereby replacing the coast guards, who have so long policed over 2.01 million square kilometres of India's exclusive economic zone, and 4,104 nautical miles of the coastline. Coordination, which was conspicuous by its absence before, would now take place through the national command, control, communication and intelligence network, linking the operation rooms of the navy and the coast guards with active support from operation centres at Mumbai, Kochi, Visakhapatnam and Port Blair. Incidentally, the head of all these organizations is a three-star vice admiral. In a way, therefore, not much has changed, only the existing command system and operation procedures have been upgraded. The problem is that there (always) exists a time lag between terrorist attacks and the turning of the State's defense machinery.

 

It is true that things are going to be much more difficult for terrorists when, for the first time, 13 agencies have been roped in for security manoeuvres under the navy. "There is now more effective analysis and dissemination of information on the ground and this urgency perhaps was not felt earlier," says the Union minister of state for defence, M.M. Pallam Raju. What darkens this optimistic scene is the fact that the proposed maritime security advisory board, a central body for coordinating all the 13 agencies, has not yet been set up.

 

The minimum security deterrent is unlikely to be complete without the establishment of this board, think many responsible professionals associated with it. This delay, which many consider to be avoidable, seems to be the product of the usual bureaucratic system of extra-checks and extra-caution.

 

In this background, one can understand the concern of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who believes in the possibility of the recurrence of 26/11 owing to the adoption of terrorism as an 'instrument of State policy' by Pakistan. The next target could very well be the organization and the people in charge of the nation's maritime security after 26/11.

 

This may sound absurd, but if one watches the non-State actors of Pakistan (created by the State itself) killing high-ranking officers, one will get a vision of the future. Also, one may recall the American naval ship, Cole, being attacked by terrorists off the coast of Aden a few years ago. Hence, the mighty and expensive naval assets of India could well be the targets of terrorists. India should not forget the RDX bombs being landed on the Mumbai coast in 1993 and then the serial blasts on March 12 that year. What next?

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

WAYS OF SHOWING

 

I had watched the horror of 26/11 unfold on television. I still remember staring at the screen, confounded with fear and rage, watching vignettes of a burning dome, hospital walls pockmarked by bullet-holes and a seemingly unceasing trail of violence. I also cannot forget being shown an injured man near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus being taken to hospital; a television reporter from a national channel caught hold of his blood-spattered wrist and thrust it near the camera.

 

A journalist's job does not end with filing a story. The ability to judge what is news and then present it objectively without compromising on core values and ethics are critical aspects of this profession. The TV reporter's spontaneous act seemed to conform to the unethical template, which has become integral to Indian journalism. In the rush to compete in a demanding market, journalists are coming under pressure to tweak content, suspend integrity and indulge in questionable conduct. The Mumbai attack was an opportunity for India's media for a course correction. But the media squandered that opportunity and, on occasions, exploited a national crisis.

 

Most of the TV channels flouted the home ministry's instructions regarding coverage. The Pakistani handlers were following the live news feeds to pass on instructions to the terrorists, compromising the security operations in progress. The dissemination of information is a central function of the media, but discretion ought to be exercised when there is a possibility of the information being misused.

 

The pictures that were beamed live, or printed in the days to come, were an extension of an aesthetic that seeks to bring the audience dangerously close to the source of the trauma without reflecting on the possible consequences. One national channel beamed the bloodied face of Abu Ismail, Ajmal Kasab's partner, moments after he was killed. The channel subsequently morphed the corpse's head, but the presenter did not forget to remind the audience in his shrill tone that his was the only network that was showing commendable restraint. That bit of restraint is now gone as well. We can now choose to see (or, alternatively, close our eyes to) everyday images such as the blood-soaked body of a policeman slumped on a chair in a Maoist attack or the chilling footage of a man killing his rival during the violence in Nandigram. More worryingly, days after the carnage, the media showed an unmistakable tendency to align itself with the hawkish position on Pakistan. Simi Garewal's comment about Pakistani flags atop Mumbai's slums was benign compared to apparently cerebral discussions on nuking Pakistan on prime-time television. The space for meaningful dialogue continues to shrink in the media and in the world at large.

 

It is true that a model code of conduct had not been in place to guide the media's coverage of the attack. Journalists, being human, were prone to react unreasonably at times to the outrage. But journalists are also special in that they serve a public institution, which is capable of influencing collective opinion. They must create, and then adhere to, the code. In some professions, the heart cannot rule the head.

 

UDDALAK MUKHERJEE

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

NEVER AGAIN

"26/11 TORE INTO INDIA'S SOUL LIKE NO OTHER."

 

The date 26/11 and the images of the horrific events that unfolded on that night and for 60 hours thereafter in the city of Mumbai will be etched in our memories forever. Who can forget the image of blood-splattered bodies lying strewn around at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or of the iconic Taj hotel up in flames? Or that of people who set aside their personal losses to rescue others? Around 166 people were killed in the attack and over 300 injured. The country and Mumbai in particular have suffered many terrorist attacks. Yet 26/11 tore into India's soul like no other. The attacks were the worst ever in India's recent history, not just because of the high death toll but because of the sheer magnitude of the operation. India's financial capital was held hostage by a mere 10 terrorists for over 60 hours. The attacks showed up the gaping holes in India's intelligence apparatus, the unpreparedness of its security forces to respond to such situations and the utter ineptness of the political establishment. 26/11 changed India. It shook middle-class India out of its complacency. Ordinary Indians grieved alongside those who had lost family and friends in the attacks and quickly their grief turned to rage.


26/11 brought middle-class India out on the streets demanding answers and action from their elected representatives. This forced the government to act. A few heads in high places rolled. A slew of security measures were put in place. Mumbai has more sandbagged security checkpoints, screening is more thorough at hotels and other installations and the city has its own NSG commando unit. Intelligence gathering and sharing systems apparently have been overhauled. Officials claim that India today is better prepared. But have things changed? A year after the attacks, troubling questions remain. Is Mumbai safer? Is the country prepared to tackle a terrorist assault of a similar scale? The Taj and the Oberoi might be safer today but can we confidently say the same of our railway stations or markets? Is the government more concerned about the security of the powerful, the rich and the famous than it is of the common man?


We speak highly of the Mumbaikar and his resilient spirit, of how when repeatedly hit by adversity, he picks himself up, dusts his clothes and moves on. A year on, the best way to honour that spirit is to ensure that Mumbai does not encounter such terrible tragedy again

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TOUGH TASKS

"THE WEST SHOULDN'T TURN TAIL FROM AFGHANISTAN."


Afghan President Hamid Karzai's second term is likely to be more challenging than the first. Not only is the situation in Afghanistan far more daunting today than it was in 2004 when he began his first innings as President but also, his position now is far weaker than it ever has been. In 2004, he was no doubt dismissed as an 'American stooge.' Yet he enjoyed the support of the international community and of Afghans looking for peace. That is not the situation today. Allegations of poll rigging have severely undermined his legitimacy. Non-Pashtun Afghans who had backed his rival Abdullah Abdullah have not accepted the election verdict. Karzai is in an unenviable situation.


Defeating the Taliban will no doubt be uppermost on President Karzai's mind. The Taliban is said to have a 'permanent presence' in 80 per cent of Afghanistan. With democracy in Afghanistan coming out weaker from the elections, support for the Taliban would have increased. Then there is pressure that Abdullah will mount on Karzai in the coming months. This could have far reaching ramifications for Afghanistan's territorial integrity. Karzai needs to reach out to the Tajiks, Hazaras and other ethnic groups and convince them that he is the president of all Afghans, not of Pashtuns alone. Corruption is endemic in Afghanistan and many of Karzai's ministers are said to be engaged in the drug trade and other illegal activities. Karzai will have to stamp out corruption and rein in the warlords to show Afghans that democracy does deliver.


With ISAF troop casualties growing in recent months, several countries are looking for exit strategies. This is not the time for them to turn tail. Whatever their differences with Karzai, the international community must support him fully, whether it is with troops, funds or expertise. The US and Britain have issued ultimatums to the Afghan President — "rid your government of corruption or else we leave." This is absurd. Karzai's style of governance is undeniably a problem. As for the United Nations, following the death of five of its staffers in an attack on one of its guesthouses in Kabul, it has decided to temporarily downsize its presence in the capital. This is an unfortunate decision. The international community, especially the UN, should be standing by Afghanistan through this critical period and not cutting and running.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

9/11 AND 26/11

BY LYDID POLGREEN & VIKAS BAJAJ,THE NEW YORK TIMES :


While US published a best-selling report on failures that led to the 2001 attacks, India has kept secret a similar report on Mumbai attacks.

 

A year after the deadly assault on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants that killed 163 people, this sprawling mega city is a more cautious and safer place, but it remains vulnerable despite government pledges to overhaul security.

The public outrage that many thought would usher in a political groundswell for a firmer government response has dissipated. India has done little of the painful public soul-searching that followed the Sept 11 attacks on the United States, to which the Mumbai attacks are often compared.


Unlike the US, India did not create the equivalent of a Homeland Security Department. While a high-profile bipartisan American commission published a best-selling report on the failures that led to the 2001 attacks, Indian lawmakers have kept secret a similar report about the Mumbai attacks.


Almost all the political leaders who resigned as a result of the attacks either are back in their old jobs or have been promoted. No senior members of the police force were fired or reprimanded.


The failures are all the more unsettling as conditions in India's neighbour to the west, Pakistan, deteriorate by the day, making the risks of another Mumbai-style attack from Pakistan-based militants impossible to ignore. A similar event could scuttle any hope of restarting peace talks between the nuclear-armed rivals, and raise the spectre of an India-Pakistan war.


Impotence
During and after last year's attacks, government officials were widely criticised for their bungled response. As video cameras rolled, the 10 Pakistani militants wreaked havoc for nearly three days, a humiliating and seemingly interminable display of India's impotence in the face of terrorism. Federal commandos who eventually wrested control from the attackers took more than nine hours to arrive at the scene from their base near New Delhi.


The city's new police commissioner, D Sivanandan, acknowledged the response had not been ideal, but said big improvements had been made, especially since he took over in June. But he said that even if billions of dollars were spent to improve security, Mumbai — as chaotic a place as any in this nation of more than 1.1 billion people — would never become impervious to attack.


"We must realise that the world has become a shrunken village where there are no borders and fences and jurisdictions," he said. Like other officials Sivanandan cited the Sept 2001 attacks to make the point that even the US had not been able to anticipate and adequately react to terrorism.


Still, he and other officials said they were much better prepared. New weapons and equipment have arrived. The city has added teams of heavily armed, highly trained commandos. It has mapped out procedures and used them in drills to guide responses to a variety of potential attacks.


The state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, the state capital, and oversees the police here, has spent at least Rs 1.3 billion on equipment and training, said R R Patil, the state home minister. He resigned under pressure after the attacks but has since returned to his old job.


The government is also buying 80 boats and planes and hiring 3,000 more people for the national Coast Guard. But officials in Mumbai acknowledged that those additions would not be enough to monitor India's vast coastline or reliably thwart attacks from the sea, like those last year. Many here say that despite these changes, there has been little accountability for those who mishandled the response.


"This should be a defining moment for people to take defining decisions," said Rana Kapoor, the managing director and chief executive of Yes Bank. "I personally believe that 9/11 did that for America. But 26/11 has yet to get result-oriented changes," he said.


The tepid response of the security establishment reflects political realities here. The political transformation that many predicted would take hold, dispatching a complacent elite that seldom voted, never happened.


Meera Hirnandani Sanyal, a banker who plunged into the hurly-burly of politics after a friend was killed in the attacks, had hoped to ride this wave of discontent to victory in the parliamentary elections in May. "In India we are very cynical about politics and politicians," she said. "But in a country like this it is through the vote that change comes."


Though she ran a campaign that focused on security and good government, she received fewer than 10,000 votes, losing by a wide margin, and the government that had overseen the response to the attacks was swept back into office.


Apathy
She blames apathy in the urban elite, of which she is a member in good standing. "People like us tend not to get out and vote," Meera said. "So we have lost the right to criticise the system." Without political pressure there is little impetus for change, she said.


At the city's central rail station, where gunmen mowed down dozens of people, police officers now carry their weapons at all times, and commandos in blue uniforms roam the platforms.


K V Bhosale, a 30-year-old sub inspector, was on duty the night of the attacks. When the gunmen opened fire he was not even carrying his sidearm. "This was a war situation," he said. "These people were killing men, women and children. Those who were running for their lives, they fired on them." He said he had received additional training since the attack, but feared he was not ready.


"The next time they might come with chemical weapons, with biological weapons," he said.


Many residents of Mumbai said they were not assured by the government's claims. At busy train stations, including the one that was attacked last year, metal detectors constantly buzz, yet people walk through them without being stopped for further scrutiny. While officials have installed new luggage-screening equipment there, many visitors are not asked to put their bags through it.


Security is much stricter at private facilities. These days getting into the lobby of the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, one of the hotels that was attacked, is not that different from entering an airport. Everyone passes through metal detectors, and every bag and parcel is X-rayed.


The hotel has rebounded since the attacks. Occupancy is between 70 and 80 per cent, said Karambir Singh Kang, the hotel's general manager. It reopened just 21 days after the attack, and not a single staff member quit as a result of the violence, Kang said. That includes  Kang, whose wife and two young sons perished in the attacks.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

AFRICA NEEDS DIVERSITY, NOT A GREEN REVOLUTION

BY HOWARD BUFFETT.IPS :

The continent requires stable yields, adapted to low-input systems that maintain multiple crops.

 

It is essential that the renewed interest in and funding for African agriculture and food security exhibited at the recent World Food Summit be acted upon quickly to avoid past failures. A heavy reliance on technology and western farming systems is not appropriate for addressing food security for poor, small-scale, resource-limited farmers.

The call for a green revolution for Africa's 54 countries ignores the vast physical, political, and cultural differences found across the African continent. No technology or single philosophical approach can simultaneously correct soil fertility, replace organic matter or substitute for human knowledge across a continent the size of China, India and Russia combined. A singular focus on technology implies that agricultural production is a universally adaptable formula responsive to human innovation. It is not.


Technology has an important role to play in reducing malnutrition, improving crop yields and enhancing food security. At the same time, we cannot conclude that it is a silver bullet to a complex problem. Doing so has already decreased research for and investment in low-input solutions, including alternatives to inorganic chemical fertilisers. When technology is treated as an agricultural panacea, we force farmers to adapt to existing research and systems rather than the more appropriate course which is responsive to and driven by farmers' current systems, utilising local knowledge and combing these elements with appropriate technology for specific situations. We must acknowledge that precision agriculture in one place may include the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and in another, it may require a string and stick to plant by hand.


Cropping systems

Africa is a vast and diverse continent; the Inter Academy Council (IAC) reported that it has 17 distinct cropping systems with extreme variations in soil, climate, diseases and pests. As many as 70 per cent of farms are small, fragmented plots of land with limited infrastructure; 95 per cent of African crops are rain-fed with limitations for large-scale non-commercial expansion of sustainable irrigation. Farmers in these conditions have little or no access to markets; their survival is dependent on crop diversity. These 80 million small-scale farmers are by far the largest group of farmers found across Africa.


They are net buyers of food, often experiencing hunger periods between harvests, and they require highly specific solutions that must be must be tailored, often on a village or individual basis. Using a template designed for other parts of the world is a mistake.


As evidenced by their limited agricultural budgets, few African countries champion farming as a means for poverty alleviation. Governments have also failed to deal effectively with land tenure issues. Without land ownership, there is little incentive for farmers to invest in improvements for long-term productivity gains. Unfair land policies are particularly hard on women, who comprise 70 per cent of Africa's farmers.


Africa is not conducive to the type of green revolution that occurred in the 20th century. The green revolution in India and South East Asia emphasised monoculture wheat fields and rice paddies based on the intensive use of fossil fuel inputs and irrigation to achieve maximum yields. A large portion of Africa requires stable yields, adapted to low-input systems that maintain multiple crops. Most African farmers rely on crop rotations, intercropping and heterogeneous cropping to survive extreme conditions. Systems that drive uniformity have a negative impact on both traditional values and the environment; they can exacerbate hunger and malnutrition by reducing crop diversity.


There are solutions. The IAC recommends "regionally-mediated rather than continent-wide strategies". After four years of research by 400 scientists, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) came to similar conclusions, noting that a focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture, locally adapted seeds and ecological farming is the most beneficial way to address hunger, poverty and agricultural production in developing countries. These approaches require intensive training and a broad based extension service. Because they provide less opportunity for multinational corporations to make a profit, African governments are often forced to choose between two choices: accepting western ideas or refusing support and contending with their own inadequate resources.


Many resource-poor farmers can benefit from small interventions, including training in seed spacing, seed depth and row spacing; improved open-pollinated and hybrid seeds; basic land management; cover crops; terracing; inter-cropping; and minimum tillage techniques to help replace organic matter and rebuild soil structure.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ROLE REVERSAL

MANY TIME WE END UP BUYING THINGS THAT DON'T SERVE THE PURPOSE.

BY MEERA SESHADRI

 

You buy certain things in life with the intent that they would come handy at certain times. But, what if the things you have bought don't serve their purpose, and the entire object of buying, turns into a self-defeating exercise?

At my father's place, we had bought a Pomeranian pet, presuming she'd guard us against intruders of dubious origin gaining an entry into our place. But lo! It was the other way around! As an instance, whenever we took her out for a stroll, the moment she saw massive humans or menacing mongrels, she'd feel so petrified that she'd nuzzle at our feet, beseeching us to cradle her in our arms. And when we stretched our arms, she would spring into them and sit there feeling secure, much to the amusement of onlookers. So rather than protecting us, she had to be protected always.


And then I had an exotic looking umbrella, with floral motifs all along its circumference. This umbrella was summer-friendly, and shielded me from scorching sunrays, whenever I ventured out shopping. This cute 'thing' downright detested the deadly downpours, and displayed its disapproval by completely curling upward, resembling humongous flower, with its central rib-region and handle, forming sepals and stalk respectively! So, the instant I saw any signs of showers, I'd sprint towards some shelter, to protect the umbrella from the rains!


I had this pair of cool sunglasses too, which tangibly hiked up anyone's glam quotient, besides buffering the eyes against the deleterious impact of UV rays. But these 'shades' being a lover of salubrious climate, had a shortcoming too. I could sport them only when the weather was mildly hot. The minute the sun radiated blazing heat, I had to instantly fold and safeguard it inside my sling bag.   


Recently I have bought a swanky pair of stilettos, which has cost me a bomb. Its straps are encrusted with glittering stones in rainbow hues. I avoid wearing them to places such as temples where I would have to take them off, for the fear that it may get whisked off. This ain't all. I shudder when I sight slushy puddles or surfeit sludge on streets, since the muck would mar its beauty. Yes, you've guessed it right! In an endeavour to protect my precious possession, ignoring the puzzled look of passers-by, dirtying my feet, I have walked many times, with its straps dangling from the crook of my little finger!

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

PRISON BREAK

 

Whoever coined the phrase "the wheels of justice grind slowly" couldn't have known just how appropriately it would fit Israel's Supreme Court. And they could not have imagined the industriousness with which Israel's boys from the Treasury would exploit the court's glacial pace to create facts on ground already quaking under the weight of legal dubiousness.

 

Last week the High Court at long last nixed the notion of private prisons in this country, thereby overthrowing 2004's Knesset legislation permitting such privatization. Although the ruling was a dramatic example of imperious judicial usurpation of the legislature's authority, in this case there was ample justification for court intervention. The legal and moral issues were quite clear. Therefore, the fact that it took the court four-and-a-half years of deliberations to do the obvious is nothing short of incomprehensible.

 

While our justices were presumably splitting legal hairs, the Treasury busily attempted to tie their hands. The state and private investors brazenly pressed ahead with erecting the very prison against which the Supreme Court had already issued an injunction in 2006. The construction and operation tender was won in 2005 by the Africa-Israel Corporation and associates under Lev Leviev. The consortium in turn hired the consulting services of Texas-based Emerald Correctional Management, which runs a number of prisons in the Lone Star State.

 

Instructors from the Ramat Gan Academic College of Law petitioned the High Court against the entire project because, they argued, penal facilities come under the definition of "core powers," which Basic Law forbids the state from parceling out. From that point, the entrepreneurs built at their own risk, especially after the injunction put them on formal notice of the strong likelihood that the law would be overturned.

 

In arrogant defiance of this unequivocal warning, the project was advanced at a pace and efficiency rare for Israel. Thus, early this year, construction of the state-of-the-art, 800-inmate, medium-security facility was completed, down to the plumbing and decorating. Israel's first-ever private prison was ready for inauguration outside Beersheba - until the official housewarming was unceremoniously put on hold by another Supreme Court injunction.

 

THERE'S NO excuse for the gross judicial procrastination, nor for the executive contravention of injunctions by the highest court in the land.

 

The price for this free-for-all will doubtlessly be borne by the taxpayer. Africa-Israel - now ironically seeking debt restructuring owing to its failure to honor commitments to its bond-holders (many among them ma-and-pa pension investors) - is currently in position to demand massive state compensation. It will seek reimbursement for its investments in the complex as well as damages for lost potential earnings. The Treasury's clever subterfuge to reduce the burden on public resources has spectacularly backfired. Moreover, employees, already mind-bogglingly hired to man the empty institution, are also demanding compensation. Eventually the state will buy the edifice and rehire personnel at egregiously inflated costs.

 

This was an eminently superfluous travesty to which all sides contributed impudently.

 

Given Israel's acute budgetary constraints and severe prison overcrowding (12,600 convicts in 24 facilities), the notion of turning delinquents over to the custody of business interests looked particularly attractive. Currently prisoners here occupy an average of 3.3 sq.m. each, whereas the new prison offers 5.3 sq.m.

 

Yet weighty questions abound. How would prisoner conduct be judged in a profit-oriented facility? Who would mete out punishment, allow or withhold privileges? Would it be possible to penetrate behind-bars business practices to ascertain that everything is on the up-and-up, that money is spent where earmarked, that bills submitted to the state are honest and that no corrupt connections are established between operators and overseers of penitentiaries far from society's vigilant eye?

 

As a rule we are uneasy about our intrusive courts' inclinations to commandeer greater powers at the expense of other government branches. This instance, though, constitutes an exception. Here the court is an indispensable watchdog, even if an atrociously sluggish one. The justices didn't put a foot wrong in this case - but they dragged their feet outrageously and thus exacerbated this entire sordid yet incontrovertibly avoidable episode.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

WASHINGTON WATCH: TALKING TURKEY

DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD

 

With the US-led efforts to relaunch Palestinian-Israel peace negotiations stalled, there's talk of Washington and Jerusalem turning their attention to the Syrian track, but how promising is that?

 

Here's the good news: Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu repeatedly insist they are ready to begin peace talks right away.

 

Here's the bad news: They're not serious.

 

Judging by the terms each has set, they appear more interested in scoring debating points than making peace. Their conditions are so totally unacceptable to the other that the chances of any meaningful talks resuming are remote. And the search for an honest broker to mediate those talks, if and when, only shows how dysfunctional the Israeli government has become.

 

Two Israeli ministers insist the Turks are unqualified to resume their mediation while another says the opposite and rushes off to Ankara to mend fences with the encouragement of a fourth Israeli minister.

 

Assad demands his terms be met up front - Israel must commit to total return of the Golan Heights to Syrian-defined borders. He's vague about what Israel gets in return beyond "the result will be peace," and he has said he is prepared to go to war to regain the Golan if talks fail. Moreover, Assad flatly refuses to loosen his ties to Iran and terror groups that remain committed to Israel's destruction.

 

Netanyahu insists on talks with no preconditions. But in reality he has his own list of demands.

 

His "no preconditions" is actually a condition itself: he refuses to resume talks where they left off late last year under his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, and he won't commit to returning to the June 4, 1967, border.

 

The past six prime ministers, including Netanyahu in his first term a decade ago, conducted talks with Syria focused on withdrawal from all of the Golan in exchange for security arrangements and normalized relations. More recently, Netanyahu has spoken of remaining on the Heights and of demanding that Syria abandon its strategic alliance with Iran and its terror proxies.

 

Netanyahu has called for a face-to-face meeting, but Assad not only rejected that, he also ruled out permitting the two teams of negotiators to meet in person, insisting they go through a mediator, preferably Turkey.

 

CONFUSING AND contradictory Israeli statements about Turkey are one further complication.

 

One influential part of the Israeli government prefers mediation by Turkey, once Israel's closest ally in the region and particularly in the Muslim world, while another rejects it.

 

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says the Turks are unqualified "after all the verbal attacks and insults toward us." (The Egyptians might say the same about Lieberman, who has said President Hosni Mubarak could "go to hell.") And Netanyahu has said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a "fair mediator" and Turkey has shown it cannot be an "honest broker" because of its vilification of Israel, the anti-Israel incitement in its media and its increasingly cozy relations with Syria and Iran.

Hard to disagree with that after one reads Erdogan's rantings. He called Israel a worse violator of human rights than the genocidal regime of Sudan's Omar al-Bashir in Darfur ("It is not possible" for Muslims "to carry out genocide," he has said in defense of Bashir). He blocked Israel from participating in international military exercises in Turkey last month, and he accused Lieberman of threatening to use nuclear weapons in Gaza.

 

So why did an Israeli newspaper this week run a headline saying "Israel urges Turkey to resume mediation of Syria talks"?

 

Because that's the message Industry and Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer is delivering in Ankara this week, where he met with Erdogan and other top officials. Erdogan said he is ready to resume mediation but first Israel must do more for the Palestinians and Gaza.

 

What set Erdogan off was what he considered Israel's excessive use of force in the Gaza War last winter. But there's an element that has nothing to do with Israel. He is mad at the Europeans for dragging their feet on Turkey's application to be the first Muslim country in the European Union. He shifted his focus to warming relations with the Muslim world, notably neighbors Syria and Iran, and seeking a role as regional military, economic and political leader and bridge between the West and the Islamic world.

 

Ben-Eliezer has the backing of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the Israeli military establishment, which considers relations with Turkey more important than the spitting matches between Erdogan and Lieberman. The military leadership also encourages reaching out to Syria and is believed much more flexible on making a deal than Israel's political leadership.

 

The military establishment's top priorities are weakening the influence of Iran and maintaining Israel's strategic relationship with Turkey. The two have long shared intelligence and cooperated in fighting terrorism; Israel has had access to Turkish airspace and sells defense equipment and services to the Turkish military.

 

Ben-Eliezer's message is we want to be friends again, we need each other, we want you to drop the vitriol and return to pre-crisis cordiality.

 

If he is successful, Israel will have to ask itself whether Turkey, with its new alliances with Iran and Syria, can once again be a reliable partner for sharing sensitive intelligence and military technology. And repairing relations with Turkey may be the best route to the one Middle East peace track with any chance of progress anytime soon - the Israeli-Syrian track.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

RATTLING THE CAGE: WELCOME, OBAMA, TO THE MARCH OF FOLLY

LARRY DERFNER

 

I don't pretend to understand Afghanistan, but I do know it's a big, poor, backward Islamic country in Central Asia with all sorts of warring factions that have been at it for decades, or even centuries. I know that American soldiers have been fighting there for eight years and that the situation is still a huge mess.

 

And now President Barack Obama, after sending 21,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan in March, is set to announce next week that he's going to send over another 30,000 or so, which will bring the total number of US troops in that big, poor, backward, bewildering, violent Islamic country to about 100,000.

 

I don't know much about Afghanistan, but I'm pretty familiar with America, familiar enough to know that America is not up for this. I don't know if it's possible to pacify Afghanistan - or Pakistan, Iraq, Iran or anyplace else in the region. I don't know if this can be done even with millions of American troops fighting for 100 years.

 

But I do know, as I think everyone knows, that America is not ready to fight Islamism like it fought Nazism and Communism, which means that in its wars in the Middle East, America is destined to lose. The only question is how long these futile adventures will last.

 

Actually, America fought one war in the Middle East that was not futile, not at all - the one in 1991 against Iraq. That was a truly "necessary war," to use Obama's term for the mess in Afghanistan. Back then, Saddam Hussein invaded an American-allied country, he electrified the entire Middle East, he was bidding for control, direct or indirect, over two-thirds of the world's oil - he had to be stopped and turned back.

 

So president George H.W. Bush set a very clear, reasonable goal - forcing Saddam out of Kuwait - then sent half a million soldiers to do the job, accomplished it in six weeks with minimal allied casualties, then brought the troops home, leaving Saddam and Saddamism in ruins.

 

That was a "good war." But Afghanistan? After 9/11, the Americans should have retaliated by carpet bombing select areas of that country, killing tens of thousands of people, terrorists and civilians both, to let al-Qaida, the Taliban and everyone in the Islamic world know that there is a terrible price to pay for attacking America and killing 3,000 innocents.

 

Instead, America decided to "transform" the region. The result is that another 5,000 Americans have been killed, soldiers this time, bombs are still going off every which way in Iraq, and now a new president, this one a liberal Democrat, not a Republican neocon, is driving deeper and deeper into Afghanistan.

 

And what about Pakistan? And Iran? Are they next? "All options are on the table," says Obama.

 

AMERICA'S PROBLEM is that it still wants to be a military superpower but is no longer willing to pay the price in blood and money, so it tries to do it on the cheap and as painlessly as possible, and winds up fighting endless wars with impossible goals in distant, hellish places.

 

If the US were serious about taking on a military challenge of this scope, it would reinstate the draft. This isn't Grenada they're dealing with, this is an enemy with outposts across the Middle East, and parts of Africa too.

 

And the US means to go to war against this enemy with a volunteer army that's drawn from less than 1 percent of American families!

 

"The problem in this country with this issue [of Afghanistan]," said Democratic Congressman David Obey, "is that the only people who have to sacrifice are military families, and they've had to go to the well again and again and again and again, and everybody else is blithely unaffected by the war."

 

The American people won't stand for a military draft; it's a taboo subject over there. They won't even stand for a war tax; that's another taboo. But neither will they stand for the idea that America is not a military superpower anymore. And nobody in that country, not even the messiah of change, has the guts to tell them that they can't have it both ways.

 

So the US pretends it can fight World War III like Grenada, its army is so far beyond overextended that there isn't a word for it, the country spends more and more billions of dollars that it doesn't have, and this has been going on now for almost a decade.

 

At this point, is anybody confident that if and when the US gets out of Iraq, after all these years of horror and devastation, it will leave behind a stable, decent, more or less pro-American country?

 

Is anybody confident of such a happy end to the war in Afghanistan?

 

I don't think so. I think if America knew right after 9/11 what it knows now, there is no way on earth it would have started these wars.

 

But now Obama wants more - not because he believes he can salvage the situation in Afghanistan, but because he's afraid of what will happen if he abandons it to the likes of al-Qaida and the Taliban. Which is a very legitimate worry. I worry about that too.

 

But the only way the US can salvage Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Pakistan, or Iran, or any country in the Muslim world, is to fight like it fought every other major war in its history - with a draft, with war taxes, with a clear, reasonable goal and the readiness to pursue it to the end.

 

Is America up for that today? No, it's not, I'm happy to say, because, like I said, even millions of American soldiers fighting for 100 years might not be enough to neutralize the threat of Islamism.

 

It's fight or flight, which means the only choice left is flight. The US is not a military superpower anymore, and it's just hurting itself and a lot of other people by pretending.

 

The time has come for America to wrap up these endless, failed third world wars.

 

It's not going to be easy. And the worst part is that after Obama deepens America's commitment with 30,000 new soldiers, getting out is going to be even harder.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

CANDIDLY SPEAKING: WHY DOES SO MUCH OF THE WORLD HATE US?

ISI LEIBLER

 

I recently met with a group of high-level Australian journalists, including editors of some of the leading dailies.

 

They impressed me as a fair and open-minded group. In the course of discussions, one elegantly phrased question, not intended to offend, was put to me which I have been mulling over: Did I ever take into account that if virtually the entire world has concluded that we are the principal cause for the Middle East impasse, perhaps they are right? In other words, have we blinded ourselves to the extent that we are like the inmate in a lunatic asylum who insists that everybody other than himself is insane?

 

The question is particularly valid in relation to Europe, which has turned so dramatically against us. When analyzing the changed attitudes of many European countries, one must take into account their redefinition of themselves as "enlightened" post-modernist secular societies which shun all manifestations of nationalism. In this configuration Israel is no longer considered a revival of Jewish nationhood, but as a colonial implant which many would be happy to see somehow disappear as a national entity.

 

And of course, there is the new anti-Semitism in which demonization of Israel has become the surrogate for traditional Jew-hatred. Just as the Jews in the Middle Ages were accused of all the ills of mankind, so today the Jewish state is increasingly being held responsible for the principal woes facing humanity.

 

In this environment, the Left and many liberals now focus their revolutionary fervor and rage against Israel, and have succeeded in hijacking human rights groups to serve as vehicles to undermine us.

 

IN THE international arena, the automatic majority of Islamic and other radical states guarantees the passage of all anti-Israeli resolutions initiated at international organizations such as the United Nations, no matter how absurd. The so-called United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which includes the worst tyrannies and rogue states among its leading members, is just one example. People throughout the world unfamiliar with the intricacies of the UN or the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict are bombarded with constant reports of resolutions from a supposedly reputable body condemning Israel as a rogue state. Thus, the false narrative of the Islamic majority, automatically endorsed by compromised international agencies, becomes embedded in the public consciousness.

 

Simultaneously, there are realpolitik considerations resulting from the ascendancy of the Islamic world and the increased clout of oil-producing countries at a time when securing energy has become the national priority for most nations. This, together with the growing empowerment of radical Islamic immigrant groups throughout Europe, has resulted in many countries siding against Israel rather than confronting the rage and violence of the jihadists within their own borders.

 

It is in this context that Israel remains the only country in the world whose very right to exist is challenged.

 

It also highlights the dilemma we face. The more concessions we made over the past decade in order to reach an accommodation with our neighbors, the greater has been the terror unleashed against us and the more our international standing has eroded.

 

Ironically, despite the rising tide of hatred against us, on objective grounds we should be more entitled to receive the support of people of goodwill and genuine liberals today than ever in the past.

Israel remains the only democracy in the region; 20 percent of its inhabitants are Arab citizens who enjoy equal rights and freedom of expression, and elect their representatives to the Knesset.

 

In contrast, our despotic neighbors are autocracies or dictatorships that deny freedom of religion and many other basic human rights. They also include the only countries in the world which deny Jews the right of domicile. And yet, we are the ones depicted as a racist apartheid state.

 

Even under a right-wing government, a broad consensus in Israel supports a two-state solution and is desperate not to rule over the Palestinians. Two Israeli prime ministers offered to cede virtually all the territories gained in wars initiated by enemies seeking to destroy us. The offers were rejected by both Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas.

 

The Sharon government unilaterally disengaged from Gaza and dismantled long-standing settlements. Thousands of Israelis who had transformed deserts into gardens were forcibly evacuated and forced to forfeit their livelihoods and homes. Yet the moment the settlements were evacuated, they were converted by the Palestinians into launching pads for intensified missile attacks and terrorism that culminated in the Gaza conflict.

 

WE ARE confronted by two Palestinian entities. Hamas, the terrorist group ruling over Gaza, unequivocally demands the total destruction of the Jewish state and unashamedly calls for the physical extermination of Jews. The other is the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who we are told represents a moderate partner for peace. Yet Abbas speaks with a forked tongue, and to this day still sanctifies suicide bombers as martyrs and provides their families with state pensions. The PA-controlled media, education system and mosques continue to promote anti-Semitism and demand the dissolution of the Jewish state.

 

Fully aware of these realities, most European states nevertheless apply double standards against the Jewish state. Many either applauded or stood by while the Arabs and their allies accused us of committing war crimes. This, despite the fact that the conflict against Hamas was only launched after thousands of missiles had been directed at Israeli civilians for years. The IDF's unprecedented steps of telephoning civilians and distributing pamphlets warning of impending attacks in order to minimize civilian casualties were ignored, as was the submission to the UNHRC by the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp, who stated that "the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any army in the history of warfare."

 

In such a climate, it is almost inevitable that "enlightened" global public opinion regards us as a rogue state and an even greater threat to world peace than North Korea or Iran. It is frequently alleged that we are responsible for the world turning against us. We are told that Israel's military superiority (in the absence of which it would not exist) has created sympathy for the Arab underdog. There is no disputing Palestinian misery and suffering, but it is rarely pointed out that this is a direct byproduct of the policies adopted by their leaders. We are frequently admonished to cease killing terrorists and negotiate with Hamas. Would anyone seriously suggest that the United States negotiate with al-Qaida or cease efforts to kill terrorists planning attacks against its civilians? I am confident that any objective evaluation would undoubtedly morally validate our broad efforts to achieve peace in the face of Palestinian intransigence. It would also demonstrate that the constant portrayal of Israel as a rogue state by purportedly reputable international organizations such as the United Nations dominated by our enemies, have now become embedded in the public consciousness. This has been facilitated by the opportunism, bias and cowardice of much of the "enlightened" world.

 

ileibler@netvision.net.il

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

ONE FOR ONE

CHARLEY J. LEVINE

 

This country urgently needs a policy regarding captive exchanges. Once, we had one: It was no negotiations with terrorists. Period. That has morphed today into absurd horse-trading of the "any price" variety, including 20 female terrorists for a videocassette.

 

Hopefully one day very soon Gilad Schalit will be released. That will be a wonderful occasion, and it's too late to reformulate our policy this time around. Because freeing hundreds of criminals encourages future kidnappings, however, the policy must indeed be changed immediately following Schalit's return.

 

Israel must give its answer - unequivocally and in advance - to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who tellingly observed recently in Damascus: "We are capable of capturing Schalit and Schalit and Schalit until there is not even one prisoner in the enemy's jails."

 

This challenge is daunting precisely because it sets Israelis not against Hamas but rather each person against himself. We are profoundly torn. Each of us is a parent or grandparent who would pay any price to gain the release of a child. Thankfully, our society views Gilad Schalit not as expendable cannon fodder but precisely as our own flesh and blood.

 

But each of us is also a potential victim of terror, a potential kidnappee. As such, we realize fully that surrendering to extortionists' wild demands may secure a videotape or the remains of long-deceased MIAs or even a live soldier - but at the crystal-clear cost of encouraging many more attempts by Hamas to kidnap other Jews. This is an untenable position in which we dare not wallow passively.

 

REFLECTING THIS latter perspective, I recently had a very difficult conversation with two fathers in Tel Aviv, each of whom had lost a child to terrorists. They oppose the release of any Palestinian prisoners for any Israeli. They know their position is an unpopular albeit principled one, and they asked my advice on how to communicate it persuasively to the public.

 

It was my unenviable task to tell them it just wouldn't fly. Emotionally, pitted against the release of a real, live young Israeli, rejection of negotiations just cannot capture public support.

 

Yet neither is the public in love with the idea of releasing up to 1,000 hardened criminals, many with blood on their hands.

 

One for one. The thought came to me in a flash.


Somewhere between zero and 1,000 lies this wholly sane, compelling formula.

 

Think about it: We do in fact oppose negotiating with terrorists. Trading any terrorist for any Israeli is a disgusting thought. Yet there is a compelling logic to the principle of "one for one," which is intellectually intuitive and could not be morally clearer.

 

On the same day Schalit comes home, Israel should announce its new unyielding and ironclad policy: We will do everything possible to prevent future kidnappings, and our policy remains not to reward terrorists for their crimes. However, the most we will ever agree to under any circumstances in any future exchange will be one. We can negotiate over the who in such a case, but never on the how many. This should be codified by legislation.

 

I know this, too, will raise questions. Some will argue, with justification, that releasing even one evil person to win the release of an innocent is one too many. There can be no moral equivalency between the terrorist and the one defending against the terrorist.

 

Others will say we dare not tie the government's hands, so no stratagem should be written in stone. If we need to free five bad guys at some point, or 50 or 500, then let the leaders make that determination as the situation warrants.

 

That is precisely my point: It is the situation that is not written in stone, while the principles must be. Not very long ago, civilians in Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood were being constantly shot at. Buses were being blown up in the streets of Tel Aviv and Haifa. Rockets were pouring onto the homes in Sderot. Suicide bombers seeped into our cities, seemingly unchecked.

 

These bloody attacks have largely ceased. Effective intelligence contributed mightily, but so did changes in public policy. Many fires were quashed as a result of wise, effective counter-measures. Changes were implemented, and they worked.

 

Hamas has managed to kidnap one solitary soldier and hold him. It's not an easy thing to do. Further attempts will follow, but a new policy of "one for one" will dampen the Palestinians' penchant for even trying. If they know that even a successful kidnapping will result at very most in only one, not 1,000 released prisoners, they will abandon the tactic.

 

What the security wall has become to untold dozens of would-be mass murderers, "one for one" can be to those who plot future kidnappings.

 

We absolutely must stand firm.

 

The writer is a media and public affairs consultant based in Jerusalem.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

REFUSING TO REMAIN SILENT IN THE FACE OF EVIL

JONATHAN AND ESTHER POLLARD

 

Why is the life of one Israeli captive deemed so precious that Israel's leaders are willing to dispense with all logic and morality in order to redeem him? Why is the life of another Israeli captive dismissed as if it were worthless?

 

Why is the life of one captive such an urgent national priority that the safety and security of every single Israeli citizen must be put at risk? Why is the life of the other captive so inconsequential - after decades of captivity - that negotiations for his release have never been undertaken?

 

Are we, the People of Israel, so incompetent, so bereft of will, talent, imagination and faith in God that we really believe the only way to secure the release of the former captive is at a price so exorbitant that it beggars the imagination? Do we really believe that the wholesale release of terrorists and murderers is a rational response? Are we, the People of Israel, so bereft of vision that we cannot grasp that burying one captive alive while we pray for the release of the other drives the blessing away and brings shame and dishonor upon us all?

 

Are we, the People of Israel, so politically brainwashed that we cannot see that, in both cases, mere expediency reigns supreme in a morally-bankrupt government? This is not fulfillment of the mitzva of pidyon shvuyim!

 

AS LONG as Israeli leaders demonstrate a unanimous will to exploit the value of rescuing one captive because it suits their political ends, while simultaneously ignoring another captive, there can be no national honor, nor national self-respect. There is only political expediency. Self-serving, opportunistic, political expediency.

 

Those who are willing to close their eyes to the truth and follow lockstep with Israel's "leaders" in support of this unconscionable plan to unleash the forces of evil by allowing the architects of mass murder to pour forth from Israeli jails are placing their own lives at risk as well as the lives of their loved ones.

 

Those who fail to speak out and protest Israel's lopsided, immoral policy of selective rescue - damning one captive while saving the other and simultaneously putting the lives of all citizens in jeopardy - must know that they are complicit in this criminal deed.

 

It is painfully clear that Israel's mainstream media has stymied all rational debate on this issue, just as it has, for its own self-serving reasons, lent its support to the government's cowardly abandonment of the latter captive.

 

Nevertheless, moral conscience does not permit us to remain silent.

 

If our words are not heard today, so be it. A time will come when they will be heard. We hope that by then, it will not be too late.

 

Jonathan Pollard is an American-born Israeli citizen currently in the 25th year of his life sentence in an American prison for his activities on behalf of the security of the State of Israel.

Esther Pollard is his wife.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM INDIA'S 9/11

ABRAHAM COOPER

 

I came to Mumbai to convene the first multifaith event of the many memorials on the first anniversary of 11/26 - India's 9/11. Together with my Hindu partner of the Art of Living Foundation, I walked through Mumbai's main train station, tracing the route where 100 commuters were slaughtered. I stared at the large sign "For Women and Children Hospital" which failed to deter those shooters from firing at the nearby Muslim-run facility.

 

A taxi driver outside the seafront Trident hotel, which lost six employees, told me how the cabbie next to him had offered a ride to two backpackers who moments later would spray deadly automatic fire at the adjacent Oberi Hotel. I sat with Rajita, who together with her husband was held hostage for 13 hours before barely escaping.

 

Scores of others weren't so lucky. A thoroughly charming professional, Rajita finally overcame her trauma and reentered the hotel for the first time since 11/26 to read a poem about love and forgiveness at our memorial.

 

Finally, I visited Mumbai's Chabad House.

 

For those who travel extensively in Asia, Chabad is synonymous with joy and community - from Tokyo to Timbuktu. Chabad is every traveling and wandering Jew's home away from home.

 

I found the five-story walk-up in a mixed residential and market area virtually untouched since Indian commandos stormed the place on November 29 to kill the terrorists and recover the bodies of six innocents, including a beautiful young couple, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. The room of their beloved toddler, Moishy - who was miraculously saved by his Indian nanny - was still lit up by the Hebrew alphabet painted on the wall. His toys and stroller were still there.

 

On another bullet-riddled floor was the synagogue where a Torah scroll inside the Holy Ark was pierced by a single bullet - that pierced the parchment of the Five Books of Moses that reads Aharei Mot ("after the death of martyrs").

 

The initial official reaction to the three-day siege which left over 150 dead and 300 wounded sounds eerily familiar to this American. Indian government officials were in denial about the extent and interrelations of terrorist threats, and together with much of the media hid reality under a cloud of euphemism. Terrorists were labeled "gunmen"; there was an initial failure to identify their Islamist affiliations and beliefs, and described the Chabad carnage - removed from the train station by whole blocks - as merely an "accidental hostage scene."

 

JUST AS Dr. Phil sought to explain away the Fort Hood shooting spree as the result of Major Nidal Malik Hasan's "vicarious PTSD," last year Deepak Chopra claimed on CNN that the Mumbai massacre was "collateral damage" caused by delayed Muslim anger at the Bush administration's attack on Iraq.

 

Meanwhile, back in the US there were two related perplexing developments: first, the refusal by officials in Washington and the media to apply the "T word" to American-born Hasan's rampage - he will face a court martial for multiple murders, but will not be tried for "terrorism"; second, US Attorney-General Eric Holder's convoluted decision to try by military commission the international terrorists who attacked the USS Cole in Aden in 2000, while consigning for a civilian trial in a courthouse near the destroyed World Trade Center the international terrorists who masterminded the 9/11 attacks. 

 

But the India I found on the eve of the 11/26 anniversary has come to realize that its attackers were no mere criminals, but trained terrorists who launched acts of war against the world's largest democracy. The key player: A Pakistani-born American citizen, David Coleman Headley, a.k.a. Daood Gilani.

 

Headley was arrested last month for conspiring with Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussein Rana - a Canadian citizen also born in Pakistan - to kill the Danish cartoonist and target the newspaper Jyllands-Posten, responsible for the 2005 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

 

We now learn from a joint investigation by Indian and US authorities that Headley, months before the Mumbai attacks, also spied for the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, casing all 10 Mumbai locations that were subsequently hit. Headley even posed as a Jew when he visited the Mumbai Chabad House, learning the layout of the fellowship facility. The Calcutta Telegraph reports that he still had a book titled To Pray as a Jew at the time of his US arrest. Headley also may have mapped out India's nuclear sites.

 

Headley's arrest as he prepared to fly back to Pakistan ends only one among a dozen Islamist terror plots uncovered in the US in 2009. Just as terrorists today "think globally while acting locally," we who oppose terrorism must build new digital-age networks from the ground up and the top down to foster tolerance between faiths and civilizations.

 

Last year in Mumbai, the enemies of decency indiscriminately slaughtered Hindus, Muslims and Christians, and then sought out and murdered peaceful and pious individuals solely because they were Jews. This year, I came to Mumbai to further a coalition of faith communities - Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Bahai, Sikh, Jain and others - to rebuild bridges of cooperation within Mumbai and between it and global faith communities.

 

Where religious-inspired terrorists use Internet social networking to spread hatred and divisiveness, it falls to religious leaders to respond by building bridges. Where they organize hatred, we must create new paradigms of trust. Where they polarize, we will harmonize. When they accuse us of "loving life over death," we plead guilty and sentence ourselves to a lifetime of building a world based on love and tolerance.

 

But all these efforts will come to naught unless misguided politicians around the world stop cloaking these enemies of humanity behind a shroud of dangerous and false political correctness.

 

In Mumbai, a leading Muslim figure openly denounced the Muslim perpetrators of 11/26 as terrorists and then stepped from the podium to publicly embrace a grieving Chabad rabbi before dozens of cameras and reporters. In the struggle to secure our homeland, it's past due for America's leaders to trust their citizens with the most powerful weapon of all: The Truth.

 

The writer is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has traveled extensively throughout Asia, including India. He coordinated a multifaith solidarity meeting in Mumbai to remember the victims of the November 26, 2008, terror attacks.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

 

WANTED: A NEW JUSTICE MINISTER

 

Yaakov Neeman's modus operandi - walking the fine line between truth and lies, and apparently crossing that line as well - is not worthy of a commercial lawyer, whose main interest is the outcome for his client. It is intolerable in a justice minister. For over 24 hours, Neeman concealed from the public Prof. Yedidia Stern's condition that he would only accept the post of attorney general if the government decided on whether to split the position as soon as possible. Stern, for his part, didn't bother to withdraw his candidacy immediately after a decision on the proposal was delayed - even though the prime minister made it clear that there would be no split in the foreseeable future.


At the least, we have before us a web of lies. In the worst case, perhaps an attempt to split the attorney general position from within - contradicting the decision of the prime minister and the stance of both the Labor Party and Yisrael Beiteinu.


Neeman announced publicly he was "deliberating" between the split and the current arrangement, after he'd already decided privately to split the job. When his hopes were dashed and the prime minister decided against the split, Neeman started to use stratagems to achieve his objective. The meticulously written report in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth regarding the withdrawal of Stern's candidacy (which was actually nonexistent) doesn't change the fact that the candidacy was withdrawn only after Tomer Zarchin exposed the concealed personal friendship between Neeman and Stern, as published yesterday in Haaretz.

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Yehuda Weinstein, a professional and highly regarded criminal lawyer, is not the person for the job, which for the most part does not deal with criminal law. The choice of Weinstein, as far as Neeman is concerned, is a step on the way to his appointment as chief prosecutor, which Neeman wants, and to the split that Neeman has declared he will continue to promote.


The worthy candidates for the position of attorney general are Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez and attorney Zvi Agmon, but we need a new justice minister as well: Neeman is not sufficiently involved in improving the legal system for the public's benefit. He undermines the opinions of the prime minister and the coalition, operates in the dark and conceals information from the public to weaken the rule of law. And he sees nothing wrong in employing methods unworthy of a decent person, let alone a justice minister.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHY CAN WE TALK TO HAMAS ABOUT SHALIT, BUT NOT PEACE?

BY GIDEON LEVY

 

Why is it permissible to talk to Hamas about the fate of one captive soldier and another several hundred prisoners, but forbidden to talk to them about the fate of two nations? Never has Israeli logic been so distorted. Now, when our hearts look forward to the deal's implementation, when every human heart should look forward to Gilad Shalit's release - and yes, to the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, some of them political prisoners for all intents and purposes, not just "terrorists with blood on their hands" - now is the time to finally rid ourselves of some of the foolish prohibitions we have imposed on ourselves and the entire international community.

It is now clear that there is someone to talk to. In Gaza and Damascus sit tough but reasonable statesmen. They are also concerned, in their own way, about the fate of their people, they too aspire to bring them freedom and justice. When the deal is implemented we will also discover that they can be taken at their word. Were it not for the fact that Israel is holding tens of thousands of prisoners - some who used base means to achieve a just objective - who are judged differently from Jewish murderers and criminals, perhaps Hamas would not have had to use the weapon of kidnapping.


Were it not for Israel's siege on Gaza and the international boycott against anything that smacks of Hamas, perhaps the organization would not have needed the Qassam rocket. But Israel insists on doing things its own ay: It embarked on Operation Summer Rains to win Shalit's release and failed; it imposed a siege on Gaza to apply pressure for his release and brought about another total failure. When Israel recognized its mistakes, for which 1.5 million residents of Gaza are still paying with their bodies and souls, Israel turned to the only just and effective means: diplomatic negotiations.

 

Yes, we are conducting what we are denying to ourselves: negotiations with Hamas - and the sky hasn't fallen. Whether direct or indirect, there are talks; whether or not we recognize Hamas, there are negotiations. For us, as usual, the method that should come first waits for last. Only after we try all the rest - killing and destruction, war and starvation - do we turn to the direct route: negotiations. That's how it was with Egypt, and that's how it was with the Palestine Liberation Organization.


When the deal is completed, when Shalit and imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti return home, Israel must open a new chapter with the outlawed organization. It won't be easy for us. This is a fundamentalist organization that talks about a hudna, a temporary cease-fire, not about peace; perhaps that is the price of the foolish destruction Israel has visited on the institutions of the Palestinian Authority and PLO, which of course were immeasurably more congenial interlocutors. But that milk has been spilled and Hamas is alive and kicking - one reason being Israel's heavy hand against it. Does anyone still seriously believe that Israel can bring down Hamas rule by force? We didn't even succeed in weakening it - on the contrary.


Israel with its lofty "without preconditions" must now turn to Hamas with a call to begin negotiations, preferably with a Palestinian unity government headed by a free Barghouti. It's possible. There is no need to ask for recognition as negotiating partners - we have already recognized Hamas and it has recognized us. Israel must remove the criminal siege against Gaza and call on the international community to remove the boycott against Hamas, which was imposed under Israel's leadership. Enough of international diplomats and statesmen afraid to speak to the organization's representatives for fear that Israel will take action against them. We forbid the French foreign minister and all the world's statesmen from speaking to Hamas, and yet we yearn for the services of the German mediator, who talks to the group. Why?

After the prisoner release, nothing will get Hamas onto a constructive path - instead of the destructive and desperate one it has followed - like the rehabilitation of Gaza. The $4.4 billion that the international community promised eight months ago at the donors' conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, with a great deal of pomp and pathos, to transfer for Gaza's rehabilitation, is still sitting in bank vaults as if there had been no promise. Now is the time to send it.


A free Gaza undergoing rehabilitation will be much less explosive. A Hamas busy rebuilding will behave differently, especially if it is also offered a political horizon. It will have much more to lose, something that is hard to say about Gaza today. So after we finish crossing our fingers for Shalit's release, we have to open the same hand and reach out to Hamas in peace.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL MUST PROVE SHALIT DEAL IS WORTH THE PRICE

BY ARI SHAVIT

 

Bringing Gilad Shalit home is going to cost human lives. We do not know how many, we do not know their faces, we do not recognize their names. But we can assume that they walk among us. As a direct result of a Shalit deal they could lose their lives. When the Israeli government approves a deal at any price, this could be the price: dozens or perhaps hundreds of Israelis killed.


The victims of a Shalit deal might be killed in a number of ways: They might lose their lives in terror attacks. Others could die in a military operation that follows the attacks. There is a fear that some could be killed in missile attacks. Others might fall in the attempt to stop the missile attacks. If the deal erodes Israel's deterrence, it will weaken Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, flood the territories with skilled terrorists and lead to chaos. The chaos will cause violence, which means victims. Shalit will be redeemed at the cost of blood.

People will also be abducted, we may assume, because a Shalit deal will give future kidnappers an incentive. But future kidnappings will not necessarily take place on the Gaza border. They may take place in the West Bank, Galilee or Negev. Or in Turkey, Thailand or Nepal. The way Shalit is rescued from captivity could mean that in a year or two we will once again face heart-rending pictures of Israelis in captivity. But the next time it will not be one Israeli, but a number of them. We will not be able to save them because of the trauma of releasing hundreds of terrorists. We will not be able to pay the price to redeem them. Their fate is sealed.

 

Does that mean that the deal should be rejected? Not necessarily. The deal will have serious repercussions on the relationship between Israel and its neighbors. It is likely that the deal has become unavoidable because of Israel's relationship with itself.


There is no doubt about it: When it comes to Gilad Shalit, Israel has lost its senses and good judgment. Every possible mistake has been made. Every emotional weakness has come to the fore. A failed government, a hasty media and a confused public has made the Shalit affair insufferable. Gilad has become an obsession, a focus for a national pathology. Perhaps to get well, we need to draw a line through what was and give up. To become itself again, Israel needs to get Gilad Shalit home to Mitzpeh Hila.


But there is one thing we must not do: whitewash things. The decision about Shalit is not tactical, but strategic. It might worsen the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at a particularly sensitive moment. It could cause serious bloodshed. And so a government that approves the deal is like a government that decides to go to war.

Even if the decision is necessary, the government must be aware of its repercussions. The government must prove to itself that even if Shalit's return costs many Israeli lives, it is right to pay that terrible price.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost his elder brother in a dramatic operation meant to prove to the world that Israel does not give in to terror. Throughout his political career, Netanyahu has preached against giving in to terror. And yet the most important leadership decision he will make as prime minister will be to do just that.

Netanyahu is to be commended for his willingness to depart from his past to end this painful affair once and for all. But he must reject this deal of surrender if he is not convinced that it is the last deal of surrender.


Just as in war, a Shalit deal could cost lives. Opinion polls and momentary popularity do not justify such a price. Even the emotional picture of Shalit in the arms of his mother does not justify the price. The only justification will be in knowing that this is it, it's over - no more. Netanyahu will prove he is a worthy leader only if he promises that immediately after Gilad's return, Israel will return to its strength and determination, to the spirit before Entebbe.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

GROVELING IN THE DUST

BY ISRAEL HAREL

 

After the Six-Day War, many in the Arab world concluded that Israel was here to stay, so they had no choice but to reconcile themselves to its existence. Then along came the shell shock of the Yom Kippur War, from which Israel has yet to recover, and greatly weakened this conclusion. This lowness of spirit led Arab intellectuals to prophesize that the Jewish state would come to the same end as the Crusader kingdom.


And now, when Israel is groveling in the dust over the Gilad Shalit deal as well, the Arabs will be strengthened in this belief. After all, the Jews have proved, in deal after deal, that they are incapable of learning a lesson from the deadly price of the last capitulation. A country that once again - and with so little time between one extortion and the next - gives in to extortion, perhaps even the worst one yet, shows that something fundamental has gone wrong with its survival instinct.


From an optimistic society that loved life and felt collective responsibility, we have become a society of whining and instant gratification, one that demands, and receives, rights without obligations, and which views the individual as the supreme value. The enemy discerns this and knows that whatever price he sets, it will be paid.

Many articles published in the Arab and Islamic world have claimed that Israel's failure to win the first and second Lebanon wars, or the war on terror - despite its enormous military might - proves that it is in the process of withering away. That is the logical conclusion reached by academics and military men (and not just clerics), based on an analysis of the Israeli public's poor stamina in the face of the ongoing war of attrition to which the terrorist organizations have subjected us.


This belief, even if it stems in part from wishful thinking, is liable to have far graver strategic consequences than the terror attacks and kidnappings that can be expected in the wake of the impending release of murderers. If the forecast is that Israel will continue to weaken, why reconcile oneself to its existence? Better to encourage its decline by the same means that have brought it to this point - first and foremost, terror attacks that destroy its judgment.

Even the chief of staff shares the mood of depression that has made it possible for us to be on the verge of accepting this insane deal. In a speech in Sderot, he implicitly justified its price on the grounds that "I'm obligated to bring Gilad back home." And indeed he is. But as the supreme commander of the Israel Defense Forces, he is obligated to bring Gilad home by the means appropriate to his position: by victory, not by supporting capitulation. Granted, a rescue operation appears to be genuinely impossible, but there are other military measures that would leave Hamas no choice but to free Shalit. Our failure to use them is one of the signs of weakness and debilitation that encourage hopes for our disappearance.


A majority of the public, say those who support caving in to Hamas, is in favor of paying the deal's price. It does seem that way. But if the government were to tell the truth about this terrible price and ask the public to support its refusal to pay, a majority much larger than the one that currently favors the deal would support the opposite choice.


Ehud Olmert, in a moral and strategic reflex, recoiled at the last moment of his term from the implications of the price he was being asked to pay and halted on the brink of the abyss. Now Benjamin Netanyahu comes along and is about to take that final additional step. And the rest of the flock is trailing along in his wake, including those who in the past voiced the strongest and most convincing reasons for why we must not capitulate to Hamas.

The fact that the street is empty of demonstrators against this contemptible deal, and that no significant public protest is making itself heard via any other effective channel, attests better than 1,000 witnesses to what the state of the nation really is.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT TO USE FORCE

BY YEHUDA BEN MEIR

 

The prime minister and chief of staff should be highly commended for their firm and unequivocal response to the disgraceful and despicable display by a handful of soldiers in the Shimshon and Nachshon battalions. Their statements speak for themselves, and nothing else is necessary. The swift response by the Israel Defense Forces' commanders and the penalties imposed on the insubordinate soldiers were also appropriate.


But the truth is that the soldiers' staged political demonstration is not the main issue. The really important matter is to understand the army's function and purpose in a proper democratic state. Here we are witnessing a deliberate and malicious attempt to distort this understanding. The real danger lies in the stupid, false idea that the extreme right is using shrewd and sophisticated methods to market to the public the idea that the IDF's function and purpose are to protect the state only from its external enemies, and that it must not fulfill any other task.

The army is "Israel's defense army" and must not deal with Israeli civilians - that's the job of the police, these people say. This is a very simple, understandable idea that could sound convincing because clearly the IDF's main role is to protect the state from its enemies. But actually it's a groundless idea that runs contrary to the fundamental principles of a modern democratic state.

 

The first rule of every democracy is that the army is the elected government's long arm designed to carry out any legal mission dictated by the government. This has always been the custom in every proper democratic state. The extreme right-wingers speak loftily of democracy, but their real purpose is to forcibly impose the minority's opinion on the majority.


In Northern Ireland - a sovereign British territory - it was not the police but the British Army that was responsible for keeping public order, and this army did not hesitate to open fire on British civilians. U.S. soldiers did not act only on the battlefields of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. President Dwight Eisenhower sent the paratroopers to Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce a federal court order to enable black children to go to a racially segregated school. During the Vietnam War, soldiers enforced order at American universities against the violent antiwar demonstrations. In the streets of Los Angeles, the military acted to restore order during riots, and soldiers fired live bullets at looters in the streets of New Orleans after the disaster wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. In all these cases, the army acted against civilians.


The basis for every state's existence is a monopoly on the use of force, to implement the people's sovereignty and desires. The elected government carries out this monopoly using the armed forces that are subordinate to its authority - the police and army. The correct argument that the army is sovereign in the West Bank, and as such is both police and army, is unnecessary. If the Knesset decides tomorrow that the national interest requires an evacuation of Ramat Aviv, the government has all the legal and moral authority to employ the IDF to do so. Not the rabbis, only the Supreme Court may rule that a Knesset decision or any law is patently illegal.


Fortunately, the IDF has an intelligent, ideological, moral and obedient senior staff that knows and clearly states that the army does not choose its missions but loyally fulfills any legal task assigned by the government.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A THANKSGIVING TOAST

 

Sitting down with friends and family today, there will be thanks for the steady currents, flowing out of the past, that have brought us to this table. There will be thanks for the present union and reunion of us all. And there will be prayerful thanks for the future. But it's worth raising a glass (or suspending a forkful for those of you who've gotten ahead of the toast) to be thankful for the unexpected, for all the ways that life interrupts and renews itself without warning.

 

What would our lives look like if they held only what we'd planned? Where would our wisdom or patience — or our hope — come from? How could we account for these new faces at the Thanksgiving table or for the faces we're missing this holiday, missing perhaps now all these years?

 

It will never cease to surprise how the condition of being human means we cannot foretell with any accuracy what next Thanksgiving will bring. We can hope and imagine, and we can fear. But when next Thanksgiving rolls around, we'll have to take account again, as we do today, of how the unexpected has shaped our lives. That will mean accounting for how it has enriched us, blessed us, with suffering as much as with joy.

 

That, perhaps, is what all this plenty is for, as you look down the table, to gather up the past and celebrate the present and open us to the future.

 

There is the short-term future, when there will be room for seconds. Then there is the longer term, a time for blossoming and ripening, for new friends, new family, new love, new hope. Most of what life contains comes to us unexpectedly after all. It is our job to welcome it and give it meaning. So let us toast what we cannot know and could not have guessed, and to the unexpected ways our lives will merge in Thanksgivings to come.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

IRAN PUNISHES ITS PEOPLE

 

Iran's fraudulently elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will clearly stop at nothing to stifle legitimate dissent and hold on to his illegitimate power. The most recent horror is the sharp rise in executions since the June presidential elections.

 

As The Times has reported, many of those capital sentences have been carried out on people charged with criminal, rather than political offenses. But human rights groups and Iranian political experts believe that the rising numbers are meant to frighten anyone who might criticize or openly oppose the government.

 

Mr. Ahmadinejad's main patron, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and their bully boys in the Basij militias and the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards have also opened an ideological re-education campaign designed to reimpose the austere religious fundamentalism of the Islamic Republic's early years.

 

The government is establishing 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools. A company with ties to the Revolutionary Guards has taken control of the national telecommunications monopoly, giving these ideological enforcers even more power to monitor and restrict land-line telephone service, cellphones and Internet services. As if that were not enough, a new government agency has been set up to monitor the Internet.

 

Washington has condemned this assault on all traces of reform-minded opposition and free expression. It has sensibly done so in measured tones, not wanting to give Mr. Ahmadinejad another excuse to claim that his opponents are agents of the West, and specifically the United States. Predictably, he has done so anyway.

 

The viciousness of the current repression is another sign of the government's desperation. But that is no consolation to Iranians at the receiving end of the terror. Washington is rightly increasing its already substantial efforts to make accurate, uncensored information more widely available through satellite television, radio broadcasts and Internet sites. Last month, Congress authorized $50 million to be spent over the next year on expanded programming, increased transmissions and anti-jamming technology. An America that stands up for its own values of free, uncensored expression need not worry about the epithets a desperate dictator hurls against it.

 

We believe that the Obama administration was right to reach out to Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear ambitions. But we also believe that there have to be limits to that forthcomingness, and time is running out.

 

After initially agreeing to send much of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad for conversion into nuclear reactor fuel, Tehran is now backing away. As long as the centrifuges are spinning, Iran can be expected to drag this on. Mr. Obama has set a deadline of the end of this year for diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue. He should keep to that.

 

If Iran continues to repudiate the exchange deal — which reduces Iran's available supply of potential bomb fuel and buys time for further diplomacy — the United States must line up other members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia and China, for much tougher sanctions.

 

There is no military solution here. But Iran's repressive leaders cannot be allowed to threaten the rest of the world with a nuclear weapon.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW JERSEY'S MARRIAGE MOMENT

 

There can come a moment in a politician's career when doing the right thing requires summoning the courage to buck strong voter sentiment. The drama over same-sex marriage in a lame-duck session of the New Jersey State Legislature is not that kind of moment.

 

Doing the right thing — promptly enacting legislation discarding inadequate civil unions in favor of full marriage equality for same-sex couples — requires no gargantuan amount of courage or risk-taking on the part of rank-and-file New Jersey legislators or their leaders.

 

In fact, the recent elections did turn on same-sex marriage and a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed that a majority of voters would accept legalization. The chance that approving marriage equality would provoke a mass voter revolt seems remote. True, the measure's opponents have been taking loud aim at lawmakers from both parties who have openly voiced support, especially those whose districts include conservative communities. But elected officials should be able to take a little heat.

 

Just weeks ago, as David Kocieniewski of The Times reported, Democrats were speaking confidently about passing a marriage equality bill after the election. Gov. Jon Corzine, a fellow Democrat, pledged to sign it even if he was not re-elected. After Mr. Corzine's defeat, some Democrats appear to be wavering.

 

Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, who will become the Senate president in January, has expressed fears that voters concerned about the economy might resent elected officials who appear distracted by social issues. The lame-duck session is not the right time to enact same-sex marriage, he suggested, only to backtrack a little while later. Note that the actual civil rights issue gets lost in the spin.

 

More is expected from the future leader of the State Senate's majority caucus. By endorsing the same-sex marriage bill, Mr. Sweeney can show that he is ready for his influential new role. The outgoing Senate president, Richard Cody, who, in fact, has a reputation for doing the right thing, could polish that legacy by arranging for a vote — and getting the votes to pass the measure.

 

Inaction is not an acceptable option. Delaying past Mr. Corzine's departure means delaying justice for gay and lesbian couples and their families for four or even eight years. Christopher Christie, the Republican who was elected to succeed Mr. Corzine, has said he would veto any legalization bill (although he mostly forgot to mention the issue while campaigning in a decidedly moderate state).

 

If the Democratic majorities in New Jersey's Legislature are unwilling to stand up for a fundamental civil right that a majority of voters would accept, when exactly would they stand up?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A THEATER ILLUMINATES AN IMMIGRATION BATTLEFIELD

BY LAWRENCE DOWNES

 

Can a play called "What Killed Marcelo Lucero?" rescue suburban Long Island from its immigration agonies?

 

That would be a startling thing to promise, especially if you are a tiny, unknown theater company in Suffolk County and your play does little more than re-enact news events that Long Islanders have argued over to the point of raw exhaustion, if not despair.

 

The play's author and director, Margarita Espada, makes no promises, slyly warning in advance that she is offering no answers, no remedies, not even an ending.

 

But even so, the play somehow succeeds where so many speeches and editorials fail. It points, at least, to where deeper understanding might lie and how people might get there together.

 

I saw it earlier this month at Stony Brook University, a few days after the first anniversary of the night Mr. Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was set upon and stabbed near the Patchogue train station. The authorities say his attackers were teenage boys who had long made a sport of hunting and harassing Hispanic men.

 

The lights come up on a simple set, where two neighbor families in front of their houses are musing and fretting about their lives.

 

A white family plans a July Fourth party and complains about the noisy Hispanics next door. The Hispanics worry about finding boarders to help make the mortgage. Neither side talks to the other. The characters speak English or Spanish, but not both.

 

This is Suffolk, long a hot spot of anti-Latino resentment and poisoned immigration politics. But even there, Mr. Lucero's death was shocking.

 

Politicians, lawyers and activists clustered before cameras to broadcast sorrow and suggestions. The county executive, Steve Levy, thinking the fuss was all about him and his harsh immigration views, belittled the crime, then apologized.

 

A year later, the torrent of words has ebbed, but not much has changed. The suspects are in jail. Public meetings have chewed and rechewed the problems of racism and hate, inconclusively. Outside activists have come and gone. Mr. Levy has mostly kept a lid on his anti-immigrant oratory. He says he has been building bridges to immigrants, but he hasn't crossed them. Immigrants' lives are as silent as always.

 

Into this void has stepped Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja, Ms. Espada's company. Her actors, nonprofessionals from the neighborhood, play aggrieved whites and fearful Latinos, in vignettes of increasing ugliness and tension.

 

Misunderstandings build. Complaints become harangues. The two sides have no names for each other, just labels: border jumpers, invaders, racists, xenophobes. A politician makes belligerent speeches about the rule of law, the enemies of order. He is not named, but his words are Mr. Levy's.

 

First words, then hateful actions. We see young thugs raining insults, then blows, on silent Hispanic victims: a woman with groceries, a boy on a bike, day laborers looking for work. The police show up, ask for ID, shrug and leave.

 

Everybody talks, nobody understands. Then tragedy: Marcelo is stabbed, offstage. A circle of grief forms around his coffin, and then the sign holders are at it again: "Hop the border, break the law!" "Sí, se puede!" And then someone yells: "Stop!" The actors freeze, the lights come up.

 

It was Ms. Espada. "We don't have an ending," she says.

 

She invites anyone to offer one. Awkwardness. Silence. Then, one by one, audience members took the stage.

 

One had the enemies exchange signs. Another led them to pair off, two by two. A young Hispanic man stood up and said he had been attacked by white youths two years earlier. He berated the director for stepping up too late. "This has gone on for eight years," he said. Others had their hands up, but he would not stop talking. It was deeply uncomfortable. But people listened until he was done.

 

In that pained interval, amid the murmurs and grumbling, a glimmer of hope emerged. A statistic became a person. Humanity intruded on the evening, along with forbearance.

 

A woman then offered a lesson many people have never learned — about the need not just to speak, but also to listen and to be willing to change.

 

"You have to want to," she said.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE RELIGIOUS WARS

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

Just a few years ago, it seemed curious that an omniscient, omnipotent God wouldn't smite tormentors like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. They all published best-selling books excoriating religion and practically inviting lightning bolts.

 

Traditionally, religious wars were fought with swords and sieges; today, they often are fought with books. And in literary circles, these battles have usually been fought at the extremes.

 

Fundamentalists fired volleys of Left Behind novels, in which Jesus returns to Earth to battle the Anti-Christ (whose day job was secretary general of the United Nations). Meanwhile, devout atheists built mocking Web sites like www.whydoesGodhateamputees.com. That site notes that although believers periodically credit prayer with curing cancer, God never seems to regrow lost limbs. It demands an end to divine discrimination against amputees.

 

This year is different, with a crop of books that are less combative and more thoughtful. One of these is "The Evolution of God," by Robert Wright, who explores how religions have changed — improved — over the millennia. He notes that God, as perceived by humans, has mellowed from the capricious warlord sometimes depicted in the Old Testament who periodically orders genocides.

 

(In 1 Samuel 15:3, the Lord orders a mass slaughter of the Amalekite tribe: "Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child." These days, that would earn God an indictment before the International Criminal Court.)

 

Mr. Wright also argues that monotheism emerged only gradually among Israelites, and that the God familiar to us may have resulted from a merger of a creator god, El, and a warrior god, Yahweh. Mr. Wright also argues that monotheism wasn't firmly established until after the Babylonian exile, and he says that Moses's point was that other gods shouldn't be worshiped, not that they didn't exist. For example, he notes the troubling references to a "divine council" and "gods" — plural — in Psalm 82.

 

In another revelation not usually found in Sunday School classes, Mr. Wright cites Biblical evidence that God (both El and Yahweh) had a sex life, rather like the Greek gods, and notes archaeological discoveries indicating that Yahweh may have had a wife, Asherah.

 

As for Christianity, Mr. Wright argues that it was Saint Paul — more than Jesus, an apocalyptic prophet — who emphasized love and universalism and built Christian faith as it is known today. Saint Paul focused on these elements, he says, partly as a way to broaden the appeal of the church and convert Gentiles.

 

Mr. Wright detects an evolution toward an image of God as a more beneficient and universal deity, one whose moral compass favors compassion for humans of whatever race or tribe, one who is now firmly in the antigenocide camp. Mr. Wright's focus is not on whether God exists, but he does suggest that changing perceptions of God reflect a moral direction to history — and that this in turn perhaps reflects some kind of spiritual force.

 

"To the extent that 'god' grows, that is evidence — maybe not massive evidence, but some evidence — of higher purpose," Mr. Wright says.

Another best-seller this year, Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God," likewise doesn't posit a Grandpa-in-the-Sky; rather, she sees God in terms of an ineffable presence that can be neither proven nor disproven in any rational sense. To Ms. Armstrong, faith belongs to the realm of life's mysteries, beyond the world of reason, and people on both sides of the "God gap" make the mistake of interpreting religious traditions too literally.

 

"Over the centuries people in all cultures discovered that by pushing their reasoning powers to the limit, stretching language to the end of its tether, and living as selflessly and compassionately as possible, they experienced a transcendence that enabled them to affirm their suffering with serenity and courage," Ms. Armstrong writes. Her book suggests that religion is not meant to regrow lost limbs, but that it may help some amputees come to terms with their losses.

 

Whatever one's take on God, there's no doubt that religion remains one of the most powerful forces in the world. Today, millions of people will be giving thanks to Him — or Her or It.

 

Another new book, "The Faith Instinct," by my Times colleague Nicholas Wade, suggests a reason for the durability of faith: humans may be programmed for religious belief, because faith conferred evolutionary advantages in primitive times. That doesn't go to the question of whether God exists, but it suggests that religion in some form may be with us for eons to come.

 

I'm hoping that the latest crop of books marks an armistice in the religious wars, a move away from both religious intolerance and irreligious intolerance. That would be a sign that perhaps we, along with God, are evolving toward a higher moral order.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A TALE OF TWO TURKEYS

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

On Wednesday, President Obama pardoned his first Thanksgiving turkey.

 

There is something wrong with this concept.

 

Here is how our beloved national tradition works: One lucky turkey gets to live — and fly first class to Disneyland, where he is grand marshal in the Thanksgiving Day parade (I am not making this up). While another nameless bird gets slaughtered in his place.

 

It's "A Tale of Two Cities," except somehow I doubt that the doomed turkey volunteered for the job.

 

Who mourns the Backup Bird? What fickle finger of fate decided that he should literally get the ax, while the one who was supposed to go next lives happily ever after on the Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland?