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Friday, June 11, 2010

EDITORIAL 11.06.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 11, edition 000535 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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













  2. THE 25% DIKTAT












































  2. WORLD CUP 2010




















There is every reason for alarm and cause for concern if the UPA Government is indeed redrafting the Nuclear Liability Bill in a manner that accommodates American business interests while cutting corners with India's national interest and discounting the value attached to the lives of this country's citizens. The original draft of the Nuclear Liability Bill was a flawed document that reflected poor thinking on part of the Government and was rightly rejected by all except those who see nothing wrong with pandering to every whim and fancy of America. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cronies in the Government would top the list of those eager to appease the US regardless of how sinister the implications are for India. But if the original draft of the Nuclear Liability Bill was flawed, what is now being proposed by way of a fresh draft is not only ludicrous but also outright dangerous. A key clause in the original draft allowing American (and other foreign) suppliers of nuclear power plant components to be sued for recovery of damages in the event of an accident caused by wilful and gross negligence on their part has now been dropped from the revised text of the Bill. While liability in the event of an accident at a nuclear power plant directly devolves upon the operator of the plant, the original draft of the Bill gave the operator the 'right of recourse', or the right to recover any compensation it has to pay from the supplier, provided the accident was caused by a wilful act or gross negligence on part of the latter. This clause was in addition to two standard provisions cited by the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which is used as a model for drafting nuclear liability laws. The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, however, does not bar Governments from including additional clauses in their respective nuclear liability laws. It is, therefore, surprising that the UPA Government should have acceded to pressure from the Americans and conceded their demand to exclude the crucial non-Convention clause fixing liability on suppliers.

The Government clearly owes an explanation for the amazing re-drafting which, on the face of it, appears to have made the proposed nuclear liability law far worse than what it would have been had the flawed original Bill passed muster in Parliament. Are we then moving from disaster to disaster merely to keep the US in good humour? If so, what is the price the Prime Minister is willing to pay at the nation's expense? It is shocking that at a time when the Government should be strengthening the legal framework to prevent industrial accidents and fix responsibility in the event of a mishap, it has chosen to do exactly the opposite. We will, of course, be told that concessions must be made to encourage American investors and strengthen India-US relations, but that's absolute bunkum. There is no reason why we should allow American suppliers such a wide latitude only because the US Administration threatens us with dire consequences if we do not do so. The Opposition must block the revised Nuclear Liability Bill and stop the Government from selling India cheap. India is neither a banana republic nor a client state of America; we don't need to crawl in so disgraceful a manner.







On the face of it, the visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka has gone off exceedingly well. In his interactions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others from the Government — not to speak of the delegation of Tamil Nadu MPs that called on him — Mr Rajapaksa promised an "inclusive approach" in regard to the ethnic Tamil issue in his country. Only 50,000 of the 300,000 internally displaced persons now remain in camps, he said, and committed himself to their swift rehabilitation. He assured his Indian interlocutors that he would soon begin talks with Sri Lanka's Tamil political parties and representative groups on a range of issues, including devolution of powers and security of cultural identity. These issues, rather their neglect, have dogged Sri Lanka for decades. While the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam took a monstrously violent route to making its point, the fact is Sinhalese nationalists in Colombo have also played the politics of language and attempted to undermine Tamil speakers in the spheres of education and the economy. Having won the war against separatist terrorism — the defeat of the LTTE must rank as one of the most comprehensive triumphs against a well-entrenched terrorist group — and then taken his party to victory in both presidential and parliamentary elections, Mr Rajapaksa has a mandate like few others in Sri Lankan history. He has emerged as the Sinhalese strongman, a genuine national hero, rather than an inheritor of an elite, Colombo-based political legacy. As such, he is best placed to deliver a just peace, having fought and won a hard war. India has promised help in building homes for the displaced Tamils and in augmenting transport and electricity infrastructure in the conflict-ravaged northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka. To be fair, even during the final days of the battle against the LTTE, despite the election-time pressures in Tamil Nadu, the Government of India did not ask Mr Rajapaksa to back down. In that sense, the political leadership recognised the long-term benefits of neutralising V Prabhakaran and his terror force.

However, India's sustained support is contingent upon Mr Rajapaksa delivering on his promises and actually reaching out to the Tamil community. His initial announcement, that he would be handing over the task of rebuilding the Tamil areas to the Sri Lankan Army and essentially making the soldier the interface between the beleaguered Tamils and the Government and mainstream of Sri Lanka, disappointed a lot of people. Perhaps it was all part of pre-election positioning and consolidating the Sinhalese vote. That issue has now been settled and Mr Rajapaksa needs to turn over a new leaf. The offer of a meaningful devolution package to the Tamil areas, building on the several rounds of negotiations in the mid-1980s, would be a good start.








Amidst a haystack of words on the parlous state of the British economy, the Queen's speech at the State Opening of Parliament contained the following needle of intent: "My Government looks forward to an enhanced partnership with India." The Times took up the theme with a substantial report entitled "Hague heads east for new 'special relationship'." It told of the Foreign Secretary's planned sojourn to India sometime this summer as "Britain's new Government tries to turn cultural and trade ties with the emerging superpower into a 'genuinely special relationship'."

The Foreign Secretary's aides later confirmed that the country was considered vital to forging a 'distinctive British foreign policy'. Before the election Mr William Hague said that Britain needed to reach out beyond traditional allies in the US and Europe and that has remained a priority for the coalition Government. An aide to Mr Hague suggested that "relations with India had lagged behind China by about five to 10 years." The aide said: "The truth is that this is a key relationship that has been neglected and we aim to address that." A Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefing note read: "We need to better recognise India's rising global influence and work closely with the Indian Government to address the many challenges facing South Asia."

No man is an island, neither is any country, as another of the Queen's lines made clear: "My Government will work with the Afghan Government, Pakistan and international partners for lasting security and stability in Afghanistan."Pakistan is now part of the AfPak equation. The wind of change is blowing upon us, but whether it turns Gale Force 9 or remains a zephyr will be revealed in the fullness of time.

That said, there is nothing like a crisis to concentrate minds. The financial meltdown coming on top of Mr Tony Blair's bungled crime in Iraq and the debilitating drain of blood and treasure in the deepening futility of Afghanistan clearly carries a message on course correction from the gods. Britain's 'special relationship' with the US has lost its mythic attraction as a cure-all for the nation's ills and insecurities following the loss of empire and the painful struggle to find a role in a transitional world. The Cold War was a distraction that concealed the hard realities. It enabled the UK to punch above its weight in the illusory pursuance of 'Great Power' status, which amounted to little more than inebriating dining rights at Uncle Sam's high table.

The most myopic habits of the Raj were cast in stone. Islamic Pakistan, continuing the traditions and practices of the pre-partition Muslim League, became the hand-maiden of the Anglo-American post-War imperial enterprise. Phobias on international Communism and Russia resulted in a misbegotten dalliance between the West and conservative Islam, with its twin centres of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The containment of India, despite the commerce in ministerial banalities on shared values, was only less central to this narrative than the containment of the Soviet Union. Jammu & Kashmir, the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistani thraldom, coupled with the eventual convergence of Anglo-American interests in Pakistan with those of China —the compact unfolding in the aftermath of the Nixon-Kissinger visits to Beijing in 1971-73 — became a seamless robe of Whitehall policy.

The stitching, it would appear, is now coming off. With Russian pipelines under the Baltic Sea, soon to supply German industry and the German consumer directly with Siberian oil and gas, nearing completion, the most powerful economy in the EU may start singing from a different hymn-sheet to those of its principal partners in Europe and Nato. Pakistan is in a shambles, a menace to itself, its neighbours, and to Britain and America. The hyped Chinese economy is a giant bubble in the making, according to certain reputable financial experts, while Beijing's close relations with a rogue North Korea and a terrorism-exporting Pakistan says little for its trustworthiness as a true international partner.

Furthermore, New Delhi has faced down Beijing's threatening postures on the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, to which China lays claim. The re-calibration of British foreign policy is thus timely, opening the door to a win-win situation for both Britain and India. It would end the well honed dialogue of the deaf, the practice of talking past each other, as was once the wont of British and Indian diplomats and politicians, according to Mr Douglas Hurd, Mrs Margaret Thatcher's suave and capable Foreign Secretary.

The new creative British conversation with India is likely to be based on all that is praiseworthy and lasting in Britain's record in the sub-continent. Indian civilisation reached its nadir during late Mughal rule in the 18th century, but the first steps to its restoration and mutation as a modern nation state occurred under the aegis of Warren Hastings, when the Bhagavad Gita received its English rendition by Charles Wilkins, thanks to the Governor-General's efforts to promote the work. A galaxy of British Indologists such as Jones, Carey, Colebrooke, Wilson, Prinsep, Hodgson, Tod, Cunningham and Max Muller et al over the next century returned to India her lost classical past, so seeding liberal Indian nationalism.

Of these early discoveries of Sanskrit, Hastings wrote: "These will survive when the British dominion in India shall have long ceased to exist, and when the sources which it once yielded of wealth and power are lost to remembrance." Lest it be forgotten, the founder of the Indian National Congress in December 1885 was the revered Allan Octavian Hume and India's political institutions and their cultural underpinnings were seeded in the British experience. The last British Viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was invited by Indian leaders to become free India's first Governor-General, a gesture never quite appreciated by Britain's great and good down the years.

At a time when the Indo-British reset button is being pressed, let us recall that Winston Churchill, who had once dismissed his Indian adversaries as "men of straw," came to respect and laud the one among them he knew best in his last years as Britain's Prime Minister. Writing to Jawaharlal Nehru on February 21, 1955, Churchill said: "I hope you will think of the phrase 'The Light of Asia'. It seems to me that you may be able to do what no other human being could in giving India the lead, at least in the realm of thought, throughout Asia, with the freedom and dignity of the individual as the ideal rather than Communist Party drill book."







No judicial verdict in India has evoked as much outrage as that concerning the Bhopal gas tragedy. The Pioneer editorial, "A farcical judgement" (June 8), has criticised the prevailing justice delivery system. It has also rightly berated the Congress Governments both at the Centre as well as in the State at the time of the disaster. The role of then Chief Minister Arjun Singh in the matter is particularly loathsome. It was reported that he had been freely enjoying freebies from Union Carbide, so when disaster struck, he came in handy.

Again, it was the Governments of the State and the Centre which facilitated the escape of Warren Anderson, chairman and CEO of UCIL. Twenty-six years later with more than 15,000 dead and several thousand maimed, the judgement has come as a blow to those looking forward to a measure of justice. Hence the widespread anguish. Even Law Minister Veerappa Moily was quick to express his disappointment.

Nevertheless, upon sober reflection one may conclude that baying for Anderson's blood is akin to seeking that the general manager of Indian Railways be hanged whenever a train accident takes place. Former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan has pointed out that the singlemost important thing that distinguishes a murder from culpable homicide not amounting to murder is the 'intention to kill' or the mens rea in legal parlance. It would have been deliberate and premeditated murder if some persons had hatched a conspiracy to commit mass murders by sparking leakage of deadly gas. But in this case the accident occurred due to gross negligence.

Abdul Nasser Madani was convicted of masterminding the Coimbatore blasts. When he was later acquitted, no protest took place, even though the lower court had found him guilty. SAR Geelani was convicted by a lower court for helping the accused in the Parliament attack case but was acquitted. The punishment for crime should not be on the basis of the numbers killed but on that of the enormity of the crime. The judge in this case has acted within the parameters of law and should not be faulted for the verdict.







I wonder what the US would have done, had a Bhopal-like tragedy happened out there. If on account of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center — which unfortunately took 2,995 innocent lives, including that of not-so-innocent 19 terrorists, and injured at least 6,000 people — they demolished a complete nation in search of one individual, I wonder what they would have done if someone's negligence had killed a staggering 15,000 innocent people, including children and women, and had caused permanent damages for another 1,20,000 people and affected some 5,50,000 people in some way or the other.

If something like this would not have triggered a demolition drive, like it did in the former case, just on account of the merit of the crime (as World Trade Center was an orchestrated crime and Bhopal tragedy was an act of criminal negligence), I am sure the US would not have let any nation protect the perpetrator of the crime, like the Americans have been doing with respect to Warren Anderson, the former CEO of Union Carbide, for so many years. In fact, no other nation would have left the US to be at peace, had something similar happened there. But then the US cannot alone be blamed for such duality, as it can take such an audacious step only when the nation in question is India. It is outrageous that the Government of India allowed Anderson to flee after the tragedy.

It was the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, when methyl isocyanate and other toxic gases leaked from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal — turning the city into a morgue almost overnight. The tragedy has been recorded as the world's worst industrial disaster. It is just not that thousands of people died on the spot, but many of those who survived succumbed to permanent fatal injuries. Thousands became orphans and homeless and in a matter of hours an entire generation became the victim of someone's blatant negligence.

It was not that the deadly effects of methyl isocyanate were unknown to the perpetrators, nor was it that the union at the factory never notified the hazards of a possible leak much in advance, but nothing was done to mitigate the same. It has been a conspiracy wherein everyone, starting from the US Administration to the Government of India to the Government of Madhya Pradesh, has been hand-in-gloves with each other.

How else can one explain that immediately after the tragedy, the key culprit, Warren Anderson, was arrested and immediately released by Madhya Pradesh Police? How can one explain that he was conveniently declared a fugitive when he did not bother to respond to the CBI's summons? How can one explain that even after he was declared an absconder by the court, the Government remained silent for almost 10 long years? When the Government woke up in 2003 to formally request Anderson's extradition, the US Administration conveniently denied the request.

In fact, the ordeal of the bereaved never ended. It was so very unfortunate the way the Government of India bargained on behalf of the bereaved families, and how shamelessly it short-changed them. After filing a claim of $ 3.3 billion in the US courts, the Government finally opted for an out-of-court settlement of a measly $ 470 million. Though in the name of compensation some pittance has been given to the victims, but if reports are to be believed the Government has not been able to disburse the entire amount. In fact, the delay in compensation has created an entire ghost economy of racketeers who have been siphoning off compensation in the name of ghost victims.

As if all this were not bad enough, after 26 long years of deceit and agony the Bhopal District Court has just delivered a mockery of justice by sentencing all eight accused, including Mr Keshub Mahindra, the then Union Carbide India Ltd chief, to a mere two years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh each. The court has also granted them bail.

So while Anderson enjoys a comfortable life in the US, Mr Mahindra and seven others are out on bail, and it is politics as usual, the agony of the victims of the tragedy continues. Going by the sequence of events, what looked like a tragedy then looks like homicide now.

The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian.









Here's a question: How come whenever there's a drone attack (in which most of those killed generally are extremists), or a case of perceived obscenity or blasphemy surfaces, street corners in Pakistan are at once filled with burqa-clad women and bearded men chanting slogans like "Death to infidels"? But none of these fine, sensitive Muslims can be seen protesting when there's an attack on innocent civilians —Ahmadiyas or others — by the extremists?

Where do they vanish? Isn't the gruesome and inhuman exhibition of violence and coercion so gleefully demonstrated by monsters like the Taliban and their twisted sectarian allies akin to a moral sin and misdeed far graver than what my loud burqa-clad sisters and bearded brothers are always agitating against? Of course it is.

But it seems in these protesters' book of social, political and moral ills, the word terrorism cannot be ascribed to savages who in the name of Allah and Islam slaughter men, women and children, as if trying to construct a bloody ladder to the promised paradise from all the bodies and limbs that their attacks leave behind. Religious parties in Pakistan that claim to uphold Muslim aspirations and interests, along with the many cranks that we have to suffer on our TV screens, have hardly shied away from the irresponsible act of condoning barbarism. They do so by at once ascribing a terrorist attack on innocent civilians to the diabolic conspiracies being hatched against the holy republic of ours by 'foreign hands' and 'anti-Islam forces'.

With their instant apologies for the extremists these parties and men have allowed their moral state of being to plunge and hit the same dark ideological abyss where lie boiling the extremists' mind-set and delusions. But are religious parties the only ones indulging in such shameless demagoguery?

Many Pakistanis routinely continue to deny the fact that the monsters behind all 'faithful' barbarism cutting this country into bits are the mutant products of what our own state and society have been up to in the past 30 years or so. For years a convoluted narrative has been circulated by the state, the clerics, schools and now the electronic media: Pakistan was made in the name of Islam (read, a theocratic state).

Thus, only Muslims (mainly orthodox Sunnis, shall we say?) have the right to rule, run and benefit from this country. 'Minority' religions and 'heretical' sects living as Pakistani citizens are not to be trusted. They need to be constitutionally, socially and culturally isolated. Parliamentary democracy can't be trusted either. It unleashes ethnic forces, 'corruption' and undermines the role of the military and that of Islam in the state's make-up. It threatens the 'unity' of the country — a unity based on an unrealistically homogeneous understanding of Islam (mainly concocted by the state and its right-wing allies). Most of our political, economic and social ills are due to the diabolical conspiracies hatched by our many enemies (especially India, Israel and the West).

The bad news is that such beliefs are symptomatic of a society that has started to respond enthusiastically to the major symptoms of fascist thought. Symptoms such as a xenophobic exhibition of nationalism; disdain for recognition of human rights; identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause; supremacy of the military (might); obsession with national security; intertwining of religion and government; disdain for intellectual thought and the arts, and an obsession with crime and punishment.

Have not many Pakistanis willingly allowed themselves to be captured in all the macho and paranoid trappings of the mentioned symptoms? Does this not point at a country ripening and readying itself for an all-round fascist scenario?

Unfortunately, this is the scenario that some among us talk about as they speak of imposing the system of the righteous caliphs or the sharia'h, or whatever profound buzzwords adopted to explain Pakistan's march towards a wonderful society of equality and justice. Such thoughts mean little. They only amount to a fantasised system either based on ancient musings of tribal societies or on glorified myths of bravado.

Not for a moment are we ready to stand back and look at what we have made of ourselves. We call ourselves 'moderate Muslims', and yet applaud or quietly tolerate the hate-spewing claptrap that pours out from our mosques and TV screens. We cheer about the fact that Pakistan is one of the very few democratic Muslim countries with a Constitution, and yet we will not speak a word about clauses and sections in the same Constitution that have triggered violence and repression against women and sanctioned a religious apartheid that only allows an orthodox, pious Muslim democratic rights to rule the country or run in an election.

For how long will we keep hiding behind a fragile mask of religiosity and patriotism, a mask that covers our faces every time we confront a situation where our views and actions (especially regarding faith) are questioned? We do not debate. We react and then huddle up behind our flimsy and lopsided historical and national narratives about what being a Pakistani and Muslim is all about, cursing the world for our ills, looking out for infidels and heretics among us, or for scapegoats in the shape of media-constructed punching bags.

The writer is among the most popular Pakistani columnists. He writes for Dawn. Courtesy: Dawn.








If anyone expected the first ever ministerial-level strategic dialogue between India and the US to produce dramatic results, it did not. Last week's meeting between the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna, was marked by hype and atmospherics .However, it certainly took the bilateral interactions to a new plane. The Obama administration made all the right noises about India's strategic importance and its rising status as a global power.

The highlight of the meet was that the US President, Barrack Obama, attended the reception hosted by Ms Clinton for the visiting Minister. The rare gesture of attending a reception at the State department was to allay India's concerns that the US views its relationship with New Delhi through the prism of Pakistan and Afghanistan or an emerging giant like China and the Obama administration had downgraded the ties which were strong during the Bush regime.

The other high point was Mr Obama's announcement at the reception about his impending visit to India in November. Presidential visits early in the regime are seen as a gesture of importance to the host country. Mr Obama had invited Prime Minister Singh last November as the first state guest during his presidency. The strategic dialogue is seen as a preparation for the summit meeting between Mr Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Declaring that the US ties with India will be one of the defining partnerships of the century, Mr Obama said, "Our relations with India are at the highest of priorities for my administration and for me personally as president of the United States."

Interestingly, the June meeting came after similar strategic dialogue sessions with Afghanistan and Pakistan and also China. To be fair to both sides, expectations were not raised before the meeting. In the words of US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs Robert Blake, the purpose was really to get the key people who work on these issues together ahead of the (US) President's visit. Washington also wanted to assure that its perceived closeness to Pakistan and China was not at the cost of India.

Behind all of this is the fact that the US is aware of the growing stature of India. US firms are among those bidding for a $10 billion sale of 126 advanced fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, one of the biggest global defence tenders. The meeting discussed among other issues terrorism, nuclear proliferation, economic cooperation and climate change. Analysts feel that while the meeting went off well, some issues were not fully addressed. The first was India's claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Here the response was not very direct as Ms Clinton merely said though there had been no way forward on UN reforms; the US was committed to pursuing India's case.

The second was about India's plea to urge the US to use its influence over Pakistan to contain terrorism against India. The response to this was lukewarm. The Americans have been suggesting to New Delhi to solve the problem bilaterally and engage Islamabad. The Obama administration knows that New Delhi is critical of its selective response on counter-terrorism. Just a month ago, it is said to have issued a secret directive to convince India to deal with Pakistan's concerns and perceptions including Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The third is about access to Headley, an American citizen of Pakistani origin, now in US custody in connection with masterminding the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. The US is slow in conceding access. The US officials denied media reports that the Headley issue had overtaken the strategic talks.

The fourth is Afghanistan and the US Af-Pak policy. The American line was clear when Mr Blake said in a Web chat on the eve of the strategic talks: "We strongly welcome India's role in Afghanistan through assistance and reconstruction. We think that Pakistan also has a very important role... We are not going to succeed in Afghanistan without the active support of our friends in Pakistan."

Have the talks taken the Indo-US ties forward? The US has realised that its bilateral relationship with India has moved beyond the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement and become more institutionalised with regard to defence, military modernisation, energy, technology, education and economic issues. It is clear that in the next few months it will be the White House which will play a bigger role in the development of the Indo-US bilateral ties.







As typical Islamist-leftist theatre to delegitimise Israel, late May's Turkish-sponsored 'Free Gaza' flotilla was tediously repetitious. As an illustration that Israelis don't understand the kind of war they now must fight, the outcome was drearily predictable. But as a statement of Turkey's policies and an augur of the Islamist movement's future, it bristled with novelty and significance.

Some background: After some 150 years of faltering efforts at modernisation, the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed in 1923, replaced by the dynamic, Western-oriented Republic of Turkey founded and dominated by a former Ottoman General, Kemal Atatürk. Over the next 15 years, until his death in 1938, Atatürk imposed a Westernisation programme so stringent that at one point he suggested replacing rugs in mosques with church-like pews. Although Turkey is nearly 100 per cent Muslim, he insisted on a purely secular state.

Atatürk never won the entire Turkish population to his vision and, with time, his laic republic increasingly had to accommodate pious Muslim sentiments. Yet Atatürk's order persisted into the 1990s, guarded over by the military officer corps, which made it a priority to keep his memory alive and secularism entrenched.


Islamists first acquired parliamentary representation in the early 1970s when their leader, Necmettin Erbakan, already served three times as his country's Deputy Prime Minister. As mainstream Turkish political parties frittered away their legitimacy through a disgraceful mix of egoism and corruption, Erbakan went on to become Prime Minister for a year, 1996-97, until the military asserted itself and threw him out.

Some of Erbakan's more agile and ambitious lieutenants, led by Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in August 2001 formed a new Islamist political party, the Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or AKP. Just over a year later, it won a resounding 34 per cent plurality of votes and, due to the vagaries of Turkish electoral regulations, dominated Parliament with 66 per cent of the seats.

Mr Erdogan became Prime Minister and, by dint of good governance, the AKP won a very substantial increase in vote and re-election in 2007. With a renewed mandate and an increasingly sidelined military, it aggressively pursued elaborately fake conspiracy theories, fined a political critic $ 2.5 billion, videotaped the Opposition leader in a compromising sexual situation, and now plans to alter the Constitution.

Foreign policy, in the hands of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who aspires for Turkey to regain its former leadership of West Asia, over-reached even more blatantly. Ankara not only adopted a more belligerent approach to Cyprus but recklessly inserted itself in such sensitive topics as the Iranian nuclear build-up and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Most surprising of all has been its backing for IHH, a domestic Turkish 'charity' with documented ties to Al Qaeda.

If Ankara's irresponsible behaviour has worrisome implications for West Asia and Islam, it also has a mitigating aspect. Turks have been at the forefront of developing what I call Islamism 2.0, the popular, legitimate, and non-violent version of what Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama bin Laden tried to achieve forcefully via Islamism 1.0. I have predicted that Erdogan's insidious form of Islamism "may threaten civilised life even more than does 1.0's brutality".

But his abandonment of earlier modesty and caution suggests that Islamists cannot help themselves, that the thuggishness inherent to Islamism must eventually emerge, that the 2.0 variant must revert to its 1.0 origins. As Martin Kramer posits, "the further Islamists are from power, the more restrained they are, as well as the reverse". This means it might be the case that Islamism presents a less formidable opponent, and for two reasons.

First, Turkey hosts the most sophisticated Islamist movement in the world, one that includes not just the AKP but the Fethullah Gülen mass movement, the Adnan Oktar propaganda machine, and more. The AKP's new bellicosity has caused dissension; Mr Gülen, for example, publicly condemned the 'Free Gaza' farce, suggesting a debilitating internal battle over tactics could take place. Second, if once only a small band of analysts recognised Erdogan's Islamist outlook, this fact has now become self-evidently obvious for the whole world to see. Mr Erdogan has gratuitously discarded his carefully crafted image of a pro-Western 'Muslim democrat', making it far easier to treat him as the Tehran-Damascus ally that he is. As Mr Davutoglu seeks, Turkey has returned to the centre of West Asia and the umma. But it no longer deserves full NATO membership and its opposition parties deserve support.

The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.








In the United States and Canada, recruiters invariably do Google search on their prospective candidates and trawl social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn to cross-check before they hire anyone. With millions of young people eager to share their spur-of-the-moment opinions, risque photos and outrageous experiences with others including strangers, the danger of compromising one's digital identity, privacy and social reputation and, consequently career prospects, is tremendous.

In a free-floating social network environment, users unfortunately forget that the delete key provides a deceptive and illusory function because someone might have already accessed the information and passed it on to others. Once information goes viral, we cannot recall it a curse of the digital age as many American politicians have been discovering. Or maybe it is a public blessing because now no politician can hide from us. Since the internet has taken up the centre stage in our lives, opting out of it is not an option. Our digital past cannot be undone and can haunt us.

According to a recent report from Pew Internet & American Life Project, 46 per cent online adults in the US have uploaded their profiles in virtual networks, which they keep monitoring and updating. And a majority of adult Americans use search engines to find information about themselves no, it's not digital narcissism but a modern-day necessity because maintaining one's reputation and privacy has become difficult in the age of social networks. How ironic that you have to keep checking yourself online to know who you are!


More than older people, it is the younger generations, the 18-29 career-making age group, according to the report, that are keen to limit their personal information available online; they change their private settings, delete unwanted comments and remove their names from any photos tagged to identify them. There is a growing distrust of social networking sites, in spite of the fact that their use is increasing everyday. Since most cameras now come with instant YouTubing capabilities, one gets paranoid seeing a person clicking in public places.

The Pew Centre reported that nowadays most Americans do thorough online search about an expert whose professional services they seek. And this is certainly true about doctors, surgeons and financial experts, people so important to us today. Dating partners do online research about each other before they get into deeper waters. Even neighbours do digital social network snooping on neighbours.

A few days ago a Facebook friend of a friend in India posted a dreadful hate cartoon about a most revered prophet, which i had to delete promptly, not out of fear but out of sheer disgust. Earlier, someone had posted on my Wall a picture of an armed Maoist group, mostly gun-slinging women with children, which drew lot of comments from the friendly strangers on my Facebook. India's Facebook population at about eight million is tiny in comparison with 112 million in the US, but it is growing at a double-digit rate. And the potential is immense, especially when Indian cellphone users, 500 million and growing, the second largest after China, leapfrog fixed-line internet connections and begin to use mobile Web for social networking via the cellphone. It's hard to say how much openness Indians can stand once the country becomes one giant digital fish bowl but the lure of social networking is irresistible.

Today, a man is known by the company he avoids rather than that which he keeps, but in the digital age barriers are so low that sometimes it is difficult to know who is entering your cyberspace. Friends recommend friends and, sooner than you realise, you have a hyperactive communal space where everyone is buzzing and posting something: from a new mom about how her lovely one-year-old warrior is growing so fast, to the most recent conspiracy theory about the railway accident that was engineered to malign the good woman of Kolkata, the redoubtable Mamata Banerjee.

I had to reset my Facebook privacy settings to restrict entrance but i am still not sure how secure the firewall is. Facebook voraciously collects personal information which it utilises for profiling users to enable advertisers to target them more productively. Facebook makes money out of our digital footprints. Under severe public protests, Facebook promised better privacy protection but few trust the network. Nonetheless, its 450 million users worldwide keep socialising perhaps because the benefits of serendipity outweigh the risks.

Online serendipity indeed can be a blessing. For example, sometime ago a Kolkata writer friend, a translator of Tagore's poems and songs, sent me a piece which i published on my website more like a message in a bottle than for distribution. But to my great delight the piece was picked up by the Bulletin of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of the poet's birthday. Nothing is lost once it is in cyberspace and an obscure piece in a blog or social network can reach a universal audience.

The writer teaches communications and diplomacy at Norwich University, US.







How do you define safety for the aviation sector?
Safety is risk identification and reduction to acceptable levels. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and regulators mandate only the minimum acceptable requirements. Prudent operators add a buffer margin to cater for error. But remember, any landing from which one can walk away is, in fact, a good landing. And it should be left to the discretion of pilots how they do so.

Is India an unsafe place to fly in?
It has a reasonably good statistical safety record. But this is more due to divine intervention than a proactive safety philosophy. Safety is expensive. But the training of most airlines is cost-centric. Sooner or later, they will be in trouble.

How safe is Air India (AI)?
Financially sound airlines are rarely unsafe. The most dangerous issue in a plane is "subtle pilot incapacitation" and for an airline, "subtle corporate incapacitation". AI seems a case of the latter.

Airlines that have a built-in safety management system for risk identification and mitigation and those that have professional chiefs of operations and engineering who do not succumb to pressure are the safest ones.

The recently formed Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council should help matters.
It's been hijacked by the Federation of Indian Airlines, by CEOs of airline companies. They are responsible for profitability and reducing costs. This is the very antithesis of safety. Everyone pays lip service to safety but no one is willing to pay for it if it affects the bottom line, be it political or economic.

Can one gauge a pilot's proficiency simply by his flying hours?
No. Total experience along with recent experience on aircraft type is a better indicator. A 10,000-hour short haul pilot is considered far more experienced than a 10,000-hour long haul pilot due to the increased number of landings and take-offs he does.

Pilots are coming to aviation just for the big bucks. During the aviation boom, hundreds of 'flying shops' were set up and many who qualified from these lacked basic understanding and knowledge, motivation or passion. Most have not even heard of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Incidentally, the FAA is likely to up standards by making the Airline Transport Pilot Licence and not a Commercial Pilot's Licence the basic requirement for co-pilots.

Can runways be termed 'unsafe'?
Almost 90 per cent of Indian runways and airports meet ICAO requirements. Those that do not cannot due to physical, geographical limitations. No runway is inherently safe or unsafe. Determining the feasibility of a runway for safe operation is the responsibility of the airline, not the DGCA or the Airports Authority of India. The most 'critical' airports presently are Leh, Kullu and Srinagar. They aren't unsafe, just more demanding of pilot skills.

However, Mumbai is the riskiest airport when its two runways are in operation simultaneously, although individually they meet ICAO requirements. The airport urgently needs surface radars to reduce the risk of a collision, as the control tower doesn't have a full view of the operational area. But vigilant controllers can prevent collisions.






A slew of measures were agreed upon by Colombo and New Delhi on Wednesday. This includes a comprehensive economic agreement as well as steps to enhance connectivity and cultural ties between the two countries. New Delhi will provide credit and technical help to rebuild transport infrastructure and power facilities in the war-ravaged northern and eastern provinces. Ferry services from ports in Tamil Nadu to Colombo and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka are expected to start soon. New Delhi will set up consulates in Jaffna, the cultural capital of Sri Lankan Tamils, and Hambantota in the south-east coast, where the Chinese are building a deep sea harbour. These steps will, no doubt, elevate bilateral ties to a new high and may facilitate an economic boom in the region. However, trade and commerce need a climate of peace and social stability to flourish. This is more so in Indo-Lanka relations because of the ethnic dimension.

The Tamil factor in bilateral relations has the potential to energise or damage ties between Colombo and New Delhi. The defeat of the LTTE marks a rupture in Tamil politics but the reasons that gave rise to the Tigers are far from settled. Colombo must use this period of quiet to demilitarise Tamil homelands and settle refugees currently interned in camps. A devolution package in consultation with representatives of Tamil groups must follow. To allow the airing of grievances, media freedom must be restored. The wounds of the conflict if allowed to fester could spark a revival of the civil war.






Get ready for the world's biggest sporting event. When the South Africa-Mexico game kicks off this evening, besides the 95,000 spectators in the Johannesburg Soccer City stadium in South Africa, millions around the world will be glued to their television sets. And for the next one month till the final on July 12, the same routine will be repeated day after day. It doesn't get any bigger than the football World Cup. Not even the Olympics. The 2006 World Cup had a cumulative TV audience of more than 26 billion, and the finals alone drew an audience of over 700 million. With some 4 per cent of the world's population involved in the game as players, coaches and officials, football is truly a global game.

It's appropriate that the venue for this World Cup is Africa, the first time that the tournament has travelled to that continent. The rise of the African nations and their players has been the most dramatic story in football in recent times. This is reflected in the fact that Africa is the world's third largest audience for football. With players like Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o and Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba strutting the world stage, expectations will be high of the African contenders. The great Pele had predicted an African winner by the beginning of this millennium. While this might still be some time away, there will be plenty of hope riding on the African nations.

It is fitting that South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 World Cup. Football has been central to the anti-apartheid movement. The notorious Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in jail, was the site of a 24-team league from 1967, which boasted President Jacob Zuma, among others, as players. As early as 1951, the South African Soccer Federation had bridged racial divides. While the Bafana Bafana the nickname for the South African side might not do too well, hopes are high that football will bring together the troubled nation and change global perceptions about Africa.

While India has never ever made it to the World Cup party, there will be millions here following the games on TV. While we admire the superlative skills on display over the next few weeks, we should also spare a thought as to why India languishes at 133 in the world rankings. Football is one of the most democratic of games and can be played almost anywhere. There is no reason why a nation of a billion-plus cannot produce a team that can at least qualify for the World Cup. That is something that our sports administrators need to fix quickly.







Following reports that a US scientist claimed that he'd created life using just 'four bottles of chemicals', Jugular Vein was contacted by a scientist operating in the rural heartland of north India who said that he and his team, otherwise known as the khap, had created a unique life form much before the American boffin had even been born. So JV went into the depths of deepest Haryana to interview the scientist, Dr B C Baqwas, to find out more.

JV: So, Dr Baqwas, what exactly is this gotranome project that you and your fellow members of the khap have been working on all these years?

Dr B: What is all this Dr Baqwas nonsense? Why are you being so formal? Just call me BC, like everyone else does. Except, of course, when they call me MC. Which also everyone does from time to time.

JV: Um, i think i'd better stick with Dr Baqwas, if you don't mind.

Dr B: Suit yourself. OK, you want to know about the gotranome project? This is a very old scientific project. It was in existence before civilisation came into being. In fact, it is still in existence before civilisation comes into being.

JV: But what exactly is the gotranome project?

Dr B: The gotranome project has unravelled the mysteries of an amazing life form called a gotra.

JV: Right. But what exactly is a gotra?

Dr B: I've told you what it is. A gotra is an amazing life form, the most amazing life form in the world, ever since they invented life, or invented the world, or invented whatever. And the most amazing thing about it is that no one not me, not my fellow khapists, no one really knows what it means. Oh sure, if you ask us we'll tell you a gotra is one of some half-dozen sub-caste groupings derived along patriarchal lines from the time of Manu. Make any sense to you? No? I don't blame you. It doesn't make any sense to me or to anyone else either. The thing about a gotra is that it can't be seen, touched, tasted, smelt or heard. It is not discernible by any of the five senses. In short, it is totally senseless. Isn't that amazing?

JV: It really is amazing. And you say you created this amazing thingummy bob, whatever it is, or isn't, right here?

Dr B: You bet we did. We created it in that building just there.

JV: But that doesn't look like a lab.

Dr B: Lab? What's this got to do with Labradors, or Alsatians, or Dobermanns, or any other kind of dog?

JV: No, no. I didn't mean lab as in Labrador, i meant lab as in laboratory.

Dr B: Laboratory? What's that? Is it one of those fancy-shancy lavatories they're installing in Dilli for the Commonwealth Games? Nah, we don't need laboratories here. We just go fielding.

JV: So if you didn't create the gotra in a laboratory what did you create it in? That building you pointed out looks like a cowshed.

Dr B: Are you mad? Do you think we'd conduct a great scientific experiment like the creation of the gotra in a cowshed? What do you think we are? That isn't a cowshed, that's a bull shed: That's where we keep all our bulls.

JV: So you mean to say that the concept of the gotra was created from bull sh...

Dr B: Yes. Exactly. The concept of the gotra was created from what you were about to say. By the way, you're standing in some right at this moment.

JV (retrieving foot from steaming pile of bull bio-product): Yuck.

Dr B: That'll teach you city slicker types to mess around with gotras. Gotras are not just a life form, they can also be a death form if you try and marry someone who's of the same gotra as you. Yep, gotras are a life-and-death issue here, make no mistake about that. Anything else?

JV: No thanks. It's been quite an experience. Totally gotraesque, you could say.








We have always been game for a piece of the action. So anyone who thinks that we would quail at being ranked 128 among 149 nations by the Institute for Economics and Peace in its recently released peace index is barking up the wrong tree. According to the institute (based in peaceful Australia), India is six ranks lower than its 2009 position. In Asia-Pacific, too, we are at the bottom of the barrel — 19 out of 25 countries. The Scandinavians and Japan, as expected, have done well. We consider this ranking a badge of honour.

We are proud of our peace-by-piece approach. Not for us all this Oriental calm and quietism. Take a look at our seat of power. Do you hear debates on crucial issues conducted in hushed tones? No, we like to hit the high notes. Peace is all very fine if you are in Iceland and your nearest neighbour is a passing seal. Here we live in a rough neighbourhood. We have to talk very loud and carry a big stick. You won't catch us celebrating festive occasions with a calibrated carol or an Easter egg roll. We bring out the artillery in the form of raths, cymbals and conches or, at the very least, wheel out Pramod Muthalik and his goons.

We are grateful that this study has shown us in our true colours. For too long we have suffered the annoying tendency to label us Gandhian and non-violent. Now that we have been outed, we can scream, no shriek, no screech our joy openly. And if anyone has any objections to that, we'd like to see them outside. We will no longer tolerate any piecemeal approach towards our finer qualities. And remember, we won't be around to pick up the pieces if you have a problem with that.






The world is round, not flat. Which means that interests, abilities, concerns and hopes — all the stuff that go into making cultures — vary from place to place, even as another feature of the world being a globe, globalisation, smoothens the edges, making corners and folds run into each other and disappear. In this spherical setting, we are all worshippers of the ball, that basic object of primal shape. Some of us are the high priests of this faith; some even semi-divine participants; while the most of us are awe-struck devotees who watch the rituals of the ball from the sides of fields, stands in stadia or from the sanctity of our seat in front of the television screen. Every four years, the highest form of worship of the sphere comes calling and regardless of whether we're weekend enthusiasts or die-hard fanatics, the Football World Cup reminds us of the capacity of fellow humans to create beauty through action. While it would have been grand to participate in this festival through the strong and short-cut medium of national pride, for us in India, it is enough to celebrate World Cup football by being gawkers, blessed onlookers.

In a roundabout way, Indian World Cup-watchers will be enjoying the Beautiful Game in its purest form minus any other attachments. We may manufacture our support for a particular national team, mimicking patriotism in a novel, distanced manner, but let's face it: the non-combatant nature of our interest will be the equivalent of loving a great monument or a great novel without having to make that mandatory bow to an 'India connect' that, in so many cases, replaces our aesthetic judgement with something more banal.

If we can marvel at the much-proclaimed genius of a Lionel Messi without having to be an Argentine or a Catalan from Barcelona (Messi's club); if we can root for the underdog, United States, against England, without worrying about 'geopolitical hegemony' and some such things; if we can cheer till our throats get hoarse when Brazil plays, well, anybody else, we must be in a lucky position unencumbered by baser, non-negotiable forms of support. And so what if Indian football is as close to the Beautiful Game as chicken tikka masala is to our own kebab fare? As purveyors of unadulterated beauty, we have the advantage of following, with no strings attached, a month-long display of sorcery.





Why is there so much shock over the judgement in Bhopal? We knew the lowest court had not finished its work over a quarter of a century. We knew the sentence would be light because the Supreme Court ruled that the death of thousands by toxic gas was to be legally treated as one might a hit-and-run case.

We witness similar, momentary outrages when the Maoists kill more people, when thousands of security forces fail to stop their growing power. As national problems grow more critical and complex, we can choose to blunder along, vent our fury until the next breaking-news alert and risk long-term failure; or we can address our ancient flaws.

It was not a Briton or a Frenchman but a Swiss engineer called Paradis (the records don't seem to have his first name) who delivered the first shattering blow that culminated in the European subjugation of India — and revealed national weaknesses that have held firm over 264 years.

At daybreak on November 4, 1746, Paradis plunged into the Adyar river, leading 230 French and 700 native recruits in a clever, determined charge against a 10,000-strong army of cavalry, infantry and artillery commanded by Mahfuz Khan, nephew of the Nawab of Karnataka.

Paradis was not a career soldier. But he possessed a calm energy that prompted the French governor of Pondicherry, Joseph Francois Dupleix, to give him command of the detachment of St Thome, a bastion outside Madras. The French had seized Madras from the British on the pretext of ousting them on behalf of the Nawab and were now refusing to relinquish control. Only 48 hours earlier Mahfuz Khan's army had been put to flight because its shoddily-maintained big guns, firing once every 15 minutes, were no match for French guns firing five to six times a minute. But Paradis was in a spot. French reinforcements were on their way from Madras: if he waited, Khan's cavalry, eager to avenge the retreat of two days ago, would charge.

So, Paradis splashed into the Adyar, leading a precise thrust at the badly-aimed, badly-maintained and poorly-commanded Karnataka artillery. Spurred to action, Paradis' troops fired a volley from their muskets and charged. The effect was electrifying. Unaccustomed to quick, decisive action, the Nawab's troops fled in wild confusion, not stopping the retreat until they reached their capital, Arcot, noted Col. George Bruce Malleson, a British military historian in The Decisive Battles of India: 1746 to 1849, published in 1914.

The battle of St Thome was a turning point on the road to dominion over India. Until then, European powers largely ran trading posts and attributed to Indian kings a superiority no settler ever disputed. In less than a year, the position of vassal and conqueror was inverted once Indian weaknesses were revealed. Every subsequent British war since — against the Mughals, the Maratha confederacy, the Sikhs, and others — showed how a few with discipline, skill, unity and inventive power could triumph against the bad leadership, indiscipline, hubris and disunity of the many.

These are familiar issues in 21st century India. The spectre of St Thome unknowingly haunts public life. Whether infrastructure, poverty alleviation or court cases, we tend not to finish things, wait for events to overwhelm us, attempt band-aid fixes, and, if those fail, systems wither away.

With some honourable exceptions, those in politics and public administration reveal a paralysis in ideas and action, impeding widespread progress. George Bernard Shaw once said: "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

India's macro numbers appear strong, as they largely have since the economic boom of the 1990s, as Mahfuz Khan's army once did. But the failures in addressing issues of poverty, hunger, corruption and environmental degradation reveal deep mental vulnerabilities.

Instead of training, tactics and technology, we mindlessly throw ill-prepared battalions at insurgencies, whether in the Maoist lands, Kashmir or the North-east. The under-trained, under-equipped Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the world's largest paramilitary force, has doubled its size in less than five years to 215 battalions (each battalion has more than 700 soldiers) today. There may be 250 battalions, at least, by 2018.

In Kashmir, the unthinking, brutal use of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, an archaic law unbecoming of a modern democracy, fuels further alienation and allows official atrocities by some soldiers, who in the latest instance shot three young men and tried to pass them off as terrorists. The prime minister may talk of 'zero tolerance' to such abuses, but his ham-handed security forces appear unable to change.

The same paralysis is evident in Manipur, where a blockade by Naga students has crossed its 60th day. Would we allow such a state of affairs if the state of Delhi, India's richest, had to pay Rs 150 for a litre of petrol?

It is not my case that modern India is incapable of new ideas and rapid action. Vast swathes of this nation have progressed to fit the global label of 'Emerging India'. Our corporate leaders and professionals are among the best globally. The Sreedharans, the Devi Shettys and the Ela Bhatts — to use three random examples — have shown us systemic transformation in urban transport, health-care and female emancipation. Unless change of this calibre invades the public sphere, India will be doomed to producing First World islands in a Third World country, lurching to its next crisis — and being forever a haunted nation.






If sports is modern-day religion, then for the next five weeks, football will be venerated as a global deity. No other sport has successfully touched a chord with so many millions across the globe as The Beautiful Game has. Thirty-two countries will compete for the Holy Grail of football, the Fifa World Cup. They will range from tiny Slovenia to five-time winners Brazil. Much has changed since the first World Cup in 1930 when barely 13 countries made the trip to Montevideo in Uruguay. On the road to South Africa, 208 countries participated in the qualifying matches (more than the Olympics, more than the member-countries of the United Nations). One thing hasn't changed though: India will reaffirm its standing as a world-class spectator nation.

Ironically, India did qualify for the World Cup of 1950, but had to withdraw because its request to play barefoot was rejected by Fifa. The 50s and early-60s were, in fact, perhaps the only period when Indian football showed some signs of being able to compete at international level. India won the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games gold, and quite remarkably, finished fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics with a team that at the last could wear boots! In the current world rankings, India is ranked 133, just above Bermuda, Tajikistan and Barbados, but below Faroe Islands, Fiji and Luxembourg, the populations of which might barely match a south Delhi residential colony.

Why is it that the world's second most populous country won't be competing in the ultimate mass sports event? (Remember, even China qualified once for the 2002 World Cup.) There is, of course, the usual argument of how our obsession with cricket has reduced other team sports, including the original national game of hockey, to the margins. That may be true, especially in the deplorable manner in which major corporates have shunned sports outside of cricket. But it still doesn't provide a full explanation as to why football should lose out in the manner it has. Brazilians are obsessed with football in the near-manic manner of cricket in this country. Yet that hasn't prevented them from producing world-class teams in a range of other sports from volleyball to basketball.

It also isn't as if Indians aren't passionate about football. Watch a game in Margao, Shillong or Kozhikode, and the exuberance of the fans can match the best in the world. I have deliberately left out Kolkata, the home of Indian football, because Kolkata at one level has come to symbolise the decline of the sport. For Kolkatans, football for the longest time was about narrow parochialism: East Bengal versus Mohun Bagan was the 'life and death' contest. Instead of truly professionalising club football, Kolkata allowed it to lapse into a cesspool of mediocrity, much like the rest of Bengal.

 For the longest time, the Calcutta Football League, played on poor grounds with limited infrastructure, appeared to satisfy the Bengali fans' appetite for the sport. By the time the ineffectual football administrators woke up to the need to truly professionalise the league, it was simply too late. The rest of the world had left us far behind.

Ironically, the wake-up call came with the arrival of satellite television in the 1990s. Suddenly, the Indian football fan was exposed to the best talent in the world, not just once every four years at a World Cup, but virtually every weekend through the live telecast of the major soccer leagues. The quality of the football on show made us realise just how much we had lost out in a rapidly-changing sport, how second rate imports from Africa or Latin America could never be a substitute for the real thing. Today, a generation of Indians is being born who are Manchester United and Real Madrid fans and not that of an Indian football team; fans who idolise a Wayne Rooney before they would a Baichung Bhutia.

In a sense, this 'globalisation' of sport also provides an opportunity to revive football in the country. As the next few weeks will confirm, there is an enormous appetite to watch football in this country. The challenge is to translate this popular appeal for the sport into a genuine footballing culture. This would require, for starters, a need to shed a certain Brahminical disdain for playing physical 'contact' sport. Every school must have a football ground as a way to 'democratise' the sport, every child must be encouraged to kick the ball. Indian cricket has succeeded as it truly democratised itself, moving beyond the traditional elites of Mumbai and metropolitan India. Football, too, by laying a solid foundation in the North-east for example, can actually become an aspirational sport, an opportunity for the non-cricketing centres to find a place in the country's sporting sun.

None of this will happen overnight. It will probably need a 20-year plan. We may never be able to compete with the physically superior Europeans and Africans, or the artistic Latin Americans. But as the relative football success of a Japan and even a China has shown, if there is a willingness to invest in the future, it's possible to reap the rewards over time. We may never play in the World Cup in my lifetime, but can't we at least work to recapturing some pride in the Asian context?

Post-script: Since I can't wave an Indian flag at the World Cup, I am planning to make Portugal my team. My Goan blood won't let me have it any other way!

Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief, IBN Network 


The views expressed by the author are personal








When the World Cup kicks off in South Africa today, the only safe wager is that the fanhood of football will grow yet more. Football effortlessly conquers new territories, and they who do not have a national or local club to call their own eagerly embrace players and teams of countries that otherwise count for little in their lives. In fact, there is something to be said about the romance of going into a World Cup without the partisan considerations of having a team in the fray and instead looking to adopt one, or more.

For many that team will be Brazil. For all the opprobrium being heaped on their coach Dunga, captain of the 1994 squad that lifted the Cup, for discarding the extravagances of Samba football for the quicker passes of the European game, the bookmaker's favourites will also be the world's. But on who the individual hero of World Cup 2010 will be, the jury had better be out. Favourites like Didier Drogba are out, but it is a way with the Cup that the man of tournament comes unannounced. Remember Toto Schillaci? Who'd heard of him before Italy 1990? Or after?

In their book Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski tell the amazing story of Marcos, goalkeeper in the Brazil squad that won the 2002 title. Marcos turned down a big club contract right after, saying he'd been carrying a wrist injury for a couple of years. When he was suddenly inducted into the World Cup team, he kept thinking he'd tell his coach that he was in too much pain to play. But he'd keep putting off the revelation, till it transpired that he had defended goal right through for the champions. That's what the World Cup does to some folks.





The Nationalist Congress Party was born 11 years ago in the most dramatic and unexpected circumstances. Founded by a trio of Congress leaders — one from Maharashtra, another from Bihar and the third from Meghalaya — its assumption of the word "nationalist" hinted at both their revolt against Sonia Gandhi and plans for a pan-Indian presence. But as advertisements marking the party's anniversary this week showed, that ambition is already shrunk. The NCP still has legislative presence in diverse parts of the country, but as announced in the tagline in the advertisements, "Maharashtra's pride, nation's prestige", it draws its clout primarily as a regional party. And even from that springboard — a significant one, with the NCP in a third consecutive coalition government with the Congress in the state, and a second at the Centre — the party appears lost in giving shape to its second decade.


There was promise visible, a decade ago, in what was an opportunistic project to build a new party. By becoming a fourth pole in Maharashtra's politics, the NCP offered a regional counterpoint to the Shiv Sena's xenophobia that would not be possible for the national parties. In competing for a place in the state, the NCP did well to show that regional identity and therefore political clout was to be had beyond the Sena's Mumbai-for-Mumbaikars campaign. Yet, in offering a less anxious, less confrontational political platform, the party never quite managed — or even tried — to dip into the state's cosmopolitanism. The campaign against bar girls made that evident. It did not either, to its discredit as a party populated with modernisers, move aggressively on an agenda to reform the state's economy or upgrade its infrastructure. And now as the NCP and Sena find their political space reduced, as their reduced clout finds voice in Sharad Pawar and Bal Thackeray's occasional gestures of support to the other, the NCP is struggling to assert an identity to withstand the Congress's sporadic calls for a merger into the mother party.


The need for a vision has become all the more important when the NCP leadership is caught in controversy and succession plans. With Pawar especially weakened by the IPL experience, this will be a crucial year for the party. It must rue the lost chances of the past.







Yes, we know that China and India are growing. But what we might have missed is that some other parts of the world, traditionally thought of as places where good policy goes to die, are growing too. Like Africa. Over the first eight years of the millennium, for example, Angola in the south grew at 12.4 per cent. In the northeast, Ethiopia grew at nearly 7 per cent, as did Rwanda and Tanzania in the centre. And in the west giant Nigeria grew at a steady 8.4 per cent. In commercial capitals far from Mumbai and Shanghai, another growth story is being played out. And the completion of the Bharti-Zain deal this week marks how quick-growing India should respond to it.

So far, analysis of the interaction between India and Africa has focused essentially on two things: how to make the continent's vast natural resources available to the ever-hungry Indian industry, and whether China is stealing a march on us. But this deal — the second-largest cross-border deal by an Indian firm, worth $10.7 billion, making Bharti the fifth-largest mobile phone operator — shows how myopic that vision is. There is much more that India can be doing in Africa. And, unlike China's engagement, which is driven by the state and its over-riding sense of the strategic interest, India's presence in Africa will be corporate-led, with all the sensitivity to local needs that the private sector is required to display. What are the sectors that, in particular, India could look at? There is infrastructure: Indian firms are building roads in Ethiopia, laying fibre-optic cables in Ivory Coast, constructing railways in Mozambique, and selling buses to Guinea. There is, of course, mining: ONGC is looking for oil in Nigeria, and pretty much everyone — Tata Steel, Jindal, Coal India, NTPC, Ispat — has joined the rush to explore coal deposits in Mozambique. But most intriguing are the investments that are being made in skill upgradation, which builds soft power through people-to-people contact and enduring cross-country links. In diamond-rich Sierra Leone, India is building a gem-cutting and polishing training centre. In agrarian Ivory Coast, food processing institutes to train local entrepreneurs are being setup, to aid their exports. NIIT has entered low-cost computer training in Africa in a big way. And, of course, there's the visionary pan-African e-network, which will wire the continent, connecting five universities, 51 learning centres, 10 super-speciality hospitals and 52 patient-end locations in rural areas.

What is needed for India's private-sector led presence in Africa is better synergy in Delhi between corporates and government. Our presence in Africa must be long-term and sustainable.







We recently had a visit from a couple of government schoolteachers. They were in a foul mood. This was their third visit to our house, and on earlier two occasions the house was locked. "If you had left a note telling us when you would come next, we would have been at home." This visit was for National Population Register (NPR), evidently a precursor to the Census, and wouldn't be a valid visit unless the so-called "head of the household" was at home. The teachers didn't react to my comment. Perhaps advance notices aren't permissible. Who knows? With advance notices, residents might disappear, or non-residents surface, thereby distorting the NPR. Instead, they told me about their grievances. How residents regard this as a nuisance, though this is a public cause, how this ruins their Sunday. Shouldn't they have better things to do? Yes, government teachers should have better things to do, like teach. One should sympathise with them for the two nuisances they mentioned, Census and election duties. However, since they were from urban Delhi, they didn't mention a third superfluous duty — cooking mid-day meals.

Going back to its origins in Tamil Nadu, the mid-day meal scheme (MDMS) is supposed to have several benefits — increase school enrollment, reduce malnutrition among children, break down caste barriers and even provide incremental employment to women (for cooking mid-day meals). On June 1, UPA-II submitted a report to the people for 2009-10, and this is what it says on the MDMS. "Under the National Programme of Mid-Day Meals in schools, the cooking cost has been enhanced. Further, cooks-cum-helpers are now being paid Rs 1000 per month for their part-time services. The cost of construction of kitchen-cum-store has also been rationalised by linking it to the states' schedule of rates. During 2009-10, about 11 crore children were benefited by the scheme." The HRD ministry's annual report mentions a figure closer to 12 crore. There is the occasional report about scams in government schools, where attendance registers are fudged for food-grain siphoned off into the market.

Even if there is some fudging, 110 or 120 million is substantial. What do we know from assorted studies on the MDMS, though these are often state or region specific? Enrollment and attendance increase, especially among girls and SC/STs. Teacher absenteeism drops. Social distances decline and there is some net increment in employment, especially among women. However, even if none of this had happened, given the state of under-nourishment and hunger among children, the MDMS is a good thing — even if, as sometimes happens, children enroll in a government school for the MDMS, uniforms and textbooks, and simultaneously enroll in a private (often unrecognised) school for education.

What is a good thing? Giving mid-day meals to children. What however is this business about cooking costs, cooks-cum-helpers and kitchen-cum-stores, mentioned in the quote? This illustrates how governments jump from a desirable end to an undesirable, inefficient and complicated means, and delivery. As a Centrally sponsored scheme (CSS), MDMS started in 1995, though not everywhere in the country and not in every type of school. At that stage, dry rations (food-grain) at the rate of 3 kg per child per month were provided under the CSS and, yes, there were instances of FCI food-grain (of doubtful quality to start with) being siphoned by school officials. After a PIL in 2001 and the Supreme Court's judgment, MDMS switched from dry rations to cooked meals. These meals must be for 200 days (drought-affected areas also have MDMS during summer vacations) and every child per day must have 300 calories and 8-12 g of protein. (These norms have progressively been increased and vegetables also included, but we can ignore those complications.) Of this, the Central subsidy would be for 100 g of food-grain per child per day and a transportation subsidy. But states clamoured for more. So we soon had a cooking subsidy.

One would have understood had it been for pulses, cooking oil, condiments and fuel. However, it also covered wages and remuneration for cooks-cum-helpers, assistance for management, monitoring and evaluation and Central subsidies also extended to constructing kitchen-cum-stores and procuring kitchen devices (stoves, containers, utensils). For instance, Rs 60,000 initially used to be given for constructing kitchen-cum-stores, now further complicated by bringing in plinth area norms and state schedules. The cooking cost (excluding administrative and labour charges) per child per day (2009-10) was Rs 2.50 for primary and Rs 3.75 for upper primary, shared 75:25 between the Centre and states (90:10 for special category states). These ratios also applied to that Rs 1000 for cooks-cum-helpers, one allowed for schools up to 25 students, two for those between 26 and 100 students, and one more for each additional multiple of 100 students. Surely, one should ask an obvious question. If the issue is delivering cooked meals to children, why does the government have to get into the business of cooking? What is all this stuff about kitchen utensils, kitchen-cum-stores and cooks-cum-helpers?

If that cooking cost is paid (and states can and do chip in with additional cooking costs), surely NGOs will step in, perhaps spliced with CSR initiatives from the corporate sector, to meet any capital expenditure and gaps between actual costs and cooking costs. There can be centralised kitchens, which will be far more efficient in delivery and ensuring quality. (Quality monitoring is through gram sabhas, municipalities, education committees, parent-teacher associations and so on.) There is no need to presume there are market failures there. One needs to visit any of the centralised kitchens of Akshaya Patra (Karnataka, Delhi, Andhra) and Naandi Foundation (Andhra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa) to realise what centralised kitchens of MDMS can become, and no, these experiments are not restricted to urban areas. Essentially, these are three-way partnerships between governments (cooking and transport cost, provision of food-grain, land contribution), corporate sector (capital expenditure, additional subsidy) and NGOs (personnel, management, transportation). So why aren't they replicated much more? Primarily because government is fixated on the other objective beyond enrollment, nutrition and breaking down caste barriers — local employment, particularly of women, though these PPPs also provide incremental local employment.

Consequently, the HRD ministry's annual report states, "The guidelines provide that, as far as possible, the responsibility of cooking/ supply of cooked midday meal should be assigned to local women's/ mothers' self-help group or local youth club affiliated to the Nehru Yuvak Kendras or a voluntary organisation or by personnel engaged directly by the VEC/SMDC/PTA/ gram panchayat/ municipality. Involvement of self-help groups under the scheme is increasing gradually." Who said efficient delivery of mid-day meals to children was the sole objective?

The writer is a Delhi-based economist







The two-year imprisonment and instant bail to Keshub Mahindra has been showcased as a symbol of what ails the Indian criminal justice system. The trial court judge pronounced the maximum possible sentence on the charges that were pressed — but yet there is indignation all over. A dispassionate post-mortem of the verdict may help us determine the boundaries of criminal law.

Article 20 of the Constitution of India provides that no person can be convicted of an offence that was not an offence when the act was committed. Further, the punishment for the offence cannot exceed the punishment that was prescribed in the law in force at the time of commission of the offence. Therefore, any action had to be based on existing statutes; any post facto legislative response that resulted in legal proceedings may not have passed constitutional scrutiny.

In the Bhopal gas leak, the factory was being operated by a company, which has a distinct legal personality in law. Some statutes, like the [Indian] Companies Act, 1956, hold the officers of a company liable for the defaults of the company. Under the Indian Penal Code, however, offences need to be independently established against the officers and employees of a company. Further, judicial precedent indicates that (unless the requirement of mens rea has been waived in an offence) a company as such is not liable, as a company is not expected to possess a criminal mind. Further, it may not be possible to convict a company of an offence where imprisonment is the only sentence prescribed.

Given this background, the prosecution opted for criminal charges against the directors and employees of the companies in question. The charges were pressed under Section 304(II) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), and Section 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc). These were the charges quashed by the Supreme Court in Keshub Mahindra v State of MP in 1996. Instead the Supreme Court directed the trial court to frame charges under Section 304-A (causing death by negligence), and also suggested Section 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others). The maximum sentence that was possible under the new charges was imprisonment for two years and fine.

A significant amount of material was placed before the court to show the negligence of the directors and employees. But, for charges under Sections 304 (II), 324, 326 and 429 to succeed, mere negligence was not sufficient. In all such provisions, the act must have been done with the intent of the consequence (that is, death, hurt, grievous hurt, loss of property, etc) or the knowledge of the consequence. The directors and employees concerned were running the plant for the company, and criminal intent could not have been imputed merely on that basis. Also, an act of storing a substance in a tank that may have had defective design also did not suffice for imputing knowledge of the likely consequence of such act on the fateful night.

Yet, for the offences to be established under the above provisions, the intent or the knowledge had to be positively established by the prosecution. The same had to be linked with the act of operating the plant on the night of the leak by an unbreakable chain of events, beyond reasonable doubt. It is difficult to contemplate that the directors and employees would have imagined that their negligence would result in a catastrophe of such proportions, and if they knew of the consequence they would have shown the negligence attributed to them. It would have been a miracle if the prosecution had been able to establish that.

The offences under Sections 304A, 336, 337 and 338 of the IPC criminalise instances where the criminal intent or knowledge is missing. Rashness and negligence are sufficient to establish the offence. This is a departure from the classical position that requires criminal intent or knowledge — possibly to satisfy a retributive urge of the society and create deterrence. Justifiably, in the absence of intent, the punishments are lower. In the recent verdict, the charges for lower offence were expectedly successful. Such charges, however, could also have been preferred against the companies.

The delay in the justice delivery is a cause for concern. The sentence may also disappoint many, but any criticism of the sentence ought to be in view of the basic tenet of criminal law, "actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea" (the intent and act must both concur to constitute the crime). Of course, the government and the judicial system cannot escape the blame for inadequate compensation to victims, which could have been achieved under the existing law.

The writer is a Delhi-based insurance lawyer







During the summer of 1986, like the rest of the country, our smallish town situated not too far from Gujarat's Arabian coast got bitten by the football bug. It was the first ever non-cricketing sporting indulgence for a place famous for the calculative moves of their traders and the nifty skills of their stock brokers and not known to produce a creative ball-player or a striker with a sublime step-over.


Doordarshan was getting the FIFA World Cup at Mexico to our living rooms and that resulted in a few long-deprived fans and several outrightly uninitiated freshers sitting together in a hypnotic stupor watching the first-ever top quality extended football feast in India. Every night brought a new hero from games where men kept running for close to 90 minutes but never got tired, never missed a pass and never lost control over the ball. Paucity of television sets translated into large groups in small rooms. And as is the case with all clusters on the sidelines of sporting events, factions with their own favourites started taking root.


Watching the neutral make their choices while bonding with alien teams was funnily fascinating. A semi-literate family which owned a footwear kiosk in the local market soon became famous as German loyalists. Their surprising allegiance to arguably one of the most boring teams of the tournament was because of the team's goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. Early in the tournament, the family patriarch, a one-time cobbler, looking at the team list had spotted the name 'Schumacher' and made a grand announcement: "We will support Germany. The goalkeeper like us makes shoes."


An Indrajal comics addict friend took to Germany for a different reason. Mandrake's sidekick Lothar was his hero and thus his bonding with the German captain. Our neighbour Mr Joshi's whacky son made a few corrections to his home's name plate the day Brazilian Josimar scored a stunning 30 yard goal against Northern Ireland. He knocked off the 'h' and added 'mar' and that spelled out the Joshis' life-long bonding with Brazil. In a sudden moment of clarity, the milkman pledged support to Denmark. Canada's easy immigrations laws made it a popular team in the region that collectively dreams about green cards.


Easy-on-the-eyes players like the tall bearded Socrates and "the one without the tucked shirt" Platini were instant hits and so were those with easy-on-the-tongue names like Zico and Bats. All four were involved in the match of the tournament that Brazil lost to France. In case one went around with a difficult to pronounce name like Butragueno, he needed to score four goals in a game to find a mention in half-time discussions over tea. But during that memorable summer of 1986, everything changed when Maradona scored the goal of the century against England. Everything else was secondary after that.


It's a been a long time since then. Maradona, after several visits to rehab, weight loss surgery is now Argentina's coach. In India football awareness has increased manifold since 1986. So much so that some debate competitions in colleges these days have topics like 'Is the English Premier League a threat to cricket in India?' Enough is written about the popularity of European clubs (in case you are in a metro, just glance out of the window and you will see a teenager in a fake English or Spanish club jersey). The fans might have come a long way but sadly the football hasn't. It seems that India was so awed by the '86 experience that it decided to sit on the sidelines and clap rather than step on the field and kick ball.


But still every four years we ask the question: will we ever see an Indian football team at the World Cup? And the answer remains the same: well, not before the ice sprouts grass in Antarctica.


The mystery continues, as in Olympics, of a country of 1.1 billion, or nearly one-fifth of the world population, failing to produce a footballer of note. To make things worse, in contrast other minnow nations have thrived. Look at the qualifying list and imagine North Korea!


Why cricket and not football (despite its English tradition) took root more deeply in India defies the logic of colonial history as seen elsewhere. Are we more inclined to the laid-back nature of cricket and lack the instant and spontaneous energy that has made football universal? It is a known fact that athleticism has not been our forte. But nimble footed and graceful players have blessed our other big team sport, hockey, sadly again on the downward spiral. And if poverty has done wonders to Brazil and African nations, we have had that in plenty.


At a stage when sporting rivalries between the big three Kolkata clubs or Santosh Trophy hardly makes news anymore, football in India is at a crossroads — one that makes its future ever more urgent. If the past is of no use, the cue must come from what we as a nation have done well in the recent past, and that has not come from sports, despite a Viswanathan Anand, M. S. Dhoni and Vijender Singh.


We have become known globally because of our tech generation. They have in a single step done what political parties or the stock markets failed to do — a collective leap of imagination, urbane in nature and democratic in essence. Individual enterprise, not banking on government grants and the will to be world leaders are some lessons soccer can learn from the IT sector. The desire to take destiny in our own hands has been the moral of various silicon Valley success stories. And that's something common to Brazilian World Cupper Grafite's journey from selling thrash bags to wearing wearing the yellow and green jersey. But for that happen there are mountains to climb. Here's hoping and praying that our younger generation is watching the World Cup and it gives flight to their iPhone-tickled imagination.








Neal Stephenson's science novel Anathem describes a futuristic world in which scientists and philosophers live isolated from the lay public — most of whom find it difficult to live without their jeejahs, small devices that allow them to navigate, communicate with each other, access media, and make calculations. Stephenson's vision for the future is not too different from that of Apple, which displayed a very advanced jeejah to the public this week.

This new jeejah, called the iPhone 4, has impressive new hardware and software. The iPhone can finally run more than one application at a time. Clever engineering has allowed Apple to give the iPhone a larger battery. It also comes with an astonishingly sharp screen, front and back cameras that create a video chat capability, and new Apple software that allows users to download and read e-books.

Apple, which started out as a desktop computer company, has found its groove as a portable gadget company ever since it first launched the iPod in 2001. Apple makes more than half its money from iPods and iPhones, with computers and notebooks contributing a little more than a quarter. Sales of peripherals, software, and media from its online stores make up the rest. These figures are for Apple's sales between January and March, and do not include the iPad, Apple's new product which occupies a niche between the very portable iPod touch and a notebook computer. The total sales are huge, too — at the beginning of 2010, Apple had so much cash on hand that it could have taken over 15 per cent of Greece's then sovereign debt.

Whether by luck or by design, Apple entered the gadget business at the right time. The company benefited from and exploited several parallel trends — the rapid spread of WiFi and 3G cellular networks, cheap and energy-efficient microprocessors, and the crashing prices of flash memory and other hardware. All these put together made it possible to create a relatively cheap device that could connect to the Internet or make phone calls anywhere, play all kinds of media, take pictures and video, and act as a high-end organiser. This allowed phones and handheld devices to become more powerful and computers to become smaller.

At one end of the spectrum, Nokia, Research in Motion, and Palm tried to make phones and handheld internet devices closer to full-fledged computers with multimedia, e-mail, and organiser functionality. At the other end, Asus created the netbook category — tiny laptop computers with very frugal processors and amazing battery life. Since then, most computer manufacturers have launched their own netbook models.

Apple's strategy of focusing on small handheld devices with network connectivity is not particularly unique. It differentiated itself from other companies by creating an operating system and user interface specifically for this class of device. The iPhone OS, now renamed iOS, amazed consumers with its touch-based controls. With a consumer base that large, Apple was easily able to convince software developers to create applications for its devices. The counterculture proverb "Cuius testiculos habes, habeas cardia et cerebellum" says that if you have people's attention, you automatically have their hearts and minds. Apple first won consumers' hearts, and then used this to get a firm grip on software developers and the user experience.

Flipping the proverb around has garnered Apple comparisons to Soviet Russia and other unsavoury dictatorships. Apple allows software developers to sell applications for the iOS only through its own online store. Not only does Apple collect a margin on every application sold, it acts as a gatekeeper on what can be sold. It has banned applications not only for pornography or risqué content, but also for satire or for giving users the option to multitask. Apple's vision of the future is a jeejah in every hand, but a jeejah which only does what Apple wants it to do.

This vision is not going unchallenged. Apple's on-and-off partner Google has come up with two alternative operating systems to Apple's: the Android for mobiles and handheld devices, and Chrome OS for tablets and netbooks that will target the iPad. Android and Chrome OS are both open source and available to all manufacturers. Any device manufacturer can use Android or Chrome, and customise it to whatever it feels users will enjoy or will make it money. Android phones and tablets are being manufactured by Motorola, HTC, Sony Ericsson, Acer, and Indian startup Notion Ink. The first tablet running on Chrome is expected to be launched later this year. Other manufacturers are also attempting to develop more open competitors — Nokia purchased the Symbian operating system and made it an open source project, and has also flirted with the Linux-based Maemo operating system in its new top-end N900 phone.

Apple has decided that the best defence is a good offence, and has targeted Google in its main line of business by giving software developers the ability to insert advertising into their applications. It has also made symbolic moves such as adding rival search engine Bing to the search option in the iPhone. However, it is now justifiably worried — Android phones outsold iPhones in May, and the latest version of Android is far ahead of the iOS. And with many manufacturers building Chrome tablets, the iPad may not be able to sustain its initial surge in sales.

Apple likes to brag that its products change everything. In the past couple of years, it has found that its competitors can also create brilliantly designed products that are every bit as disruptive. The high-resolution screen apart, most of the features in the new iPhone are already offered by rival manufacturers and developers. Apple will retain its base of loyal

customers, but it will find that everything will not necessarily change in the way that the company imagines.

The writer is a former banker, tech enthusiast and freelance writer






 "This is language that we have not heard since the time of Gamal Abdul Nasser." Thus wrote the influential chief editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, referring to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's fiery response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla — adding that such "manly" positions and rhetoric had "disappeared from the dictionaries of our Arab leaders." He lamented that "Arab regimes now represent the only friends left to Israel."

There is no doubt that it is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to whom the editor, principally refers. There is no doubt, too, that the "flotilla affair" marks a watershed for Egypt — and to a lesser extent for Saudi Arabia.

Even the notoriously tin ear of President Mubarak to his own people's sympathy for the Palestinian cause in Gaza could not fail to hear the grinding of the tectonic plates of Middle East change. He ordered the immediate opening of the Egyptian crossing into Gaza.

What we are witnessing is another step — perhaps crucial — in the shifting strategic balance of power in the Middle East: The cause of the Palestinians is gradually passing out of the hands of Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

It is the leaders of Iran and Turkey, together with President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, who recognise the winds of change. Mubarak appears increasingly isolated and is cast as Israel's most assiduous collaborator.

Mubarak's motives for his dogged support for Israel are well known in the region: He is convinced that the gateway to obtaining Washington's green light for his son Gamal to succeed him lies in Tel Aviv rather than Washington. If Washington is to ignore its democratic principles in order to support a Gamal shoe-in, it will be because Israel says that this American "blind eye" is essential for its security.

To this end, Mubarak has worked to weaken Hamas's standing in Gaza, and to strengthen that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Indeed, he has pursued this policy at the expense of Palestinian unity — his regular "unity" initiatives notwithstanding. Egypt's one-sided peace "brokering" is viewed here as part of the problem rather than as part of any Palestinian solution.

Paradoxically, it is precisely this posture that has opened the door to Turkey and Iran seizing the sponsorship of the Palestinian cause.

But standing behind this sharp Turkish reaction to Israel's assault on the Turkish ship is a deeper regional rift, and this divide stems from the near-universal conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" has failed.

Its structural pillars have crumbled: The Israeli public no longer believes that "land for peace" — the Oslo principle — will bring them security. Rather, Israelis believe those who tell them that further withdrawal will only bring Hamas rockets closer.

The other Oslo pillars also lie broken: The hitherto presumed "reversibility" of the Israeli settlement project and the hypothetical possibility of last-resort American imposition of its own solution are now understood to have been no more than chimeras.

Yet Egypt refuses to budge in these changed circumstances even as the shift in the balance of regional power toward the northern tier of Middle Eastern states — Syria, Turkey, Iran, Qatar and Lebanon — gathers pace.

Egypt increasingly has only its memory of past grandeur on which to stand. Its influence has been on the slide for some time.

Egypt's one card is that it is Gaza's other neighbour. It has been Egypt's acquiescence to the siege of Gaza — encouraged by President Abbas in the West Bank, who shares Mubarak's desire to see Hamas weakened — that has given Mubarak his stranglehold over Palestinian issues. But the Islamic and regional tide will be flowing ever stronger against him after Israel's action against the flotilla.

Already the Arab League is talking of supporting Turkey in any legal action against the Israeli assault on the aid convoy to Gaza. The Arab League has also issued a call to other states to break Israel's siege on Gaza.

It is too early to say that such talk marks any turning point in Arab League politics. The Arab League is not taken seriously in the region, or anywhere else. But it is rather the shifting of the regional strategic balance that marks the locus from where real change may become possible.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia may conclude that the price of seeing the baton of leadership on such a key and emotive issue pass to non-Arab hands, Iran and Turkey, is too high, and too shameful. The near-universal scepticism directed toward the "peace process" among their own peoples has already left these leaders exposed internally.

For nearly 20 years these leaders have used their involvement in the "process" as justification to curb internal dissent; but it is now a tool that has lost its magic. They are already paying the price of popular cynicism.

This is Mubarak's dilemma: stay with the siege and hope America will reward him with Gamal's succession; but flouting the winds of change may imperil Gamal's very survival. In any event, Egypt's control of the Palestinian "file" will never be the same again.







In 1884, Francis Galton opened the doors of his "Anthropometric Laboratory." This was "for the use of those who desire to be accurately measured in many ways, either to obtain timely warning of remediable faults in development, or to learn their powers." The many ways included height, hand strength, acuity of sight and hearing, lung capacity and the power of a blow with the fist.

Galton was one of Charles Darwin's cousins. This was no particular distinction: Darwin had many cousins. But Galton was distinguished in other ways: he was one of the great scientists and polymaths of the 19th century.

Among his achievements: he was the first to make rigorous weather maps, and he discovered the anticyclone. He developed methods to describe and classify fingerprints, and showed they were a reliable way of telling one person from another. He made major contributions to statistics, discovering the concept of correlation and calculating the first correlation coefficients. (We talk of correlations when disparate phenomena occur together, either because one causes the other — as in smoking and lung cancer — or because both are the result of some other factor. For example, people with red hair tend to have pale skin; both are due to a particular gene involved in pigmentation. Correlation coefficients are a measure of the strength of the


Famously, he made a beauty map of the British Isles — whenever he passed a woman on the street, he graded her beauty and secretly pricked a piece of paper to record it. (According to Galton, the most beautiful women could be found in London, and the ugliest in Aberdeen.) He published a comment in Nature arguing you can estimate the level of boredom in an audience based on how often people fidget. And he investigated the power of prayer by looking at the lifespan of monarchs (who are prayed for by their subjects) and clergy (who presumably spend a lot of time praying). He concluded it wasn't effective, but admitted it could be consoling.

But above all, he was interested in heredity — or what we now call genetics. He conducted a study of the inheritance of intelligence, for which he analysed the pedigrees of eminent Englishmen. He was interested in the biology of racial differences. He was the first to describe humans as being the products of the twin forces of "nature and nurture." And he coined the term "eugenics," and argued that humans could be improved through selective breeding. The ghastly legacy of these ideas continues to reverberate today.

It is easy to imagine that, if Galton were magicked into the present, he would have been fascinated by the human genome project, and anxious to get himself sequenced. And yet, in some ways, his anthropomorphic laboratory, crude though it was, makes as good a symbol for 21st century biology as a gene sequencer does.

Genes are the easy part. Soon, we'll be able to get our genomes fully sequenced: we'll be able to look at our genotypes. We may not know what all genes do — it'll still be some time before we've mastered that. But we'll know what they are.

The far harder task is to understand how genes interact with the environment to make an actual organism with particular characteristics — the phenotype. The phenotype is what Galton was measuring in his laboratory. And while the human genome project was a challenge for the last century, the human phenome project will be the challenge for this one.

The problem is , where genes are tidy bits of DNA, the environment is huge, amorphous and hard to quantify. It includes what your mother ate for breakfast when she was pregnant, the colds you've had, and how much you were hugged when you were a baby. Vaccinations, exposure to dirt, whether you sleep in a dark room — are all part of your environment. Complicating matters further, in different environments, different sets of genes get switched on and off. Recent experiments looking at fat, sedentary laboratory rats showed they use a completely different portion of their genome from their thinner, more active counterparts.

Measuring this sounds impossible. Yet, at least two phenomics initiatives are already underway. One is the UK's Biobank project, the other is the Personal Genome Project. The aim is to collect information — genetic, phenotypic and environmental — from large numbers of people, to understand how genes and environment interact to produce each of us.

Yet for the vastness of their ambition, these new projects have a narrow focus. Their primary, and worthy, aim is to gain a deeper understanding of how our environments interact with genes to causes diseases. But, as Galton well knew, there is more to the human phenotype than that.







Michel Platini, former star of the French national team and now a top executive of FIFA, has said that the world of football should not be confused with that of the IMF or the World Bank. By this he meant that international football, theoretically, is driven more by concerns for parity than by financial muscle. If things were otherwise, South Africa wouldn't be hosting the World Cup this time around and Brazil wouldn't have won the bid to host it for 2014. The US National Football League, after all, rakes in $8 billion a year compared to the $3.5 billion that the South Africa Cup is expected to pull. But to look at things through a less romantic lens, it is the emerging markets that, today, hold the most dynamic promises of commercial and consumer growth. Still, insofar as it's commonly said that football is the most democratic of sports, the saying is likely to gain axiomatic strength over June 11-July 11. In a world where technology—TV, Internet, mobile applications—are rendering sports and entertainment more and more niche-driven, the FIFA World Cup bucks the trend. Not only will it be the most-watched media event in history (barring the Beijing Olympics), the Cup's demographic outreach has been expanding rapidly. Women, for instance, made up 41% of the audience last time around in 2006. Populous India and China have hitherto demonstrated low viewership but there is a chance that they too could get hooked this year. Technology could provide one galvanising force. After all, this will be the first Cup to be tweeted in 140 characters or less.


In India, comparable fever is now generated by the IPL. This year, the League has been mired in a controversy of a curiously dichotomous sort. On the one hand, its fabulous success is emblematic of post-liberalisation enterprise and it has brought the 21st century Indian's appetite for leisurely distractions to the forefront. On the other hand, all the muck that's been raked really harkens back to the pre-liberalisation era of cronyism and power politics. But to stay with the upsides, if the IPL has whetted Indians' appetite for entertainment of global standards, this appetite is likely continue seeking new flavours. Despite all the bad press that the organisers of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games has deservedly got, the Games themselves could precipitate a widening interest in sports beyond cricket—football, Formula 1, etc, included. Last year, India won its first individual Olympic gold in an air rifle event. But going forward will require a ruthless slinging away of the Albatross, aka bumbling bureaucrats and autocrats.







On the face of it, there is nothing particularly wrong when a government reconsiders its decision. So, on Wednesday, the announcement by finance secretary Ashok Chawla that the finance ministry is willing to revisit the notification to raise the minimum threshold level of public holding to 25% for all listed companies, is welcome. As we have argued earlier, the well-intended move has been timed wrongly. Markets are going through a volatile phase and retail participation in some of recent public listings has been very tepid. Total dilution is expected to be around Rs 1.5 lakh crore and the markets simply do not have the appetite to absorb so much paper in the near and medium term. As a result, most companies seeking to raise public holding will see their scrips carry a valuation discount, and those floating IPOs will see low demand. Since investors will have a wider choice, they might dilute their stake in one company and move towards others, which will affect the price-earnings multiple that usually falls when companies increase their public float. All these are very valid concerns, even as the government is right in insisting that companies should ultimately move to a higher listing percentage in the stock markets. But given the current global mood in all markets, the sudden notification exacerbated bear movements. This could have been avoided by a discussion or a draft paper to gauge the public mood. This is just what Chawla indicated when he said his ministry is now planning to analyse the comments from PSUs and other stakeholders. Of all the constituents, the plan will impact the listed PSUs the most as, for the next few years, they will have to compulsorily tap the market for capital they may often not need. A similar move by Sebi in 2006 saw some SMEs getting delisted. This time around, such a possibility is even stronger.


Unplanned raising of equity, just to comply with the regulatory norms, will adversely affect companies' debt-to-equity ratios at a time when they are just recovering from the global economic meltdown. Plus, the cash raised from the listing has to be utilised efficiently if the return-on-equity has to remain intact. Most companies that do not need any additional funds, either for expansion plans or for working capital, will have to review their dividend policy, to give back some of the surplus money to their shareholders. These factors will not be healthy for companies in the long run and balance sheets will be strained unnecessarily. So, a lot of calibration has to be made now. The nuts and bolts must be fixed at the earliest, otherwise the new norms will get caught in a policy quagmire.








It was hard not to note the irony of an Asian security summit taking place in Europe. The host city of the third summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (Cica), Istanbul, of course straddles Europe and Asia—with the two halves of the sprawling city divided by the Bosphorus strait. But, interestingly enough, the summit was hosted in the European part of the city, and not the Asian one.

The reason is straightforward enough—the European part of the city, like the rest of Europe, is evidently more prosperous, more bustling and has better hotels and conference venues than the Asian half, which like the rest of Asia, at least to a casual observer like your correspondent who has visited both parts of the city during the conference, is still 'emerging'.

The irony is more acute given the severe economic crisis that Europe is going through, with all hopes of a quick global recovery now firmly placed on the momentum provided by emerging Asia (excluding Japan, of course). Cica is a group of 22 Asian countries, almost all of them emerging economies, including India, China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam. The irony is also sobering for the emerging economies of Asia—Europe, for all its flaws, still remains

at a place where much of Asia still aspires to reach, in terms of prosperity.

The irony is surely not lost on Turkey either, which for years has aspired to membership of that elite club called the European Union. Ten years ago, the Turkish economy was in a shambles and there were too many zeros in the local currency for it to have much meaning. Now, after a period of reform, the Turkish economy is strong enough to be able to offer economic assistance to its bitter rival Greece. Greece is hardly the only European country in need of assistance. Spain is facing mass protests over what are necessary cuts in public expenditure. Britain is going to have to make serious spending cuts and even Germany, the strongest economy in Europe, is undertaking cuts up to 80 billion euros, a serious sum for sure. A little more than 10 years ago, it was emerging Asia that was doing the cutting, in the aftermath of the East Asian crisis in 1997. The tables have clearly been turned in the last decade.

But for emerging Asia, there is still a long way to go before it closes the prosperity gap with Europe. Cica members may together have a one-third share of the global GDP but they also house two-thirds of the world's poor, a point powerfully made by the Chinese state councillor Dai Bingguo at the Cica summit. Still, this must be viewed as an opportunity, for speeding up growth even more, and not as an obstacle. On the way, there are important lessons to be drawn from both Europe's decline and Asia's rise over the last decade.

Europe's problems are now obvious to all. It is simply not possible to sustain high-spending welfare states unless there is sufficiently fast growth to finance the government spending in a sustainable manner. But not only did much of Europe overextend the welfare state into a system of populist freebies, it also ran highly interventionist policies that killed the proper functioning of the free market and free entrepreneurship and, therefore, growth. Perhaps the most important, but by no means exclusive, form of the wrong kind of policies has been the excessive intervention in labour markets. Overgenerous unemployment benefits that made people unwilling to work, limitations on working hours, abnormally high minimum wages that deter hiring of labour, restrictive immigration policies that are set, perversely and to Europe's detriment, become even more stringent—all these have taken a heavy toll on long-term economic performance. Of course, heavy state spending requires the imposition of higher taxes, something that deters entrepreneurs from setting up shop in Europe—investment simply goes elsewhere, probably to emerging Asia. Needless to say distortions in labour markets and product markets also deter free enterprise.

Given Europe's current state of political economy—look at the mass protests on spending cuts that are unavoidable—it may take a long time to change course. But emerging Asia should avoid treading down the same path.

There is, of course, every reason to hope that much of emerging Asia (leave aside outliers like Iran) has already chanced upon the right path. Many countries in East Asia, Turkey and, a decade before them, India learnt some harsh lessons from crises of their own, shrugging off their own misguided obsession with excessive state intervention in free markets. The emergence of first rate entrepreneurship in India, China and beyond has really been the story of Asia's strong rise and indeed resilience in the last decade. The emerging Asian economies have also learnt the importance of sound macroeconomic policies that, more than anything else, help safeguard countries from the outbreak of potential crisis. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there has been no significant Asian casualty of the worst global economic crisis in seven decades.

The real challenge for emerging Asia from here on is to facilitate growth using the immense potential of free markets and enterprise. Of course, there will be a need for the state to spend and redistribute in countries that are still poor, but this should be done in the least distortionary manner possible (direct cash transfers are best), while keeping growth and sound macroeconomic management intact.

And then there will be every reason to believe that sometime in the not too distant future, Europe will want to organise an important summit on the Asian side of Istanbul.







A Cambridge economist, Maurice Dobb, had an interesting model of the errors of centralised policy where a dog chases a ball. When the ball zigs, the dog zags and when it zags, he zigs. The dominant approach to policymaking in India was that in the 1970s, institutional reform would have done the trick. Since then, in any case, high growth came with the 1990s liberalisation. This is being questioned but would only have been of historical interest. Its contemporary relevance arises when, in an increasingly globalised economy, we use structural paradigms to explain economic events and design policies when macro rules are the need. To some, the economy is still a gamble on the monsoons; to others, desirable redistribution policies like NAC even in an economy with huge reserves and resilience of high growth needs direct interventions rather than rule-based policies. Zigging then and zagging now.


In an invited piece in this paper, Kunal Sen has given a refreshing interpretation of the origins of the high growth phase. He isolates bank nationalisation and monetisation, higher public investment of the mid-70s and the trade reforms of the late-70s onwards, as the triggers. One of the interesting empirical pieces of Kaushik Basu is the argument that the shift in the aggregate savings function in the mid-70s originated the high growth phase. This is now increasingly accepted but was an anathema not very long ago. The 1970s were widely cited in publications as the decade of stagnation and, in fact, it was KN Raj and then me who pointed out that while the economy decelerated from the mid-60s, it reversed itself in the mid-70s. To be fair, Isher Ahluwalia, a principal expert of the stagnation school, in a not widely circulated piece, accepted what she called the turnaround hypothesis. I had in the mid-80s, in my Pant Memorial Lectures, pointed out that the break came in the mid-70s on account of a break in public investment, the exchange rate reform on account of the basket of currencies to which the rupee was latched and the first round of industrial reform.


While it is a good feeling to have turned out right after all, one must accept that all this has little relevance now. This kind of structuralist reasoning for the period when the economy was emerging from its intense dualistic phase cannot be used to explain or advise an economy growing at 8%, with the kind of latent resource pools India has access to today. In fact, such arguments can be counterproductive. Take the argument—given time and again last year—that the drought has been a major block to macro performance. This is just incorrect, and some of us have been saying so since last August. I said so in this column. But also made the point in an Investor Conference Call organised by Morgan Stanley in mid-August 2009, which they a little later released in a fairly widely quoted research report called Drought, Agriculture and GDP growth.


In fact, with rainfall failure of more than 40% only in highly irrigated areas, it was clear that with a normal rabi, agricultural growth would not be negative. In fact, agricultural growth is around zero in spite of all the dire negative forecasts we have had. The difficulties that emerge are that policies of a macro nature are put behind a smoke screen of an economy, which is still a gamble on the monsoons. The brave policymaker is fighting a perverse god, rather than doing what he/she can and should do.


If agricultural output was not going down and food stocks would be what they are, we could have much greater degrees of freedom in macro policies. It is difficult to convince people that agriculture is not declining but inflation is supply-determined. Also, more incentive-oriented policies for agriculture should have been designed.


Finally as we save NREG and work on food security or even assure energy to the poorest, which we must for we have the muscle to do it now, we must not fall back on the control mindset. It is much better to go in for direct giveaways or use smart methods of transfers, rather than distort all market signals. This economy has the reserves to allow experimentation with rule-based policies rather than strong-arm stuff, which causes more damage than good. The Economic Survey was an abject lesson in all this and must not be used only in class room teaching.


The author is a former Union minister










Watching uninterrupted TV content may soon become a reality in India. This is good news for the consumers but not for the broadcasters. Steps initiated by Trai, also the broadcast sector regulator, mean that now broadcasters will have to depend solely on subscription revenue. They will have to offer high-quality content so that viewers pay big bucks for it. But can this work in India? Yes and no.


Our cable and satellite industry that touches around 90 million homes is far from the mature cable markets of the US, Canada, the UK and Japan. While ARPU in the developed markets ranges from $35-40 per month, it is not even $4 in India. This is because cable is primarily consumed in a non-addressable market via analogue systems. Simply put, there is a mismatch between the monies paid by the subscribers and the same reported by broadcasters and cable companies. The Indian cable and satellite industry, based on subscription revenue, is pegged at around Rs 20,000 crore annually. However, the reported subscription revenue of broadcasters does not exceed Rs 3,000 crore in a full year. In such a scenario, operating ad-free channels can be suicidal for many broadcasters.


But there are ways of launching such channels successfully. The DTH platform, which is both digital and addressable, offers a solution. BBC Entertainment and Topper available on Tata Sky as well as certain religious channels are some examples. However, in the absence of any regulations for ad-free channels, many broadcasters are forced to pay 'carriage fees' to the operators to carry them. If Trai is serious about this concept, it should put in place a tariff-free scenario for ad-free channels for DTH and IPTV platforms. Also, Trai should give a minimum window for such broadcasters by making them must-carry for, say, 3-6 months—after taking in hefty fees that will repel non-serious players. A definite window for such channels will give consumers enough time to sample the content. Once made ad-free, such channels will be able to command prices depending on the pull-factor from masses, say, Rs 100 per month per channel. The cable industry is in a mess today; it can do with more transparency.








Driven by myopia and sheer bloody-mindedness, the United States and 11 other members of the United Nations Security Council have voted to tighten sanctions on Iran. Brazil and Turkey, which recently brokered an important fuel swap agreement with Tehran, voted against the sanctions resolution while Lebanon abstained. What matters is not the specific provisions contained in the latest round of sanctions but the fact that Washington insisted on pushing them through just when a small window for confidence-building and trust between Iran and the international community had been opened by the Turkish-Brazilian initiative. Under their proposal, which the International Atomic Energy Agency is now considering, Iran will promptly transfer 1,200 kg of low enriched uranium — roughly half the amount the IAEA estimates it has produced to date — to Turkey, where it would be held in escrow. Russia and France would then fabricate an equivalent amount of enriched uranium fuel rods suitable for use in the Tehran Research Reactor. Once these rods are ready, they will be exchanged for the Iranian LEU.


Although the swap addresses an issue distinct from the one Iran is currently being sanctioned for, the successful implementation of the agreement would have been a major confidence-building measure. The U.S. and its allies would have succeeded in removing from the territory of Iran half its LEU stockpile — an amount that could theoretically be used to fabricate one nuclear device should Iran leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty and start weapons-grade enrichment. From the Iranian point of view, it would have demonstrated that the international community was capable of reasonableness and flexibility. From there, the Turks and Brazilians, perhaps supplemented by other powers, might have been able to move their engagement with Iran to a higher level, securing answers to the few remaining questions the IAEA has about the Iranian nuclear programme. But Wednesday's sanctions resolution changes everything. They send a signal to the diverse stakeholders in Tehran that reasonableness doesn't pay. Iran is likely to harden its attitude, thereby allowing the U.S. and its allies to take one more step down the path of confrontation. India, which has a major economic and strategic stake in the preservation of peace in the Persian Gulf and West Asia, should stop being a passive bystander to the crisis that is now looming large. By insisting on sanctions at this stage, the P-5 have only succeeded in scoring own goals. India may not be a member of the U.N. Security Council but that should not preclude it from actively pursuing a diplomatic end to the standoff.






In the aftermath of the global economic crisis, the yearning for returning to normalcy has been strong. Yet that normalcy, which in the broadest sense means reverting to the legal, institutional, and policy framework that existed prior to the crisis, may never be realised. The crisis may have ended, but there has been an irreversible transformation that has changed the nature of what is normal. The new normal state has very little resemblance to the past. While prior to the crisis the global economy had robust growth and employment benefiting from an interconnected world with flourishing trade, investment, and consumption, the new equilibrium after the meltdown features more regulation, higher taxes, less leverage, lower growth, and higher unemployment in the developed countries. The emerging policy framework is broadly uniform, though it may be fine-tuned in specific countries and regions to address some special concerns. The crisis, though global in sweep, had its origins in the financial sector of the developed world. Economic recovery in the developed world remains fragile. Asian countries with China and India in the forefront are leading the recovery. For policy makers in the developed countries, adjusting to the new normal state has proved daunting. For instance, attempts to fix their financial sectors, so obviously broken, have met with resistance, especially in the U.S. The role of the state, which expanded dramatically during the crisis, will remain significant in the new financial architecture.


For developing countries, especially those in Asia, a deep study of the crisis has been immensely beneficial because it has provided a vindication of their policies. For instance, India's measured approach to capital account convertibility and its system of 'managed float' for the rupee helped check the contagion during the crisis. In fact, India's external sector policies have been commended by, among others, the G20 countries. Even the IMF, for long a votary of unfettered capital flows, has conceded that it might be appropriate in certain cases to restrain cross-border flows! For India and a few other countries, coming to terms with the new normalcy ought not to be as traumatic as it has been in the West. However, as the ongoing Euro debt crisis shows, the threat to the global economy can come from unexpected quarters. Asian economies, though with limited financial linkages to the euro, might still face major funding problems besides diminished trade prospects. New normalcy has therefore to be understood in a dynamic sense; it will endure only if it is the outcome of a collaborative effort at both the regional and global levels.










Israel's imprudent commando raid on an aid flotilla headed for the besieged Gaza has generated an international wave of righteous anger which promises to shake up West Asia's oppressive political order.


Pre-dawn images of gun-toting commandos slithering from helicopters on the deck of the Turkish humanitarian aid ship, Mavi Marmara, and the bloodbath that followed on May 31 have left the world aghast. Within hours of the incident, the United Nations Security Council convened in New York and what happened thereafter was truly extraordinary. In a presidential statement, the UNSC condemned the Israeli raid. It also instructed Tel Aviv to free immediately 480 pro-Palestinian activists who were detained following the incident and release the ships. It called upon Israel to lift the three-year-old blockade imposed on Gaza — a narrow stamp-sized coastal strip on the Mediterranean, one of the most densely populated regions in the world.


The implications of the UNSC speaking with one voice against Israel are far reaching. Most important, it has exposed a significant strain, however short-lived, in Israel's ties with the United States. Despite a frantic call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House for intervention, the U.S. did not concede too much. Its diplomats at the UNSC toned down the language of the draft framed by Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkish Foreign Minister, and some Arab delegates, but did not dilute its essence.


Unlike the comparatively mellow U.S. response, the Europeans were forceful in their condemnation. "It is clearer than ever that Israel's restrictions on access to Gaza must be lifted in line with Security Council Resolution 1860," said Mark Lyall Grant, British ambassador to the United Nations. Passed in January 2009, resolution 1860 called for unimpeded humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat leader and new British Deputy Prime Minister, is a well-known critic of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories.


The European Union also slammed the Israeli raid, and demanded an "immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them." It emphasised that it did not accept "the continued policy of closure," which was "unacceptable and politically counterproductive."


Unambiguous in its criticism, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the use of "weapons against citizens and the seizing of ships in open waters with no legal grounds a gross violation of commonly accepted international legal norms." In line with the EU statement, the Russians asserted that the Israeli raid and its aftermath justified the "necessity to halt the Gaza blockade."


Unlike in the past tragedies, including Israel's Gaza 2008-09 winter offensive, why has the European response against Israel been so ferocious? The answer, in large part, lies in the list of passengers on board the flotilla. Those on board the ships, including Mavi Marmara, were not weak and hapless — unable to match Israel and its mighty friends.


On the contrary, the Gaza sympathisers on the voyage included powerful European parliamentarians. There were also former diplomats as well as intellectual luminaries, including Henning Mankell, Swedish author of the celebrated novel, The Man from Beijing. The Israeli attack on some seriously influential people in the western world set alight a volcano of protests in large parts of the globe, including several European capitals.


The organisers belonging to the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), a coalition of pro-Palestinian human rights organisations, deserve substantive credit for raising the world consciousness against Israel's unjust Gaza siege. Committed to "overcoming this brutal siege through civil resistance and direct action," the FGM has worked patiently and imaginatively with international sympathisers to draw global attention to the humanitarian crisis, mainly by organising well publicised boat trips to the coastal strip. Forty-four passengers from 17 countries were on board the first ship that sailed successfully to Gaza in August 2008. Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and Palestinian lawmaker Mustapha Barghouti joined 25 others drawn from 12 countries in the next voyage that year. Eleven past and present European parliamentarians participated in yet another journey, while the envoys from a charity in Qatar became the first Arabs to break the Gaza siege.


The voyages to Gaza on at least two earlier occasions became highly risky. Dignity, hired by the organisation, nearly sank when the Israeli navy rammed the boat three times during its sail in December 2008 in the wake of Israel's war with Hamas in the coastal strip. On another occasion, the Israeli forces took over the aid ship Spirit of Humanity and deported the passengers.


Under the watch of the FGM, the Istanbul-based Turkish charity Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), played the lead role in organising the Freedom Flotilla which came under the latest Israeli attack.


The unabated wave of global protests, involving several governments, has major political implications. For the first time, Israel's utility as a premier western ally in West Asia is being seriously questioned. On the contrary, the growing revulsion against the Israeli raid has brought into sharp focus Turkey's emergence as the region's heavyweight, its influence surging in sync with the aspirations of the Europeans and the Muslim world.


Turkey's rise at the expense of Israel has been the result of diplomatic nimbleness and careful preparation. Well aware of the deep influence the Palestinian issue exercises over the region's collective consciousness, Turkey began to raise its voice against the sufferings of the Gaza residents. The Turks went to extraordinary lengths to slam Israel and empathise with the Gazans, victims of heavy phosphorous bombing, during Israel's winter war with Hamas. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's famed walkout after his high-profile spat with Israeli President at Davos boosted Ankara's pro-Palestinian credentials.


The Gaza war also brought Turkey closer to three other influential countries — Iran, Syria and Qatar, which stood up for the people of Gaza as they were being terrorised by the Israeli air and ground campaign. The move paid off, for Turkey has now been welcomed by Iran as a partner to resolve its nuclear row with the West. Turkey's ties with its neighbour, Syria, have improved so rapidly that both countries have signed a visa free regime.


The acceptance of Turkey as a key leader of the Muslim world is only expected to rise after the Mavi Marmara incident. The Turkish leadership's pithy condemnation of Israel is bound to resonate well in West Asia. Mr. Erdogan's televised address to his party workers on June 4 grabbed international headlines, and he is now riding high in cyberspace. Speaking at the Turkish city of Konya, Mr. Erdogan said: "You [Israel] killed 19-year-old Furkan Dogan brutally. Which faith, which holy book can be an excuse for killing him?" He was referring to the youngest of the nine activists killed on board Mavi Marmara, which was flying the Turkish flag. "I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says 'thou shalt not kill.' Did you not understand? I'll say again. I say in English 'you shall not kill.' Did you still not understand? So I'll say it to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew 'Lo Tirtzakh'."


Despite the Israeli lobby throwing about its weight, Europe at some point is likely to welcome Turkey's deliberated strategic assertion in West Asia. From a European perspective, Turkey's espousal of moderate Islam is a perfect antidote to the virulence of the al-Qaeda variety. With its following in the region galloping, Turkey is well positioned to emerge as a well-grounded pillar in the so-called war on terrorism. Its credentials as a well established democracy are also bound to appeal to the western world. Its membership of the NATO alliance reinforces its credentials as a trustworthy ally.


While highly influential pro-Israel organisations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are expected to work overtime to sway the Obama administration and Congress in Israel's favour, they may find it difficult to drive a wedge between Washington and Ankara. Turkey is central to U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bulk of U.S. military supplies for Iraq is routed through Turkey's Incirlik Air Force Base. Turkish troops are deployed in significant numbers as part of the NATO force in Afghanistan.


Besides, President Obama eyes Turkey as a gateway to the Muslim world. As scorching winds of change sweep across West Asia after Israel's raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, India too is bound to feel the heat.


People in the region are waiting to hear an assertive and principled South Asian voice which is in sync with the region's turning tide. If India finds its voice and delivers, it will reassure the vast majority in West Asia that despite the perceived demands of realpolitik that have drawn India towards Israel, New Delhi's moral compass continues to remain intact.










The Taliban have been stepping up a campaign of assassinations in recent months against officials and anyone else associated with local government in an attempt to undermine counterinsurgency operations in the south. Government assassinations are nothing new as a Taliban tactic, but now the Taliban are taking aim at lower level officials who often do not have the sort of bodyguards or other protection that top leaders do. Some of the victims have only the slimmest connections to authorities. The most egregious example came on Wednesday in Helmand Province, where according to Afghan officials the insurgents executed a 7-year-old boy as an informant.


As the coalition concentrates on trying to build up the Afghan government in the southern province of Kandahar, a big part of that strategy depends on recruiting capable Afghan government officials who can speed delivery of aid and services to undercut support for the Taliban. The insurgents have just as busily been trying to undermine that approach, by killing local officials and intimidating others into leaving their posts.


"They read the papers; they know what we are doing," said a NATO official here, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with his government's policy. "It's very much game on between the coalition and the Taliban."


The assassinations have been effective in slowing recruitment of government officials, he said. "Am I going to live through the workweek? No one should have to ask that question."


Just since March, according to reports compiled by The New York Times from the police, military sources, witnesses and local government officials, there have been at least 11 assassinations in Kandahar, mostly of low-level officials. These reports, which are not complete, do not include police officers or other officials killed in more indiscriminate attacks, like suicide bombings.


Among the victims have been Mohammed Hassan Wolsi, head of the agriculture and livestock cooperative in the province, shot April 2 by a man with a pistol while buying a loaf of bread at an outdoor stall; an 18-year-old Afghan woman named Hosay, shot to death in an auto-rickshaw as she rode home from her job at Democracy International, an aid group, in Kandahar; Hajji Abdul Hay, the brother of a prominent member of Parliament, shot in the bazaar in the city; a bodyguard named Hajji Mohammed who worked for the provincial council chairman, Ahmed Wali Karzai; and a district intelligence agent, identified only as Zia, killed on a visit to the city.


The youngest victim was the 7-year-old boy, identified only as the grandson of a farmer named Qodos Khan Alokozy, from the village of Herati in the Sangin District of Helmand Province. According to Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor's office in Helmand, Taliban insurgents went to his village and dragged the boy from his home at 10.30 a.m., accusing him of acting as a government informant by telling the authorities of their movements. They killed him by hanging him from a tree in the middle of the village, Ahmadi said. A spokesman for the Taliban, reached by telephone, denied that the episode took place.


Some of the victims have been more prominent, including the deputy mayor of Kandahar, Hajji Azizullah Yarmal, shot to death while he prayed in a mosque on April 19, and Abdul Majeed Babai, head of the information and culture department of Kandahar, killed in a motorcycle drive-by shooting in February.


Assassins narrowly missed in attempts to kill both Kandahar's mayor, Ghulam Hayder Hamidi, and the Kandahar Province governor, Tooryalai Wesa, last year. Mayor Hamidi, in a recent interview during a ceremony to mark the reconstruction of a local mosque, shrugged off the risks. "When it's time to die, no one can save me," he said, pointing out that he travels with a modest security detail.


An exile who lived in the United States until he returned here three years ago, Hamidi said his daughter, who had come back to Afghanistan first, talked him into doing so as well. "She said you have to come here, that we cannot change the time of death and one day you will have to die and I will cry. It could just as well be from a car accident in the United States."


The mayor acknowledged, though, that the assassination campaign had made it harder to hire government workers — a task already complicated by the low salaries offered by the Afghan government, compared with what international organisations and even the military pay to qualified workers. American officials said they planned to address that by helping provide secure housing and security assistance, which low-level Afghan employees cannot afford themselves.


The NATO official said the authorities had compiled statistics on an increase in assassination-style killings in Kandahar, but a request for that information was turned down by the American Embassy on the grounds that it was classified.


A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO force in Afghanistan, cautioned, however, that it was not clear whether all of the recent spate of killings could be attributed to the Taliban. "Due to lack of accurate information, it is difficult to determine if a killing is an assassination, an act of revenge or criminal activity," Maj. Steven Cole said.


Often just the threat of assassination has been enough to drive people from their jobs. A Kandahar communications expert who worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross said he left his job after receiving a series of death threats. He asked not to be named because he feared for his life.


The expert planned to take a new job with the American-financed Afghanistan Stabilisation Initiative, as the director of a programme in one of the rural districts around Kandahar. Then, on April 15, two car bombings hit the program and other American-supported aid organisations, killing three Afghans and wounding dozens of Afghans and foreigners.


"My family pushed me to give it up," he said. "I know so many people who are afraid to take jobs with the government or the aid community now. It's a very effective and very efficient campaign; the armed opposition are using this tool because it works." — New York Times News Service









So it's every country for itself. The politicians of the world still mouth platitudes about a concerted response to the economic crisis, but their words ring ever more hollow. As does the claim of governments to be able to deal with the crisis which looms larger every day while markets watch and wait. The postponement of this week's meeting between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the crisis in Europe, is only the latest example of absence of the coordination that was meant to help us through.


Germany, as Merkel made plain with the sweeping austerity package revealed this week, will do what it thinks best for Germany, and nobody will divert it from a path of rectitude while she is chancellor. That leaves France and its president fuming on the sidelines and facing the implications of its decades-old build-up of debt off the state balance sheet. Unwelcome as it may be, he has to face the reality that France is now only one voice among many.


Both countries have to cope with the exposure of European banks to declining bonds — even more so given the lack of information about who holds the estimated $2.6 trillion outstanding to institutions in Greece, Spain and Portugal. The European Central Bank is thought to have bought Greek bonds whose value is equivalent to more than half its capital: how could it pile in to help others? Greek debt rescheduling would be simple enough, if the political will were there, without incurring a formal default — which is why market operators unload Greek debt to Frankfurt, knowing they will not be able to cash in on credit default swaps. But what would be the contagion effect of Greece rewriting its laws to reduce its exposure? Spain and Portugal are bogged down not only by their state finances but by low growth prospects and, in Spain's case, high unemployment. Moral hazard on a continent—wide basis could become inevitable. And then who would pay, given the level of indebtedness of the richer nations and the shortage of funds in international institutions? The chain of repercussions is threatening to unravel the euro, aggravated by the way in which the lubricating mechanism of interbank lending has seized up. As the crisis mounts, banks are becoming 100 per cent risk-averse, and nobody with capital to invest would think of directing it towards the eurozone.


Beyond Europe, the world has changed, too. The dollar is a safe haven again, while China is worried about the continuing debt crisis, the inability of other economies to keep their stimulus packages going, the negative effects on exports of EU austerity and the calls for Beijing to appreciate the value of the renminbi, although it has risen 14 per cent against the euro in four months.


For the moment, the "dollimbi" rules. But for how long, given the divergences between Washington and Beijing over a range of issues, ranging from Iran to climate change? If China is the bank of last resort, will Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao step up to the plate? Given Wen's latest public remarks about living in a state of continuing crisis, it seems unlikely; China's leadership thinks it has quite enough on its plate without becoming the world's monetary nursemaid.


The meeting of G20 finance ministers last weekend brought no comfort, only a generalised call for austerity. But, if one thing is certain in this jittery picture, it is that most people have little idea of just how bad things are. Are we back in the days before the 1929 crash, or the popping of the South Sea Bubble? I hope that this jeremiad will prove wrong, but it is hard not to see a number of crows coming home to roost. In Britain the profligacy of the Gordon Brown era was asking for trouble, which the new coalition government now has to deal with. In France the parlous condition of the state finances and reluctance to reform are a time bomb. In Germany the Landesbanken are potentially explosive, and Merkel's refusal to play the euro game risks pulling the rug from under the currency. Spanish banks have huge exposure to property loans at home and Portugal across the border.


The ultimate winners will be the big developing economies, though they will have their problems. Brazil may be overbought and is going into an uncertain presidential election; Russia is energy dependent; China is paying the price for growth over the last 30 years and faces an enormous restructuring challenge. But at least they have an idea of where they are heading. It is difficult to say as much for Europe. That bad news is made even worse by our forgetfulness about how long and harsh slumps are. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010


( Jonathan Fenby is author of The Penguin History of Modern China and a director at research company Trusted Sources.)








  1. Only from 1830 are regular records of the prime minister's full salary entitlement recorded on the Information Office website
  2. While the prime minister earns less than many high flyers, compared with the average U.K. wage of £26,000, it's not too bad


David Cameron earns less than 172 officials who advise his new government according to new figures, but he should count himself lucky. Past prime ministers have been left heavily in debt and needing to be bailed out by the monarchy.


Historically it has never been the country's best-paid job. At times cabinet ministers have been paid more than their leader, and in the 16th Century, parliamentary wages for some were part-paid in fish. But crucially, there has always been the potential to cash in on the position, say political historians. In the case of Sir Robert Walpole, who did the job for nearly 21 years from 1721, it was mainly through corrupt means.


"He made a fantastic amount of money in the job," says Paul Seaward, director of the History of Parliament project. "But at that time there was a huge amount of bribery and corruption going on. There was a very ambivalent attitude towards such things back then."


Prime ministers also boosted their wages by securing sinecure posts, which required little work but came with a good salary. These included the post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, given by George III to William Pitt the Younger in 1792. It paid 4,382 pounds, according to the House of Commons Information Office (IO) — nearly 500,000 pounds in today's money. It also came with Walmer Castle in Kent as its residence.


But even if there were ways of capitalising on the position some didn't. Pitt was paid a net income of 5,000 pounds, along with the extra for being Lord Warden, but left the job after 18 years with huge debts.


"He was naive when it came to money," says Dr Seaward. ``Other people had been out to make money from the role, but he wasn't.''


A few years before him, Lord North — prime minister from 1770 to 1782 — had to be bailed out by the King while he was still in office, says Professor Kevin Theakston, a specialist in British government and politics at Leeds University. George III loaned him 16,000 pounds, some 2m pounds in today's money.


It's only from 1830 that regular records of the prime minister's full salary entitlement are recorded on the IO website. For a century — from 1830 to 1930 — the wage stayed at 5,000 pounds. Over those years, this figure saw a drastic real-terms decrease from 42,500 pounds to 24,364 pounds, using Bank of England calculations.


Up until the 1830s, the chancellor of the exchequer and other ministers were paid more than the prime minister, and then the same wage until 1937. This remained the case for the attorney general until the 1960s. However, the perks of the job — grace and favour residences in Downing Street and Chequers, staff and drivers — helped make up for the lower wages.


One prime minister who significantly changed the fortunes of his successors was David Lloyd George, who took the job in 1916 and was in the post for nearly six years. He was the first to secure a hefty sum from publishers for his memoirs, which went on to sell extremely well.


"He was the first prime minister to exploit the fact he was a valuable commercial commodity when he left the job," says Prof. Theakston. "He wrote his memoirs and also did the lecture circuit. He set the standard for today's politicians."


Winston Churchill is another who made money from writing after he left the post.


But it's from the 1980s that the prime minister's salary started to become important to those outside Westminster, as a point of comparison for other salaries. This is due to several factors:


+MPs' salaries — and therefore the PM's salary — were moved onto the same pay scale as senior civil servants, ending the annual ritual of politicians approving their own salary rises (this also meant an sizable pay hike to bring MPs up to the relevant scale)


+Money came to equal status in a way it previously had not


+And Margaret Thatcher made her salary a political point, claiming less than her full entitlement to encourage pay restraint in other sectors


It was soon after the shift in MPs' pay scales that some newspapers started to use phrases such as "earning more than the prime minister," typically in reports about the remuneration of ministerial advisors and NHS bosses. Until then, salaries — and especially top salaries — were kept a "very dark secret," says Prof. Bill Rubinstein, of the University of Aberystwyth, an expert on the history of the wealthy.


"Before World War II and up until the 1980s, there was no sensible research into how rich the rich were."


But in the 1980s, Britain embraced the American method of measuring status — money. "Once it was about where one went to school, how much acreage one might own." Little wonder this was the decade that spawned the Sunday TimesRich List, first published in April 1989, which sought to answer a question previously left unasked in polite company — who earns the most, and how?


When it came to pay transparency, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher led the way. She consistently drew a cabinet minister's salary rather than a prime minister's, to encourage workers to take lower pay rises to save jobs and help fight inflation. But in the business world, few practiced what she preached. In the late 1980s, with the economy — and the City of London — bursting with renewed vigour, she complained about the incentives awarded to top executives. Often, their bonuses alone dwarfed her official salary of 64,257 pounds.


And the rewards offered for hard graft — and sporting talent — became much commented upon, with footballers suddenly earning stratospheric salaries and the rise of tabloid heroes such as Superhod, aka plasterer Max "Superhod" Quarterman. He first hit the headlines in the 1970s when a local newspaper worked out that the hard-working labourer earned more than Harold Wilson, the prime minister of the day. By the 1980s, he was a millionaire — and even more of a tabloid favourite.


There also started to be major anxiety among all politicians "to show restraint and keep a lid on spending," say Prof. Theakston, hence Mrs. Thatcher going public with her salary cut. This continued when Labour came to power in 1997. Tony Blair ordered his cabinet not to accept increases recommended by the review body in 1996. When Gordon Brown took over, he refused part of his prime ministerial pay package, as has Mr. Cameron.


But while the prime minister earns less than many high flyers, compared with the average U.K. wage of 26,000 pounds, it's not too bad. — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate





M. Sundarakumar, I.F.S., Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar National Park, writes:


This has reference to the news item "Gulf of Mannar biosphere a neglected biodiversity hotspot" (Tamil Nadu editions, Internet, June 8), which said that "last April there were two cases of poaching of dugong each weighing 400 kg. But the offender was allowed to go scot free without any investigation."


A dead dugong was recovered at Rameswaram port on April 6 and another at Seeniappa Dharga on April 16. They were not poached. The Wildlife Warden, Ramanathapuram, conducted an interrogation at the site. No organs of the dugongs were found removed. Post mortem attributed the deaths in both cases to "respiratory and circulatory failure." The department has not allowed any offender to go scot free as no offence was committed.


The report also quoted the Director of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Trust as saying that "conservation was still under buried condition in the marine biosphere." The State Forest Department has implemented various protection and conservation schemes with the help of Centrally sponsored schemes. It has engaged 90 anti-poaching watchers. Between 2003 and 2008, 20 cases were registered. Between 2008 and 2010, 89 cases were registered and 120 people were arrested and remanded. A sum of Rs.4.60 lakh was collected as penalty. Patrolling and surprise checks are being carried out regularly and habitual offenders arrested and remanded. Smuggling of sea turtle and sea cucumber in Tuticorin Range has been arrested.








It needed 853 games, in the course of which 2,344 goals were scored to decide the best 32 football-playing teams on the planet, who now meet in the 19th edition of the Fifa World Cup getting under way in Johannesburg on Friday. In all, the 31 days of action will witness another 64 matches before the champion emerges, and everysingle game over the month ahead promises its share of moments that will be savoured now and over the next four years till it all begins again in Brazil in 2014. For now, though, it would be fair to say that a fair percentage of the world's eyeballs will be on television sets as el Jogo Bonito — the Beautiful Game — returns to the global centrestage in the Rainbow Nation. South Africa has already paid a mighty cost in terms of investment — pouring over $3 billion into renovating old stadia and building new ones — and will doubtless have to manage the costs of this massive extravaganza for years to come. For the next month though, it will be all about football fever and national pride as the best in the business get to grips with the task of satisfying the huge hunger for success every single qualifying team will be carrying into the tournament — and never mind their world ranking.

As always, Brazil start as the emotional favourites of not just that nation, but a fair section of the rest of the world. While bookmakers may provide short odds on Spain, Argentina, England, Portugal, Germany et al, the gut-level soccer fan will be rooting for Brazil. And why not? As the only country to have won the Jules Rimet Trophy five times, and with flair and panache, the South Americans represent all that is bonito about football. At the same time, the challenge this time seems to far more widespread that in many recent editions of the tournament. It is the first time Africa is hosting the event and for years, experts — including the peerless Pele — have been tipping the continent to throw up a winner. Cameroon and Nigeria have had their moments in the past and Ivory Coast are a formidable unit this time, but it is difficult to see a "home" challenger trouble the big boys unduly. At the business end of the tournament, therefore, it is more or less certain that the eight quarter-finalists will be largely familiar faces.

On another level, football will be only one part of the story at this World Cup. South Africa has for years borne the unfortunate tag of being a violence and crime-prone nation where the huge gap between haves and have-nots has bred an atmosphere of desperation and deprivation. More often that not, this finds expression in direct, brutal action — and to guard against this reputation, the Rainbow Nation has promised to walk the extra mile to guard the thousands of visitors who are already pouring in from across the globe. Beefed-up security in all major cities, better weaponry, fast-track courts and more effective policing are only some of the aspects of this huge operation that has been put into effect. While all of this is primarily aimed at ensuring the next 31 days are as incident-free as possible, the larger issues that face South Africa remain, and while the cities hosting matches have at least gained in terms of infrastructure and crime control, vast swathes of the country will gain nothing from Fifa's decision to hold the tournament there. These are long-term issues. For the moment — as noted elsewhere in this newspaper — it is time to celebrate the return of football to its roots.







India is haemorrhaging badly and may soon be in a coma, given the recent spate of headlines about scams — 2G spectrum scam, the Indian Premier League scam, Madhu Koda — and terror. The June 7 verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy should reinforce the argument that Parliament urgently needs to pass a suitable liability bill to protect Indian interests. The tragedy of India is that common sense proposals are often overlooked due to ignorance, arrogance and zero accountability.


No great crystal ball gazing is required to predict that the next big threat to India will arise if Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence manages to "coordinate and manipulate" the activities of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Indian Maoists, and local insurgents of the Northeast, in the same manner as it is doing in Kashmir. Media reports already mention "links" between the Maoists, Northeast insurgents and the LeT.
After the two Maoist attacks near Dantewada on April 6 and May 17, 2010, followed by a series of incidents of blowing up rail tracks and derailing trains (including the horrendous May 28, 2010, twin train derailing incident), the time has finally come to use the military while allowing the paramilitary and police time to build up the required capability in terms of personnel, training and equipment.

On May 17, 2010, news channels broadcast an interview with a home ministry bureaucrat who made the following valid observations:

l There are 350,000 vacancies in the police force that need to be filled up.

l To have sufficient capability to enforce law and order in the country, about 800,000 additional police personnel would be necessary.

Given the importance of the police force to act as the last line of defence against Maoists and foreign terrorists, it is evident that the country will need another decade to recruit, train and equip a police force that is able to combat terror and the Maoists.

Some urgent interim measures have to be found to combat terror. The reluctance of the overstretched Army and Air Force to get involved is well known. However, the fact remains that the Indian Navy, despite being overstretched on anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and exclusive economic zone patrols off Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, was additionally tasked with the duties of peacetime coastal security after 26/11. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures. A few available interim options to combat Maoist terror are as follows:

l Use of "benign" air power: The Indian Air Force's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be used for surveillance; helicopters could be used for surveillance, casualty evacuation, ferrying supplies and quick movement of paramilitary forces to tactically advantageous positions, while bypassing the improvised explosive device threat on land.

l Permit selective use of armed helicopters against terrorists and Maoists, especially in open areas, where probability of collateral damage is low.

l Permitting seamless movement of security forces involved in hot pursuit across state boundaries.
l The Army could be given adequate land in the most Naxal-infested areas to set up training centres, cantonments etc. The Army's presence would boost the confidence of the local people, paramilitary and police.
l All police and paramilitary officers should serve for one year with Army infantry units at the beginning of their careers. This will ensure higher standards of common training, leadership and synergy.

The financial implications of urgently raising, equipping and training an additional force of about one million for the police, paramilitary and intelligence would be high, especially given the fact that India expects to spend about $9 billion in the next three years on equipment for its existing police and paramilitary, and would also be buying weapons worth over $100 billion for its armed forces in the next decade. Nonetheless, additional money will need to be found quickly.

While ensuring that the writ of the state government prevails and the estimated 35,000-armed Maoists and their co-conspirators (the mining mafia) are neutralised, winning the "hearts and minds" of the totally neglected tribals is equally essential. Given the fact that the tribals have been exploited since 1947, special development programmes (which protect their land, mineral wealth and forests) must be implemented urgently. The right to food, potable water and employment is as important as the right to information and education. About 75 per cent of the subsidised food does not reach the poor, while 10 per cent of our total food production is lost due to poor storage. As per a TV channel, the present potable water shortage in India is about 400 million litres per day. The country is sitting on a ticking bomb that needs to be defused.

Aesop once said, "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office". The scams of independent India have seen the loot of about $1 trillion, which is what "Imperial Great Britain" is estimated to have siphoned off in 200 years of colonial rule (according to an article by Mohan Murti, former director, CII).

Also about $1.4 trillion is reportedly stashed away in Swiss banks. If this combined $2.4 trillion loot is miraculously recovered then India's present $1 trillion economy will triple overnight, and war against poverty-cum-domestic terror can be won. Not by additional money alone, but also by good administration and a speedy and fair judicial system.

Tackling corruption is critical to eliminating Maoist terror in the long-term. In the short term, the reluctant military will once again be needed to establish the rule of law, since all other state institutions have failed. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his work cutout as this crisis cannot be resolved by inaction or appeasement.


Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval
Command, Visakhapatnam







Ever since the Centre announced that it would collect data on various castes during the ongoing Census, the media has created a hue and cry saying that this would harm the nation and open a Pandora's Box of caste conflicts. On the other hand, those who seek caste enumeration are of the view that this would clear the cobwebs and deliver proper data on other backward classes (OBCs) that will help implement reservation policies and welfare schemes better.

The collection of caste data was not a decision taken by the government on its own. The OBC leadership across the country has demanded it and the Supreme Court advised the Centre to go for such a Census to ensure that an accurate population database was made available.

Let us not forget the fact that even at the time of the 2001 Census there was a strong demand for caste census. The then deputy Prime Minister L.K Advani, in fact, went on record to say that caste data would be collected. But Right-wing academic forces — particularly a group of sociologists and anthropologists — advised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government not to go for such an enumeration as it would go against the interests of the ruling upper castes and communities.

It should be noted that the opposition to caste data has been coming from upper castes that still control the levers of power. The lower castes have never opposed such a proposal.

It is fallacious to argue that society would get further divided if the population of each caste is known to the policymakers and to the public.

Caste culture is all around us. In the dalit-bahujan discourse, the upper castes are being shown as constituting less than 15 per cent. This could be totally wrong. Even within the lower castes there are several false claims about numbers. Every caste claims that it is numerically the strongest and keeps asking for its "rightful" share.
How to tell them that their claims are wrong? When caste has become such an important category of day-to-day reckoning it is important to have proper data at hand to tell communities that they constitute this much and cannot ask for more than their share.

It is true that we cannot distribute everything based on caste. But caste census is the right basis for statistics such as literacy rate and issues like the proportion of representation. Once we cite the Census data there cannot be any authentic opposition to that evidence.

The upper caste intelligentsia is afraid that once detailed data on number of people in lower castes is available it would become a major ground for asking for accurate proportional representation in certain sectors, such as education and employment.

For example, once the caste data is available, the 50 per cent limit on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be questioned on the basis of numbers. This would in turn help in sustaining the overall system of liberal democracy. The system of democracy would only get deeper with the discourse of numbers.
Democracy is in effect a system of numbers unlike communism, which does not deal with numbers while institutionalising a government. In a democracy, the governing system is institutionalised through an electoral process and in such a system the people must be counted from all angles — sex, race, religion, caste and so on. In a democracy based on numbers, any section of society can come to power.

Based on the counting on the basis of religion, Hindus have realised that they are the majority. And because of that understanding they have claimed power. When Mahatma Gandhi suggested that Muhammed Ali Jinnah should be made the first Prime Minister in order to avoid Partition, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel put forth the argument that India was a Hindu-majority nation and would not accept a Muslim as its first Prime Minister. Where did the notion of Hindu majoritarianism come from? It came from numbers.

With the same logic what is wrong if women, cutting across religious divides, count themselves, and organise themselves to come to power? They constitute about 50 per cent of the population and if they want to fight for gender democracy, they too can come to power. So should there be a demand for abolition of gender enumeration, too?

If caste census is done, the India democracy would thrive on the firm support of the lower castes who keep hoping of getting their share based on their numbers. The upper castes may feel desolate with the system of democracy itself, if this shift begins to take place. They might call such a shift "castocracy". But would they call a state or a nation being ruled by women "womenocracy"?

Cognitive social psychology says all such theories are constructed on a convenience known as "comfort zone".

f brown upper castes live in white societies they see brown bashing but black bashing remains hidden in their blind spots. In white societies the browns are not in their comfort zone but in India they are and do not want to see the other's "discomfort zone".

Many upper caste intellectuals say that caste was a construction of the colonial census system. They talk as if caste never existed before the British started an enumerative process. By their logic we should come to the conclusion that before the British enumerated people based on religion, there were no religions in India. There are many such blind spots in India and that is why we still remain backward in theories of knowledge.
Let all castes — not just OBCs — be counted for strengthening our democratic system. I know that even mine is a blind-spot theory but it may have the effect of an antidote.








The ongoing questioning of terror suspect David Headley by officers belonging to India's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) suggests that this canary is singing. And if India uses the song to its advantage, it should be able to leverage its growing influence with the US to snare Pakistan in its own web of lies, deceit and terrorism. As he had earlier indicated to the US's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Headley has apparently confirmed that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was very much part of the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai. Although the attacks were carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Headley has apparently confirmed that the ISI was involved every step of the way. He has named Pakistan army officers as well as LeT chief Hafiz Saaed, whom Pakistan seems reluctant to blame, arrest or indict.

While this confirms what India had suspected in spite of Pakistan's many denials, recent comments by Robert Blake, US assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asia can be used to bolster India's case against Pakistan. Blake said that Kashmir is no longer the central issue between the two countries and that Pakistan needs to take action against the 26/11 suspects as well as stop the Lashkar from further terror activities in The US is also apparently concerned about its military aid to Pakistan being diverted and used against India and is looking at safeguards to prevent it. This was part of the just-concluded dialogue between external affairs minister SM Krishna and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.


India is aware of the strong Pakistan-US ties and how much the US is dependent on Pakistan in the ongoing fight against terrorism and the war in Afghanistan. But there is also greater acceptance in the US that Pakistan is the problem rather than the solution.


Meanwhile, Headley's confessions add ballast to India's demands. Pakistan's reluctance to go much further with the suspects that it had apprehended in the 26/11 attacks is now evident to the world. Headley's evidence however nails most of its lies and since he is an FBI witness, Pakistan cannot point fingers at India's motives as it is wont to do. Along with the embarrassment of the Times Square bomber and his Pakistan connections, Islamabad finds itself in a bind with its main patron.








The Maoists have been on a rampage this year since February 15. There have been five major incidents so far starting with the killing of EFR personnel at Silda (Feb15), the blowing up of a police bus in Koraput (April 4), the massacre of CRPF personnel at Chintalnar (April 6), the killing of SPOs in Dantewada (May 17), andthe derailment of Gyaneshwari Express (May 28). It is estimated that the Maoist have already killed some 460 people this year including 167 security forces personnel.


Considering that the Government of India embarked on a massive armed offensive against the Maoists in November 2009, the aforesaid incidents are definitely a setback to the security forces.The Maoists have, at least so far, demonstrated superior tactical skills.


At the strategic level, our plan, it seems, would require further refinement. The government approach is summed up in three words: "clear, hold and develop". In other words, an area is first to be cleared of Maoists and the security forces are to achieve area domination; in the second phase, the civil administration is to move in these areas and re-establish its presence and authority; and, in the third phase, development projects are to be undertaken to improve the lot of the people. The plan had clarity but it was simplistic. If we are going to wait for an area to be cleared of Maoists and then develop it, probably the development stage would never come. In J&K and in the North-East, the government has followed a policy of counter-insurgency operations and development works being undertaken side by side. There is no reason why the same approach could not be adopted in the Maoist affected areas also. The concept of area domination is also flawed. India is a huge country. Forces can be deployed at strategic locations, but it would be difficult to plan for area domination in 13 states which, according to the MHA's annual report, are affected by Maoist violence. The correct approach would be to "seek and engage" the Maoist rebels wherever they are concentrated.


It was perhaps inappropriate to have relied so heavily on the CRPF for the counter-insurgency operations. It is an excellent force but trained essentially for law and order duties of a routine nature. Operations against Maoists require forces which are trained in jungle warfare. The Border Security Force and the ITBP are better conditioned to deal with the Maoists. Armed police battalions from Nagaland or Mizoram could also give a good account of themselves in such situations. The Rammohan Committee, which enquired into the Dantewada lapses, is also reported to have suggested the deployment of BSF or ITBP in place of the CRPF.


Certain sections are of the view that the Indian Army be given a significant role in the anti-Maoist operations. It is true that the paramilitary forces have suffered reverses in the initial phase. However, that should not lead to any loss of faith in the capability of our forces to deal with the Maoist challenge. The paramilitary forces of the country have given an excellent account of themselves in Punjab, in J&K and also in the North-East. There should be no reason to doubt their capability to deal with the Maoist challenge. The Indian Army should reserve its fire power to deal with challenges from across the international borders.


The state governments meanwhile must take effective steps to build the capabilities of the police forces. The vacancies of 3.35 lakh policemen should not only be filled up but necessary augmentation in strength should be sought to improve the police-population ratio. Police reforms must be carried out sincerely and the forces insulated from political interference. Besides, the ground level intelligence must improve. The disaster at Dantewada happened essentially because the CRPF patrol was moving in an intelligence vacuum.


Differences of opinion at the political level have contributed in no small measure to blunting the sharpness of the security forces' offensive. Shibu Soren as chief minister always had a sneaking sympathy for the Maoists. Nitish Kumar in Bihar has been equivocal in his stand against the Maoists. The CPM in West Bengal has been blowing hot and cold in the matter. Mamata Banerjee has been throwing spanners in government's plans. Within the ruling party also, differing voices have been heard. The Maoist challenge has all the trappings of a national problem and it should be treated as such. The country needs a clear and coherent policy to deal with the Maoists — and the same should be implemented without any discordant notes.


The government needs to undertake a multi-pronged approach to deal with the Maoist challenge. The problem has to be tackled at the political, strategic and tactical levels while the socio-economic grievances must be addressed. There would have to be a conscious effort to win over the hearts and minds of the disaffected populace in the remote areas of the country.









THE visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India assumes great strategic importance because of the untrammelled power that the Sri Lankan president enjoys after having decimated the LTTE and vanquished its leader V. Prabhakaran, besides having won an overwhelming mandate both in his own election and for his party in the parliamentary elections. Mr Rajapaksa is a master strategist and the guile with which he has been playing the China card has made India tread cautiously with him. The Sri Lankan leader, however, knows only too well that Indian aid and support can come in handy for his country at a time when the economic recovery is slow on account of an economic slowdown. Mr Rajapaksa has also been under fire from the European Union on his controversial human rights record and a measure of acceptability in India will, he reckons, help him be seen in better light. Since Sri Lanka is right in India's backyard, this country on its part has much to gain strategically from weaning him away from the excessive Chinese influence. A step-up in the Indian corporate sector's participation in the numerous projects in Sri Lanka's reconstruction would also be to India's benefit.


In that context, the seven agreements signed between India and Sri Lanka as a result of Mr Rajapaksa's visit are welcome insofar as they break new ground in the areas of defence, space and energy security while strengthening the existing bonds through restoration of transport links, particularly a ferry service between Tuticorin and Colombo and between Rameshwaram and Thalaimanner; setting up additional consulates and initiating cooperation in the power sector. A treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and an MoU on sentenced prisoners also formed part of the package agreed upon.


What India would particularly be keen to see is greater sensitivity to the plight of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and a devolution package to bring greater autonomy to the country's Tamil-dominated eastern part. On this, Mr Rajapaksa has been largely non-committal though on this visit he has held out an olive branch. The Manmohan Singh government will indeed have to show deftness in dealing with a neighbour who needs to be handled with great tact and diplomacy.








THE Centre's decision to reconstitute the Group of Ministers headed by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to examine issues related to the Bhopal gas tragedy is welcome, though belated. Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily has also hinted at framing a new law to provide adequate compensation to the victims of such disasters. Admittedly, there is no "vicarious liability" in criminal law, as former Chief Justice of India Justice A.M Ahmadi has rightly said. The Bhopal court simply followed the rulebook and gave two years' jail to eight officials of the Union Carbide India Limited and released them on bail. The nation was stunned at the development, but what could the lower court do when the accused went to the apex court and succeeded in having the charges against them diluted to Section 304A (causing death by negligence)? Surely, we need more stringent and tougher laws to deal with them to act as a deterrent. Compensation is another area that cries for attention. One reason for the raw deal given to Bhopal victims is the absence of a suitable law of torts in India as in the US and the UK.


Unfortunately, even after 25 years of the Bhopal disaster, India does not have a formal law of torts which would allow victims of any industrial tragedy to move court for compensation. The people in the US and the UK enjoy a greater degree of protection against industrial disasters because of their time-tested tort laws. In the US, for instance, lawyers charge about 33 per cent of the total amount awarded under any court order or offered as a settlement to the victims as contingency fees. In the UK, there are various forms of collective action and other mechanisms to pursue group complaints. India doesn't have the US system of award-linked fees; lawyers here can only charge professional fees, but high litigation costs and long delays plague the system.


In India, though courts have extended the scope of civil damages, there is still no suitable law to deal with a Bhopal-like disaster. The Centre had enacted the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985, in a hurry without proper examination of all the issues. The legislation that Mr Moily is contemplating now should not only have a specific provision to deal with mass disasters caused by gross negligence in storing hazardous substances but also provide for speedy and adequate compensation to victims.









THOSE who crib that cricket grabs too many eyeballs will have something to rejoice at least during the next 30 days. With FIFA World Cup kicking off in South Africa, the world will eat, drink and breathe only soccer for one month. There is no other tournament to match its colour, exuberance and passion. With every new outing, the tournament has grown bigger and better. The 19th edition is expected to break new ground in terms of reach and popularity, especially since this is the first time that the tournament has been hosted by an African nation. Those watching it on television might very well make it into record books. Like it or not, the lure of soccer is so powerful that it draws even those who have little knowledge about its nuances.


The game has become so competitive that it will be foolhardy to hazard a guess about even the finalists, let alone the winner. Many may vote for Brazil and Argentina but then how can one forget Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and England? On their day, any of them can puncture the predictions. Many of the stars will be missed this time. While Brazilian coach Dunga has left out Ronaldinho, Alexandre Pato and Adriano, mercurial Mardona has ignored experienced Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. But there are many hugely talented boys out there who can do anything to write their names in gold in the fable book of World Cup. These are the 30 days that the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Robinho and Kaka have been waiting for.


Organising a tournament of this magnitude can be an administrative nightmare. It is remarkable that things have finally fallen in place, despite many hiccups on the way. That gives some hope for the Commonwealth Games in India. India is nowhere in the reckoning in this battle of soccer giants. But that does not mean it is short on interest and enthusiasm. Whether it is Kolkata or Mahilpur, whatever happens in distant South Africa would be watched with bated breath, and dissected with expert precision. Let the best team win!

















TWO former Army Chiefs, Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury and Gen V. P. Malik, and a former Vice-Chief of the Army Staff, Lieut-Gen S. K. Sinha, who has had the added advantage of serving as governor of two insurgency-ravaged states, Assam and Kashmir, have in recent days written thoughtful articles on combating the Maoist challenge. The country in general and the Cabinet Committee on Security, now in the throes of finalising a comprehensive policy on this burning problem, in particular, would do well to heed their counsel.


Since the CCS is grappling with the issue of using the Army and the Air Force to widen Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's "limited mandate" to fight what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accurately calls the "biggest internal security threat", it should give the most serious thought to their sound advice to desist. Their arguments --- that the Army is already "overstretched", that if deployed against the Maoists it would need legal protection under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which is under vigorous attack in the states where it is already in force, and that the presence of men in olive green in the deep interior of the country could enhance the existing "alienation" there - must not be brushed aside.


The three generals do not say that the armed forces have no role at all in defeating the Maoists' war on the Indian State. What they are opposing is the direct embroilment of the Army and the Air Force in counter-insurgency operations in the Maoist-infested areas. For instance, a vital role the Army can and must play is to train the personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in jungle warfare. As it became evident after the April 6 slaughter of 76 policemen at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh of the company of the 62nd CRPF battalion that went on a botched up anti-insurgent mission, the bulk had had no jungle warfare training. Also, serving or retired Army officers can be posted to unified commands, headed by Chief Ministers, in the Maoist-affected states. Similarly, the Air Force can be of great help in logistical support to paramilitary and police forces and in surveillance that can be done by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). But any offensive role by the IAF is almost certain to be counter-productive, if only because of widespread collateral civilian damage. Except once in Mizoram in extremely difficult circumstances in the sixties, India has never used air power or artillery while fighting internal insurgencies. Let this shining record be maintained.


According to General Sinha, the 200,000-strong CRPF is the "largest paramilitary force in the world", but though "equipped with modern weapons" lacks training in jungle warfare. "It is also the most overstretched force with poor logistics", and besides being "ill-trained, it is also poorly led". These shocking shortcomings have to be rectified rapidly. In this context, the lateral entry of Army jawans and officers into the CRPF (and other paramilitary forces) would be useful.


What goes for the CRPF is even more relevant to the police in the states concerned. The training, discipline, morale and leadership of state police forces are even worse than those of Central paramilitary organisations. At the same time, without adequate rural policing and rural intelligence collection all the tall talk about rooting out Maoism would remain empty rhetoric. There are several other stumbling blocks to the effective action against Maoists that also have to be overcome.


First, the controversy over whether combating Maoism is the responsibility of the states or of the Centre is nonsensical. Law and order is the states' responsibility under the Constitution. But the Maoists are not creating just a law-and-order problem. They are waging an all-out war with the avowed objective of overthrowing the duly elected Indian government through armed force. All the constituents of the Union of India have, therefore, to respond with complete unity and coherence. Unfortunately, the problem is political, not constitutional. The time has come to cry halt to the absurdity of different state governments owning allegiance to different political parties going their own conflicting ways and the Centre arguing that its responsibility ends with providing the states with paramilitary forces. To put in place institutional arrangements to first develop a political consensus and then take coordinated action is not beyond human ingenuity.


Secondly, the country and the government must realise that the first task that brooks no delay is to inflict on the Maoists greater attrition than is the case today. Indeed, during the first five months of this year the Maoists have killed 170 personnel of the security forces as against 108 Maoists that fell to the security forces' action. The pattern was the same throughout 2009, and the statistics since 2005 are most depressing. Over this period the Maoists killed 1,189 security forces personnel and 1,647 civilians, while fatal casualties among the Maoists were 1,441. Is it any surprise that they are getting more and more emboldened? Of all the targets Dantewada in Chhattisgarh is the worst hit.


Thirdly, and most importantly, the Prime Minister is quite right when he announces that in the fight against the Maoists, his government would seriously address the development problems at the grassroots and at the same time enforce the writ of the state firmly. Surely, he knows what the ground reality is. In most Naxalite-haunted areas, barring a few, there is no scope for development because the administration just cannot reach there. But even this is relatively unimportant. What is of paramount importance is that we have reached this appalling state of affairs because of woeful lack of good governance in the country over decades. Corruption is rampant and apparently irremediable. All political parties, indeed almost every politician, happily play politics with every issue, including ironically seeking Maoists' support in elections. The police forces in all the states where the Maoists have a sway are unable to meet the challenge because they have been politicised relentlessly and remorselessly. Shamefully, every recruit to the police has to bribe his way in. The police in this country are not servants of the law, as they should be, but servitors of the party in power. Dr Singh has got to do something effective about this.


Finally, one short point: After the attempted terrorist bombing at Times Square in New York President Obama summoned the US director of national intelligence, David Blair, and sacked him on the spot. Can there be such accountability in the great Republic of India?








A fiduciary relationship between an officer and her Personal Assistant comes to mind as I traverse my years in the Secretariat.


As a middle ranking officer, I was greatly in awe of a Financial Commissioner who had several departments under her eagle-eyed superintendence. On a certain day, I was summoned to explain my tangential suggestions regarding the promotion of 'gobar gas and solar energy' in rural Haryana.


I entered the sepulchral room of the Personal Assistant, let's call him Mr Aneja, and with other civil servants was made to sit on a rickety round-bottomed chair. Meanwhile, I found Mr Aneja simultaneously applying telephones to both his ears conveying the officer's directions.


The Department of Irrigation and Power was a part of Mr Aneja's jurisdiction and a row of pale-faced engineers were in attendance waiting to present their credentials. Meanwhile, an Assistant Commissioner on training politely enquired from me about the governmental hierarchy to which, in natural reflex, I replied: "The Secretariat is the only mad house run by its inmates."


Shortly thereafter there was a strong fragrance that preceded the Financial Commissioner's arrival. When I finally gained entry I noted that the hall was large and I recalled an uncle, a member of the Indian Civil Service, who once told me that during the Raj, officers represented the paramount power in full panoply operating out of cavernous chambers where supplicants quaked as they approached the presiding deity.


The Madam barely acknowledged my presence and in stern tones told Mr Aneja: "Look here, I have just 15 or 20 minutes before it is my turn to host this month's luncheon and I have to reach the Golf Club early as I am the hostess." Mr Aneja then drew himself up to his total height of 5'2" puffing out his chest and submitted with practised humility: "Your Honour, who understands better than me the onerous responsibilities that burden your shoulder!" To which Madam retorted: "Mr Aneja, there are heaps and heaps of files. How shall I deal with them? Who will dispose them of? Why have they been permitted to gather dust? Do you not know that my officers are somewhat raw?"


"Madam, I have read the files and sorted them out. There are just four bundles; Your Worship may now sign and pass final orders and I assure you that you will reach the club before the guests arrive," Mr Aneja said.


The Financial Commissioner sighed with relief and proceeded to affix her signatures to the first heap of files. "Madam, these officers have been placed under suspension." Thereafter, the second heap was disposed of with the officers having got promoted while the third heap contained the fate of officers who had been chargesheeted.


"Madam, the fourth heap concerns miscellaneous matters such as development and these can await Your Honour's convenience. And now Madam, the day's work is over," said Mr Aneja exuberantly as he escorted the Financial Commissioner out of her chamber. And as he trailed her, I found him crooking a finger at a Chief Engineer amidst the vanishing perfume. The last I heard was "Mr Aneja, thank you ever so much. What would I do without you?"








SAHIB, kanoon ka kaam garibon ko phasana aur amiron ko khiskana. Some years back a taxi driver had voiced this sentiment. The recent judgement in the Bhopal case now reinforces this widely held belief. While the Bhopal court has awarded the maximum permissible punishment, India's Law Minister has described it as 'justice buried'. The sentence is clearly a case of too little too late and exemplifies the systemic weaknesses of Indian justice.


Not surprisingly, the principal players have had their roles whitewashed. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), of Eveready batteries fame, diversified into chemicals and pesticides. However, in the 1960s Netherlands disallowed UCC's hazardous technology, opting instead for safer alternatives. The European pesticides market having thus dried up, UCC cynically decided to target the Third World, which offered cheap labour, low costs and lax safety enforcement.


India's Green Revolution boosted pesticides demand — a plum target for UCC's hazardous process. GoI's notoriously sticky wheels were oiled with suitable lubricants and soon, violating its own rules on foreign investments, UCC was permitted a majority share in UCC, India, ostensibly for its 'induction of sophisticated technology', ignoring the Dutch example.


The Madhya Pradesh government received orders from 'the very top' to expeditiously clear the pesticides plant at Bhopal. It permitted the plant near the railway station, peremptorily overruling objections by a senior bureaucrat.


From 1982, a series of vital decisions by UCC, USA directly caused the December 1984 tragedy. Neglected maintenance, curtailed staff and disregarded safety manuals became the norm. MIC, the deadly gas which was to cause the catastrophe, needed to be stored below 5 degree centigrade; but its refrigeration unit too was switched off! Cost-cutting entailed halving the work force by 1984 with severe safety implications. Operating crew for the MIC plant was reduced from 12 to six while maintenance crew dropped from six to two. Workers' safety training was cut from six months to 15 days.


By 1984, at least 61 MIC leakages had been detected by US-EPA at UCC, West Virginia. In May 1982, a safety audit by UCC, USA uncovered 30 major risks at Bhopal including 11 in the lethal MIC unit. The team warned of "high potential for a serious incident or more serious consequences." In September 1984, another safety report in the US presciently identified the deadly possibility of a "runaway reaction in MIC storage tanks". UCC's American management was thus fully aware of design and safety shortcomings in Bhopal. Had the mass of safety recommendations been implemented, perhaps the December 1984 disaster would have been averted.


On the night of December 2, 1984, a worker forced water to clear a blocked pipe leading to the container with 60 tonnes of lethal MIC. However, poor maintenance and non-functional safety systems allowed water to mix with MIC, triggering a runaway reaction. The plant supervisor failed to anticipate the enormous impending danger. Around midnight the runaway reaction exploded the concrete casing and deadly MIC spewed out.


About 4,000 people perished within hours while 11,000 died lingering deaths. Lakhs were maimed or became incurably sick for life. The city of Begums became synonymous with the greatest catastrophe since Nagasaki. Now it has acquired a new notoriety – failure of the Indian justice system and the callous disregard for human suffering by the Indian state.


Confirming common wisdom, the big fish have escaped scot-free. The culpability of the UCC parent had been excluded from purview of Indian justice system by our Supreme Court, which also diluted the charges from 304-II (culpable homicide) to 304-A (causing death by negligence). Further, the apex court brokered a settlement of $470 million for lakhs of victims against over $3 billion demanded. Warren Anderson was facilitated in fleeing India and selling the court-seized UCC shares, thus depriving the government of any leverage to get justice for its citizens from the errant company.


The role of the top leadership in Delhi for permitting the hazardous technology while ignoring the Dutch example has never been subjected to public scrutiny. The MP government too cannot escape its criminal disregard for public safety by allowing the factory in the congested area.


The state government was culpable at many more levels. Every factory is 'inspected' by 15-20 inspectors for compliance with a plethora of safety regulations. Yet none of them has been held accountable for failure to detect the blatant disregard of safety norms over several years.


Besides, while thousands of citizens perished, not a single factory worker suffered — they simply held wet towels over eyes and noses. Even today, the state government continues to disregard public health hazards of the contaminated soil, still leeching poisons into ground water.


Bhopal is unique only because of its catastrophic impact. The 'cancer belt' afflicting a fifth of Punjab has resulted from years of untreated poisons discharging illegally into Ludhiana waters. While Bhopal prompted the Canadian Chemical Manufacturers to adopt 'Responsible Care' — a voluntary high-safety regime — for Indian industry, business-as-usual remains its motto. The question confronting us is, has the law been deliberately kept weak even 26 years after the tragedy?


The Bhopal verdict will embolden more cynical politicians, officials and moneybags to play with lives of the Aam Admi. The least homage we can pay to the Bhopal victims is to revamp our safety laws, particularly for fixing criminal culpability of public officials at every level. Otherwise, the impression that India is sinking into a Banana Republic would only be reinforced.


The writer is a former Director-General, Disaster Management Institute, Bhopal








Reports of Myanmar's nuclear ambition have raised concerns of international community regarding nuclear proliferation regime. A former major, Sai Thein Win, has publicised photographs of Myanmar's nuclear programme. He was among one of the army officers who was sent to Russia for training in missile technology. He showed photographs of secret nuclear facility, 11 km from Thabeikkyan. He described it as the army's nuclear battalion and mentioned that Burma is also trying to build nuclear reactor for uranium enrichment.


However, researchers have mentioned that Myanmar will take a long time to develop its own nuclear and missile facilities. A striking revelation is the North Korea's nuclear connection with Burma. There were reported attempts to transfer sensitive technology to Burma from Japan in 2008 and 2009. Burma's quest for nuclear bomb is due to the fear of the US intervention or by the UN-led coalition to enforce democratic regime in Myanmar.


For the last 20 years, these fears are kept alive by the hostility shown by the international community and imposition of sanctions by the western powers. For example, in 2008, Burma refused to accept aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis.


If Myanmar develops its nuclear and missile system, India will be surrounded by three nuclear weapons states — China, Pakistan and Burma. Both Pakistan and Burma have good relations with China which will be disadvantageous to Indian interests. The Pakistan-China axis is well known; China has even helped Pakistan in the development of nuclear and missile technology.


Since 1988, Myanmar has emerged as a close ally of China, receiving economic and military help and also projecting Chinese power in the region. In 1988, China signed an agreement establishing trade across the border. Burma was isolated at that time due to domestic turmoil in the country and China opened up a trading outlet in the Indian Ocean.


China's navy sees Myanmar as an important route to reach towards Indian Ocean. The PLAN would be able to reduce the distance by 3000km by not passing through the Strait of Malacca to reach the Bay of Bengal. Besides providing military hardware help, China has also helped Burma to improve railway and road system. China has also build up facilities in Coco Island by establishing modern reconnaissance and electronic intelligence system.


This is of big concern to India. India has tried to develop friendly relationship with Burma but it cannot be compared to Chinese influence. When there was domestic turmoil in Burma, the US asked China to exercise its political and economic influence to restore order in the country. Under such condition, India has to face one more nuclear ally of China which can degrade the security condition of South Asia.


Another striking similarity between the three countries is that they all are hostile to the US. Pakistan may be an US ally but there is opposition among the people of Pakistan against the US policies, especially after drone attacks which have killed many civilians.


As India, with pro-US policies, is the "odd one out" in the region, the US and India should deal with Burma's nuclear programme. However, the problem is that President Obama is more concerned about developing relationship with China and Pakistan as compared to India. The US should understand that China won't help in dealing with Burma's nuclear bomb. The reason? China has been supporting pawns against the US. North Korea has been providing nuclear weapons to Burma. For it was because of China and Russia's help that North Korea developed itself as a nuclear weapon state. China is the epicentre of nuclear proliferation.


Pakistan is struggling to protect its country from extremism and to secure its nuclear weapons material. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by Burma will not only lead to a fragile situation in South Asia but lead to the failure of the US nuclear proliferation regime. In such circumstances, India is the only country left in the Burma's neighbourhood which could provide help to the US to put pressure on Burma to end its nuclear ambition.


The US and its European allies do not have cordial ties with Burma. It is very difficult for the US to convince Myanmar to give up its nuclear weapons. India could, as a mediator, allay Burma's fears. The US should understand that it cannot win over nuclear proliferation alone and has to take the help of other likeminded powers in the region.


The writer is Research Associate, United Service Institution of India, New Delhi








AFTER truce, it is now time for bonhomie. In a sign that all is well with the Ambani household, Anil Ambani chose to stay at a guest house owned by his elder brother Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) at Tirumala during his recent visit to the hill shrine.


A few days after the two warring brothers bought peace by scrapping the non-compete agreement, Anil visited Tirumala, the abode of Lord Venkateswara, and surprised everyone by staying in Sri Krishna Guest House owned by RIL.


This is the first time that Anil made a stopover at his brother's guest house. During his earlier visits, he used to stay at a private guest house, Srivatsavam.


Anil trekked his way up the 10-km distance to the hill shrine, spent some time at the Guest House before heading to the temple for performing rituals. He was accompanied by his wife Tina and some friends.


A few days before the truce was worked out, Anil, along with his mother Kokilaben, had flown to the pilgrim town of Badrinath and offered prayers. If it helped break ice with his elder brother after five years of bitter legal battles, the Tirumala trip seems to have revived the warmth in the family.


BPO in prison


The central jail in Hyderabad will soon have a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) centre. The unit will employ 200 educated convicts who will handle back office operations like data entry and process and transmit information. The project, a public-private partnership between the Department of Jails and an IT company Radiant Info Systems, will begin at Charlapally central jail which has 2,100 inmates.


"The idea is to ensure a good future for the educated convicts after they come out of jail," C.N. Gopinath Reddy, Director-General of Prisons, said. The IT company officials said they had chosen Charlapally prison for the project because nearly 40 per cent of the inmates there were educated.


A special office space has been created in the jail premises for the project, complete with computers, connectivity and other facilities. To begin with, over 200 people would be recruited and trained for the job. The unit, which is expected to undertake back-office work for banks, will work round the clock with three shifts of 70 staff each.


Golden deal


This may well be the biggest gold transaction in the country. The Tirumala Tirupati Devastahanams (TTD), an autonomous board managing the affairs of Lord Sri Venkateshwara Temple at Tirumala, has decided to deposit its 3,000 kg of gold reserves in the State Bank of India (SBI).


Apart from security and insurance cover, the TTD will also get an annual interest of Rs 8 crore for its gold. In the first phase, the TTD has shifted 1,075 kg of gold from its reserves to SBI for safe custody.


The move follows growing security concerns. As per the current practice, the temple authorities transport gold from its vaults to a mint in Mumbai by rail to make coins, popularly known as 'dollars' which will be sold to the devotees again. Now, SBI will take the responsibility of keeping the gold with it and also transporting it from the TTD to safe custody, TTD chairman D.K. Adikeshavulu Naidu said.









Astone's throw from the heritage Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly known as The Prince of Wales Museum of Western India) building, it still manages to carve a niche for itself. And while the Institute of Science is a glorious reminder of our past through the countless opportunities it has provided for researchers, its architecture is equally enamoring.

The structure stands diagonally opposite St Anne's School at Fort. Affiliated to the University of Mumbai and managed by the Government of Maharashtra, the institute has been awarded the status of "Centre with Potential for Excellence" by the UGC in 2008. It is a fullfledged premier post graduate institute for Teaching and research in subjects like Zoology, Botany and Biochemistry. Generous funding from the government has resulted in the establishment boasting of latest scientific instruments like Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) systems. It also provides hostel facilities for boys and girls. The foundation stone of the institute – which was known as Royal Institute of Science at the time – was laid by George Wittet (who had designed some of the most prominent buildings of that time including Bombay House, the Prince of Wales Museum and the Gateway of India) in 1911. The building was finally completed in 1920.
   It was founded by Baron Sydenham (Clarke, Sir George Sydenham, first Baron Sydenham of Combe, 1848 – 1933) who was appointed Governor of Bombay in 1907. Still, funds for construction came in from private donations: Sir Cowasji Jehangir donated money for the east wing; Sir Vasanji Trikumji Mulji for the library, money for the west flank of the main building came from Jacob Sassoon while money for the east flank was donated by Sir Currimbhoy Ebrahim.

The structure – which has exquisite facades of the two wings joined by the flat central dome of the Cowasji Jehangir Hall – has been built using yellow Kharodi basalt stone sourced from Thane.

The library, which is spread over an area of 10,000 sq ft on the mezzanine floor of the main building, was set up in 1921. Today, it houses more than 24,000 books and 23,000 bound volumes of journals.

The Philosophical Association was founded in 1925. It is currently chaired by Dr Debjani Dasgupta and remains the main organisation for the institute's cultural activities.


The building is a recognised heritage site and is beautifully illuminated at night while its campus has the unique distinction of actually having a botanical garden, which occupies an area of 0.2 hectares with some rare plants included for good measure. This garden consists of 73 trees, 54 shrubs, 87 herbs, 19 climbers (climbing plants) and one liana (long-stemmed, woody vines that use trees or other means of vertical support) belonging to various families of Angiosperms (flowering plants), Gymnosperms (seedbearing plants) and Pteridophytes (they produce neither flowers nor seeds). In fact, the institute has its own herbarium, a collection of preserved plant specimens, containing many holotype species and is one of the oldest herbaria in India.

It would be pertinent to note that the alumnus of the institute includes eminent scientists such as Dr Homi Bhabha, Dr B M Udgaonkar, Dr Menon and Dr Shreeram Abhyankar, and Dr Kiran Karnik, Prof Madhav Gadgil and Madhav Chavan as faculty members.

Next Week – The 12th part of a close look at historical landmarks near the BSE.



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It is not clear what exactly Vijay Mallya's contribution has been to the upper house of Parliament, other than the free hospitality he has often extended to his fellow members of Parliament on his private jets. But Mr Mallya is not the only business leader to have had a poor parliamentary track record. Even the flamboyant Rahul Bajaj or the handsome Anil Ambani failed to make an impact on the proceedings of Parliament. Then there are scores of other less high profile business leaders seated on all sides of both the upper and lower houses of Parliament, but few of them have shaped policy or moulded public life. Only the younger Ambani saw the light of day in time and quit a few months into his term. Mr Mallya, on the other hand, has chosen to seek a second term. Clearly, business persons who seek a seat in Parliament must think it worth their while. Their shareholders must approve of this investment. But if they don't, they must then ask why precious corporate time and money are being wasted. What is the return on investment? Apart from such corporate leaders, India's Parliament and legislative assemblies are full of contractors, builders and investors of all sizes and shapes, and many of them have secured ministerial appointments.

In a democracy, one cannot object to anyone who is qualified seeking public office. However, it is important to ensure that people in positions of political power and influence do not misuse their power and influence, much less deploy this in favour of their corporate and private interest. That is why a political leader like Sharad Pawar must come clean on his private business interests. He, for one, has far too many of them. There are many ministers who routinely travel abroad at public expense to pursue their private business interests. At the state level, things are worse. Many state-level ministers, cutting across political parties, have direct business interests in areas supervised by their ministries.

 This is not to suggest that people in public life should isolate themselves and have nothing to do with business persons. Far from it. In fact, there should be far more purposeful, policy-oriented interaction between politicians and business leaders so that the government's policies are better informed by the experience of the market. Interaction and interface are different from interconnections and interdependence. Most modern democracies define fairly clearly what amounts to a "conflict of interest". The Shashi Tharoor episode brought this issue into full public focus and Mr Tharoor did well to resign his ministerial position, even though it is not clear if he has ceased all links with business interests in cricket. But in Mr Pawar's case, the conflict of interest argument is even more relevant. Recent trends in Indian politics suggest that the situation is going from bad to worse. Like the infamous "politician-criminal" nexus, there is now the "businessman-politician" nexus that is equally insidious and damaging to public policy. This is neither in the interests of healthy politics nor healthy business. In fact, a vast majority of politicians and business persons would feel happier and reassured if explicit norms on conflict of interest were put in place so that the black sheep could be separated from the rest of the herd








A global survey's rating of Indian consumers as the greenest in the world, though significant in itself, should be viewed in perspective. In the annual survey carried out by the National Geographic Society and the international polling firm GlobeScan, India topped the ranking for the eco-friendly consumption pattern of its population for the second year in a row. Brazil has been adjudged second, China third and the US last in the survey that appraised 17 nations. The criteria chosen for measuring the environmental impact of consumption pattern included modes of transportation, household energy and resource use, food consumption and the use of consumer goods, besides people's attitude towards environmental issues. It is not surprising that barring housing, where India scored behind Brazil, it topped in all other areas. Much of the credit for this high green rating goes to the poverty and frugality of Indian consumers. A large number of even middle class Indians are still very frugal in their consumption behaviour and are less non-renewable energy-dependent than developed country consumers. The transport sector is the worst defaulter in the green index and India's relatively low car density, with more small cars and two-wheelers in the automobile market, contributes to India's higher ranking. The use of public transport for inter-city and long distances is quite common. Most Indians also prefer home-cooked, locally grown food rather than processed food transported over long distances. Besides, a large number of Indians are either vegetarian or only casual consumers of high-protein non-vegetarian food. Even urban households still use manual labour for household chores instead of washing machines, vacuum cleaners and dish washers. This apart, India's climate makes it less dependent on central heating, even though air-conditioning is growing rapidly. All this helps.


That said, make no mistake that this austere and environment-friendly life-style is giving way to western-type environment-unfriendly lifestyle, especially among the middle classes and new-rich. While the poor remain environment-friendly because they cannot afford wasteful consumption, they too are contributing to the proliferation of plastic and the excessive consumption of fossil fuels, thanks to energy subsidies. So, things will change as the economy develops and incomes rise, unless steps are taken to discourage environment-unfriendly consumption. With a steady rise in income levels, especially of the country's vast middle and upper middle classes, more and more are adopting energy-intensive lifestyle. The penchant for larger cars and upper-end motorbikes is gradually growing. The market for consumer durables using plastics and non-disposable material is also expanding. As far as awareness of environmental issues is concerned, there is no doubt that it is growing, but it does not appear to be the most dominant factor in determining people's lifestyle as yet. The findings of the global survey bear this out. Nearly 40 per cent of Indians are reported to have endorsed the view that environmental concerns are over-emphasised. There is, thus, need for further improving environmental awareness so that it could influence the consumption pattern.








An inescapable conclusion from the series of financial crises that have been roiling our lives over the past couple of years is that the financial sector has become much too big for our good. Finance used to be — and should be — a support function in life. It certainly is in most companies that add tangible value in terms of products and services. Instead, it has become one of the loudest aspects of contemporary life.

 Indeed, financial companies comprise 19 of the Forbes top-50 global companies (down from 25 in 2008), and generate $1.7 trillion of sales (down from $2.5 trillion in 2008). Now "sales" of financial companies comprise gains on investments (trading) and fees charged to clients. Acknowledging that some parts of client fees are charged to other financial companies, and, at least according to Goldman Sachs, that trading is not too significant a part of the business, I would estimate that around $0.85 to 1 trillion of sales come from fees charged to "real economy" companies. With global GDP (back of the envelope) not too much more than $40 trillion, this works out to an average fee of more than 2 per cent, which is ridiculously high.

Another way of looking at the issue is to recognise that financial sector profits in the US rose to nearly 6 per cent of GDP in 2007 from a long-term average of around 1.5 per cent. Now, in a free market, if any business starts to increase profit share to that extent, it would attract sufficient competition to bring the profit share back down close to the long-term average. Even where there are technological advances that are responsible for the increase in profits, free competition would still work since new vendors would start to pass on the gains from technology to customers. If this isn't happening, it only means that the market is rigged.

Which means that regulators have been captured and/or are asleep at the wheel. This is hardly unique to the financial sector — the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the sale of mineral rights in India are only two more examples of failure of government to do its job of keeping the market reasonably free.

The good news is that the turmoil has galvanised the need for change, and, unsurprisingly, a shift back to common sense. Here are five common sense ideas, which are all under various levels of discussion:

1) Depositors' money, which is insured by taxpayers, should not be used for speculation. Period. Banks should be banks in the most classical sense, where they intermediate between savers and borrowers.

2) No institution should be too-big-to-fail. The only way to ensure that no institution becomes too big to fail (or too interconnected to fail) is to define the largest acceptable size of an institution in terms of assets and simply tax any excess to death by having differential reserve requirements.

3) Non-banks that take money from investors, however sophisticated, must be registered in the same jurisdiction in which they take money and/or transact.

4) As many derivatives as possible should be shifted to exchanges; brokers on exchanges should be pure brokers. Trading entities, whether banks or non-banks, should be permitted as market-makers only on exchanges.

5) Regulators should stop using credit ratings for setting capital adequacy. They should build their own skills and/or use paid consultants to track banks' internal credit systems. Investors too should do their own due diligence and/or pay reputable agencies to do it for them.

While getting this common sense implemented will be extremely difficult, given the nature of politicians and the high winds of financial sector lobbying, it is clear that the world is ready for a new regime. Indeed, the US government's financial sector reform Bill and related efforts in Europe attest to the fact that politicians have no choice but to listen.

Of course, this fragmentation of the financial sector will certainly put some sand in the wheels of finance, which will result in slower growth, a higher cost of capital and a lower expected return on financial investments. While none of these sound appealing, they are necessary changes to ensure that both risk and capital are more appropriately priced.

On the positive side, it will create more "real" competition in the financial sector, leading to better pricing for end-users and improved financial efficiency of the real sector. Further, as the share of financial sector profits in GDP comes down, it will automatically put more meaningful controls on executive compensation, which, in turn, will drive young people into a broader range of career options.

May the next cycle begin.







It is 3 in the afternoon. You are on a long-distance call while checking your emails, surfing channels and taking a reluctant bite of the sandwich which has got cold as you just didn't have enough time in between those daily meetings.

Sounds familiar? There are countless executives like you who think a 60 — make that 80 — miles per hour life is the way to go.

 But psychologists have a term for this 24x7 existence — "hurry sickness", a state of being where a person feels chronically short of time and so tends to perform every task faster and, in turn, gets flustered when encountered with any kind of delay. Such people move like a launched missile throughout the working day (usually they come in much ahead of others and leave much later than others) in the hope that the boss would be mighty impressed with their permanent state of busyness.

The flip side, however, is that these people may be mixing up business with busyness and confusing working smart with working long and fast. HR consultants say what these busy bees need to understand is that while the nose to the grindstone may be a necessary posture for furthering their career, there is much more to life that can be seen from this posture.

Psychologists say hurry sickness is more than just feeling rushed and getting immersed in the worry-go-round of the corporate rat race. Persons suffering from this disease often don't realise that speed and extra long hours just can't be sustained for a long period of time. Even if they can, their work quality is bound to suffer as they become nothing but glorified robots.

Remember the movie Modern Times where Charlie Chaplin stands at an assembly line in a factory, and for eight hours a day tightens a nut with his wrench as each piece goes by. From time to time, the boss increases the pace of the conveyor belt, and Chaplin has to work even faster. Throughout the day, he makes the same movement with his arm. When he comes out after eight hours, he just can't stop. Though he has no wrench, he makes the same gesture all the way home, to the amusement of the passers-by.

This is what happens to people who are always in a terrible hurry at their workplace. Beyond a point, they stop thinking and react exactly like Chaplin did on his way home. These people constantly hurry, hoping thereby to be more efficient. But this may boomerang as something urgent, some kind of emergency is always happening for them, and they are so over-taxed that they become incapable of responding to a genuine emergency when it arrives.

In their delightful book, The 80-minute MBA (Hachette India; special introductory offer Rs 149), authors Richard Reeves and John Knell say successful leadership takes time for knowing yourself and colleagues, to make good hiring and firing decisions etc. But, time feels like the scarcest resource of all for people who are always in a rush.

The 80-minute MBA, which can be termed as your reduced Shakespeare for business, has prescribed a quick Hurry Sickness Test, which has been adapted from James Gleick's famous book titled Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything.

Here is a summary:

  • When you brush your teeth in the morning, are you always doing something else at the same time — finding underwear, choosing a pair of shorts, yelling at the kids?
  • When you catch a train or a plane — jumping on a moment before the doors close — do you secretly get a kick out of it?
  • When you get into a lift, do you immediately look for the "door-close" button? You may be ignoring the fact that the door closes automatically in four seconds. It must be unimaginable for you to wait that long, isn't it?
  • How many times do you press the lift button just because it's taking time to come down from the 16 th floor? Some of you, in fact, keep on banging it as if this action will speed up the arrival of the lift.

Now, count how many questions you answered "yes" to. If the score is 2 (anything less than that means you are extremely laid back), you are in charge of your time. If it's 3, it's an early symptom of hurry sickness. And if it's 4, you must be chasing your own tail most of the day, which means advanced stages of the disease. Medical world has a term for this: fibrillation. When your heart begins fibrillation (a rapid beating), the blood is blocked rather than pumped through it.

Psychologists say this is not to suggest that you should slow down to an extent that you can't move quickly even when the occasion requires. You don't need to dawdle along, listening to your thoughts when your job demands a good, brisk walk.

But the other extreme can't be what Gleick calls a multi-tasking, channel-flipping, fast-forwarding zombie. In short, don't bang the lift button; it will only stop working.







India's steel production capacity is set to double in the next two years to 120 million tonnes, says Union steel minister Virbhadra Singh. And the target would be met, regardless of the big-ticket , but iffy projects of Posco and ArcelorMittal. It's solid capacity addition in the works, which is credible. But note that steel demand is also expected to surge. One expert projection has it that domestic demand would touch 200 million tonnes by 2015. Besides, given the rising demand scenario worldwide, most global steel players are in a huge capacity expansion mode, although it is likely that excessive debt overhang in several European economies may lead to some steel projects being scrapped.

The writing on the wall is that we can hardly rest on our laurels, despite capacity-doubling around the corner. The way ahead clearly is to proactively iron-out policy glitches that's preventing large-scale coagulation of funds and consequent industrialisation, in some of our most industrially backward, albeit mineralrich, states. The pressing need is for holistic policy in steel, so as to incentivise production of cutting-edge, valueadded steel products. The objective ought to be to end glaring distortions in steelmaking, such as selective access to cheap iron-ore, by means of captive mines, and its mirror image of non-access , complete with a panoply of policy uncertainties, delays and routine opacity.

With some of the best ferrous deposits anywhere, India has competitive advantage to emerge as a global leader in steelmaking. Yet our production is largely autarkic, with little export of high-grade steels for instance. We do need to firm up policy to have a thriving domestic market for ore. Captive mines for steel plants may make sense in hitherto under-industrialised regions, the objective being to lower overhead expenses. But such mineral concessions need to be limited — say for a period of eight years — and once plants are fully depreciated, ore ought to be accessed at market rates. It would incentivise value-addition in steel, long neglected by domestic industry . In parallel, what's essential is a truly forwardlooking land acquisition policy that takes into account the rights and interests of all stakeholders.







India's biggest life insurer, Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), has assets under management of around Rs 10 lakh crore, but has a paid-up capital of Rs 5 crore. This is absurd. The private insurers are required to have a minimum of Rs 100 crore as capital, and to keep raising it as their business volumes go up. But the 54-year-old big daddy of them all, which still accounts for nearly twothirds of the new business premium, makes do with small change for its capital. The fault is not the corporation's, of course. The stunted capital is a result of the law under which LIC was created. And the move to change the law has been stymied by the decision to tag it on to the bill to enhance the limit on foreign direct investment in insurance from 26% to 49%.

The proposal to increase FDI in insurance is jinxed due to opposition from various political parties, particularly the Left, and the opportunistic nature of Indian politicians who oppose or support laws on the basis of expedience rather than of principle. While raising FDI limits in insurance raises political hackles, the government would not encounter such hurdles on changing the capital structure of LIC. The changes in the LIC Act should, therefore, be delinked from the amendments to the Insurance Act. The government should independently alter the capital structure of LIC.

LIC has been building up reserves that can be used to shore up its capital to the requisite levels amounting to a few tens of thousands of crore rupees. So the corporation will not end up facing any kind of cash crunch because it complies with the regulation that applies to other insurance companies. What it will do is to avoid embarrassing situations such as Singapore turning down its proposal to have a subsidiary in the city state. Singapore's rules require an insurance licensee to have a credit rating. By conventional credit rating, LIC's capital structure would immediately raise a red flag. Singapore cannot be blamed for its decision. This is notwithstanding the fact that an LIC subsidiary had taken off in Bahrain, complete with credit rating. The blame lies with our own tardiness in delinking the two sets of amendments on insurance.








Even a child with an elementary sense of justice is bound to be outraged by the verdict by the chief judicial magistrate's court in Bhopal on the criminal case involving the various top officers of the Union Carbide India Ltd. Those who caused the death of over 20,000 people (3,800 in a single night and the rest over the years) and were responsible for several more thousands suffering from respiratory diseases and more with congenital disorders have been "punished" with two years in jail; to rub salt over the wounds, all of them were enlarged on bail within minutes after the verdict.

Former Chief Justice A M Ahmadi, meanwhile, claims he was helpless when he ordered that the accused in the case be dealt with only under Sec 304-A and not under Sec 304-Part II in the year 1996. Well. The point is that Justice Ahmadi was not helpless as he claims. On the contrary, the ambit of Sec 304-Part II was settled beyond doubt at that time.

The Supreme Court, in the Dalip Singh vs State of Haryana case (AIR-1993-SC-2302 ) had convicted under Sec 304-Part II. The case involved the death, in custody, of a man alleged to have stolen a buffalo, consequent to the physical torture by an SI of police and two constables. All three were convicted under Sec 304-Part II even though they did not intend to kill the poor man but ended up killing him in the course of beating him in the cell. Similarly, in S Mohanachandran vs State of Kerala (AIR-1994-SC-565 ), the Supreme Court held as proper conviction under Sec 403-Part II. This was a case where a victim of custodial violence was admitted to a hospital by the police themselves but the victim died.

The principle in both these cases was clear and as enunciated in Sec 304-Part II: that mere knowledge that the act will lead to the death of the victim was enough and it is not necessary to establish the intention to kill. And once it is clear that the accused was aware that an act would cause the death of the victim and irrespective of whether he intended to kill, the accused was liable to be convicted for imprisonment up to a period of 10 years and fine. This is what the law said when Ahmadi held (on September 13, 1996) that the eight accused be tried only under section 304-A and struck down the charge sheet under Sec 304-Part II, he was certainly in the wrong.

The eight accused, after all, were in the know that methyl-isocyanate gas was lethal and that it would kill a large number of people if it leaked out of the tank. The Varadharajan Committee had also established that the antidote to this poison that must have sprayed immediately after the MIC leaked did not happen because the officers had disengaged it as cost-cutting measures. In other words, they knew that their acts would cause the death of a large number of people and that happened in the night of December 2-3 , 1984. Such knowledge is expected from the executives of a plant as much as one would know the policemen to know that a person, beaten up by them, day after day or someone whose head is banged against the wall is likely to die.

The point is that the least that must have been done in the area of criminal cases on Bhopal was a trial under Sec 304-Part II and thus ensure a conviction of 10 years in jail. Justice Ahmadi ensured that this did not happen for reasons known only to him! Let us not blame the clerk in the Supreme Court who posted the case (Special Leave Petition by the eight convicted now) before Justice Ahmadi's bench!

There is also the bitter truth about the compromise brokered by Justice R S Pathak on February 14, 1989 (he was the Chief Justice of India on that day) between Union Carbide and the government of India by which the American MNC paid just Rs 705 crore to ensure that all criminal and civil cases against the corporation were dropped. It was a shame even then and the victims had to fight fresh battles to revive the case on which the verdict came last week. The compensation amount was a pittance given the magnitude of the damage. But then, the settlement was sanction by our own Supreme Court! Let us remember that the government of India, headed at that time by Rajiv Gandhi, was a party to that settlement.

This being the case, how does one blame Arjun Singh, under whose nose Warren Anderson managed to be let out of the jail on December 7, 1984, within seven hours after his arrest the same day. It may be noted here that most of the dead in the tragedy were not even cremated before Anderson was let off on bail and allowed to fly out of Bhopal in an aircraft that belonged to the Madhya Pradesh government. Arjun Singh, one may presume, acted under instructions from his bosses in New Delhi. Their concern must have been foreign investments in India, if not kickbacks into their accounts in the banks in Switzerland and in the Channel Islands.

The CBI that investigated the case after December 9, 1984, could not have worked wonders where Arjun Singh, the powerful chief minister of Madhya Pradesh failed. The CBI too acts under instructions. The CBI could not have gone against the Supreme Court judge Ahmadi's wisdom. Well. Chief judicial magistrate Mohan Tiwari could not have done anything more than what he did on June 7, 2010 given the case before him. He could have resigned his job in protest and allowed another judge to do what he did if he had that kind of conscience.

But then, Justice Ahmadi could have acted otherwise in 1996 and held that charges under Sec 304-Part II were in order. Arjun Singh could have acted in such manner that Anderson did not go away from Bhopal on December 7, 1984. Rajiv Gandhi could have instructed those concerned against signing a settlement that reduced the compensation to such low levels and also bartered away the right to pursue the civil and criminal cases. Chief Justice R S Pathak could have refused sanction to such a settlement. His Lordship would have been held in high esteem by the ordinary people of India and the victims in Bhopal for that.

All of them compromised and allowed the MNC and its men get away with murder! An antinational act by all means. But who will hold them guilty and inflict the punishment to such an act?







In my last two columns (Apr 9 and May 11) I have noted how global trade has changed dramatically since about 1995. The most notable trends are the increasing trade between developing economies (SS trade), declining trade between developing and developed economies (NS trade) and the emergence of hub countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. It is also clear that China is the manufacturing hub in Asia though India might well emerge as the hub for exports of services since, of all the Asian countries, India is the only one which has consistently run payments surpluses in services . Second, the pattern of specialisation is also remarkable: Asia in manufactures, Latin America in agricultural goods and Africa in natural resources. Not surprisingly, Asian countries being fairly heavily populated do not have a comparative advantage in land-intensive exports.

While these trends are now well known, what is often ignored in mainstream economics is its implications for FDI. This is probably because till about 2000 or so a study of the behaviour of transnational corporations (TNCs) was largely the preserve of business schools and political scientists. Traditional trade theory has largely focused on trade between countries whereas a study of TNCs correctly falls in the realm of firm-level studies (strategising sales, incomplete contracts and mergers and acquisitions). In addition, much of trade today is intra-firm trade rather than trade between independent countries. Yet, FDI constitutes nothing but trade in a bundle of services and commodities. To put it in another way, TNCs are simply the new instrument for conducting trade. Typically, the services are the managerial expertise (marketing, technology) traded with the aim of promoting sales of commodities.

Are trade and FDI substitutes or complements? The traditional view that they are substitutes goes back to the 1970s when FDI was considered a vehicle by which TNCs 'jumped' high tariff walls to sell in a market. Via FDI companies set up local manufacturing units. With falling tariff walls over the last few decades this is no longer true. Today, it is more correct to think of FDI and trade as complements. Through FDI, TNCs can source inputs globally and trade commodities competitively on a global scale. The trade patterns since about 1995 seem to indicate this is happening.

For one, as I have noted in the earlier articles , intra-regional trade seems to dominate inter-regional trade. Second, there is growing trade in intermediates. What seems to be happening is that as TNCs set up production units globally, they are using globally sourced inputs to sell final goods in local (regional) markets. Regional markets are normally easier to penetrate due to similarities in consumption . Selling then does not involve expensive marketing costs in each country. These marketing costs are incurred not merely in retailing but in informing consumers about the existence of new commodities.


What about inter-regional trade? This would then occur mainly in final goods and services. This is particularly important today as tariff levels have tumbled globally. For example, in non-agricultural goods, the EU's average tariff is as low as 5% in most commodities. What does this imply for FDI? It is clear that FDI and trade are positively correlated. In other words, FDI would tend to concentrate in countries with high trade levels. Since the 1990s or so, American companies have been concentrating in China the regional hub for manufacturing exports. Since India opened up to trade only recently, one can expect that much of FDI in India initially would concentrate on service sectors. What is however more important is that as SS trade patterns dominate world trade, outward FDI from developing countries would follow . If these trade patterns continue, the outward FDI from developing countries would soon overtake inflows into these countries. In recent years, China and India have seen such changes in patterns of FDI though India is only now realising the potential of the African continent.

These changes are truly momentous. The most important implication is that as trade becomes regional so will the FDI strategies of TNCs. Thus, a Toyota in Latin America will not be in competition with a Toyota in Asia. Again, TNCs will be pursuing local employment strategies if the emphasis is on regional markets. As the national identity of TNCs start fragmenting, old political slogans would need to be reworked. In one sense this is natural as the world moves from domination by a hegemon to plurilateral control.

What about FDI from India? Since Indian exports are largely driven by small manufacturing enterprises (SMEs), it is likely that, over time these companies would dominate outward FDI destined for other developing countries in areas like IT and pharmaceuticals. Big ticket takeovers by the Tatas, Ambanis and Mittals are good media copy but not necessarily the defining trend.








In the Art of Loving psychologist Erich Fromm makes one thing very clear: love is not a sentiment that can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by that person. And that unless we actively try to develop our total personality so as to achieve a productive orientation, all our attempts at loving are bound to fail. This, he feels, is especially so since the way of modern urban culture leads to a businesslike sort of life geared towards getting results as quickly as possible. On the contrary, "the practice of any art has certain general requirements," he writes, such as being orderly, focused, persistent and driven towards a goal.

Exactly the same thing can be said about the spiritual arts. Most of us think all we need is a how-to book to be instantly enlightened. Thus the rise of New Age best sellers like A Seven Step Guide to Inner Harmony, Hidden Splendour: A Four Week Course, Self Development and Actualisation - Now!, etc. Notice how nothing is mentioned about discipline, concentration, patience and concern about mastery without which something as down to Earth as the use of a bow and arrow could not be mastered by Eugene Herrigel in Zen in the Art of Archery. The Master would not let him even touch the equipment till he thought the man had perfected his breathing exercises. And that itself took months.

On the other hand if cosmic consciousness could be fastworded by reading some 200 pages of print or a listening to few CDs, all of us would be illumined souls walking around in a deep bliss of resonance with the One. "Modern man thinks he loses something - time - when he does not do things quickly," writes Fromm; "Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains - except kill it."

No, the problem with investing an extended amount of time and effort into an endeavour of this kind is because it involves an extra commitment and that, as all lovers know, is the tough part - especially since the payoff is not guaranteed. Sure, a lot of us are committed to working nine to five or doing whole time house work but there we have very little choice and, thus, when we think we do have a choice we don't want to work again at something else. And it's this fear of getting involved with "something else" that seeks quick fixes instead - without realising it's a commitment to oneself that we're ultimately abdicating.







Such a sweeping accusation against the security agencies has no justification. There can be an odd case here and there when some black sheep might have displayed some communal bias, but painting the entire security apparatus with the same black brush is wrong and, in fact, can be counterproductive. If the minority communities are losing faith in them, then a major part of the blame has to be shared by our political class. The sad reality of politics in our country is that even the so-called secular parties have little hesitation in flirting with communal politics whenever it suits them. With the security instruments of the state so heavily politicised, it should not be surprising if some of the more ambitious and less scrupulous officers in trying to please their political masters claim immediate success even before all the loose ends have been tied up.

There is an unjustified faith in the capability of our investigative agencies. It is commonly believed that if enough pressure is put on them, they are capable of producing immediate results. It is not appreciated that they have no magic wand. Investigation is a laborious and time-consuming job. In a huge and diverse country like ours, it is not an easy task. This writer had to go through that experience as Commissioner of Police in Delhi. After a particularly bad terrorist incident in Delhi, the angry prime minister summoned me along with then Lt Governor of Delhi M M K Wali, and read the riot Act. He told me in unmistakable words that if the Delhi Police failed to work out this case within 24 hours, I should be ready to pack my bags.

Thanks to uninformed criticism and unreal expectations, the security agencies are under great pressure. Our concept of accountability is totally skewed. An influential section in the media demands the head of the highest in the land after every serious incident. This is ridiculous! There are no shortcuts to the improvement of the long neglected security apparatus. The Union home minister is doing a splendid job and the media should allow him to do it without making it more complicated and difficult.







It may not be easy to say that security agencies are indulging in community profiling. However, it may not be incorrect to say that there is a need to profile certain classes of people from every community who have a greater propensity to commit crime or encourage crime. In the process, it is necessary to identify members of such elements from every community so that prevention and detection of crime through surveillance and maintenance of relevant records will be easy. Such profiling may not be necessarily communityspecific or community-oriented and if they are considered to be so, it will be only incidental.

It is the fact that in every community there are radicals who need to be watched. Such a watch can be mounted on them through intelligence networking across the country without which maintenance of peace and law and order and control of crime will not be effective. If there is certain evidence to prove that there are cases of community profiling by security agencies to suppress normal and legal activities of people of any particular community for reasons which are political or communal, they should be certainly questioned and such activities stopped.

It is important that every community leader should educate youths in matters of do's and dont's of the law of the land as well as the Constitution so that they will grow up with respect for the authorities and try to become good citizens. This writer always advocates for utilisation of our religious centres and places of worship as centres of education wherein our priests will give spiritual as well as social and legal education to their followers instead of only saying prayers.

Lastly, it is also important that minority communities do not allow themselves to be suspected for any commission or omission by making their practices fully transparent and readable by others. There should be no shying from doing this so that every other community can see every minority person as positive and equally patriotic like any other person of any other community.

(* National Commission for Minorities)








Hours after Essar Energy, the newly-listed company on the London Stock Exchange was included in the FTSE 100, Prashant Ruia , vice-chairman of Essar Energy spoke to ET about the company's future plans, the learnings from the European market and investor perceptions about India's growth story. Excerpts.

You entered the market when the crisis in the Europe was breaking out. What were the major learnings? Do you think you went wrong on the timing?

We had done sufficient work and had bet hard on the India story. Our areas of oil and gas and energy have huge demand. The Indian market has been doing well and has been steady. We pitched our issue around the India growth story, domestic demand and growth in these sectors and strong fundamentals.

We have seen some of the largest and long-holding investors buy into the issue and the investor community is willing to bet their money on India despite the European crisis. Talking about timing, we knew there was a window available and we focused on that. There was concern as the Greece crisis was breaking but the overall feedback was good.

Why did you think of London?

To my mind, European markets are closer to Indian markets and the economy. Investors in these geographies understand and appreciate operations of Indian companies. The listing in LSE is not just about raising equity for our proposed expansion in existing businesses but we are also hopeful of tapping the market for debt. The liquidity in the market here is a big factor and we hope to tap the debt markets in future as well.

Investors were not too kind in the beginning but the scrip has started firming up. What are the major reasons?

We were hit by market volatility on the first day of listing, but have steadily outperformed the market since and are now above the initial listing price. I would like to think that people are beginning to recognise our investment proposition and are buying into the company for this reason. The stock price has gone up by over 15% since listing, while the FTSE during the same period is down by about 1.5%. We have been able to overcome the initial volatility and our performance over these 30 days speaks for itself.

Essar Energy has talked about its two-pronged strategy of consolidating its current business and expanding overseas. Could you elaborate?

The strategy is primarily India-focused, to take advantage of the strong Indian GDP growth story through our two energy businesses : Oil & gas and power. The majority of our business is, and will remain , focused on this Indian story. Where we look overseas it will be to access resources, for example Indonesian coal for our power stations in India or upstream exploration and production, or where we are securing a potential route to market products.

In the areas you are focusing on, don't you think there is a lot of uncertainty? Weren't investors wary of the flip-flops?

Let's talk about power. We have been in the sector since 1997 and have been among the first private sector companies to set up capacities. A large part of it was for captive use, but we have also expanded our capacities for grid power. Policies in this sector have been more-or-less consistent and the regulatory system in power generation, transmission and distribution has evolved. Today, 75% of the power we generate is sold through long-term contracts while the balance is sold as merchant power.

On the exploration and production front, we have bid for some blocks in India and work is on. We are also into E&P in other geographies, we have blocks in Vietnam, Nigeria, and Madagascar among others. On the refining and retail front, the policy in India is a challenge but we are hopeful of a decision soon. We sell most of our products at refinery gate prices to the domestic oil companies and export about 30% of our products.

Are you looking at expanding into new geographies through the inorganic route?

We are concentrating on West Asia (countries like Egypt that allow foreign investments), Africa and South East Asia to expand our business. We are looking out for good assets in E&P and refining. We are not interested at this point in getting into petrochemicals.

Most E&P companies are expanding their portfolio into shale gas and oil sands as new sources of energy. What are Essar's plans?

We are betting big on coal bed methane and have some positive takes in our blocks in Raniganj. We will be looking at shale gas as well.








Stephen Hester was appointed as the group CEO in November 2008 of the over 280-year-old Edinburgh-based Royal Bank of Scotland. He was earlier the chief operating officer of Abbey National and prior to that was held various positions with Credit Suisse First Boston, including chief financial officer, head of fixed income and the co-head of European Investment Banking. RBS, which is now 84% owned by the UK government on the back of bailout during the crisis, is now on the path of recovery. Speaking to ET, he says the global recovery will not be without setbacks and won't be smooth — so there will be headwinds and shocks.

A host of European countries are looking to cut their deficits by cutting down expenses. Do you think that's a right method, because wouldn't that affect the growth in these countries?

I think that it is very important that government finances are kept under control in exactly the same way as company and individual finances. And one of the reasons the world had a financial crisis was because borrowing became excessive in certain segments between countries in the form of balance of payments and housing markets, particularly in the US. So the same lessons go for governments. I think the second point which is important to make is that there is a natural rhythm to the expansion of government activity, which after a long period of economic expansion, people's tax money goes up, expand public expenditure, there is a risk that the public sector gets out of balance with the private sector and some rebalancing is also a part of this process. I do not agree that extra borrowing is the way out of a recession.

Will you review your decision to sell the bank's retail and commercial banking operations in India, China and Malaysia, given that there appear to be regulatory hurdles?

The recovery plan for RBS globally was based on very simple business principle — that we will continue to do the things we are naturally good at and stop doing the things that we will not be market leaders in or will not be successful. In Asia, for example, what we are good at is intermediating capital flows — broadly, an investment banking activity, together with trade finance, cash management and an element of wealth management — these are things we are good at. There are businesses we have around the world, which were not naturally advantaged off, both in Asia and else where that came out of the merger and which we are selling. The real story of RBS in India is our expansion of our wholesale business, our investment banking business and the expansion of India as a service centre for the rest of the world.

What are the plans for the outsourcing operations in India? Are you planning to expand it?

Yeah, we are continuing to expand the part of our business in India that services the rest of the world and we are very happy with how that's going. That's part of the process specialisation and we have to make sure that we are as efficient as we possibly can be and playing to our strengths. We don't give out target numbers in part because plans change all the time. In fact, one of the things that I think is impressive about India is its ability as a service centre to continually expand the things that can be done successfully here.

There is the ongoing debate on the concept of too big to fail, post the crisis. But if there are no large financial powerhouses, wouldn't that also create problems as some business can be offered if you have scale?

I think that there is nothing about the financial crisis that was caused either by the size or the shape of banks. There is no trend in terms of banks that were weakened as to whether they were broad or narrow or big or small. And by the way, the same lesson is true of countries. Countries that are getting into difficulty now in sovereign debt terms are not marked out by whether they were big or small or whether they have one kind of economy or another. I think that we will find that eventually regulations will stop focusing on size and shape and instead focus on what would technically be called resolution regimes — in other words, the mechanisms for allowing a bank to go bust while allowing its essential services to continue uninterrupted. So you have to reconstruct the capital of a bank — debt for equity swaps, simulating losses in one sort or another, whilst allowing day-to-day ATMs to function, payrolls to be made, payment systems to work through the world and this is what I think where banking reforms will end up focusing rather than on size and shape.

So it would be like a corporate debt restructuring when a corporate files for bankruptcy?

The way I call it is Chapter 11 for banks. We saw with General Motors, it went bust and didn't stop making cars. In the bankruptcy court, in Chapter 11, it had its capital restructured while its factory still produced cars and now it is successfully emerging, beginning to make profits and so on. You need the same process for banks. It's more complicated for banks because banks manufacture the same thing as its balance sheet is made off — namely its money.

Bank regulations are changing internationally and there is also a proposal to levy a separate tax on banks. What is your view?

There is some uncertainty and that will continue for some months, maybe even some years. It's clear that the financial crisis was not just about banks. It was about economic imbalances and banks simply are a reflection of economic imbalances. So the first thing is you can't solve the world's problem just by looking at banks, you have to look at economic management. The second thing is that banks did play a role in the crisis and lessons need to be learnt and the banking industry needs to change and regulation needs to support that change.

And do you see a large impact on the lending capability of banks?

I think that lot of the impact have already happened. Banks, at least in the west, are carrying twice as much capital as they were 2-3 years ago. What is still under debate is that whether those huge changes that have already happened in bank capital are enough or whether they need to be more big changes.

Will the uncertainty in euro change RBS's overall strategy?

First of all, I believe what we are seeing in euro is market jitters, important ones, but nonetheless market jitters. It's an aftershock from the current recovery of the crisis rather than something that is fundamental. That's my belief. It is a helpful reminder that government deficits matter and action needs to be taken on them and I think governments all around are taking notice of that reminder and taking action. But I don't think there is something fundamental about Europe that is broken at all.


There has been a debate on bank salaries and bonuses. Will that impact fresh talent from coming into the industry or retaining talent?

I think we have to be clear that the political debate over high pay is not really banking. It's a small bit of banking, namely investment banking and something like 90% of all financial service employees are not investment banking employees. In that part of banking, there have already been in the past year and a half huge reforms in the way people are paid, much more aligned with shareholders, much more risk sensitivity, claw back and more deferral of pay. So there has been huge reforms and RBS has been a leader in this respect. This controversy is not going to go away.

Where do you see the global economy — both in the short and medium term?

I am an optimist for the world and I think the world would successfully develop and grow. And I think that in particular, the world will continue to recover from the crisis of 2008. However, that recovery will not be without setbacks. It won't be smooth. There are still many economic imbalances that need to be overcome and some new ones like government deficits that also need to be corrected. So there will be headwinds and shocks. And what is happening in debt markets today and around the euro are an example of shock even though I believe that the underlying picture is of recovery.


You have been visiting India for the past few years. What are the changes that you have seen here from an outsider's point of view?

I think that India has actually in a sense got less PR than it deserves in a positive way. People have focused enormously on China and the Chinese economic success for very correct reasons. Indian companies and entrepreneurs are not just capitalising on the scale of the market that India itself represents, but becoming very important owners internationally. Instead of India being a place where other people invest which it still is, India is a place which is also now creating groups that are globally competitive.









PALO ALTO: Facebook seems to have mastered the art of creating an emotional asset through friends, their photos, status messages, emotional wall posts and relationship status. With an estimated valuation of around $20 billion, the company has had buyout offers from virtually every big internet and media major — Microsoft, Google, NBC, AOL, Yahoo, Newscorp, et al.

But Facebook does not appear interested. The third-largest populated 'territory,' with 400 million users, wants to get even more populated. Additional growth can only come from international markets. ET caught up with people responsible for this job at Facebook's Palo Headquarters — head of international growth Javier Olivan and manager for international marketing Meenal J Balar . They talk about Facebook's new privacy controls, the ban in China, competition from Twitter, their India strategy and the future of social networking .


Which are the biggest markets for Facebook? Where does India rank among them?

More than two-thirds of users are from international markets, and the rest from the US. In terms of users, UK, Indonesia, Turkey, Canada are large. India is on par with Germany, Spain, Italy and France. Indonesia will soon be one of the biggest. India currently has about 8 million active users (2% of Facebook's 400 million users).

Does Facebook see Google's Orkut and microblogging services like Twitter as major competition?

Twitter is interesting, but we view it as a completely different service. For us, Facebook is a service that represents 'Me'. It's how I like to represent myself to my Friends. Twitter is a one-way connection, where people can just follow a person, say Amitabh Bachchan.

Our features around status updates can be considered as microblogging, but it's with more user control. We are much more focused on authenticity and 'friends'. Orkut was the first social network and it's a competitor. Many people are using it in India. But with products like Facebook Zero, we're on a great trajectory. In India, our goal is to become the number one social network, (by beating Orkut), this year.

What are the major revenue sources for Facebook?

Facebook's revenue model is advertising. Social networking offers a great business model. This is how it works: Advertisers select which group of users they want to target. We don't share any private user information with advertisers. But they have access to users' 'likes', interests, hobbies, locations, etc, if users have made them 'public'. Apart from ads, Facebook Credits, and Gift Shop are minor sources of income source.

Will Facebook always carry the current blue format?

Facebook, in many ways, is like a Coca Cola can. Almost 90% of Coke you get in any country in the world is the same. But there is around 10% of localisation. It is similar with Facebook. In Spain, fans talk about Real Madrid. In India, users love cricket (and the IPL).

This makes the kind of chats and discussions very local. In certain countries, we are going a step further. In Japan, our aim is to fully localise Facebook. In the Middle East, 30% of the online population is on Facebook. So, we will keep innovating.

What's Facebook's strategy to deal with controversies and intermittent bans in some countries?

Facebook's mission is to make the world more open and connected, by free flow of information. But it's unfortunate that many governments have policies that are in direct conflict with our mission. Currently, we are aware Facebook is banned in China and Vietnam. We were blocked in Pakistan last month.

Bangladesh also banned Facebook due to an online group named 'Everybody Draw Muhammad Day'. (The bans were later lifted). We are trying to work with the governments on how these issues can be resolved. India too asked Facebook to withdraw access to a particular page on the same group, and we complied. We take the law of the land seriously.

Facebook's database is now the world's largest repository of photos and user content. What are the tools deployed to deal with such content?

We have a combination of reactive methods and proactive methods. Once a content is flagged as inappropriate, it's reported to our user operations in Austin, Dublin and Palo Alto. If a piece of content is against our terms of our service, it is pulled out. The user community is really good at flagging inappropriate content. Then there are proactive methods like algorithms that determine suspicious behaviour and pattern.

We also blacklist certain keywords. But you have to understand that Facebook can only do things that are logistically possible. There are billions of pieces of content that are being uploaded daily. It's a big logistical challenge. We are trying to do our best.

Is Facebook in talks with the Chinese government to lift the ban?

Honestly, I don't have an answer to that! (laughs)! Unfortunately our service is not accessible in China. For the time being, it's easier to operate in countries with free internet laws and open competition.

What does Facebook anticipate the future of social networking to be like?

Social networking democratises the flow of information. One can easily reach millions of users and organise a public movement like the huge revolt in Colombia. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. One of the things I imagine will come is that your profile information could be used by marketers to churn out products as per your needs.

Won't too much personal data on Facebook lead to data privacy issues?

Mark (Zuckerberg), our CEO, recently made it very clear that we are not going to sell that data to advertisers. We remain free. Our membership remains free. The goal is to ultimately give control to users on what data can be seen by whom. I don't understand what the privacy group's problem is. Facebook is an opt-in service. We believe if you come on Facebook, you want to share. For this, you need to find your friends and have at least your name and a picture as public information. If you don't want even that, then don't come on Facebook.

What's Facebook's India marketing strategy?

Our strategy in India is not to monetise but increase our user base, at present. For this we've had many tie-ups like with MTV India and The Times of India. Our tie-up with The Economic Times generated a lot of user inputs about Budget 2010. We will continue to bring more awareness by such tie-ups.

Do low PC penetration and net speed in India pose a challenge for Facebook?

Yes it does. But India has a huge mobile user base now. To expand our user base on mobile, we've launched applications like Facebook Zero. We've currently rolled it out with Reliance and Videocon. Their users can access Facebook Zero for free. Yes, website speed is a major issue, which we are monitoring at a granular level now. But I think 3G services in India will help increase internet speeds.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



It needed 853 games, in the course of which 2,344 goals were scored to decide the best 32 football-playing teams on the planet, who now meet in the 19th edition of the Fifa World Cup getting under way in Johannesburg on Friday.

In all, the 31 days of action will witness another 64 matches before the champion emerges, and every single game over the month ahead promises its share of moments that will be savoured now and over the next four years till it all begins again in Brazil in 2014. For now, though, it would be fair to say that a fair percentage of the world's eyeballs will be on television sets as el Jogo Bonito — the Beautiful Game — returns to the global centrestage in the Rainbow Nation.

South Africa has already paid a mighty cost in terms of investment — pouring over $3 billion into renovating old stadia and building new ones — and will doubtless have to manage the costs of this massive extravaganza for years to come.

As always, Brazil start as the emotional favourites of not just that nation, but a fair section of the rest of the world. While bookmakers may provide short odds on Spain, Argentina, England, Portugal, Germany et al, the gut-level soccer fan will be rooting for Brazil. And why not? As the only country to have won the Jules Rimet Trophy five times, and with flair and panache, the South Americans represent all that is bonito about football.

It is the first time Africa is hosting the event and for years, experts — including the peerless Pele — have been tipping the continent to throw up a winner. Cameroon and Nigeria have had their moments in the past and Ivory Coast are a formidable unit this time, but it is difficult to see a "home" challenger trouble the big boys unduly. At the business end of the tournament, therefore, it is more or less certain that the eight quarter-finalists will be largely familiar faces.

On another level, football will be only one part of the story at this World Cup. South Africa has for years borne the unfortunate tag of being a violence and crime-prone nation where the huge gap between haves and have-nots has bred an atmosphere of desperation and deprivation. More often that not, this finds expression in direct, brutal action — and to guard against this reputation, the Rainbow Nation has promised to walk the extra mile to guard the thousands of visitors who are already pouring in from across the globe. Beefed-up security in all major cities, better weaponry, fast-track courts and more effective policing are only some of the aspects of this huge operation that has been put into effect.

While all of this is primarily aimed at ensuring the next 31 days are as incident-free as possible, the larger issues that face South Africa remain, and while the cities hosting matches have at least gained in terms of infrastructure and crime control, vast swathes of the country will gain nothing from Fifa's decision to hold the tournament there. These are long-term issues. For the moment — as noted elsewhere in this newspaper — it is time to celebrate the return of football to its roots






Ever since the Centre announced that it would collect data on various castes during the ongoing Census, the media has created a hue and cry saying that this would harm the nation and open a Pandora's Box of caste conflicts. On the other hand, those who seek caste enumeration are of the view that this would clear the cobwebs and deliver proper data on other backward classes (OBCs) that will help implement reservation policies and welfare schemes better.

The collection of caste data was not a decision taken by the government on its own. The OBC leadership across the country has demanded it and the Supreme Court advised the Centre to go for such a Census to ensure that an accurate population database was made available.

Let us not forget the fact that even at the time of the 2001 Census there was a strong demand for caste census. The then deputy Prime Minister L.K Advani, in fact, went on record to say that caste data would be collected. But Right-wing academic forces — particularly a group of sociologists and anthropologists — advised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government not to go for such an enumeration as it would go against the interests of the ruling upper castes and communities.

It should be noted that the opposition to caste data has been coming from upper castes that still control the levers of power. The lower castes have never opposed such a proposal.

It is fallacious to argue that society would get further divided if the population of each caste is known to the policymakers and to the public.

Caste culture is all around us. In the dalit-bahujan discourse, the upper castes are being shown as constituting less than 15 per cent. This could be totally wrong. Even within the lower castes there are several false claims about numbers. Every caste claims that it is numerically the strongest and keeps asking for its "rightful" share.

How to tell them that their claims are wrong? When caste has become such an important category of day-to-day reckoning it is important to have proper data at hand to tell communities that they constitute this much and cannot ask for more than their share.

It is true that we cannot distribute everything based on caste. But caste census is the right basis for statistics such as literacy rate and issues like the proportion of representation. Once we cite the Census data there cannot be any authentic opposition to that evidence.

The upper caste intelligentsia is afraid that once detailed data on number of people in lower castes is available it would become a major ground for asking for accurate proportional representation in certain sectors, such as education and employment.

For example, once the caste data is available, the 50 per cent limit on reservations imposed by the Supreme Court could be questioned on the basis of numbers. This would in turn help in sustaining the overall system of liberal democracy. The system of democracy would only get deeper with the discourse of numbers.

Democracy is in effect a system of numbers unlike communism, which does not deal with numbers while institutionalising a government. In a democracy, the governing system is institutionalised through an electoral process and in such a system the people must be counted from all angles — sex, race, religion, caste and so on. In a democracy based on numbers, any section of society can come to power.

Based on the counting on the basis of religion, Hindus have realised that they are the majority. And because of that understanding they have claimed power. When Mahatma Gandhi suggested that Muhammed Ali Jinnah should be made the first Prime Minister in order to avoid Partition, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel put forth the argument that India was a Hindu-majority nation and would not accept a Muslim as its first Prime Minister. Where did the notion of Hindu majoritarianism come from? It came from numbers.

With the same logic what is wrong if women, cutting across religious divides, count themselves, and organise themselves to come to power? They constitute about 50 per cent of the population and if they want to fight for gender democracy, they too can come to power. So should there be a demand for abolition of gender enumeration, too?

If caste census is done, the India democracy would thrive on the firm support of the lower castes who keep hoping of getting their share based on their numbers. The upper castes may feel desolate with the system of democracy itself, if this shift begins to take place. They might call such a shift "castocracy". But would they call a state or a nation being ruled by women "womenocracy"?

Cognitive social psychology says all such theories are constructed on a convenience known as "comfort zone". If brown upper castes live in white societies they see brown bashing but black bashing remains hidden in their blind spots. In white societies the browns are not in their comfort zone but in India they are and do not want to see the other's "discomfort zone".

Many upper caste intellectuals say that caste was a construction of the colonial census system. They talk as if caste never existed before the British started an enumerative process. By their logic we should come to the conclusion that before the British enumerated people based on religion, there were no religions in India. There are many such blind spots in India and that is why we still remain backward in theories of knowledge.

Let all castes — not just OBCs — be counted for strengthening our democratic system. I know that even mine is a blind-spot theory but it may have the effect of an antidote.







The national campaign to get US President Barack Obama to emote, throw crockery at oil executives and jump up and down in fury has failed. But here's a long-term solution: Let's anoint a king and queen.

If we can just get over George III, our new constitutional monarchs could serve as National Hand-Holders, Morale-Boosters-in-Chief and Founts of American Indignation.

Our king and queen could spend days traipsing along tar-ball-infested beaches, while bathing oil-soaked pelicans and thrusting strong chins defiantly at BP rigs.

All that would give President Obama time to devise actual clean-up policies. He might then also be able to concentrate on eliminating absurd government policies that make these disasters more likely (such as the $75 million cap on economic damages when an oil rig is responsible for a spill).

US President is stuck with too many ceremonial duties as head of state, such as greeting ambassadors and holding tedious state dinners, that divert attention from solving problems. You can preside over America or you can address its problems, but it's difficult to find time to do both.

Other countries often hand over ceremonial duties to a titular head of state with no real powers — sort of a national nanny.

In Japan, the head of state is effectively the emperor. In Germany, it's the ceremonial President. In Britain, it's the queen. Canada divides the job of head of state between Queen Elizabeth (a freebie since she's on the British payroll) and her representative, the governor-general.

A figurehead head of state is a nifty foreign policy tool as well. President Obama has twice had to delay his trip to Indonesia and Australia because of the press of domestic policy, but an American king and queen could spend days greeting crowds and cutting ribbons at new schools. And when they aren't travelling, our king and queen could be kept busy hosting state dinners five nights a week.

Some folks complain that it's silly to fret that Mr Obama doesn't emote. Of course, it is. It's farcical that we have bullied the President into trash-talking on television about kicking some you know what.

One of the things I admire about this administration is its cerebral, no-drama emphasis on empirical evidence in addressing issues such as health, education and poverty. This is government by adults, by engineers rather than by dramatists.

But Mr Obama also knows that drama and emotion are the fuel of American politics, and that's why he's struggling to feign fury.

As Stephen Colbert observed about the oil spill: "We know if this was Reagan, he would have stripped to his skivvies, put a knife in his teeth, gone down there and punched that oil well shut!"

But let's be realistic. Most Presidents just won't look that good in their skivvies. And some may accidentally swallow the knives. Thus, the need for a handsome king and queen to lead photo-ops. Small-minded critics will offer petty objections, complaining that it is undemocratic or inequitable to have royalty. Hmm. Considering that the wealthiest one per cent of Americans own financial wealth six times greater than the financial wealth of the entire bottom 80 per cent, well, we already have an aristocracy.

Critics may also protest the expense of royalty. But we could save on housing by having royals stay in the castles at Disneyland and Disney World. In any case, think of royalty as an investment that could bring in billions of dollars in tourist revenue.

If we choose well and adopt royals who are prone to scandal, we might also give a much-needed boost to the newspaper industry. A particularly fecund couple might offer the prospect of regular royal weddings, with sales of enough commemorative kitsch to balance the federal budget.

How should we choose a king and queen? Frankly, we already have royalty: Hollywood celebrities. And they are well trained to emote and explode on demand.

Just imagine the Nielsen ratings for an Academy Awards-type evening in which Americans would choose a royal family for the first time — live!

Movie stars are mostly rich enough that we wouldn't have to pay them, and they can often be counted on to indulge in enough adultery to make royalty entertaining and titillating.
They also tend to be gorgeous, and if we're going to have a king and queen stripped to their skivvies with knives in their teeth, we may as well enjoy the sight.

What? You say that this would be un-American? It's not who we are as a country?
Well, rage isn't President Obama either. It's not who he is any more than a monarchy is America.
So maybe we should just accept that we're stuck with a presidential system — and with a ruminative and slightly boring President who tries to solve problems rather than fulminate about them.







India is haemorrhaging badly and may soon be in a coma, given the recent spate of headlines about scams — 2G spectrum scam, the Indian Premier League scam, Madhu Koda — and terror. The June 7 verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy should reinforce the argument that Parliament urgently needs to pass a suitable liability bill to protect Indian interests. The tragedy of India is that common sense proposals are often overlooked due to ignorance, arrogance and zero accountability.

No great crystal ball gazing is required to predict that the next big threat to India will arise if Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence manages to "coordinate and manipulate" the activities of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Indian Maoists, and local insurgents of the Northeast, in the same manner as it is doing in Kashmir. Media reports already mention "links" between the Maoists, Northeast insurgents and the LeT.

After the two Maoist attacks near Dantewada on April 6 and May 17, 2010, followed by a series of incidents of blowing up rail tracks and derailing trains (including the horrendous May 28, 2010, twin train derailing incident), the time has finally come to use the military while allowing the paramilitary and police time to build up the required capability in terms of personnel, training and equipment.

On May 17, 2010, news channels broadcast an interview with a home ministry bureaucrat who made the following valid observations:

* There are 350,000 vacancies in the police force that need to be filled up.
* To have sufficient capability to enforce law and order in the country, about 800,000 additional police personnel would be necessary.

Given the importance of the police force to act as the last line of defence against Maoists and foreign terrorists, it is evident that the country will need another decade to recruit, train and equip a police force that is able to combat terror and the Maoists.

Some urgent interim measures have to be found to combat terror. The reluctance of the overstretched Army and Air Force to get involved is well known. However, the fact remains that the Indian Navy, despite being overstretched on anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and exclusive economic zone patrols off Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles, was additionally tasked with the duties of peacetime coastal security after 26/11. Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures. A few available interim options to combat Maoist terror are as follows:

* Use of "benign" air power: The Indian Air Force's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could be used for surveillance; helicopters could be used for surveillance, casualty evacuation, ferrying supplies and quick movement of paramilitary forces to tactically advantageous positions, while bypassing the improvised explosive device threat on land.

* Permit selective use of armed helicopters against terrorists and Maoists, especially in open areas, where probability of collateral damage is low.

* Permitting seamless movement of security forces involved in hot pursuit across state boundaries.

* The Army could be given adequate land in the most Naxal-infested areas to set up training centres, cantonments etc. The Army's presence would boost the confidence of the local people, paramilitary and police.

* All police and paramilitary officers should serve for one year with Army infantry units at the beginning of their careers. This will ensure higher standards of common training, leadership and synergy.

The financial implications of urgently raising, equipping and training an additional force of about one million for the police, paramilitary and intelligence would be high, especially given the fact that India expects to spend about $9 billion in the next three years on equipment for its existing police and paramilitary, and would also be buying weapons worth over $100 billion for its armed forces in the next decade. Nonetheless, additional money will need to be found quickly.

While ensuring that the writ of the state government prevails and the estimated 35,000-armed Maoists and their co-conspirators (the mining mafia) are neutralised, winning the "hearts and minds" of the totally neglected tribals is equally essential. Given the fact that the tribals have been exploited since 1947, special development programmes (which protect their land, mineral wealth and forests) must be implemented urgently. The right to food, potable water and employment is as important as the right to information and education. About 75 per cent of the subsidised food does not reach the poor, while 10 per cent of our total food production is lost due to poor storage. As per a TV channel, the present potable water shortage in India is about 400 million litres per day. The country is sitting on a ticking bomb that needs to be defused.

Aesop once said, "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to high office". The scams of independent India have seen the loot of about $1 trillion, which is what "Imperial Great Britain" is estimated to have siphoned off in 200 years of colonial rule (according to an article by Mohan Murti, former director, CII). Also about $1.4 trillion is reportedly stashed away in Swiss banks. If this combined $2.4 trillion loot is miraculously recovered then India's present $1 trillion economy will triple overnight, and war against poverty-cum-domestic terror can be won. Not by additional money alone, but also by good administration and a speedy and fair judicial system.

Tackling corruption is critical to eliminating Maoist terror in the long-term. In the short term, the reluctant military will once again be needed to establish the rule of law, since all other state institutions have failed. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has his work cutout as this crisis cannot be resolved by inaction or appeasement.

* Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval
Command, Visakhapatnam






In hindsight, it probably wasn't very wise to invite a German girl to come on holiday with me during the World Cup. This was in 1990 and I was staying at my parents' house in the South of France. Rather shamefully, I cannot now remember her name. She was tall and blonde and writing a dissertation on the history of the Third Reich. I picked her up on Cambridge High Street.

Few were expecting great things of England at Italia '90. Under Bobby Robson's stewardship, England had failed to qualify for Euro '84, failed to qualify for Euro '88 and only just squeaked into the knockout stage of the '86 World Cup. At the beginning of the 1990 tournament, Robson had already announced his intention to retire as manager.

England's performance in the group stage was far from assured and when I sat down to watch our first knockout game against Belgium I wasn't optimistic. I had resigned myself to switching allegiance to West Germany who were playing Holland two days later in deference to my blonde companion.

Yet England played well, beating Belgium 1-0. Until then, my support had been half-hearted. I was reluctant to invest too much faith in the team for fear of being disappointed. After the win against Belgium, however, I was fully committed. For once, England seemed to be rising to the occasion. The team had gelled and a star had emerged in the form of Paul Gascoigne. We looked capable of going all the way.

As a consequence, the West Germany match two days later was more fraught than I'd anticipated. My friend had been genuinely pleased for me when England beat Belgium, cheering at the final whistle, but I couldn't reciprocate. We watched the match in a local bar and everyone was rooting for the Dutch. When the match ended in a 1-0 victory for West Germany she punched the air and let out a cry of "Ja wohl!", prompting me to avert my eyes. We walked home in silence.

Next up was England's thrilling encounter with Cameroon who'd emerged as the tournament's giant-killers. We saw it on a black-and-white set in my parents' sitting room and I can still remember the Gallic inflection the French commentator put on the names of the English players, turning them into honorary Frenchmen. (Not hard in the case of Gascoigne.) Even though the screen was no bigger than 12 inches, the players seemed to grow in size as I watched. Players whose names had meant little to me a week before — David Platt, Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce — were suddenly transformed into heroes.

Inevitably, we were up against West Germany in the semifinals. I debated whether to drive to Turin in the hope of buying a ticket outside the stadium, but it was a long way to go on the off chance. So it was back to the local bar.
By the time we arrived a coach-load of English tourists had appeared and were fanning out around the television set. "What is that tune they are all whistling?" whispered my companion. "No idea", I said. (It was the theme of The Great Escape.) Before long they'd extended their repertoire to include The Dambusters and Colonel Bogey. "Probably not a good idea to mention you're German", I said, before joining in enthusiastically.

By the time the match reached extra time, the earnest PhD student had received a crash course in the importance of the World War II to the English psyche. Every time the German forwards penetrated England's defence they were compared to "Panzers" and if Peter Shilton had to contend with two or more shots on goal he was the victim of a "Blitzkrieg". When the England players remained steadfast in the face of West Germany's assault they were acclaimed for displaying the "Dunkirk spirit".

The anti-German feeling reached fever pitch during the penalty shoot-out and I was terrified that the Aryan goddess who'd remained silent throughout would be found out. Luckily, she managed to contain herself when Chris Waddle missed the last penalty of the game, sending Germany through to the finals. The holiday came to an end the following day and our relationship never recovered. When I invited her to join me in France I had naively imagined I could put patriotic sentiments aside, like the fighter aces in La Grande Illusion. But I hadn't counted on England doing so well. Without quite being aware of it, I had turned into John Bull.






Sleeping seems such a routine act that we don't realise its importance till we lose sleep, so to speak. Like modern physicians, our rishis also realised the connection between sleeping and wellness. Sleeping well is extremely important for our psychological and spiritual well-being, both of them agree.

Our ancestors used to insist that one should not sleep with one's head pointing North. There is science behind this advice. We all know that the earth has a magnetic force that extends from the South Pole to the North Pole. Our ancestors insisted that the human body also had a magnetic zone. And they believed that when one lays down with the head pointing North, the magnetic zones clashed. In course of time, this can lead to ill-health and hysteria.

Likewise, the ancient Indian texts advise people to recollect one's activities of the day before going to bed. Modern psychologists too approve of this. Such recollection works as a corrective force.

To err is human. But once we get a chance to realise it, we can take a vow not to repeat it. In the silence of the night, we can apologise to God for the faults we committed during the day and decide to avoid such behaviour in the future.

"Aparadha sahasrani kriyanthe aharnisam mayaDaso ahamithimam matwa kshamswa parameswaree"
This is one prayer we can chant before sleeping."Karacharana kritham va kayajam karmajam va
Sravana nayanajam va manasam vaparadhamViditamaviditam va sarvametat kshamaswe
Jayajaya karunabdhe mokshaseto smarare"

This is another prayer that befits the hour.

After meditating on the day's activities, analysing them and having taken a decision not to repeat the misdeeds, we can submit all our actions and their results at the feet of the Lord with prayers. This will make our mind peaceful.

After chanting hymns about the deity, especially about Achyuthan, Ananthan, Vasuki, Chithragupta etc., one should go to sleep with the head turned towards East or South. It is believed that sleeping with the head turned towards East ensures longevity, and sleeping with the head pointed southwards ensures prosperity. If the head is turned towards the West, the person will have many dreams.

While sleeping, wear loose garments, lie straight and face up. Don't let your feet rest on bare ground while sleeping. In Manusmriti it has been pointed out that one should not sleep in an uninhabited house. The ancient book also imposes a taboo on sleeping naked.According to the text, the perfect formula for sleeping is this — after supper, recite divine texts for a while. Then wash your legs, dry them and go to bed. Your mind will be calm and sleep will come on its own.

— Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the authorof Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals.He has also written books on the Vedasand Upanishads. The author can be reachedat [1]







Trinamul Congress appears to be in the vanguard of UPA allies in robust opposition to the fuel price hike. To the extent that a decision had to be deferred at Monday's meeting of the Group of Ministers. It is one thing for the Cabinet to give the issue a re-look; quite another for Trinamul to abstain from the GoM interaction. The attitude flies in the face of the canons of coalition politics not least because the GoM has been specifically entrusted with the task of fixing fuel prices. Trinamul must realise that it has to be a consensual decision, rather than a unilateral move by the petroleum ministry. It is all very touching for the party to sound pro-people, in a virtual echo of the Left stand on the issue. And the minister of state for urban development merely labours the obvious when he asserts that "any hike in fuel prices affects the people directly". And if Saugata Roy wants the Centre to "work out some other solution", the party is duty-bound to attend the meetings of the GoM and place its position on the table, so to speak. Given the context and the importance of the issue, Monday's abstention, led by the Trinamul Congress, was a mark of protest. A decision, either way, is imperative and there can be no progression on any issue by staying away from meetings. The Trinamul leader must realise that this merely weakens the coalition arrangement.

Above all, it is the economics of fuel pricing that is quite the most critical aspect. The government is keen on freeing up petrol and diesel prices. No one denies that administered prices are intended to protect consumer interest. That said, the Left-cum-Trinamul concern for the people must be tempered with the knowledge that the Centre just cannot indefinitely continue to subsidise oil prices. If public sector oil companies have to cut their losses, it makes business sense to put in place a market-driven price mechanism. It is cause for alarm that should the fuel price structure remain untouched, the oil sector could be saddled with a whopping loss of Rs 90,000 crore this fiscal although any decision will have to take into account the 16.74 per cent rise in food inflation.

Politically, it is a tricky situation for the Centre; it may not be easy for the Congress-led UPA to give short shrift to the Trinamul on the fuel price issue in the immediate aftermath of the spectacular victory in the civic elections. Trinamul may be playing second fiddle to the Congress at the Centre; equally does the Congress find itself in a similar position in Bengal. There has to be a distinction between politics and sound economics, and this must transcend the Mamata-Pranab shadow-boxing.







RUNNING contrary to contemporary urban thinking it might appear and may perhaps even be branded "anti-woman", yet there is logic to an order of the Jaipur Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal that a third of the compensation for a soldier killed in service be paid to his parents: the rest to his widow and children. Since this could serve as a benchmark ~ the share could vary from case-to-case ~ the "peasant stock" from which most footsloggers hail would see it as redress of a long-standing lament. It is, however, unlikely that the order will be appreciated by widows of officers, and those who insist the woman be the sole beneficiary. The "issue" came to the fore after the Kargil conflict ~ when compensation was substantially enhanced ~ and parents of martyrs claimed that they too would suffer financial loss. They, not just the widow/children, were heavily dependent on support from the son "they had given the army". Sensitive as he was to such uncomplicated sentiments ~ despite his host of detractors ~ then defence minister George Fernandes "recognised" some validity to the plea, and called for a policy review. The Tribunal has now given effect to such thinking. It was a particularly unhappy instance that had troubled the minister: a war widow, herself a serving army officer, pressed her next-of-kin status when her husband (also an officer) was killed. His parents alleged she was a gold-digger, the couple had been estranged, divorce proceedings were underway. Then from the villages of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, came the cry from elders who had lost their son: it was the money he sent them that made it possible to sustain their tradition of providing the army manpower. Social changes, which saw widows becoming more "independent" had impacted on a traditional society. In some particularly "orthodox" families there could be social benefits to make up for the widow's financial loss. She could be under less pressure to marry her husband's brother to keep the money within the family ~ often such re-marriages were forced despite the second husband being much younger ~ and maybe after some money comes their way the soldier's family might treat her better. War Widows' hostels at regimental centres were a refuge for many an exploited woman. Since the Tribunal's order could cause some social upheaval the army's back-up system (AWWA?) has a task at hand. And perhaps for the future, the Army could ask all ranks to specify ~ and periodically review ~ how they would want compensation benefits divided. 









That the West Bengal DGP is inclined to make honest confessions was evident after the Maoist attack on an EFR camp when he laid the blame squarely on the unpreparedness of the administration. But the sense of honesty now lapses into a pathetic admission of failure when he confesses it is impossible for the police to prevent the killing of innocents in Junglemahal and calls instead for resistance from the people. What is more disturbing, and should shock an already beleaguered chief minister is that Mr Bhupinder Singh seems to echo the Trinamul supremo's contention that joint forces have failed miserably in restoring a sense of normalcy despite the raids over the past one year and more. The recipe that he suggests is more dubious. He does not spell the methods of a "mass revolt'' but we assume the DGP is not suggesting the Salwa Judum kind of counter-insurgency that can have dangerous consequences. On the other hand, he refers to a resistance movement in another district that has paid dividends, hoping the experiment will work in Lalgarh even after all the suffering. Where would the administration figure in all this? Between armed resistance that would be a recipe for chaos and the Gandhian method that seems impractical, the only option is to bring the extremists to the conference table. That option may not be available as long as the joint forces are combing the jungles.
 What does seem clear is that the DGP has finally realised the futility of relying on his own force. It has not only left the joint operation directionless but, more important, alienated the local population. As yet there is no confirmation from Writers' Buildings that the local administration has physical control of the disturbed areas. Without that assurance it would be pointless to expect people to risk their lives in the DGP's version of a "mass revolt''. But while his expectations are far-fetched, the DGP can expect a pat on the back from the Trinamul boss for a proposal that, read between the lines, is indeed a scathing reflection on the joint forces. The DGP has timed it tactfully enough. But he should now expect to be grilled on whether Lalgarh needs an administration that functions ~ or another dose of dubious experiments.








THE 13th Finance Commission, headed by Vijay Kelkar, submitted its report to the Union Government in December 2009. It was presented to Parliament during the Budget session. The Finance Commission recommended that the states should receive 32 per cent of the Centre's total tax revenue.  Recommendations were also made with regard to grants-in-aid. The commission suggested that the total transfers, including tax devolution and grants-in-aid, should not exceed 39.5 per cent. A formula through which the share of each state would be determined was also advanced. 

The Constitution has clearly divided the  powers of the Union and State governments ~ legislative, administrative, judicial and economic. But the framers were  aware of the fact that while the Centre has several sources to tap for revenue, the states' resources are limited. And yet they have larger responsibilities to fulfil and these include law and order, public utilities, development and so on. The states will need to spend heavily to discharge these responsibilities. 

Partially compensated

Therefore, the Constitution laid down procedures and the mechanism for sustainable flow of finance from the Centre to the states. Accordingly, provision was made for the constitution of the Central Finance Commission. 
Under Article 280 of the Constitution, the President is required to appoint a Finance Commission. Its function is to make recommendations to the President in respect of the distribution of net proceeds of taxes to be shared between the Union and the states and the allocation of shares of such proceeds among the states; the principles which should govern the payment by the Union of grants-in-aid to the states; and any other matter on which the President might seek its opinion for healthy Centre-state financial relations. 
The Finance Commission is a constitutional entity. The government duly considers its recommendations. The tax revenue is divided among states and the grants-in-aid are sanctioned accordingly. 

Let us examine the recommendations of the 13th Finance Commission. The poor states such as Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and the relatively well-off ones like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have been allocated less than what was recommended by the 12th Finance Commission. But the most surprising aspect is the fact that such developed states as Maharashtra, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh will benefit substantially from the recommendations of 13th Finance Commission. In addition, all the North-eastern states, including Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland will stand to gain. 

West Bengal, which was placed at a considerable disadvantage by the 12th Finance Commission, has been only partially compensated by the 13th. But it is still facing a loss by more than eight per cent, compared to the 11th Finance Commission. 

In keeping with the basic spirit of the Constitution, the Finance Commission is supposed to make recommendations in such a manner that devolution of taxes and grants- in-aid tend to reduce the disparities among different states. More resources are supposed to be allotted for the development of the less privileged and under-developed states. But the 13th Finance Commission's recommendations do not seem to have followed that spirit of the Constitution. For Orissa the allocation was 5.2 per cent which was reduced to 4.8 per cent by the 13th Finance Commission. It also implies that in the fiscal 2010-11, Orissa would receive  Rs 798 crore less as per the budget estimates. The state will suffer a loss of Rs 5,000 crore in the five-year period  for which 13th Finance Commission exists. In terms of human development, Orissa is way down. Similarly, Bihar stands to lose Rs 2,400 crore in the next five years. Smaller and under-developed states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand will suffer a loss of Rs 3000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore respectively. 
Though West Bengal has been allocated a little more than what was announced by the 12th Finance Commission, it is still at a loss of 10 per cent. It is obvious that restricted devolution will adversely affect the development efforts of these states. Maharashtra and Punjab, both advanced in terms of human development, have been sanctioned a higher allocation than before. The rich states which were subject to losses, for example Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Kerala, will not be harmed much because they are revenue-rich. 
Central to the disparities is the formula adopted by the 13th Finance Commission to decide the share of  states in the devolution of Union taxes. The 13th Finance Commission made radical changes in the formula for devolution. In the net, the chronically deprived states face losses and the better-off are provided with additional resources. 

At a disadvantage

Previous Finance Commissions had given utmost importance to the state's per capita income and its gap with the highest per capita income. The 10th Finance Commission accorded 60 per cent weightage to this factor and the 11th Finance Commission 62.5 per cent. Now, the 13th Finance Commission gives a weightage of only 47.5 per cent to this factor. That too is only an approximation ~ the  fiscal ability of the state. The 12th Finance Commission had given 7.5 per cent weightage to fiscal discipline. The 13th Finance Commission has enhanced its importance to 17.5 per cent. Regrettably, this factor was not taken into consideration by the 10th Finance Commission.  

The Centre is not serious about fiscal discipline. Its fiscal deficit had once exceeded 6.7 percent of the GDP. And under the pretext of fiscal discipline, a reduction in the states' share by the Finance Commission is untenable. 

Underplaying poverty on the one hand and giving increased weightage to fiscal discipline on the other have placed the poorer states at a disadvantage. They are likely to face higher losses. This award will make the task of reducing existing regional inequalities more difficult. Rather it may enhance the inequalities. This has been noticed in the past. Rich states tend to attract more investments from abroad. This increases their growth momentum, while the poor remain deprived of this benefit. Now that poorer states will receive less money from the Central taxes, the aspirations of the people will remain unfulfilled.

The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Economics, PGDAV College,  University of Delhi







Some new-found warmth seems to be entering the UPA in unexpected quarters, says Rajinder Puri
On 7 June this newspaper had reported that an inner war in the UPA had begun. The events that occurred after the report seem to completely falsify that surmise. Indeed, following that report newfound warmth has started to sweep across the UPA. Several incidents confirm this hopeful development. A little before the report appeared Mr Sharad Pawar was admitted in a Mumbai hospital. It is not known precisely why. His daughter Ms Supriya Sule, MP, refused to disclose the cause of her father's hospitalization. She said: "We are a very private family." She was absolutely right of course. The family is so private that nobody was even told anything about involvement in the IPL bids.

Hospital sources denied that Mr Pawar was afflicted with anything serious. "He appeared fit when he entered hospital," one staffer said. There is speculation in fact that soon after leaving hospital Mr Pawar will fly to America. Nonetheless Mr Pranab Mukherjee flew from Delhi to Mumbai simply to call on the Maharashtra strong man. Congress circles denied any significance in this visit, insisting that it was simply a courtesy call. Such unusual courtesy is indeed a sign of newer, warmer times.

It is not known whether Mr Mukherjee was displaying his singular courtesy or also representing the courtesy of others. As his party's most effective trouble-shooter, Mr Mukherjee has interacted with many politicians and acquired friends in all places. This is not to suggest, of course, that his loyalty ever wavers. Mr Mukherjee is always loyal to himself. Mr Bal Thackeray's unkind remarks did not succeed in cooling the UPA warmth. Mr Thackeray alleged that Mrs Sonia Gandhi was conspiring against Mr Pawar and was the source of all the unkind things said in the media about his very private involvement in the IPL bids.

Meanwhile, the senior leader from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, Mr Arjun Singh, exuded his own dose of new-found warmth. Even as the nation was rocked by the Bhopal gas tragedy court judgment, the reclusive, retired, ailing leader, after the newspaper report alleging inner war in the UPA had appeared, made one of his very rare sojourns outside his residence to call on Mrs Sonia Gandhi at 10 Janpath. One doubts if Mr Singh took the initiative to meet the Highest Command. Undoubtedly, he was summoned. Mr Singh had been disgraced through his unceremonious removal from the cabinet. He was further humiliated by his party's shocking violation of one holy, cardinal principle. His daughter was denied a ticket to contest for Parliament. Since when have the progeny of senior Congress leaders ever been denied entry to Parliament? Despite this, Mr Singh received audience at 10 Janpath. Why?

Could it be that the current controversy raging around the Bhopal gas tragedy has revived unanswered questions? During Rajiv Gandhi's tenure as Prime Minister, Mr Singh was Madhya Pradesh chief minister when the tragedy occurred. It was Mr Singh's government that arrested Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson when the latter visited Bhopal. But then, as media has reported, a mystery phone call came. Hurriedly, Anderson was given bail and the CM's own aircraft flew him to Delhi. From there Anderson under the nose of the Union government escaped to the USA.

The question is, who could be so powerful to make one phone call that persuaded the CM to turn turtle and facilitate Anderson's escape? Who could have allowed Anderson to escape to the US from the capital of India? This mystery has never been cleared. Mr Arjun Singh remains mum. One can imagine how much odium against Anderson's unknown benefactor Arjun Singh's disclosure could create if he chose to spill the beans. Could it be that Mrs Sonia Gandhi wanted to be enlightened about this unsolved mystery? Was that why Mr Arjun Singh was summoned to 10 Janpath?

One cannot tell. One may only speculate. What can be said with certainty is that some new-found warmth seems to be entering the UPA in unexpected quarters. Can one hope that such warmth will also extend from 10 Janpath to Mr Arjun Singh very soon? Let us watch further signs of such warmth. Let us hope it continues to spread.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






It is probably the most scary scene in cinematic history. The shower curtain is drawn back and actress Janet Leigh lets out a spine-chilling scream that warps into a frenzied cacophony of staccato music as she confronts an unseen, dagger-wielding madman.

When Alfred Hitchcock put the soundtrack to his 1960 masterpiece, Psycho, he was almost certainly unaware that the discordant musical notes he was adding to the disturbing shower scene were in fact based on the sort of non-harmonic sounds used in the distress calls of wild animals.

Scientists have found that many of the emotionally evocative moments in some of the most popular films are enhanced with a sound score that exploits the human brain's natural aversion to the "non-linear" sounds widely used in the animal kingdom to express fear and distress.

Sounds are classed as non-linear when they become too loud for the normal musical range of an instrument or an animal's vocal chords. Alternatively they can be produced by the sudden frequency changes of acoustic instruments, like those that accompanied Leigh's primal scream.

Scientists who normally study the non-linear alarm calls of marmots – an American ground squirrel – have found that the use of similar, non-linear sounds in the musical scores of films is widespread as a way of enhancing the most emotionally evocative moments.

Their study of more than 100 film soundtracks has found that film makers appear to exploit our natural aversion to non-linear sounds in order to get the most out of a moment of drama, whether it is the sad scene in the film Forrest Gump as the eponymous hero sits on a park bench, or the menacing pathos of a Corleone family funeral in Godfather II.

"We all know that things like tempo and volume are used by musicians to create tension and elicit particular emotions. We know that certain chords also do that," said Professor Daniel Blumstein, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of California at Los Angeles.

"We looked for things that would have been non-linear had they been naturally produced in film soundtracks. We call these non-linear analogues. What is novel about this study is that we specifically looked for these non-linear analogues and found that indeed they're present in evocative scenes and that different sorts of emotions are associated with different types of non-linearities," Professor Blumstein said. Sounds become non-linear when the volume increases beyond a certain point, when the sound becomes "raspy" and jumps around, indicating that it is beyond the normal, linear range of the instrument or the vocal chords, Professor Blumstein said.

"Imagine a horn. You blow it gently and a nice sound comes out. You blow it a little louder and a nice but louder sound comes out. At some point, when you blow it too hard, the sound gets unpredictable, distorted and noisy.You've hit the non-linear zone of that horn. The same thing happens in your vocal tract. Indeed you can imagine that if you're really scared, you'll really yell, and the yell or scream will contain [non-linear] noise," Professor Blumstein explained. The study, published in the journal Biology Letters, involved a detailed acoustic analysis of 30-second clips chosen from the most iconographic moments of a film, such as the shower scene in Psycho or the execution scene in The Green Mile.

"Soundtracks contain more than simply music and sound engineers can create sounds that would be impossible for an individual to produce," the scientists write in their paper. As well as male and female screams, the scientists analysed the non-linear noises in the sound effects, the ambient background noise and any sudden changes in sound frequency.

They looked at four broad genres of film: adventure, horror, drama and war. It was only in horror and drama that the scientists found a significant use of non-linear sound to amplify an iconic scene's emotional content, whether it is a scary moment in a horror film or a tearful moment in a drama.

"Our results suggest that film makers manipulate sounds to create non-linear analogues in order to manipulate emotional responses," the scientists conclude.


The Independent






Within a cycle of nearly 40 years, the scions of two leading Philippine political dynasties find themselves lodged in strategic positions that could spark a resumption of their epic blood feud. Through a quirk produced by the May 2010 elections, Senator Benigno "Noynoy'' Aquino III, son of the martyred opposition leader former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., was elected president by a landslide. Also in the same polls, Ferdinand "Bongbong'' Marcos Jr., son of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, was elected to the Senate, where his father mounted his first bid for the presidency in 1965.

The Aquino assassination has not been solved till today, but it remains a deep wound that has scarred the political consciousness of the Aquinos and their loyal followers. More important, it has defined the deep cleavage and issues of Philippine society, from the time of the Aquino killing to the Edsa People Power Revolution of 1986. The Aquinos cannot forget that blood is on the hands of the Marcos dictatorship, which has been blamed by the family and the multitude of Filipinos for the murder.

The underlying issues in this epic feud between these two powerful Filipino dynasties are defined by the belief that the Marcos dictatorship represents a reprehensible abuse of power while the Aquino family are the victims of such abuse and exponents of the restoration of a democracy based on renewal of trust of the people in their government, through regular and free elections and good governance.

The amazing juxtaposition of the heirs of the Aquino and Marcos families in 2010 was one of the mind-boggling outcomes of the May election. The results did not follow a political script, for nothing in Philippine politics, as well as elections, has ever followed a script or a grand architecture and has always confounded political forecasts by self-styled political "experts" in its idiosyncratic twists and turns.

Noynoy sits on the throne once held by his mother, Cory Aquino, the first Aquino to become president through an extraordinary circumstance of popular acclamation or street coup, called "people power" after Marcos cheated the 1986 snap election.

Having been officially proclaimed president by the national board of canvassers, Noynoy has been installed in the seat of the executive power, facing a potential challenge from family adversaries embedded in the legislature. While an Aquino holds sway in the executive department, he faces two members of the Marcos dynasty ensconced by the last election—Bongbong Marcos in the Senate and his mother, Imelda Marcos, widow of the late dictator, who has been elected to the House representing the second district of Ilocos Norte.
It is convenient, but not always helpful, to make a hasty conclusion that the election of two Marcoses in both houses of Congress, as well as the election of former congresswoman Imee Marcos of Ilocos Norte as governor of that province, is a vindication of Marcos and his dictatorship, marked by historians as one of the darkest chapters in modern Philippine history.

Bongbong has made no bones about his intentions to rehabilitate the inglorious record of his father and has trained his sights on the presidency—an ambition that puts him on collision course with the second Aquino presidency.

Noynoy should be warned that a Marcos heir, who belongs to the same generation, has found a platform in the Senate. If the Marcos heirs have signalled their intentions to settle scores with the Aquino dynasty, if not to push for the rehabilitation of the dictatorship's record after regaining political footholds, Noynoy has been less combative and outspoken, and has so far not given any indication that he is craving to engage the Marcos dynasty in a running vendetta.

Ninoy, as the Liberal Party opposition leader, and Marcos, the president, were constantly at loggerheads over transcendental stakes, involving no less the presidency, with Ninoy always fancying himself as the alternative to Marcos. This rivalry heated up to the point where Aquino was murdered in 1983, permanently eliminating him as a dangerous rival to end Marcos' monopoly of power.

What makes Noynoy's mandate more solidly founded than that of his mother's in 1986 is that it has been officially confirmed by such constitutional bodies as the national board of canvassers, after a completed or interrupted election. Therefore, the election legitimacy of Noynoy's assumption to power stands on firmer and more unassailable grounds than that of Cory. The Marcos rubber-stamp institutions—the Batasang Pambansa and the Commission on Elections—rigged the count of the results when Cory was found leading the results by independent quick-count organizations, provoking the military rebellion against Marcos and the ensuing "people power" revolution.

Cory was sworn into the presidency on the crest of people power. The results of the snap election were never completed—an imperfection that was corrected in 1987 when a national referendum overwhelming ratified the 1987 Constitution that formally restored key democratic institutions that had been demolished by the dictatorship. That ratification corrected the ambiguity left by the interruption of the counting of the results of the snap election.

Noynoy's presidency has no such ambiguity. Its legitimacy is founded on a stronger position to thwart efforts by the new administration's enemies—including the heirs of the Marcos dynasty—to undermine it. Aquino's responsibility is to use his unique political capital to build an honest and competent government.


Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN







There is a conception as old as religion that the most benignant powers in the universe seek to bring good out of evil. It is doubtful whether Mayavati qualifies for the benignant powers' list, but her allegedly hush-hush manoeuvrings to change the municipal election law in Uttar Pradesh so that candidates for the civic elections are independent individuals, not from political parties, might actually augur some good. The evil in question, that is, the reason for the UP chief minister's eagerness to strip the forthcoming civic elections of colour, seems to be that she foresees the kind of embarrassment that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) recently faced after the civic polls in West Bengal. The Bahujan Samaj Party is willing to neither face nor make an exhibition of its failure on the local urban level. That has suddenly made it open the door to true democracy at the grassroots. For the voice of the people to be heard, representatives have to be chosen to convey their message. The more authentic the representation of the needs of the people the closer to perfection is the democracy. But the immediacy of representation can be sustained on a practical level when the represented groups are comparatively small, as in municipal wards, or village clusters. So this principle is followed in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh in the elections to their local bodies. It may be almost impossible, certainly very difficult, to accommodate a system of this 'perfect democracy' at all levels in the whole of India. But even if it exists at the lowest one, it would strengthen democracy in small but significant ways through all the tiers of the system.


That is, of course, the principle of it. India's politicians have the unique ability to change gold into dross, hence it will be interesting to watch what comes of Ms Mayavati's efforts. As it is, her opponents are being derisive and enraged in turn; the first because she is obviously baulking at possible defeat, and the second because she has been very furtive about the change to the law, barely complying with regulations, so no one hears about it till it is almost too late to object. It will be even more fascinating to watch whether, as some of Ms Mayavati's opponents claim, buying off the apolitical winners will be easier for the ruling party (than winning the elections?) — but that is all part of the game. By then, of course, evil would be coming out of good.








It should not surprise anyone if a generation of school children in West Bengal end up feeling, horribly confused about their multiplication tables, as poor Alice did in Wonderland. The West Bengal School Service Commission has decided to recruit teachers of mathematics and the life sciences from candidates who have failed to secure even the minimum marks in the qualifying examinations. Apparently, given the number of posts lying vacant and the glaring lack of suitable candidates to fill them up, the authorities decided to lower the bar from 40 per cent to 30 per cent for these two subjects. Quick thinking, although useful in times of desperation, can at best provide a quick-fix solution. Instead of reflecting on the reasons behind such a shocking decline in standards, the authorities took refuge in a familiar strategy. Faced with the ugly truth, they swept it under the carpet and fell back on a warped logic: if the State could somehow make sure that there were enough teachers to go around, it would be seen as fulfilling its responsibility of providing free and compulsory education to its citizens. And so, filling up posts became the be-all and end-all of the SSC. The irony is deepened by the fact that a premier educational body not only bent its own rules to serve its selfish interests but also made a policy that abets discrimination. Candidates who applied from other subjects may reasonably wonder why the cut-off marks in their areas were not lowered as well. Such a dubious model of operation is surely not very educative for anyone.


Teaching is not a career meant for everybody. It demands a degree of excellence and commitment that not many of its practitioners have. Since the rewards of school teaching are more often intangible than economic, the academically gifted are not tempted to take it up readily. A great many become teachers because they do not have any alternative. Could it be that the dismal situation faced by the SSC is actually an outcome of this deep apathy among teachers? Most of those who performed so miserably in the examinations had also gone to school in this state. They were churned out of the same, rotting teaching machine that they will now have the privilege to operate. In turn, these teachers will leave their unenviable legacies for their pupils. A perfectly topsy-turvy future for a topsy-turvy state.









A defining feature of modern Britain is the incredible rudeness of its television presenters. That media inquisitors should be persistent and not allow public figures to get away with evasive answers is understood. But there's a world of difference between doggedly pursuing answers and plain rudeness.


A couple of days after the Israeli military action on the high seas off Gaza last month led to the unfortunate deaths of nine Turkish "peace activists", I happened to watch the news on Channel 4, a station established in the 1980s to accommodate 'alternative' perspectives. The newscaster, Jon Snow, well known for his colourful ties, and who is iconic enough to be deified in the National Portrait Gallery, was visibly angry at what he regarded as Israeli high-handedness. More to the point, he made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to conceal his displeasure.


One of the guests invited to give the 'other side' of the story was a functionary from the Israeli embassy in London. In moments like these, the job of an embassy spokesman is unenviable: he has to appear convincing, unflappable and yet not be unduly smug. I personally thought the gentleman faced up to the aggressive barrage rather well. That was until Snow confronted him with the possibility of what would happen if another flotilla of 'peace' boats made their way to Gaza. The diplomat was firm that Israel wouldn't permit it. An angry Snow retorted that a Turkish minister had announced Ankara would send a battleship to accompany the next flotilla. "Will you risk war?" he asked the Israeli spokesman belligerently.


The diplomat looked puzzled and politely retorted that there was no possibility of Turkey doing that. Why don't you get on the phone, snapped Snow, and find out whether Turkey is planning to do precisely that? And then, barely concealing his displeasure, he abruptly terminated the conversation.


That would have been the end of this story. However, barely half a minute before the programme ended, Snow peremptorily clarified that there was no suggestion that Turkey was planning to send a battleship to engage Israeli coastguards in a naval battle.


To my mind, a mild 'sorry' was in order. Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel, the lack of generosity has become the norm. Strangely, for a country that was once seen as the doughty success story of West Asia, an oasis of enlightenment amid the cruel harshness of the desert, Israel has become a near-pariah. The paradox is that this transformation has taken place despite Israel's success in ensuring that its right to exist is now acknowledged by most countries in the world, apart from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. Unlike the situation that prevailed for the first three decades of Israel's existence, even Islamic countries are disinclined to frown upon countries such as India that have healthy diplomatic and commercial relations with Tel Aviv (or, should we say, Jerusalem).


The suggestion that this shift in perception — to the extent that even a writer such as Amitav Ghosh is pilloried for accepting an award from a university in Tel Aviv — has to do with the plight of the Palestinians is only partly true. Till the Six-Day War in 1967 put an end to all Arab hopes of defeating Israel militarily, many Palestinians seriously believed that the clock of history could be turned back and that the region could return to its pre-Balfour Declaration status. Today, the moderate Palestinian leadership —the successors of Yasser Arafat —tacitly recognize that Israel is there to stay and that the second-best but realistic solution is to settle for a Palestinian State that includes the West Bank and Gaza.


The tragedy, as the Israeli statesman, Abba Eban, rued in 1973, is that "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity". Arafat's nerves failed him in Camp David when the former American president, Bill Clinton, almost hammered out a settlement, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is wary of open engagement with Israel, fearful as he is of being made even more irrelevant by Hamas and the rising tide of Islamism. The Palestinian leadership is a pathetic victim of its own prolonged posturing.


Israel, on its part, is equally fearful of giving legitimacy to Hamas. The militant Islamist militia is yet to recognize Israel's right to exist. Unlike the old Palestine Liberation Organisation which was ostensibly non-denominational, Hamas is infected by the post-9/11 Islamic radicalism and its propaganda and appeal reflect it.


It is recognized by all those who sanctimoniously urge Israeli 'restraint' on all occasions that a Hamas-controlled Palestinian State will inevitably become a staging post for Syrian and Iranian attacks on Israel. Already anxious about Hezbollah inroads in Lebanon, the last thing Israel wants is to subject the whole country to the sustained rocket fire once experienced by the towns adjoining Gaza. The fragility of Israel's security demands an internationally guaranteed, demilitarized Palestinian State.


The prospects of this happening are becoming increasingly remote. The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made extreme hostility to Israel a feature of its neighbourhood policy, adding Holocaust-denial to his dhobi list of visceral anti-Semitism. Egged on by his supreme leader, Ahmadinejad is now encouraging a Iranian Red Crescent flotilla to break the Gaza blockade.


Syria may not be on the same ideological wavelength as Iran but it too seeks an Israel that is in a state of permanent tension. And, to add to Israel's woes, the pressure of Islamic radicals at home has forced Turkey to review its earlier 'friendship' with Israel. Having been rebuffed in its attempts to join the European Union (the reasons were entirely linked to its religious character), Turkey seems determined to live up to the stereotype that was unjustly pinned to it. Indeed, the emotional upsurge in the aftermath of the Gaza crisis may well make it increasingly difficult for Kemal Atatürk's legacy to withstand public pressure.


Those who fall back on moral indignation to denounce Israel's harsh blockade of the Gaza strip seem unmindful of the country's hostile surroundings. Yes, Israel would be wise to refrain from building new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Equally, it can be patient in its plans for the whole of Jerusalem. However, it is worth asking whether the unconditional lifting of the Gaza blockade, the rollback of all West Bank settlements and the return of the capital to Tel Aviv will placate its opponents or convince them that the Jewish State is losing its nerve.


In a characteristically robust intervention, Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, put his country's predicament in context. "We need to always remember that," he said, "we aren't North America or Western Europe; we live in the Middle East, in a place where there is no mercy for the weak and there aren't second chances for those who don't defend themselves."


Barak, who has been blamed for Israel's "disproportionate" response, wasn't talking a language that goes down well in the West, and certainly not with the campus radicals who seem to be driving international responses. However, while the West seems inclined to fight the clash of civilizations with constant accommodation and a show of guilt — which explains why Israel has effortlessly fitted into the slot vacated by apartheid South Africa — the stakes for the Jewish State are higher. For the West, multicultural benevolence is a decadent indulgence; for Israel, resisting religion-inspired aggression is a question of survival.







BONA FIDE - Malvika Singh


The writings on the dreadful condition of our treasure troves attracted much response. More importantly, I came across an interview in one of the newspapers with the secretary of the ministry of culture who claimed that a radical overhaul was being processed because the prime minister, as also the minister of culture, were personally leading the charge in restructuring museums in India. With that kind of support, things should change within months and settle down in a year or two, managed and curated by non-babus, with all the bits and bobs that the world has 'invented' put in place, and operated in an effort to make museums people-friendly. The countdown has begun. Let us hope and pray that this 'commitment' does not languish in the labyrinth of endless committees inherited by a steady stream of ministers who come and go and bring no change.


The Indian 'cultural establishment' is parochial, unbending and has no glimmer of creative thinking. In a landscape dotted with countless fragments of gates, palaces, mansions and forts, some more important than others because of their historical significance and level of preservation, we need to urgently begin thinking out of the box. Re-use of carefully selected buildings is essential for conservation and preservation. The world has nurtured such spaces, modified and reinvented them, and an international public has savoured their new avatars. We do just the opposite. We put restrictions through absurd building norms, making allowances for corruption as the rules are ridiculous.


Fine eating places, elegant teashops, great 'Made in India' shops housing superb hand-made products, fabrics from the great looms of India, music and dance, theatre and film, could be integrated into some of the 'monuments' that lie ruined around us. The norms that dictate what is permitted and what is not need to be devised with a modern mind, taking the best practices from other parts of the world where such transformations have happened with success.


Redundant rules


These enterprises will, undoubtedly, bring in the required revenue to maintain such edifices and become self-sustaining. Advisory bodies need only one ex-officio babu and for the rest, carefully chosen professional practitioners with a wide international experience. Look around and India is exploding with new ideas, but all State-run enterprises in the area of culture are dull, boring and completely out of sync.


That horrendous Indian killer virus — lowest tender — has introduced the Worst of India into the realm of the Best of India. The minister of culture knows that the lowest tender has perpetuated an all-time low quality in every sphere where the government 'runs' what should be in the hands of competent, quality professionals. We have a large clutch of innovative entrepreneurs who have started bars, restaurants, shops and products, which celebrate a vibrant India emerging out of the earlier, boxed-in economy. None of these world-class examples is allowed anywhere near institutions governed by the State. Public-private partnership dies before the marriage because the public end is ridden with a deep insecurity and protected by redundant rules and regulations that would drive away the hardiest of entrepreneurs.


In Delhi, where roadside eating was a treat, the municipality has banned street food on grounds of hygiene, a complete nonsense considering the filth around us. The MCD and NDMC have failed miserably. Strict norms need to be constituted to govern the presiding officers. Our unthinking, unaesthetic, inexperienced babus are instituting the worst of the West. Hello Mr Babu, do you know that open markets in city squares are becoming fashionable? Do you know that B-grade 'monuments' are being re-used for other activities? Read and you will learn.




******************************************************************************************DECCAN HERALD





During Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to India, the two countries have signed a slew of agreements relating to security, energy, infrastructure and reconstruction. These can be expected to cement already firm bilateral ties. India has agreed to connect the power grids of the two countries. This will enhance electrical power supply to Sri Lanka significantly.  India has done well to extend a helping hand to the Tamils on the island. It has promised to build 50,000 houses for those displaced by the war. It has already extended a generous aid package for reconstruction of the war-ravaged Tamil areas and the agreements reached during Rajapaksa's visit on building rail lines and renovating other infrastructure will take the process of rebuilding the North forward. Besides various development projects that will provide skills and jobs to the Tamils are in the pipeline and these will help the North get back on its feet again.

India-Sri Lanka relations have undoubtedly come a long way over the years. But differences on key issues are standing in the way of the two countries realising the full potential of bilateral co-operation. There is unease in India with the Rajapaksa government's obvious reluctance to find a political solution to the ethnic conflict. In Delhi the president reiterated his commitment to finding a political settlement acceptable to all communities.  He needs to act now on his promises. He has both popular support and political clout to push for a settlement of the conflict. What is clearly lacking is the political will. As for India, beyond chanting for implementation of the 13th amendment, which it brokered over two decades ago, it appears to have no fresh ideas to jumpstart the process. This has prompted criticism from some quarters that India is sacrificing the interests of the Tamils at the altar of its economic ambitions in Sri Lanka.

But neither is the economic relationship doing too well. While trade is growing, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is yet to become a reality. A shrill debate on CEPA preceded Rajapaksa's visit to India, raising concern here that Sri Lanka might be having second thoughts about taking this agreement forward. There are fears in Sri Lanka that CEPA will destroy the local economy. But these fears are being fuelled by Sinhala nationalist sections. Delhi must counter their anti-India propaganda on the matter by putting the facts on the table.







The government 's decision to mandate a minimum 25 per cent public shareholding in all listed companies, both in the private and public sectors, is welcome because it will address many inadequacies in the present market system. A number of companies in the country have a very large promoter holding which makes them effectively more private than public. The present  threshold of 10 per cent is much less than internationally prevalent norms. Companies which have less than 25 per cent have to increase the public holding gradually within a period of five years. The new decision is in fact a correction of an earlier one in the nineties when the government had reduced the share of public holding to 10 per cent.

A dilution of promoter holding, through fresh issues or other means, will impart greater depth to the share market. Though the markets have grown exponentially in the last two decades, they suffer from a narrow base and low liquidity. When too much money chases too few good shares, there is scope for price manipulation and volatility. When the public stake is low, shareholders do not have an effective say in the company and the promoters acquire a stranglehold on it. Larger public floats will ensure greater transparency in the market and even improve corporate governance. Retail shareholders can benefit from greater participation in the market. Though the country has a high savings rate, the culture of stock market investment is still underdeveloped and needs to be more wide-based. Only if stock exchanges become safer and more efficient will more investors be attracted to them. The new decision can help to move the markets in that direction.

The implementation of the proposal is estimated to mean share offerings worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore to Rs 2 lakh crore in the coming five years. There are fears whether the market can absorb such high level of capital offering. The markets are not receptive now, because of the uncertainties created by global economic problems. Even after confidence returns, mobilisation of high amounts of capital may not be easy. In such a situation the offer prices may not be realistic. The government, which has a major disinvestment programme, may also find the going tough. This may call for better fine-tuning of the scheme for implementation of the decision.







Ironically, India did qualify for the World Cup of 1950, but had to withdraw because FIFA rejected their request to play barefoot!


Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." — Legendary Liverpool football coach Bob Paisley.

 If  sports is modern day religion, then for the next five weeks, football will be venerated as a global deity. No other sport has successfully touched a chord with so many millions across the globe as 'The Beautiful Game' has. Thirtytwo countries will compete for the Holy Grail of  football, the FIFA world cup. They will range from tiny Slovenia to mighty Brazil, five time winners of  the prize.

 Much has changed since the first world cup in 1930 when barely 13 countries made the trip to Montevideo. In the road to South Africa, 208 countries participated in the qualifying matches (more than the Olympics or even United Nations members). One thing hasn't changed though: India will be watching from the sidelines yet again.

Ironically, India did qualify for the World Cup of 1950, but had to withdraw because their request to play barefoot was rejected by FIFA! The 50s and early 60s were, in fact, perhaps the only period when Indian football showed some signs of  being able to compete at international level. India won the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games gold, and quite remarkably, finished fourth in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics with a team that at last could wear boots! Currently, India is ranked 133, just above Bermuda, Tajikistan and Barbados, but below Faroe Islands, Fiji and Luxembourg, the populations of  which might barely match a South Delhi residential colony.  

 Why is it that the world's second most populous country will not be competing in the ultimate mass sports event? (remember even China qualified once for the 2002 world cup). There is, of  course, the usual argument of  how our obsession with cricket has reduced all other team sports, including the original national game of hockey, to the margins.

That might be true, especially in the deplorable manner in which most major corporates have shunned sports outside of cricket. But it still doesn't provide a full explanation as to why football should lose out in the manner it has. Brazilians are obsessed with football in the near-manic manner of  cricket in this country, yet that hasn't prevented them from producing world class teams in a range of  other sports from volleyball to basketball.

It also isn't as if Indians aren't passionate about football. Watch a game in Margao, Shillong or Kozhikode, and the exuberance of  the fans can match the best in the world. I have deliberately left out Kolkata, the home of  Indian football, because Kolkata at one level has come to symbolise the decline of  the sport. For Kolkatans, football for the longest time was about narrow parochialism: East Bengal versus Mohun Bagan was the life and death contest. Instead of  truly professionalising club football, Kolkata allowed it to lapse into a cesspool of  mediocrity, much like the rest of  Bengal. 

Ironically, the wake up call came with the arrival of  satellite television in the 1990s. Suddenly, the Indian football fan was exposed to the best talent in the world, not just once every four years at a World Cup, but virtually every weekend through the live telecast of  the major soccer leagues.
The quality of  the football on show made us realise just how much we had lost out in a rapidly changing sport, how second rate imports from Africa or Latin America could never be a substitute for the real thing. Today, a generation of  Indians is being born who are Manchester United and Real Madrid fans and not that of an Indian football team, fans who idolize a Wayne Rooney before they would a Baichung Bhutia.

 In a sense, this 'globalisation' of  sport also provides an opportunity to revive football in the country. As the next few weeks will confirm, there is an enormous appetite to watch football in this country. The challenge is to translate this popular appeal for the sport into a genuine footballing culture.

Traditional elites

This would require, in the first instance, a need to shed a certain Brahminical disdain for playing physical 'contact' sport. Every school in this country must have a football ground as a way to 'democratise' the sport, every child must be encouraged to kick the ball.


Indian cricket has succeeded because it truly democratised itself, moving beyond the traditional elites of  Mumbai and metropolitan India. Football too, by laying a solid foundation in the north-east for example, can actually become an aspirational sport, an opportunity for the non-cricketing centres to find a place in the country's sporting sun.

 None of  this will happen overnight, but will probably require a 20 year plan. We may never be able to compete with the physically superior Europeans and Africans, or the artistic Latin Americans. But as the relative football success of a Japan and even a China have shown, if  there is a willingness to invest in the future, then it is possible to reap the rewards over time. We may never play in the football World Cup in my lifetime, but cant we atleast work to recapturing some pride in the Asian context?   

(The writer is editor-in-chief, IBN 18 network)








Mubarak has worked to weaken Hamas' hold in Gaza, and to strengthen that of Palestinian President.


This is language that we have not heard since the time of Gamal Abdul Nasser." Thus wrote the influential chief editor of Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, referring to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's fiery response to the Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla — adding that such 'manly' positions and rhetoric had "disappeared from the dictionaries of our Arab leaders." He lamented that "Arab regimes now represent the only friends left to Israel."

There is no doubt that it is President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Nasser's successor, to whom the editor, Abdel Bari Atwan, principally refers. There is no doubt, too, that the 'flotilla affair' marks a watershed for Egypt — and to a lesser extent for Saudi Arabia.
Even the notoriously tin ear of President Mubarak to his own people's sympathy for the Palestinian cause in Gaza could not fail to hear the grinding of the tectonic plates of Middle East change. He ordered the immediate opening of the Egyptian crossing into Gaza.

What we are witnessing is another step — perhaps crucial — in the shifting strategic balance of power in the Middle East: The cause of the Palestinians is gradually passing out of the hands of Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. It is the leaders of Iran and Turkey, together with President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, who recognise the winds of change. Mubarak appears increasingly isolated and is cast as Israel's most assiduous collaborator.  

Mubarak's motives for his dogged support for Israel are well known in the region: He is convinced that the gateway to obtaining Washington's green light for his son Gamal to succeed him lies in Tel Aviv rather than Washington. Mubarak enjoys a bare modicum of support in the US, and if Washington is to ignore its democratic principles in order to support a Gamal shoe-in, it will be because Israel says that this American 'blind eye' is essential for its security.

To this end, Mubarak has worked to weaken Hamas's standing in Gaza, and to strengthen that of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Indeed, he has pursued this policy at the expense of Palestinian unity — his regular 'unity' initiatives notwithstanding.  
Paradoxically, it is precisely this posture that has opened the door to Turkey and Iran seizing of the sponsorship of the Palestinian cause. But standing behind this sharp Turkish reaction to Israel's assault on the Turkish ship is a deeper regional rift, and this divide stems from the near-universal conviction that the Israeli-Palestinian 'peace process' has failed.

Yet Egypt refuses to budge in these changed circumstances even as the shift in the balance of regional power toward the northern tier of Middle Eastern states — Syria, Turkey, Iran, Qatar and Lebanon — gathers pace. Egypt increasingly has only its memory of past grandeur on which to stand. In contemporary terms its influence has been on the slide for some time.

Egypt's one card is that it is Gaza's other neighbour. It has been Egypt's acquiescence to the siege of Gaza — encouraged by President Abbas in the West Bank, who shares Mubarak's desire to see Hamas weakened — that has given Mubarak his stranglehold over Palestinian issues. But the Islamic and regional tide will be flowing ever stronger against him after Israel's action against the flotilla.

Already the Arab League is talking of supporting Turkey in any legal action against the Israeli assault on the aid convoy to Gaza. The Arab League has also issued a call to other states to break Israel's siege on Gaza. It is too early to say that such talk marks any turning point in Arab League politics.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia may conclude that the price of seeing the baton of leadership on such a key and emotive issue pass to non-Arab hands, Iran and Turkey, is too high, and too shameful. The near-universal skepticism directed toward the 'peace process' among their own peoples has already left these leaders exposed internally. For nearly 20 years these leaders have used their involvement in the 'process' as justification to curb internal dissent; but it is now a tool that has lost its magic. They are already paying the price of popular cynicism.

This is Mubarak's dilemma: stay with the siege and hope America will reward him with Gamal's succession; but flouting the winds of change may imperil Gamal's very survival. In any event, Egypt's control of the Palestinian 'file' will never be the same again.

(The writer is a former British intelligence officer in the Middle East) IHT







When the barber held mirror, I couldn't believe that it was my own head.


After having spent most of my life in small towns in Tamil Nadu and Kerala as a bank official, I have been always comfortable with middle aged and elderly barbers in dhoti operating from small barber shops with rickety chairs and without any electrical appliances which you find in city based barber shops.

 Although their continuous chattering sometimes used to annoy me, I got all the city news and their expert opinions without the need to buy local news papers like 'Dina Thanthi.' Most of them took liberty to point at my balding patch at the rear and would often predict that I would become completely bald after five years. Although it hurt my ego, I let them pass such comments since they never expected tips like city barbers.

Post retirement, when I settled in Bangalore, I found to my amazement that almost every barber shop in Bangalore had only young boys as barbers, clad in jeans, tee-shirts and earphones permanently glued to their ears. The signage too had undergone a change - It is either 'men's beauty parlor' or 'men's hair style.' Unlike the town barber who keeps you engaged in lively conversation, these boys are grim faced with no topics for discussion especially with elderly people like me.

Finally, one day I had to reluctantly offer my head to one of these boys for a haircut. In the midst of the operation, when I asked the boy to cut the hair short, he politely said that the balding patch in the rear of my head would get exposed! He even hinted that he plans to leave a chunk of hair long in the rear of my head so that it would completely cover my baldness and make me look younger. I was impressed with this simple idea and let him implement his suggestion.

After the hair cut was done, when the barber held the mirror behind by back, I could not recognise that it was my own head.

I thanked him profusely and cursed my barber friends in the small towns for having wasted my time in useless conversations without offering solution for my balding patch and making me spend hundreds of rupees on various brands of herbal hair oils for the past five years. I walked out of the barber shop with new found energy and a youthful gait.







Gay Spaniards might want to ponder the ramifications of their identification with the likes of Hamas.

Israel-bashers make strange bedfellows. This week, aligning themselves with Islamist anti-Zionists, Madrid's Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (LGTB) banned the Tel Aviv municipality's "TLV Love Embassy" float from participating in the Spanish capital's upcoming international gay pride parade, considered the world's largest.

The Israeli role in the Madrid festivities had been slated to be extensive, including "a large Tel Aviv party… led by Israeli DJs and artists, as well as meetings between… community leaders," according to news reports in May, when the cooperation was first announced. Spaniards also cancelled a concert by transgender singer Dana International, who won the 1998 Eurovision contest as Israel's representative. The declared reason behind gay Spain's about-face was the Mavi Marmara incident.

"After what has happened [with the flotilla] and as human rights campaigners," Antonio Poveda of the LGTB federation explained, "it seemed barbaric to us to have them [Tel Aviv] taking part. We don't just defend our own little patch."

In a convoluted line of reasoning, Madrid's LGTB community chose to defend the Hamas leadership in Gaza – which openly attacks gays – along with the IHH, the Turkish group inspired by Muslim fundamentalism that sent the Mavi Marmara to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Meanwhile, Israel, one of the most progressive nations on gay rights, not just in the Middle East but in the Western world, has been recast as barbarous.

This is the same barbarous Israel that years ago accepted openly gay military personnel. (The US has only recently taken steps to repeal its "Don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gay military personnel.) It is the Israel that recognizes same-sex marriages performed abroad, allowing foreign partners to adopt children, receive residency permits, benefits and pensions. It is the Israel whose dynamically pluralist city of Tel Aviv provides additional municipal benefits to gay couples, putting them on a par with their straight counterparts.

It is the Israel whose parliament includes elected politicians such as MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who are openly gay. It is the Israel whose cultural scene embraces Dana International and features "out" performing artists such as Ivri Leader. It is the Israel that, over the years, has served as an asylum for Palestinians fleeing violent, religiously motivated oppression in Gaza and the West Bank.

What a contrast to Hamas, which does not hide its enmity for homosexuality. During its successful 2006 election campaign, Hamas's co-founder, Dr. Mahmoud Zahar, declared: "Are these the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and mentally and morally sick?" Zahar has since been appointed Hamas's foreign minister.

GAY SPANIARDS' disinclination to recognize Israel's excellent record on gay issues, while ignoring Hamas's open hostility, is part of a wider, distorted Spanish reaction to the flotilla episode and its context.

That skewed response was evident in the violence vented this Tuesday against a group of Israelis who had come to a Madrid conference to share their know-how in the field of renewable energy. One of the Israelis, Eytan Levy, CEO of Emefcy, was hit by a rock amid protests that necessitated police intervention to extricate the small, besieged delegation.

This mindset may perhaps be partly explained by Spain's lack of a liberal, democratic tradition. Between 1939 and 1975, the country was ruled by General Franco's pro-Arab, fascist dictatorship. The present Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, apparently reflecting widespread opinion, has publicly expressed his loathing of America and purports to regard Israel as a stooge of American imperialism. His anti-American, anti-Israel views make him the natural ally of Islamists. It should come as no surprise that Zapatero, who succeeded the pro-Israel Jose Maria Aznar in the wake of the 2004 Madrid train bombings, was photographed during the Second Lebanon War wearing a keffiyeh in a public show of support for Hizbullah.


In this political atmosphere, vicious anti-Israeli views run rampant. "They [gay Israelis] want to transform themselves into victims when they are the executioners," Miguel Angel Gonzales, president of the Madrid Gay Collective, told Libertad Digital this week.

Spain owes it to itself to strive for a more informed and fair-minded attitude to Israel. And gay Spaniards might want to  ponder the ramifications of their identification with the likes of Hamas.

Radical Islam is a growing force in Europe, which some pessimists have begun to call "Eurabia." If radical Muslims had their way in Spain, organizations like the Madrid Gay Collective would be disbanded, and men like Gonzales would be running for their lives.








The ministers in the "Forum of Seven" are working night and day to prevent a skilled, credible investigation that would seriously examine a question of public importance: the quality of defense and political preparations before the Turkish flotilla to Gaza and during the takeover of its ships.


The ministers in the "Forum of Seven" are working night and day to prevent a skilled, credible investigation that would seriously examine a question of public importance: the quality of defense and political preparations before the Turkish flotilla to Gaza and during the takeover of its ships.


Sufficient preparation concerns the performance and responsibility of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, of the foreign and information ministers, of the Forum and the security cabinet, as well as the chairman of the National Security Council - Uzi Arad - charged by law with "overseeing the cabinet's administration" on matters of foreign and defense policy. This is in addition to the chief of staff's responsibility for the military's performance in preparing for and conducting the operation.


Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi appointed an internal investigative team for the flotilla affair, headed by retired general Giora Eiland, the former head of the IDF's Planning Branch and head of the National Security Council. The IDF's team of experts is designed to exude credibility by detaching its members from current military service. However, one member, Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, is an officer in active service who until recently headed the Operations Branch of the General Staff. Kochavi is waiting for a promotion to a senior position and the rank of major general. This constitutes a conflict of interests between his role as a member of the investigative team and his own personal and professional interests. This should be enough to disqualify him from a team of experts about to investigate the chief of staff.


Politicians are evading a real investigation that would also examine its own performance. The delay in deciding the substance and composition of the entity to handle the investigation is related to hopes the investigation will be acceptable to the U.S. administration. This, however, is a feeble and unacceptable excuse. The investigation is designed first and foremost to examine any hitches during the decision-making process and in the military preparations before the flotilla, and reach conclusions regarding future procedures - and not to serve as a propaganda machine to mollify the U.S.


The proposed "investigations," chiefly the international experts' seminar on maritime law, are appropriate for an academic conference and appear empty of real content. The Forum of Seven is mostly busy preventing the possibility that Netanyahu and Barak be held responsible - responsibility that could force a state commission of inquiry, the most appropriate body to investigate the operation.


Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch would appoint her colleagues, which would grant the commission credibility. Such a commission would carry greater public and international weight than a government committee appointed and authorized by the cabinet. A state commission of inquiry enjoys investigative powers determined by law, which also requires it be headed by a senior judge.


The professional character of a state commission of inquiry, the depth of its investigation and its objectivity, would ensure a thorough and credible examination of troublesome questions regarding the decisions prior to boarding the Turkish flotilla last week. The government's responsibility to the public requires that it appoint a state commission of inquiry. Any further delay or the choice of an investigation that is fabricated, not serious or substantial, will do even greater damage than that already caused by the affair.









An old adage says that when God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window. To most people, last week's events off the coast of Gaza marked a sharp decline in Israel's strategic posture. The Mavi Marmara incident sparked international condemnation and delivered what may have been a death blow to Jerusalem's already precarious relations with Turkey. For decades that country was Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, but since the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is increasingly in the thrall of fundamentalist Islam.


A door has been closed. But amid the roar, the creak of an opening window was faintly audible. This window, a gigantic deposit of natural gas called Leviathan, 6.5 times the size of Tel Aviv, was found, roughly 100 nautical miles from where the flotilla fiasco took place and well within Israel's extended territorial waters. This discovery may provide Israel with security in terms of its supply of electricity, turn it into an important natural gas exporter and provide a shot in the arm of some $300 billion over the life of the field - one-and-a-half times the national GDP - to the Israeli economy, already one of the most resilient in the world.


More importantly, this discovery is nothing short of a geopolitical game changer. To understand its magnitude, consider this: The world's biggest gas discovery in 2009, 238 billion cubic meters, was made by a U.S.-Israel consortium at a site called Tamar, 60 miles off the coast of Haifa. The nearby Leviathan field is estimated to be twice that size. Altogether the basin in the eastern Mediterranean to which those fields belong could contain an amount of gas equivalent to one-fifth of U.S. natural gas reserves. For a small country like Israel, such a bonanza could not have come at a better time.


Until recently, Israel was facing an energy predicament. Its fast-growing population - and the even faster-growing Palestinian Arab population to which it also supplies electricity - and the declining reserves of Egypt, its main gas supplier, required the identification of new sources of gas for electricity production. One alternative was to import natural gas from Russia and the Caspian Sea via Turkey. To this end, Turkey and Israel negotiated the construction of a subsea pipeline. But with the deterioration of their relations, this option gradually became unfeasible. Another option was to import gas from Qatar, hardly a reliable supplier. Yet a third, more costly, possibility was construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal, which would enable imports from various suppliers.


The discoveries at Tamar and Leviathan solved the problem: Israel will no longer have to import natural gas. Its dilemma now, rather, is deciding where to export the excess and how to reap the most geopolitical gains from its new status as an energy exporter.


Geographically, the most natural market is Europe, where any non-Russian gas is more than welcome. There are three ways for Israel to access this market. The first is to construct a pipeline to Turkey, where Israeli gas would join product from the Caspian region en route to Central Europe. This option is highly unlikely to be realized in the current atmosphere of Israel-Turkey relations.


Alternately, and more likely, Israel could construct a pipeline to Greece via Cyprus or pipe it inland, liquefy it and export it to any European liquefied natural gas terminal by sea. Europe is not the only potential market in such a scenario. Once liquefied, Israeli gas could be directed to China, South Korea and Japan, which collectively consume more than half of the world's LNG.


From a geopolitical standpoint, gas exports to India would be most beneficial to Israel. With hundreds of millions of its citizens facing energy poverty, India urgently needs reliable natural gas suppliers. One option for that country is to join the Iran-Pakistan pipeline - a project aimed at connecting Pakistan to Iran's South Pars field by 2014. Should India decide to extend the pipeline, it will become beholden to Iranian gas for decades to come, to the detriment of Western efforts to weaken Iran economically. Alternately, should India decide to construct LNG terminals along its coast, it will be able to import natural gas from Israel as well as other exporters, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia.


The creation of an energy corridor from Israel to the Indian subcontinent would mean that Israel would have to retrofit the existing 150-mile oil pipeline linking the Red Sea port of Eilat with the Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. Once this pipeline commences operation, Russian and Caspian natural gas could reach the Asian markets as well.


Ironically, the biggest casualty of such an energy corridor will be none other than Turkey, which now enjoys an unchallenged status as an energy bridge between East and West. Energy transit fees are an important source of income to the Turkish economy.


In the coming years, Israel will have to decide whether to direct its gas to Asia or to compete with Turkey over access to the European gas market. Should it choose the latter, Turkish-Israeli relations will remain in rough seas.


Gal Luft is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, and co-author of "Turning Oil into Salt: Energy Independence through Fuel Choice" (BookSurge Publishing, 2009 ).









Israel's deadly attack on the "Freedom Flotilla" is proof of how Gaza continues to give Israel a taste of its own medicine. Intended to help solve Israel's problems with Hamas, the three-year-old siege of Gaza is developing into a siege of Israel, while it causes tremendous damage to the country's image around the world.


It should be clear to both Israel and the United States by now that the siege of Gaza has failed to accomplish its goals. Israel has failed to weaken Hamas, free Gilad Shalit or even put an end to arms smuggling.


To Israel's dismay, Hamas has succeeded in putting the spotlight on Gaza and directing world attention to the country's irrational policies toward not only the Palestinians, but also its own citizens.


From outside, the situation in Gaza may appear unsustainable for Hamas, but in fact the Islamic movement and its supporters are content to wait it out, calling Israel's bluff on the blockade. Indeed some cynics believe the current status quo is the best situation the Palestinians have enjoyed in a long time.


Late last month, at the fifth annual Al Jazeera forum in Doha, Osama Hamdan of Hamas and Ibrahim el-Moussaoui of Hezbollah applauded and shook hands with Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a widely circulated pan-Arabist newspaper, when he said: "I have good news: There is a Palestinian split. Things have never been better before. One camp is with the Americans, the Israelis and seculars, and the other camp is with Iran and Islamists. So, if one side loses, the other is bound to win, and this has been the best and safest situation for the Palestinians in a long time."


Atwan is known to favor the latter camp, and from his "good news," one can surmise that he is betting it is on its way to winning - clearly with tremendous help from the siege of Gaza.


What is even more unsettling from the point of view of peace-loving Palestinians is the fact that Israel's top politicians are aware of the implications of their damaging policies, even as they refuse to change them.


After meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak two months ago at his office in Tel Aviv, I walked away believing he understood that unless Israel changes its policies vis-a-vis my people, sooner or later the world will see those policies for what they are: apartheid. I believe the deadly attack on the flotilla, and the worldwide reactions that followed, are confirming Barak's fears - and sooner, rather than later. Israel's policies are no longer acceptable to the world community, and a change in policy is crucial.


The day after the Mavi Marmara incident, the head of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, bluntly told the Knesset: "Israel is becoming more of a liability and less of an asset for the United States."


The siege of Gaza has been going on for nearly three years, and strategically speaking, so far, Israel and its allies have been the biggest losers. The reaction from both the world's governments and its peoples to last week's attack shows not only the growing intolerance of Israel's policies, but an urgent need for Israel to rethink its long-term goals. Is it to exist as a democracy, and in peace with its neighbors, or will it continue to be the Palestinians' landlords?


If Israel's goal is to be a permanent landlord, then its future in the region is clear: More and more disgruntled Arab and Muslim youth will continue to join the lines of resistance against the apartheid in the territories and will continue to threaten the stability of the already weak neighboring Arab regimes. It is important to note that a large number of the people on the ships bound for Gaza were young Arabs from almost every country in the region. Today they may come on ships with peace activists, tomorrow they will storm the borders with jihadist movements. Then, it will not only be Israel facing them. Their own regimes and the United States will also have to face the consequences.


The fact that Turkey and Iran are sending aid to the Palestinians and criticizing Israel's policies will not only undermine the legitimacy of the nearby Arab regimes, which are already seen as helpless and ineffective, but will also lead their populations to draw inspiration from those two countries.


Egypt, realizing that its regime is weak and unstable, has already felt the heat and immediately opened the Rafah crossing with Gaza, which it intends to leave open.


So, is Israel ready to think seriously about long-term solutions, or does it intend to simply continue to impose a siege on itself?


Israel's leaders - with the help of the United States and the international community - must redefine their country's long-term vision and goals, and allow a Palestinian state to exist by its side. If Israel's goal is to live in a democracy and in peace with the Palestinians, then its path should be clear: Lift the siege on Gaza, encourage a unity government, and let the Palestinians build their own democracy.


Fadi Elsalameen is the CEO of, an Internet newspaper about Palestine, Israel and the Middle East.









Israelis might consider sending thank-you bouquets today to the national soccer teams of Switzerland and Greece. It is thanks to them that Israelis will have to choose between getting behind Brazil, England, Ghana or whomever, as the World Cup kicks off.


Of course, it would be nice to wrap ourselves in blue and white, and cheer on the likes of Yossi, Guy and Ben. But on this occasion, one should probably be thankful that we didn't make it. Hence, those flowers.


There were large demonstrations in Cape Town last week following the Mavi Marmara incident. For now, South Africa has recalled its ambassador, Ismail Coovadia, from Israel. An Israeli presence at this greatest of global sporting spectacles would have been guaranteed to attract an unrelenting wave of protests, PR stunts and bad publicity.


Unfortunately, South Africa is not the outlier - Israel is. In the days since Operation Sky Winds, Israel has been able to get a glimpse of the future and into the abyss that awaits if we continue on our current course. It is a future replete with both insecurity and the indignity of global opprobrium and sanctions.


Even or perhaps especially in our hyper-connected world, it seems only a finite number of truly global causes can be sustained at any one time. Palestine is now irrefutably on that list. That is certainly inconvenient for Israel and maybe unfair. We do, though, appear to be locked into a dramatic acceleration of this phenomenon and - in the absence of something resembling a credible peace or de-occupation effort - the global Palestinian solidarity movement is now competing to set the agenda.


In the last two weeks alone, two of Italy's largest supermarket chains have stopped carrying Israeli products; Swedish dockworkers have refused to unload goods from Israeli ships; Britain's largest trade union, Unite, unanimously voted to boycott Israeli items; and Elvis Costello and the Pixies have both canceled shows in Israel. Meanwhile, the latest debate raging in the United States is over how much of a strategic burden Israel has become.


The logic of the kind of unarmed resistance represented by flotillas to Gaza is to shine a light on the wrongdoings of an offending party. Ideally, one will succeed in appealing to the better nature, to the humanity, of the offending party, and its behavior (in this case, the blockade on Gaza ) will be corrected. If not, then one may seek to shame that party in the court of global public opinion. Any over-reaction or additional offensive behavior will only serve to strengthen the case of the light-shiner and "prove" the original premise of wrongdoing.


In this instance, Israel's leadership played its role with Lionel Messi-like perfection. It's true that Israel's official PR response was ill-conceived, while its "army" of citizen advocates indulged in the use of racist stereotypes on YouTube videos, doing more harm than good. But Israel's predicament goes far deeper than the embarrassment of having Avigdor Lieberman head this country's diplomatic corps: It has become structural and therefore far more worrying. The gap between Israel's self-perception and global perceptions of the country has taken on Grand Canyon-like proportions.


In short, the game is up. This is not defeatism - it's an acknowledgment of a reality that, by ignoring, causes Israel to imperil itself. It cannot be reversed by doubling PR budgets or endlessly cloning Shimon Peres or even Mark Regev. It cannot be reversed by allowing coriander into Gaza, by another photo-op with our friend President Mubarak, or even by enthusiastically supporting the creation of a new Palestinian town (ship ) in Rawabi. An occupation that just entered its 44th year and entails denying basic rights to millions of Palestinians can no longer be sanitized. As long as Israel maintains that occupation, the costs will become increasingly burdensome.


Having lost the world, Israel's focus turns in on itself. The country's leadership has to work harder to keep its own public on board for the occupation project. This requires a growing suppression of dissent, further ostracizing Israel's Palestinian minority, and ever-more aggressive appeals to Jewish national pride. Democratic norms are thereby eroded, further feeding the tarnishing of Israel's image. This is the vicious cycle in which Israel is embroiled.


It is true that there will almost certainly always be unjustified prejudice toward Israel. Whatever it does, some people will always be out to get us. But prejudice is not what motivates the vast majority of those mobilizing in solidarity with the Palestinians. The occupation is the oxygen of their campaign, and the vast majority seek an end to it - not to Israel itself. An Israel that fails to appreciate this and which sustains the occupation is the single most proximate cause of its own delegitimization.


It is still in our power, however, to change all of this. We can end the 1967 occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and its remnants in Gaza, and achieve recognition for minor border modifications to the '67 line with one-for-one land swaps and support for reasonable arrangements on security. Israel could implement such a de-occupation with the Palestinians and Arab states directly, or with the U.S. and the Quartet - and have them deliver the Palestinian and Arab side of the bargain.


But if Israel does not take the lead, then let us at least hope that our remaining friends in the world will step forward with their own proposals and that we in turn will have the wisdom to say yes to them.


Enjoy the World Cup, and let's look forward to Israel's qualification in 2014 being all about soccer and blissfully devoid of politics.


 Daniel Levy is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and editor of the Middle East Channel at










LONDON - Last week I wrote a comment piece for the Guardian comparing the Israeli attack on the Gaza aid ships to the British assault on the Exodus in 1947. The comparison between the two events is far from exact, but both involved the running of a naval blockade as a public relations stunt, and both succeeded in dramatically winning over world opinion. In each case a more complex narrative told by the other side went unheard. Israel has failed to convince the public in Europe that those on board included terrorists smuggling arms to Hamas, and that they attacked the Israeli commandos first. As in 1947, rightly or wrongly, the sympathy was with those whose vessels were boarded, not those doing the boarding.


Here in Britain, for the most part, ordinary people don't care about the complicated story of the Middle East. They don't buy the line that Israel stands on the front line of the war against terror. They may know of the impoverished city of Sderot and the rocket fire it faced over time, but in the balance sheet of life and death - when, in a densely packed strip of earth blockaded from all directions, children are made to go without food, toys and medicines - human sympathy has little difficulty attaching itself to the victims.


Early on Friday morning I turned on my computer to see if my piece had run. It hadn't. I fired off an e-mail to my editor to ask what had happened, and settled down to read Anshel Pfeffer's June 4 column on, in which he made the case that the Diaspora had failed Israel by not being the friend it needed. The close, loyal, loving friend who can tell you bluntly when you are destroying yourself.


In 2000, I published a novel about pre-state Tel Aviv, and a few years later, a nonfiction book about the months I spent observing the people on one block of Ben Yehuda Street in that same city. I define my political orientation as being on the left - the same left as authors David Grossman, Amos Oz and Etgar Keret, though not the left of historian Ilan Pappe. So Pfeffer's piece spoke to me.


After I finished reading the column, my e-mail pinged. It was the Guardian editor. My piece had been published in the newspaper's print edition, but was being held from the online site until after 8 A.M., when a dedicated moderator to monitor readers' comments would become available. Since the beginning of the week, she told me, the site's supervisors had been dealing with "appalling levels of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and hatred."


This is the tight place in which liberal Jews in the Diaspora find ourselves, and we can hardly breathe, let alone speak. Wanting to articulate the same critique of Israeli policy as Israeli critics, we find ourselves adding our voices to a condemnation of the Jewish state, which is turning into hate speech here. There is no evil crime of which Israel cannot be accused: It's an outlaw state, a pariah state, a demonic force. Calls for an end to the occupation are now regarded as merely propping up Zionism, an apartheid system. The right of return is sacred; the law of return is a racist abomination.


An Indian novelist I met 18 months ago said he had been warned against me. "She's a Zionist," he had been told, as if I was a carrier of bubonic plague. In Europe, public opinion is tending in one direction only: An anti-Zionist narrative is being articulated in the media, and "soft" public opinion is being dragged along in its wake - especially among people who don't know much about Israel or Palestine, but see best-selling Swedish novelists whose books are dramatized on British TV, and Irish Nobel Peace Prize winners on a mercy mission to aid a civilian population. A one-state solution, just like South Africa? Sounds lovely, they say.


Since the Spanish Civil War, the left has allied itself to a succession of progressive causes. In my lifetime these have been Czechoslovakia, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, South Africa. They are the struggles according to which you define your politics. Today it is Palestine. In the British media, critical pro-Israel voices are drowned out by pro-Palestinian ones and the angry American Zionist right. Either you're a supporter of apartheid or a self-hating Jew.


In such a climate, it is very difficult to speak at all. To critically support Israel is to discredit your own progressive values - to be a pariah in the artistic and intellectual communities that are your natural home. To feel you can't stay shtum a moment longer and must express outrage is to contribute to an environment in which anti-Semites cherry-pick your words for their own abusive propaganda. To stay silent is the peaceful alternative, but for a writer the one that seems most shameful.


Linda Grant is the author of "When I Lived in Modern Times" (Granta Books, 2000 ) and "The People on the Street: A Writer's View of Israel" (Virago Press , 2006).









As my fingers tap the keyboard to write this I increasingly get the feeling I'm squeezing a lemon. A glance at the print and broadcast media reveals that my colleagues are in the same predicament. That's how it is when our leaders' foolishness or foul-ups repeat themselves. That's how it is when journalists see how our leaders repeat the same mistakes time and again. We have no choice but to keep it up until they run the country without stumbling and getting us into trouble with the whole world. Until they learn to sing, as the famous joke goes.


First of all, you need a special talent to reach a situation where the Iranians play the role of humanitarians. And as they build a nuclear bomb to the chagrin of the entire world, they are even thinking about joining the next "humanitarian flotilla."


Turkish cynicism has also reached a peak. Not only was the Turkish ship the only one with bloodthirsty terrorists aboard, but thousands of excited demonstrators threatened the Israeli embassy in Ankara. Guess what? Turkey had the nerve to send an official protest to Israel about the demonstration in front of its embassy in Tel Aviv. By chance I was passing by on Hayarkon Street that day; the threatening demonstration included a small handful of young people who shouted from the other side of the street. Nothing serious.


More than one war between us and the Arabs ended with a scandal, divisiveness, mistakes in assessing the rival, and a debate on whether we needed a commission of inquiry. This happened all the more so after operations that were not part of the national or international consensus.


Eight years of Qassam rockets on the one hand, and an ambitious Ehud Barak as defense minister on the other, gave rise to Operation Cast Lead. But the use of too much force brought on us the international commission of inquiry headed by Richard Goldstone, which labeled us murderers.


This nation, which has produced more humanists than any other nation, is falsely condemned as an enemy of mankind. If only because of that we should have been particularly cautious with a U.S. president who very soon began to tire of us.


The question is whether we acted against the flotilla with that necessary caution. Was the glorious forum of seven senior ministers informed in detail of the modus operandi of the Shayetet naval commandos, or did it leave the "details" to Barak? And since he is known to consult only with himself, one Labor MK jokingly described the flotilla failure a "Tze'elim Gimmel." This is not the place to recall Tze'elim Bet, a 1992 training accident in which five elite Sayeret Matkal commandos were killed; it's the type of thing that is banned from publication. Labor MK Amir Peretz said this week that if he had been the defense minister they would have hanged him in the village square for making a decision the way Barak did.


Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, meanwhile, criticized the way we operated against the flotilla. Why is he suddenly remembering now, after the fact? I also have a few words for Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor, who after the Second Lebanon War went from one broadcasting studio to another criticizing the war, stressing that had he been in the cabinet he would have had many questions before going to war. Now he is not only in the cabinet, he's in the forum of seven that makes the decisions. Did he ask the right questions? Did he vote against?


The world has changed, and we as part of globalization cannot do whatever we feel like. And when we decided how and whether to use force to stop the flotilla, and the Turkish ship in particular, did we take into account that capturing a civilian ship resembles an act of piracy? Due to the Mossad's failure, the military didn't know that terrorists were waiting in ambush with knives and metal rods. With a certain degree of cynicism one could say that we were lucky that a gang of terrorists was on board the Mavi Marmara. Without them we would have been told that we behaved like pirates when we took control of a ship full of civilians.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to return from Canada to Israel without attending a planned reconciliation meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, and now we are once again struggling with the question of what type of commission of inquiry will be forced on us. Our own committee with a foreign observer? A Goldstone-type United Nations commission? An examination committee with an American supervisor?


Nothing good will come of it. It's been a long time since Israel's image was at such a low point as now. Douglas Bloomfield, a former senior official at AIPAC, wrote this week in his popular blog that the flotilla affair was a failure for Israel and a victory for Hamas.


Israel is more isolated than ever, and the obligation to maintain the alliance with the United States is more critical. Commentator Jeffrey Goldberg writes in the magazine The Atlantic that "I don't necessarily believe you solve all of America's problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen by freezing settlement growth. On the other hand, there's no particular reason for Israel to make itself a pain in the tush either."


Meanwhile, time flies. Netanyahu will not make the right decision until he first makes every possible mistake. And we'll continue to squeeze the lemon until the next foul-up. Don't bite your nails, it will definitely come.









Revelation follows revelation, and soon it will be revealed that the Mavi Marmara was nothing more than a floating version of the al-Qaida hideout at Tora Bora and that Osama bin Laden was the captain. And meanwhile soldiers and policemen were once again attacked from an ambush and roundly humiliated, but at the settlement of Beit El, both the army and the Taliban are our people and therefore there is no need to hold demonstrations of solidarity with the Israel Defense Forces.


Last week, I met Amir Peretz at the funeral of a friend. I recalled that he was the man who was defense minister and did not know he must remove the lens caps from binoculars. Ehud Barak, by contrast, will never be caught with covered lenses; but what does he see through them, what? Ever since he stood on an airplane wing in the springtime of his youth, he has not been able to take off; his military courage could not be translated into civilian courage. Barak is a cowardly politician who is now hiding behind the naval commandos, together with his colleague from another reconnaissance unit. His policy and that of Benjamin Netanyahu is to continue the guerrilla warfare with the same means and concepts; and their joint binoculars are field binoculars through which time and space cannot be seen.


We can understand the feelings of the Beitar supporters whose soul has tired of left-wing defeatism - first, the soccer season has ended and the World Cup is only starting today, and between these two events they cannot curse either Arabs or Blacks. Where will they direct their insults, if not at Tel Aviv? And secondly, they are justified in their feeling that an injustice has been done here; it is possible to think that in the past, in the shady days of glory, things were conducted differently.


As we mark the 43rd anniversary of the Six-Day War this week, it is worth recalling in all decency that it was not the entire government, nor the security cabinet and not even a septet who decided on conquering the Old City, the entire West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal. Those who refuse to believe this - and how is it possible to believe this - should once again read Ami Gluska's book "Eshkol, Give the Order!" which is the most authorized and documented account.


The war of salvation, which was in fact a Pyrrhic victory, was a war where successes and opportunities were exploited, which progressed without any plan drawn up in advance by the General Staff or the government. More than once, decisive moves in the field were announced as established facts, contrary to government positions and behind the government's back.


This is not history, but current affairs - most of Israel's wars progressed far beyond their original target. The war did not end where the politicians had originally thought it would end, but rather with the personal caprice of the heroes of the day, those in uniform or those who had recently removed their uniforms. And what is some wretched flotilla compared with the glorious wars that are now a perpetual source of regret?


There is neither time nor space when looking through binoculars, and 43 years later, there is still no border. There are other countries in conflict with one of their neighbors. But the condition for a conflict over borders is that there should be a border. Only in a place without borders is the conflict not over a border but over existence itself.


Recently there were reports about confusion at the Eurovision Song Contest. During the semifinal, the map of Israel disappeared from the film clip. Our ambassador to Oslo was furious and protested: "It is inconceivable that Israel should be the only country that does not have physical dimensions and is merely an intangible entity." The pressure had an effect and the distortion was corrected. Our foreign ministry, it was reported, "transferred to the Norwegians possible maps that could be integrated into the film of the final round."


Are we on the map? We're on several maps.









Israel gave itself a nice present to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of losing its borders. The raid on the Gaza flotilla in international waters is like the first Lebanon War - as if in a nightmarish experiment, we seem to be examining the question: What happens when a country has no borders?


Israel's maritime attack did not happen by chance. A border is one of the fundamental factors that defines a country. Decades without one have distorted Israel's thinking.


It is self-evident that, just as a person cannot build in an area that he does not own, a country cannot build settlements outside of its borders. And yet Israel has settled hundreds of thousands of its citizens in areas that, according to its laws, are not part of the State of Israel.


It is self-evident that any couple can marry "without regard to religion, race or gender." And yet in Israel a Jewish man and a non-Jewish woman cannot legally marry. It's self-evident that there is no arbitrary discrimination, and yet it's enough to use the magic words "I'm a religious woman" or "I'm an ultra-Orthodox man" and the obligation to serve in the military evaporates.


It's self-evident that the education provided to children be based on democracy and equality. And yet in Israel, 52 percent of first-graders defined as Jews study in various religious school systems that teach students things like "You are considered a human being and the other nations of the world are not considered human beings."


They are taught that a non-Jew is not a human being, and that anyone who kills a non-Jew is not supposed to be killed by human hands; that women are inferior, and it is an obligation that males and females be separated; and that secular people, or anyone with secular family members, cannot enter these schools.


It is self-evident that racist education cannot be funded by the government and is illegal. And yet most of the country's first-graders receive such "compulsory education" from their government.


The results of this nightmarish experiment are self-evident. In the most recent elections, 35 percent of voters defined as Jews cast their ballots for avowedly racist parties - Yisrael Beitenu, Shas, National Union and their friends.


Critics in the Israeli media wake up only when mistakes are made. That is why - after initially cheering the declaration that "the flotilla will not pass" - they changed their tune following the imbroglio, turning into advocates of the twisted logic "be smart, not right." But what justice is there in an attack on civilians by soldiers on the open seas?


Like the territories, international waters are not Israel; they are outside its borders. A Turkish ship on the open sea is, in effect, a floating Turkish island. An Israeli attack on such an island is not all that different from sending the Israel Defense Forces to take on demonstrators at the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. There, too, unpleasant people who are not friends of Israel can sometimes be found.


Turkey, which is a member of NATO, was not in a state of war with Israel before the attack. Attacking its citizens on territory that is by definition Turkish is another expression of the Israeli lunacy that lacks any kind of boundaries.


An attack beyond the border must be reserved for extreme cases involving a military target that represents an entity fighting against the country and when citizens are in danger. But civilian ships, that are not carrying weapons, but are bringing civilian aid to a population that is denied chocolate, toys and notebooks, are not nuclear reactors in Iraq, Syria or Iran.


A person who grows up without external borders tends to create distorted internal borders. That is the reason for the attack on Arab MK Hanin Zuabi and her colleagues. While there were certain Arab public figures who went too far in their statements, joining a civilian aid flotilla is one of those legitimate acts which are supposed to be self-evident.


And yet, what was self-evident became betrayal. And citizenship, one of the unconditional foundations of existence, has turned into something that can be revoked - in this case on the basis of ethnicity, a tactic used in fascist regimes. The street has returned to the atmosphere that prevailed under "responsible" opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and led to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin - and the next murder is in the air.


The Israeli deed at sea is liable to reach The Hague. The problem is that Israel has genuine enemies who want to destroy it. A country that does not do everything in its power to accumulate legitimacy, along with turning Iran into an entity that is losing legitimacy and can therefore become a target of activities to undermine it, is a country losing its basic survival instinct. Without borders, it turns out, you lose even that.


Young Israelis who have grown up without borders are now dancing and singing "In blood and fire we will expel Turkey" and "Mohammed is dead." If this keeps up, Israel will not make it to The Hague. The entity gradually replacing the State of Israel is liable not to exist long enough to get there.








******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES





After a nearly three-week trial in January, and a lengthy hiatus while lawyers fought over documents, closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.


No one expects the ruling from Judge Vaughn Walker in Federal District Court to be the last word. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, will have its say, and so, eventually, may the Supreme Court.


The testimony made abundantly clear that excluding same-sex couples from marriage exacts a grievous toll on gay people and their families. Domestic partnerships are a woefully inadequate substitute.


On the witness stand, the plaintiffs described the pain and stigma of having their relationships relegated by the state to a lesser category that fails to convey the love and commitment inherent in marriage. "My state is supposed to protect me. It's not supposed to discriminate against me," said Paul Katami, one of the plaintiffs.


Defenders of Proposition 8 produced no evidence to back up their claim that marriage between same-sex couples would hurt heterosexual marriage. "I don't know. I don't know," the defense attorney, Charles Cooper, said when asked for an explanation by the judge at a pretrial hearing.


The defense called only two witnesses. The first, Kenneth Miller, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, argued that gay people are a powerful political force, which was meant to support the claim that there is no need for enhanced judicial protection. He ended up admitting that gay men and lesbians suffer discrimination.


The other witness, David Blankenhorn, the president of the Institute for American Values, argued that marriage is being weakened by rising divorce rates and more unmarried people having children, but he could not convincingly explain what the genders of married couples had to do with that.


Upon questioning, he acknowledged that marriage is a "public good" that would benefit same-sex couples and their children, and that to allow same-sex marriage "would be a victory for the worthy ideas of tolerance and inclusion." The net result was to reinforce the sense that Proposition 8 was driven by animus rather than any evidence of concrete harm to heterosexual marriages or society at large.


It's not possible to know whether the final ruling in this case will broadly confront the overarching denial of equal protection and due process created by prohibiting one segment of society from entering into marriage. The Supreme Court has, in different cases, called marriage "essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men" and a "basic civil right."


The result, even if a win for gay couples, could be a limited ruling confined to the situation in California, where the state's highest court granted the freedom to marry and voters later repealed it following an ugly campaign spearheaded by antigay religious interests.


But there are actions that can be taken now. States like New York should not put off acting on legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. Last week, President Obama extended a modest package of benefits — including day care and relocation allowances — to all partners of federal employees. Congress has a duty to extend to same-sex partners the rest of the benefits that are enjoyed by federal workers whose spouses are of a different sex. It also needs to repeal the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.






They may not have won, but discontented Democrats sent an important message to the Obama administration on Tuesday by mounting an unexpectedly strong primary challenge to Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. For the White House to minimize the efforts of unions and others who helped support that challenge suggests a tone-deafness to the growing restlessness in the Democratic Party.


After Mrs. Lincoln narrowly defeated Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the primary runoff, a senior White House official told that organized labor had just wasted $10 million in its "pointless" support of Mr. Halter, money that could have been better spent against Republicans in the November general election. David Axelrod, the president's senior adviser, told The Washington Post that "good progressive candidates around the country" could have benefited from that money.


Within the cocoon of the White House, that sort of pragmatism may make sense, but the unions had every right to spend their money as they saw fit, and the White House should be paying attention to the signals that were sent, not to the ones they wish they had heard.


Some of the anger toward Mrs. Lincoln is anti-incumbent sentiment, which we've seen in other races this year. But much of it was more specific. Many on the left were unhappy with her for opposing a public option in the health care law, for opposing bills making it easier to unionize and for being more concerned about deficits than about stimulating the economy and creating jobs.


Mrs. Lincoln battled back valiantly, propelled in part by her surprisingly tough stance against big banks as the chairwoman of the agriculture committee. But Mr. Halter got 47 percent of the vote in a state that, as the Web site points out, has the lowest fraction of union members in the country.


Clearly, many of the voters who complained that Democratic officials had lost their phone number after being elected were also referring to President Obama. Many Democrats don't understand why the administration and Congressional leaders are giving in to trumped-up Republican fears about the deficit and not doing more to revive the economy. Rather than dismissing such concerns and ridiculing efforts at change, the White House should consider just how powerful they have become. There are virtues to pragmatism, but it should be in the service of an underlying principle.







Gov. David Paterson of New York has sent the Legislature a juvenile justice bill that would achieve two urgently important goals. It would improve the quality of the leadership and care in the state's often dangerous and inhumane juvenile facilities. And it would ensure that only children who need to be institutionalized — because they present a risk to the public — end up in the facilities.


Albany's lawmakers must finally stand up to unions that are more interested in preserving jobs than in doing what is best for children.


The argument for closing down the worst facilities and treating low-risk children in their home communities is irrefutable. In a report last year, the Justice Department found that young people in state detention facilities were frequently hit and abused; emotionally disturbed children rarely got the help they needed. Governor Paterson's juvenile justice task force found that more than half the children sent to these facilities were guilty of minor, nonviolent infractions.


In addition to the emotional toll on young people, the cost of institutionalization is prohibitive: as much as $200,000 per child, per year. That is more than 10 times the cost of successful local programs that provide monitoring, guidance and help to troubled families.


Governor Paterson's bill seeks to fix this broken system. It would create an independent office to investigate the state's facilities and recommend ways to improve residential care. It would allow the state to seek out and hire the best qualified directors for juvenile facilities. Current law requires that they be chosen from the ranks of people who already work within the system.


Perhaps most important, it would seek to limit the number of children who are sent away. It would bar family court judges from placing young people in state facilities unless they have been convicted of violent felonies, sex offenses or are found to present a public safety risk.


Gladys Carrión, Governor Paterson's, commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, is rightly committed to closing empty, unneeded facilities and is a strong advocate of community-based programs. More than a dozen have been closed in the last three years, for an estimated savings of about $30 million. There are still another 26 facilities that hold about 730 young people. They employ around 1,900 people at an estimated annual cost of about $190 million.


By rights, the state should have used the $30 million it has already saved by closing facilities to help finance new community-based programs. It passed on only about $5 million, while the rest went into the general fund. It will have to put a lot more money into community programs for this new system to work.


The unions are already fighting the Carrión effort and will fight this bill, too. Governor Paterson and legislative leaders will need to push back even harder. New York cannot keep paying for a juvenile justice system that is so clearly failing.







After the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of people worked heroically, searching for remains and clearing the rubble. Too many later paid a price for not having adequate respirators or other equipment. They grew sick, many with respiratory illnesses. Or they grew increasingly anxious about how the stew of noxious chemicals would affect their health in the years to come.


Finally, New York City has reached an effective settlement to help some of these valiant people. As Judge Alvin Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan told the courtroom on Thursday: "This is a very good deal."


Judge Hellerstein's enthusiasm was in stark contrast to his reaction in March to an earlier deal to settle claims against the city's insurers from about 10,000 people. He was alarmed that workers were getting too little of the proposed $658 million in awards, while the plaintiffs' lawyers were taking too much at 33 percent.


The new deal increases the amount going to plaintiffs to $712.5 million. The lawyers are down to a still-exorbitant 25 percent.


To be valid, at least 95 percent of the plaintiffs must approve the agreement by Sept. 30. Kenneth Feinberg, the former special master of the federal compensation fund for families of 9/11 victims, is part of the appeals process for this case. He promised to encourage workers to agree. He made the case in court this week that the payout is not perfect, but it is better than more time in court.


Mr. Feinberg and Judge Hellerstein are right, bearing in mind that it's impossible to fully compensate people who were harmed in their selfless efforts to help out after 9/11.










Sixteen months ago, Congress passed a stimulus package that will end up costing each average taxpayer $7,798. Economists were divided then about whether this spending was worth it, and they are just as divided now.


The president's economists ran the numbers through their model and predicted that the stimulus package would create or save at least three million jobs. John F. Cogan and John B. Taylor of Stanford and Tobias Cwik and Volker Wieland of the Goethe-University of Frankfurt argue that the White House methodology is archaic. Their model suggests the stimulus will create about a half-million jobs.


Edward L. Glaeser of Harvard compared the change in employment in each state to the amount of stimulus money it has received. He found a slight relationship between stimulus dollars and job creation, but none at all if you set aside three states: Alaska and the Dakotas.


Over all, most economists seem to think the stimulus was a good idea, but there's a general acknowledgment that we know relatively little about the relationship between fiscal policy and job creation. We are left, as Glaeser put it on The Times's Economix blog, "wading in ignorance."


If the economists are divided about what just happened, the rest of the world is not divided about what should come next. Voters, business leaders and political leaders do not seem to think that the stimulus was such a smashing success that we should do it again, even with today's high unemployment.


They seem to see the fiscal floodgates wide open and that the private sector still only created a measly 41,000 jobs last month. That doesn't inspire confidence. Furthermore, they understand something that is hard to quantify: Deficit spending in the middle of a debt crisis has different psychological effects than deficit spending at other times.


In times like these, deficit spending to pump up the economy doesn't make consumers feel more confident; it makes them feel more insecure because they see a political system out of control. Deficit spending doesn't induce small businesspeople to hire and expand. It scares them because they conclude the growth isn't real and they know big tax increases are on the horizon. It doesn't make political leaders feel better either. Lacking faith that they can wisely cut the debt in some magically virtuous future, they see their nations careening to fiscal ruin.


So we are exiting a period of fiscal stimulus and entering a period of fiscal consolidation. Last year, the finance ministers of the G-20 were all for pumping up economic activity. This year, they called on their members to reduce debt. In this country, deficits are now the top concern.


Some theorists will tell you that if governments shift their emphasis to deficit cutting, they risk sending the world back into recession. There are some reasons to think this is so, but events tell a more complicated story.


Alberto Alesina of Harvard has surveyed the history of debt reduction. He's found that, in many cases, large and decisive deficit reduction policies were followed by increases in growth, not recessions. Countries that reduced debt viewed the future with more confidence. The political leaders who ordered the painful cuts were often returned to office. As Alesina put it in a recent paper, "in several episodes, spending cuts adopted to reduce deficits have been associated with economic expansions rather than recessions."


This was true in Europe and the U.S. in the 1990s, and in many other cases before. In a separate study, Italian economists Francesco Giavazzi and Marco Pagano looked at the way Ireland and Denmark sharply cut debt in the 1980s. Once again, lower deficits led to higher growth.


So the challenge for the U.S. in the years ahead is to consolidate intelligently. That means reducing deficits while at the same time making the welfare state more efficient, boosting innovation in areas like energy, and spending more money on growth-enhancing sectors like infrastructure.


That's a tough balancing act.


The biggest task will be to reduce middle-class entitlement spending. Alesina found that spending cuts are a more effective way to stabilize debt than tax increases, though we'll need both.


The second biggest task is to consolidate while addressing another problem: labor market polarization. According to a Hamilton Project/Center for American Progress study by David Autor, high-skill sectors saw no net loss of jobs during the recession. Middle-skill sectors like sales saw an 8 percent employment decline. Blue-collar jobs fell by 16 percent.


In other words, the recession exacerbated the inequalities we've been seeing for decades. Somehow government has to cut total spending while directing more money to address the trends that threaten to hollow out the middle class.


During the period of consolidation, in other words, the government will have to spend less, but target better. That will require enormous dexterity and intelligence from a political system that has recently shown neither.








Timothy Egan on American politics and life, as seen from the West.Apollo 13, BP, financial crisis, gulf of mexico oil spill, Subprime Mortgage Crisis Needing a break from the omnipresent BP oil cam, I went back and watched the spirit-resuscitating "Apollo 13."

Oh, to revel in the days when we could fix anything with duct tape and American self-confidence! Sad to say, it looks like a time capsule.


This is the film about the crippled lunar flight of 1970 that gave us two of the most iconic lines of our culture: "Houston, we have a problem" and "failure is not an option." Turns out, the first line is a slight variation of the actual spoken words, and the second sentence was not part of the historical transcript. But it is part of our self-image.


In the real flight, as in the movie, our boys jury-rigged a lifeline to their lunar module, and then used what little power they had on a precision-shot to get their tiny craft back home.


Watching BP's hapless attempts to contain the nation's worst oil spill — from blind reliance on a faulty blowout preventer to deployment of a useless 280,000-pound container dome to the bizarre top kill of golf balls and mud — I wondered what happened to American ingenuity. Yes, I know, they're Brits. But it's our spill, in our waters, from a well that was cemented by Halliburton, the Texas company that Dick Cheney ran before Big Oil moved into the White House.


Here, this cancer is killing a vast and diverse marine ecosystem, and the best petroleum engineers of the day seem helpless. As "Apollo 13" showed, we don't do helpless. But with this spill, we are helpless — by deliberate design.


The drilling operation in the Gulf of Mexico was supposed to represent some of the most advanced technology on the planet. It was so advanced that BP and other big oil companies were exempted in 2008 from filing a plan on how they would clean up a major spill. They had no fire department because, well, there would never be a fire, silly.


The reasoning was, BP was too big, too advanced, to fail. Plus, voluntary regulation, the oil companies claimed, was working fine. If that sounds familiar, it was the same argument heard just before the financial crisis. The derivatives and collateralized debt obligations that Wall Street used to make unprecedented profits and then nearly bring down the economy were too big, too advanced for anyone to understand.


But, in both cases, the stage was set for catastrophic failure, and, in both cases, you can pinpoint two likely causes.


First, size. In the search for end-stage oil, companies have had to go deeper and further in ever-riskier gambits to pull this gooey fossil fuel from its ancient slumber. The easy oil era is long over. In the new era, monster rigs such as the Deepwater Horizon go a mile below the surface, and then reach another 20,000 feet below the ocean floor.


The soul of this new machine is unknowable. To slow it down, as BP should have done when trouble first appeared in the line, is too costly. And because of its size and complexity, there are no easy, manual fixes in the event of a disaster. When its fail-safe device, the blowout preventer, did not work, there was no human fallback — not even a plan, as it turned out. Failure was the only option.


Second, consider the consequence of a huge oil leak. If the crew of Apollo 13 had failed, they would have lost their lives. BP had only to look at Exxon. After the worst oil spill in American history, Exxon spent nearly two decades trying to game a legal system that should have brought them to within an inch of their corporate life.


In the end, Exxon prevailed. The Supreme Court of John Roberts, a compliant pet of the corporate world, ruled for Big Oil. The original jury award of $5 billion ended up being around $500 million — a few days' earnings. Exxon flourished beyond its dreams, reporting in 2008 the largest annual profit for an American company in history.


Similarly, the Wall Street titans who crashed the American economy did not go to jail, or even give up their gilded cocoons. They were rewarded with federal bailouts, and by Christmas of last year, bonuses were back, as if nothing had happened.


It's not too late to reverse this trend. Congress could pass the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, which would raise liability caps in a spill from the laughable level of $75 million to $10 billion. That would sting. There is a real possibility that BP could go bankrupt. That would set off alarms in every boardroom. And somebody on Wall Street might still see the inside of a prison.


What's needed is the return of a basic law of nature, the one used by those Apollo heroes to get home: gravity.







Truro, Mass.

NEW forms of media have always caused moral panics: the printing press, newspapers, paperbacks and television were all once denounced as threats to their consumers' brainpower and moral fiber.


So too with electronic technologies. PowerPoint, we're told, is reducing discourse to bullet points. Search engines lower our intelligence, encouraging us to skim on the surface of knowledge rather than dive to its depths. Twitter is shrinking our attention spans.


But such panics often fail basic reality checks. When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciations of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously.


For a reality check today, take the state of science, which demands high levels of brainwork and is measured by clear benchmarks of discovery. These days scientists are never far from their e-mail, rarely touch paper and cannot lecture without PowerPoint. If electronic media were hazardous to intelligence, the quality of science would be plummeting. Yet discoveries are multiplying like fruit flies, and progress is dizzying. Other activities in the life of the mind, like philosophy, history and cultural criticism, are likewise flourishing, as anyone who has lost a morning of work to the Web site Arts & Letters Daily can attest.


Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how "experience can change the brain." But cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it's not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. But the existence of neural plasticity does not mean the brain is a blob of clay pounded into shape by experience.


Experience does not revamp the basic information-processing capacities of the brain. Speed-reading programs have long claimed to do just that, but the verdict was rendered by Woody Allen after he read "War and Peace" in one sitting: "It was about Russia." Genuine multitasking, too, has been exposed as a myth, not just by laboratory studies but by the familiar sight of an S.U.V. undulating between lanes as the driver cuts deals on his cellphone.


Moreover, as the psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons show in their new book "The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us," the effects of experience are highly specific to the experiences themselves. If you train people to do one thing (recognize shapes, solve math puzzles, find hidden words), they get better at doing that thing, but almost nothing else. Music doesn't make you better at math, conjugating Latin doesn't make you more logical, brain-training games don't make you smarter. Accomplished people don't bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics; they immerse themselves in their fields. Novelists read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science.


The effects of consuming electronic media are also likely to be far more limited than the panic implies. Media critics write as if the brain takes on the qualities of whatever it consumes, the informational equivalent of "you are what you eat." As with primitive peoples who believe that eating fierce animals will make them fierce, they assume that watching quick cuts in rock videos turns your mental life into quick cuts or that reading bullet points and Twitter postings turns your thoughts into bullet points and Twitter postings.


Yes, the constant arrival of information packets can be distracting or addictive, especially to people with attention deficit disorder. But distraction is not a new phenomenon. The solution is not to bemoan technology but to develop strategies of self-control, as we do with every other temptation in life. Turn off e-mail or Twitter when you work, put away your Blackberry at dinner time, ask your spouse to call you to bed at a designated hour.


And to encourage intellectual depth, don't rail at PowerPoint or Google. It's not as if habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ever came naturally to people. They must be acquired in special institutions, which we call universities, and maintained with constant upkeep, which we call analysis, criticism and debate. They are not granted by propping a heavy encyclopedia on your lap, nor are they taken away by efficient access to information on the Internet.


The new media have caught on for a reason. Knowledge is increasing exponentially; human brainpower and waking hours are not. Fortunately, the Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output at different scales, from Twitter and previews to e-books and online encyclopedias. Far from making us stupid, these technologies are the only things that will keep us smart.


Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, is the author of "The Stuff of Thought."








Tightening sanctions against Iran always has something of a parlor game feel to it, despite the titanic stakes. The United States tries to squeeze Iran ever harder, but not so hard that reluctant members of the United Nations Security Council walk away. Then Iran thumbs its nose and continues building its nuclear program, repeating its transparent lie that producing energy, not weapons, is the goal.


Everyone has dutifully followed the script since the Security Council approved new sanctions Wednesday, and rightly so.


Sanctions aren't toothless or worthless. They make life more difficult for Iran's rulers and might, against the odds, lead to productive negotiations. More pointedly, they are the only tool available short of war and so must be pursued as far as possible.


But they plainly are not working, and with Iran's nuclear capability advancing rapidly, the time is nearing for a serious national dialogue about the unappetizing choices that lie ahead if sanctions fail.


So far, arguments for the presumed alternative — bombing Iran's nuclear facilities — are far too glib. They risk yet another repeat of the mistake that echoes through post-World War II history: that by waving our military wand, we can neatly and surgically remove the threat.


An attack might become necessary. But the result would hardly be surgical. In fact, it could prove disastrous unless the United States is fully aligned behind the strike and willing to pay the price.


A short and intentionally bleak assessment of the risks looks like this:


•First, there's a strong chance the attack wouldn't work. Even many hawks concede that a strike could fail to destroy hardened, underground nuclear facilities. At best, it would set back the program, not destroy it. Then there's the matter of downed planes and hostage pilots.


•More ominously, Iran is quite capable of striking back, and if the U.S. attacked without strong international backing, the Iranians might have plenty of support, particularly in the Muslim world. This would undermine U.S. objectives in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, Iranian-supplied weapons have already figured in devastating attacks on U.S. troops inside Iraq. Graver yet is the prospect that Iran could use its proxies in Hezbollah for terrorist strikes in the region and possibly even inside the U.S. Hezbollah is by all estimates a far more dangerous organization than al-Qaeda, and a major attack here would assure massive retaliation. Full scale war could not be ruled out.


•Iranians would react to any attack in similar fashion, instantly uniting behind their government and setting back the nascent movement to depose the Tehran regime.


•Oil prices would spike, especially if Iran decided to lash out by striking a vulnerable Saudi oil terminal and/or mining the Strait of Hormuz, which could cripple the oil tanker traffic that supplies the United States and many of its allies. This would endanger the weak world economy.


•Even if Iran opted for a less aggressive response, a strike on yet another Muslim nation would feed into the narrative that the U.S. was attacking not terrorists or would-be bombmakers, but all of Islam.


None of this is guaranteed, but all of it is possible. Pretending otherwise would risk repeating the mistakes of hubris made from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq. The better military model is the Persian Gulf War, when careful and massive preparation produced success.


For now, the choice does not have to be made, so it would be unwise for the United States to take military action off the table. It has the virtue of creating uncertainty among Iran's leaders.


Further, the alternative — a prolonged policy of containment (essentially a new Cold War) — is also unappetizing. A nuclear arms race in the Middle East would likely ensue, and the potential for nuclear conflict would grow as Iran's weapon and missile programs expanded. Iran would feel safe to pursue its goals of religious purity, destruction of Israel and regional dominance.


The trade-off is that history has shown that containment can work, however uncomfortably, if maintained until the regime's brutality and economic inefficiency cause it to collapse.


Either option is discomforting, and it may well be that Israel will pre-empt the need to pick one by attacking on its own, raising another set of issues.


But with sanctions failing, the time for a different discussion is drawing near.








Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shrugged off Wednesday's U.N. Security Council resolutions, saying they "resemble used napkins that need to be thrown to the garbage can." Diplomacy has hit a dead end: President Obama bargained away everything just to win watered down sanctions.


Spinning centrifuges run down the clock. When Obama asked Iran to unclench its fist, it lacked the uranium to build a bomb. Today, it has enough for two.


If President Obama does not act quickly and unilaterally to paralyze Iran's banking sector and stop the gasoline imports the Islamic Republic needs to survive, he will be left with a stark choice: Launch a military strike or let Iran get the bomb.


Containment will not work: Obama is unprepared to deploy the forces, build the bases, or spend the billions of dollars that containment would cost. Regardless, with an intercontinental ballistic missile capability by 2015, the Islamic Republic could leapfrog any containment. Nor will Arab states and Israel accept the promise of a U.S. nuclear umbrella after Obama casts aside a decade of assurances that the United States would never tolerate a nuclear Iran.


The Islamic Republic cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. Ordinary Iranians are moderate, but the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps— the most radical group in the country — would control the arsenal. Deterrence will not bring security: During the Cold War, luck was as important as "Mutually Assured Destruction" in averting nuclear Armageddon. The Iranian regime may not be suicidal, but if it believes its days are numbered by a repeat of last year's popular uprising, the Guards might just launch weapons at Israel or America to fulfill ideological desire.


U.S. military strikes should be a last resort, but they can set the Islamic Republic's nuclear program back years. Any strike, however, requires destroying not only Iran's nuclear facilities, but also its command-and-control and anti-aircraft capability. An airstrike can also expose what the CIA does not know: After the first sorties, U.S. intelligence need only to look where the Iranian military guards are.


The cost of any strike will be high: The Iranian people will rally around the flag, the price of oil will spike (but eventually decline) and Tehran will unleash a wave or terror. But, should Iran gain the bomb, the international community will suffer similar consequences.


If the United States prepares now, Iran may reconsider the cost of defiance. Throughout the 1980s, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said he would fight Iraq until victory. In 1988, as the cost became clear, he agreed to a cease-fire, saying it was like "drinking from a chalice of poison." President Obama, it's time to hand Ahmadinejad the cup.


Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.








Has it come to this again? The president is meeting with his oil spill experts, he crudely tells us, so that he knows "whose ass to kick." We have become accustomed to his management style — target a scapegoat, assign blame and go on the attack. To win health care legislation, he vilified insurance executives; to escape bankruptcy law for General Motors, he demonized senior lenders; to take the focus from the excesses of government, he castigated business meetings in Las Vegas; and to deflect responsibility for the deepening and lengthening downturn, he blames Wall Street and George W. Bush. But what may make good politics does not make good leadership. And when a crisis is upon us, America wants a leader, not a politician.


We saw leadership on Sept. 11, 2001. Then as now, black billows seemed to come from the center of the earth. Lives had been lost. The environmental impact was immeasurable. The looming economic impact from lost tourism was incalculable. Into the crisis walked Rudy Giuliani. While that was an incomparable human tragedy, how the mayor led New York City to recover is a useful model for the president.


Rudy camped out at Ground Zero — he didn't hole up in his office or retreat to his residence. His presence not only reassured the people of New York that someone was in charge, it also enabled the mayor to assess the situation firsthand, to take the measure of the people he had on the ground, and to understand the scope of the crisis.


The president has many critical matters that demand his attention, but brief and tardy tours and being photographed with a smudge of oil on a sandy beach don't work on any level. There is no substitute for being there.


In a crisis, the leader must gather the experts — federal, state, local, public and private — not to discover who is to blame but to secure their active and continuous involvement until the crisis is resolved. There is extraordinary power inherent in an assembly of brilliant people guided by an able leader. In virtually every historic national crisis, our most effective leaders gathered the best minds they could find — consider the Founders in Philadelphia, Lincoln with his "Team of Rivals," Roosevelt with scientists and generals seeking to end World War II, Kennedy with the "Best and Brightest" confronting the Cuban missile crisis.


What happens when men and women of various backgrounds, fields of expertise, and unfettered intellectual freedom come together to tackle a problem often exceeds any reasonable expectation. Ideas from one may cross-fertilize the thinking of another, yielding breakthroughs. The president of MIT told me that the university spent millions of dollars to build a bridge connecting two engineering departments that had been separated by a road — the potential for shared thinking made it more than worth the cost.


But even a gathering of experts won't accomplish much unless a skilled leader uses their perspective to guide the recovery. So far, it has been the CEO of BP who has been managing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The president surely can't rely on BP — its track record is suspect at best: Its management of this crisis has been characterized by obfuscation and lack of preparation. And BP's responsibilities to its shareholders conflict with the greater responsibility to the nation and to the planet.


The president must personally lead the effort to solve the crisis. He cannot delegate this quintessential responsibility of his presidency in the way he delegated the stimulus bill, the cap-and-trade bill and the health care bill. It may be an instance of learning on the job, but it is a job only he can do.


The first rule of turnarounds is to focus time, energy and resources on what matters most. The president simply cannot treat this crisis like another of his many problems. The oil disaster could hurt millions of families, slam the regional economy, kill untold numbers of non-human lives and irreparably damage the planet. Among other things, he must not hold more rock concerts at the White House — I understand James Carville's venting: His hero fiddled as oil churned.


Finding fault is easier than finding answers. And worse, it paralyzes many of the very people who may be needed to solve a crisis. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast states, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco went on the attack; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour went to work. His state's recovery is textbook; hers is not.


President Obama's instigation of criminal investigations of BP at this juncture is classic diversion politics — and worse, it will engender bunker mentality at a time when collaboration and openness are most critical. BP's actions and inactions are reprehensible; it must be made to pay the billions upon billions of dollars that this spill will ultimately cost. But call out the phalanx of lawyers later — solve the crisis today.


The president can learn a good deal from the crisis leadership of men and women in government and in business. Giuliani is a notable example, but so too are Washington, Adams, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan and Kennedy. In a time of national crisis, we look to our president to acknowledge, as Harry Truman did, that it is at his desk where the buck stops.


And even at Day 52, it's better late than never.


Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts,was a Republican presidential candidate in 2008.








Fair play is the most important part of any sport. In the pros, referees and umpires are hired to try to make that happen. If they make human errors, every sport has a boss who can clean up the mess-up.


In Major League Baseball, Commissioner Bud Selig, who has held that job since 1998, has put up with too many miscalls by umpires that he should have corrected. Latest example:


Last week, umpire Jim Joyce admitted " I just cost that kid a perfect game" after he blew a first base call that denied Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game in a 3-0 win over Cleveland. Selig refused to reverse the call even though video replays later clearly showed the screw-up.


This week, Selig said, "Most baseball people are really against instant replay." He ignored the fact that a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll showed 78% of us want expanded replays. Other polls show similar fan feeling.


Selig's stubbornness limits replays to disputed home runs. His reason: He doesn't want to make games longer. Actually, an instant replay and review takes three to five minutes.


What baseball needs:


•A system like the NFL's, where coaches are allowed a limited number of instant TV reviews of questionable calls.


•In addition to home runs, that should include inning ending or game-ending calls and close foul balls (but not balls or strikes).


Selig has held the commissioner's job too long largely because he is a former baseball owner (Milwaukee) and other owners hesitate to fire one of their own.


But he obviously can't adjust to using modern technologies to make the game fair for players and fans. So he should be called out.


Feedback: Other views on instant replay


"C'mon, Al, the beauty of baseball is that it's not football, it's not played by supermen and guided by machines, it's the last major sport that is still painfully, wonderfully human. Kudos to Selig for protecting that beauty."


Bill Plaschke, sports columnist, Los Angeles Times


"I agree with Al, but rather than allow managers to challenge calls, hire a fifth umpire to view replays and allow him to overturn decisions."


Ken Rosenthal, senior columnist & MLB on FOX reporter








DALLAS — A couple of weeks ago, my 17-year-old son, Brandon, won his high school talent show. I didn't even know that my kid had that much stage presence. But as I watched his performance, I sat in awe in the audience — and I cried. Like every parent, I want to see my son find "his calling" — to do something that he loves and is good at. Like most high schoolers, though, Brandon has sometimes found himself immersed in teen dramas of his own, and has struggled with peer pressure. So when he started taking theater two years ago, I was hopeful that he would find his niche, and some success as well.


Talk about a proud mama. I was so elated with Brandon's success that I decided to shell out more cash than I could really afford for a priceless experience: a trip to New York City and two third-row orchestra seats to watch Denzel Washington in Fences, which was nominated for Best Revival of a Play. August Wilson's Fences, which won four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize in 1987, chronicles the black experience in the 1950s. Troy Maxson (played by Washington) once played baseball in the Negro League, but never had a chance to play in the major leagues. Now, he is a sanitation worker who is torn between his past and the present.


This was the first Broadway show for both of us. While my intent was to use the experience as a teaching tool, it turned out to be a revelation for me as well. Why had I waited so long to see a Broadway play? How many others have thought Broadway was only for the wealthy, high-brow crowd? And why limit it to Broadway? What about museums, art galleries and other cultural touchstones that people might write off because of their background or socioeconomic status?


Sure, cost is a major factor for many of us, but why not occasionally treat ourselves? In fact, after our visit I did some research on Broadway and discovered that despite a weak economy, grosses are up 9.4% over last year and attendance is up 2%. How is that possible? According to the Broadway League, the industry's trade association, it has a little something to do with more theatergoers willing to purchase "premium tickets" — like Brandon and me.


Now that we're home, Brandon has to write a review of Fences and how playwright August Wilson might've felt about this revival of his excellent work.


This weekend, the 64th Annual Tony Awards will feature winners in categories from Best Musical to Best Direction and more.


Guess it's not a mystery who I hope will win in the Best Performance by a Leading Actor category.


Joyce King is a freelance writer in Dallas.







The New York Times, in an editorial: "They were too long in coming and do not go far enough, but the United Nations Security Council finally imposed a new round, the fourth, of sanctions on Iran. The penalties take aim at military, trade and financial transactions by the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which runs the country's illicit nuclear program. ... The big powers made a smart move on Wednesday by reaffirming a 2008 proposal, offering Iran diplomatic, security and economic incentives if it suspends nuclear fuel production. If Iran truly wants a diplomatic resolution, it should take them up on the offer."


Noah Pollak, blogger, on Commentary: "(The new sanctions) are so weak ... that they do nothing more than showcase the fecklessness of President Obama's 'smart diplomacy'. ... Let's review how we got here: The 'reset' with Russia that was supposed to earn cooperation on Security Council sanctions merely taught Russia that Obama can be defied, cost-free. China noticed, and has joined the hands-off-Iran coalition. The 'daylight' policy of being rude to the Israelis as a way of unifying the Arabs behind the peace process and against Iran has only left Israel isolated and the Arabs in disarray. Obama's review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and his calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been easily manipulated to deflect attention from the threat to American interests — Iran — to the threat to Iranian interests, Israel."


Matthew Yglesias, blogger, on Think Progress: "Sanctioning Iran isn't just about Iran. ... It's about ... (all) countries' hypothetical nuclear programs. The precedent of North Korea makes clear that if you really want a nuclear weapon, the international community probably can't stop you. But how many world leaders cast a glance at Kim Jong Il and say, 'I wish I were that guy'? If Iran continues to refuse to verifiably disarm, we want to make sure that other leaders of midsized powers still feel that a price is being paid that's high enough to induce them to make other choices."


National Review, in an editorial: "The greatest danger now is a continuation of the status quo, in which the 'international community' passes a round of not-very-serious sanctions, Iran rebuffs them and charges ahead on its nuclear program, and the diplomats then threaten it with more of the lackluster same. ... (This situation) simultaneously buys time for Iran and dissipates the feeling that a crisis requiring urgent action is upon us. Obama has spoken as though direct talks with Iran were a goal ... rather than one of several possible means to the real goal, which is Iran's compliance with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If this latter is something to which Obama is indeed committed, he should signal unambiguously that we are at the end of the U.N. road, and that what lies beyond it is up to Iran."


Los Angeles Times, in an editorial: "We urge the administration and its allies to continue to pursue engagement with the Islamic Republic. The other options are grim. A military strike would be untenable, and a nuclear Iran dangerously destabilizing. Ultimately, a negotiated agreement offers the only possibility of persuading Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency in allowing open inspections under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to comply with international safeguard protocols and to prove that it is limiting its nuclear program to peaceful purposes, as it claims. That is the goal that has eluded each U.S. administration so far."








WASHINGTON — Stephen Strasburg has eclipsed Barack Obama as Washington's newest phenomenon.


But unlike the president, the 21-year-old Strasburg met all the pre-arrival hype in his Major League pitching debut.


Strasmania is in full-throat water cooler passion. Commentators are swooning over a curveball they say defies physics. Strasburgers are being served with 14 pickles at a local hamburger joint — one for each of the 14 strikeouts in his first outing.


Obama has had political successes, the passage of health care reform being chief among them. Some day, he may be credited for saving the country from even worse economic times than a deep recession. But the verdict is still very much out on his handling of unemployment and the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A Washington Post/ABC poll this month found 69% of Americans said they were unhappy with the government's response.


Through these men of separate generations and backgrounds, we learn a lesson on hype and expectation.


In case you have been hibernating or out of the country, here's the background.


Strasburg, with a 99 mile-an-hour fastball and knee-bending curve, struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday in winning one of the most anticipated debuts in Major League baseball in a long time.


That same day, a new poll revealed rising worries about Obama's ability to handle the nation's economic problems. Some 29% of respondents in the June 3-6 poll said they felt the president's policies had made the economy worse, up 13 percentage points in a year; 23% said they thought Obama had made things better, down 3 points since last June. The rest said the policies had had no impact, despite the nearly trillion dollars in stimulus spending passed last year.


One big reason for the doubts about Obama and the economy, according to Democrat pollster Stan Greenberg, is the rising worries about public and private debt. Some think it will be a long time before worries about the overall economy fade.


"The public has become a bit less gloomy over the current state of the nation's economy, but continues to see recovery as a long way off," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, which teamed with the National Journal on the poll.


There are no such reservations about the strapping California fireballer, Strasburg. One sign in the stands at Nationals Field on a gloriously mild June night said it all: "Strasburg is our savior."


Whether that turns true is up to the gods of baseball and the muscle and sinew of a kid barely old enough to shave. But make no mistake about it: Washington is hungry for salvation. And it is not afraid to ratchet up expectations as fast as the debt.


Pre-game music leading into Strasburg's first pitch included the Foo Fighters' My Hero and Three Doors Down's Kryptonite. There were so many satellite trucks parked outside the stadium, you'd have thought you were walking into a political convention. It was the hottest ticket since Obama's inaugural parties.


And when Strasburg was done with his two hours of work, the radio commentators were comparing him to Walter Johnson, Washington's most famous pitcher — winner of 417 games, and arguably the best pitcher of all time. That Strasburg is being compared to Johnson after one game is testament to the instant gratification we expect today.


Expectations for instant gratification were sky high for Obama, too.


In a forum discussing the National Journal/Pew poll, veteran Republican pollster Neil Newhouse said that one of Obama's biggest problems was "the Strasburg effect," the unrealistic expectations put on him by his supporters.


Former Democratic representative Vic Fazio pointed out that many of the expectations came from liberals who are now disappointed in Obama on everything ranging from the war in Afghanistan to his decision to not push a public option in the health care reform bill.


And now in the wake of the BP disaster, Obama's management is being questioned. Fazio said Democrats "need the president to have some successes. And capping a well in the Gulf right now would be a good start."


In reality, Obama and Strasburg came to this town in fundamentally different states.


For most of his life, Strasburg has been honing a narrow set of skills that have already made him a very rich young man. Someone else can manage, play first and catch the ball in the outfield.


But nothing in Obama's pre-Washington life as community organizer and politician prepared him to ride herd over a multinational corporation that has unleashed one of the worst environmental disasters in history.


If the president ever believed in hype, it's a good bet he doesn't today.


Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett, publisher of USA TODAY. Contact him at, follow him at or join in the conversation at













We often have remarked that Chattanooga is a really unusual place. Most of our people and our business and economic leaders work well together to create justified Chattanooga economic optimism for us all.


One more example of that came Thursday at the Seventh Annual Mayors' Business and Industry Appreciation Breakfast at The Chattanoogan.


The big meeting room was so full that 150 Chattanoogans who had asked for reservations had to be turned away.


Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Tom Edd Wilson, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey and Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield had good economic news -- although most of our country is in an economic crisis.


They said that in addition to the big new Volkswagen plant that will create a couple of thousand jobs, plus many related ones, and in addition to the expansion of jobs and manufacturing operations at Alstom, there is fresh news that LJT Tennessee/Steel Warehouse plans an $11 million expansion that will add 84 local jobs.


Guest speaker Dr. David E. Altig, senior vice president and director of research of the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, reported signs that the current 9.7 percent national unemployment rate will be reduced to 9 percent by the end of this year, and to 8 percent by the end of next year.


But Chattanooga, with its new economic developments, has many reasons for greater optimism about our local job and economic prospects.


In a humorous note, Dr. Altig illustrated economic pessimism as being like a young fellow who doesn't have a girl -- because he doesn't have a car -- because he doesn't have a job.


By contrast, an optimist is a young fellow who is looking for a girl -- who has a job and a car!


Well, Chattanooga has many solid things to be optimistic about now -- economically and otherwise -- not just "looking" and "hoping," but working. Chattanoogans have much to offer -- and deliver.


Dr. Altig observed that Tennessee is doing pretty well, while Georgia, unfortunately, is struggling.


Our Chattanooga and Tennessee political, industrial and business leaders are working well together, justifying even more economic and job opportunities for our people, despite tough times nationally.


We in Chattanooga, indeed, have much to be thankful for -- and much more to be optimistic about -- and to work for.







Lots of "theories" get tossed around on the question of how to improve the performance of students in public schools. Some of the theories work out; many do not.


Supporters of letting students in failing public schools use vouchers to go to private schools believe that vouchers help not only the students who use them to go to private schools but the students who stay behind in public schools.


How? Well, the idea is that vouchers create competition with public schools, which must improve to hold onto their students.


Now, there is evidence to back up that theory, and that is good news for students and taxpayers.


Florida has a robust voucher program. It provides tens of thousands of students from low-income families a little less than $4,000 per year to attend private schools.


Has the exit of those students from public schools harmed the public schools? Hardly. A new study finds that many public schools in Florida boosted their academic performance after vouchers created competition.


Since the program started, "students in public schools with a greater and more diverse array of private schools around them showed greater gains in standardized test scores than students in other public schools," the St. Petersburg Times reported. The authors of the study determined that improvement came about because the public schools had to compete for students with private schools that accept vouchers.


"The more schools and the more variety, the more pressure to improve, they surmised. And that's what happened," the newspaper reported.


That reinforces the results of another study ordered by Florida lawmakers. It found that low-income students using vouchers are getting as good an education as their low-income counterparts in public schools. But the state spends only $4,000 per voucher student, compared with the $7,000 Florida spends annually on each public school pupil!


"Want to save the state money at a time when school budgets are being slashed? Offer more vouchers ...," the St. Petersburg paper wrote.


There is no single solution to poor academic performance, but choice and competition are undoubtedly part of the answer.







Did you ever hear of the Luddites? In 19th-century England, they set about destroying looms and other relatively advanced machinery, fearful that the devices would wipe out jobs that required more manual labor -- even though those machines created other jobs and reduced prices.


The Luddites believed their intentions to be noble, but their mindset restrained, rather than promoted, economic growth. We saw a story recently about some modern-day Americans who have adopted a Luddite economic viewpoint.


In Provincetown, Mass., residents voted to make it hard for a chain store to establish a business in the town. A backer of the new rules told The New York Times she was motivated to act by a family-owned T-shirt shop that was a hit with consumers. The low-price shop, named "Cuffy's," had just two locations, but she accused it of harming more expensive, independent shops.


We sympathize with a "mom-and-pop" store that faces stiff competition, but isn't that how the free-market system works? Shouldn't Provincetown and other cities let consumers decide what businesses will get their dollars, based on consumer preference? As one deli owner in the town told The New York Times, "(T)he idea that I'm going to regulate away competition makes no sense."


Provincetown thinks it is nobly protecting local businesses and jobs. But it is really imposing artificially higher prices on consumers.







Yet another U.S. city has unwisely begun handing out official identity cards to illegal aliens. In Trenton, N.J., officials have approved a program giving photo IDs to people who are in this country illegally. The IDs give illegals access to taxpayer-funded facilities and services.


Unfortunately, Trenton is far from alone in its unsound policy. At least half a dozen American cities now provide or at least endorse photo IDs to illegal aliens. The cards "are intended to fold illegal immigrants into the fabric of the community ...," The New York Times reported.


Many more so-called "sanctuary cities" across the country have policies putting strict limits on when police may report illegal aliens to immigration authorities. That has had tragic results, as some illegals have committed violent crimes after not being deported following earlier, less serious brushes with police.


The American people are crying out for immigration enforcement, not permissiveness, but too many of our leaders are not listening.









Частный: private, individual, specific, particular


Частный is an interesting word. The adjective from the noun часть (part of a whole), it describes things that are individual in some way or concern individual people, their money and rights. On my personal complex-o-meter of the Russian language, I give it a five: fairly easy to understand but requiring some thought to determine the best word in English for translation.


Частный can refer to anything that is personal and private — not part of the government, the public or any other organization. For example, you might step into your boss's office and say: Я к вам по частному делу (I have a personal matter to discuss with you). And your boss might reply: Тогда я отвечу в качестве частного лица (Then I'll reply in a private capacity).


What? You don't talk like that in your office? You might be more familiar with this kind of notification from the management: Нельзя использовать корпоративную электронную почту для частной переписки (It's against the rules to use corporate e-mail for personal correspondence).


Частная жизнь is a person's private life. Sometimes the phrase is used to distinguish between someone's public persona and real personality. На экране она играла роль секс-богини, а в частной жизни была однолюбкой (Although she played a sex goddess on-screen, she was a one-man woman off-screen). Or to distinguish between vocation and avocation: После отставки Борис Ельцин ушёл в частную жизнь и не участвовал в политике (After he resigned, Boris Yeltsin retired to private life and didn't get involved in politics).


Sometimes частная жизнь can be translated simply as privacy: В Англии, Елизавета II обещает наказать папарацци, нарушающих частную жизнь королевской семьи (In England, Queen Elizabeth is threatening to punish paparazzi who invade the privacy of the royal family). In Russia, право на неприкосновенность частной жизни (right to privacy; literally, "the right to the inviolability of private life") is engrained in the constitution, but that doesn't mean that there isn't вмешательство в частную жизнь (invasion of privacy). For example, neighbors might call the участковый (beat cop, from the word участок, the local precinct) when the couple in the adjoining apartment go at each other with kitchen knives. But sometimes people don't get involved in neighbors' quarrels: Это их частное дело (That's their own business).


In other cases, частный refers to something privately owned, like частная библиотека or частный дом (a private library or house) or anything owned and run by individuals. Частный сектор экономики is the private sector and индивидуальное частное предприятие is a sole proprietorship, an individually owned business.  


Частный can also be used to mean something specific, particular, not representing the whole. If an employee complains about the broken toilet on his floor at a staff meeting on widget production, the boss might reply: Это частный вопрос. Давайте по теме. (That's a side issue. Let's stick to the topic.) If the employee insists that widget production will never increase if his underlings spend half the day running to the 12th-floor bathroom, the boss can say: Ваша проблема — это частный случай (Your problem is a special case). At which point, the disgruntled employee can protest: Бесполезно обсуждать повышение производства вообще. Перейдём от общего к частному (It's useless to discuss increasing production in general terms. Let's go from the general to the specific).


And in the best case, the boss will say: Зайдите ко мне позже и решим вопрос в частном порядке (Stop in my office later, and we'll solve your problem privately).








When Yury Shevchuk, a rock musician and outspoken Kremlin critic, met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin two weeks ago, it was truly a historic event. After all, we have waited 10 years for this precious moment — when Putin would finally go one-on-one with a real critic of his regime.


Indeed, most Putin-watchers — including many of his loyal supporters — have grown bored with the soft, self-censored questions from journalists or Putin's highly staged call-in shows in which some of the more probing questions in years past have included:


1. "It is well-known that great people suffer from depression. Do you have depression?"


2. "Do you like going to the banya?"


3. "Do you use a cellular phone?"


4. "Is it true you promised to hang [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili by one of his body parts?"


5. "Why does Russia's national soccer team perform so poorly?"


6. "Why don't the national television channels show gymnastics in the morning anymore?"


7. "How will you celebrate New Year's Eve?"


8. "Are you romantic?"


9. "When will we see the first snowfall?"


10. "Do you let stupid questions get through on your program?"


Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has been begging for years to have the chance to debate Putin live on television. When he was a State Duma deputy in 2003, Nemtsov tried to introduce a law to force presidential candidates, including incumbents, to participate in debates on live television.


Nemtsov understands, as the Russian saying goes, that the truth comes out during an argument. Unfortunately, there have been far too few real arguments and little truth during Putin's reign. Over the past 10 years, Putin and top United Russia members have flatly refused to participate in debates. In addition, leading opposition figures such as Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Mikhail Kasyanov and Garry Kasparov say they have been kept on a Kremlin "black list" that prevents them from appearing on government-


controlled television.


Therefore, it was highly unusual that Putin agreed to answer questions from one of his most vocal opponents in an uncontrolled environment and with cameras rolling — all the more since Shevchuk is a legendary rock musician who wields enormous influence over many Russians.


Why did Putin take the risk? Maybe he thought that Shevchuk would heed the advice of the phone caller who rang him up beforehand and advised him not to ask the prime minister any tough questions. (Shevchuk suggested that the caller was a Putin aide; Putin denied it.) Alternatively, perhaps Putin was trying to rebrand himself by presenting a new, "liberal" face as he considers a 2012 presidential campaign.


In any case, it was clear that Putin overestimated his ability to field tough questions from a genuine opponent. But, then again, he has had little experience doing this, so it is perfectly understandable why he appeared uncomfortable, irritated and a bit rough. He was not the cool and confident Putin we have come to know so well from his daily, choreographed television appearances.


Putin relied mostly on smokescreen tactics in responding to Shevchuk. For example, when asked about the lack of freedom of the press in the country, Putin's only answer was: "Without the normal development of democracy, there is no future for our country."


When asked why opposition rallies are regularly broken up by OMON forces, Putin said protesters shouldn't block the people's access to hospitals — something that has never happened in the country. What's more, Putin said, "If I see that people … are calling attention to crucial issues that the authorities should pay attention to, what can be wrong with that? We should say, 'thank you.'" Two days later, during an opposition rally on Moscow's Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, the 150 people who were detained and roughly two dozen who claimed that they were attacked by law enforcement officials got a good taste of Putin's "thank you."


Finally, when asked about poor conditions for coal miners, Putin gave a lecture about the difference between coke coal and power-generating coal. "I know about this," Shevchuk said despondently, drooping his head in apparent realization that he wasn't going to get a straight answer.


One of Putin's replies caught some by surprise. In answer to Shevchuk's question about police abuse of power, Putin said: "According to our cultural tradition, as soon as someone gets an official position … he tries to use it to make money. … This is characteristic of every sphere in which someone obtains authority and the opportunity to make enormous money from administrative economic rent."


Who was Putin referring to? Perhaps he meant the top management of Rosneft, which received the lion's share of Yukos after the government effectively expropriated the company. Maybe he was referring to Gunvor, the energy trading company with $53 billion in revenues and headed by Gennady Timchenko, an old Putin colleague from his days in the St. Petersburg mayor's office. Perhaps it was even a veiled confession on Putin's part?


Despite his best intentions, Putin failed in his attempt to play the role of a democratic politician who respects the opposition's rights and is tolerant of their opinions. He gave himself away when Shevchuk stood up and offered a toast, wishing that the country's children will grow up not in a "corrupt, totalitarian, authoritarian [country] with one political party … but in an enlightened, democratic country in which everyone is equal before the law."


As Shevchuk ended his toast while everyone's glasses were still raised, someone at the table said, "We are raising glasses of water! No one toasts with water."


Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Putin retorted, "The beverage fits the toast!" (One colloquial meaning of "water" in Russian is meaningless, empty words or padding.)


Kudos to Putin for his quick and sharp wit. But in those five words, he instantly threw off his liberal mask and revealed his true disdain toward political opponents, democracy and pluralism.


Shevchuk, clearly hoping for a breakthrough dialogue with the prime minister, prefaced his questions to Putin by saying, "This may be the beginning of a genuine civil society." But judging by Putin's responses, it may very well have marked the end.








Batten down the hatches, tighten the sails and let's re-caulk any leaking portals. Turkey's ship of state is headed into the rhetorical equivalent of a perfect storm. Hang on as it is going to get sporty. Maybe downright nasty.


Who lost Turkey? Is Shariah law just around the corner? Is Turkey a reliable partner for Western institutions? Will the conversion of the "Gaza crisis" into a domestic political issue, already well underway, finish off productive relations with Israel for good? Is Turkey's 50-year-old quest to join the European Union dead? Is the government's "strategic depth" policy of regional engagement just "neo-Ottomanism" in poor disguise? And if it is, just what is Brazil doing inside the tent?


We think the assumptions behind these questions are both facile and ill informed. But we are well informed enough ourselves to know that these are the elements of the debate that will preoccupy the global commentariat for months to come. Turkey's "no vote" on a sanctions resolution against Iran at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, and all that preceded it, is now the point of demarcation for a Turkey that many will define in opposition to the West.


So we would propose a guest list for the first intellectual symposium on all the above that will surely soon be held at Bilkent University or Boğaziçi University, at the think tank TEPAV in Ankara or the research center TESEV in Istanbul. The first panel for the day should include American Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Italian Ambassador to Turkey Carlo Marsili and the unidentified editorial writer at the Israeli daily Haaretz who penned one of the most insightful commentaries on the meteorology of the pending storm that we have seen.


As we reported yesterday, Gates chastened European leaders in London for contributing to the current crisis with Israel by denying Ankara "the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey seeks." We might debate this assertion at the margins, but we think Gates has a point.


Marsili lamented the deterioration of EU-Turkey ties in recent years. "Many Turks do not believe any more in the possibility of entering the EU," he said. Again, right on.


And Haaretz published an editorial this week noting that one important dynamic at play is the rise of "middling" powers like Turkey in a changing world who "are demanding a seat of honor at the international table." We agree with Haaretz that a uni-polar world has ceased to exist and we must all "sober up" to this reality.


But it is an exceedingly complex new reality that few of the old operating narratives can sustain or explain.


The storm is coming, that much we can count on. We will need clear heads among the hands on deck to get through it. Among them should be Gates, Marsili and an anonymous editorial writer at Haaretz whom we will endeavor to identify








Amid sound and fury, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' argument that Turkey was pushed away from the West was not adequately analyzed.


His basic assumption suggests that Turkey was pushed away from the West, but he followed on to say that it was because of the European Union. There were numerous pieces and articles published in the international media highlighting this suggestion, but as far as we do remember it was a first that a senior U.S. government official underlined it. Also note that the statement came hours before Turkey had to make a choice between abstaining and voting against U.N. Security Council sanctions to be imposed on Iran.


So to say, this assertive statement by Gates would give us hints on potential consequences of the Thursday vote on the bilateral relations. It was William Burns, a senior State Department official, who said the administration was disappointed by Turkey's vote against the sanctions. If one thinks that the alliance between the two countries dates back to late '40s, the depth of disappointment at the other side of the Atlantic would be understood in its clearest format.


No doubt this vote would be interpreted as a step for further alienation of Turkey from the Western world, especially at a moment when it has cut diplomatic and military ties with Israel following the latter's brutal attack against a Turkish humanitarian aid ship the other week. Nonetheless, almost suspended full membership negotiations with the EU further complicates this picture. Giving the impression of echoing Hamas or Iran's arguments on regional problems is another factor fueling concerns of Ankara's distancing from the West.


Apart from these points, perhaps we should better focus on how this move would have an impact on bilateral relations with the U.S. To put it straight, we should underline that Washington sees the Iranian nuclear program as its top security concern. That's why it was expecting all of its NATO allies to back itself in this course, as required by the spirit of alliance.


Just to make a comparison: It's not very much different how Turkey is willing to see full support from its allies in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. We do not know whether Washington will seek a payback from Turkey but it would not be surprising if Turkey would face some consequences in the aftermath of the vote. At least we can foresee that Turkey would have difficulty in getting U.S. support on some crucial international issues like the Cyprus problem, the reconciliation process with Armenia, or the EU process.


Having said that, and given the fact that the interests of the U.S. and Turkey throughout the Balkans, Caucasus and Afghanistan overlap, that would be premature expectation of severing the relations. So, this is time for two allies to begin a damage control process through proper diplomatic channels.


It's no doubt the spirit of alliance has been hurt for a second time, only seven years after the famous March 1 incident. Turkey and the U.S. should be wise enough to immediately start mending relations before it is too late. Let's all not forget that Turkey-U.S. ties cannot afford another March 1 crisis and its aftermath consequences









The business world is known for its focus on results, where making and meeting goals is a crucial part of success. After all, the top companies in the world didn't get where they are by being touchy-feely places where people could come hang out with each other and kill time every day.


MBA programs reflect this "hard-nosed" emphasis. Classrooms are filled with kids eagerly soaking up the latest ideas about quantifiable disciplines like sales, finance, and operations. 


Communication in the business world takes on this no-nonsense attitude, too. In fact, an entire discipline, known as strategic communications, has sprung up to keep even the "soft" skills like communication focused on setting directions and meeting targets.


Strategic communications is about taking realms previously left to "interpersonal interactions," and turning them into plans with quantifiable actions and specified goals. But because of this tough-minded approach to a discipline formerly known for its human touch, business communication is now coming across as cold and insensitive.


The fact is, no matter how objective and measurable a business tries to be, the people who work for it are, after all, people, and people don't bond with each other through hard numbers. They bond with each other through subjective things like shared experiences, common interests, and mutual social ties.


For an organization to be successful, its people need to unite for a common mission, and they can't do that without first forming subjective, human bonds with each other. That is why interpersonal communication is every bit as important as strategic communication. Now more than ever, no company can expect long-term success without its people being in tune with the pulse of the organization. 


That ability requires human connection built through trust and engagement. It takes every person in the organization revealing a bit of a personal side, and being open to others so they can see each other as human beings. It takes the patience and understanding to occasionally cover for a coworker who is hassling with his kids that day, or for one whose husband is in the hospital. It requires understanding that one's professional life and personal life are not entirely separate.


Not surprisingly, many businesspeople are uncomfortable with these kinds of relationships, especially if they have worked hard to rise through the ranks and are expected to maintain some level of distance from their coworkers.


For example, once the CEO of a large company told me he didn't like going out with colleagues for happy hour. He had tried it once before, but the next day his staff treated him as if they were still in the bar together. Years later, they still call him their buddy, taking liberties with their friendship and forgetting how to act around a boss.


The boundary between these two kinds of communication is a tricky one to negotiate. It's tough to learn how to handle both at the same time. We all know some coworkers who are too cold, and others who don't realize they are giving out too much personal information.


Yet companies can't succeed unless their people negotiate their way through that territory. No amount of strategic communication will be effective if a company's employees aren't connecting with each other. 


To MBA schools, I suggest that they could produce a stronger next generation of leaders if they make room for courses on how to weave strategic communications and interpersonal communications together. Most MBA programs these days are incredibly analytical and quantitative, and they can afford to back off on the numbers a bit to make some room for communications training.


The rest of us would do well to remember that business communication is an art that takes very different strands and weaves them together into a stronger sheet of cloth. If you've reached a plateau in your career, it might be time to broaden your communication skills, because technical wizardry is not enough to make it to the top. You've got to have the human touch, too.,








We complimented Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for the crisis management skills he displayed after the deadly raid on the "Mavi Marmara" in the Eastern Mediterranean by Israeli commandoes. We know now that he is capable of showing leadership under pressure.


It was also this leadership that made him deny that there was a link between the Israel operation against the Mavi Marmara, and the PKK attack on the same day against the armed forces in Iskenderun which left six sailors dead.


This was a dangerous link that was established by Hüseyin Çelik, a deputy head of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.


Observers maintained that Çelik was trying to deflect anger away from the government during the funerals of the killed soldiers. The idea was that if you could somehow blame Israel for the İskenderun attack, then angry reactions would be directed way from the AKP. This is clearly important for the government because anger at the AKP during such funerals is on the increase.


This anger even resulted in Energy Minister Taner Yıldız receiving a punch in the face during the funeral of another soldier killed by the PKK in May. Mr. Davutoğlu nevertheless had the sense and propriety to say there was no evidence to suggest that there was such link between the two incidents. In doing so he acted responsibly and in a way that was above mere party considerations.


But, regardless of complimenting him on his crisis management skills, one cannot help wondering where Mr. Davutoğlu's grand vision of "strategic depth" for Turkey is leading the country. This question looms much larger now following the serious defeat his diplomacy received at the Security Council on Tuesday during the vote on sanctions against Iran.


Turkey, along with Brazil, voted against sanctions on Iran, but 12 of the remaining Security Council members, including all five permanent ones, voted for it. Granted there is Brazil, so Ankara can say it was not totally isolated.


But this is poor consolation given that Brazil is a country that is thousands of kilometers away from the Middle East while Turkey is viewed as a key player in the region.


One cannot therefore see the Turkish rejection of the sanctions in the same light as Brazil's, since the ramifications are much greater for Turkey. The greatest blow to Ankara came from Russia and China since both countries voted in favor of the sanctions.


This was a double blow for Prime Minister Erdoğan, because his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin was uttering remarks on the topic in Istanbul, a day before the vote in New York, that were pleasing to the AKP government.


But the truth is that, just as Putin was appeasing Turkey, his envoy in Vienna was telling the IAEA that the uranium-swap deal worked out by Turkey and Brazil for Iran was not sufficient to meet the demands of the international community.


Much worse for Turkish diplomacy, though, was the fact that the AKP government could not even convince Security Council members Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina, countries to which Ankara is very close, to vote against the sanctions While Lebanon abstained, Bosnia Herzegovina acted with the majority and voted for the sanctions.


Turkey was also unsuccessful in convincing the African members of the Security Council, Uganda, Nigeria and Gabon although much of Africa had supported Ankara's bid for membership in the Security Council - despite Turkey's great opening to the African continent.


While the AKP government is now trying to convince the public that the outcome at the Security Council represents an "honorable stance" for Turkey, as opposed to the "wily and self-serving stance of the others," there can be no doubt that Turkey's foreign policy ship has run seriously aground this time.


This, we believe, is the result of the AKP government disregarding a foreign policy orientation that has a century of experience behind it and its going out of its way instead to take controversial steps that make many in and outside Turkey wonder where the country is headed.


If this is being done in the name of "strategic depth," then the isolation that this has brought Turkey in such a crucial international platform as the Security Council is there for all to observe. If, on the other hand, this is being done to vent anger at the West in general, and Europe in particular, then the result is again there for all to observe because Ankara could not even convince non-Western countries in the Security Council to vote against sanctions on Iran.


There is another option of course. All of this may be being done for the sake of Prime Minister Erdoğan's personal religious and ideological mission - whatever that may be. If that is the case, one has to say he is being successful. But he also has to take note of the fact that more and more people in Turkey are beginning to question why damage is being done to Turkey's well-established and almost institutionalized international relations.


It is always easy to bring down edifices one may not like personally, even if these edifices are functional and serve a purpose. The question is what one replaces them with. It is clear that after the vote at the Security Council, the AKP government will be put even more under the projector light at home and abroad in order to try and understand where it is taking Turkey.


If you were to ask us, we would have to conclude that the AKP government has allowed itself to be taken over by delusions of grandeur and has, as a result of this, painted itself into a corner on a number of foreign policy issues.


Prime Minister Erdoğan is expressing particular animosity towards retired diplomats now, who he calls "Mon Chers," a French term Turks use to belittle their own diplomats, implying that they are "gutless effete and good for nothing."


He is doing this because these people are urging caution as well as policies that are more in line with Turkey's traditional international preferences and commitments.


But if he listens more to the "Mon Chers" it is evident that the outcome will be much better for Turkey.








In his famous speech in Turkey in April 2009, President Barack Obama said "the promise of building stronger U.S.-Turkish relations is in the recognition of Turkey and the United States building a model partnership in which a predominantly Christian nation and a predominantly Muslim nation – a western nation and a nation that straddles two continents…" etc.


Fourteen months after that speech, President Obama's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, declared that "she is proud to say that this [UN Security] Council has risen to its responsibilities." She was referring to the adoption of Resolution 1929 which introduces the toughest yet sanctions on Iran due to Tehran's ambiguous nuclear program. Ironically, Mr Obama's model partner, Turkey, was one of the two members of the Security Council that voted against the sanctions.


The divergence came also a year and a half after then prime ministerial advisor, now foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu proudly declared that Turkish and American interests "fully converged." One of those days, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "from this day on we'll make our own foreign policy and not listen to others."


And only a day before Wednesday's UN vote, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was speaking exactly like President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In Istanbul, he spoke of "the devilish sound of the uncultured Zionists," of "(probably the same Zionists) holding up the flag of the devil itself," and of "the start of a final countdown for Israel's existence." That man will probably never change.


By a simple twist of fate, Mr. Ahmedinejad happens to be the 'brother' of President Obama's 'model partner,' Mr. Erdoğan. President Obama's model partner's other good friends include Omar al Bashir, Basher al Assad, Hamas and Hizbullah. Something conceptually wrong here? No, if one is naive enough. And yes, if one is weary enough with the assortment of euphemisms that have been attached to Turkish ambitions and their motives.


But those euphemisms apparently are still valid currency in world politics. Commenting on Turkey's 'dangerous drift into the Iranian-led axis former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said "the cold shoulder the European Union gave Turkey led to Ankara's decision to turn in the direction of Iran."


The good news is that Mr. Blair has eventually admitted to Turkey's turn in the direction of Iran, something he would probably have right away dismissed a few months ago. And the bad news is that Mr. Blair's reason for the 'great Turkish turn' is childishly unconvincing. Good thing he is no longer in charge of a great country. But there is someone else who is still at a very important wheel and thinks likewise.


Secretary of State Robert Gates has accused the EU of pushing Turkey toward the East by its resistance to letting his boss's model partner join the bloc. That's problematic for a number of reasons.


Messrs. Gates and Blair, sorry to have to remind you, but in the years when Turkey practically froze its relations with the EU after the Luxembourg Summit in 1997, Ankara did not think about finding itself bizarre allies like Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah. Turkey did not ally with the Islamic Republic even when it was not an EU candidate state.


But since 2004, Turkey has been a candidate, and, according to Mr. Erdoğan's chief negotiator, Egemen Bagis, is heading fast toward becoming a full member. Not even under military rule did Turkey ever think of forming alliances with what its Western partners viewed as rogue states. There was one general, though, who in early 2000s proposed an alliance with Russia and Iran instead of EU membership, and he now happens to be a suspect in the Ergenekon investigation.


Sorry, Messrs. Gates and Blair. The EU is not obligated to let a country unfit for membership join the club merely to stop its drift toward dangerous oriental waters. That's not a membership criterion. Ask yourself one simple question. Will, for instance, Serbia, make allies with Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah if the EU dragged its foot on its future membership? If not, what is the difference between Turkey and Serbia? Especially if one sails towards Persian waters when given a cold EU shoulder and the other does not.


The fact is neither Mr. Gates nor Mr. Blair is ignorant. We cannot blame their more than proven intelligence for the sickly unrealistic explanation they proposed for Turkey's shift. Without the absence of a perhaps-half-convincing-at-first-sight rationalization like a 'cold shoulder from the EU' Messrs. Gates and Blair would probably blame global warming or the Haiti earthquake or the Ergenekon gang for Turkey's not-yet-official marriage to the Iranian-led axis.


With the level of optimism about Turkey's political genes he seems to enjoy, I would not be surprised if Mr. Gates argued that Turkey's shift was in fact in the West's interests. But why would intelligent men suggest ideas disproportionately poorer than their intellect? For the same reasons why they rejected the idea of Turkey's shift after it had already taken off.


And what are those reasons? Diagnosing the malady correctly would not fit their political agendas. In other words, their verbal dance around weird reasons for almost losing Turkey for good is in fact to avoid touching the bitter reality: Among other reasons like a quest for regional influence and economic benefits, the heart of the matter is fundamentally faith-related.


Did everyone enjoy the 'bridge' that goes with the name Turkey? The one that straddles two continents? Good. Now you can enjoy your model partner too. Surely with partners like that you won't need adversaries








Not so long ago, when secularist die-hard Ahmet Necdet Sezer was the tenant of the presidential seat of the Turkish republic, executives of the Turkish foreign ministry were suffering immense pain of the hard labor to find a pretext to tell Iranians that while they very much appreciated and indeed pleased with the repeated wish of the Iranian president to make a state visit to Turkey. The "agenda" of the Turkish president was so heavy, or he was suffering from such acute back pain that "for now" that they believed it would be more appropriate to consider such a visit at a later date.


That "later date" never came as long as Sezer remained in the seat of the president. Over the past few years since the 2007 the change of the tenant of the Turkish presidential palace, however, the Iranian president has made several visits to Turkey and indeed was even given the opportunity to address a clandestine rally in the heart of Istanbul carrying his anti-Israeli and anti-American rhetoric to the largest Turkish city.


Has there been a change in Turkey's foreign policy priorities?


A few years ago, in the aftermath of the so-called Feb. 28, 1997 process or the post-modern coup, Tuncer Kılıç, an outgoing four-star secretary-general of the then very powerful National Security Council, found himself in a sea of criticisms when fed-up with the frequent European scolding of Turkey, he declared at a military symposium in Istanbul that Turkey was no country obliged to walk in the footsteps of the West, was not a country with no alternatives, but should as well pay attention to developing economic, political and strategic relations with Russia, Iran and India. He was accused at the time of being an "Eurasianist" willing to replace Turkey's almost two centuries old European and thus Western vocation with a "Eurasian alternative."


Since then, Turkey has become 65 percent dependent on Russia regarding natural gas and 35 percent regarding oil imports. Once the first nuclear power plant in Turkey, a Russian project, is completed and start the energy production, Turkey's dependence on Russia will further be consolidated. If Iran is added, we may comfortably say that in the energy field Turkey is squarely dependent on Russia and Iran.


Not so long ago, when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was only an advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Khaled Meshaal, the military head of the Hamas was invited to Turkey by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. At the time Turkey had gone under some strong criticism, there was a domestic outburst, and Erdoğan had to escape to a factory to avoid coming together at the Ankara airport with the Hamas chieftain but Abdullah Gül, not in his then capacity as foreign minister but as an "AKP executive" had met with Meshaal at the AKP headquarters.


Few days ago the prime minister of Turkey not only declared Gaza as the "historical cause" of Turkey, but underlined as well that Turkey considered Hamas as a "political party" and a "resistance group."


Has there been a change in Hamas? Did it denounce terrorism? Did it lay down arms and start engaging in civilian politics? What is the difference between a "resistance group" and a "terrorist gang"? If a group is indiscriminately attacking and killing civilians; if a group orders individuals to get onboard school buses and blow themselves apart and kill "enemy" civilians; if a group is firing rockets on the "enemy territory" without discriminating civilian settlements, hospitals and schools, is it a "resistance" group or a "terrorist" gang?


Of course, the Israeli state applying similar terrorist actions and indiscriminately murdering civilians in Gaza

and elsewhere, including on the humanitarian aid flotilla, has to be condemned as acts of state terrorism which indeed worst than actions of a terrorist group as states are expected to conform to norms of international law. Yet, has Hamas changed and become a civilian political element?


An effort to take the Turkish "no" vote at the Iran sanctions resolution as a demonstration of the tilt in Turkey towards the East or towards radicalism could only be a farcical approach to a fundamental problem: Gradual consolidation of an autocratic and radical mentality in Turkey…








Turkey's present politics regarding Iran and Israel entirely belong to Erdoğan and Davutoğlu. People should not try and steal a role. There are risks and some prestige involved. These two will be the winners and losers.


Erdoğan exhibited an attitude not often seen in international relations.


He promised Iran and kept his word despite all pressures.


Together with Brazil he could have turned the vote for the UN Security Council into an abstention and even collect some applause.


But he didn't do it and insisted on a negative vote.


I should say he took a risk.


Nobody compares Turkey's negative vote to Brazil's negative vote because Brazil is not a country in the region. It may decline as much as it wants, but its attitude won't matter. Turkey's position is different. Brazil is not a member country of NATO but Turkey is and has applied for a full membership in the EU. It is the most important ally of the Western camp in the region.


After its fight with Israel and the Marmara ship now the vote in the UN will cause some gossip in the West like, "Turkey turned its back on the West and chose Iran," and "Turkey is now waving the Islamic flag." Many people will draw attention to Davutoğlu not being able to convince Lebanon to change its vote. Erdoğan will be accused of forcing the country to change its axis. And those trying to intrigue him will take action.


The Prime Minister knew these risks. And he probably made his calculations when he decided on not changing his approach to Iran.


Washington has a receptive attitude for now


If we were to look at Washington's initial reaction we'd see that the Obama administration wanted to treat Turkey as the "family's naughty child."


It appears to be a mature family member who does show some understanding for Ankara's Iran and Israel issues and waits for the child to grow up.


Statements made by President Obama and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explicitly show this attitude.


So what will Washington expect?


I think that they probably know that Erdoğan won't easily change or break his word or chance his attitude without receiving something in exchange.


At this point in time they should be aware that Turkey in respect to Israel and Iran has entered a tunnel and needs to go a long way before being able to make a u-turn.

They will still have to monitor Erdoğan with respect to his behavior in these two issues.


The West expects Turkey to do 3 thingsFrom now on the Western world, and foremost Washington, will monitor Erdoğan with great care. They will draw attention to the following three issues:


They will check if Turkey will stick to the sanctions against Iran and accepted by the UN Security Council with 12 votes, 2 negative votes and 1 abstention. Will Ankara turn a blind eye to the sanctions or strictly comply with them? What type of language will the prime minister use from now on? Will he continue dragging Israel through the mud or criticize in an acceptable manner? Will he continue the same attitude toward Iran and Hamas issues or restrain himself from putting emphasis on certain issues? Will he continue to be on adverse terms with the United States on many political issues or try and not be on adverse terms? Will the EU project be put on a shelf or set in motion?


Erdoğan for sure made all his calculations


The prime minister is not a politician who only listens to his heart or acts as he pleases and without any consideration. He must have calculated all risks and dangers.


If he continues with his present attitude the same way he used to in the past then people will conclude that he consciously wants to change the course of Turkey.


Then the entire rules of the game will change.


And there is a process ahead of us that does not give us much time.


What's important is how Erdoğan will make use of the period of time that's left.


If it goes into the right direction than Turkey will win and increase its position in the region.


If it goes the other way we'll enter a chaotic period.








The Conference on Confidence Building Measures in Asia, or CICA, founded in 1992, has not gained a great reputation during the last 18 years, remaining largely in the shadow of alternatives such as The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, and the Collective Security Organization, or CSO. Parallel to the growth of Turkey in the sphere of international relations, the name of CICA began to be heard. It seems that, Turkey will give more importance to Asia and CICA will be the essential part of Turkey's foreign and Asia policy. Experts who participated at a Turkish-Asian congress in June referred to CICA as "The OSCE of Asia."


Two definitions were adopted at the event for the solution of problems within the geography of CICA: 1. Security covers not only military, but also economic, energy and environmental issues. 2. The indivisibility of security – the security of all members affects each other and thus, cooperation between member states should be increased. In light of these principles, we can analyze the security relations between CICA and Azerbaijan in two ways: 1. The security problems of Azerbaijan as a CICA member state. 2. The potential of Azerbaijan in the security of CICA.


If "the security of one of us is the security of all of us" is a position taken by CICA, it should have a standard approach toward security problems. The biggest threat to security of Azerbaijan is the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia or in other words, separatism. Not only Azerbaijan suffers from the threat of separatism, but also other CICA member states such as Russia, China and Pakistan. The occupation of Karabakh increases the race for armament in the region and creates the danger of war. Adopted as an uncontrolled zone, Karabakh, which is under the occupation, creates terrorism, drug trafficking and other security problems. Approximately 1 million refugees of Azerbaijan, a result the occupation, constitute a threat not only for Azerbaijan, but also for the whole region's economic security.  As a result, the occupation of these territories is the greatest danger for the regional integration in the South Caucasus. The second major threat to the security of Azerbaijan is the ongoing geopolitical struggles in the region. Tensions between Russia and the United States and the United States and Iran directly affect Azerbaijan. Unlike the other two South Caucasus countries, Azerbaijan is not a side in these geopolitical games and is in favor of the development of regional cooperation. The problem of the Caspian Sea's division and the probability of growing problems with radicalism and terrorism negatively affect Azerbaijan as well as other CICA members. 


These pro-radical actions are passing to Azerbaijan through other member states of CICA.


After the Cold War, Asia's security problems came to the agenda parallel to its economic growth. For the necessary raw materials, energy resources in particular, for Asia's growing economy and for the sale of produced goods, more secure ways of trade need to be found. In that respect, Azerbaijan's energy resources and its geographical location can play a very significant role for the energy and economic security of CICA states. Three of four pipelines transporting oil and gas from Azerbaijan are passing through Russia and Turkey, both CICA member states. Azerbaijan plays an important role in meeting the energy needs of CICA members like Turkey, India and China and is also an alternative route for the energy resources of CICA members Kazakhstan, Iran, and Turkmenistan.


At the same time, Azerbaijan is a trade corridor between Europe and Asia. Two of four trade corridors that connect Asia with Europe, the TRACECA and North-South pipeline are passing through Azerbaijan. The establishment of the Istanbul-Kars-Tbilisi-Akhalkalaki railroad was inked in 2007 and its foundation was set in 2008. In addition, the north-south railway between Azerbaijan and Iran was agreed on May in 2008. Energy resources and geography, however, are not enough for being a reliable partner. Measures should be taken to solve visa problems, standardize customs tariffs and taxes that vary for each country, ports, railways, roads should be modernized, new technology investments for the turnover of goods should be increased and free economic zones should be built. These kinds of steps will increase trade cooperation within the CICA geography and will also help to solve security problems. We live in a period in which economic cooperation facilitates the solution of military and political problems between states.


* Cavid Veliyev is the leading research fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan








Since the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, assumed power in 2002, Turkish foreign policy has made a 180-degree turn. The country's once-strong ties with the United States and Israel have been weakened, and entry talks with the European Union have stalled while Ankara has come to the defense of the Iranian nuclear program and Hamas. The reason for this shift is simple: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government believe Samuel Huntington was right, that there is a clash of civilizations. Only they are on the side of the Islamists, not the West.


For the AKP, "Turkey's traditionally strong ties with the West represent a process of alienation." This is a quote from "Strategic Depth," the opus written by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey's foreign minister. Unfortunately, "Strategic Depth" has not been translated into English, though Westerners would do well to read it to get a better understanding of Ankara's thinking. The work's executive summary answers all questions about the AKP's foreign policy: "Since the end of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims have gotten the short end of the stick, and the AKP is here to correct all that."


The AKP won't correct all wrongs against Muslims, though. This is because Islamism, a political ideology that sees Muslims in perpetual conflict with the West and with "non-believers," and not Islam, guides the AKP's foreign policy. Ankara will therefore favor other Islamists over Muslims that don't share their Manichean worldview. Thus, the party will forgive and even defend the ills of Islamist regimes against fellow-Muslims, such as the Sudanese genocide of Darfuris or Tehran's suppression of its own population. Likewise, it will support Islamist Hamas and its violent goals, but not the secular Palestinian Authority or the peaceful Palestinian cause.


This selective solidarity also applies to ills committed against Muslims by non-Muslims, as long as those non-Muslims are anti-American or anti-European. That's because political Islam has made the strategic decision that the enemy of its enemy is its friend. Hence, Russia will get a pass regardless of how many Chechens it kills.


Ankara, though, will always singularly target Israel, because the AKP adheres to the Islamist view that the Jewish state as such, irrespective of its specific borders or policies, will always be a sore in the "Muslim world."


There is little the West can do to change the AKP's foreign policy outlook. In fact, some policymakers and pundits in Washington and European capitals have, perhaps unwittingly, helped empower this development in the first place. Believing that the supposedly reformed Islamist AKP could be a bridge-builder between Western and Muslim countries, they promoted the new Turkish government as a special mediator in the region while shielding it from those critics who worried early on about the AKP's worldview.


Allowing such an Islamist catalyst into the Middle East's conflicts produced devastating results. Because the AKP sees a clash of civilizations everywhere it looks it cannot be an impartial mediator. Hence, when the AKP was allowed to interject itself between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, or the United States and Iran, it quickly became a tribune for the Islamist side, rising in their defense. After eight years of increasingly authoritarian and dominant AKP rule at home, many Turks now also see the world through the Islamists' eyes of a clash of civilizations.


Even though the AKP is the main political force in the country, the party's popularity has been sliding after the opposition Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP, elected a charismatic new leader. One survey even showed the opposition party pulling ahead of the AKP for the first time since 2002. Recent polls, however, show that the Gaza debacle, which resulted in the tragic death of Turkish citizens, has boosted the AKP's popularity.


The government will no doubt continue to use populist, anti-Western foreign policy to boost its popularity in the run up to next year's elections.


The West needs to face the reality that, despite the country's NATO membership, Turkey can no longer be considered a Western ally under the AKP. In order to contain the AKP's Islamist's influence not just in Turkey, but also in the region, the West must deny the Erdoğan government the influence and prestige that comes with being promoted as a regional mediator. It's time for Western leaders to distance themselves somewhat from Ankara.


This column originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal Europe.









Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has received global admiration for adopting a strong stance against the murderous regime that rules Israel today.


The Turkish prime minister severely criticized thuggish Israeli politicians for ordering the murder of international peace activists at Freedom Flotilla on high seas that was carrying humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza and to break the three-year-long illegal siege imposed by the Israelis over the Gaza Strip. His message was blunt: "A bloody regime, now in power in Israel, must be surely punished. Even pirates and bandits do not touch unarmed people, children, elders, and they did it. And these people try without shame to justify themselves."

Under the blockade, people of Gaza have been grappling with deteriorating economic and social situation and the Strip badly needs humanitarian aid. More than 80 percent of the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million population lives unde