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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

EDITORIAL 13.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month july 13, edition 000567 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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































  1. OLE! OLE! OLE! 

















































A below-par and extraordinarily-rough final brought down the curtains on the first FIFA World Cup played in Africa. Nevertheless, Spain was a worthy winner, its attacking style making it the team of the tournament. The Netherlands lost narrowly in terms of goals but the difference between the two teams was decidedly larger. Yet, no football fan can escape a sense of melancholy when it comes to the team that finished runners-up for the third time. Dutch football has produced three great teams in the past 30-35 years (the 2010 squad is the third of these). Between them, these teams have dazzled the world and won everything — except the World Cup. Perhaps the best tribute that can be paid to the Netherlands school of soccer is that Spain played adventurous, open football in the manner of the Dutch teams of the 1970s. For Spain, a soccer superpower that has somehow not done well at the very top in the manner one would expect, the World Cup triumph comes shortly after victory in the European Nations Cup. These twin achievements have sealed its position as the world's number one national team. Of the others, Germany were stolid and shone against an overrated Argentina — a team that deserves a better coach than a self-important former superstar — but didn't have the inspiration to counter Spanish magic. The semi-final between them saw only one goal but, frankly, Spain could as easily have won 3-0. The other semi-final was a contest between the Netherlands and Uruguay. The latter was probably the best of the South American teams on offer and seemed a better proposition than even Brazil, which disappointed millions by exiting early. Uruguay hurt its credibility by resorting to unfair means to prevent a certain goal by Ghana in the quarter-final, and then celebrating and justifying the so-called 'feat'. This lost its team some popularity. Indeed, it only helped sharpen focus on Ghana, a young team that will be a very strong contender in 2014.

Spain's victory has debunked one of contemporary sport's abiding arguments. Soccer was invented in England and first became a mass phenomenon there. For several World Cups now, the English national team has been a walking disaster and this one was no exception. The familiar explanation offered is that the English Premier League, among the world's wealthiest sports leagues, offers enough financial rewards for players and popular obsession for few English footballers to be motivated by national colours. If this be true, how does one explain Spain's success? Led by Real Madrid and Barcelona, it has as wealthy and overwhelming a domestic club tradition as that of the EPL. Spain's national team has built on the foundations of its clubs. It is time for England to stop making excuses and to find a way of matching its historical rival.

While its football team didn't do as well as home fans may have thought, South Africa was an exemplary host. In executing a flawless World Cup it only burnished its reputation as a sports venue of choice, as capable of putting together a top-level football event as a rugby or cricket tournament. After the FIFA experience, South Africa is surely an early candidate for the 2020 Olympics. It has set the bar very high for other developing countries. As the Commonwealth Games open in October, India will have an obvious yardstick to measure itself against.







Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia has presented a scathing report on the state of the judiciary's infrastructure and the conditions under which judges have to work, especially in the lower courts. While painting a vivid though gloomy picture of the appalling conditions that prevail and which are rarely talked about in the context of the justice delivery system, Mr Kapadia has pinned the blame on the "lackadaisical approach" of the Government which, according to him, has failed, and abysmally so, in providing proper working infrastructure to the subordinate judiciary. In many places, the lower courts function from rented, ramshackle premises. Basic facilities are absent in most of them; staff are cramped for space; and, as any litigant would testify, record-keeping is shockingly poor largely because even the most primitive archival system is absent. It is possible that computers have been purchased and installed as part of the Government's effort to 'modernise' the judicial infrastructure, but that is of little or no consequence. As Mr Kapadia points out, "Out of 2,903 subordinate court complexes, only 562 have got generators. Against the working strength of 13,996 judicial officers, inverters were available only with 693 officers at their residences." It is indeed a sad state of affairs if cases are being heard in courtrooms without power. How are records of hearings being maintained? How accurate are those? It would be easy to blame the lower judiciary for inordinate delays in settling cases and for not doing enough to clear the backlog at the bottom of the pyramid. But we should also ask: Is the Government serious about improving the infrastructure and modernising our courts? The Government's attitude is best reflected in the fact that of the funds required to provide basic working facilities for judges, less than half has been sanctioned. This is not money saved, but justice denied.

For all their tall talk, had successive Governments at the Centre been truly interested in improving the judicial infrastructure and thus making the justice delivery system more responsive — as well as accountable — then the situation would have been vastly different. In fact, the Government's attitude is not going to change because politicians and their babus have scant regard and even lesser respect for the judiciary. Mr Kapadia has suggested that perhaps the judiciary can raise its own resources by using fees and fines for creating infrastructure and improving the working conditions in courts. Given the Government's reluctance to fulfil its responsibility, this option is worth exploring. Indeed, it would be a good idea to impose and increase fines for frivolous litigation and mark up fees for cases filed by the Government. That should wake up people in right places.








The recent face off between the BS Yeddyurappa Government and Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde has once again turned the spotlight on the powers and functions of those who man this institution in various States even as it reinforces popular perception that the political class lacks the gumption to subject itself to the scrutiny of independent and empowered ombudsmen. 

It is indeed a sad commentary on leaders across the political spectrum that although 17 States governed by various political parties have gone through the motions of appointing Lokayuktas, there is not a single ombudsman who has the unfettered power to probe and prosecute corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. The general trick appears to be to appoint a Lokayukta but ensure that he is hemmed in legally and administratively. He is denied the power to launch suo motu investigations into allegations against the Chief Minister and other Ministers in the State as also senior bureaucrats. Further, he is made to depend on the State police or other Government agencies over which the political bosses have complete control.

Such an arrangement makes the institution porous and gives the Chief Minister and Home Minister advance information on persons who have been put under the scanner by the Lokayukta, the areas of inquiry and even the date and time of proposed raids on offices and residences of the corrupt. Finally, even if ombudsmen like Mr Santosh Hegde complete this obstacle race, State Governments retain the power to subject the Lokayukta to the ultimate insult by either ignoring the ombudsman's report or worse, acting contrary to his findings and recommendations. In such circumstances, no self-respecting person will want to continue in office. 

In Karnataka, Mr Hegde was driven to despair because of a variety of reasons. Here are a few: The Government, which is under the spell of the mining mafia, began persecuting a senior forest official, who, acting on the Lokayukta's directions, confiscated illegally mined iron ore worth hundreds of crores of rupees; the Government dragged its feet on the appointment of a Upa-Lokayukta and thereby virtually paralysed the office of the ombudsman because a lot of cases come within his exclusive jurisdiction; officers facing corruption charges who were placed under suspension following the ombudsman's report were let off the hook without even the courtesy of consulting the Lokayukta; though all Ministers and legislators are mandated to declare their assets, many of them have simply ignored the deadline; finally, the Government has very little to show in terms of implementing the reports of the Lokayukta.

All these reasons prompted Mr Hegde to throw in the towel, but fortunately for the State there was such a public outcry over this development that Mr Yeddyurappa was forced to assuage his feelings and promise to strengthen the office of Lokayukta. Eventually, Mr Hegde withdrew his resignation following the intervention of Mr LK Advani. While it is too early to say whether Mr Hegde will complete his term in office, one must thank him for bringing the issue of political corruption to the fore.

Ever since we ushered in representative democracy, jurists and thinkers have felt the need for an ombudsman at the national level and similar institutions in all the States. The first Administrative Reforms Commission favoured the appointment of a Lok Pal at the federal level and Lokayuktas in the States to investigate allegations of corruption against people holding public office.

However, the Congress, which was in power at the Centre for long years after independence, was reluctant to have an ombudsman at the federal level. As a result, successive Governments in New Delhi went through the farce of introducing legislation in Parliament to appoint a Lok Pal and either allowed the Bill to lapse or put it in cold storage. Non-Congress Governments invariably lacked the bench strength in Parliament to see such legislation through. 

The story vis-à-vis the Lokayukta is slightly different. Several regional and caste-based parties which came to power in the States were keen to show themselves to be far more committed than the Congress to rooting out corruption and bringing in greater transparency and accountability in governance. Such parties introduced legislation to establish Lokayuktas in several States but ensured that the ombudsmen did not have the power to cause too much of an embarrassment to them. The Congress quickly caught on to the trick and participated in the charade of having toothless ombudsmen in the States. Thus, while they put up the pretense of wanting an ombudsman, they legislatively ensured that the institution did not cause them great harm.

In the light of the on-going controversy over the powers of the Lokayukta in Karnataka and other States, one wonders whether it would be prudent to legislate on this issue at the federal level so as to bring in uniformity in the working of this institution in every State. The Lokayuktas Conference has favoured such a Central law. It has also suggested that Lokayuktas have a constitutional status that is at par with High Court judges.

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has endorsed some of these recommendations and said the Lok Pal and the Lokayukta should have constitutional status. The Constitution should be amended to bring about uniformity in the powers and functions of the Lokayukta and the ombudsman should be vested with uniform powers, responsibilities and functions across all states. 

However, the commission wants the office of Chief Minister to come within the purview of the Lok Pal and not the Lokayukta. It says that it is "unwise" to include the office of Chief Minister within the purview of the Lokayukta. It argues that if the Chief Minister is brought within the jurisdiction of the federal institution of high standing (the Lok Pal), "the risks would be mitigated". 

Given the fact that many politicians and political parties have turned the politics of vendetta into a fine art, it would be foolhardy at this stage to permit an ombudsman appointed by the Union Government to probe charges of corruption against a Chief Minister. Imagine how a Prime Minister short on scruples would use this institution to make and break political alliances in this era of coalition Governments. 

Therefore, while a national law made by Parliament for appointment of Lokayuktas is worthy of consideration, bringing Chief Ministers within the ambit of an ombudsman appointed by the Union Government must be rejected. 






Today is the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra. The sea of humanity that congregates in Puri, Serampore, Ahmedabad and Varanasi makes this event a moving spectacle. Thanks to Iskcon, Rath Yatras are also conducted in more than 100 magnificent cities all over the world, including London, Dublin, Belfast, New York, Singapore, Venice and Toronto. In the North-East, Manipur marks its annual chariot fest (Kang Chingba) of Lord Jagannath. 

Originally, a mode of transportation and a mounted vehicle of war in ancient India, the rath has come to enjoy a mystical significance in the Indian psyche. Krishna transformed this vehicle of war into a platform for preaching what is now known as the Gita. "See the self as the lord of the chariot," Yama (the omniscient god of death) advises Nachiketa in Kathopanishad, "the body as the chariot, the intellect as the charioteer and the mind as the reins". 

The Rath Yatra may thus be a festive way of celebrating spiritual self-discovery. Like all Hindu festivals its ritualistic aspect is deeply symbolic. Like Kumbh Mela or Durga Puja, it breaks down the barriers of caste. "The ideal society is the vehicle of the indwelling godhead of a human aggregate, the chariot for the journey of Jagannath. Unity, freedom, knowledge and power constitute the four wheels of this chariot," wrote Sri Aurobindo in Chariot of Jagannath (1918), a rare Bengali essay. 

Though best associated with Lord Jagannath, the Rath Yatra is not limited to him. Celebrated annually in Hampi is the Virupaksha Rath Yatra — dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati. In Nallur, near Jaffna (Sri Lanka), the Ther festival is celebrated with fanfare every August. Murugan (Lord Kartikeyan), the presiding deity of Nallur Kandaiswamy Temple, is taken out on a chariot. 

The sacred chariot is a part of south Indian architecture. Near the famous musical hall of Hampi (ancient Vijayanagara) is the famous stone chariot (whose wheels actually revolve around the axis) dedicated to Vithala. The rock-cut chariots of Mahabalipuram (Tamil Nadu) of the Pallava era (5th century AD) are dedicated to the Pandava brothers.








DELHI chief minister Sheila Dikshit and the Capital's lieutenant governor Tejender Khanna have a lot of explaining to do on the parole being given to Manu Sharma, the millionaire brat convicted of killing model Jessica Lal in 1999.


The parole to Mr Sharma was given on two grounds — one so that he could take care of his ailing mother and two, that he could support the flagging family business.


Both have turned out to be flimsy, if not fictitious. His ' ailing' mother, Shakti Rani Sharma, was busy addressing a Women's Cricket Association of India press conference at her family- owned Piccadilly Hotel in Chandigarh last Saturday.


Considering that his father, Venod Sharma, a prominent Congress politician from Haryana with extensive business interests, campaigned extensively during the recent state assembly elections, there are no reasons to believe that the family business needed the services of a convicted murderer. The junior Mr Sharma also has a brother who otherwise runs the business.


Clearly, then, the parole seems to be politically motivated, having little or no legal merit. The police also seem to have played a sinister role in an episode when the paroled Manu Sharma allegedly visited a nightclub in the Capital. Frequenting a nightclub is not an offence even if you are on parole. So why did 50- plus policemen reach the nightclub to allegedly apprehend Mr Sharma? The CCTV footage was also confiscated claiming that there was a brawl in the nightclub, something that the owners and eyewitnesses deny. Why? But that is not the only unanswered question that arises out of this murky affair: Was there any due diligence done on the claims made by Manu Sharma in his parole application? Because, he was clearly lying about his mother's ailment.


Also, does the law allow a convicted killer to be set free for two months while serving his sentence? Mrs Dikshit defended her decision on Monday, saying " all the rules were followed" in approving the parole application.


Ms Dikshit and Mr Khanna are supposed to protect the people from the likes of Mr Sharma. Instead, they let him loose on a flimsy pretext. The state was supposed to protect Jessica; it did not. After her death, it should have protected her interests by ensuring her killer pays for his crime. Instead the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor have betrayed an innocent person who was cut down at the prime of her life.


Metro failure


SUNDAY's chaos on the Delhi Metro reinforces the perception that the capital's only world class institution is slipping on the standards it had set for itself at the time of its inception. It is difficult to resist concluding that the chain of events set into motion after a newly acquired train came to a halt in the underground portion of the Rajiv Chowk- Dwarka line could have been handled a lot better. First, the lights and airconditioners in the train should not have gone off after it came to a halt. Surely, the Metro trains are expected to have a power back- up for such purposes.


It won't do for the Metro authorities to say that the rescue efforts initiated by them were hampered because people broke open the doors and jumped into the underground tunnel. When train compartments that are packed with close to a 1000 people are submerged in suffocating pitch darkness inside a tunnel and the crying and shrieking takes over, it is not easy for passengers to keep a stiff upper lip. It is for the Metro authorities to have a concrete contingency plan in place for such situations.


The rescue efforts initiated by the Metro authorities and the near- stampede like situation that prevailed at Rajiv Chowk suggest that this was not the case. The rescue train that was sent after the stranded train took too long in coming.


It had not anticipated the scenario at the site, with the result that most of the stranded passengers walked their way in the underground tunnel to Rajiv Chowk.


The Metro provides us clean and swift urban transportation service, for which we are grateful. But the managers of the system must plan for all eventualities. Their emergency drill should be known to their passengers and, ideally, drilled occasionally.








IF only the media could turn its attention away from the socalled crisis within the government and the party in BJPruled Karnataka, it would be able to see a very interesting, but also darkly diabolical, set of plans being laid out within the RSS and the BJP. One has to be extremely gullible to suggest that only now has the RSS come out in the open to play a more active role within the BJP. The RSS has never distanced itself from politics, whatever its rhetoric might be, and continues to hope that it will guide the destiny of all its 'inspired' organisations.


What is new regarding the public posture of the RSS is its desperation to survive as an organisation through the help of the BJP, but also drawing upon individuals within all other parties who could be closet Hindutva sympathisers and fellow-travelers in the dream of making India an aggressive and threatening superpower. Even in the instance of Karnataka, the attitude of the BJP and the Sangh was to save the government rather than the party, knowing full well that sooner or later the inherent contradictions within the BJP's Karnataka unit would resurface and wreck the temporary truce.


Remember the time when the BJP was the very picture of a badly organised circus during its meeting in Shimla? Jaswant Singh was camping in Shimla, and was expelled from the BJP for writing a book. Allegations and counter-allegations were flying around and much dirty linen was being paraded, though not always being washed, in public.




There was the bizarre spectacle of epic loss of memory on the part of L. K. Advani, as also the overnight growth of spine on part of the likes of Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Jaswant Singh. While this theatre of the absurd was being played out, the RSS fed a select group of journalists with the ' information' that Manohar Parikkar of Goa was the Sangh's favoured candidate for assuming the leadership of the BJP after completion of Rajnath Singh's term.


The reasons for this sudden affection for Parikkar were simple. He was relatively young, he was an IIT alumnus, and he would represent the modern, forward- looking, younger face of the BJP. It would be his job to train and prepare a still younger generation of the Party to eventually take over the business of running the BJP. Many who heard this asked the predictable question, wondering who Manohar Parikkar was, and what political base he could have within the Party to be able to contend with keeping together, however tenuously, a party of differences.


In the meantime, the BJP lost two other elections, in Maharashtra and in Haryana, postponed holding its national executive, got away by the skin of its teeth in temporarily solving the Vasundhara Raje question, and managed to make Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers stuff laddus in each other's mouth, a sure indication that things will sour between them sooner than later. But while this crisis was hitting the headlines, the RSS was sending out a message to select individuals that Manohar Parikkar was no longer the favoured candidate to assume the president's post within the BJP. The Sangh was now in favour of Nitin Gadkari. After all, had not Mohan Bhagwat said that the future leader of the party ought to come from the states and not from Delhi? Once again, the politically innocent among us asked the inevitable question, " Gadkari who?" and were told that he was the man who led his party in the recently concluded Maharashtra elections and under his leadership, the BJP stood fourth in the list of seats won. I have met and spoken to Gadkari. He is from Nagpur, was not very happy with Sudarshan's RSS, and seems happier with Bhagwat's RSS, but more significantly, he has had a significant charm bypass. He is utterly uncharismatic, inarticulate and betrays no claims to possessing a vision of any sort. The question that remains unanswered is why his name is being mentioned as Rajnath Singh's successor despite having miserably lost a major election in an important state.




The RSS wants the press and the people at large to be misled regarding its true intentions. It ideally wants Narendra Modi to succeed Rajnath Singh and eventually be Advani's successor as well. Any public disclosure of these plans would lead to a debate regarding Modi's suitability, raise questions regarding his role in the riots of 2002, but also bring into sharp relief a number of issues related to his authoritarian style and megalomaniacal personality.


At the same time, the RSS as well as the BJP are reconciled to living with Modi and looking up to him as saviour and redeemer. If one goes by the strict canons of Sangh orthodoxy, Modi's individualistic streak and his relish of political power are obvious disqualifications. But there are few left within the BJP who have either the popular support or the charisma to make any difference to the dwindling fortunes of the Party as well as the RSS than Modi. The Sangh feels that any adverse publicity against Modi would scare potential and existing allies and make the transition for him difficult.




Hence, the strategy seems to be to throw up names like Parikkar and Gadkari, who at best would be stalking horses for Modi, and if, for reasons beyond control, the strategy were to fail, they could step in as a temporary arrangement before Modi's spin doctors could get back to the drawing board and fabricate a new strategy to repackage him for a national role.


The perils of this strategy are as obvious. Even if the BJP falls for this model of succession of the RSS, there is no guarantee that Modi will eventually listen to the voice and word of Nagpur. There is no way for the RSS to ascertain that once in a position of leadership at the national level, Modi will endorse hare- brained ideas such as Bhagwat's continued support of the Akhand Bharat- Hindu Rashtra dream. If he does so, it will only be temporary and would be in order to achieve a practical end.


Neither does the BJP have any inkling as to the direction in which Modi will lead the party, especially so when the only ideology and the only organisation that he understands is himself. In many ways, Modi is the Sanjay Gandhi of the BJP. While the Congress and the country were spared of his leadership through a tragic set of events, the BJP and the RSS seem to be saddled with him for better or worse.


One can only speculate as to when this inevitable transition within the Sangh Parivar and the BJP would take place. But till such time that it does, it is safe to ignore the misinformation that emerges from the RSS regarding the leadership question within the BJP.


The writer teaches politics at the University of Hyderabad








CHIEF minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's war cry against the Maoists is sounding hollow.


Barely two hours after the chief minister roared at a public meeting in West Midnapore on Sunday that the Maoists would soon be chased out of the Left- ruled state with the help of the central forces and the people, the rebels shot dead four EFR jawans and walked away with their rifles with consummate ease.


Neither the locals nor the other EFR jawans, stationed less than 150 metres from the spot, offered any resistance.


It is clear now that the Maoists are operating freely in the Lalgarh- Belpahari region of West Midnapore as well as in Purulia and Bankura. The deployment of a large number of paramilitary units may be costing the government exchequer a lot but it has been totally ineffective in tackling the Naxals.


The style of operation of the forces clearly shows a lack of determination as well as specific intelligence on the whereabouts of the rebels. The CRPF, EFR and BSF only patrol the roads.


If they enter the villages at all, they make so much noise — deliberately or otherwise — that the Maoist squads are alerted and escape. On their part, the state police routinely damage villagers' houses, destroy even household utensils and beat up anybody they can lay their hands on. This further isolates the villagers. Only on Sunday, the chief minister asked senior police officials to ensure that innocent villagers are not harassed. It is yet to be seen whether the police follow his instruction.


The CPI( M)' s strategy was to raise its own armed force and take on the Maoists at a time the joint forces give the rebels a hard chase. At least 15 camps have been set up by the CPI( M) in the Enayatpur- Goaltore- Garbeta region. But the number of fighters is coming down and their morale is rapidly sinking.


In 2001 CPI( M)' s armed squads had effectively neutralised heavily armed Trinamool activists in this same area. This time, the strategy is not working against the Naxals.


The Maoists are obviously enjoying the support of the local people. This was candidly admitted even by the state home secretary. The government's repeated promises that it was determined to bring the fruits of development to these areas raises questions over why there has been no development for the last six decades. If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee really wants development, why is he sending in the police who have occupied the schools and are beating up innocent people, women of Lakshmanpur in Lalgarh asked this scribe during a recent visit.


It is significant that the local leadership of the Maoists now comes from the local tribals. A large number of women are not only a part of guerilla squads but are even leading them. The recent attack on Sankrail police station was led by two women.


Sunday's attack on the EFR was also led by a woman. The involvement of women in a violent struggle exposes a deep and long existing social malaise, which the government has conveneniently ignored all this while.



EIGHT years after his " Do it now" slogan backfired, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has embarked upon another novel plan to improve the work culture in the state.


His government will soon start a 100- mark evaluation system for its employees.


Promotions and salary hikes will depend on these bi- yearly assessments.


Finance minister Ashim Dasgupta is likely to announce the new policy next week.


The CPM- led state coordination committee leaders admit that even in the state secretariat where the chief minister and 28 ministers have their offices, about 60 per cent of the employees come in late and 50 per cent leave before time. This happens even though Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee coined his " do it now" slogan way back in 2001, urging government employees to speed up work.


The work culture of government employees in the state has never been something to be proud of. " Who will work? The chairs and tables?" former chief minister Jyoti Basu had once fumed, though even he had largely failed to inculcate discipline among state employees.


Several ministers have expressed doubt whether the new scheme would yield results. After repeated electoral debacles it would be hard for the Left government to crack the whip on its employees before the 2011 assembly polls, they felt.



AFTER stunning defeats in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections, the Left Front is facing yet another challenge. The results of 10 assembly by- elections will be declared on Tuesday and promise to become a major indicator of the Left's future in this state. Last time, three of the 10 seats belonged to the Left Front, five to the Trinamool Congress and two to the Congress.


Left Front leaders look unsure whether they will be able to retain the three seats.


A 8- 2 tally will be most satisfying, they say but add that given the anti- Left wave sweeping over the state, the possibility of a 9- 1 or even 10- 0 rout cannot be ruled out.


What will happen if the Left's tally goes below the present three seats? The Congress and the Trinamool Congress, fighting the polls jointly, will immediately demand that since the Left is losing every poll, it must step down and seek a fresh mandate from the people. If the Left is able to retain its position, the morale of its cadres, which has now reached its nadir, will surely get a welcome boost.


Whether the Left retains its position or not, an increasing number of senior Left leaders now feel that it would have been best to step down and seek the people's mandate by projecting somebody other than Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the chief minister immediately after the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. This would have created a sympathy wave in favour of the Left. The situation is likely to worsen with time and defeat is certain in 2011 when the next assembly polls are slated, these leaders feel.








It is the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, and South Africa pulled it off in style. From start to finish, the month-long football World Cup turned out to be magnificent in every respect, silencing critics for good. The stadiums were great, the hospitality warm, the organisation near perfect and the atmosphere electric. The tournament not just changed people's perceptions about Africa, but also infused the entire continent with a new sense of confidence. 

Surely, if a marquee sporting event of this scale and magnitude can be successfully hosted by an African nation, all doubts about Africa's potential need to be put to rest. 

No amount of praise is enough for South Africa, which has emerged as a superb destination for international sports. It has developed a truly enviable sports infrastructure. And with the football World Cup on its resume, no international sports body will ever doubt the country's ability to organise a mega sporting event. Hosting the World Cup has also enhanced South Africa's image in the international community manifold, and it was the strongest endorsement of brand South Africa that hundreds of thousands of football fans from all across the globe thronged to the Rainbow Nation. This is bound to reflect in South Africa's geopolitical standing and we could expect the country to assume a greater leadership role at various international fora. 

The final match on Sunday between Spain and Netherlands might not have been the pinnacle of artistic football, but it was certainly a treat to watch the two teams try and outmanoeuvre each other. In the end it was Spain that emerged victorious, winning the World Cup for the first time ever. For a country that has been stricken by internal divisions, it was heartening to see the Spanish players rise above regional identities and play as one for Spain. 

It is noteworthy that the Spanish team played complete football. They had flair, style and talent, but did not lack in grit or pre-planned tactics. This brand of football is the single biggest revelation of the World Cup. As the accompanying opinion piece elaborates there is no longer a clear South American or European style of playing the game, with the advent of professional football leagues that feature international players. South Africa 2010 has demonstrated that football is truly a global sport. It has reminded the world why the beautiful game continues to draw legions of fans. With the Commonwealth Games just months away, let's hope that Delhi can put up half as good a show.






Growing by a huge 43 per cent, robust indirect tax collections in this fiscal year's first quarter are further proof that India's industrial revival is for real. Customs and excise duty collections have augmented government revenue substantially. Direct tax collection, on its part, was up 15 per cent. A healthy corporate tax mop-up in the April-June quarter signals equally that economic recovery is on track. Nonetheless, let's not forget April's factory output figure was revised downwards to 16.5 per cent from 17.6 per cent. If that's still impressive, there was a marked slowing to 11.5 per cent in May. It's just as well the government is said to be thinking of sticking to its current duty structure. On one hand, fiscal stimuli have clearly helped industry combat the slowdown. On the other, May's data suggests the fight's not over yet. 

The idea that big tax hauls come with high tax rates has long been debunked as economic wisdom. If anything, for businesses to thrive and India to achieve and maintain double-digit growth rates, a supportive tax regime is a must. The peak customs duty rate has dipped over the years but there's been too much fiddling with excise even post-reforms. GST will rectify matters on condition the tax rate is set low, states can't tinker around citing fears of revenue loss and exceptions to the rule are kept, if at all, at a bare minimum. Similarly, the direct tax code should cut tax liability for individuals and companies significantly, the trade-off being rationalisation of exemptions. Lower tax rates mean greater economic activity, better compliance and, consequently, higher revenue. India is poised to revolutionise its indirect and direct tax system. Let's get it right.








The world's biggest sporting event has run its course. That we have a first-time champion is fitting. If anything, this World Cup reflected a bridging of the gap between teams and a paucity of goals. So while Japan looked good to match the best, Ghana missed a semi-final spot by a whisker. And we all know how former Cup winners, Italy and France, were shown the door in the first round itself. 

Another notable feature - a trend that has got more noticeable over the past few World Cups - is the myth of Latin American beauty versus European organisation. However much former stars like Socrates might lament the demise of jogo bonito - or the beautiful game - Brazil has been dishing out workmanlike football with an explosive striker or two since the 1990s. The other Latin American teams have always played a more rugged game, occasionally leavened by a Maradona or Messi. 

The reasons for the uniformity of play and the closing of the gap between countries are fairly obvious. With more and more players flocking to play the European leagues, styles of play have converged. What has long been a normal practice for Latin American players, who have migrated to Europe in droves, is now becoming common for Africans and Asians. Little surprise then that Japan or Ghana has been up to speed in this World Cup. Finally, with imported coaches ruling the roost, the 'national' styles of play have become history. 

Indeed, in this World Cup, some of the most attractive football has been played by Germany. And the Dutch have displayed little of the free-flowing 'total' football for which they are justifiably famous. The eventual winner, Spain, possibly played the best football, combining flair with precision, even as they were helped by a team whose nucleus was drawn from one champion club - Barcelona - redefining the relation between club and country. 

This inevitably brings us to the question that lurks whenever football is discussed here. Why, in this age of globalised football, has India been unable to move beyond the lowest rungs of world soccer? First, we need to jettison the theory that Indians don't have the physique for football. Nothing can be further from the truth. It takes all sorts to play football, and a huge country like India has pretty much all physical types needed to play most sports. Though lack of nutrition is a running theme in analysis of Indian sports, Ian Jack - who has written perceptively on many things Indian - has pointed out in a recent piece that our failure in football is more than a "matter of muscle and eggs". 

Two, there is the equally popular notion that administrators are to blame for India's poor performance in football as well as in other sports. True, India's sports administrators are among the worst in the world. But administrators in many poor countries aren't far behind. Three, there is a fashionable theory propounded by the likes of journalist Simon Kuper that only rich countries excel in football (and democracy, one might add) and sports in general. Kuper even thinks India, with its growing economy, could have a tryst with football glory. While there is something to be said for this hypothesis, there are too many exceptions, including most notably Brazil (well before BRIC became fashionable) and a clutch of Latin American and African countries. 

The clues for India's dismal showing in football must be gleaned from India's sporting history where cricket's huge following has slowly but surely edged out all other sports from popular imagination. It wasn't always this way. Mohun Bagan's famous victory over a British team in 1911 created ripples at the time, but the impact was largely restricted to Bengal. In the early years after independence, India finished fourth in the Olympics in 1956 and won the Asian Games in 1951 and 1962. But somewhere along the way, football fell off the map. Post-1970, when India last won an Asiad bronze, there was hardly any standout performance that could inspire footballers or football fans. In contrast, India's famous cricket victory over England in 1971 and the 1983 World Cup win electrified Indian fans. The final nail in the coffin was the telecast of World Cup games from 1978 onwards followed by European club games on TV, which showed the yawning chasm between Indian football and the rest of the world. 

Though football remained popular in pockets such as Bengal, Kerala, Goa and parts of the north-east, it lost out in the rest of the country. Now, across playing fields in India and even in places like Bengal, the bat and ball dominate where football was once played with gusto. These days there is a growing audience for European club games, which has in turn sparked some interest in football among middle-class kids and led to the organisation of local leagues. But there is little incentive for them to aspire to greater heights. 

A newspaper recently published a telling statistic. Except in places like Bengal and Kerala, the irrelevant cricket Asia Cup, which was being played when the World Cup was on, drew more viewers than football. The fact remains that much of India is obsessed with one sport. Unless that changes, football, or for that matter any other sport, stands very little chance. 

The writer is a visiting fellow at ISAS, National University of Singapore.







Do we really need a Planning Commission? Is the commission, in the words of the minister of road transport and highways, Kamal Nath, a body of armchair analysts? Is it just a bureaucratic set-up that intrudes unnecessarily into the workings of ministries? The commission is indeed a body of armchair analysts, primarily economists. But what else should a think tank with a mandate to plan for the country's future be? The point is a complex nation like India needs a body like the Planning Commission to keep sight of the macro picture and help the Union government prepare policies. 

Different ministries set targets according to their areas of focus. They need not necessarily take into account cross-linkages that exist in the economy and may lose sight of the big picture. Bodies like the Planning Commission that take inputs from academic studies, empirical analysis and experiential record of other countries, and prepare guidelines and policy prescriptions accordingly, are necessary to make sense of the complex strands that make up the Indian economy. Careful study and planning is necessary to maximise the resources we have and plug leakages. Let's remember, along with open markets state planning too had a role to play in the economic miracles many Asian economies have witnessed since the 1960s. 

India is no longer a command economy and there is a vibrant private sector that drives the growth engine. There have been structural changes in the polity with the advent of Panchayati Raj institutions. These changes haven't made the Planning Commission redundant, although they do call for a more modest profile relative to the glory days of the socialist 1950s. It should take care not to overreach itself. But there is certainly room for an advisory role in government for a body of experts that has the broader macroeconomic picture in mind. 








That the Planning Commission is increasingly coming under attack from various quarters is indicative of its diminishing power and role in India's rapidly growing market economy. Kamal Nath's outburst and use of monikers like 'armchair advisors' against the Plan panel can't be dismissed as mere potshots. Nath's jibes raise an important issue related to the ownership of policymaking in a changed economic context. Not so long ago, under a system of centralised investment planning, the panel used to be the supreme authority to decide on every aspect of the functioning of Union ministries and state governments. Instead of focusing on innovative solutions for development, the planners produced a complex and stifling regulatory framework, thereby depriving India of faster growth. 

The major thrust of the economic reforms process in the early 1990s was to end a moribund 'licence raj' system. With increased private sector participation and the government's emphasis on disinvestment, the space for any sort of planning is diminishing rapidly. Now ministries and their nodal departments and state governments enjoy a lot of financial and operational autonomy. Some of them have achieved successes as well. Don't tie them up with red tape from the Planning Commission. 

The suggestion that the commission can be a prescriptive agency and work out sector-specific targets, or provide a holistic integrative role to policy formulation, is nothing but grandiose words to perpetuate an outdated economic order. The Plan panel represents a bloated bureaucracy oblivious to ground realities, as highlighted by Nath. We should do away with such vestiges of the old order that have outlived their utility.








There isn't a single Indian TV news channel that hasn't featured Paul the celebrity octopus. After successfully forecasting the results of all the FIFA World Cup matches, this eight-legged marine creature has proved his clairvoyance. Well, that's at least the case with an energetic game played by the two-legged race, a sport that has become a passion in several countries but is yet to capture the hearts and minds of our young Indians. There's, however, been recent news of threats from German fans to serve Paul up as soup or on seafood platters. But he and his handful of Indian fans seem far from appa(u)led, now that the German authorities have vowed to protect him. Not without reason. 

The Germans, looked upon by the entire Eurozone to pull it out of economic toxicity, have finally found Paul to lend a helping hand. For, if not European youth in search of employment, Paul certainly has many job offers - most of them from India, the only place that has plenty of jobs today! 

So, will Paul prevent the polarisation of countries of the Euro alliance by accepting the offer from our TV business channels to predict the outcome of our stock markets - for which he would have to study some other animals, like bulls and bears? That is the moot question. After a somewhat longish sideways movement of the bourses, analysts are divided over which way the stock market will go. They would welcome Paul's help in figuring out the way ahead. After all, despite several heads pooled together on the issue, there's no consensus on this subject. One can't help but think more legs may work better than more heads. Paul could aid the experts in overcoming their 'predictament' - the predicament of being unable to predict the future. 

But once Paul lands on the shores of our great country, regional politicians will be quick to make angry statements about soothsaying 'outsiders' and root for our traditional parrots. After all, there are many a bird in India competing with Mani, the fortune-telling parakeet who happens to be an astrologer's assistant in Singapore's Little India. Our desi parakeets are waiting to make a complete popat out of Paul the octopus, despite him having got it right with every football match outcome. Only, most of us are likely to think of home-grown psychics as ghar ka tota dal barabar. Which means Paul will get more offers, especially from 'charitable' and flush-with-funds cricketing bodies, to predict the results of IPL matches. Why, he may even have to pick out the man of the match. Be prepared for lots of legwork, Paul! 

Bollywood will then jump into the fray. It'll want to cast Paul in a lead role with a female octopus chosen from a reality TV show to partner him. So if he's worried that all this television coverage will only give him temporary fame, he'll be underestimating the power of publicity on our national channels. Indeed, he'll have an opportunity to dance with his co-star around plastic trees even while a villain forces him to turn his predictions into chores at gunpoint. But what the heck - think of the moolah the industry will offer! 

Psephologists will not be far behind. At the cost of being renamed pse-Paul-logists, they too will extend an invitation to the eight-legged - or is it eight-handed? - creature. This time around, Paul will need to familiarise himself with a dozen national and scores of regional political parties in order to choose winners! That is, if he wants to be here and do something more than just drift listlessly like our bourses. Get the drift? But there's a catch. Paul may survive the threats of being turned into soups or seafood platters. But chances are he may not survive our media trials if ever allegations are made about a 'foreigner' coming to our shores and playing Paulitics! 
So, good luck, Paul. You might just need it.







The trend of finding a problem for every solution has followed the landmark Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act even before it's become halfway operational. While many concerns have been valid in terms of lack of infrastructure or funds, the objections from a section of Muslim clerics to the Act on the grounds that it'll threaten Muslim religious schools are specious. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the largest cleric body in India, has called for consultations at the end of July on the Act that many of the seminary leaders feel could be used to outlaw madrassas. Even by Indian standards of conspiracy theories, this is somewhat far-fetched.


It is clear from the fact that only four per cent of Muslim children attend religious schools that these clerics have appointed themselves spokesmen for a community that doesn't necessarily share their views. There has been a steady increase in enrolment of Muslim children in primary schools across the country, even though the community still remains the most educationally backward. Had the madrassas heeded advice both from the government and the more progressive Muslim clerics to modernise their curricula, perhaps they would have been more attractive to young Muslims. The challenge before Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal is to not cave in and consider amendments to the education act. As members of the second largest majority community in India, it would be a pity if some self-styled representatives derailed its chances of acquiring an education that would give its youth the chance to compete in a globalising world. Mainstreaming education doesn't constitute a cultural or religious threat to so vibrant a faith as Islam.


The positive aspect is that the majority of Muslims do not want to be trapped in the regressive mindset propagated by their clerics. Faith is in no way contraindicative to the tools of modernity, something that has been proved in many Islamic countries. The clerics in India have for too long held the community hostage to their outmoded thinking, a major reason for backwardness among Muslims. Madrassas have a role in propagating religious teachings and will perhaps continue to flourish if they are willing to move with the times. The recent example of women openly challenging the clergy on the issue of divorce shows the extent of disconnect between the people and those who speak in their name. The Right to Education Act offers a level playing field to India's students notwithstanding its teething troubles. No one should deny them the right that has not come easily or too soon.







Nothing like an internal spat to rev things up for the outside public. Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia is an integral part of the 'Modern India, let's go!' team, his colours matching those of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh perfectly. Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath isn't too bad himself, considering that in his earlier incarnation as commerce minister, he proved to be the knight in shining armour whenever World Trade Organisation organisers needed a dekho. But, er,


Mr Ahluwalia and Mr Nath are — oh dear — fighting. What does 21st century India do?


For one, we should get into a serious debate about who's holding whom back. The truth is that the 'accountants' — "Accountants are not people who build roads but you cannot build roads without having decent accounts" — in Mr Ahluwalia's words, are as essential for India's future as Mr Nath's "armchair advisors". For too long, India has survived with the twain never meeting — undulatory roads being built without consequences and Nehruvian Five Year plans without planners and schemers being involved at the 'ground level'.


For us, sitting on the sidelines, the beauty is to see two people on the same side behaving as if they aren't. Mr Nath got worked up and accused the Planning Commission of being a "bunch of armchair advisors". Even as we take offence to that description — because we are the arm chairest of all arm chair advisors — we must insist that Mr Nath understand that to every yin there is a yang. Governmentally, that means, two sides of the same coin hanging out and agreeing. Which doesn't mean that it doesn't make good entertainment for the proverbial 'outside public'. We do understand the sticky situations within a joint family situation. So...







Considerable euphoria is once again being generated over the latest prediction by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting India's growth rate to be 9.4 per cent during the calendar year 2010. The infamous 'feel good' factor that spelt the rout of the BJP-led NDA in the 2004 general elections is surfacing now to haunt the UPA 2 government. The question is not about the quantum of the rate of growth — the plight of the people can be assessed just by seeing the fine print of how the benefits of such growth have been distributed. It's true that during the course of this year, the number of USD billionaires in India doubled to 52, holding combined assets equivalent to 25 per cent of our GDP. On the other hand, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) update for 2009 shows that 320 million Indians, more than the combined population of the US and Australia, live under extreme poverty. The World Bank's global economic prospects show that 827.7 million, or 75.6 per cent of our population, live on less than $2 a day. This is equivalent to 32 per cent of the world's population. 


India ranks 134 out of 182 countries on the Human Development Index, lower than all other BRIC countries. Its record in attaining the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is equally discouraging. The MDG target of reducing the poverty rate in India to 16 per cent, according to international definitions, by 2015 appears virtually impossible.  By our own standards, which are far lower than international definitions, the Suresh Tendulkar Committee has estimated that 37 per cent of the total population lives the below poverty line.


The MDG targeted to reduce infant mortality to 40 per 1,000. Today, we stand at 68 infant deaths per thousand while the mortality rate for children below 5 years is 93 per 1,000 births. Agencies like the Unicef and FAO report that 43 per cent of Indian children are underweight and 230.5 million children remain undernourished. Likewise, in all other MDG targets, like providing safe drinking water, sanitation, health and education, India lags far behind.


While this state of affairs must cause both concern and agony, what's worse is that the recent hike in the prices of petroleum products will push more people below the poverty line. Already the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) reports that nearly four crores more people were pushed below the poverty line due to an increase in the costs of health care alone. The recent price hike comes on top of the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities. The overall rate of inflation is already more than double of what the Reserve Bank of India had anticipated at 5.5 per cent for this time of the year.


While the government talks of subsidies on petroleum products, it seeks to conceal the fact that taxes on petroleum products constitute the biggest chunk of revenue for the government. In 2010-11, the contribution of these taxes is expected to be to the tune of a whopping Rs 1,20,000 crores.


India needs to import crude oil since our domestic production is insufficient to sustain our economy.  This is akin to importing foodgrains during a famine to feed our people. Surely, the government can't tax such foodgrains imports, essential for the life of our people. Likewise, it can't impose massive taxes and duties on oil imports. Worse, having imposed such high taxes, the government now turns to claim that it is subsidising petroleum products.


In an attempt to justify this hike, the prime minister, while attending the G-20 Summit in Canada last month, said, "The adjustment (sic) that has been made in the prices of kerosene and LPG was also necessary, considering the very high subsidy that is implicit in their pricing structure." In the interest of the aam aadmi, the prime minister should have made 'adjustment' in the tax structure rather than hike prices that will devastate the majority of our people.


Strangely, India follows a policy of pricing petroleum products on the basis of international prices rather than the actual costs of production. We import nearly 80 per cent of our crude oil requirement. It is then processed in our refineries to produce products like petrol, diesel, kerosene etc. India is more than self-sufficient in oil refining and, in fact, exported 28 million tonnes of petroleum products last year. Naturally, the cost of refining in India is much lower than that in developed countries. Yet, in order to fatten the profits of oil companies, we have to pay at par with global prices irrespective of the actual production and refining costs.


Further, the total deregulation of prices of petroleum products will ensure their entry into commodity exchanges and make them subject to speculative forward/futures trading. Such speculation is already playing havoc with the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities.


If the prime minister is true to his rhetoric of 'inclusive growth' and the UPA is concerned about the aam aadmi, then the present course of economic policies must be radically changed. Rather than giving tax concessions to the tune of Rs 1,20,000 crores to corporates and high-end income tax payers, as revealed in this year's budget papers, this revenue should have been collected to increase public investment. It would have ensured massive employment generation, helped in building infrastructure and moving towards achieving the MDGs. Concessions to the rich are termed as 'incentives' spurring growth. Concessions to the poor are treated as 'subsidies' that inhibit growth. Unless this is reversed, the aam aadmi is doomed.


Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal







Chatting with a friend who recently got married and discussing her transition from a daughter to a daughter-in-law, I was touched that a new relation had caused a sense of awakening in her about family unity.


Things she now misses most after marriage are fights with her mom, clarifying a late night outing to her elder brother when back home and dads hand on her head. She wants to fight with her mother to hug her more, she wants to communicate her silent sense of respect for her father and she wants to forgive her elder brother for being extra possessive.


In order to fulfill her individual desires, she led her own separate life as a daughter which left her disconnectedness within the family.


Are you spending enough time with your family? Who defines 'enough'?


There is no measure or may be the only measure is the human emotion experienced while you are spending time with them. In the Gita, Arjuna stresses on the importance of home life. Its shattering causes melancholy for years.


Unity of the community as a whole is a result of unity of a particular family. Cultural purity of a family leads to unity of thought within family. To live by dharmameans to maintain the cultural sanctity of one's own family.


Respect for each other is the key for a happy and joyous family. Silent respect is often misunderstood. It has to be backed by communication. Talking, communicating and responding create threads of happiness in human ties. They flourish when watered with love, tears and cheers- catalyst of all being communication. 


Another crucial factor is the practice of forgiveness. Krishna says in the Gita that 'forgiveness is one of the characteristics of one born for a divine state'. A hug is the most underestimated and least practiced act by many. We do believe in the power of sharing love through hugs; but do we practice it? When was the last time you hugged your mother to tell her you love her?








A consortium of official organisations, including the Archaeological Survey of India and city bodies, has entered a public-private partnership for the urban renewal of Delhi's Nizamuddin area. Drawing on the experience of "old city" redevelopments in mega-cities like Cairo, the project aims to reintegrate three hubs in the neighbourhood, Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, Humayun's Tomb and Sunder Nursery, for better conservation and better quality of life for residents. The neighbourhood, rich in pilgrimage destinations and Mughal architecture, is a fine example of living heritage by its inhabitants, who draw visitors to bustling bazaars, shrines and restaurants. The challenge is to reconcile the older and area-specific rhythms of the neighbourhood with a forward-looking revamp of community facilities and public spaces. The project has announced itself up to the task, and the experience could be a learning curve for other historic quarters.


As our cities expand, it's inevitable that the centres of gravity will shift from the old quarters. And this has tended to happen in more ways than just social and economic activity — given the urban sprawls, the political clout of the old cities has diminished a great deal, especially after the fresh delimitation of constituencies. Almost serendipitously, however, other trends have served to reconnect the old cities to the new. In Delhi, for instance, the Metro collapsed distances to Chandni Chowk, giving Delhiites a way to cut through the congestion, thereby making its traditional eateries and traders more economically viable — and, in turn, giving locals stakes in an urban makeover.


Old cities are not just clusters of heritage structures, and enlightened conservation is based on enhancing the quality of life of inhabitants in a way that celebrates interaction between them and visitors, whether tourists or residents in the wider metropolis.







If necessity indeed be the mother of invention, dysfunctionality begets improvisation. State healthcare in India and rural healthcare in particular, in contrast to the rising standards of urban, private healthcare, remain abysmal. Most of rural north and northeastern India suffer from the lack of skilled practitioners to provide primary healthcare as well as from high, chronic absenteeism. Under the circumstances, it's been long necessary to improvise and rescue rural healthcare. That improvisation could be the Bachelor for Rural Medicine Course (BRMC), which has been approved by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, and is now left to individual states to adopt.


The idea of training a rural medical cadre, in a short-term course distinct from the five-and-a-half-year MBBS, is not newfound. However, its promotion this time by the Medical Council of India has made a difference, especially as the opposition had come from a medical fraternity apprehensive of the disparity it might create between "rural" and "urban" doctors. With its


ambit limited to general medicine, the course will be district-based, provided by medical schools tagged to public district hospitals, wherever districts lack medical colleges. Every year, thousands of students compete for MBBS seats — the number of which are already inadequate for India's requirements. While this lack of infrastructure severely limits the number of medical practitioners (especially in rural areas) alternative proposals, such as mandatory deployment of new graduates in rural health centres, did not take off. It was argued, for instance, that this is unfair towards young doctors who anyway need a long time to establish themselves.


The "short-course" health practitioner, about to be institutionalised, can thus address the lack of trained healthcare providers in rural areas. Nevertheless, the Union health ministry and the states would do well to keep in mind the disappointing experience of Chhattisgarh in implementing something similar, but by bypassing the MCI. The system must be flexible and attend to support institutions as well as long-term career aspirations of practitioners after their compulsory service. Without adequate regulation and motivation, including potential for further specialisation, this pragmatic scheme too could fail.







Fortunately, I will not have to spend 90 per cent of my time on security related issues. Instead, we can focus on governance," said Omar Abdullah, as he took charge as the youngest ever chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Confident and competent-seeming, Abdullah was seen as someone who had inherited a new set of circumstances — if not entirely scraped clean of conflict, the state was definitely more willing to invest faith in the political process.


A year-and-a-half later, he finds his promises flung back at him as the Valley seethes in protest after a series of covert killings and open confrontations between security forces and stone-pelting protesters. But Omar Abdullah, whose impassioned speech in Parliament brought him such welcome attention, has been striking in his inability to show empathy and leadership when it matters most. When news of the violence came, he was away in Gulmarg. He dashed in, quickly replaced the Srinagar SSP, and returned to his holiday. Under pressure, he retains too casual a touch, and tends to focus on sloppy fixes. As revealed in the Shopian incident, the CM's idea of crisis management is to hit out blindly at the police rather than leading a patient and thorough investigation. Even more glaring is his tendency to process and assimilate events through the lens of his own personal glory. When a PDP leader accused him of being involved in the sex scandal that rocked Srinagar, Abdullah impetuously offered to resign, claiming he could not tolerate a blot on his image. As crisis after crisis tested him, he's come across as childishly self-absorbed — even now he has to be reminded by the home ministry to visit the strife-torn areas. He has done little to counter the impression that he is more comfortable schmoozing and networking in Delhi than getting down to the slow administrative slog in the state. Even now, he presents this turn of events as a "political and personal setback", as though the turmoil that has beset the state was merely a spot on his own report card, instead of radiating the reassurance the people need that this spell of trouble will be competently dealt with. Of course, it doesn't help that his opponents are even less credible — Mehbooba Mufti pettishly refused to turn up for the all-party meeting.


 Either way, Jammu and Kashmir's well-being is too important to be left to Omar Abdullah's trial-and-error methods. Perhaps, as he privately works out his own identity struggles, it would be sensible to ask Farooq Abdullah to play a bigger role in the state.








 Every four years, we're permitted a glimpse of a hopeful future. One in which cities formerly considered grimy and crime-ridden are instead sparklingly friendly. In which everyone stands patiently through everybody else's national anthems. In which people take an interest in towns, countries and people of which they would otherwise never have heard. In which, most importantly, bellowing and unreliable television pundits are replaced by dignified psychic octopuses in transparent tanks.


But that future is always, always, shadowed by the past. The colours that starry-eyed fans have painted

crookedly on their cheeks might have been born in war — real war, shooting war — between their ancestors and those of the people next to them who're wearing silly hats of a slightly different colour.


Both looking forward and looking back, the World Cup has a special edge. And that edge comes from the fact that no other tournament — actually, no other event of any sort — causes us to look outwards, at other countries, quite as much. And no other event causes us to stop and think about what "countries" mean today quite as much, either.


For example: how much do countries' pasts matter, anyway? A question worth asking, especially after this final, in which the wars and oppressions and nationalisms of past centuries seemed forgotten. Those wearing orange in the stands, the Oranje on the pitch, both cared little that they wore that colour because of William the Silent, Prince of Orange, who rose in revolt four centuries ago — against the kings of Spain, decked out then as now in the red and gold, the rojigualda. And many remarked on the oddness of strong support for a dour Dutch team in a South Africa long ruled by dour white men with Dutch names. That couldn't be due to fading memories of a dim past: Jacob Zuma, in the stands, could not but have noticed that the most dangerous footballer on the pitch shared a surname with the former prison island off Cape Town where the future president spent 10 years — some of those captaining a prisoners' football team.


Robben Island may not have been forgotten. But the memory of it is not allowed to sting. Sport doesn't just sublimate nationalist passions, redirects them. It modifies them, it smoothens their raw edges, it gives them an entirely new narrative to twist around. When England play Argentina, more than the Falklands War is being re-fought; it is the Hand of God quarter-final of 1986, Beckham's red-card game of 1998. Tragedy and victimhood create national narratives. In the age of World Cup Nationalism, a good number of those national tragedies feature a referee who looked the other way.


Football, time and again, is how countries reinvent their national identities. Look at the Germans. Thirty years ago, they would roll down the pitch like Panzers across the steppe. Unstoppable, brutal, machine-like, if brilliant. Today, half the names on their roster are Polish, Turkish, or Tunisian. They play with the athleticism and sudden, startling speed that always marked German teams; but the defence-spanning passes, the delicacy, the exuberance are new. And, just as the team has reinvented itself, so has the country. Those Turkish names? Because the Germans finally changed their laws, and you no longer need to be of the Volk to be of the Reich. That exuberance? Because, finally, the Germans are outgrowing the guilt of the 20th century — something first visible in the last World Cup, when a million flags were put out in a country that had been allergic to them for generations, and, even more wonderfully, Europe smiled indulgently instead of feeling a twinge of foreboding.


It is difficult to believe that a team's past, and how it plays today, are not intimately bound up with how the country views itself. Look now at Spain, finally world champions. Why did it take so long? Their domestic league is among the best in the world. They regularly produce the world's finest footballers. Yet they never, till now, progressed beyond the quarter-finals. Some would say the country's internal divisions have something to do with it. Catalonia was, in a way, the Netherlands of Spain: cosmopolitan, liberal, open. Yet the national side was for years almost the same as that of Real Madrid, the royal team, Generalissimo Franco's team. Real Madrid dominated Europe's clubs for decades; but the national side it fed lost, regularly. Now, even as a million people march through Barcelona for Catalonian nationhood, Spain's team reflects how inter-regional power has shifted.


 Its core is from FC Barcelona. It plays like Barcelona — or, in another odd resonance, like the Dutch team of Barcelona-based Johann Cruyff. And it has won, with one crucial header coming from Carles Puyol, the curly-headed embodiment of Catalan pride.


I don't believe that national characters exist. But national sides play as if they have a character; and sometimes that leaches into what we believe a country is like, and sometimes what a country's people are believed to be becomes how their team plays. The Brazilians, of course, are joyful samba dancers, people who play out of enthusiasm, not to impose their will on the opposition, a team beloved of all, even their opponents. And is that not what the people on the streets of Rio are like? Is that not what loveable Lula's foreign policy is like? Perhaps there's an overlap. Or perhaps we have only come to believe there's one.


So team sports are like martial music. If played and orchestrated properly, both can reach into the hindbrains of even the most cosmopolitan of us and tug tribal instincts that were otherwise atrophying quietly away. As Bengal can tell you, you don't even have to be from somewhere to feel a tribal affiliation with their football team. But doesn't club competition do that too? Not quite. The best club football is better than any World Cup football. But it can never be as compelling. Why? Two differences, one emotional, and one actual. First of all, national sides can't buy anyone they want, like the best clubs. So you can, fascinated, see their play adapting to constraints of the people they have.


But, second, clubs can no longer claim to share quirks of character with their fans. A sameness has crept across European club football. In international football, the differences in style and successes can be stark. Squinting into those gaps, we believe we can see enormous questions of identity, self-belief, national pride.


Listen, sagacious cephalopod I am not. But this I can predict of our future: international sport — and especially the World Cup — will remain our greatest celebration of our common humanity and its uncommon divisions. Look on these works, ye IPL-lovers, and despair.








The signing of the six bilateral pacts between India and Iran has been interpreted as part of India's own Af-Pak policy. Analysts have indicated that India is preparing itself not only for decreased US presence in Afghanistan after July 2011, but also to counter Pakistan's growing role.


There are reports, vociferously denied by Kabul, that secret talks have taken place between the Afghan president and Taliban affiliate Sirajuddin Haqqani. As President Hamid Karzai appears desperate to start moving on his reconciliation plan with the Taliban, a strategy which has been supported by the US, there is a realisation that Pakistan holds the key to success.


While optimists can still argue that the warmth between Afghanistan and Pakistan will not be at India's cost, it remains a fact that in recent months Karzai has tried to sideline the Northern Alliance (NA) — a group that not only remains opposed to any form of peace with the Taliban, but is also known for its pro-India outlook. Karzai's dismissal of Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and National Security Chief Amrullah Saleh, both belonging to the NA, citing security lapses leading to an attack on the recent peace Jirga, is being interpreted as a move to remove internal hurdles to the reconciliation plan. These developments have emerged as a major dilemma for India, diluting the goodwill generated by its $1.3 billion investment in Afghanistan. The danger of Afghanistan slipping into the hold of its western neighbour appears imminent, as the US looks committed to decreasing its presence.


Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao minced no words prior to the two-day India-Iran joint commission meeting: "We need to move beyond mere articulation of positions as the Afghan conundrum deepens and could have a deleterious impact on our two countries and the region in case the forces of extremism and obscurantism are made arbiters of the fate of the Afghan people." She maintained that neither India nor Iran "wish to see the prospect of fundamentalist and extremist groups once again suppressing the aspirations of the Afghan people and forcing Afghanistan back to being a training ground and sanctuary for terrorist groups."


Iran remains an influential regional power with whom India has common ground, when it comes to Afghanistan. The Taliban remains anathema for Tehran, as for India — its extremist theology and its killing of Afghan Shia Muslims have angered Iran. In 1999, Iran almost went to war against the Taliban after its militia killed eight Iranian diplomats and a journalist. In the mid-'90s, concern over the Taliban and the rising influence of Pakistan in Afghanistan had brought India and Iran together in supporting the Northern Alliance along with Russia. However, bilateral relations between India and Tehran have soured in recent years as a result of growing Indo-US ties.


In the changing times, does Tehran need India as much as India needs Tehran? Yes, to the extent that India helps it come out of its pariah status. Despite its contributions during the Bonn process, the Bush administration has been sceptical of Iranian involvement in Afghan affairs. US officials, including the former US and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal, have accused Iran of arming sections of the Taliban and having taught them the art of roadside bombings. Such perceptions have persisted under the Obama administration, even though a section within it appears to believe that Washington and Iran could cooperate over stabilising Afghanistan. While Iran can be India's ally in Afghanistan, India's support for Iran can help it break free from a regime of sanctions and embargoes. India wants Iran to complete the formalities that would let India finish building the Chahbahar port in the Sunni-dominated Balochistan. This project along with the completed Zaranj-Delaram highway has the potential of opening up the Indian market to Afghan exports, bypassing Pakistan. It will also open up India's access to the Central Asian economies.


India's policy of putting all its eggs in one basket as far as Afghanistan is concerned has paid it little dividends. American dependence on Pakistan to provide a solution to the Afghanistan problem has persisted and deepened over the years, in spite of all the evidence detailing linkages


between the Taliban and the Pakistani army and ISI. And as the US prepares to scale down its military presence, Pakistan is emerging as the sole power broker in Kabul.


The renewal of Indo-Iran ties will certainly not be music to American ears. However, it might propel Washington to rethink its Af-Pak policy and move forward on Obama's initial promise of using diplomacy to engage Iran. And for India, with its global leadership aspirations, this could be the beginning of formulating a regional strategy of its own. Coming a few months ahead of Obama's India tour, the move could not have been better timed.


The writer is a research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore








 Former US ambassador to India, former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration and now senior fellow at the RAND Corporation, Robert Blackwill has outlined a new strategy for the US to deal with the Afghan Taliban, at minimum cost to American and allied forces. In one sense, it can be interpreted as the inexorable strategic logic that is bound to propel US action, sooner or later. Simply put, the strategy suggests that the US accept a de facto partition of Afghanistan between Pashtun and non-Pashtun areas, concentrate its forces in non-Pashtun areas, and maintain an effective air force including drones and special forces to strike relentlessly at the Taliban leadership in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.


Blackwill is compelled to advocate this strategy, given Pakistan's double game in dealing with the Afghan Taliban, corruption and the increasing alienation of the Karzai government, the inefficiency and combat-unworthiness of the Afghan forces being raised, and the tribal divisions in Pashtun Afghanistan. He argues that American and allied casualties are not commensurate with the results achieved, and are not likely to be, despite surges of various magnitudes. So he advocates adopting new policy goals for Afghanistan that, realistically, have a better chance of succeeding. This means accepting a de facto partition enforced by US and NATO air power and special forces, the Afghan army and international partners. The US should retain an active combat role in Afghanistan for years to come and should not accept permanent Taliban control of the south.


But the US should be ready to assist tribal leaders on the Pashtun periphery, who may decide to resist the Taliban. The focus will be on defending the northern and western regions — containing roughly 60 per cent of the population. These areas, including Kabul, are not Pashtun dominated, and locals are largely sympathetic to US efforts. The US should offer the Afghan Taliban an agreement in which neither side seeks to enlarge its territory — if the Taliban stopped supporting terrorism, a proposal that they would almost certainly reject.


In those circumstances the US should make it clear that it would rely heavily on air power and special forces to target any Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan Taliban leaders who aided them. They would also target Afghan Taliban encroachments across the de-facto partition lines and terrorist sanctuaries along the Pakistan border.This may require a longtime residual US military force in Afghanistan of about 40,000 to 50,000 troops. Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and anti-Taliban Pashtuns could be mobilised in this endeavour, as well as NATO allies, Russia, India, Iran, perhaps China, and Central Asian nations. Afghan army training could be accelerated and also nation-building efforts in the northern and western regions, where, unlike the Pashtun areas, people are not systematically coerced by the Taliban. In due course, a stronger Afghan National Army could take control of the Pashtun areas.


He argues that "such fundamentally changed US objectives and strategies regarding Afghanistan would dramatically reduce US military casualties and thus minimise domestic political pressure for hasty withdrawal. It would substantially lower our budget-breaking military expenditures on Afghanistan — now nearly $7 billion per month.This would also allow the US Army and Marines to recover from years of fighting two ground wars; increase the likelihood that our coalition allies, with fewer casualties, might remain over the long term; encourage most of Afghanistan's neighbours to support an acceptable stabilisation of the country and reduce Islamabad's ability to parlay the US ground role in southern Afghanistan into tolerance for terrorism emanating from Pakistan."


He accepts that there are problems with this approach: "The Taliban could trumpet victory or not accept a sustained status quo and continually test US resolve. It is likely that lower-level violence would persist in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, especially in the south... Pashtun Afghanistan could again become a hotbed of international terrorism, a dangerous outcome that probably could only be avoided by US combat forces fighting there for years — and, in any case, the current Al Qaeda epicentre is in Pakistan."


In the context of de facto partition, Blackwill argues, "the sky over Pashtun Afghanistan would be dark with manned and unmanned coalition aircraft — targeting not only terrorists but the new Taliban government in all its dimensions". He accepts that "Pakistan would likely oppose de facto partition. Managing Islamabad's reaction would be no easy task — not least because the Pakistan military expects a strategic gain once the US military withdraws from Afghanistan. Indeed, Islamabad might need to be persuaded to concentrate, with the United States, on defeating the Pakistan Taliban and containing the Afghan Taliban to avoid momentum toward a fracturing of the Pakistan state."


The last sentence is pregnant with dark forebodings for Pakistan. A Taliban-dominated Pashtun Afghanistan and Pakistani Pashtun areas under Pakistani Taliban influence are likely to move towards their long-cherished goal of scrapping the Durand Line and uniting to form the independent Pashtunistan. If that were to happen, Baloch, Sindhi and Balti nationalist assertions cannot be far behind. The Taliban dominated Pashtunistan may conclude a deal with the US to break off with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. In that event, Pakistan, instead of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan will be in danger of losing Pashtun areas of Pakistan. In the alternative theTaliban may continue its links with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations. In that case, their anger at being constantly hit by US airpower may turn on the Pakistan army and state with terrorist attacks on Pakistani Punjab being stepped up.


The Blackwill article is a clear warning to the Pakistan army leadership and its supporters in the government who have deluded themselves and even persuaded a large number of policy makers and analysts in US, India and the West that the Pakistan army has all the aces in this game and the US is desperately dependent on Pakistan for its Afghan strategy.The present US strategy attempts to preserve the unity and integrity of Pakistan and Afghanistan, as it is today. The US is prepared to accept some costs to itself in terms of casualties to secure the best possible result. If the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continue to play games with the US as they think they can and get away with it, then the US will have to secure its national security interests at the cost of Pakistani unity and integrity. That is the message of Blackwill's article. President Obama has many options between accepting defeat and withdrawal and being compelled to accept unacceptable casualties. The Pakistan army should not repeat the blunders of 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 through its overconfidence.


The writer is a senior defence analyst








 I'm so scared" said Arjun Bhatia's mother to his beleaguered father. Arjun, three and a half, jumped on and off the sofa unmindful of the "trauma and tension associated with nursery school admissions" — precisely what the Ganguli Committee report (2006) had sought to prevent. That well-intentioned scheme, with marks assigned for proximity to the school, alumni status, sibling presence and girl child applications, has unfortunately been twisted out of shape.


Thousands of hapless parents continue to hurtle from one school to another to get a child admitted. The government says it is helpless, because the scheme is not of its creation but the result of judicial fiat. The maximum manipulation takes place when the management assigns a whopping 20 per cent to 40 per cent marks for "educational and professional qualifications" of parents — with no criteria. Another area where schools fiddle admissions is the 10 per cent "management quota". When some upmarket schools command up to Rs 10 lakh per seat, this quota is stretched elastically.


For these and several other reasons, the nursery admission process remains unfair and convoluted. Nothing can be explain how a kid from Bengali Market, with both parents in professional jobs, was denied admission to every school in New Delhi. And what is a toddler from Anand Vihar in East Delhi doing in a school on Mathura Road 20 km away if the neighbourhood concept is being implemented?


Hundreds of bleary eyed four-year-olds are wrenched out of bed, lifted bodily and dispatched in a trundling school bus at 6:45 am, to return only at about 4 pm. "It's torturing the child" says Dr R.K. Sharma a veteran of the Delhi education department.


What then is the bigger picture? Half of Delhi's 1200 recognised public schools admit children into nursery; between them they account for 40,000 nursery seats throughout Delhi. With approximately 250,000 infants born each year calculating the numbers seeking nursery admission is child's play. The bulk of children from the lower middle and working classes go to government or municipal schools, whether owned or aided. That still leaves at least 50,000 families, mainly from the upper-middle class, seeking admission in privately-run schools.


Of the 600 private schools offering nursery admission, only 150 belong to what the education directorate's officers tend to call "hi-fi" schools. And because these are predominantly located in three districts — New Delhi, south, and south-west Delhi — upwardly mobile parents make a beeline there. East Delhi with a huge and upmarket resident profile has only 10 "hi-fi" schools. Another 130 schools in the district are termed "moderate", a euphemism for "simply not good enough".


Given these numbers, and that at stake is not just a nursery admission for a four-year-old but the child's 14 subsequent years — and perhaps his college prospects and career options— it is inevitable that the managements of sought- after schools are battered with influence and money.


What is the way out? First, the education directorate plays an important task while "recognising" private schools. Inspections are conducted to check existence of prescribed benchmarks which include infrastructure, the presence of properly trained and salaried teachers, water and fire services and a range of extracurricular activities. When all this information is available, it ought to be shared on the the directorate's website, with the result of the last inspection and the previous year's school-leaving examination results. That would give a better idea of the school's quality and educational attainment.


Second, segregate unaided private nursery and primary schools from the middle and secondary schools. The entry point for middle school should be Class 6. Until then children should attend nearby schools as a matter of right — and use their precious childhood to learn socialisation skills, the three "R"s, and to play and express themselves with abandon. That is the system the world over. Why not here?


Admission into Class 6 should be done on the basis of an objective-type test among recognised private schools, seat allotment made on the basis of merit-cum-preference, and finally through a lottery within the qualified group. The Delhi Education Act of 1976 should be amended to ensure that primary and middle school management is separated and the merit-cum-preference test for admission to middle schools is administered much like centralised examinations for professional courses. The idea has worked well in the United States, which runs "magnet schools" which attract the best students, and no pressure and stress issues stand in the way there.


The result would be fewer panicky parents, an authentic picture of school performance to guide them, and little or no stress on the young child whose real chance will come at age 12, not 4. The present laissez-faire approach has been disastrous.


Of course the RTE Act will need amending, to allow for middle school admission tests after Class 5. This screening has produced tens of thousands of shining students, via the Jawahar Navodyas and the Delhi government's Pratibha schools. We need more of that ethos and less shackles on children's childhood.


The writer is a former Chief Secretary of Delhi







South Africa reflects on a job well done...


As host of the most-watched sporting event on earth, South Africa set out to reinvent itself in the eyes of the world, casting off its reputation as a place defined by violent crime, poverty and AIDS. To a remarkable degree, it succeeded. But as the World Cup ended Sunday, what most surprised South Africans was how much the month-long sporting extravaganza had changed the way they see themselves.


A fledgling democracy that has struggled to address its profound social ills proudly discovered it could deliver a mega-event that required years of careful investment and planning. A country whose politics have been damaged recently by bitter, racially tinged invective offered hundreds of thousands of visitors an affectionate welcome.


And a body politic fractured by race and inequality caught glimpses, perhaps as fleeting as the games themselves, of what it would mean to overcome those barriers. At a free fan park set up for big-screen viewing of matches here on the public square known as the Grand Parade, South Africans mingled across lines of race and class in a way that is rare and precious here.


A black waiter and a white college student shared a cigarette as they gabbed about soccer in the square, where southern Africa's first white settlement was established in the 1650s and Mr. Mandela first spoke when he was freed after 27 years in prison. Black teachers from the townships merrily downed cups of beer amid rowdy white fans. A mixed-race theatre worker, ordinarily fearful of crime, took his first night-time ride on a public train along with vuvuzela-blowing, Xhosa-singing South Africans so he could be part of something larger than himself.


Again and again, South Africans described doing metaphorical double takes as their countrymen — and sometimes they themselves — did unexpected things. Athol Trollip, the parliamentary leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, supported mostly by white and mixed-race voters, said his family — which had followed the "white" sports of rugby and cricket — got caught up in soccer, the passion of the black majority. "In my home, no one used to watch soccer, except for my son," he said. "The rest have never watched it in their lives, but they sat glued to it for the first time."


Niq Mhlongo, author of After Tears, a comic novel of black township life, rooted in the final match for the Dutch — colonialist forebears of the white Afrikaners who for decades oppressed blacks here — in part because it would do the country good to "see our own Afrikaner brothers being happy." He described the disorienting delight of watching white South Africans fly the flag of democratic South Africa, blow vuvuzelas and wear the bright yellow T-shirts of Bafana Bafana, South Africa's soccer team, which lost early on. The unabashed patriotism of whites for their black-led nation heartened many.


"This is a South Africa I don't know," he said. "The country became pleasantly alien to me." Before the World Cup started a month ago, the conversation here was focused less on the tournament's potential spiritual benefits than on whether it made sense to lavish $5 billion on a giant party for the rest of the world when South Africa has such staggering social needs. This debate over priorities continues, but for now optimists are talking about the short-term gains and long-term promise the hosting of the games allowed.


For the past month, South Africa has escaped with nary a major labour strike or incidence of civil unrest among its disgruntled poor and very little crime. But beneath the good fortune lies something more fundamental: The way South Africans of all races live is shaped by fear of crime, and during the World Cup, the government carved out public spaces that it made safe with a highly concentrated police presence that critics say will be impossible to sustain.


In ordinary times here, crime has replaced apartheid — the legally enforced system that ruthlessly separated the races — as the great social divider. Middle-class people, black and white, live behind walls edged with electrified wires and drive to heavily guarded malls with their car doors locked and windows rolled up.


But for the past month, the 44,000 of the country's 190,000 police officers who were deployed to protect tourists also managed to liberate their own countrymen, freeing them to leave their isolated bubbles. Police officials say crime was down, not just for tourists, but more broadly.


Here in Cape Town, the police were not posted just to the city's Giorgio Armani of a World Cup stadium — spare, elegant and lovely — but also in free fan parks, along streets where people went club-hopping and on public transportation. That included the train line that ran through the colored township where Mr. Abrahams, the theatre worker, lives and Langa, a black township, before reaching downtown. Mr. Abrahams said the extra contingent of armed policemen roaming through the train cars helped him overcome his fear of muggers there. "I didn't have to be scared," he said.


Indeed, the World Cup brought a kind of normalcy to South African life. "There's a sense this World Cup hasn't been about the legacy of apartheid, but about how good the roads are, how safe the streets are, how great the game parks are," said the historian Bill Nasson. Tourists here at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront did not talk about Nelson Mandela when asked what they thought of the country, but admired the plentitude of fancy shopping malls, smooth superhighways and stylish hotels.


Many South Africans wish the rollicking World Cup ride did not have to end and are already asking whether the nation can muster the same unity and can-do spirit to tackle its far more intractable problems. But for now, they are savoring sweet victory for the country. "What A Show!" exclaimed The Sunday Times, while The Sunday Independent proclaimed it "Africa's Greatest Moment."


...and looks to the future


The World Cup is over, but the business model is safe at Bacini's, a pizzeria and gathering place for watching soccer in Cape Town. Before the Cup began, the proprietor of Bacini's, Raimondo Napoli, and his sister Raffaella painted a promise in bold letters on the wall outside their restaurant on Kloof Street: "Free Pizza for Life if South Africa Wins the World Cup."


It was a relatively safe bet to begin with, and Bafana Bafana failed to advance even to the second round. But that did not stop the flow of fans of all nationalities into Bacini's before, during and after the games.


"I must be honest, I'm waiting for it to finish now, because I'm so tired," Raffaella Napoli said. "But it's just one month. You just suck it in and go for it. The World Cup's not going to be here in my lifetime again."


But Bacini's will keep selling pizza and televising sports in the months ahead, too. For others, the window of opportunity is closing. Farther down Kloof Street in a craft shop named Heartworks, Lameck Tayengwa has been working since December just behind the main window, making makarapa hats as souvenirs. The makarapa — brightly colored headgear made from a converted construction helmet — is one of the symbols of the South African soccer fan, and Tayengwa has been selling his national team designs, mostly to foreigners, for 385 rand, or $51, apiece.


South Africa, Germany and the Netherlands have been his most popular models, but Saturday was his last day painting them at the shop. "I've sold about 560 of them, so it's been a good World Cup for me," said Tayengwa, one of thousands of Zimbabweans who have left their troubled country and moved to South Africa seeking economic opportunity.


The Zimbabwean expatriate community here is deeply concerned about what happens next, with many of them expressing concern that, with the World Cup over and the public relations imperative no longer a factor, they will be subject to recriminations from South Africans who resent their presence and perceive them as an economic threat. Tayengwa prefers to remain optimistic after all the good vibrations of the past month. "I think it will be O.K.," he said. "The police say that they have tight security, so they will keep those people under control. There's not going to be xenophobia, I don't think."


A huge sporting event is a transformative experience for any city, changing its rhythms and outlook and usually its landscape, too. Cape Town now has improved transportation infrastructure as well as the luminous — if hardly essential — new stadium in Green Point that raises the question of what will happen to Newlands, the iconic rugby stadium on the other side of the city.


"I hope we can use the momentum," said Garth Enslin, a South African who attended the game between Germany and Argentina with his family last week. "But I think it's the same as the 1995 rugby World Cup here. I think it will have its period, and then life carries on. That's the way it works. I think it will last a little bit, but people get back to the normal way again, with their arguments and their gripes and everything else. It's one of those things."


Staging the Olympics seems like a logical next step to many Capetonians. The city bid unsuccessfully for the

2004 Summer Olympic Games, but it has much more credibility and momentum now. A bid for the 2020 or

2024 Olympics is considered likely and already has the backing of the president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter. A Summer Olympics is, of course, a much greater logistical challenge, with 28 sports instead of just one and more than 10,000 athletes to house, transport and keep safe instead of just 736 soccer players. Cape Town, with a population of about 3 million, would be small for a Summer Olympics host city, and its compact center would be strained by the huge infrastructure demands of a Games.


"I think Africa needs an Olympics," Enslin said. "I think it's good for the continent. When I look at the way people got behind Ghana's team here, I think it's amazing. Every one of my South African friends, and I'm born and bred South African, were all 100 per cent behind Ghana."


But until the next global sporting event further transforms their city, Capetonians and those who live and work every day in places like Kloof Street will have the memories of this Cup — of the thousands of Dutch and German and Argentine fans filling up the bars and squares and transforming Somerset Road from a busy thoroughfare for cars and trucks into a colorful, pedestrian-only parade.


"The vibe has been great," said Martine Meneses, a 27-year-old who works behind the counter at Melissa's Food Shop. "It's been so nice to meet people so full of life. I hope for the long term it will change things, and I hope a lot of people will see that there's a lot more to South Africa than all the doom and gloom you hear about in the news overseas."








As the coveted FE Best Banks Awards take stock of financial inclusion tonight, the latent opportunity must be harnessed through a combination of innovation in distribution channels, application of low-cost technology and regulatory facilities. Access to an affordable banking system is the most important parameter for inclusive growth and stability, as more than half of the country's population is not a part of any formal banking system. This would mean writing new regulations to facilitate financial inclusion without compromising on prudential and financial integrity. As we have argued earlier, conventional banking channels will not be adequate to fulfil this gigantic task and technology will play a critical role in providing the 'last mile connectivity'. Integration of financial information through electronic means will help small players access large databases at marginal costs. The task is not easy and requires seamless collaborative efforts by banks, regulators, government and citizens. Mobile banking can play a crucial role and linking this up with the Unique Identity Numbers can be good way to begin, as they provide biometric authentication, thereby reducing chances of fraud. Financial literacy and education must be the cornerstone for ensuring consumer protection and both these facets must be the overarching objective of financial inclusion. For all stake holders, the end results must come with proper responsibility and accountability, which has been missing all these days in achieving financial inclusion despite various efforts.


The business correspondent and business facilitator models must be streamlined as they can bridge the relation gap between financial institutions and customers. Various studies have shown that the underprivileged section of society offers business opportunities to banks, provided they develop credit plans based on easy instalments, lesser documentation and favourable interest rates. Since customer profiles in rural areas are very different from those in urban areas, efforts must be made to raise the level of awareness of people in villages about the benefits of a formal banking system. As we have seen in the past, the nationalisation of banks in India marked a paradigm shift in the focus of banking, from class banking to mass banking. This pushed up the gross domestic savings of households to 22.6% of GDP in 2008-09 from just 9.5% in 1970-71. Banks will now have to identify the credit needs of the the rural population and come out with timely initiatives to take control of a market dominated by the unorganised sector and private moneylenders. Banks must join hands with regulators to successfully achieve the mission of financial inclusion and take banking services to the hinterland for the bottom of the pyramid.







When the Indian government announced a new ID card scheme in January 2009, which would bring some coherence to the more than dozen ID proofs already floating around, it created interest. In June 2009, when Nandan Nilekani was recruited to head the scheme and accorded ministerial status, too, this was the first time a globally recognised Indian technologist had been promoted to the top government ranks. This attracted extraordinary interest. Nilekani himself pointed to the challenges and promises of the project. "No country in the world has done what we are embarking to do, this is the big enchilada," he said. At the same time, he clarified to The Indian Express: "I'm like a mega project manager working with thousands of government agencies, not to mention dealing with the politics of it." His concerns have proved well-judged. While supporters have been enthusiastic about all the far-reaching effects of a UID, from better targeted delivery of public services to better tax collection, detractors in various guises have been equally vociferous. Whether it is those who have raised the privacy bogey or those that are visibly vested in protecting their turfs (by way of alternative, existing ID cards, for example), Nilekani has been convincingly battling these detractors by arguing that social, economic and efficiency benefits of the UID will be worth its costs. Now comes the news that the government has decided to slash the budget of the UID project by more than half, from Rs 7,000 crore to Rs 3,000 crore for the first phase. But even such a curtailment leaves a lot of room for Nilekani's team to prove the worth of the project.


Sure, only 10 crore UIDs instead of 60 crore will be assigned as a result of this budget curtailment. But if this assignment goes through smoothly, if it even begins to deliver the promised low-cost high-volume service and finance penetration, if these deliveries attain a critical mass, then more funds will necessarily follow. These will follow on popular demand rather than government fiat. And let's underline that some of the UPA's dearest schemes of today are intimately tied up with the UID project. The fate of the Food Security Bill behind which the substantial weight of the Sonia-Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has been put, for example, is closely connected to the rollout of the UID project—as is the 'inclusive growth' agenda in general.









How wary are Indian investors of figuring out what they pay in making their investments? And how agile are financial firms in taking advantage of their errors? It is difficult to answer these questions convincingly, unless one can find situations that clearly isolate the fee effects. Two Wharton professors, Santosh Anagol and Hugh Kim, do just that and uncover some interesting facts in their recent working paper.*


The regulation of the fee structure underwent several tweaks and experiments even before Sebi did away with entry loads completely in 2009. Before 2006, for instance, both open-ended and closed-ended funds (strictly speaking limited liquidity funds, since their subscribers can get in or out in certain restricted time windows) were allowed to charge entry fees and initial issue expenses up to 6% each of initial investment, in addition to an expense ratio of a maximum of 2.5%. This changed on April 4, 2006. It was then that Sebi mandated that while open-ended funds could charge only 'entry fees', closed-ended funds could charge only 'initial issue expenses'. Both entry fees and issue expenses had a ceiling of 6%, but with an important difference. While entry loads were to be charged in one go, and showed up in the very first monthly statement of the fund, the initial issue expenses could be amortised, that is, spread out, over the life of a fund—typically three years in India, after which most closed-ended funds convert to open-ended funds.


This difference was eliminated about 22 months later, on January 31, 2008, after which the closed-ended funds could no longer charge initial issue expenses but had to move over to entry loads like their open-ended counterparts.


These 22 months of fee differentials between open-ended and closed-ended funds produced interesting results in terms of both fund flows and the start of new funds. For equity funds, closed-ended funds registered an average monthly inflow going up from virtually zero prior to 2006 to over $14 billion a month in 2006, doubling to over $28 billion in 2007 and exceeding $20 billion in 2008, before going back to zero once again in 2009. In the two latter years, these figures exceeded those for the open-ended equity counterparts. For equity funds at least, the closed-ended funds seemed to owe their existence only to their ability to give the fee a different name and to amortise it, something open-ended funds could not.


Clearly then, investors were hoodwinked by the simple fact that they did not have to pay the fees in a single painful instalment but could just spread it out. Is this rational? No way. The discount factor necessary to justify this would be close to 800% a year! This is clear evidence of a perception error driving the entire industry. The error is compounded when one recalls that the closed-ended funds usually charged the full 6% of issue expenses allowed, while open-ended funds generally charged either a much lower 2.25% or, in many cases, waived the entry fee altogether, bringing the average entry fee to only 1.75%. Closed-ended funds also performed considerably worse than open-ended funds in terms of returns.


Did fund companies realise this and step in to cash out from this opportunity? You bet. Closed-ended funds really came to life during those 22 months of opportunity. Before 2006 and after February 2008, there were practically no new closed-ended funds at all. But during the period of fee differential, over two new closed-ended funds were being started every month. In the last month, just before the window of opportunity closed, more than 10 funds were floated—the maximum fund starts in all times!


It took just a different name for the fee and spreading it over time to get Indian investors to believe they were getting a better deal when they were actually paying more for their investments.

There is little to suggest that such errors in treating fund fees are universal. In fact, experiments conducted by other researchers on American subjects have often demonstrated that framing effects on fund fees have little role in determining fund choice. Other evidence in the literature is open to alternative explanations. The current paper makes use of the policy changes to present the case in sharp relief. Investors, at least in India, cannot read the fine print when deciding on fund choices. Whatever Sebi's rationale for these policy changes may have been, this almost incontrovertible lesson is certainly a positive outcome. One can only wonder if it balances the millions inadvertently lost in fees by the closed-ended fund investors.


* Anagol, Santosh and Hugh Kim, 2010, "The Impact of Shrouded Fees: Evidence from a Natural Experiment", Working Paper, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


The author teaches finance at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad








In a final pitting perennial underachievers Spain and the Dutch in a match that was historic in its consequences, yet low on quality, the La Furia Roja neutralised the guile and raw talent of the Oranje. The fact remains that a European nation winning the World Cup is far more beneficial to the business of football than an African, Asian or South American nation doing so. Professional football stems from Europe. Patriotism aside, the best players in the world and the highest global viewership, sponsorships and merchandising revenues come from European leagues. La Liga, Spain's premier football league, boasts some of the richest talent and is now set to reach unparalleled heights, doubtlessly afflicting the EPL stakeholders with chronic insomnia. Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of the world's most profitable, popular and successful football clubs. The fact that most of Spain's starters are home grown and play in domestic clubs only adds to the allure of European football.


In the Indian context, however, the winner scarcely matters. What matters is the imprint that football would likely have made on the psyche of the average Indian sports fan. Football has emerged as the legitimate number two sport in India. And the FIFA World Cup 2010 (FWC) has proved to the sceptics that football is chomping at the bit to usurp cricket's mantle. Before one starts to directly compare TRPs, sponsorship revenue and overall interest in the games, one needs to take into account the differences between the two sports in the Indian context.


While European club football enjoys a rabid fan following in the metropolises, cricket is far more accessible and interesting for the average viewer. Above all, India is more successful here—a superpower. With the BCCI being the dominant cricket federation globally and the South Asian faction contributing close to two billion fans, compared to less than 150 million that the rest of the cricket-playing nations can jointly rustle up, it's no wonder that cricket matches and leagues are tailor-made to suit the Indian market. Whether its location, times or empathy, it's a lot easier to watch and sponsor cricket in India. Keeping that in mind, one should then look at the FWC data and figures with a somewhat more indulgent eye. Of the 64 matches played in South Africa, many were played during the midnight slot. One could make a legitimate and strong argument supporting the hypothesis that had all the matches been played during primetime in India, much like the IPL fixtures, the data would have reflected somewhat different conclusions.


As it is, India is at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to football, at least until the international clubs and FIFA make a conscious effort to target the Indian fan base, and work on the merchandise and broadcasting revenue model, rather than trying to invest in human capital development, trying to make Forlans of our abject 'forlorn's'. The fact remains that the money in sports lies in eyeballs, hospitality collaterals, sponsorship and intellectual property rights, at least in the short term. It would be great to have superstars of Indian origin but for the time being one ought to just be a fan and enjoy the rise in popularity of the first global sport in India. FWC isn't the message, it's merely the messenger. It's the answer to an industry starved of prophets and profits alike when it comes to sports beyond cricket—60 million unique viewers, hundreds of crores of rupees in sponsorship and merchandise sales, not to mention events tailored to the FWC, despite the fact that the best matches couldn't be shown at most restaurants and bars due to the lateness of the hour.


In fact, it would be astonishing although heartening if more Indians watched FWC 2010 than FWC 2002 in Asia, when the timings were conducive to watching the matches in their entirety. Even the professional football leagues such as the EPL operate at a time that is ideal for European viewership, not Asian or African. Over time, one can expect this to change, as clubs and FIFA become more fan-friendly in the South Asian context. Rest assured, this will happen. With over 800 million people watching the finals globally, it's a virtual guarantee that this edition was the most successful FIFA World Cup in every which way, barring the 'Hand of Fraud' and the officiating. It has made heroes of the disdained and made a global celebrity of an eight-legged cephalopod. Football is a global sport and over time Indians, too, will deify it just as everyone else has. And it doesn't take Pablo/Paul/Paolo or any other octopus oracle to predict this foregone conclusion.


The author is a sports attorney with J Sagar Associates. These are his personal views










It was unthinkable a decade ago that a vegetable as mundane as potato would grab global attention for its nutritional value. The Indian government, which is still grappling with the rise in food inflation and providing food security cover to millions, could find an answer in potato. But there are problems galore in making this key tuber crop a viable alternative to solve India's food security problems.


Acute shortage of storage space and processing facilities in key potato growing states have put a lid on any governmental intervention in harnessing its true potential. Ironically, the introduction of quality seeds has put Indian farmers at the receiving end because outdated storage and infrastructure facilities failed to keep pace with rising production. Recently, potato prices crashed to as low as Rs 1 per kg in West Bengal, the second biggest potato producer in the country, due to lack of transportation logistics.


Being a perishable commodity, there is an urgent need to expand cold storage infrastructure, particularly in high producing areas of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, so that the crop—recommended by the UN as critical crop for world food security—is immune to volatile prices.


A recent Yes Bank study has pointed out the importance of potato in India's agriculture. The country stands to lose significant export potential because of its inability to meet quality standards needed for exports. Potato farmers need to be equipped with the latest technology, like improved potato diggers, grading and sorting equipment to get better prices, the study showed. Also, the global trend in potato farming is shifting. According to FAO, until the early 1990s, potatoes were largely grown and consumed in Europe and North America. Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in potato production and demand in Asia, Africa and Latin America countries.


More than a third of the total global potato production of 350 million tonnes is now grown in China and India. Although the Indian government is aiming to increase horticulture production to 300 million tonnes by 2011-12 through the National Horticulture Mission, much more needs to be done. With world trade in potatoes shifting towards India and China, it is high time that this common tuber crop got its rightful place in the scheme of things.








Spain started as a favourite and ended as the winner but the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa did not go along expected lines. La Roja themselves contributed to the twists and turns of a dramatic tournament, as they became the first team to win the title after losing the opening match. With both Spain and the Netherlands playing out an undistinguished final, tough, defensive, and risk-averse, the match turned out to be a scrappy affair. English referee Howard Webb adopted a no-nonsense, but not bloody-minded, approach. The final saw a record number of yellow cards (14), nine for the Dutch, and five for the Spaniards. Coming on top of the 15 yellow cards they collected in previous six matches, this did not earn Oranje any new fans in the World Cup. But Spain stuck to its tried and tested methods throughout: dominating possession in the midfield, and waiting patiently for good finishing at the forward line. In the end, Andres Iniesta's right-footer in the 116th minute (second half of extra-time) secured a 1-0 victory. In fact, Spain won its four knock-out matches by an identical margin, quite uncharacteristic for a champion side. With the ball at their feet, the Spaniards seemed more intent on playing among themselves than on sending it toward the goal. But with their captain Iker Casillas, the eventual winner of the Golden Glove award, under the bar, they did not have too much to worry about. Spain conceded just two goals in the entire tournament: a record for a winning team shared with France (1998) and Italy (2006). However, the second successive all-European final, and the eighth overall, was not without its bright moments. Arjen Robben had a couple of good runs only to be denied by Casillas. Likewise, the Dutch goalkeeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, made sure the scores stayed level by keeping David Villa and Sergio Ramos at bay.


This World Cup was not just about football of course. Africa's first World Cup was quite fittingly hosted by South Africa, standing up free and proud after the long dark night of apartheid. Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was the hero of the closing ceremony and was greeted by vuvuzelas and roars from the fans at Soccer City. FIFA owes a great part of the success of the tournament to the organisational capabilities of this liberated rainbow nation. Unfortunately, despite the natural talent and the foreign coaches, none of the African nations made it to the last four. Ghana, the sole African representative in the quarter finals, was unlucky to be denied by an appalling hand block by Uruguay. But this World Cup might mark the beginning of a new phase in world football — a phase in which African nations will hold a prominent place alongside the Europeans and the South Americans.







When and how far did early humans venture into the cold climatic regions after they first moved out of Africa nearly 1.75 million years ago? Evidence for the earliest human occupation outside Africa has been reported from the island of Flores in the east to the Iberian Peninsula. Being restricted to latitudes not beyond 45º N, these locations were tropical, steppe, or Mediterranean settings. Even the early human presence at 52° N dating back to about 700,000 years ago in a forest-bed in Pakefield in Suffolk, U.K., was in a Mediterranean climate. A paper published online in Nature ("Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe," by Simon A. Parfitt et al., vol. 466, no.7303, p. 229-233) has found early humans to be more adventurous than anyone imagined. The rich haul of artefacts recovered at 52° N latitude of Happisburg, in East Anglia, U.K., is from the southern fringes of the boreal zone that is marked by a definite winter with snow. The artefacts aside, Happisburg turned out to be a treasure trove of well-preserved plant and animal fossils. These fossils strongly suggest summer temperatures between 16° and 18° C, and winter temperatures between 0 and -3° C; this means they approximated the present-day climate seen near the transition of temperate and boreal zones.


The last time a reversal in the polarity of the Earth's magnetic field happened (when South Pole became the North Pole of today) was 780,000 years ago. The Happisburg sediments exhibit reversed polarity and this helps in setting a lower age limit for the artefacts. Palaeobotanical studies enable us to further narrow down the time of human occupation. The pollen grains and vegetation strongly suggest that human presence would have happened during the warm interglacial period around 840,000 or 950,000 years ago. The plant fossils suggest a conifer-dominated forest characterised by poor plant and animal food resources during winter. The early humans, probably the Homo antecessor, who inhabited the upper estuarine zone of River Thames would have survived the winter by turning to the water bodies. There is no evidence on how the early humans adapted themselves to the harsh winter. But survival would have been possible because they lived in a transition area between resource-poor forests and resource-rich habitats of river, marsh, and coast. Only more studies can reveal if early humans arrived during the peak warmer interglacial periods or during the colder periods.










When a country engages in self-aggrandising talk of being the world's oldest and freest democracy, at the very least one would expect it to be home to a free press. When that country also regularly berates other nations across the world for stifling media freedom, it would be expected to have a government that tolerates criticism from its own media. And when that country unabashedly uses "lack of media freedom" as a tool in its policy arsenal for promoting regime change abroad, then it would be hypocritical for it to have a subservient, self-censoring media on its soil.


And yet, according to a recent, empirically rigorous study of media freedom in the United States, none of these conditions applied to the country. Torture at Times: A Study of Waterboarding in the Media, authored by students of Harvard University, takes a close and statistically uncompromising look at the degree of media freedom in the U.S. The papers studied were The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.


Its findings do not, to put it mildly, show up the U.S. print media in a good light in terms of its degree of freedom and independence of the government.


By examining how the torture technique of waterboarding was described in news reporting and opinion columns of four most widely read newspapers, the study focussed on the sudden change in those descriptions during the early 2000s. That the first decade of the 21st century was also the time when the Central Intelligence Agency was charged with engaging in waterboarding was no coincidence, a point that this insightful study makes early on.


In particular, the authors found that, "From the early 1930s until the modern story broke in 2004, the newspapers that covered waterboarding almost uniformly called the practice torture or implied it was torture." By contrast, they explained, "from 2002-2008, the studied newspapers almost never referred to waterboarding as torture."


Before delving into the detail, let's get the facts straight — waterboarding is torture by most reasonable standards, even if Karl Rove, adviser to the former President, George W. Bush, disagrees. More specifically it is, as Torture at Times explains, the practice of intentionally inducing the sensation of drowning in the victim, usually in the context of interrogation, and invariably producing an intense sense of panic and fear of death.


In the past, this sensation has been achieved by placing a cloth or plastic wrap on the face of the victim and pouring water over it; by pouring water directly into the mouth and nose; by placing a stick between the victim's teeth and pouring water into his or her mouth, often until the victim's stomach becomes distended, then forcing the water back out of the mouth; or by dunking and holding the victim's head under water.


That waterboarding is torture rather than merely a "coercive interrogation technique" (as famously described by Mr. Rove) was best conveyed by none other than the U.S. print medium itself — prior to 2002, of course. As the Harvard study notes, The New York Times characterised it thus in 81.5 per cent of the articles on the subject and The Los Angeles Times, in 96.3 per cent of the articles during the earlier period.


And it was not just the four newspapers studied that were unambiguous in their view of waterboarding. Waterboarding featured regularly in the news throughout the 20th century, the Torture at Times authors say, "from the Philippine insurgency to World War II to the Vietnam War." They added that in addressing waterboarding for more than 70 years prior to 9/11, major newspapers and even American law consistently categorised the practice as torture.


However, in a sharp indictment of the U.S. media, the results of the study showed that since waterboarding began receiving significant media attention in 2004, after the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and other revelations of waterboarding by the U.S. (including allegedly in secret CIA prisons overseas and in Guantanamo Bay), media sources appeared to have changed their characterisation of the practice.


The New York Times described waterboarding as torture or implied it was torture in 1.4 per cent of articles after 2002. The Los Angeles Times did so in a mere 4.8 per cent of articles, the study found. The Wall Street Journal called it torture in 1.6 per cent of its stories and, worst of all, the USA Today "never" wrote of waterboarding as torture or even implied it was torture.


Does this show up the U.S. media as slavish to the diktats of the government? There is an even more egregious tendency discovered by the Harvard study: the newspapers analysed were far more likely to describe waterboarding as torture "if a country other than the U.S. is the perpetrator."


The evidence is clear: in The New York Times, 85.8 per cent of the articles that dealt with a country other than the U.S. called waterboarding torture or implied it was torture, while only 7.69 per cent did so when the U.S. was responsible. Similarly The Los Angeles Times characterised the practice as torture in 91.3 per cent of its articles when another country was charged with waterboarding, but in only 11.4 per cent of articles when the U.S. was the perpetrator.


As media commentator Glenn Greenwald observed: "We do not need a state-run media because our media outlets volunteer for the task … once the U.S. government decrees that a technique is no longer torture, U.S. media outlets dutifully cease using the term. That compliant behaviour makes overtly state-controlled media unnecessary."


And among all U.S. media, it would appear that those operating within the Washington beltway — in dangerous metaphorical proximity to government — were most culpable. Following the recent McChrystal-gate scoop for Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone magazine, Politico, a hardcore Washington insider, wrote that "Hastings had pulled off his … coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal's remarks."


Similarly Frank Rich of The New York Times admitted in his column: "It's the Hastings-esque outsiders with no fear of burning bridges who have often uncovered the epochal stories missed by those with high-level access." Notably, Mr. Rich added, Woodward and Bernstein were young local reporters, nowhere near the White House beat, when they cracked Watergate; and "it was uncelebrated reporters in Knight Ridder's Washington bureau, not journalistic stars courted by Scooter and Wolfowitz, who mined low-level agency hands to challenge the… W.M.D. intelligence in the run-up to Iraq."


What is even more telling — and ironic — is that little protest has followed Defence Secretary Robert Gates' decision, in the aftermath of the McChrystal fiasco, to clamp down heavily on any further media access to army personnel.


If there is one thing that this accumulating evidence suggests, it is that a rot has afflicted the U.S. print media — the rot of complacency born of an institutional intimacy that is antithetical to the very core principles of a free press. However given how deeply entrenched the media-government relationship is already, this may not be a rot that can be stemmed.


In that case it is the American people who stand to lose most of all, as their government increasingly obfuscates its way out of serious blunders committed, and a pliant press happily amplifies propagandistic messages.









Modern businesses are fast becoming "soulless corporations," a leading U.N. environmental official said on Monday.


Companies usually take a short-term view of the importance of the environment, said Pavan Sukhdev, head of the U.N.'s investigation into how to stop the destruction of the natural world. This short-term thinking is seen in their lobbying against new policies that could slow environmental devastation, he said.


Mr. Sukhdev, formerly an adviser to the Indian government and now on sabbatical from Deutsche Bank, spoke as he prepares to publish one of the most eagerly awaited parts of his report — The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business.


The report will be launched at the first Global Business of Biodiversity Symposium in London, where speakers will include environment secretary Caroline Spelman. She will highlight examples of businesses causing damage which imposes a huge cost on themselves and society — including an estimate that global destruction of forests costs the world's economies $2tn to $5tn a year. She will also speak of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. "BP's shares have halved since the spill began in mid-April — there will be no dividends this year," she is due to say. "While the real impact on the local economy, wildlife and marine health may not be fully known for years ... What's bad for biodiversity is bad for business."


Checks and balances


Mr. Sukhdev told the Guardian that private businesses were too important as employers and payers of taxes to embark on a revolution, calling instead for society to take a greater responsibility for regulating the behaviour of companies. When the final report is published, at a biodiversity conference in October in Japan, Mr. Sukhdev will recommend major changes in the way companies are regulated. "We have created a soulless corporation that does not have any innate reason to be ethical about anything," he said. "The purpose of a corporation is to be selfish. That is law. So it's up to society and its leaders and thinkers to design the checks and balances that are needed to ensure that the corporation does not simply become destructive." TEEB was set up after the success of the groundbreaking 2006 report by Sir Nicholas Stern for the U.K. government. The Stern report argued that the cost of tackling climate change would be 1— 2 per cent of the global economy, while the cost of doing nothing would be 5 to 20 times that. Mr. Sukhdev's team says the failure of governments and businesses to put a "price" on ecosystem services provided by nature — from flood protection and pollination of crops, to carbon take-up by forests — has led to widespread destruction of whole ecosystems and the variety of life on Earth. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010











What does it tell us about the times we live in that when a Muslim father hears that his son is missing in a terror attack his first reaction, incredibly, is to hope-no, not that he is safe but that he wasn't involved in the atrocity?


This, of course, is not what we routinely see on our TV screens after a terrorist incident. Instead, the standard line we hear so often is: "I know my son. He couldn't have done such a thing ."


Yet, behind these emotional denials there are often deeply-held private fears: what if my son was really involved? After all, how many parents (Muslim or non-Muslim) these days actually know what their children are up to, particularly if they live away from their family? Remember Kafeel Ahmed, a research student from Bangalore, who unknown to his parents was busy trying to blow up the Glasgow airport? And, similarly, families of many of the suicide bombers involved in the London bombings of July, 7, 2005 had no idea about their plans.


But Muslim parents' fears are more than matched by non-Muslim paranoia about their own children getting "mixed up" with "Pakis" and "crazy Arabs." And it is this everyday reality of millions of Muslims and non-Muslims that forms the broad theme of the acclaimed Franco-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb's award-winning film London River set against the backdrop of the London bombings. He is best known for Days of Glory which was nominated for the Academy award for the Best Foreign language film in 2006.


It is the first film to be made on the 7/7 attacks and it has been widely commented how British film-makers have tended to "shy away" from approaching the subject leaving it to a foreigner to make a film on Britain's worst terror attack. But, in a way, it is just as well because Bouchareb is able to give it an outsider's perspective without getting overwhelmed by emotions.


Accolades at festival


Critics gave the film a big thumbs-up at the Berlin Film Festival last year, where it won two awards, praising it for Bouchareb's understated treatment of a difficult and controversial subject and the performances of its two main protagonists, the British actor Brenda Blethyn still remembered for her role in Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies; and Sotigui Kouyaté, the highly-regarded Malian actor who collaborated with Peter Brook on The Mahabharata. He died two months ago.


Although the film's commercial British release last week on the fifth anniversary of the London attacks failed to evoke much public enthusiasm perhaps because of poor publicity, it is seen as a welcome contribution to the debate on Britain's post-7/7 cultural tensions. The fact, though, is (and the film underlines this) that that these tensions predate the 7/7 atrocity which, for many Britons, simply confirmed their worst anti-Muslim/anti-Islam prejudices and deepened the divisions that until then were hidden behind the fig-leaf of multiculturalism.


London River is as much an extremely moving human story of loss and pain, not to mention senseless violence, as it is a quiet heartfelt appeal for cultural understanding that in the hands of a lesser or overtly ideological director could have easily descended into didacticism. It follows the separate journeys of a white Christian British mother and a French-speaking African Muslim to London in search of their children (the mother looking for her young daughter and the father for his young son) who go missing after the London attacks.


As their paths cross, the stage is set for a minor clash of civilisations between a culturally insular Middle England woman and a devout African Muslim with a long beard and knee-length dreadlocks who speaks only Arabic and French. Arriving from the quiet backwaters of Guernsey into a chaotic multicultural London, she is shocked to discover that her daughter, Jane, lived in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood amid halal butchers' shops and Arab grocery stores. (See how little parents know about their children.)


"This place is crawling with Muslims," she screams in horror to her brother on the phone. A line that many Britons often find themselves saying while warily picking their way through Edgware Road or Brick Lane packed with Urdu/Arabic speaking Muslims. She is horrified that Jane was learning Arabic.


"But why would she do that? Who speaks Arabic ?" she asks in genuine bewilderment.


But her world really comes crashing down when she learns that Jane had been living with this strange-looking African Muslim's son. She recoils in horror at the very idea of a "sensible" English girl having anything to do with a Muslim boy. Eventually, however, it is a shared sense of loss as they scour London's hospitals and mortuaries for their missing children that slowly brings them closer. It is during these hesitant meetings and conversations that the old man voices his worst fears about his son.


"You thought he might have been killed in the bombings?" the woman asks him.


"No, that he might have done it..." he answers in perhaps the film's most candid and depressing moment.


Can it get any more frightening for a parent?










Ugandan police say they believe the double bombing in Kampala was the work of the Somalian group, al—Shabab. If this proves to be the case, it will mark an evolution in the movement's activities.


So far, al—Shabab, which means "the youth" in Arabic, has kept to a very local agenda, in deed if not always rhetoric. This has reflected its origins. The Harakat al—Shabab al—Mujahideen (the Union of Mujahideen Youth) is a splinter group from the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), a coalition of Islamist groups that established control over much of Somalia.


The UIC imposed a strict sharia—based code, which it saw as the solution to the poverty-stricken and war-racked country's many woes.


After being routed by the Ethiopian army at the end of 2006, the UIC broke up. The biggest remaining fragment was its armed wing or youth movement, al-Shabab.


In successive campaigns, al-Shabab, under the leadership of a group of senior clerics and "sheikhs", has taken over at least a third of Somalia, including most of Mogadishu, the capital. Now numbering several thousand, its expansion has been marked by two main trends: radicalisation and internationalisation.


The former has led to executions, amputations and patrols of young men who, in a manner reminiscent of the Taliban's religious police in the 1990s, seek out anyone in breach of strict, puritanical and increasingly arbitrary codes of behaviour. The internationalisation has meant a pledge of allegiance to Al-Qaeda's senior leadership as well as a number of foreign volunteers joining al-Shahab's ranks. These are primarily American but include some Britons, security sources say. Other links with militants in the Yemen appear to have been consolidated too.


There have been fears of Somalian Islamist militant groups — al-Shahab is not the only one — launching international attacks for some time.


If al-Shahab is responsible for the bombings in Uganda, the reasons are most likely to be local: Ugandan troops provide most of the 5,000 African Union peacekeepers who replaced Ethiopian troops when they pulled out last year and are the main reason Somalia's U.N.—backed government has not yet been entirely driven out of Mogadishu by the Islamists. Recent pledges to reinforce the peacekeepers have drawn threats of jihad from al-Shabab against any countries which send more troops.


Why attack people watching the World Cup? First, because they are a soft target. Second, because al-Shahab has already made clear it disapproves of the football, threatening players and fans with violence in Somalia. Here, the group is only following broader thought among jihadis. In a recent web posting, one extremist scholar said that watching the World Cup was un-Islamic as it involved gambling, competition, women being shown on TV, sinful behaviour by players, cursing among supporters and "unnecessary fun". There are signs that al-Shabab is increasingly internally divided. The past 18 months have seen a number of high-profile figures quitting its ranks in disgust at the increasingly indiscriminate violence.


Some analysts believe growing extremism within radical movements is a sign of fierce competition among factions which can eventually lead to total fragmentation. Certainly, other radical groups which rejected local roots and agendas to become steadily more extreme and more international in their outlook — in Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s or in Iraq, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia more recently — suffered as a result, rapidly losing any popular support. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, highlighted the role of Asia in future in global economic policies, vowing to allow stronger voice of the region in the IMF.


"Asia's time has come. No one can doubt that Asia's economic performance will continue to grow in importance," Strauss—Kahn said in his opening address to the Asia 21 high-level conference held in Daejeon in South Korea. The two-day conference, titled "Asia 21: Leading the Way Forward," kicked off with opening addresses by South Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun and the IMF head, where the participants will hold discussions over Asia's global role and its new growth drivers.


The IMF officials are also planning to evaluate Asia's economic growth model and its implications of change for the global economy, while showcasing lessons of Asia's resilience during the crisis for other regions, Strauss-Kahn said.


"The macroeconomic, financial and corporate sector reforms put in place over the last decade have played an important role in the region's resilience," Strauss—Khan said, attributing it to the continent's faster- than-expected recovery. — Xinhua









Among the blaring of the ever-present vuvuzela — in its many thousands — it was appropriate that the team which played the best football in the past month walked away with the prize. Spain put on show soccer of the highest class, full of technical skill and breathtaking artistry and everything a doughty Holland could throw at them in Sunday night's final at Johannesburg's Soccer City proved to be inadequate when it came to the crunch. And fittingly, it was one of their two outstanding players who dealt the killer blow to The Netherlands' hopes. Spain literally rode on the creative feet of Xavi Hernandes and Andres Iniesta to the final, with the latter providing the coup de grace in a footballing masterclass that was thrown into sharper focus by the dogged attritional football the Dutch resorted to for 120 minutes on the night. But then, this was a World Cup of many firsts — Africa hosting its maiden tournament in the face of widespread fears over crime, organisation, logistics, and what have you. Then there was the small matter of every one of the seven previous champions being eliminated before the final, from five-timers Brazil to one-off winners like England and France. That left the field open for a new winner, and though Holland have been here twice before, in 1974 and 1978, it was left to a team that previously never got past the quarter-final stage to walk away with the cherry.


Is this, therefore, the start of a new era in the sport? Brazil, once justly famed for their brilliant native skills, have given up the spine-tingling joy of the Joga Bonito for a more pragmatic approach that its fans would prefer to call pedestrian. Argentina's little maestro Lionel Messi and Diego Forlan of Uruguay turned on the style but had to bow out of the running thanks to insufficient support. It was left to Spain — for years the home of two of football's great clubs in Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona — to come up with a style of soccer that not only gladdened the hearts of the everyday fan, but also had the purists purring in pleasure. And the irony of it all will have escaped nobody. For years Spain were known for being among the most unprepossessing of football teams. Their style was the hard knock, and it took a Dutchman to bring artistry and beauty into their soccer. Johan Cruyff was the mastermind, along with Johan Neeskens of the Dutch team that entered the finals of the 1974 and 1978 tournaments only to lose, once to West Germany and the second time to Argentina. It is said of those teams that they preferred to play beautiful football at the cost of the result. Total Football was what it came to be called, and that is what Cruyff brought with him when he retired as a player and took over as coach of Barcelona. It took him a long time but vindication on Sunday night lay in the fact that as many as seven players from Barcelona — all products of its junior nurturing programme — stood on the field holding the World Cup trophy. For Holland, it will mean a return to the drawing board, for quite simply, when they were not hacking at Spanish ankles and knees, they were played off the park. And as a fitting capstone for the senior lot, it was one of them who walked away with the honour of being adjudged the best player of the tournament — the 31-year-old Uruguayan with the magic feet: Diego Forlan.








The country wishes our foreign minister well when he meets his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meeting in Islamabad on July 15. It is not easy to put down the historical baggage of bitter cynicism regarding Pakistan, but, for some reason, India seems to have discerned some kind of a game — changing breakthrough at Thimphu through arcane interpretations of "personal chemistry" and "body-language" between the Prime Ministers of the two countries.

Dialogue, howsoever interminable and frustrating, is always preferable to artillery fire. India and Pakistan are no exception, even though public opinion in both countries has hardened into a subconscious state of mutual hostility almost since Partition. It is not surprising therefore that the eager peace overtures to Pakistan initiated at Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere have been summarily smacked down with such vehemence that further perseverance seems almost masochistic.

"Trust deficit" is the latest buzzword on Indo-Pak relations parroted in India with a dreary simplemindedness which has started bordering on the tiresome. But even as India's external affairs minister piously intoned, "We feel Pakistan will not encourage terror-related activities any more", Pakistan's disdainful counter-battery came crashing right back, "India's approach is self delusional".

While maintaining open attitudes, India's discussants at Islamabad must always keep in mind that Pakistan's requirement for peace with India is more urgent than is India's for "peace at any cost" with Pakistan, all the more so because now, for the first time since Independence, the Pakistan Army finds itself caught in its own "two-and-a-half front" strategic nutcracker: between the Tehrik-e-Taliban in the west, and a perceived threat from "Hindu" India in the east, coupled with a half-front of internal instability with Punjabi Taliban and sectarian Shia-hunters ripping the Pakistani heartland apart. Such contingencies had hitherto been engineered exclusively for India by the Pakistani military and covert operations establishments and it is surely some kind of poetic justice that these have now appeared within their own compounds. That is why peace with India, howsoever opportunistic or cynical, is what the Pakistan Army requires for itself in its own interest, even though it is very likely to be transitory. Nonetheless, it has to be factored into the backdrop as both governments begin planning for the talks, incorporating political parties and other national constituents within their own countries, all perfectly normal, except it cannot escape notice that Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reported personally to the Pakistan Army general headquarters in Rawalpindi to meet the Chief of Army Staff, as well as Pakistan's chief covert operations executive Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, the director general Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The increase in the intensity of the separatist intifada and the return of the Indian Army to the streets of Srinagar at this exact moment cannot be a coincidence. It is just too precise and calibrated to be anything except enemy action. The implications are clear — the leopard is disinclined to change its spots just as yet.

For India, part of the problem is the blanket appellation of "Kashmir" as shorthand for the entire state of "Jammu and Kashmir" which obfuscates the ground reality of three separate and distinct sub-regions in the state — Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, all quite diverse and divergent in their outlook and mindset. Amongst these, Jammu and Ladakh are wholeheartedly Indian, and only in the sub-region of the Kashmir Valley (aka "the Valley" to generations of Indian soldiers) do substantial sections of the population demonstrate their strident hostility towards an Indian identity. They demand instead either a merger into the Promised Land of Pakistan, or "Azaadi" as an independent state which, by inclination, would be a natural ally of Pakistan and enable it savour a successful strategic end-state in its plans for "Badla for Bangladesh".

Though Hindu pandits and ot her minorities have been forced out of the Valley and into inter n al exile in other parts of the co u ntry, the Valley region alone does not represent the whole of Ja mmu and Kashmir. It is im portant that Indian public opinion is educated and informed that even within the Valley there are fairly substantial non-Kashmiri speaking Muslim segments — Gujjars and Bakarwals in the upper reaches nurture a long-standing disconnect with the dominant Kashmiri-speaking mainstream because of economic and social marginalisation. The Gujjar and Bakarwal constituencies are not inimical to India and, given focused political empowerment in an inclusive manner, can form significant political counter weights to separatist forces.
Meanwhile, in spite of best efforts at political and economic outreach, there is little prospect of change in the foreseeable future in the traditional adversarial mindset of the Kashmiri-speaking majority in the Valley. "Hearts and minds" will remain a distant goal here, no matter how many political or material inducements may be offered in terms of Article 370, "free and fair" general and state elections, or special subsidies and other facilities. Anti-India actions by Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and others will continue to find resonance within the Valley, periodically bursting out as stone-throwing intifada in downtown Srinagar, political violence in Sopore or Baramula, and support for "mehman" mujahideen from across the border wire.

Democracy has many manifestations, each appropriate for a particular environment. For Jammu and Kashmir and particularly the Valley, preservation of India's parliamentary democracy requires a large and visible police, paramilitary, and military presence along the Line of Control as well as in disturbed regions in the interior.

Faux-intellectuals and liberals who often deplore the large military presence in Kashmir would do well to comprehend the stakes involved, because the larger Indian community will not accept under any circumstances a "political resolution of the Kashmir issue" based on either merger of any portion of the Kashmir Valley with Pakistan or its secession from India by "azaadi".


Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and aformer Member of Parliament








For a while after the global financial crisis broke, we were told that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would change. The Group of Twenty (G-20) meeting in April 2009 provided a massive increase in resources for the IMF to provide lending to countries affected by the crisis. In return, the Fund announced that it was going to be more supportive of enlarged fiscal deficits and other expansionary measures in the face of the crisis, and provide large amounts of funds to developing countries to cope with the situation. It would strengthen the focus on supporting poverty alleviation and growth; to protect public spending even as economic downswings cut revenues; and to prioritise national budgets in the direction of spending targeted at the poor.
If all this had actually happened, it would imply a sea change in the extent and manner of the IMF's delivery of emergency and other financing to developing countries. But, of course, it was too good to be true. In actual fact, the implem­entation of IMF lending has been rather different from what is sugg ested by the public pronouncements.

First, the amounts lent out by the Fund are still small and even negligible in relation to the projections made by the G-20 when the Fund was given such an important role, and certainly in relation to the actual funding requirements of the countries it has signed agreements with. Second, the programmes agreed up­on for IMF funding are generally still heavily pro-cyclical in terms of requiring public expenditure cutbacks and often stringent fiscal austerity and tighter monetary policies as the means of en s u ring adjustment. They are also still heavily skewed towards en c ouraging or requiring the privatisation of public enterprises and utilities, with associated job losses and increases in user charges.

In April 2009, the IMF's resource base was effectively tripled from $250 billion to $750 billion, and it was promised that the concessional lending to low income countries wo uld be increased ten-fold from the pre-crisis levels by 2014. However, since the onset of the crisis, the IMF promised less than a total of SDR 2.6 billion to 25 countries (an average of just around SDR 100 million per country), and less than half of that amount (only SDR 1.2 billion) has actually been provided.

Under non-concessional lending, SDR 20.5 billion was proffered in 2009 and SDR 10.4 billion in the first half of 2010. This was only a quarter of the committed reso ur ces, and of this only one-third was actually provided to countries. Just five countries — Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Pakistan and most recently Greece — have accounted for nearly half of the amount disbursed. This means that the other countries received minuscule amounts of IMF resources, which are unlikely to have gone very far in even compensating for the loss of export revenues and private capital flows, much less easing the constraints on domestic investment, consumption and growth.

Uncommitted usable resources actually increased from SDR 213 billion in 2009 to SDR 230 billion in 2010. So it is not lack of available resources that has constrained the IMF from offering more resources to developing and other countries hit by the crisis. Nevertheless, the fact that the amounts made available to different countries have been so niggardly has definitely affected the recipient countries, which have not really been able to use this as a viable alternative to market finance that had dried up.

Perhaps even more significant is that the conditions attached to this rather paltry lending have not really changed. Several independent assessments have found a disturbing lack of change in the basic conditionalities being imposed on recipient countries, notwithstanding some minor changes in terms of preserving certain types of social expenditure or safety nets.

A recent study by United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) (Ortiz, Vergara and Chai 2010) of 86 cou ntries showed that nearly 40 per cent of governments were pla nning to cut total spending in 2010-11, compared to 2008-09, with the av e rage size of the projected expe n diture contraction amounting to 2.6 per cent of gross domestic pr oduct (GDP). Very large cuts (4-13 per cent of GDP) we re expected in seven countries. The fiscal cuts were forced onto countries by the absence of adeq u a te funding, inc l uding from the IMF. Many of these countries have dominantly poor populations and very inadequate provision of infrastructure and public services that pr ovide minimum socio-economic rights for the majority of the peop le. Therefore, cutbacks in fiscal sp ending in such countries are li k e ly to have direct implications for economic and humanitarian conditions.
In many countries, it was not just lack of resources, but the IMF's policy advice that led to fiscal cuts. In a substantial majority of countries (57 out of 86 countries), the IMF recommended contractions in total public expenditure. It is true that in some cases it has pointed to the need to protect and, in some cases, expand pro-poor, priority social spending within this. But even so, this essentially points to a contractionary fiscal stance in the midst of crisis.

Even within supposedly protected social spending, a significant number of countries have been advised to make cuts, in the form of limiting/reducing subsidies (including on food and health), "reforms" in pension and health systems which essentially reduce pensions and make public healthcare services more expensive, and reduce the spread of social spending by emphasising targeted rather than universal provision.

The only "positive" recommendation for a significant number of countries is the expansion of targeted transfer programmes. While this may appear to be a positive sign, the many problems associated with targeting in developing countries (problems of unfair exclusion or unjustified inclusion, higher administrative costs, diversion and overall reduction in quality) suggests that such increases are unlikely to benefit or even counter the negative impact of other measures for much of the population, including vulnerable groups.

Most countries have also been told to place caps or induce cuts in public sector wages. But it is now recognised that erosion of pay and arrears in wage payments can have significant adverse effects on public service delivery in such essential areas as health and education, through greater absenteeism, internal and external brain drain and loss of motivation.

The pity of it extends beyond the impact on the countries concerned. With fears of double dip recession now emerging in so many places, the world economy really cannot afford a dysfunctional IMF that does not even do what it has explicitly promised.








Now that the last vuvuzela has been sounded and people all over the world have caught up on their sleep and started to imagine life without football, Fifa and the world of football have much to think about. The 2010 World Cup had plenty to offer, not just in terms of pure sporting enjoyment but also food for thought. There were surprises, shocks, high points and low — as can be expected from such a massive event.

The biggest winner — apart from Spain, which lifted the World Cup for the first time in a scrappy final — was South Africa. Pop star Shakira sang, "This time for Africa", and it truly was a time for Africa to shine. South Africa pulled off a major sporting event with comparative ease. If they are able to capitalise on the publicity, the World Cup will pay many dividends. Next stop, the Olympics?

Of course, there were the shocks, too. The big names — Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo —  and the most favoured teams found that they were outplayed by zealous and determined competitors. South America, which often dominates world football, had only one team in the last four — the  unfancied Uruguay, not Argentina or Brazil. Much was expected of the England team, but it could not deliver. Less was expected of Germany but drive and defence led them to the semi-final before they fell to the eventual victor Spain. Defending champions Italy did not make it to the last four either. The Netherlands were defeated in their third final.

For Fifa, there is some hard questioning to be done. Refereeing mishaps led to a strong worldwide demand for some sort of electronic review in football — as other sports have done. After initial resistance, football's chief governing body declared that it would now consider how to include electronic reviews. There was also criticism of the ball, which many felt had not been tested enough. Fifa has promised to look into that, too.

Of course, the biggest problem will now be for millions of football fans across the world to find something else to occupy their time. Families may find forgotten members returning to the dining table after more than a month. Certainly in India, TV viewing figures show that this World Cup has been a massive success. Whether this translates into additional support for Indian football or not is another matter.


In the end, one must spare a thought for another surprise winner — the German octopus Paul, who seemed to know a thing or two about who would win. Perhaps, the game really appeals to more than just humans. We shall see in Brazil, four years from now, but Paul may not be around then.






It would have been nice if Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had not indulged in the theatre of secularism when his junior coalition partner, the BJP, put out an offending poster of Nitish sharing the dais with his Gujarat counterpart and Hindutva posterboy Narendra Modi. It was needless bravado when it was clear that the Janata Dal (United) needed the BJP as a coalition partner. It now turns out that Kumar is making his peace with his ally and it is quite likely that Modi will no more be a bone of contention. 

The general perception is that Kumar has made a huge difference in the governance of an apparently ungovernable state. 

He has brought a semblance of development to Bihar which was missing during the Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi decade. Whether this is just a perception or there is some substance to it will become clear during the forthcoming assembly elections due at the end of the year. It is in the context of the elections that Kumar has been forced to take some realistic decisions, and one of them is to get along with the BJP, whatever his reservations about Modi and the party's Hindutva agenda.

Unlike in neighbouring Orissa, where chief minister Naveen Patnaik faced a weak opposition in the Congress and could, therefore, risk jettisoning the BJP before the last assembly elections, Kumar faces several tough rivals in his state. Apart from the Lalu Yadav-Ram Vilas Paswan combine, there is also the prospect of a rejuvenated Congress offering a much better fight this time. In closing ranks with the BJP, Kumar is closing possible breaches that his rivals could make use of. 

Nevertheless, there is clear evidence that Kumar would like to strike out on his own but is not sure whether this is the right time. 

There is, for one, the acute ideological discomfort that he apparently feels in the company of the BJP. Kumar and his JD(U) colleagues have been consoling themselves that they have not sold their souls to the BJP. Rather, they have tamed and sanitised the right-wing party by forcing it to put its core agenda on the backburner. Kumar's dilemma is clear: without the BJP, he can't be sure of crossing the half-way mark. With it, he will always find it tough to attract the minorities to his side. There are no easy answers.








Several distinct but related events have shown that India's alleged Pakistan policy is either non-existent or self-defeating. First, there is the all-but-complete transfer of two 635-mw Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan, which will allow them to build 24 more nuclear bombs every year in addition to their existing stockpile of 70-90, already bigger than India's.

Second, the violence in Jammu and Kashmir is a direct result of the decision by the government to withdraw 30,000 troops. Third, the apparent willingness by Afghan president Hamid Karzai to cooperate with the intensely anti-India Haqqani network implies the total failure of India's efforts to be a stakeholder in that nation.
China has simply ignored the proforma noises that the US made at the Nuclear Suppliers' Group regarding likely weapons proliferation because of the new reactors being transferred to Pakistan. Selig Harrison, writing in The Boston Globe, pointed out how proliferation is part of Pakistani national policy. Despite this, and despite all the government of India's exertions to ram the so-called 'nuclear deal' down India's throat, America has no qualms about the Pakistani stockpile.


Thus the dubious nuclear deal has had the effect of strengthening Pakistan's hand, while constraining India's puny efforts at building a deterrent against China, exactly as opponents of the deal said, while the government proceeded with it in a haze of lies and subterfuge.


Second, the sudden upsurge of violence in Jammu and Kashmir is almost certainly a calibrated and calculated ratcheting up of tension by the ISI. Intercepted phone calls suggest that the ISI and pals like the LeT are paying 'rage-boys' to indulge in stone-throwing and other violence, expecting to induce over-reaction by the stressed-out paramilitary troops and police. This, then, can lead to manufactured 'martyrs'. 

The ISI has reason to believe it is on a winning track. Statements by the prime minister in Havana, Sharm-el-Sheikh and Thimphu have implied that, succumbing to American pressure, India is willing to make concessions on Kashmir to Pakistan, the only issue being how to market such a climbdown to the Indian public.

The coded talk of 'creative solutions' and 'trust deficit' have been interpreted by the Pakistanis as a 'deficit of will', and the likelihood that they can make J&K simply too expensive for India to hang on to. The proximate cause is the withdrawal of 30,000 troops. To the ISI, this spells "we have the UPA on the run". They perceive a 'backbone deficit' and lack of will.


Intriguingly, this is almost the same feeling that the ISI has about the Obama administration after its disastrous declaration of a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan. They, and their proxy, the Taliban, feel that all they have to do is to wait things out — the Americans have no will to fight. Apparently president Karzai implicitly believes this — witness his alleged overtures to the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Karzai, Taliban and Haqqanis are all Pashtuns.


Pashtuns account for about 40% of the Afghan population, with large groups of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras among others. India has traditionally had good relationships with the Pashtuns but even better ties to the Tajiks, who, under the charismatic military genius Ahmed Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance, held off the Soviets and then the Taliban.

Now all the blood and treasure — hundreds of millions of dollars — that India has poured into reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan seem to be in jeopardy because the Pakistanis have convinced the US and others that India has no business whatsoever in Afghanistan. India was not even invited to talks about that nation.


The irony is that the Pashtun issue is one of Pakistan's key weaknesses — the Durand Line arbitrarily divides Pashtun territory into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pashtuns themselves have never recognised it, and if given a chance, would create an independent Pashtunistan on both sides of the Durand Line. 

This, of course, would be disaster for Pakistan, as it might induce restive Baluchis and Sindhis to secede as well. In fact, some analysts suggest just such a balkanisation to solve the Pakistan problem.


Somehow, the enterprising ISI has turned this weakness into a strength, by hijacking the Pashtun elements into their proxy Taliban. Similarly, the ISI, which faced the wrath of America after 9/11 with its peremptory warning to president Musharraf to behave, or else, has turned it into a $25 billion bonanza. Ironically, the Americans are in effect subsidising the Pakistani purchase of Chinese reactors!


Instead of containing Pakistan with a pincer movement with one front in Afghanistan, India is now in the unenviable situation that the ISI has achieved the 'strategic depth' it has always craved. 

Uncertain about its goals and ever-eager to appease, India has allowed a failing state one-seventh its size to smother it. Lack of strategic intent has led to dismal failure yet again.








This is the American season of 'vampire as loverboy'. To speak of romance in the more ordinary sense may seem a little too country-specific, culture-specific, a little too provincial.


However, that is what needs to be done in the week after I Hate Luv Storys has been released, which tells the sad tale of how contemporary Hindi films and the new young directors are not able to tell a simple love story which enchants you, which is what it is supposed to be doing. This despite the fact that the hero and the heroine in this film, played by Imran Khan and Sonam Kapoor, carry enough innocence.


What seems to derail love in some recent romantic Hindi films is that there is a little too much of intelligent conversation instead of mushy declarations of love, and that is the spoiler really. There are a lot of funny moments — especially when the hero tells the heroine that her boyfriend's shirt was 'fugly' — but there is no romance.


When they try to romance each other, they fail utterly. Interestingly, when the girl takes flowers to the boy to declare her love dressed in red, and when the boy does the same in a foyer draped in red, it looks not just cliched but simply like poking fun at the whole thing.


Though the ultimate message of I Hate Luv Storys is that love is indeed the story, the manner of telling it takes away the emotional stuffing.


The character of Buddha in Herman Hesse's novelette Siddhartha tells the young protagonist Govinda, 'Brahmin, beware of your cleverness.' The new directors of today's Hindi romantic films need to be told exactly this. Don't be too clever.


There is also the other problem. In many of the so-called romantic films, the boy and girl are close friends, so close and so un-self-conscious that they do not realise that they love each other not as friends but as a boy and girl. Look at Imran Khan's debut film Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na along with Genelia D'Souza. The two realise only at the end that they are lovers.


It is the same problem that confounds the lovers played by Ranbir Kapoor and Konkona Sen Sharma in Wake Up Sid, where the boy thinks of her as a friend and the girl bonds with him just as a friend though she loves him. Is this a confused younger generation or is the confusion just in the minds of the filmmakers, as one acerbic critic of Hindi mainstream cinema maintains?


It seems the problem is a general one. Romance has taken a backseat among the younger generation. They are busy bonding as friends while they work at career and social goals. There is no personal, much less, emotional life.


This dilemma is played out in one part of the double-helix narrative of Love Aaj Kal, where the character of the younger Rishi Kapoor, played by Saif Ali Khan, who is also the lead, is involved in a straightforward love tangle, where he does not even speak to the girl but knows that he loves her and she reciprocates. In the other love story of the film, Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, the young modern professionals, banter and bicker and even have a party to mark their break-up.


It is the other love story that forces Khan in his young avatar to realise that love is not just a pleasant conversation with a girl. It is no good to be merely witty when you have to bare your heart.


It is for this reason that two other films work better on the romantic front, though they work backwards from marriage to love. In Namaste London, the lad from the Punjab countryside played by Akshay Kumar whittles down the pride and reserve of a London-groomed Indian girl played by Katrina Kaif. And inRab Ne Bana Di Jodi, a small town government official played by Shah Rukh Khan wins the heart of his distracted young wife played by newcomer Anushka Sharma. It is the simplistic storyline of these two films that allows the basic emotions to come into play.


Lesson: Simple love story is good, intelligent love story is bad.









PEOPLE'S Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti's refusal to attend the all-party meeting convened by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to seek to defuse tension in the valley should come as no surprise given her past record of trying to make political capital out of difficult situations. If Ms Mufti was sincere about defusing tension in the valley which has been in deep turmoil for over two weeks, she would have joined the talks and taken the government to task for mis-governance while suggesting concrete steps. By spurning even personal appeals by the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister to attend the all-party meeting, the PDP leader has strengthened suspicions that she has a stake in keeping the pot boiling. In the words of Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti has chosen to be "part of the problem" and not "part of the solution." One cannot but recall how she had contributed to the escalation of the Amarnath land row two years ago after her party acquiesced in the allocation of land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.


It is becoming increasingly clear that while Mr Omar Abdullah's sincerity is beyond reproach, his government has mishandled the situation in the valley and given Mehbooba and the separatists a handle to beat him with. Army chief General V.K. Singh's observations in a TV interview that the recent flare-up in the valley was a result of the failure to build on the gains made by the security forces can hardly be brushed aside. However, one wonders whether the controversy this would predictably rake up with the political dispensation joining issue with the army chief could not have been avoided at this sensitive juncture when the State Government's hands need to be strengthened.


How long will hardline separatists and the political elements who are out to create or fan trouble be allowed to have a free run? It is for the Central and State governments to take a call on this and to define a 'laxman rekha' beyond which secessionist statements would invite action. The signal that should go across should be of strength not weakness. At the same time, the legitimate needs of the people must be met and efforts redoubled to win back the people's trust.








WHO says only cricket is the game of glorious uncertainties? Football too can prove all predictions wrong — except perhaps those made by Paul the octopus. Who in his right mind would have claimed before the FIFA World Cup that former champions Italy and runners-up France will be eliminated in the first round, hot favourites Brazil and Argentina will be shown the door so ignominiously in the knockout stage and the first time finalists Spain will claim the trophy? Well, the unthinkable has happened, ending 76 years of the Spaniards' wait. They dashed the hopes of Holland 1-0 on Sunday in the first World Cup final to be decided in extra time. The sense of dejection among the Dutch fans has been heightened by the fact that this was their third loss in the final, the earlier ones being in 1974 and 1978. This is the first time that a European team has won the tournament outside of its home continent.


Only one team was bound to emerge champion and the other 31were to go disappointed. What mattered was that it was one month of sheer soccer ecstasy which engulfed the entire world. There was no dull moment during the tournament. Yes, there were controversies galore, what with numerous refereeing howlers, the irritation caused by the vuvuzela drone being a pain in the ears and the flight and behaviour of the new Jubilani ball being more unpredictable than the outcome of the matches. But overall, it was an excellent tournament.


This was the first time that the tournament was being hosted by an African nation and there were genuine misgivings about the state of preparedness as well as the crime situation in the country. However, when the time came, everything fell in place admirably. In fact, the successful conduct of the gigantic tournament has done a lot of good for the pride of South Africa – nay, the whole continent. There is a lesson there for India too, that it also can be equally successful in conducting the forthcoming Commonwealth Games if it puts its heart and soul into it.









AT a time when large parts of Punjab are under flood waters and the victims need urgent relief, a team of MLAs has left for Scotland — ostensibly to study the process of Scotch making. It would have been understandable had they gone to Delhi to press the Centre for compensation for the flood damage in the state, estimated at Rs 480 crore. Their foreign trip rather weakens the state's case for relief. If the state wastes public money on such activities as sending MLAs abroad to help them escape the sultry weather here, why should the Centre come to the rescue of the state?


Reports say the Finance Department had refused to give them advance money to fund the trip. But if they have the blessings of the Punjab Chief Minister or the Deputy Chief Minister, which is quite likely, then the Finance Department would have to foot the bill even if Mr Manpreet Singh Badal has any reservations. He falls in line when required. The MLAs' foreign jaunt, however, does not come as a surprise. Punjab politicians are notorious for their extravagant ways at state expense. The Akali-Congress leaders unite on such mutually beneficial issues as raising legislators' perks, withdrawing criminal cases against politicians or trips abroad.


Punjab Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, who has been chargesheeted by the CBI, is leading the Vidhan Sabha committee delegation. He seems least bothered by the CBI action. This committee of legislators does not hold its meetings in Chandigarh or somewhere in Punjab but at such holiday destinations as Shimla, Srinagar, Goa and the Andamans. The trip was organised on the basis of the committee's supposed finding that there were "huge amounts" of alcohol in groundwater around the distilleries in the state. The Punjab Pollution Control Board, however, has debunked the claim.

















CHARLES DICKENS' opening words in his Tale of Two Cities summarises the current state of India-Pakistan relations — it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.


These contrary conclusions are inspired by the fact that both countries are inextricably tied to each other by geography and history and civilisational link that span several centuries. And after they became nuclear weapon states in 1998, they went to war in Kargil in 1999, and indulged in a very dangerous border confrontation crisis over 2001-02.


Both could have spun out of control. Therefore, they can hardly remain indifferent neighbors. The rationale for resuming the dialogue with Pakistan, suspended after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 is, therefore, incontrovertible.


However, it would be realistic to appreciate that the constraints upon them for resisting any dialogue are also compelling if their past dismal record is reviewed — revival followed by disruption followed by revival ad infinitum and ad nauseum. Contrary impulses, therefore, will govern External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's ensuing visit to Islamabad for a dialogue with his counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.


A revival of the peace talks can be anticipated. However, the talks could be poisoned at inception by Krishna raising the subject of the Laskar-e-Toiba fishing in the troubled waters of Kashmir. There is deep suspicion that Rawalpindi, read the Inter Services Intelligence organisation, has seized this opportunity.


Raising this issue will vitiate the atmosphere; not raising it will be domestically unacceptable and question why Krishna went ahead with this diplomatic enterprise at the present sensitive juncture. Naturally, Pakistan will categorically deny all such allegations.


Over to the Pakistani counter-attack. It could reiterate that India should resolve the Kashmir dispute before bilateral relations could normalise. Shorthand for New Delhi holding a plebiscite in terms of the six decades old. Security Council Resolutions. Their interpretation by Pakistan differs radically from that of India. The result: stalemate.


Instead, both countries could profitably revive the modality of making borders irrelevant agreed to some years earlier by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Conceptually, it could become the starting point for a new dialogue.


There is a structural issue that remains. How should this bilateral dialogue be proceeded with? Revert to the earlier composite dialogue? It was revived in 2004 after going into hibernation in 1998 following the India-Pakistan nuclear tests.


Reviewing the composite dialogue, however, only highlights the reality that related contentious issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar barrage/ Tulbul Navigation project, are in deep recess. They cannot be resolved unless basic political decisions are taken by India and Pakistan. That leaves "peace and security, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial cooperation and the promotion of friendly exchanges in different fields" for being explored in that agenda.


Some skepticism arises whether cooperation in mitigating the common menace of terrorism can proceed very far in the prevailing milieu of deep mistrust between India and Pakistan.


On the other hand, considerable scope remains for enlarging people-to-people contacts, promoting trade and improving connectivity to enable greater commerce. Basically, the present obstructive visa regime needs to be liberalised and the India-Pakistan dialogue could profitably address this issue.


Political commitment is required from both sides, but it might be easier to garner than for politico-strategic issues. Add to this agenda water issues like Kishanganga and other contentions shaping up and a substantial agenda for discussion in Islamabad becomes available which could provide the impetus for the Indus Water Commissioners to address these disputes.


There is, of course, a huge caveat that must be entered here that cannot be brushed aside which is the reality that ultimate power in Pakistan vests in the Pakistan Army. Operating as a Praetorian force when civilian governments are in brief authority, the Pakistan Army remains the real power in that country. Of course, Pakistan has been under military rule for half its history.


Civilian governments, when they do exist, can only exist with their concurrence and under their patronage. This prevailing reality cannot be wished away. But it would be impossible for democratic India to suggest a direct dialogue with the Pakistan Army.


In this situation, the question is vital: how will the Pakistan army react to a bilateral agenda that may not have any major politico-strategic content, but basically addresses non-military issues? Optimists might believe that these 'peripheral' issues would not much interest the Pakistan Army, and they will not obstruct the civilian government from pursuing them.


However, this may not be true since the Pakistan Army is widely believed to resist efforts to normalise India-Pakistan relations and seek a modus vivendi on Kashmir since this threatens their institutional interests.


Krishna, therefore, needs to travel hopefully, but any great enthusiasm is contra-indicated.


The writer is associated with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi









MY friendship with Rear Admiral SS Jamwal goes back to 1966 when we together joined the Lawrence School, Sanawar. We remained in touch with each other and followed each other's life closely. Even when he got posted to Moscow as Naval Attaché we exchanged notes. Needless to say, he was a great source of inspiration to me. A great officer. A wonderful human being.


During my last winter vacations this year, Jonga as we called him at Sanawar invited me and my wife to Cochin for a holiday for a week and we grabbed it with both hands, as I really needed one (running Sanawar can be exhausting). Incidentally, the last time we had a holiday was also courtesy my friend Jonga almost 10 years ago when he was posted at Goa, in INS Godawari. My mother and daughter too joined us there.


At Cochin we were put up in a beautiful holiday home next to the waters, and one morning he called up to say that he's taking his daughter Shriya to buy a watch in the evening to one of those 'fancy malls' and if my wife and I would also like to accompany them. Watch purchased, he took pains to select an appropriate trek suit for his wife Geeta and then found me looking for a 'cap' to cover my bald head for winters.


Typical of him, he said: 'Peeks, don't buy this as I have many beautiful ones at home, and I'll send you one tomorrow'. Sure enough, early next morning Jonga's butler came with three beautiful caps, each better than the other.


On the fateful day of Jonga's demise, when I called his home, it was this same butler Narender who picked up the phone, and after asking him who he was he said: 'Sahab, woh topi wallah'. I love wearing these caps in rotation, and one of them adorns my office permanently.


On one of the many visits Jonga had arranged for us at the Cochi Southern Command Naval base, at one of the training schools I was presented with another lovely cap by the officer in charge, with "INS Dronacharya" inscribed on it with its motto below, HIT FIRST. Ironically, it was at this base that Rear Admiral SS Jamwal got accidentally hit by a gunshot.


I spoke to Jonga the last time about a week ago, and the first thing he asked me was: "Peeks, have you started writing?" He always encouraged me to start writing for newspaper, magazines and finally books, and I always told him that there's no time for that, and that once I retire, may be I'll do only that.


But yes Jonga, you will be happy to know that I have begun writing. Our Cochin visit will always remain very memorable to both of us for the lovely time we all had together. And your caps will always remind me of all the good values we together learnt at Sanawar.










'FOR to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill." So said noted Chinese military strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu. No doubt what he meant was ways to outwit and outmaneuver the enemy without resorting to arms.


Today this translates to a type of warfare dominated by the use and manipulation of information and information networks and subversion of data to one's own advantage, thereby bringing down an enemy by without actually firing a shot.


Information warfare is the offensive and defensive use of information and information systems to deny, exploit, corrupt, or destroy, an adversary's information, information-based processes, information systems, and computer-based networks while protecting one's own. Such actions are designed to achieve advantages over military, political or business adversaries.


One of the prime aims of Information warfare is to so manage the perception of the enemy top decision makers and even its people, that a nation's aims are met without recourse to war.


We are living in the Information Age. The means of gathering and disseminating information are exploding -- TV, Internet, media, news on cell phones, e-newspapers and e-books are available at home, in the work place and even on the move. The maxim, 'seeing is believing' has made TV very powerful in forming opinions and perceptions. Internet is another means used extensively. These are already being used as vehicles for information and disinformation. Since information is such a powerful tool, contesting entities, may they be nations, politicians, economic czars, terrorist organizations try and exploit its use and deny the same to the adversary. This leads to Information Warfare.


The terminology "Information Warfare" covers propaganda or disinformation leading to "perception management", which is making the targeted people believe, what you want them to believe. This is used both during peace and war, in diplomacy, politics, and economic relations and even in sports (pre match sound bytes!!). Before important international conferences, news leaks by unnamed representatives are commonly used to put pressure on the other side. The propaganda blitz during elections is also common the world over.


In a war scenario, information warfare starts much earlier, even before war clouds start to build. The warring nations may try and project their policy and strengths thru speeches, press releases, pictures of their armed forces and so on. Aim being not only to detract the enemy from his plans and thinking but also to mould a favorable international opinion, in particular of international power centers, so important in today's world. The aim may be to see if the national objectives can be met or facilitated through information warfare and actual war avoided. On the other hand some powerful nations may use this to justify to their own people and the world at large going to war!


In any kind of warfare, there are both the offensive and defensive aspects. The aim has to be having an overwhelming edge on the adversary in propaganda. The offensive part also includes using electronic and ballistic means to disable or destroy enemy's TV and radio stations or jamming them.

This aspect of Information warfare has to be planned and coordinated at the highest level as part of national strategy. What to project at what time and how. In our case, the PMO will have to get involved.


In a war situation, Information warfare operations are to be undertaken, in the military arena; propaganda/perception management being a part and parcel. The armed forces today depend heavily on electronic systems, including communications, surveillance devices (satellites, radars, UAVs), weapon systems (missiles, rockets, guns), air and naval operations and electronic warfare. Information or intelligence is passed instantaneously, processed and disseminated speedily. Plans and orders issued and their implementation monitored leading to Network Centric Warfare. All such systems heavily depend on use of computers.


Information warfare is also integral part of deception. Use of computers enables doctoring of images quite realistically. This can help in projecting troops, aircraft, ships and weapon systems where they are not. According to Sun Zu, All warfare is based on deception.


Over 70 per cent of all intelligence is derived using electronic interceptions, both in peace and war. The aim has to be to make the battlefield transparent to own forces and blind the enemy. This is one of the prime objectives of information operations during war.


Disabling or doctoring enemy's computer based systems while ensuring use of the same by own forces is a critical aspect of information operations. This is also termed cyber warfare. However, cyber warfare is not restricted to armed forces networks but includes all national critical resources like transportation, water supply, law and order, telecommunications, financial systems (banking, stock markets), news media, medical etc. In short all systems which can adversely affect the war effort, the lives of people and thus create chaos. Safeguarding all such systems is critical to over all war effort.


Cyber warfare covers hacking and spread of viruses. The worst is to doctor the functioning of systems so that these get out of control. There are many reports of Indian and American computer systems being hacked. The fingers point invariably towards China, which has taken cyber warfare very seriously and made it a pillar of its strategy. It has raised a number of cyber warfare divisions.


India has also set up some organisations to counter these threats, both at national and military levels but much more needs to be done and fast. India has the required brains and technical resources. What is needed is the national will and according required priority and resources.


Our political leaders and bureaucrats who are the ultimate decision makers need to be well versed in the nuances of this new form of warfare. As of now, our potential adversaries have a big edge.


(The author is a former Signals Officer-in-Chief of the Indian Army)









ADDRESSING the Army Commanders' Conference at New Delhi in May, Defence Minister AK Antony said cyber attacks were "fast becoming the next generation of threats", and asked the defence services to work in unison to combat computer based external attacks. He also asked them to focus on developing a "force capable of operating in a joint network-centric environment." While remaining alive to current threats, the services can not afford to remain oblivious to the fast changing technological milieu and its effect on war . There is a need to intently peep into the future and start preparations now.


The minister's exhortation hasn't come a day too soon. In January, no less a person than the former National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan had pointed an accusing finger at China for launching cyber attacks on computers in the Prime Minister's Office. In February 2009, the Ministry of External Affairs had reported several of its computers had been infected by a spyware originating from a server in China. In 2008 also, the MEA's internal communication network was reported to have been broken into by Chinese hackers. There was also a report of Pakistani hackers defacing an Indian Army website.


On January 14, failure of the computerised data processing system with Air Traffic Control at IGI Airport, New Delhi led to a massive disruption for almost two hours, when the airport was already reeling under dense fog and low visibility conditions. Analysts fear such outages could even be engineered as part of planned cyberwar operations. Critical infrastructure - services including rail, air, and sea transportation systems, power generation and transmission, monitoring of oil and gas pipelines, banking services, voice and data transmission are all dependent upon internet based networks.


Today, it is difficult to imagine a world without computers and internet. US experts warn of "cybergeddon," where an advanced economy in which almost everything is linked to or controlled by computers falls prey to hackers, with catastrophic results.


Information Technology is critical to the defence effort, indeed the whole life of a nation. If a country cannot support its tanks, ships, aircraft, missiles, and satellites with cyber capability, and cyber security, the war is likely to be lost before it has even begun. And, if you cannot guard your banking networks, you would lose your money as well. Possibly, future conflicts would consist of blended attacks - physical attack, accompanied by disruption of cyber systems, or a series of such attacks. The new environment necessitates the ability to defend own networks while retaining the ability to disrupt those of the adversary. The adversaries could be countries, rogue NGOs, and even rogue individuals marching to their own weird tunes. One of the most difficult problem with cyberwar is that the internet gives the originators of attack the power of anonymity. Finding the identity of an attacker is extremely difficult.


What does the future hold for the militaries of the world? The ideas swirl has spawned a thousand cyber neologisms; cyberspace, cyberwar, cybersecurity, cyberdeterrence, cyber dominance, cybergeddon (a take-off from Armageddon), digital 9/11, digital Pearl Harbour, cyber shockwave, cyberterrorist, digital warriors, cyberbomb and so on. Rules of warfare are changing once again though the shape and structure of the cyber future is far from clear. Would future wars be contested only by digital nerds punching keys in air conditioned offices and not by heroic soldiers shedding their blood on distant battlefields? Or, would future wars consist of series of near simultaneous bloody and bloodless combats?


How does one fight the digital war? What should be the objectives of a cyber attack? How does one deter cyberaggression? Should it be deterrence by denial - prohibitively raising the costs of an attack by strong firewalls, or deterrence - sure, swift and overwhelming retribution? But would the ideas that rule the conventional war today foot the bill of a cyberworld?


In the two recent Gulf wars, an information technology dominant USA was able to pulverise an IT deficient Iraq. According to Nigel Inkster, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, "There is lot of concern in [China and Russia] that the US is seeking to achieve in cyberspace the same dominance it is perceived to have in the realm of conventional and nuclear weapons."


The US military has recently set up the United Sates Cyber Command. A new bipartisan cybersecurity bill introduced on June 10, 2010 seeks to give the US President authority to declare a national "cyber emergency" and protect critical assets. The Department of Homeland Security's new National Centre for Cybersecurity and Communications would be responsible for protection against and responding to attacks on government and critical private networks.


India too has started taking hesitant steps to prepare for cyber-conflict. The Indian Army is setting up a cyber-security laboratory at the Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow to train officers in establishing and maintaining security protocols. This ambit would have to be expanded soon as purely defensive measures are unlikely to succeed against determined attackers who continue probing relentlessly till they find a chink in the cyber armour.


The country as a whole would do well to move fast and be ready before the cyber barbarians come calling.


(The author is a defence analyst)








After Andres Iniesta had had his say, the roof of Johannesburg's glorious Soccer City stadium put in the last word, erupting in fiery colours that were visible for miles through the naked eye and seen by hundreds of millions around the world on TV. It seemed all too elaborate for the World Cup final; more apt perhaps for something that heralds everlasting change, like the birth of Jesus. 


But then sport in the modern era often defies perspective. Seen by some as a device to bring nations together, by some as a mirror of how well a country is doing socially and economically, and by some others as a combination of the two, it is often heralded as a yardstick for many things that it doesn't illustrate. The unprecedented success of Spain across sport over the last two years is an example of that, if ever there was one, but we'll get to that later. 


In his 1945 essay, The Sporting Spirit, George Orwell had taken on the promoting-bonhomie assumption by writing that international sporting contests led to "orgies of hatred" instead. "The significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue," he said. 


Then, this year, in a book called Why England Lose that was timed to coincide with the World Cup, leading sports anthropologist Simon Kuper took the economic assumption forward by listing the pre-requisites that define a great football team. With co-author Stefan Syzmanski, he said the greatness of a team depends on three factors – population size, wealth and experience. For example, Brazil was the wealthiest of the emerging third-world countries with a very large population whose players gained experience playing in the great leagues all over the world – a perfect combination. England, on the other hand, lost out because so few of its players were in non-English clubs. 


But Spain's Midas touch – not just in football but across sport over the last two years – seems to challenge this theory at various levels. Sticking to football for now, the entire first-11 of the Spanish football team was from either Barcelona, Real Madrid or Villareal. Two of their biggest players in overseas clubs, Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Liverpool's Fernando Torres, were warming the bench and came on in the 87th and 106th minutes in the final. 


Secondly, defying the hypothesis given by Kuper, and several other sociologists, that a country's sporting success is directly proportional to its overall growth, Spain is reeling from its worst economic crisis in history. The collapse of its real-estate boom over the last two years has resulted in a personal debt crisis, leading to trade deficit, its credit rating being downgraded by ratings agency Standard & Poor's, and its unemployment rate rising to nearly 20 per cent. 


The effect is being felt in every industry, particularly local tourism and entertainment. For example, reports suggest that in the Mediterranean seaside resort of Estepona officials have failed to find a promoter to stage bullfights at the local festival starting today. The town, which usually spends 250,000 euro on its week-long summer festival of music, parades, and drinking, will have no government spending and no parade this year. 

In the middle of this atmosphere of gloom, how does one explain the Euro and World Cup titles in football, Rafael Nadal's Grand Slam titles, Alberto Contador's Tour de France victory, and the presence of Fernando Alonso on the Formula 1 circuit and Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez on the golf tours – all at the same time? 


What's more curious is that unlike East Germany in the 80s, China in the 90s, and England in the latter half of the 2000s, this success is not part of a systematic government movement aimed at getting Olympic medals. It has happened in a variety of sports, most of them home-coached, almost like a series of accidents taking place simultaneously. 


Incredible as it may sound, this explanation is probably good enough for those who believe in coincidences. For those who don't, go figure.



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The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), entrusted with the task of providing identification numbers to all residents, had a brush with controversy last week. Newspaper reports said that the expenditure finance committee of the finance ministry had slashed its budget by more than half, to Rs 3,000 crore. The implication of the reported cut was that the Authority would be able to issue only 100 million unique identification numbers, compared to 600 million numbers originally planned for the first phase.


The facts, however, are somewhat different. First, the expenditure finance committee does not have the final power to cut the budget of an Authority, created under an Act of Parliament. It certainly has the power to recommend cuts, but that is not the same thing. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said as much by issuing a statement yesterday, reiterating his ministry's commitment to provide all funds required for the expeditious and smooth implementation of the UID project. Secondly, there is no change in the plan for rolling out the identification numbers over the next four years, according to which the Authority would issue 100 million numbers by February 2011 and another 600 million by 2014. Yet, it would be naive to conclude from the finance minister's clarification that all is well with the UID project and that the controversy over its implementation has been resolved. The controversy arose from the manner in which the Authority proposed to register people, particularly those falling below the poverty line, before allotting them identification numbers. Finance ministry officials have argued that since the Registrar General of India (RGI) is collecting demographic and biometric data, the Authority need not undertake this exercise as it would lead to duplication of efforts. The Authority, on its part, has argued that it could not rely only on the RGI and it would collect such data independently from areas which the RGI cannot reach. Another area of conflict pertains to the Authority's proposal to pay Rs 100 to every poor person who registers her name with it for getting an identification number. The ministry has questioned the need for paying the incentive to people for getting a number that should be incentive enough since it would entitle them to a host of financial and non-financial benefits. Should the government, therefore, pay out Rs 12,000 crore for allotting identification numbers to all residents, the ministry has asked. The Authority has argued in favour of the incentive on two counts. One, the payment of Rs 100 per person will be restricted only to the poor. Two, the amount involved is reasonable and fair compensation for a poor person who will lose a day's earnings when she comes to get enrolled for the number.


There is no doubt that any payment of incentive to people for getting enrolled for the identification number should be subjected to strict scrutiny. However, for a scheme that has the potential of saving thousands of crores of rupees by eliminating ghost beneficiaries, the proposed payment of incentive money to the poor is worth the investment.







A bad workman, it is said, finds fault with the tools. This seems to be true of the environment and forest ministry when it comes to wildlife conservation. Unable to check the rise in wildlife crime and the illicit trade in wildlife products, the ministry has put the blame on the Wildlife Conservation Act, 1972, which, it feels, is not stringent enough to deter criminals. It has, therefore, come out with a draft Bill to amend this statute, and hike steeply the penalties for wildlife-related misdeeds, the idea being to raise the economic cost of committing wildlife crimes. This is fine, but the cost of a crime becomes an effective deterrent only if the perpetrators are caught and convicted. This is not usually the case; wildlife activists reckon that the conviction rate is as low as 1 per cent. Even when notorious wildlife traders, such as Sansar Chand, are nabbed and convicted, the follow-up action to destroy their networks is usually found wanting. Little wonder then that the illegal trade in wildlife products continues to flourish. In value, it now ranks below only arms and narcotics.


Behind much of this trade are international gangs of criminals who run sophisticated networks. China is known to be a major destination for illegally procured wildlife products. But tigers and leopards are not the only animals sought after by poachers and smugglers. Going by the database of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), over 400 species of animals are on the hit list of wildlife criminals and traders. WPSI also claims (on its website) to have collected information about more than 14,000 wildlife criminals and their associates, wildlife traders, smuggling routes and the methods used for poaching.


 The problem then goes beyond the law and its penalties. The problem cannot be dealt with without cooperation between the major forested states, on the one hand, and the countries where these gangs operate, on the other. Though the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, to which India is a party, should have come in handy, the accord is not being adhered to in its true spirit. On the home front, wildlife poachers who use sophisticated weapons and fast-moving transport, cannot be confronted with the outmoded guns and rickety vehicles that forest officers usually have. Besides, in most states a large number of posts of ward and watch staff lie unfilled. As for those who are on the rolls, the average age of forest guards is estimated by wildlife activists at around 50 years. But the most important factor is that wildlife habitats are shrinking, forcing animals to venture outside the core forest areas and become easy targets for poachers. Unless all these issues are suitably addressed, merely giving more teeth to the Wildlife Act will be meaningless









Yesterday's editorial in this newspaper ("The IMF gets more upbeat", July 12, 2010) noted that the IMF has had a patchy record in charting the evolution of the present crisis, following developments more than anticipating them. Despite this performance, and its poor performance in predicting the crisis, each update of its forecast for the global economy (the "World Economic Outlook", or WEO) receives considerable international press attention and commentary.


While the Fund's full analysis of the global economy is undertaken twice a year — in April and September at the time of the meetings of the governors (i.e. finance ministers) of the IMF and the World Bank — the organisation also undertakes summary intermediate revisions. One such forecast was unveiled last week (World Economic Outlook Update, July 8, 2010; Before examining the implications of this forecast for Indian policy, particularly the quarterly monetary policy update due at the end of July, it is worth reflecting briefly on the context in which this latest forecast has been prepared.


 Unusually, the release occurred in Hong Kong, China. It was timed for the eve of a major gathering of Asian policy-makers to take place in Seoul, Korea, this week, on the joint invitation of the Korean government and the IMF. Both events signal the increased importance of Asia in the global economy. They also indicate the desire of the IMF to reconnect with a group of countries which it alienated through its response to the Asian crisis of 1997.


With the notable exception of Pakistan, these Asian countries (Asean, China, India, and the "old" newly industrialised economies of Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea) are unlikely to return to the Fund for resources any time soon. Instead they have spent the past decade "self-insuring" against an unpredictable global financial system through a large build-up of foreign exchange reserves. Under Chinese and Japanese leadership, within the framework of a mechanism of swap arrangements referred to as the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI), the underlying agenda has, in fact, been to develop alternatives to an IMF seen as subservient to American and European interests.


The alacrity with which the Fund has rushed to support countries and banks in Europe in the present crisis, even as the reform of voting power and board representation in the Fund proceeded at a glacial pace, would perhaps have done little to assuage these concerns. Yet the Fund wishes to remain at the heart of the reform of the international monetary order (exchange rate regimes, capital movements, liquidity provision, safety nets) and the rebalancing of the global economy. For this, it badly needs Asian engagement, particularly from the Asian emerging market members of the G20 (South Korea, Indonesia, China and India).


As widely reported in the Indian press, global growth in 2010, weighted by purchasing power parity, is now forecast at 4.6 per cent as against 4.2 per cent as recently as late April. Despite the turmoil in European sovereign debt markets, almost all parts of the globe have been upgraded. In addition, the charts supplied in the document clearly indicate that the world is experiencing a classic "V"-shaped rebound in output, of the kind associated with an extreme inventory cycle.


Within this generally positive global picture, as might be expected, both the absolute levels and the upgrade are strongest for Developing Asia: China, India and the "Asean-5" (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam). The April projection of 8.8 per cent for calendar 2010 has been further boosted to 9.4 per cent. Several people have asked me how it relates to the more usual forecast of 8-8.5 per cent for fiscal 2010-11 that is circulating in official Indian circles. I would surmise that the main difference is the very strong growth performance of the first quarter of this calendar year. Given the very weak performance in early 2009, this can have a big effect on the calculation of the change in average level of GDP for 2010 over 2009.


What does this comparatively buoyant picture imply for Indian policy? While the usual caveats about forecasts are in order, and for many parts of the world, notably the US, the jobs picture remains dismal, it now seems safe to say that the global recovery is well established. This was not my view at the time of the April monetary policy. My earlier concern was that simultaneous tightening of both fiscal and monetary policy was risky at a time when the global prospect was uncertain and domestic private investment was still shaky; but now, equity market developments, the continuing good news on the manufacturing front (the index of industrial production) and indirect tax receipts are reassuring.


This then leaves the external sector: trade, capital movements and the external price of the rupee. There have been a number of developments in this space in recent days. These include the release of the preliminary balance of payments data by RBI for the full fiscal year 2009-10; the simultaneous release, also by RBI, of data on external debt of India; recent numbers on merchandise exports; the announced return to a gradual crawl of the Chinese yuan (RMB) against the US dollar; and the general recovery in world trade.


As I noted in April, eminent columnists of this paper have expressed concern on the real effective appreciation of the Indian rupee. In speeches delivered in Washington and Zurich, RBI Governor D Subbarao has also expressed concern on volatile capital flows and their impact both on asset markets and on managing the nominal exchange rate. The balance of payments data for the last quarter of FY10, and for the full fiscal year, would seem to give some credence to these concerns, with the current account deficit estimated at 2.9 per cent of GDP by RBI. This is certainly a level that deserves watching, but given the big difference between the trade data reported by the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics and that reported by RBI, as well as the healthy growth of overall exports, it may make more sense to adjust the current account through fiscal consolidation, rather than through aggressive intervention in the exchange market.


The author is director-general, NCAER, and member, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council. Views expressed are personal







The last couple of weeks have seen interesting developments in the Sino-Indian relationship. On June 28, a Chinese Web newspaper called Global Times posted an article that argued forcefully that Indian control of the northern Indian Ocean would be a positive development for China's security. The timing of this article was noteworthy, coming as it did just four days before National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon left for China to begin a new dialogue on exploring new ways to impart a positive direction to the Sino-Indian relationship.


The author, Zhang Wenmu, a Beijing University professor, argued that only Russia, India and the US had direct interests in the northern Indian Ocean, while China had only an indirect interest. Indian control of these waters would suit China better than a strong US Navy presence in these waters. Besides, argued Prof Zhang, the more India focuses on the Indian Ocean, the safer Tibet becomes for China. If India were bent on containing China, it would focus on Tibet, not the Indian Ocean. Prof Zhang believes that India's ongoing naval build-up would bring India into confrontation with the US, rather than with China, mirroring the way that China's naval expansion is currently precipitating a confrontation between the Chinese and US navies.


Admittedly, this radical idea has been expressed only unofficially, and in just a single media article so far. But it is standard Chinese practice to test reactions to potentially controversial ideas — such as an entente with India in the Indian Ocean — through a trial balloon of this kind.


Furthermore, Mr Menon's visit to China, from July 3 to July 6, took place in the backdrop of the naval confrontation that is building up between China and the US. Beijing has made it clear that it would not allow a joint US-South Korea naval exercise, scheduled for mid-July, in the Yellow Sea to be conducted unhindered in waters that it regards as China's zone of influence.


In March 2010, according to The New York Times, Beijing had told two visiting US administration officials that China would not tolerate US interference in its territorial disputes in the western Pacific, labelling the South China Sea for the first time as a "core interest" for China, on a par with Tibet and Taiwan.


Now, Washington has challenged Beijing; an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, the flagship of the US 7th Fleet, is leading a powerful naval flotilla into the waters off China.


China's predicament explains Prof Zhang's argument as well as the warmth with which Mr Menon was received in China. Premier Wen Jiabao received him for a 40-minute meeting, as did Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, Mr Mr Menon's interlocutor on the border issue. Wen Jiabao was quoted as pointing out to Mr Menon that "It will be Asia's century if India and China have a strong relationship", and officials told the media that "a way forward" for the relationship was explored.


China's new appreciation for India's concerns — which has flowered since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh supported Premier Jiabao's stand at the Copenhagen climate summit — must be leveraged by New Delhi into forward movement on the Sino-Indian territorial dispute. While fully resolving the dispute is a complex task, Beijing must be made to understand that better relations with China hinge on convincing Indian public opinion about China's bona fides on the border.


A viable suggestion to China would be to diminish the profile of the dispute, transforming it from a territorial dispute — involving vast tracts of land amounting to 130,000 square kilometres — to a border dispute over where the boundary lies. Astonishingly, given the animosity and bloodshed that the dispute has generated, this is not difficult. Since the 1950s, China had been suggesting an East-for-West swap, in which China recognises India's sovereignty over NEFA/Arunachal Pradesh (which India occupies) in exchange for recognition of Chinese sovereignty over the areas it already occupies in Aksai Chin/Ladakh.


The same proposal, with relatively minor changes, has also guided the settlement being discussed since 2003 between the special representatives of the two countries: currently Shiv Shankar Menon and Dai Bingguo. Beijing's insistence, after 1984, that the Tawang tract in Arunachal Pradesh be ceded to China has been the only new stumbling block. The other disputed areas are small and relatively insignificant.


Today, it is theoretically possible for the two countries to agree on a border where China keeps Aksai Chin and India keeps Arunachal; while the Tawang tract and a dozen or so disputed enclaves be settled through further dialogue. This would radically diminish the very nature of the dispute, allowing an overall improvement in relations.


All that prevents such a settlement (other than an Indian parliamentary resolution, which would have to be dealt with anyway) is China's belief that it could extract a more favourable settlement in the future. But China is pragmatic; when the US-India relationship was surging in 2005, Wen Jiabao made bold concessions, accepting an India-friendly draft of the "Political Principles" for a settlement, an important document that India holds up today to buttress its claim on Tawang.


With China under pressure on the Pacific front, and exploring common ground with India, Beijing must be persuaded to neuter a dispute that has long been, in the Indian psyche, evidence of Chinese animosity towards this country.








From just 42,000 hectares under certified organic farming in 2003-04, farmland under this nature-friendly form of cultivation has expanded to about 750,000 hectares in 2009-10, marking a spectacular 18-fold increase. If 300,000 hectares of area under various stages of conversion to recognised organic farming is also taken into account, this growth would work out to a whopping 25-fold. To this can be added millions of hectares where fertilisers and other chemicals are, in any case, seldom used.


However, this remarkable spread of organic agriculture is not so much because of the farmers' concern for ecology as it is due to a growing demand for organic food as well as promotion of such farming by the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Besides, it could also be viewed as the farmers' response to the premium prices that organically-grown products fetch in the niche market for such food items. Non-food crops are rarely grown on certified organic farmlands.


 Globally, too, organic farming has taken rapid strides as a demand-driven activity. According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an apex body of organic organisations, about 32.2 million hectares worldwide were cultivated organically in 2007. In addition, organic wild products were harvested in approximately 30 million hectares to cater to an estimated $46-billion global market for organic products.


However, despite such impressive growth as well as good future prospects, organic agriculture has no precise and universally accepted definition. Nor is this mode of cultivation wholly incontrovertible from the standpoint of sustainability and food security, notably for filling the billions of hungry or under-fed bellies. As a proportion of total agricultural output, organic produce remains just a tiny fraction, less than 1 per cent, domestically as also globally.


Most people deem organic agriculture as a farming system that does not use synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, plant growth regulators and other such inputs. But some other definitions view it from the health angle — the health of various types of soil, ecosystems and people. That makes organic farming a relatively more complicated activity, requiring judicious mix of crop rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control and farm mechanisation. Genetically modified crops are strictly prohibited in all modes of organic agriculture, though such crops can make it easier to reap bigger harvests without productivity-boosting inputs like fertilisers and pesticides.


Indeed, organic farming found its most formidable detractor in the late Nobel laureate Norman E Borlaug, who is globally hailed as the father of green revolution. His most often quoted, albeit controversial, remarks seem worth recalling. Borlaug said: "Even if you could use all the organic material that you have — the animal manure, the human waste, plant residues — and get them back in the soil, you couldn't feed more than 4 billion people. In addition, if all agriculture were organic, you would have to increase cropland area dramatically, spreading out into marginal areas and cutting down millions of acres of forests."


Borlaug even discounted the plea that organic farming produced more nutritive products. "As far as the plants are concerned, they can't tell whether nitrate ion comes from artificial chemicals or from decomposed organic matter," he often argued.

Indeed, some of Borlaug's views, especially those concerning the quality of organic products, have since been corroborated by the outcome of scientific investigations published recently in reputed international journals. These studies have found no substantive nutritive superiority of the organically grown products over others.


Borlaug's logic regarding the source of plant nutrients for the crops, too, is not wholly unfounded. For, farmyard manures usually contain very little, less than 1 per cent, nitrogen (N) against that of 46 per cent in urea. Manures also have a low content of phosphorous (P) and potash (K). These are, therefore, required to be added in huge quantities to meet the needs of plants, especially those of high-yielding varieties. That much quantity of manure may be difficult to arrange for. But the utility of manure in replenishing soils' micro-nutrients and maintaining their biological and physical health is indisputable.


Regardless of its merits and demerits, however, organic farming needs to grow to cater to the consumers who, for whatever reasons, wish to eat such products despite high prices. Also, this form of agriculture is desirable for fragile soils of hilly areas. It is, therefore, an encouraging sign that several hilly states, notably, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Sikkim and Mizoram, have declared their intention to turn 100 per cent organic. Other hilly areas need to emulate their example







It was in 2003-2004 that a minor academic work by the scholar James Laine set off a fierce, orchestrated campaign of political protests that led to the state-banning of a book, threats to the author and other Shivaji

scholars, and ransacking of the BORI library in Pune by members of the then little-known Sambhaji Brigade.


In the wake of the recent Supreme Court judgment overturning the ban on Laine's Shivaji, two things are very clear. The first is that the Shivaji case is no longer about free speech, but about complex political reactions. And the second is that the Shivaji case goes beyond just free speech and free expression; at the heart of Laine's continuing travails is the question of what we're free to think and explore in contemporary India.


 The Supreme Court judgment turns on an apparently minor point: can an Act (Section 153A) that invokes the possibility of censorship in cases where religious sentiments may be hurt apply to a great historical figure who is, however, neither a prophet nor a God? The Maharashtra government was forced to admit that Shivaji, however great a Maratha hero he might be, is not a religious figure, and the state ban on the publication of Laine's Shivaji was overturned on this technicality.


The judgment has caused a political storm. Various right-wing Hindutva parties have protested and threatened violence; Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has announced that his party shares "public sentiments" on the sanctity of Shivaji and may not endorse the SC judgment. This is a red herring: given the track record of Indian publishers and booksellers, few of them are likely to demonstrate the moral courage required to put the Laine book back in stores.


In this debate, free speech is invoked only cursorily; and the phrase "offended sentiments" is reflexively and thoughtlessly invoked — in 2010, the Laine case is all about political battle, not censorship issues.


The ostensible reason for the protests and the thuggish violence that led to the 2004 ban on the book was a brief section in Laine's work that reported the "naughty" tradition of speculation on Shivaji's parentage. But what was really at work was a question of ownership of the Shivaji legend and franchise. Laine asks: "Can one imagine a narrative of Shivaji's life in which, for example, Shivaji had an unhappy family life? Shivaji had a harem? Shivaji was uninterested in the religion of bhakti saints? Shivaji's personal ambition was to build a kingdom, not liberate a nation?"


These points were pounced upon as evidence that Laine was a "sensationalist" historian, seeking more readers. But when we speak of defending free speech, it is this question that is really at the heart of current free speech and censorship debates in India.


Political parties often frame free speech in strictly negative terms: no one should have the right to offend or harm the sentiments of the (undefined) public. The alternative to this line of thinking would be: "Everyone should have the right to engage in debate, intellectual exploration or questioning, however uncomfortable this process of debate may be, so long as it is not malicious."


Few political parties in contemporary India have ever thought deeply about the implications of curtailing — or supporting — free speech, which is why we've seen a process of death by deification where it comes to understanding the lives and times of our national leaders.


If you look more carefully at Laine's argument, it gives you a better understanding of the ban, the violence, and the current unrest after the Supreme Court judgment. What Laine, in his naivete, is really asking is this: Are we free to step away from a rigid, politically defined way of looking at a great historical figure, be it Shivaji, Nehru, Sardar Patel or Mahatma Gandhi, and examine the more human, and to him, more complex and rich narrative around that figure?


Gandhi is an exception: in his inconvenient fashion, the Father of the Nation aired his life with such ruthless honesty and such thoroughness that he is impossible to sanitise beyond a certain point. But with other historical figures, especially those being claimed by the Hindu right-wing as Shivaji currently is, the answer to that question is a blunt no. We're not free to imagine the life of Shivaji within the perspective of his own times, or to see him as a human subject to human biases — because that open narrative is directly threatening to the present-day mythology of Shivaji.


And this is what makes the Laine case so crucial. The Supreme Court has upheld free speech, if on a technicality. Political parties, in contrast, are unlikely to see the importance of allowing imagination and contemporary scholarship to remain free. Step away from Laine for a moment: the larger question is, are we free to write, or imagine, an honest, questioning history of some of the most important historical figures in India? At present, the answer to that is, unfortunately, no. 









WITHIN days of the International Monetary Fund revising its growth forecast for India from 8.8% to 9.4%, Monday's data on industrial production provided a much-needed reality check. Albeit a small one! Quick estimates of the index of industrial production (IIP) show industrial production up 11.5% in May, down from the previous month's scorching 16.5%. At one level, this might seem to suggest the strong recovery seen in April was only a flash in the pan. But that would be altogether too hasty. Even after factoring in the base effect — the IIP for May 2009 was only 2.1% — an industrial growth of 11.5% is not to be scoffed at. This is the eighth straight month industrial output has clocked double-digit growth. Indeed, the cumulative index of industrial production for the first two months of the fiscal year is an encouraging 14%, up from 1.6% in the same period last fiscal year. Moreover, the recovery continues to be broad-based, with 15 of the 17 industry groups showing positive growth in May 2010 compared to the corresponding month of the previous year. Mining witnessed a growth of 8.7% in May 2010 compared to 3.4% in May 2009, manufacturing 12.3% compared to 1.8% in the year-ago month, electricity sector was up 6.4%, up from 3.0% in May 2009. Cumulatively too, growth in the mining sector for the first two months of the fiscal year was 10.2%. Manufacturing sector grew 15.1% in April-May, while electricity registered a growth of 6.6%. 


The drop in the growth rate of industrial output in May as compared to April is mainly because of the sharp decline in the output of capital goods. Capital goods production dropped more than 50% to a much-less-heady 34.3% in May compared to 72.8% in April. On a sequential basis, the output of capital goods, consumer goods, consumer durables and non-durables is lower in May 2010 compared to April — suggesting fears of overheating may be overblown and the economy may be returning to a more even keel. And that is good news. Strong, sustainable growth is any day preferable to one that is marked by sharp ups and downs.








 INDIA'S satellite launch capability has come to be taken for granted by the public at large to an extent where one more successful launch fails to excite. Excitement is not the point, however. It's time for Indians to move on from celebration of belonging to a tiny, elite club of nations that can fabricate and launch their own, and others', satellites to optimal utilisation of not just the data captured by the satellites but also the technological advances made by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). A successful satellite launch brings together diverse capabilities in material sciences, communications, signalling, microelectronics, fuels, aerodynamics, computing, data management and project management. All these capabilities are eminently qualified for being put to use by industry in non-space areas of activity. The Antrix Corp, Isro's commercial wing, offers some of these capabilities to industry. But the bulk of the corporation's Rs 900-crore revenue comes from core activities such as launch of satellites and lease of transponders. Commercialisation of Isro's technology is yet to achieve a respectable fraction of the potential. This must change. And for that, there has to be greater effort both by the space agency and by Indian industry. 


From CAT scans and ultrasounds to quartz timekeepers and sports bras, from flat panel television to trash compactors, a whole range of things that we do not commonly associate with space missions owe their origins, in fact, to space research. Commercialisation of technology is not a function that technologists are necessarily good at. It calls for not just marketing skills on the part of the agency that creates the technology but also an ecosystem that brings together risk-taking entrepreneurship and a financial system that can mediate a slice of the collective pool of savings to commercial experimentation with new technology. Fast-growing India needs to create such an ecosystem, to fully tap the fruits of the research that send launch vehicles and their payloads soaring into the sky and beyond. And the responsibility for that cannot be dumped on our space scientists.








FOR anyone who thinks that a James Bond-style life, all that cloak-and-dagger stuff, was fun would do well to look at the farce that was enacted last week. First came the news that a huge, deep-cover Russian spying ring had been busted in the US. Not that strange: after all, spies, well, spy. And all countries keep tabs on each other. The warped logic is that it actually helps the world stay safe. For, if one country doesn't spy on a rival, then it becomes a strange, unknown entity since there is no real information about how that state thinks, and what its possible intentions are. This makes for a jittery situation. Spying, on the other hand, provides knowledge, and thus even if there are tensions, intentions are known to a degree and states can approach each other or talk on that basis. But then, this also entails having some real intel, some real information. The Russian spy network, on the other hand, seems to have been notable for its exceptional ability to have gathered almost nothing. Just what sort of spies can we call these characters who stayed in the US for ages, led normal lives, gained no intelligence on anything, and yet call themselves spies. Any self-respecting spook would, in such a situation, perhaps get a piece of rope and find the nearest tree. 


The Russian 'spies' were actually not charged with relevant laws as they simply hadn't gathered any sensitive information. It just seems like people are desperately trying to relive the Cold War era and try and recreate some drama where none can exist. Why on earth didn't the Russians just use Google and get better results and info than what this lot seems to have got in years? And then came the spy swap. Two planes doing hush-hush stuff in a city famous for hosting a lot of Cold War espionage. The spies hadn't done any spying, one wanted to shout! But then, spooks presumably like the drama. At least that makes you feel self-important.








Prudence and lessons from the last three decades of the West's public policy choices should guide us, as the new 'common sense' celebrates Asian growth and predicts Western decline, says Saumitra Chaudhuri


INCREASINGLY, as the facts pile up, the perception seems to change. In the last three decades, the fact of Asian growth — the Asian miracle economies, the Chinese behemoth, the incredible India stories — were seen as embellishments to a world still dominated by strong growth and economic prosperity in the developed West — in the US and Europe. Let us not forget that while there were periods of recession in both the US and Europe, the last time that there was a really bad one was in the 1970s that overlapped the first and second oil shocks. 


The decade of the 1970s was the first time in the post-war world when the developed economies of the West went through a really bad crisis. This also extended to the social sphere — and fed back into the economic sphere — bringing about a deep transformation in cultural values and social attitudes. The most extreme and visible, often violent signs of this period, ranged from the Italian Red Brigades, the German Baader-Meinhof Group to the Japanese Red Army; and in a less violent form to the widespread student agitation on both sides of the Atlantic. 


 Since 1980, the advanced economies have had a good run for three decades, which have also seen a total decline in unrest and violent extreme fringe behaviour. The revisitation of terrorism in the West has come from elsewhere. 


The average rate of growth was 3.3% in the US between 1980 and 2000, around 2.5% in the first decade of this century before the crisis set in, and little over 3% for the entire three decades up to 2007. That is pretty good going for the largest and richest economy in the world, notwithstanding the recessions in the early 1990s and at the turn of the century. 


Likewise, western Europe also fared well during this period. The larger European Union registered average growth of little over 2% in the period 1980-2000 and a slightly one of 2.5% in the period 2000 to 2007. For the advanced economies as a whole, growth averaged 2.7% in the three decades to 2007. 


This pace of expansion on an alreadyhigh base of income and development permitted the economies of the developed West to put in place strong welfare measures, more so in Europe than in the US, and maintain unemployment at acceptable, though high, levels. 


It allowed Europe to trade-off high unemployment and other social benefits against unemployment levels that were much higher than in the US. The Europeans more so, and the US to a lesser extent, chose a regime of fairly high taxation to fund their enlarged public expenditure, and this, as evidenced by the experience of three decades, appeared to be consistent with about 2% economic growth and its associated level of investment activism. 


The crisis has reopened many of these issues, throwing a question mark on whether there was indeed a balance, or whether this apparent balance was a path of slow and perhaps chronic decline in the pace of productive activity. High rates of taxation curb economic activity. Even the kings of antiquity knew that. The pressure from rising expenditures has tended to push upwards both the fiscal deficit and adjustments to tax rates. Whether this is sustainable and what its effects may be on the future of economic activity and hence on employment and general economic well-being are open to question. 


THE decision taken by European governments to pursue fiscal consolidation, for the most part by trying to curb expenditure, is certainly a response to the probing questions that have been begun to be asked of public finance in the developed West after the imbroglio in Greece and the perceptible stress in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy. Without doubt, the monetary union and common laws and regulations have exacerbated the problems. 

So, there is the larger proximate question about how Europe wishes to pursue first its monetary union and second the regulatory union. The meaningful resolution of these questions, especially of the latter, is inextricably linked to questions about the previous consensus on the trade-off between high publicly-mandated costs (including tax rates) and acceptable levels of investment, growth and employment. The same question will also arise in the US, though perhaps not in all of its complexity or urgency. 


 Thus, the genie that the financial market crisis of 2008 has let out of the bottlebears upon the transcendental choices in fundamental public policy. In that sense, the real crisis in the developed West begins now. It cannot have an early resolution, but it will have one in the course of time. In case memories are short, it is worth recalling the great challenges that Europe and later the US have successfully faced and overcome: from the hundred years war, the centuries of battle and conflict as Europe industrialised, and finally the devastation of the first and second world wars, as well as the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, to emerge at every round as the dominant powers in the world. 


In the interim, the focus of attention is on Asia. From being a sideshow, to a strange phenomenon widely expected to undergo a sudden deflation, to being the central piece in the act. The IMF in its July 2010 Update to the World Economic Outlook has given even more powerful expression to this. The world will now apparently run on the engine of China, India and the rest of Asia, fuelled by their robust domestic demand and soaring intra-regional trade and investment. 


Perhaps that will indeed be for some time, as long-term economic growth in developing Asia appears to be robust. However, it would be incorrect to infer that the West, especially Europe, has entered terminal decline — for demographic or whatever reason. That is not to say, defeat cannot be snatched from the jaws of victory. Yes, the leadership of Europe and the US may fail to rise to the task of preserving the great vitality of their economies that has powered them for so many centuries. I do not, however, share the pessimism that failure here is inevitable. 


As Asia expands and intensifies its regional trade and investment ties, it should take nothing for granted. Success is never assured; it has to be earned. And in this, we should try and learn from the impact that public policies have had on Europe and the US in long-term growth potential, i.e., the past three decades, and closely follow their efforts to rejuvenate their economies. 

(The author is a member of     the Planning Commission)








THE global financial crisis of 2008-09 has led academics and practitioners to question many widely-held beliefs about business and economics. One such belief relates to the value of corporate diversification. Popular views about diversification have swung like a pendulum over the past half century, from a generallypositive view in the 1960s and 1970s, when many large conglomerates were formed, to a generally-negative view in the 1980s and early 1990s, when many such conglomerates were dismantled or at least fell out of stock market's favour. 

In the wake of the global financial crisis, a new view seems to be emerging that conglomerates are ready for a comeback. We examine whether and why the value of diversification changed during the 2008-09 financial crisis. We find that diversified firms increased in value relative to single-segment firms during the crisis, a result that is not driven by the endogeneity of either financing constraints or firms' diversification choices. 

We also find that the increase did not simply reflect changes in investor perceptions but real differences in corporate finance and investment, through two different channels: a 'more money' effect arising from the debt coinsurance feature of conglomerates, and a 'smarter money' effect arising from more efficient internal capital allocation. …the shift in the relative pricing of diversified and single-segment firms suggests that the stock market anticipates the advantage gained by conglomerates will last well beyond the crisis.





Ace rider? 

HARAD Pawar seems to have a prophetic imagination. The painting he displays at his Krishi Bhavan office has three horses running (or stumbling?) in three directions. After getting caught in the IPL mud and arm-twisted by Congress, Pawar 'wants' to lessen his 'job burden' like a batsman wants to nurse a sprained wrist. Typically, he then fielded the NCP spokesman to vent anger with a hint of blackmail: NCP will opt for new allies wherever Congress denies it 'growing space'. Courtesy three allies deserting the LDF in a row, the NCP finally got the Kerala entry pass after two years of waiting. The party will be open for tieups with Lalu or Mamata or anyone offering fodder for growth. Trying to ride many horses simultaneously could be a show of bravado that also risks a pathetic fall. What else is responsible for reducing the famed Maratha warrior from a prime ministerial aspirant to a humble leader of a nine-MP party in a national poll that saw Pawar aligning with Congress, courting the Third Front and eyeing the NDA. Familiarity breeds… 



A SENSE of history could help put the AICC-Jagan Mohan Reddy see-saw game in perspective. Before the late Y S R Reddy became the undisputed leader and CM, he had been the perennial rebel of the AP Congress. Many former Congress CMs — from Chenna Reddy to Vijay Bhaskara Reddy to Janardhan Reddy — faced the 'YSR assault' and fumed and lamented just like Rosaiah. Supporters of P V Narasimha Rao once alleged YSR's hand in a 'chappalthrowing' incident when the then-PM visited his home state. YSR was the enthusiastic strategist of the late Rajesh Pilot when he challenged Sitaram Kesri for the top party post. For YSR, constant rebelling against his leaders was a way of establishing himself and rallying Congress workers behind him. Only when Indira, Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi hoisted did YSR rest the rebel in him to become a leader. As Jagan is following his father's path, some AICC managers are talking about this 'DNA factor'. 



THE term 'Hindu terror' is no more a provocation or blasphemy for the RSS, but a matter of 24×7 concern. As investigations into some bomb blasts have led to characters allegedly linked to the Sangh, there is a saffron alert. The very RSS brass who had been playing guide to BJP leaders is frantically reaching out to the latter to seek help in these testing times. After a series of BJP-RSS 'stocktaking exercises', there is muted acknowledgement that the need of the hour is not to deny the emergence of 'Hindu terror' as a counterpart to 'Islamic terror' but to ensure that it does not blow up in the Parivar's face. As the in-house tension builds up, some saffron foot soldiers, used to mudslinging anyone who uttered the phrase 'Hindu terror', have suddenly developed Ostrich-like denial. But the slip is showing. 



ONCE Omar Abdullah threw up his arms and acknowledged that he has managed to drive himself to the wall, Farooq Abdullah returned home from his vacation and showcased, at least, one thing his 'bright-andimpatient GenNext' has managed to squander: the basic support of the National Conference (NC) brass. Whether the father and NC veterans will salvage the situation remains to be seen. But the buzz in Delhi is that the informal role-reversal has also clipped the wings of Devender Singh Rana, Omar's businessman buddy from Jammu who instantly became the adviser to CM and was virtually his co-pilot in a fanciful flight.








AFTER the Greek economy was rocked by the sovereign debt crisis that reduced its government bonds to junk, Spain, Portugal and Italy are regarded as the three other eurozone countries most vulnerable to an unemployment crisis. However, ask 46 million Spaniards whether they would swap nationalities with the most-economicallystable nations and the answer could be a resounding 'No'! 


Spain's football World Cup triumph is just the latest instance of how sports can transform the national mood despite everything else seeming to go wrong. After England won the 1966 World Cup, sociologist Chas Critcher observed that the victory "seemed to set the seal on the resurgence of England in the 1960s and achieved the status of a myth". 


Conversely, Coventry Business School professor Simon Chadwick estimates that if England had qualified for the Euro 2008 football tournament, it could have led to a £2-billion bonanza for the UK's economy through a spurt in sales of not just beer in pubs but also of flat-screen TV sets, flags, and airline and train tickets by fans wishing to watch their team at the venue. 


Brand England could now, blogs the BBC's business editor Robert Peston, be adversely affected by the national football team's poor performance in the 2010 World Cup. War and peace can both be trumped by sports that fosters what the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm calls an identity where "the imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of 11 named people". 


The classic case is Sri Lanka where 80,000-1,00,000 people were killed in a 25-year-long civil war that ended in May 2009. Due to live telecasts of all international matches played by the Lankan cricket team throughout this period, which also saw them win the 1996 World Cup, the most enduring symbol of emotional unity at the height of the ethnic divide between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority was Muttiah Muralitharan who will be retiring from Test cricket on July 22, the last day of the first Test between India and Sri Lanka at Galle. 


South Asia loves its cricketers, especially those who keep smiling like Murali. He is the most successful bowler in international cricket, with 792 wickets from 132 Tests. He started his Test career in 1992 but it was during the period 2000-09 — when batsmen were at their most dominant since the 1940s, according to Cricinfo — that Murali was at his awesome best, taking 565 wickets for an average of just 20.97 runs. 


The decade 2000-09 was also the climactic and worst phase of Sri Lanka's ethnic war. It is estimated that of the 27,639 Tamils who fought and died in the 25-year-long war, over 22,000 were killed in the last three years from 2006. 


With an estimated 23,790 Sri Lankan soldiers dying in the 25-year-long war and 1,155 Indian troops being killed when the Indian Peace Keeping Force was stationed there, the remaining 27,416 to 47,416 were innocent civilians caught up and killed in the conflict. 


It was the LTTE that gave the world the dreaded suicide-bomber. Even the ending of the war in May 2009 did not see the suffering stop, with over 3,50,000 internallydisplaced persons being forcibly kept in camps for months. It is when we juxtapose Murali's cricketing achievements with the grim tally of the victims of war that we realise that it was almost a miracle how cricket could not just survive but sometimes transcend the brutality of a conflict that devastated a country poetically described as a teardrop in the Indian Ocean. 
    The International Cricket Council has recently commissioned a post-war project in Sri Lanka to rehabilitate 370 traumatised child soldiers and workers by inculcating in them a love for sports and values like team-spirit. In the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Murali organised at his own expense truckloads of food aid to the worstaffected region in southern Sri Lanka. 


 "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?" queried the cricket-lover and Marxist intellectual C L R James in Beyond a boundary, published in 1963. The last 25 years in Sri Lanka have seen two stories running in tandem. The horrific one was the long, brutal war. The silver lining was the story of the boy from the minority community who started his career playing for the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, and is ending it as the world's most successful bowler and the first sportsman in Sri Lankan history to be felicitated by the national parliament. 


It might seem simplistic to say so, but Sri Lanka's tragic history need not be repeated if members of the majority community see a Murali in every Tamil, and if those in the minority community are fully convinced that they have an equal opportunity to excel at the highest level!


After the morale-boosting soccer world cup win, the crisis-faced Spaniards would now be unwilling to swap nationality 

Sports not only expand the economy but also unite a country, as was seen in cricket-loving, but conflict-torn, Sri Lanka 


A 25-year-long ethnic war that consumed a lakh lives couldn't stop Murali from becoming world's most successful bowler







AFRIEND retired a year back and almost immediately — within a matter of weeks really — hit the skids. He used to be a high roller in the hierarchy of the organisation where he had worked for over a decade, getting respect, fear and perhaps some friendships now and then along the way, but then, overnight, it was all gone. Vanished. Or so he believed, because the first thing he thought was he had become worthless and, who knows, maybe his worth had declined drastically as far as his former colleagues were concerned since he no longer counted or mattered in their daily preoccupation with employment. 


As a kind of compensation, therefore, one of the first mistakes he made was exult in the thought that he didn't have to wake at six, seven or eight in the morning to arrive in time somewhere a little later. That was heady and, in fact, it went straight to his head. Much to the chagrin of his spouse and other members of his nuclear family who were all still busy wage-earning their way through life, he would rise close to noon and listen to music, make some passing reference to lunch and grab another nap in the afternoon that often stretched to the evening when the others started trickling back. Did he care that they seemed to be frowning on this sort of a thing? No, he had enough money. 


The only problem with this lifestyle, however, was what to do with weekends. The ones he ran into initially merely amused him. Thereafter, they became a source of irritation. Everyone was home, waking up late after watching television or partying into the night, then making plans to visit people, see a movie maybe or just generally hang around at home. But for our friend, time suddenly hung heavy. So he decided that was the day he would catch up on his correspondence, sort out some personal papers and — yes, why not? — begin learning yoga since the course classes were open through the afternoon on Sundays. Pretty soon, he had totally reversed his earlier life and made amess of it in the process. 


Six months later when he was institutionalised for a mental breakdown, he knew the asanas well enough to look after his body — if not his mind. Now this is a true story about a real person, so there can obviously be no moral here without moralising, but perhaps it might be a good idea to keep weekends free to do nothing when you think you have nothing to do during the rest of the week.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Poetic justice was rendered in the end in the World Cup final in which the team capable of playing the most beautiful game was not allowed to do so by an opponent prepared to use ugly and outright physical tactics to try and deny it victory. Spain were the deserving champions even if they tended to retaliate at times for all the fouling by Holland's players at Johannesburg's Soccer City. On Sunday night, the English referee Webb brandished as many as 14 cards, two at John Heitinga that reduced the Netherlands to 10 men. In the dying minutes when it seemed Holland had managed to stanch the free flowing Spaniards to push the match into penalty-kicks, came the winning goal, born as it was of the kind of creativity the Spanish champions most seemed capable of. They had lit up the month-long event with their brand of 'possession' football, playing it in the right spirit and in an elegant manner. Spain literally rode on the creative feet of Xavi Hernandes and Andres Iniesta to the final, with the latter providing the coup de grace in a footballing masterclass. The policeman Webb may not have got everything right on the night but his and his colleagues allowing of the splendid goal scored by Iniesta, who worked his way up 'onside', was spot on. Many former champion teams with a pedigree and a record to boast of had fallen by the wayside leaving two nations in the final that had never won the cup in the competition's remarkable 80-year history. Holland, once the home of Total Football, had been twice in the final — in 1974 and 1978 — and yet it was left to a team that previously never got past the quarter-final stage to walk away with the gleaming trophy. Does this spell the start of a new era in the sport? Will the Spaniards play on in this manner, always stressing the positive, eternally trying to shift the boundaries of the sport and gladdening the hearts of the purists? Even Brazil, once justly famed for brilliant native skills, had given up the spine-tingling joy of the Joga Bonito for a more pragmatic approach that its fans would prefer to call pedestrian. It appears that under the concomitant pressures of the modern world in which winning is everything even the most artistic of teams have turned into soccer machines in order to seek success. Spain's victory also stresses the greatness of teamwork over individual brilliance even as the most talented players like Argentina's little maestro Lionel Messi and Diego Forlan of Uruguay turned on the style but had to bow out of the running because support was insufficient. The final will certainly not be the most memorable one but the world will remember for long South Africa, which hosted its maiden tournament while belying widespread fears over crime, organisation and logistics. There again, teamwork counted more than the individual in shaping a tournament that was enjoyed by people of all races who laid on a magical party in a month filled with the joy of football as played by so many great sets of striving players , including the exuberant Ghanians who carried the best wishes of a whole continent before they faded away while bigger teams strode on to the higher stages. Finally, the winner was not only champions Spain but also Africa and the game as well. Who could have asked for more?








The country wishes our foreign minister well when he meets his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meeting in Islamabad on July 15. It is not easy to put down the historical baggage of bitter cynicism regarding Pakistan, but, for some reason, India seems to have discerned some kind of a game — changing breakthrough at Thimphu through arcane interpretations of "personal chemistry" and "body-language" between the Prime Ministers of the two countries.

Dialogue, howsoever interminable and frustrating, is always preferable to artillery fire. India and Pakistan are no exception, even though public opinion in both countries has hardened into a subconscious state of mutual hostility almost since Partition. It is not surprising therefore that the eager peace overtures to Pakistan initiated at Sharm el-Sheikh and elsewhere have been summarily smacked down with such vehemence that further perseverance seems almost masochistic.

"Trust deficit" is the latest buzzword on Indo-Pak relations parroted in India with a dreary simplemindedness which has started bordering on the tiresome. But even as India's external affairs minister piously intoned, "We feel Pakistan will not encourage terror-related activities any more", Pakistan's disdainful counter-battery came crashing right back, "India's approach is self delusional".

While maintaining open attitudes, India's discussants at Islamabad must always keep in mind that Pakistan's requirement for peace with India is more urgent than is India's for "peace at any cost" with Pakistan, all the more so because now, for the first time since Independence, the Pakistan Army finds itself caught in its own "two-and-a-half front" strategic nutcracker: between the Tehrik-e-Taliban in the west, and a perceived threat from "Hindu" India in the east, coupled with a half-front of internal instability with Punjabi Taliban and sectarian Shia-hunters ripping the Pakistani heartland apart. Such contingencies had hitherto been engineered exclusively for India by the Pakistani military and covert operations establishments and it is surely some kind of poetic justice that these have now appeared within their own compounds. That is why peace with India, howsoever opportunistic or cynical, is what the Pakistan Army requires for itself in its own interest, even though it is very likely to be transitory. Nonetheless, it has to be factored into the backdrop as both governments begin planning for the talks, incorporating political parties and other national constituents within their own countries, all perfectly normal, except it cannot escape notice that Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reported personally to the Pakistan Army general headquarters in Rawalpindi to meet the Chief of Army Staff, as well as Pakistan's chief covert operations executive Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, the director general Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The increase in the intensity of the separatist intifada and the return of the Indian Army to the streets of Srinagar at this exact moment cannot be a coincidence. It is just too precise and calibrated to be anything except enemy action. The implications are clear — the leopard is disinclined to change its spots just as yet.

For India, part of the problem is the blanket appellation of "Kashmir" as shorthand for the entire state of "Jammu and Kashmir" which obfuscates the ground reality of three separate and distinct sub-regions in the state — Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, all quite diverse and divergent in their outlook and mindset. Amongst these, Jammu and Ladakh are wholeheartedly Indian, and only in the sub-region of the Kashmir Valley (aka "the Valley" to generations of Indian soldiers) do substantial sections of the population demonstrate their strident hostility towards an Indian identity. They demand instead either a merger into the Promised Land of Pakistan, or "Azaadi" as an independent state which, by inclination, would be a natural ally of Pakistan and enable it savour a successful strategic end-state in its plans for "Badla for Bangladesh".

Though Hindu pandits and other minorities have been forced out of the Valley and into internal exile in other parts of the country, the Valley region alone does not represent the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. It is important that Indian public opinion is educated and informed that even within the Valley there are fairly substantial non-Kashmiri speaking Muslim segments — Gujjars and Bakarwals in the upper reaches nurture a long-standing disconnect with the dominant Kashmiri-speaking mainstream because of economic and social marginalisation. The Gujjar and Bakarwal constituencies are not inimical to India and, given focused political empowerment in an inclusive manner, can form significant political counter weights to separatist forces.

Meanwhile, in spite of best efforts at political and economic outreach, there is little prospect of change in the foreseeable future in the traditional adversarial mindset of the Kashmiri-speaking majority in the Valley.


"Hearts and minds" will remain a distant goal here, no matter how many political or material inducements may be offered in terms of Article 370, "free and fair" general and state elections, or special subsidies and other facilities. Anti-India actions by Pakistan-sponsored jihadi terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and others will continue to find resonance within the Valley, periodically bursting out as stone-throwing intifada in downtown Srinagar, political violence in Sopore or Baramula, and support for "mehman" mujahideen from across the border wire.

Democracy has many manifestations, each appropriate for a particular environment. For Jammu and Kashmir and particularly the Valley, preservation of India's parliamentary democracy requires a large and visible police, paramilitary, and military presence along the Line of Control as well as in disturbed regions in the interior. Faux-intellectuals and liberals who often deplore the large military presence in Kashmir would do well to comprehend the stakes involved, because the larger Indian community will not accept under any circumstances a "political resolution of the Kashmir issue" based on either merger of any portion of the Kashmir Valley with Pakistan or its secession from India by "azaadi".


- Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament









Back in 2002, a professor turned Federal Reserve official by the name of Ben Bernanke gave a widely quoted speech titled "Deflation: Making Sure 'It' Doesn't Happen Here". Like other economists, myself included, Mr Bernanke was deeply disturbed by Japan's stubborn, seemingly incurable deflation, which in turn was "associated with years of painfully slow growth, rising joblessness, and apparently intractable financial problems". This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to an advanced nation with sophisticated policymakers. Could something similar happen to the United States?


Not to worry, said Mr Bernanke: the Fed had the tools required to head off an American version of the Japan syndrome, and it would use them if necessary.


Today, Mr Bernanke is the Fed's chairman — and his 2002 speech reads like famous last words. We aren't literally suffering deflation (yet). But inflation is far below the Fed's preferred rate of 1.7 to two per cent, and trending steadily lower; it's a good bet that by some measures we'll be seeing deflation by sometime next year. Meanwhile, we already have painfully slow growth, very high joblessness, and intractable financial problems. And what is the Fed's response? It's debating — with ponderous slowness — whether maybe, possibly, it should consider trying to do something about the situation, one of these days.


The Fed's fecklessness is, to be sure, not unique. It has been astonishing and infuriating, as the economic crisis has unfolded, to watch America's political class defining normalcy down. As recently as two years ago, anyone predicting the current state of affairs (not only is unemployment disastrously high, but most forecasts say that it will stay very high for years) would have been dismissed as a crazy alarmist. Now that the nightmare has become reality, however — and yes, it is a nightmare for millions of Americans — Washington seems to feel absolutely no sense of urgency. Are hopes being destroyed, small businesses being driven into bankruptcy, lives being blighted? Never mind, let's talk about the evils of budget deficits.


Still, one might have hoped that the Fed would be different. For one thing, the Fed, unlike the Obama administration, retains considerable freedom of action. It doesn't need 60 votes in the Senate; the outer limits of its policies aren't determined by the views of senators from Nebraska and Maine. Beyond that, the Fed was supposed to be intellectually prepared for this situation. Mr Bernanke has thought long and hard about how to avoid a Japanese-style economic trap, and the Fed's researchers have been obsessed for years with the same question.


But here we are, visibly sliding towards deflation — and the Fed is standing pat.


What should it be doing? Conventional monetary policy, in which the Fed drives down short-term interest rates by buying short-term US government debt, has reached its limit: those short-term rates are already near zero, and can't go significantly lower. (Investors won't buy bonds that yield negative interest, since they can always hoard cash instead.) But the message of Mr Bernanke's 2002 speech was that there are other things the Fed can do. It can buy longer-term government debt. It can buy private-sector debt. It can try to move expectations by announcing that it will keep short-term rates low for a long time. It can raise its long-run inflation target, to help convince the private sector that borrowing is a good idea and hoarding cash a mistake.


Nobody knows how well any one of these actions would work. The point, however, is that there are things the Fed could and should be doing, but isn't. Why not?

After all, Fed officials, like most observers, have a fairly grim view of the economy's prospects. Not grim enough, in my view: Fed presidents, who make forecasts every time the committee that sets interest rates meets, aren't taking the trend towards deflation sufficiently seriously. Nonetheless, even their projections show high unemployment and below-target inflation persisting at least through late 2012.


So why not try to do something about it? The closest thing I've seen to an explanation is a recent speech by Kevin Warsh of the Fed's Board of Governors, in which he declared that doing what Mr Bernanke recommended back in 2002 risked undermining the Fed's "institutional credibility". But how, exactly, does it serve the Fed's credibility when it fails to confront high unemployment, while consistently missing its own inflation targets? How credible is the Bank of Japan after presiding over 15 years of deflation?


Whatever is going on, the Fed needs to rethink its priorities, fast. Mr Bernanke's "it" isn't a hypothetical possibility, it's on the verge of happening. And the Fed should be doing all it can to stop it.









For a while after the global financial crisis broke, we were told that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would change. The Group of Twenty (G-20) meeting in April 2009 provided a massive increase in resources for the IMF to provide lending to countries affected by the crisis. In return, the Fund announced that it was going to be more supportive of enlarged fiscal deficits and other expansionary measures in the face of the crisis, and provide large amounts of funds to developing countries to cope with the situation. It would strengthen the focus on supporting poverty alleviation and growth; to protect public spending even as economic downswings cut revenues; and to prioritise national budgets in the direction of spending targeted at the poor.


If all this had actually happened, it would imply a sea change in the extent and manner of the IMF's delivery of emergency and other financing to developing countries. But, of course, it was too good to be true. In actual fact, the implementation of IMF lending has been rather different from what is suggested by the public pronouncements.


First, the amounts lent out by the Fund are still small and even negligible in relation to the projections made by the G-20 when the Fund was given such an important role, and certainly in relation to the actual funding requirements of the countries it has signed agreements with. Second, the programmes agreed upon for IMF funding are generally still heavily pro-cyclical in terms of requiring public expenditure cutbacks and often stringent fiscal austerity and tighter monetary policies as the means of ensuring adjustment. They are also still heavily skewed towards encouraging or requiring the privatisation of public enterprises and utilities, with associated job losses and increases in user charges.


In April 2009, the IMF's resource base was effectively tripled from $250 billion to $750 billion, and it was promised that the concessional lending to low income countries would be increased ten-fold from the pre-crisis levels by 2014. However, since the onset of the crisis, the IMF promised less than a total of SDR 2.6 billion to 25 countries (an average of just around SDR 100 million per country), and less than half of that amount (only SDR 1.2 billion) has actually been provided.


Under non-concessional lending, SDR 20.5 billion was proffered in 2009 and SDR 10.4 billion in the first half of 2010. This was only a quarter of the committed resources, and of this only one-third was actually provided to countries. Just five countries — Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Pakistan and most recently Greece — have accounted for nearly half of the amount disbursed. This means that the other countries received minuscule amounts of IMF resources, which are unlikely to have gone very far in even compensating for the loss of export revenues and private capital flows, much less easing the constraints on domestic investment, consumption and growth.


Uncommitted usable resources actually increased from SDR 213 billion in 2009 to SDR 230 billion in 2010. So it is not lack of available resources that has constrained the IMF from offering more resources to developing and other countries hit by the crisis. Nevertheless, the fact that the amounts made available to different countries have been so niggardly has definitely affected the recipient countries, which have not really been able to use this as a viable alternative to market finance that had dried up.


Perhaps even more significant is that the conditions attached to this rather paltry lending have not really changed. Several independent assessments have found a disturbing lack of change in the basic conditionalities being imposed on recipient countries, notwithstanding some minor changes in terms of preserving certain types of social expenditure or safety nets.


A recent study by United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) (Ortiz, Vergara and Chai 2010) of 86 countries showed that nearly 40 per cent of governments were planning to cut total spending in 2010-11, compared to 2008-09, with the average size of the projected expenditure contraction amounting to 2.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Very large cuts (4-13 per cent of GDP) were expected in seven countries. The fiscal cuts were forced onto countries by the absence of adequate funding, including from the IMF. Many of these countries have dominantly poor populations and very inadequate provision of infrastructure and public services that provide minimum socio-economic rights for the majority of the people. Therefore, cutbacks in fiscal spending in such countries are likely to have direct implications for economic and humanitarian conditions.


In many countries, it was not just lack of resources, but the IMF's policy advice that led to fiscal cuts. In a substantial majority of countries (57 out of 86 countries), the IMF recommended contractions in total public expenditure. It is true that in some cases it has pointed to the need to protect and, in some cases, expand pro-poor, priority social spending within this. But even so, this essentially points to a contractionary fiscal stance in the midst of crisis.


Even within supposedly protected social spending, a significant number of countries have been advised to make cuts, in the form of limiting/reducing subsidies (including on food and health), "reforms" in pension and health systems which essentially reduce pensions and make public healthcare services more expensive, and reduce the spread of social spending by emphasising targeted rather than universal provision.


The only "positive" recommendation for a significant number of countries is the expansion of targeted transfer programmes. While this may appear to be a positive sign, the many problems associated with targeting in developing countries (problems of unfair exclusion or unjustified inclusion, higher administrative costs, diversion and overall reduction in quality) suggests that such increases are unlikely to benefit or even counter the negative impact of other measures for much of the population, including vulnerable groups.


Most countries have also been told to place caps or induce cuts in public sector wages. But it is now recognised that erosion of pay and arrears in wage payments can have significant adverse effects on public service delivery in such essential areas as health and education, through greater absenteeism, internal and external brain drain and loss of motivation.


The pity of it extends beyond the impact on the countries concerned. With fears of double dip recession now emerging in so many places, the world economy really cannot afford a dysfunctional IMF that does not even do what it has explicitly promised.








The season of mangoes, the king of fruits, is in full swing and though that of jamuns is on wane, hopefully most people have enjoyed these fruits to the hilt. The lucky ones must have relished apricots and plums, too, besides the regular fruits.


Apart from a few basic things such as the cost, the sweet/sourness, the size and colour of fruits, one pays little or no attention to its other aspects. One hardly cares, for instance, about the variety and the place from where they come, type of trees that produce them and so on. But should one really be bothered about these details?


It is fascinating to look into what it takes for a fruit to become delicious and, therefore, sought-after in the market. What increases the demand for a fruit is its quality which depends largely on the type of tree that produces it. But then, the type of tree alone is not sufficient. Did the farmer also prepare the soil well with enough and right manure in it? Did he water the plant well when it was growing up? Did it receive plentiful sunlight which is a key to maximising fruit production? And what about timely pruning, grafting and so on? All these things matter.


Curiously, Jesus, both in his sermons and in his conversations, often used images from nature, of sheep and shepherds, birds of the air, lilies in the field, fruit on a fig tree, vineyard and so on. He then applied those to real life situations of his listeners who could then more easily relate to them to their own lives.


Thus, once while cautioning people against impostors, cheats, charlatans and such, Jesus told them, "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit… (Mathew 7:15-18)".


This is where the simile of the tree and its fruits comes in handy for us. In order for a tree to produce good fruit the gardener has to make sure that he manures, prunes, waters and takes good care of it so that the tree grows to be a fruit-bearing tree. One's personality can be distinguished when one takes good care of one's character the way a gardener takes care of a tree.


Pruning and removing evil tendencies and unhealthy desires from one's personality can help one produce good fruits. Our actions, based on spiritual and positive human values, function as manure, water and sunlight to for our personality which begins not only to shine in public but which, like delicious fruits, also begins to appeal to people we interact with, both at home and in public places.


And, of course, in addition to our own efforts, the more we allow God and His Spirit to guide our lives through meditation and prayer, the tastier fruits our actions will yield. That is why St. Paul in his epistle to Galatians, writes, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23)".


These fruits, as also the fruits on a natural tree, do not appear overnight but will blossom as we make sincere efforts to live each day in obedience and faith to the God or Goddess, our Ishtdeva, we believe in and worship from our heart, always remembering the old adage, "God helps those who help themselves".


— Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India.







You've got to hand it to Mel Gibson. When it comes to potentially career-ending outbursts of vile bigotry, there really is nobody better. As somebody posted on Twitter this week (there is increasingly little point in even trying to formulate this stuff yourself), "You're a pretty hardcore ass when drunkenly yelling about Jews running banks and calling a lady cop 'sugar tits' is your cute, lesser rant".


We'll come to that one in a moment. This time around, the star of many of my favourite films was taped, allegedly, having a go at his then girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Go out dressed like that, he basically said, and you are liable to "get raped by a pack of niggers".


Which, do you reckon, is the most offensive bit? The N-word made the headlines, and "raped" isn't great either, in context. For my money, though, it's the rather more subtle "pack" bit that does a lot of the work, racistly speaking. Mind you, it's worth noting that this was not solely a racist statement. You see, what Gibson is saying to his other half here (allegedly, allegedly) is that even given that black people are sub-human molesters who roam like dogs, if she goes out like that, and they rape her, it won't be their fault. It'll be hers. Because of her clothes. Misogyny, in other words, and at no extra cost. Awesome stuff.


Gibson has racist form. The "cute, lesser rant" mentioned above took place in 2006, when he was arrested for driving under the influence. The story goes that he called a female arresting officer "Sugar Tits", before asking her male partner if he was Jewish and saying "the f***ing Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world". Since then, the only bit he's denied was the "Sugar Tits" stuff. Gibson's dad, not entirely irrelevantly, is a noted conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier. "Go and ask an undertaker or the guy who operates the crematorium what it takes to get rid of a dead body", he once instructed a reporter from the New York Times. "It takes one litre of petrol and 20 minutes. Now six million?"


Still, modern society is surprisingly forgiving of people who randomly blame Jews for wars, as frequently evidenced by the comment pages of the Guardian. Pure vanilla racism, though, is altogether more damaging. People forget, but before he was mad, Gibson joined Danny Glover in the greatest black/white cop-buddy act that Hollywood has seen, in the form of the Lethal Weapon franchise. Indeed, Lethal Weapon 2, in which the villains were South African, had a powerful anti-racist message. Racists, said that film, are such bad people that they deserve to be shot in the head, even if they're unarmed, holding up their hands and saying "deeeplomatic eeemunity". And yet, two decades later — "raped by niggers". God knows how that happens. Maybe he never saw it.


So is Gibson a racist? Yes, unquestionably. And does it matter? Well, that's got to be a big "yes" again. At least, inasmuch as we're talking about his moral worth as a human being (low), or whether you'd want to introduce him to your rabbi (not much). But where it doesn't matter at all, I'd suggest, is when it comes to whether or not we're still allowed to enjoy his films.


"Now hold on", you may be thinking. "This is Mel Gibson we're talking about. Not Ingmar Bergman. What's even to like?" Plenty, I'd say. The comic book dystopia of Mad Max and the aforementioned flawlessness of the Lethal Weapons were all good enough, but it's only really since he went nuts that Gibson has been brilliant. Braveheart was brilliant without actually being very good, but the intense, flesh-rending, bloodied squelchiness of The Passion of The Christ and, most of all, Apocalypto are your proper, bonkers sort of genius. I'm serious. Snigger all you like.


Plenty of creative geniuses, after all, are racist. I think we're pretty comfortable saying that Richard Wagner was probably a racist, aren't we? Martin Amis virtually confessed to being racist, and said his father was too, and it's hard to see why that should have a bearing on the books of either. One might even argue that J.R.R. Tolkien was only good because he was a racist, and got considerably less good when, in his later years, he stopped being one. Film legend holds that Michael Maloney turned down a part in Withnail and I because he considered the script "anti-gay, anti-black and anti-Irish". He was right, but that doesn't make the film itself any less brilliant, or him any less sanctimonious, for avoiding it.


How dull life would be, if we were only allowed to enjoy the creative labours of those of whom we morally approved. Most pop stars and footballers are pretty dubious, sexually speaking, but we're allowed to be fans of theirs. Nobody says Polanski doesn't make good films, just because he's a nonce. Damn it, no, I refuse to feel ashamed. I remain passionately keen on the work of Mel Gibson. I just wouldn't have him in the house. Ghastly man.


I'm quite upset that the coalition has scrapped plans to introduce a 55 per cent barrier for a vote to dissolve Parliament. It's not that I thought it was a good idea. It palpably wasn't. It's just that I understood it, and almost nobody else did, at all.
As I've written before, knowledge for a journalist usually arrives by accident. For me, in this case, it involved being told to write something about it, and having a long conversation with my then colleague Peter Riddell, and then staring at a wall for most of an afternoon, going "...but that would mean... oh!" Thereafter, I suppose I became quite insufferable.
When people mentioned the 55 per cent, I had to chip in. When people wrote about it, correctly saying it wouldn't work but not quite accurately grasping why, I had to email them and put them straight, even if I didn't know them very well. Sometimes I'd even do this on messageboards. I genuinely couldn't stop myself. The problem was that people kept calling it a "no confidence threshold", and it wasn't one at all. In fact it was something quite different, and would have meant that... no. It's starting again. I'm sorry. No more.


- Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times








SANITY can now return to the planet. Four weeks of football craziness reached a somewhat disappointing climax, though the World Cup went to truly deserving winners. Was it the fact that neither Spain nor Holland had attained that summit before that prevented the finale from rising above a tense, feisty, physical confrontation? Did referee Howard Webb wave the first of a plethora of yellow cards so early that players were on edge before the game began to flow, indeed only rarely did the winners offer flashes of the flair that made them the most admired squad. It was fitting that both were first-time finalists, a stranglehold of sorts was broken with the exit of Italy and France in the league phase, then England, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Germany were knocked out. Has the pecking order been seriously re-calibrated? Well, Spain and Holland were never really far from the top. More reputations were marred than made in South Africa in June-July (Rooney, Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Torres etc), and to be honest the new heroes ~ Forlan, David Villa, Sneijder ~ have a long way to go before they can capture the imagination like Zidane, Beckenbauer, Platini, Maradonna or Beckham did; let's not go in history and talk of Pele, Yashin, Eusebio, Zico, Kempes… No, for all the media hype, the massive TV viewership and packed stadiums, what was on offer on the pitch was not consistently top-draw stuff. Maybe pragmatic contemporary professionalism curbs individual enterprise, overstretched schedules rendered some players stale even before they deplaned in South Africa. Still, every great tournament needs a superstar, a heart-throb ~ none was found in World Cup 2010. Forlan and Mueller got the golden awards, did they really outshine their competitors? On the negative side were the wayward Jabulani, the foolishness in not using modern technology, and the distracting vuvuzelas. 

Football was not the winner, perhaps the Rainbow Nation was. Few of the apprehensions over criminals ruling the streets materialised; there were no major organisational glitches; royalty, tycoons and movie stars rubbed shoulders; and Nelson Mandela, the most respected man to walk the earth today made a brief appearance. South Africa "proved" itself, maybe not for all time to come, certainly for the four-week pinnacle of the sport that so appeals because it remains inherently simple. The ten venues were truly world class, and fears of missing completion dates proved unwarranted. We can only hope that does not create false confidence among the organisers of New Delhi's Commonwealth Games. 



IT is ironical, or perhaps not so ironical, that the greatest exponent of the Nalanda school of Buddhism doesn't figure in the exercise towards a revival of Nalanda University. As the cabinet gears up to introduce the Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament, there is an unmistakable kowtowing to China's sensitivities in India's calculated decision not to involve the Dalai Lama. And not least because both India and China are important members of the 14-nation East Asia summit which has taken the initiative to revive the university. Delhi has been as diplomatic as it could be; geo-political considerations have clearly been accorded precedence over the exiled leader's profound contribution to Buddhist studies. Even the Dalai Lama's disciples appear to have reconciled themselves to the dominant underpinning that Nalanda University should get re-started. Those who assemble at the high table of the East Asia summit, pre-eminently China, can't afford to forget the  accident of history. The university was desecrated by the invaders in the 12th century and were it not for the Dalai Lama and his school of Tibetan Buddhists, the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism would almost inevitably have lapsed in the limbo of history. That tradition is set to be revived by the Nalanda Mentor Group, pre-eminently under the stewardship of Amartya Sen. He will perhaps concur that like the Government of India, he too has no option but to accept Beijing's sensitivities. 

The exclusion of the Dalai Lama is the only sore point in this exceptional Asian cooperation to revive a university and initiate multi-disciplinary studies. Apart from Buddhist studies, Nalanda University will offer courses on history, international relations, philosophy and comparative religions and such contemporary disciplines as business management, public policy and environmental studies. There are few institutions in the world that can match this level of international cooperation, of far, far greater import than the foreign universities on the anvil. East Asia is set to rewrite history but unfortunately without the contribution of the Dalai Lama. It is the way history often works. 



THE Supreme Court's observation (coram: RM Lodha and AK Patnaik, JJ) and its caveat to doctors underscore the national disconnect between urban and rural healthcare. West Bengal, however, has the dubious distinction of the state system being uniformly decrepit. In both segments, medical treatment is only for those who can afford it. The Bench has ticked off doctors for their reluctance to serve in rural areas. Indeed, doctors have been put on notice with the observation that they can't expect special benefits if they opt for the "comforts of urban lifestyle". The second part of the ruling distinctly places the onus on the governments, both at the Centre and the states. In no other sector perhaps is the distinction between town and country more pronounced than in health. And the administration is clearly on the mat with the observation: "Unless there are incentives, how do you expect doctors to go to the rural areas? Those in the rural areas do not have any facilities." The subtext is remarkably stark: the rural health infrastructure is decrepit across the country. Implicitly has the Bench indicated two facets of the issue. First, doctors in rural areas are entitled to better prospects. Second, in the absence of a dramatic improvement in the rural network, it will be increasingly difficult to post qualified doctors there. The Bench has made the reason for their reluctance pretty obvious. And it devolves on the government to set things right. The first aspect can be taken care of only if the second is in place. The Supreme Court has stayed the Karnataka High Court order that had stipulated that experience in rural areas on a contract basis doesn't entitle one to special weightage at the time of entry to post-graduate courses. Clearly, rural doctors ought not to suffer for no fault of theirs'. 

Ergo, substantive measures will have to be taken to correct the imbalance. There can be no scope for quick-fix formulae, as on the anvil in West Bengal ~ to post paramedics at best and quacks at worst as a frontline team to conduct the preliminary diagnosis. In real terms, this accords a relatively minor rating to a patient in a village. There can be no substitute for a qualified doctor, with access to equipment, medicines and other facilities. Nor for that matter does medical science offer scope for cutting corners. The West Bengal government must get the message from the Supreme Court ruling.









THE welfare state's objective is to ensure the maximum good of the maximum number. Towards that end, it undertakes multiple schemes for the hoi-polloi. India has its quota of welfare projects for different sections of the society.  These are implemented by the huge bureaucracy. The contours of a liberal democratic state can be delineated by an overview of the planning and execution of such schemes.  
The bevy of  programmes ~ the NREGS and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission are just two examples ~ are being directly supervised or implemented through the office of the District Magistrate or the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs). The DM has a significant role to play. Given the number of schemes, various layers of execution are inevitable. This makes the system cumbersome and complicates the execution.  
One is, therefore, inclined to moot a proposal for the integration and consolidation of all such schemes. To be effective, all the relevant aspects and practical problems will have to be factored in. Such an approach can help improve the planning and execution of the schemes. The targeted group will be benefited in a more efficient manner.   

Permanent assets

TO begin with, the schemes relating to the construction and creation of permanent assets or infrastructure should all be merged to constitute one overarching programme. However, the entire programme could be suitably sub-divided into different components with earmarked percentage of the total allotment to be spent on particular sectors ~ connectivity improvement, rural housing, watershed development, minority-inhabited areas, agriculture and so on depending on the need or weightage as perceived by the government. 

The respective sectors could still be named variously as now, but they should all be an inalienable part of a single programme with uniform guidelines including those relating to fund management and maintenance of accounts. Such uniformity shall facilitate better fund management and efficient account-keeping, thereby obviating the need for multiple ledgers and cash books for multiple schemes, with the files piling high. Even if the records or ledgers are maintained sector-wise, there shall still be uniformity. There will be no need to open and maintain multiple bank accounts. 


The new programme, after the integration and consolidation of the multifarious welfare and development schemes, should function in the same way as the NREGS. Although the DMs, SDOs and BDOs have an important role to play in the employment guarantee scheme, the local self-governments will still discharge a useful function in the new arrangement. They will be entrusted with the micro-level planning and execution of the programme. 


If the new programme is modelled on the NREGS, it will  benefit from the experience gained through its implementation. The NREGS has turned out to be the flagship among the welfare schemes. It has not only ensured better utilisation of funds and creation of community assets; the transparency in execution has minimised the scope for corruption and leakage. Hence, the NREGS model should be the ideal template for modelling this new avatar. 

However, the revamp should be effected only after the shortcomings of the NREGS are rectified. These include the stipulations relating to employment for a minimum number of mandays for every household, the wage-material ratio, the kind of schemes to be executed and whether the execution can be carried out through contractors. Once these schemes are merged, the pool of financial resources available with the government will be substantial enough to allow for demand-based employment throughout the year. Therefore, the NREGS cap of a minimum of 100 days' work in a year for a rural household should be removed.  

Also, the wage-material ratio should be fixed at 50:50 instead of the present 60:40, thereby maintaining the material-intensive work at the level where they are at the moment. The merger of the wage structure of other schemes with the new scheme will create enough leverage and leeway to provide work throughout the year to a rural household. An estimated 15 per cent of the total schemes will be executed through contractors. These will be material-intensive, ones that need to be executed urgently. The decision on the selection of such schemes must be left to the local self-government. 

Contingency funds

Integration and consolidation will lead to uniformity.  This will also improve the process of monitoring and supervision.  More contingency funds will be available. It will thus be possible to engage additional manpower. The supervisory level can also be strengthened. 

There remains the crucial task of identifying the beneficiaries. If this is not done, political friction is inevitable, often leading to violence.  There may even be a deadlock in the functioning of panchayats and other decision-making bodies. In the net, the execution of the new amalgamated scheme will be delayed. 
A priority list can be drawn up by the local self-government, notably the  Gram Sabha in accordance with which various individual benefit schemes (IBSs), including low-cost housing or toilets, can be undertaken.  This can be further diversified to include rural housing, sanitation, kitchen gardens et al to cater to a range of  needs in the countryside. The fact is that the present focus of the NREGS cannot be sustained beyond a point. The government cannot continue the construction of water harvesting, minor irrigation or flood proofing structures because the land available is limited. 

The system needs to be modified in order to reach the benefits to the underprivileged sections. Almost every scheme can be executed, subject of course to the availability of manpower, both skilled and unskilled. The local self-government  will have a slew of schemes at its disposal, to be executed in order of priority. This would save time, avoid cost over-runs , improve the creation of capital assets in the countryside and bridge the rural-urban divide. The experiment can even be extended to the municipalities. 

The suggestion in this essay needs to be debated thoroughly before it is executed. Hopefully, it will revolutionise the way the various welfare and development programmes are planned and executed.


(The writer, an IAS officer, is District Magistrate, Birbhum in West Bengal. The views are his own and not those of the government)








Any World Cup final that saw as many as 14 yellow cards given out by the referee cannot claim to have presented top-class football to the 84,000 people present in the stadium on Sunday night and to a few hundred million who watched the game on television across the world. The football was rough and defensive, and the match could easily have gone into a penalty shoot- out. The British referee, Howard Webb, had an unenviable job cooling temperatures and issuing cards. The prize of these went to the Dutch player, Nigel de Jong, who put his boot on the chest of the Spaniard, Xabi Alonso. By any reckoning, the match between Uruguay and Germany, played on Saturday, was better in terms of the skills displayed by the two teams. The World Cup final of 2010 was eminently forgettable since it did not produce a single movement or moment that a genuine football lover would love to cherish and see over and over again. There is nothing wrong with defensive football per se. But a soccer match is decided by the number of goals scored, not by the number of tackles made or the number of players felled. Expectations always run high during a World Cup final; this one failed to fulfil any of these. It was a football final sans football.


In spite of the disappointment, it was in the fitness of things that Spain lifted the trophy. Looking at the tournament as a whole, they were by far the better team, which played an exciting brand of soccer. The principal reason for this is the fact that as many as six members of the Spanish team play for the same club, which many experts think is the best club side to have come on to the football pitch in recent memory. The level of understanding among these players, nurtured and trained as they are under the same system, is inevitably superior and so are their skills. The Telegraph argued in these columns on Sunday, on the morning of the finals, that the quality of football at the club level is better than what was on show in the World Cup. Most of the top players are club professionals, and thus, their best performances are reserved for occasions when they wear their clubs' colours. The performance of the Spanish team underlines the validity of the argument about the death of the nation state on the football pitch. Notwithstanding this, it needs to be noted that the nation state lives in public support as was evident over the last month. Footballers may not be patriotic, but their supporters are.









Justice is not easy to achieve; neither does it allow for shortcuts. The government of Orissa has decided to impose conditions of employment on companies entering the state. These companies would have to reserve 90 per cent of the jobs in the unskilled and semi-skilled categories for local people, 60 per cent in the skilled group and 30 per cent in the supervisory and managerial segment. The industries minister of the state has elucidated that the local people would first be from among those displaced by the project, and second, from among people domiciled in the state. The companies would be free to look around only for their senior executives. This policy has obviously been evolved to quieten heightening discontent over the employment of large numbers of non-Oriyas in the new private sector projects. Although the state has brought in investments worth Rs 6 lakh crore recently, it would seem that the promise of prosperity is being snatched away from the people who live closest to the projects.


But that is thinking for the short term — and the short view. Only the free movement of labour allows industry the choice of the most suitable workforce, and that alone is the best route to the development of any region. It is not enough to claim that the companies will find all the talent and skill they need locally since industrial training institutes are coming up in every block in Orissa. Providing immediate relief to local populations through fixed conditions of employment may seem to be a priority, but that point of view is political rather than economic. Apart from the possibility of affecting the quality of the product, protectionist policies of this kind will inevitably lead to competitive regionalism, preventing the talents, skills, and aspirations of one region from their application and fulfilment in another. The mirroring of the proposed Orissa model in industry would promote precisely the wrong kind of competition, focusing on a corner rather than on the whole of the talent pool. The disruption of lives and livelihoods of people must be compensated for through a deeper understanding of their needs. Training in skills may certainly be one of those. But if the government decides to facilitate the entry of industry, it must also arrange for the proper rehabilitation of displaced populations in all good faith, whatever money, energy, planning and sympathy that may require.









There are many similarities between Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages like Greek and Latin. But the similarity does not extend to the people who speak them. Europeans are taller and fairer, and often have blue eyes and blonde hair, whereas Indians generally stick to brown eyes and black hair. These facts have caused confusion, and generated copious academic and pseudo-scholarly literature.


According to Christian mythology, every human and animal is descended from those whom Noah accommodated in his boat at the time of the great flood. Thus, humans are all descended from Noah's three sons. His family lived on the mountain of Ararat in Armenia. It spoke the same language. But after the Tower of Babel was built, verbose debate broke out, and different languages emerged. Thus Père Coeurdoux, a French priest, stated in 1768: "The Samskroutam language is that of the ancient Brahmes; they came to India from Caucasia. Of the sons of Japhet, some spoke Samskroutam." The linguistic similarities were noticed even earlier. Soon after Vasco Da Gama discovered the Cape route to India. Filippo Sassetti, an Italian Jesuit priest who was in Goa in the 1580s, noted that the terms in Sanskrit and in Mediterranean languages for six, seven, eight and nine, God, snakes, etc were similar. Some held that Sanskrit was the original language whence all others emerged. In the 19th century, philologists formulated rules of linguistic evolution, which went against that notion. But even if Sanskrit was not the mother of all languages, it was believed to be the oldest surviving daughter of the original Indo-European language.


The 19th century saw the beginnings of anthropology. One of its first conceptual categories was race: Caucasian, negroid, mongoloid, etc. Strangely, anthropologists did not specify a race for Indians. They were dark like negroes, but did not have their curly hair or broad noses. Some British colonials referred to Indians as niggers; but this was not a commonly accepted classification. But whatever they were, Indians were not regarded as Caucasian once India was colonized. So the question arose: how did these un-Aryan people have their scriptures in an ancient Aryan language?


The answer in the 19th century was that Sanskrit was the language of Aryans who came to India from Iran, Afghanistan or central Asia, and that they intermarried with local Dravidian and Munda people until the present mixture emerged. The geography of languages fitted the theory. Northerners spoke Aryan languages, southerners Dravidian languages, and Mundas were scattered towards the east. A few Dravid and Munda words were found in Sanskrit, which seemed to support the story of migration.


When did the Aryans come to India? Evidently before the Vedas were written. No references to European or central Asian flora and fauna are found in the Vedas. So they were written in India; the Aryans must have come to India before they composed their Sanskrit literature. Max Müller, professor of Sanskrit in Oxford in the second half of the 19th century, found a reference to one Katyayana Vararuchi in Kathasaritsagara, the Ocean of Stories. He was supposed to have been made prime minister by King Nanda. Nanda ruled before the Mauryas. So Max Müller placed him in 350-300 BC. He assumed this was the same Katyayana who had written some sutras. So he assigned them to 600-200 BC. The sutras refer to parts of Vedic texts called Brahmanas, so the latter must have been written before the former; he assigned them to 800-600 BC. Brahmanas were preceded by certain mantras, and mantras by chhandas.


Max Müller gave each a period of 200 years, and so came to 1200-1000 BC for the earliest parts of Vedic literature. He thought that 200 years was too short, but one had to start somewhere. Later, he himself said that it was impossible to determine the date of the Vedas. But it did not matter; Western scholars adopted Max Müller's dates as definitive.


Meanwhile, Sir Alexander Cunningham, while wandering across Punjab and Sind, came across Harappa and Mohenjo Daro in 1853. His discoveries were forgotten till the 1920s, when Sir John Marshall excavated Mohenjo Daro. He had found an urban civilization; it did not fit with the Vedas, which hardly mention cities. Indus seals found in Mesopotamia, which placed the Indus civilization in 2000-1500 BC at the latest. The (still undeciphered) script of the Indus seals was unrelated to Devanagari, and ruled out the civilization as having been Aryan. If the Aryans came to India, crossed the Indus valley and wrote the Vedas in 1200-1000 BC, they must have crossed the path of the Indus people. On the basis of 37 skeletons he found in the citadel of Mohenjo Daro, Sir John concluded that the city had been overrun by Aryan hordes. Later examination showed that only one of the 37 could have met a violent death. If Aryans had destroyed the Indus civilization, they should have left substantial evidence of destruction and death. It has not been found yet, so the story of invasion remains unproved.


The Indus civilization was so called because Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, the first sites discovered, were in the Indus valley. With Partition, Indian archaeologists lost the Indus valley sites. They had to find something else to do, so they started excavating sites in India. They found plenty of Indus valley sites; Lothal in Gujarat and Dholera in Kutch are the best known.


Vedic literature talks of Saptasindhu, the seven rivers. Five are the rivers of Punjab — Beas, Sutlej, Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum. Indus is the sixth; where is the seventh? The Vedas called it Saraswati, but it has disappeared meanwhile. C.F. Oldham made a guess in 1893 that a dry riverbed called Ghaggar or Hakra running through Bikaner and Bahawalpur was once the Saraswati about which the Vedic writers waxed so lyrical. Satellite imagery has revealed that both the Sutlej and the Jumna once flowed into the Ghaggar; they would have made it a substantial river. Both changed course and left Ghaggar dry. Sir Aurel Stein found many Harappan and post-Harappan sites along its course. In Pakistan, Rafique Mughal has found 414 sites from 4000-2000 BC along the Hakra. Potsherds known as Painted Grey Ware, found in the bed of the Ghaggar, are dated to 1000 BC, so the river must have dried up before then. These dates place the Vedas much before 1000 BC. And if they are older, their composers must have coincided with or preceded the Harappans.


The Vedas show no awareness of any region outside India; but there is outside literature that bears close resemblance to them. The oldest part of Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrians, is called yasna; it consists of five gathas whose language is close to Sanskrit. It mentions Hapta Hendu, Harahvaiti and Harayu. Then there is a 14th-century BC treaty between a Hittite and a Mitanni king (Turkish and Iraqi in modern parlance) which mentions the gods Indara, Mitras, and Uruvanass, who could be Indra, Mitra and Varuna. Edwin Bryant tells us all this in his The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture(Oxford, 2003), but does not answer in the end who Indians are.







One had to pinch oneself when one read that the cabinet had decided to set up a committee — a group of ministers — to examine how to frame a set of laws that would determine the jurisdiction of khap panchayats. This is nothing short of a national shame. If this country is going to fall prey to the regressive and repressive 'diktats' of such caste and ethnic groupings, India is headed towards militant, lawless anarchy.Khap panchayats, which have run amok and not been restrained by the existing laws of the land pertaining to both liberty and murder, are strong symbols of a failing state. Honour killings are no different from the violence perpetrated by other ethnic and religious groups elsewhere in the world that liberals have damned. And liberals are a worldwide majority.


This frightening development that is condoned because of votebank politics is leading this emerging economic power towards the dark labyrinth of the politics of blackmail based on insular demands. We all know that 'committeebaazi' in India is just an expression of incompetence and the inability to call a spade a spade. It is this excuse that has been cited to stall all radical change, and a mythical 'consensus' has been the reason given for not taking risks to alter a course that is wrong. We, the public, can see through this charade. The tragedy is that a pluralist, modern nation, with a billion-plus inhabitants, striving to take its place on the world stage, is being reduced to a failed state because of a collective leadership that is unwilling to establish and enforce a new trajectory. This malleable leadership succumbs to every kind of pressure and takes no clear positions because it is comfortable with being in 'power'.


Poor state


The government is soft on illegalities such as the khap panchayats, on scams in large institutions that have powerful, 'political' owners, on the misuse of the mandated powers of the administrative class that were put in place to ensure civil society's demands. The government is greatly excited about 'poisoning' the agricultural sector without a clear strategy, claiming that GM crops will feed hungry Indians faster and in a better manner. It was hoping to sign a nuclear liability agreement without a national discourse! Every environmental norm is being violated by government departments for big businesses to exploit what is not permitted by law, all in the name of escalating the growth rate.


Maybe, we need the state department of the United States of America to tell us that we must reinvent our cultural and academic institutions with immediate effect to protect ourselves from impending 'sanctions'. In this country, there is always an excuse for not doing what needs urgent attention and rectification. Our bureaucrats are masters at finding ways to maintain a destructive status quo. Our political masters have personal priorities. As for matters related to the mind and soul, they are not prioritized because they can neither be lucrative nor help in enhancing the mythical 'rate of growth'. We have reduced ourselves to a nation of hapless people with our pride in the country and ourselves drowning in a sea of sewage.


I have written endlessly about the degraded state of our museums and archives, but no one cares. The government is more concerned about 'regulating' the media than about restoring national institutions that generate pride and creativity. The rulers of a newly liberated India had a dream. They established institutions like the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla at the erstwhile Viceregal Lodge. The building should have been conserved; the institute should have drawn the best and the brightest from across the world. But it seems that the government just does not comprehend its inherent value.






The relationship between religion and politics has always been troubled in Pakistan, writesChirosree Basu


The recent bombing of Data Darbar, a Sufi shrine in Lahore, is no less tragic than the bombing of two Ahmadi mosques in May that killed almost the same number of people in the same city. Yet, it has set nerves on edge. Nawaz Sharif, whose brother runs the government in Punjab, has asked for a national convention to combat terrorism. The prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, a descendant of a Sufi saint himself, has readily taken up the gauntlet. There have been mass protests and condemnation from the Sunni ulema — reactions of a kind that has not been seen for a while in Pakistan.


Sufism, both in Pakistan and outside it, is increasingly being looked upon as a possible counter to talibanization. This perhaps explains the attention the Data Darbar bombing has got. Yet Sufism, traditionally associated with social harmony and non-violence, both threatened by the Taliban today, has not always represented this face in Pakistan. In rural Punjab and Sindh, it has long been associated with the brutal force exercised by landlords, often descendants of Sufi pirs, on the dependent population. They wield enormous clout by virtue of their role as spiritual mediators.


Since the birth of Pakistan, the flagbearers of what is seen as 'folk Islam' were deliberately co-opted into the political firmament by successive rulers, if only to offset the influence of the conservative ulema. Ayub Khan used them, so did Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. They needed the sanction of the sajjida nasheens (guardians of local shrines) to give legitimacy to their political power, given the complicated way in which political authority was conceptualized in Pakistan: a country unable to decide whether it was a nation for Muslims governed by secular laws and institutions or an Islamic state governed by thesharia as interpreted by the clerics.


The rise of Pakistan's middle classes upset this arrangement. This was evident in the 2008 elections, when many powerful landlords — guardians of Sufi legacy — were booted out or saw their influence diminished. In constituency after constituency, power fell into the hands of a class of people with no landed roots. Many considered this to be a 'new deal' in which power seemed to change hands from the feudal elite to the urban middle class. The landed elite, however, stayed, but without a monopolistic control over political power.


The daring of the new power groups was evident from the force with which they pushed through several 'democratic' demands — the trial of Pervez Musharraf and the reinstatement of the chief justice of the supreme court, for example. But perhaps it would be unwise to think that they were all of a liberal disposition. If an analyst is to be believed, the political assertion of the newly-monied classes also symbolized the assertion of Salafi Islam that threatened the established power structure by gunning for the syeds or pirs or sajjida nasheens who were its building blocks.


Unlike Sufism, Salafi Islam is more flexible. Salafists do not require the intermediation of pirs for spiritual salvation. Salafi Islam allows believers free communion with god and ensures them an afterlife of infinite bliss through individual martyrdom. The followers of this form of Islam are mainly Sunni Deobandis, who look down upon Shias and Sunni Barelvis, many of whom embrace the free-flowing spirit of Sufism.


The attack on Sufi shrines is an expression of this disgust and subtle power play. This does not mean that all the makers of the new deal are Salafists or that all Salafists are suicide-bombers. But contempt for popular Islam is a palpable reality and no different from the Taliban's contempt for faiths they consider as falling short of the superior standards of Wahabi Islam.


Public opinion on what constitutes true Islam is no doubt being shaped by the Taliban's insistence on religious purity. However, there is no reason to believe that it is the Taliban that started Pakistan's religious quest, which is an old one. Confusion over what is true Islam and who is a true Muslim (and has a natural right to citizenship in Pakistan) consumed the energies of politicians since the birth of the nation. Pakistan's tilt towards Wahabi Islam did not start with the Taliban either. It became the natural corollary of the nation's efforts (starting soon after its defeat in the 1971 war) to turn its back on the more pluralistic South Asian brand of Islam and steer itself towards the Islamic brotherhood of West Asia, where only Wahabi Islam is acceptable.


It is not the Taliban who are responsible for making minority shrines vulnerable to suicide attacks; it is the State itself that is responsible for shaping attitudes in matters of faith. The State accords primacy to Sunnis and its favouritism has not only fanned resentment against moderate and minority faiths, but has also given licence to anti-minority movements. In countless attacks on minorities, the police have been mere spectators. Pakistan's blasphemy laws also deny minorities basic freedoms.


The bombing of Data Darbar, from all indications, was carried out not by the Taliban, but by Lahoris, who breathe the air of hatred promoted by religious organizations that do social work for the poor by day and plan to kill them by night for refusing to follow their diktat. Some of these organizations even get State aid. The government has banned 23 such organizations knowing full well that they will change names and start functioning again. Sufism still has protectors in Gilani and a few of his party colleagues, descendants of some Sufi order or the other. The Ahmadis do not even have that.







More than 150 Muslims were killed in the Jos region of Nigeria in January this year, leading to fresh riots, killing hundreds more in the following months. The remains of almost 100 unidentified Kurdish children, victims of the Anfal genocide, were exhumed and given a proper burial in the town of Chamchamal, Iraq, in April. Official statistics suggest 117 Uzbeks were killed in one of the bloodiest incidents of ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan. Nearly 100 Ahmadis were killed in what has been called one of the "the deadliest pogroms" in the history of Pakistan.


Rhetoric from the past five decades is packed with condemnation of the chameleon policies of superpowers supporting corrupt governments and condoning abuse and persecution of ethno-religious minorities in friendly nations. The more useful you are, the less likely they are to air bomb you or feign indifference. As citations in Lokman Meho's book on the Kurdish question in American foreign policy says, "When Saddam rolled over the Kuwaitis, the world shivered with horror and dispatched half a million troops. The Kurds don't control any oil, so when Saddam gassed them, nobody paid much attention." In the Saddam-free and US-occupied Iraq, though, the dictator is convicted for crimes against humanity and the Kurds emerge as indirect benefactors hailing Americans as their liberators. The State's accountability to the United States of America has become a factor in the position of minorities in many countries, including Pakistan.


Nationalists and conspiracy theorists in Pakistan draw up images of the guillotine if the country were to disappoint the US in the war on terror. In an interview with CBS, Hillary Clinton's recent assertion of "very severe consequences", had Faisal Shahzad's Time Square bombing attempt been successful or if any successful attack were to be traced back, was more than just ominous — it was an ultimatum. A high-level diplomatic source is supposed to have said that if something were to go wrong in this scenario, "momentum could shift and public opinion in the States could demand more action". With the US's list of expectations increasing manifold, Pakistan is finding itself in a "damned if we do, damned if we don't" situation. The US, on the other hand, is desperately trying to change its perception on the ground. By providing humanitarian and social relief, it hopes to lessen the appeal of the Taliban-inspired anti-West attitudes amongst both the masses and the literate class. They are finding the tirades on jihad and condemnation of Western policies coming from new-age media clerics and their pop-star brand ambassadors difficult to ignore. The US is also assessing the possibility of using rather than fearing the moderate mullah and his madrasa to spread a more acceptable version of Islam. On Hamid Karzai's visit to the US, President Barack Obama, in their joint public address on regional issues, spoke of Pakistan's "growing recognition that they have a cancer in their midst; the extremist organizations... now threaten Pakistan's sovereignty". With distrust increasing between the provincial and religious parties, with drone-wary Pashtuns, with Baluch activists declaring Pakistan a terrorist State, and ethnic rivalries being endlessly played out on Karachi streets, it seems Pakistan is indeed in the terminal stages of its disease.


The case for religious minorities is a glaring human rights issue because of the lack of political consideration it receives. Second-class citizens in the land they call home, and with a widely accepted bias choking them, the Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus struggle to retain some semblance of their traditions and beliefs. Nonetheless, the token permissiveness of the government is shown through the celebration of Bahuchara Mata at Hindu temples in Karachi and ubiquitous Christmas decorations and jingles that adorn shopping malls, fill radio airtime and television screens come December, portraying how progressive and liberal Pakistan is. But where are the Ahmadis in all this? The invisible minority that Pakistanis do not want to acknowledge — who decides the fate of these persecuted few million? Is the government choosing to look the other way as mullahs continue to unleash fatwas against Ahmadis on TV channels, reaffirming their status as "wajib-ul-qatl" even after the bloody massacre? Once again, so-called democratic governments show the folly of their perceptions regarding the impact of their silence. The world is watching closely, and with the US entrenched deeply in Pakistan's social and ethno-religious problems, the day of reckoning is near.


In the past, the death toll of minorities remained low enough for the government to avoid sustained international pressure to take action. In the wake of May 28, attacks on Ahmadis and the coincidental re-emergence of Pakistan-trained jihadis attempting attacks on American soil, the scenario has changed. Particularly in the aftermath of the findings in the Waldman report issued by the London School of Economics, suggesting that close ties continue between Pakistan's intelligentsia and both the Haqqani network and Quetta Shura, and more importantly, that there are personal assurances from the president of Pakistan to the Taliban militia. The only hope remains in the answer to the question: how soon will the US demand proof of de-Islamization in Pakistan, thus indirectly benefiting the minorities? The report may be dismissed as slanderous, but it is nonetheless raising a few eyebrows in Washington and Pakistan. Safeguarding the rights and lives of the Ahmadis is certainly not on top of the government's priorities, but satisfying the US's concerns is.


 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that human rights are universal and inalienable, preceding State authority. As Pakistan has continually avoided committing itself to the declaration, maybe it's time that the US nudged its ephemeral friend to take not cosmetic actions against its "cancer" but viable and enduring ones. Pakistan is accepting help from the forces that "freed" Iraq and Afghanistan, while the Americans, motivated primarily by self-defence, are there to do the needful, ideally without the same kind of collateral damage. At least, Pakistan will not be condemned to spread religious terrorism, which is tearing apart communities in Nigeria and Gaza, neither of which, it seems, has enough of what it takes to warrant international intervention. Pakistan does not have oil, but it does have the jihad-touting Taliban.





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





Over the years, Spain had built up a reputation of being underachievers in football. A nation of gifted players and great clubs, they were perennial quarterfinalists on the world stage. Not any more, not after their hard-earned World Cup triumph on Sunday night in Johannesburg. In a bruising final that was a poor advertisement for the sport, it was perhaps poetic justice that Spain ended up on the right side of a 1-0 scoreline against a team that seemed determined to take the rough route to top. The Netherlands, unbeaten in their previous 25 matches and playing their third final, were successful only in terms of the yellow card count. When it came to the game, Spain were decidedly better.

The Spaniards, indeed, were the best team of the World Cup, and played the game in the most pleasing of fashions. Brazil might have turned football into the 'Beautiful Game' but it is in Spain that its artistic values find the right expression these days. Those virtues — intricate passing with ball-possession as the key — were on full view as they waltzed through to their maiden final after recovering from a shock first-match defeat to Switzerland. That 0-1 loss might have raised visions of a familiar Spanish debacle, but Vicente del Bosque's team showed it had the heart for the battle in subsequent matches. David Villa was the spearhead, Xavi and Andres Iniesta orchestrated the moves, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique were rocks in defence and under the bar, skipper Iker Casillas was almost unbeatable. Even in a disappointing final, Spanish flashes of brilliance were the saving grace as they touched the summit, adding the world champions' tag to the European title they won two years ago.

Just like Spain, the host nation South Africa too emerged a winner from the month-long extravaganza, even though their campaign on the field ended early in the tournament. Right from the day they were awarded the World Cup, South Africa had been subjected to a flurry of questions related to their ability to organise an event of this magnitude. A soaring crime rate was more grist to the critics' mill but as the dust settles down, the hosts can look back with a sense of pride on a mission superbly accomplished. Barring minor glitches, it was smooth sailing till the final whistle, and they deserve every plaudit coming their way, even as the Spaniards savour the sweet taste of success.








India is poised to become the most populated country in the world by 2050. Currently it is second to China in terms of population size. Its population has grown at the rate of 1.4 per cent over the past five years compared with China's at 0.6 per cent over the same period. In the past, India's population, often referred to as its 'teeming millions' in the West, was looked upon as a dead weight, a drag on its economic growth. This negative perception of India's population stemmed from the fact that however fast GDP grew, per capita income remained stagnant or changed marginally because population was growing faster than GDP. The Indian economy was often likened to a human running in the same place. This negative perception of India's population has changed in recent years with some experts drawing attention to the demographic dividend that could be India's to reap. According to this perception, unlike the population of many western countries which is greying, that of India is largely youthful. Over 50 per cent of India's population is below 25 years of age. Demographers point out that 35 per cent of the total population is in the prime working-age group ie between 15 and 59 years of age. This is expected to peak around 2020, when 64 per cent of the country's population will belong to this group. Experts say that when other countries' populations are predominantly old, India will have a surplus of people in the working age group, giving it a competitive edge in labour costs.

It means that India need not despair over its growing population. However, India cannot sit back expecting mere numbers to deliver the dividend. A large population that is illiterate, underfed and malnutritioned will make India a gangrenous giant, a gigantic liability to itself and the world. A large young population that is unemployable because it is illiterate or unhealthy is a recipe for disaster as it could trigger much social conflict.

Whether our population will be an asset or a liability depends on whether we are able to tackle problems like malnutrition and illiteracy quickly. If India fails to do so and remains reluctant to invest heavily on human capital, the demographic advantage it is hoping to reap could fritter away. We will then be left with a disaster.







The failure has been not to initiate a dialogue and deci-de on a consensual package of reforms emanating from the PM's task force reports.



Kashmir, that is the Valley, and not even all of it, is in crisis. The very premise so suggestively and breathlessly articulated that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh, is afire is roundly mistaken. The tragedy of 'Kashmir' from the start has been that the part has been conflated with the whole. 

Kashmir is less than J&K. The latter, properly and completely defined (but seldom done so, especially by the Hurriyat, the jihadis and, certainly, Pakistan), must include PAK and the Gilgit-Baltistan area, outposts of post-war colonialism never granted self-determination. The caveat is not intended to beg the question or the current crisis in parts of the Valley, but in order to get the facts right.

A second faulty premise is that the current crisis revolves around the induction of the army in a few towns and parts of Srinagar in aid of civil power through flag marches and a more extensive curfew that by and large shut down affected areas for the duration. Harsh; yes. But why did the state government call out the army in this limited role?

It is not Omar Abdullah's folly, as so readily made out. The local police, assisted by the CRPF, still remain in the forefront. Both have been fully stretched by weeks of studied stone-pelting and, now, ensuring security for the Amarnath yatra. In the circumstances, the army was summoned in aid of civil power, a perfectly constitutional and well-known practice.

Those who lament this development would have been among the first to berate any tardiness in so doing, as was the case in Delhi in 1984, Ayodhya and Bombay in 1992 and Ahmedabad in 2002 and so on down the line. Misgovernance has been cited. However, the first duty of any governance is humane maintenance of law and order.

Critics and punditry would have it that the Valley's youth, a lost generation of 14 to 25 years who have seen nothing but suffering and indignity for the past two decades, are angry. One must acknowledge their legitimate pain, resentment and anxieties over human rights abuses, unemployment, highhandedness, and lack of the opportunities, services and amenities to which they aspire.

There is by now fairly well documented evidence of intercepts that separatists and cross-border mentors are instigating, funding, recruiting and organising  young stone-pelters through agent provocateurs. Stones are provisioned, targets selected and there is a call for more 'martyrs' — a dangerous word sometimes overworked to include victims of jihadi assassination like Mir Waiz Maulana Farooq, Adbul Ganni Lone and Fazle Haq Qureshi (who survives, severally injured), all men who dared to talk of dialogue and peace as an alternative to senseless violence and cross-border agendas.

Life disrupted

Civic and economic life have been routinely disrupted. When? Most often after Friday congregational prayers. In the absence of any better explanation, it must be assumed that mosques are being used as political platforms, giving murderous agitation a righteous jihadi halo from touch-me-not sanctuaries.

What thereafter is the cycle of events? Riotous processionists attempt to take control of the streets, perhaps marching towards sensitive targets and provoking police action. It is true that the police and CRPF should be better trained and equipped to use non-lethal force, an all-India requirement; but this cannot be the sole cause for the mayhem that often follows.

Lamentably, much has been said by responsible leaders to justify 'anger' and stone-pelting. Have these same leaders have sought to pacify or channelise this 'anger' in more constructive ways? It is further exaggeratedly argued that the problem is 'political' and that offers of dialogue have come to naught.

The prime minister has held out the olive branch more than once and quiet dialogue has been initiated. The failure has been not to boldly initiate dialogue and decide on a consensual package of reforms emanating from the PM's task force reports, such as they are, and build on them. Unfortunately the Centre has been waiting for too long for the right climate and has handed a veto to spoilers such as even the 'moderate' Hurriyat.
There has also been a gross and repeated failure of communication. Both the PM and Omar Abdullah as chief minister should have gone on the air over AIR and Doordarshan to speak directly to the people. They never do. They allow their words to be filtered by the media or other intermediaries, resulting in angled views and interpretations, masking what they say. 

The dialogue with Pakistan has resumed. This is good, but must not be axiomatically linked to the internal dialogue. The two are independent though interdependent, the former being far the more important — a factor that Delhi has consistently failed to recognise. 

A beginning can be made with Omar Abdullah's call for all-party talks in Srinagar. Let stone-pelters be represented too. There is already a hint that the army will be withdrawn on July 13, after Martyrs Day. Hence the army's role can at best only be incidental to the real agenda. This round table must be followed by a larger national dialogue on an internal solution embracing 'autonomy,' regional issues, reconciliation, the pandits, development, et al, even as talks with Pakistan proceed. The present crisis represents an opportunity. Seize it.








Bilateral relations between India and Japan have entered a new phase with the prospects for cooperation in civil nuclear energy and the newly initiated senior-level 2+2 dialogue involving the defence and foreign secretaries of both the sides. So far, Japan had this kind of arrangement with its close allies — the US and Australia.


With India joining, a trilateral kind of relationship has emerged between India, Japan and the US. China may be

watching with interest how foreign relations are being reshaped in this part of the world.

Both India and Japan began the first round of talks on June 28 in Tokyo aimed at sealing a bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation pact. What transpired in the meeting was that both the countries agreed to work out arrangements to allow Japan to export its nuclear power generation technology and related equipment to India, while banning India from using them for military purposes. India was also debarred from transferring them to another country.

Nuclear power generation

On June 18, the Japanese Cabinet had adopted a new 10-year growth strategy, which included promoting export of nuclear power generation facilities. Against this backdrop, Japan is keen to ink an agreement with India within an early date. When the prime ministers of the two countries met in Toronto in June on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting, they had reaffirmed their intention to cooperate in the field of nuclear power generation.

Japan feels increasingly uncomfortable with a rising China whose desire for power on world stage never remains in doubt and therefore, Japan seeks a better position for itself. Strengthening business ties with India could be one way to secure its own interests.

What is more important to roping in Japan into a nuclear arrangement with India is that both the US and France want to use Japanese-made equipment in nuclear power plants they aim to build in India. Both these countries and Japanese firms are urging Tokyo to facilitate their business in the emerging India.

Nuclear issue is sensitive in Japan. Japan's planned nuclear accord with India faces severe roadblock as public criticism is quite high. This is because India has developed nuclear arms and not a signatory to the NP. The Japanese public, therefore, want the government to call on India to work on nuclear disarmament with sincerity.

It may be remembered that Japan is the only country that has faced the devastation of a nuclear bomb, when the US dropped the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, thereby bringing the World War II to an end. No wonder, the representatives from Hiroshima and Nagasaki urged the Japanese government to halt negotiations with India to seal a civilian nuclear cooperation pact. The anti-nuclear groups in Japan say the move hampers international efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

But when Japan takes into consideration the changing geopolitics in the region, and weighs economic benefits accruing from such a pact, Japanese government's policy appears forward looking. Japan is impressed with India's impeccable nuclear record and understands why India has taken the position not to sign the NPT. The Japanese government also feels that it would be meaningless if Japan alone refuses to extend nuclear cooperation to India, as other countries have given the green light to offering nuclear technology and equipment for India's civilian programmes.

The 2+2 dialogue was held in New Delhi recently. While the Indian side was led by foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar, the Japanese side was led by deputy foreign minister Kenichiro Sasae and vice defence minister Kimito Kakae. The purpose of the meeting was to build an institutional framework for security cooperation. The annual summit meetings at prime ministerial level are going on for last few years. Following then prime minister Hatoyama Yukio's visit to India in December last, it is the turn of Manmohan Singh to pay a return visit to Tokyo sometime later this year.

The economic component of the relationship is now being complimented by a strategic dimension that would make the bilateral ties robust in the coming years.

(The writer is a senior fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi)







The occurrence and timing of death is beyond clinical analysis and reason.


Every one of us knows for sure that our lives will come to an end one day in the foreseeable future. Still we react to news of death of near and dear ones with disbelief and shock besides suffering the pain of separation and bereavement. Death is a definite occurrence and we know it and remember it all the time. But we always try to avoid any conversation even remotely linked to the sad happening. We are mortally afraid to face this occurrence.

It is equally surprising that in a short span of time, we come to terms, overcome the loss and get on with our lives as though nothing has occurred. I have often wondered what would have happened to all of us if we were blessed with photographic memories! Life would have been a hell, especially for people whose dear ones have met with untimely demise. But time is a great healer and it acts like a balm. It helps us to overcome the grief even though we may not forget the loss. None of us can claim any control over our birth or death nor can we time these events as per our choice.

We see around many young people predeceasing the old, like parents witnessing the demise of children triggering very sad moments and causing lot of pain. My mother died at the age of 44 while my grand mother lived up to one hundred years. Given a choice, none of us would ever wish to depart from this planet. My father, who is 90, jokingly says he wants to be around only till my grandchild is married and my son is still in his early 20s!

The Hindu Upanishads proclaim that one who overcomes the fear of dying attains nirvana and is not touched by death of any one including his own. It is also said that our date of death is pre-determined on the date of birth known only to the master of this universe. Death does not follow any definite pattern and is therefore not predictable. It is shrouded in a mystery. There are umpteen instances of people faced with life threatening diseases living through hell and encountering death only after a long pause of time. On the other hand, we have seen healthy people meeting death in most unexpected circumstances. The occurrence and timing of death in many cases is inexplicable and is beyond clinical analysis and reason.

Perhaps this uncertainty about timing of death is why life is worth living and we want it to go on and on. So let us live in the 'present,' learn to celebrate life and relish this priceless gift. Brooding and worrying about happenings over which we absolutely have no control creates avoidable stress and takes away the essence of life.








Iran's domestic troubles and the Arab world's fear of a nuclear Iran provide Israel with an opportunity to radically shift the region's balance of power


We are entering troubling times. The conviction that war is upon us grows with each passing day. What remains to be determined is who will dictate the terms of that war – Iran or Israel.

Iran has good reason to go to war today. The regime is teetering on the brink of collapse. Last week, the bellwether of Iranian politics and the commercial center of the country – the bazaar – abandoned the regime. In 1979, it was only after the bazaar merchants abandoned the shah that the ayatollahs gained the necessary momentum to overthrow the regime.

Last Tuesday the merchants at the all-important Teheran bazaar closed their shops to protest the government's plan to raise their taxes by 70 percent. Merchants in Tabriz and Isfahan quickly joined the protest. According to the Associated Press, the regime caved in to the merchants demands and cancelled the tax hike. And yet the strike continued.

According to The Los Angeles Times, to hide the fact that the merchants remain on strike, on Sunday the regime announced that the bazaar was officially closed due to the excessive heat. The Times also reported that the head of the fabric traders union in the Teheran bazaar was arrested for organizing an anti-regime protest. The protest was joined by students. Regime goons attacked the protesters with tear gas and arrested and beat a student caught recording the event.

Crucially, the Times reported that by last Thursday the bazaar strike had in many cases become openly revolutionary. Citing an opposition activist, it claimed, "By Thursday, hundreds of students and merchants had gathered in the shoemakers' quarter of the old bazaar, chanting slogans [such] as, "Death to Ahmadinejad," "Victory is God's," "Victory is near" and "Death to this deceptive government."

The merchants' strike is just one indication of the regime's economic woes. According to AP, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under pressure to carry out his pledge to cut government subsidies for food and fuel. Although he supports the move, he fears the mass protests that would certainly follow its implementation.

FrontPage Magazine's Ryan Mauro noted earlier this week that there is growing disaffection with the regime in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps itself. A recent documentary produced by the Guardian featured four IRGC defectors speaking of the discord in the ranks. The regime is so frightened of defection among the IRGC that it has removed many older members and replaced them with poor young men from the countryside.

The regime's fear of its opposition has caused it to crack down on domestic liberties. Last week the regime issued hairstyle guidelines for men. Spiked hair and ponytails are officially banned as decadent.

On Sunday Mohammed Boniadi, the deputy head of Teheran's school system, announced that starting in the fall, a thousand clerics will descend on the schools to purge Western influence from the halls of learning. As he put it, the clerics' job will be to make students aware of "opposition plots and arrogance."

These moves to weaken Western influence on Iranian society are of a piece with the regime's new boycott against "Zionist" products. Late last month Ahmadinejad signed a law outlawing the use of products from such Zionist companies as Intel, Coca Cola, Nestle and IBM.

ALL OF these moves expose a hysterical fear of the Iranian people on the part of their unelected leaders. Regime strongmen themselves acknowledge that they have never faced a greater threat. For instance, the Guardian quoted IRGC commander Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari saying recently, "Although last year's sedition did not last more than around eight months, it was much more dangerous than the [Iran-Iraq] war." As is its wont, the regime has chosen to defend itself against this threat by repressing its internal enemies and attacking its external enemies. In an article last month in Forbes, Reza Kahlili, a former CIA spy in the IRGC who maintains connections inside the regime, claimed that the IRGC has set up concentration camps throughout the country in anticipation of mass arrests in any future opposition campaign against the regime.

As for the outside world, Iran is ratcheting up both its nuclear brinksmanship and its preparations for yet another round of regional war. In an announcement on Sunday, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi told the Iranian news agency ISNA that Iran has produced 20 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent. Salehi also said that Iran is building fuel plates to operate a nuclear reactor.

Iran's nuclear progress has frightened the Arab world so much that for the first time, Arab leaders are giving public voice to the concerns they have expressed behind closed doors. In public remarks last week, UAE Ambassador to the US Youssef al-Otaiba made a series of statements whose bluntness was unprecedented. Otaiba said that the Arab states of the Persian Gulf cannot live with a nuclear Iran, that he supports military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities and that if the US fails to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the Arab states of the Gulf will abandon their alliances with the US in order to appease Iran. Otaiba rejected the notion that a nuclear-armed Iran can be contained stating, "Talk of containment and deterrence really concerns me and makes me very nervous."

Otaiba's concerns were echoed last Friday by Kahlili in a public lecture at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He asserted that if Iran develops a nuclear arsenal it will use it to attack Israel, the Gulf states and Europe.

IRAN IS seeking to divert international attention away from its internal troubles and limit the possibility of a strike against its nuclear installations by inciting war with Israel. On Sunday the regime announced that Ahmadinejad will soon visit Beirut. Recent activities by Iran's Hizbullah proxy in Lebanon indicate that if his visit goes through – and even if it doesn't – the announcement signals that Iran intends to fight another proxy war against Israel through Hizbullah.

As the IDF announced in a press briefing last Wednesday, Iran has tightened its control over Hizbullah forces. It recently sent Hossein Mahadavi, commander of the IRGC's Jerusalem Force, to Beirut to take over Hizbullah's operations.

As for Hizbullah, it is poised to launch a witch-hunt against its domestic opponents.

Hizbullah MP Muhammad Ra'ad said earlier this month that the proxy army will "hunt down," collaborators. As MP Sami Gemayel noted in an interview with LBC translated by MEMRI, this that means is that Hizbullah is poised to conduct mass extrajudicial arrests and wholesale terrorization of Lebanese civilians.

Likewise, Hizbullah-allied former Lebanese minister Wiam Wahhab effectively called for armed attacks against UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon in a recent television interview translated by MEMRI. His remarks followed some 20 Hizbullahordered assaults on UNIFIL forces in Shi'ite villages in recent days. French forces were the victim of two of those assaults and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri travelled to Paris last week in the hopes of convincing the French government not to remove French forces from the country.

And of course, all of these provocations are being carried out as Hizbullah deploys its forces south of the Litani River.

According to the IDF briefing last week, those forces have some 40,000 short- and medium-range missiles at their disposal.

Those missiles have been augmented by hundreds of guided long-range missiles north of the Litani with warheads capable of bringing down skyscrapers in Tel Aviv.

Moreover, they are further augmented by Syria's massive Scud missile and artillery arsenals and by a frightening potential fifth column among Israeli Arabs in the Galilee. Sunday's assault on police forces operating in the Syrian-allied Druse village of Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights is a mild indicator of what is liable to transpire in Israeli Arab villages in the North in the next war.

For its part, the IDF is seeking to deter such an attack. Wednesday's briefing, in which the IDF made clear that it knows where Hizbullah has hidden its missiles, was aimed at deterring war.

Unfortunately, the IDF's warnings will likely have no effect on Hizbullah. If Hizbullah goes to war, it will do so not to advance its own interests, but to protect Iran. Here of course, there is nothing new.

Four years ago this week Hizbullah launched its war against Israel and not because doing so served its interests.

Hizbullah launched its war against Israel because Iran ordered it to do so. Then as now, Iran sought a war with Israel in Lebanon to divert international attention from its nuclear weapons program. And now, with the Iranian regime besieged by its own people as never before, and with just a short period required for it to cross the nuclear threshold, Iran has more reason than ever to seek a distraction in Lebanon to buy time for itself.

Four years ago, Israel was taken in by Iran's Lebanese proxy war. Rather than keeping its eye on Teheran, it swallowed Hizbullah's bait and waged a war against hapless Lebanon while leaving Iran and its Syrian toady immune from attack. The results were predictably poor and strategically disastrous.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given Iran every reason to believe that Israel will respond in an identical manner if Hizbullah strikes again today. In repeated statements over the past several months, he has maintained that Israel will blame Lebanon – not Iran or Syria – for any Hizbullah action against it.

Four years ago, Israel was reined in by the Bush administration. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice ordered Israel not to attack Syria despite the fact that without Syrian support for Hizbullah, there could have been no war. Israel obliged her both because its leaders lacked the strategic sense to recognize the folly of Rice's demands and because the Bush administration was Israel's firm ally.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just returned from yet another visit with US President Barack Obama. Although the background music was cheerful, from statements by both men it is clear that Obama is not a credible ally. He does not understand or accept the strategic logic behind the US alliance with Israel and will not support Israel in future armed conflicts.

Indeed, in the face of the growing Iranian menace, Obama insists on limiting his interests to the irrelevant faux peace process with Fatah while allowing Iran and its proxies to run wild.

What this means is that for better or for worse, under Obama the US is far less relevant than it was four years ago. And this frees Netanyahu to fight the coming war on Israel's terms. Iran's domestic troubles and the Arab world's genuine fear of a nuclear armed Iran provide Israel with a rare opportunity to radically shift the balance of power in the region for the better. It is time for Netanyahu to lead.







Kagan's admiration for Justice Aharon Barak's philosophy may have revealed her own predilection for radical judicial activism.


Americans may be wondering why the opinions of a former president of Israel's Supreme Court may be so relevant to the selection of Elena Kagan as a member of the US Supreme Court, as some of her critics insist. These critics, among them several senators, claim that by repeatedly expressing her admiration for Justice Aharon Barak's philosophy, even considering him as her mentor, Kagan revealed her own predilection for a radical judicial activism for which justice Barak is notorious.

One important issue that may be affected by Kagan's admiration for Barak's often articulated position is the issue of terrorism and the law. Barak and his followers insisted that the fight against terrorism must in no way affect, even in extreme emergencies, a strict adherence to the most liberal interpretation of human rights. Americans may be surprised to discover that an activist Supreme Court that was led by Barak habitually constrained its military from taking effective measures to protect innocent lives. It feared impairing Palestinian Arab rights to free movement or to a decent quality of life. Changes dictated by the Supreme Court in the security fence have cost hundreds of millions of shekels. Judicial interference in military operational details like the positioning of roadblocks resulted in fatalities, while insistence on Palestinian Arabs' freedom of movement facilitated the penetration several times by suicide bombers.

LIKE ISRAELIS, Americans now debate, following several attempted terrorist attacks, how democracies can vanquish terrorism – and still respect human rights. How can democracies win the battle against terrorists exploiting our laws to undermine our civilized order? 

Jurists hold two basic approaches on how the law should cope with terrorism: Judicial activists, like Barak and most likely Kagan believe that human rights are God's – or nature's – given rights. Such rights must be defined and strictly enforced by the judiciary even in times of war. Then there are the pragmatists who argue that the right to life of potential victims is no less sacred than the human rights of their assassins. They believe that even human rights must be weighed against other rights and adjudicated case by case.

These two approaches were debated in the recent past by two preeminent jurists, Judge Richard Posner of the Federal Court of Appeals in Chicago, a conservative jurist, and a guiding light of Law and Economics, and Barak. Barak, an avid practitioner of judicial activism and of the strict application of human rights, insisted that "democracy must fight terrorism with one hand tied behind its back."

Posner, who "preferred to fight terrorism with both hands," argued that judges lacked qualification in military matters. They based their judgments on their values and their ideology, on their personal and professional experience. Casting their decisions in terms of human rights was often an excuse to impose their ideology and personal bias under the guise of lofty principles. The rigid application of human rights at almost any cost, Posner asserted, sacrificed innocent lives to protect abstract principles.

Barak insisted that there are universal criteria judges must enforce even if they are not included in legislation because judges "have a special affinity with morality... This vested in the legal system extraordinary powers..."

Posner objected. The claim that everything is justiciable and that everyone can have standing in cases involving human rights leads to judicial despotism. It upsets a vital and delicate balance between the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government, setting up the judiciary as the final arbiter.

THE DIVISION between these two approaches has its roots in differing conceptions of human rights. Human rights activists treat rights as abstract platonic universals vested with the sacred halo of the law. But such universals, no matter how well formulated, are inevitably vague and therefore require constant interpretation. As Barak conceded the "human dignity and freedom" right is "a complex principle." But he believed it can be based on "the freedom of each person to fashion his personality."

No one can define, however, what such "freedom" means exactly; what are its contents, extent and limitations? Who exercises it and under what constraints? Tomes could be written on what is meant by "personality" and "the freedom to fashion it." A very complex internal process, it is hard to fathom and impossible to codify. Yet Barak and his followers insisted on making such a complex and vague notion as individual freedom "the principle right" from which all other rights derive.

This very vagueness, however, makes interpretive judges the real legislators of such rights. A dogmatic adherence to abstract human rights enforced by judicial activism therefore curtails the freedom of legislators and nullifies democratic choice.

An abstract conception of human rights leads, moreover, to a divorce from reality. A Barak disciple, Prof. Alon Harel asserted that in 50 years people will look back at our obsession with terrorism "as we now look at those who engaged in witch-hunts."


Terrorism being such a bugaboo, there is no justification, he believes, to deny full protection even to "ticking bombs," to terrorist suspects who possess information that could help prevent the slaughter of innocents, but would not divulge it unless forced to do so by extreme pressure, even torture.

Even pragmatists like Posner objected to having the law sanction torture. Posner suggested a pragmatic compromise: Prosecutors should sometimes ignore the use of torture by law enforcers if they are convinced that it was the only way information could be extracted that would save lives. "I do not recall," he said "many people being killed in the last 50 years by witches, but thousands have been killed by terrorists...I am amazed to hear such a dismissal of the danger of terrorism from a professor in a university that was attacked by terrorists. I think it is irresponsible..."

Is this debate between these two schools on how to handle a real terrorist threat relevant to the choice of a candidate to the US Supreme Court who mostly likely embraces the views of the very "liberal" school? Judge for yourself.

The writer is director of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress.









Annual meeting will be overshadowed by the recent exposure of a massive misappropriation of funds.

On Tuesday, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) will be holding its annual meeting in New York. Proceedings will be overshadowed by the recent exposure of a massive misappropriation of funds, which will be regarded as one of the ugliest Jewish organizational financial scandals in our time.

The New York-based Jewish Week recently made the shattering disclosure that the FBI was investigating fraudulent misappropriation of at least $7 million, possibly substantially more, over the past decade from the Article 2 Fund created in 1995 by the German government to provide quarterly pensions to eligible Holocaust survivors. The task of administering the payments had been delegated to the Claims Conference.

It had already been disclosed earlier in February that the Claims Conference had dismissed three employees, one of whom was the supervisor of the Hardship Fund. It appeared that $350,000 was involved and investigations into that fraud apparently led to the discovery of the far greater misappropriation from the pension fund. Had The Jewish Week not exposed the story, there is every likelihood that the public would not be aware of what had transpired.

One would have assumed that a scandal of this order involving restitution funds would have caused a major stir throughout the Jewish world. Yet there seems to have been little follow up or outrage. To make matters worse, Claims Conference executive vice president Gregory Schneider had the gall to inform The Jewish Week that "no Holocaust survivors" lost any money and that there had not been a failure in standard operating procedures.

THREE YEARS ago, in a Jerusalem Post column, I suggested that it was time for a major and comprehensive review of the outdated structure of the Claims Conference. I pointed out that the membership of that body was completely out of sync with the current realities of Jewish life, which still includes extinct organizations such as the Anglo Jewish Association and the Jewish Labor Committee which retain equal representative status to the Jewish Agency. I also noted that there was a lack of transparency, that the organization functions more like an old boys club than a representative body and that the board is largely a rubber stamp to endorse the decisions of a few machers. Members of the board are disinclined to rock the boat by challenging the administration or seeking to reform the structure – confirmed by the fact that the board never meaningfully evaluates allocations submitted by the selection committee.

This view was reinforced subsequently when the shady deals involving the New York/New Jersey branch of the Global March of the Living Program were exposed. The March of the Living was founded by Avraham Herschson, the disgraced former Israeli finance minister who is currently serving a jail sentence for fraud. Herschson had arranged for Curtis Hoxter to receive consultancy fees in excess of $700,000 allegedly for fund-raising activities on behalf of the March of the Living, despite the fact that the bulk of contributions were being provided by the Claims Conference. When Hoxter was asked why the March of the Living paid him $700,000 he could not recall. The Claims Conference then undertook to do a thorough investigation to ascertain what had happened to these funds, but since then there has been a deafening silence.

IF THE Claims Conference, which apparently failed to oversee the utilization of funds in other areas, is now facing yet another scandal, it would surely be appropriate to launch an independent forensic audit to cover its broad operations to allay concerns and instill confidence in the Jewish world that adequate oversight is being applied. There is no suggestion that malfeasance on the part of the directors was involved, but there surely should be accountability for what appears to have been gross incompetence. The problem is that there is little likelihood of the leaders being brought to task because of the conflicts of interest of board members to retain the benefits for their respective organizations.


This latest scandal highlights the urgent need to infuse the Claims Conference with new leadership and restructuring of its board to satisfy the Jewish public that restitution funds are managed in an exemplary manner.

A discourse throughout the Jewish world to review the criteria for granting assistance to survivors and the ground rules of eligibility for providing grants to worthy organizations or projects is also highly overdue.

Most importantly, the Jewish public has difficulty in comprehending why there are so many Holocaust survivors living in abject poverty while considerable sums continue to be expended by the Claims Conference on causes which lack a genuine relationship with the Holocaust, ranging from the Tel Aviv Yiddish Theater, Hatzola Volunteer Ambulance Services in Brooklyn, Birthright and Bnei Brak women's organizations.

Perhaps this extraordinary scandal will impel some of the more responsible directors to set aside their organizational interests, introduce greater accountability and initiate genuine reform to the Claims Conference.







The recent meeting between Obama and Netanyahu was as good as it's going to get.

Talkbacks (13)

At the recent meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the president could not have been more effusive. They had an "excellent" discussion, Netanyahu's statement was "wonderful," and the USIsrael relationship is "extraordinary."

Hard to believe this is the same Obama.

The US president wants to improve relations with Israel for several reasons.

Obviously, he doesn't want to be bashing Israel in the period leading up to the November elections. Polls show that for Americans, his administration's relative hostility toward Israel is its least popular policy. But there is more to this trend.

What Obama wants is to be able to claim a diplomatic success in advancing the Israel-Palestinian "peace process," perhaps the only international issue he can so spin. Keeping indirect talks going and, even better, moving them up to direct talks is his goal. So he wants Netanyahu's cooperation for that.

The same point holds regarding the Gaza Strip, where Obama wants to claim he has defused a crisis he has called "unsustainable." And he also wants to keep the Israel-Arab front calm while he deals with Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, seeking above all to avoid crises and confrontations and to keep up his (bogus) bargain of trading flattery for popularity.

So here's the deal as he sees it: Give Israel some US support in exchange for modest steps that the administration hopes accomplishes its goals. Israel will concede on some things that don't appreciably hurt its interests in order to maintain good relations with the US.

First, Israel revised the list of goods it permits into the Gaza Strip, the details of which were all agreed on beforehand with the US. The Obama administration will support Israel on Gaza generally, including endorsing its independent investigation of the flotilla issue.

As the Israeli government explained it, the new list "is limited to weapons, war material, and dual-use items."

Israel is defining dual-use items using an international agreement, the "Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies," and thus this should be acceptable to Western governments.

Construction material will be carefully monitored and allowed only for specified projects. Israel will keep out dualuse goods including construction materials (concrete and pipes, for example) that can be used by 
Hamas to build bunkers and rockets.

At present, there are 45 such projects approved by Israel. The Palestinian Authority must also approve each one (thus, in theory, the buildings created would strengthen its popularity and influence, though this is probably wishful thinking). These include school and medical buildings, water and sewage systems, and housing. If Israel determines, through its multiple intelligence-collecting sources, that the material is being misused to benefit Hamas or its military strength, the supplies would be stopped.

The United States will proclaim that the alleged humanitarian crisis is over and the people of Gaza are doing just fine, ignoring their being subject to a terribly repressive dictatorship. Hamas will denounce the concessions as insufficient and continue efforts to smuggle in weapons, consolidate its rule, and turn Gaza's children into terrorists. This is the contemporary Western idea of a diplomatic success.

AS I'VE pointed out before, once Israel concluded that there would be no Western commitment for overthrowing the Hamas regime, it might as well go to a containment strategy. This Western policy is terrible but Israel is merely recognizing the real situation and making the best of it. Obama was quoted as saying: "We believe there is a way to make sure that the people of Gaza are able to prosper economically, while Israel is able to maintain its legitimate security needs in not allowing missiles and weapons to get to Hamas."

Really? How exactly are you going to do that? I know what Obama thinks: The people prosper, the middle class gets stronger, the masses demand moderation and then comes Hamas's downfall.

This is a view of revolutionary Islamism and the workings of dictatorships that boggles the mind. It is the mindless idea that prosperity brings peace and moderation, and that a regime ready to torture, murder, and indoctrinate people will be easily removed.

There is the possibility of the US government and other Western countries subverting Israel's position by engaging Hamas (as Russia did lately) but that line can probably be held for the next few years at least. Various Western media and activist groups can try to keep up the notion that the Gaza Strip is a hell on earth (because of Israel) and people are starving. There will be no truth to this, of course, but there was no truth to it before and that didn't stop them. But their task will be harder.

OBAMA PRAISED Netanyahu just as much on the "peace process." The president said: "I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he's willing to take risks for peace."

Remember that quote when Obama turns on Netanyahu again after the November elections. As for risks, we've had enough of those, thank you very much.

But Netanyahu's goal was to make Obama happy with the minimum of risk. Israel will extend its building freeze on the West Bank and east Jerusalem in exchange for the Obama administration's commitment to endorse its predecessor's acceptance of Israel retaining "settlement blocs" as part of any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

In other words, if a diplomatic settlement were ever to be reached then borders would be shifted to allow Israel to annex some relatively small areas with a large number of settlers. This would not only improve Israel's security situation in the event of a peace agreement but also greatly increase support for a flexible policy within Israel.

Continuing to freeze will present a domestic problem for Netanyahu but he can hold his coalition together, if necessary, by adjusting it. Parties are constrained from walking out of the government because if elections were held today, Netanyahu would win in a landslide partly at their expense.

Another thing Netanyahu wants is for Obama to escalate pressure on Iran regarding that country's nuclear weapons' drive. The new sanctions, thanks to Congress, are going to hurt Iran and undermine support for the regime there. It's not enough, of course, to stop the program. Still, when Iran does get nuclear weapons, Israel will need the United States to take a strong stand in containing Teheran.

DOES ISRAEL'S government trust Obama? Of course not. Israelis in general are under no illusions about Obama's view of their country, his willingness to battle revolutionary Islamists, or his general reliability and toughness.

There is a possibility of Obama turning to a much tougher stance on Israel after the congressional elections are over. Yet with a plummeting popularity at home and many domestic problems, perhaps Obama will have more on his mind than playing Middle Eastpeacemaker.


The Palestinian Authority is so uneager for a peace agreement that anything Israel says on the subject is most unlikely ever to be implemented. And it seems that the Obama administration has at least some sense that it isn't going to get an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement so it doesn't want to look foolish in making this a high priority and then failing.

Thus, Israel's strategy is as follows: try very hard to get along with the administration, seek to keep it happy, and avoid confrontation without making any major irreversible concessions or taking serious risks. Have no illusions, but keep the US government focused on Iran as much as possible.

The next Congress will be more likely to constrain the president and who knows what will happen in future. A building freeze might be ended on strong grounds the next time. It is quite possible that Iran, Syria, and other radical forces will so assault the United States and trample on its interests that Obama will be forced to alter course. And there's always the 2012 presidential election.

This, then, is the best policy for Israel to follow considering the more unattractive options. And for the foreseeable future, Obama will play along.

It isn't neat but it is real world international politics.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at









We must be concerned by with the threats directed at Israel's minority population.


In the 11 years that I have served in the Knesset, I have received numerous death threats. Pulsa Denura (the term for a rabbinical death curse) has evidently taken exception to my consistent call for equal rights for the country's Palestinian minority.

Recently I received a letter – the second in as many days – that warned: "You have 180 days to live. Your death will be sudden and cruel, accompanied by great pain..."

Last month, I was forcibly removed by armed guards from the Knesset podium. In recent days, colleagues have faced violent and vulgar rhetoric and one was very nearly physically attacked by a fellow Knesset member. Much, but not all of this fury, is a consequence of daring to speak out on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza, a land cruelly and illegally deprived of essential goods. Yet American elected officials seem far more concerned with specious claims against humanitarian aid workers who were violently attacked by Israel in international waters on May 31.

A young dual Turkish-American citizen was killed execution- style on board the lead ship, with one bullet to the chest and four, at close range, to the head, according to some reports in the Turkish press. The next day, another young American, Emily Henochowicz – a college student at New York's prestigious Cooper Union – had her eye shot out by an Israeli-fired tear gas canister as she peacefully protested the flotilla raid in Jerusalem.

Days later, a Palestinian man married to an American woman was killed at a police checkpoint in Wadi Joz after what some say was a traffic accident. Israeli police maintain that the man tried to ram his car into two police officers and then flee on foot but some witnesses told police and media channels that the man's sudden swerving of the car was unintentional.

US OFFICIALS have not demanded accountability for these acts of violence. Instead, too many are busy responding to AIPAC, which has released a list of Congress members parroting the group's talking points.

They speak of Israel's right to "defend itself" from humanitarian workers brutally murdered in international waters by the equivalent of modern-day pirates. It seems that only in the US Congress is this perverted Israeli rationale accepted as reality.

The new American president's silence is even more disappointing. It reminds us that Palestinian freedom and equal rights are unlikely to be secured by a United States committed to false notions of Israeli security.

Since his Cairo speech last year, President Barack Obama has failed to pursue new policies. In the Middle East, he is regarded as full of fine, but empty words.

Empty because securing Palestinian freedom and equal rights requires standing up to Israel.

Furthermore, the president is grievously undercut by fellow top Democrats such as Sen. Charles Schumer, who told an audience at the Orthodox Union last month that it made sense "to strangle them [Palestinians in Gaza] economically" because they elected Hamas and "they don't believe in the Torah, in David."

This may play well with some of Sen. Schumer's constituents at the Orthodox Union where he was cheered for his remarks, but it goes over very poorly with Palestinians agonizing over stunted and malnourished children.

One can imagine the uproar had he suggested economically strangling Israelis for electing neo-fascists such as Avigdor Lieberman.


THE ONE glimmer of hope I can see came from President Obama's National Security Strategy of May 2010. Promisingly, the document calls for "rights for all Israelis." But the strategy requires crucial elaboration.

We have some rights in Israel. The question is whether we will have equal rights and here the document falls silent. The issue is vital as the human rights organization Adalah has documented over three dozen Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

As we have learned with Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, constructive ambiguity is not helpful.

American support for a "Jewish state" suggests a willingness to relegate Palestinian citizens of that state to inferior standing.

Israel's current government clearly opposes equal rights and its most extreme members are threatening the overthrow of numerous democratic norms. Foreign Minister Lieberman leads the charge with his loyalty oath that threatens to strip Palestinians of citizenship.

More than 20 bills have been introduced since Binyamin Netanyahu took office in spring 2009 that would exacerbate discrimination against Israel's Palestinian minority.

In Israel, especially among those on the Right, there is a fierce refusal to accept any activity or statement, by myself or my colleagues, against government policy.

For example, my support of the Libyan flotilla and my calls for the end of the Gaza blockade, are immediately seen as an attempt to undermine the security of the state. It seems there is no tolerance for the "other," the Arab, whose differing opinion is promptly attacked for being reckless and unrestrained.

Between the Scylla of death threats and the Charybdis of expulsion, the standing of Palestinian citizens of Israel is as tenuous as it has been since the lifting of martial law in 1966. Democratic allies of Israel must concern themselves not only with its 43-year subjugation of Palestinians in the occupied territories, but with the mounting threats being directed at its minority population by a majority that wrongly deems us a fifth column for demanding to be treated as equal human beings regardless of whether or not we believe in the Torah.

The writer is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and is deputy speaker of the Knesset.









The team of experts headed by Maj. Gen. (res. ) Giora Eiland submitted its report yesterday on its investigation into the military operation against the Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31. The limited and censored version that Eiland presented to the public suggests that the two expectations created when Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi announced his appointment have come true.


As expected, Eiland carried out the task thoroughly and in depth, exposing flaws and recommending ways to correct them. Also as expected, Eiland didn't put anyone's head in a noose. Eiland's report does not whitewash the cracks in intelligence gathering and operational planning, but it leaves up in the air, or in this case, out at sea, the question of command responsibility for what Eiland himself has described as "substantive errors of the senior ranks."


The mistakes pointed out by Eiland revolve around the way the navy operated, especially the commander of the navy and its intelligence unit, the intelligence department and the General Staff. As such, this is an important report but too narrow, because the government and especially the prime minister and defense minister were not investigated. (The chief of staff had warned them of the dangers of a military operation and asked them to opt for alternatives .) Also not investigated were the foreign minister, the Ministerial Committee for Defense, the National Security Council and the Mossad, which failed to sneak an agent onto the Mavi Marmara.


Ashkenazi, who appointed Eiland, is not to blame for this investigative failure, nor is Eiland, whose hands were tied because the army is unable to investigate its superiors or other bodies in the defense establishment. This is the duty of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and their colleagues in the cabinet.


The prime minister and his ministers thought they were smart and sought to make do with two investigations that are not authorized to touch them. The Eiland team was limited to the military alone. The Turkel Committee is dealing only with the aspects of the flotilla affair concerning international law. One investigation looks at the army and the other at the world; no investigation is looking into the Netanyahu-Barak government.


This is cowardly behavior toward the naval commandos and the other troops who took risks. The government must now turn onto itself the spotlight that Eiland directed at the Israel Defense Forces.


If Netanyahu and Barak avoid doing this, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee must set up a panel to investigate.









Something quite encouraging emanates from the Gilad Shalit fiasco and our helplessness in securing his freedom. It is easier for us to look in the mirror. We are not preoccupied with rabbis and spiritual leaders; police investigations of public officials; Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who would skewer Defense Minister Ehud Barak while calling him a liar; deadly car accidents and violent protests by the ultra-Orthodox; and political demonstrations at Rabin Square. Instead, we now have a response that springs from the heart.

In the four years Shalit has been held captive, I've written one thing and then the opposite. Once I said, "Yes, he

should be freed at any price." Some time later I wrote, "Do not free him at any price." I was right both times. More than once the media has argued against the imbalance of prisoner swaps, demanding that from now on the only deals should be one for one. So what if they argued? When judging by the result, the discrepancy remains. We have always paid a price that was above and beyond.


The decision on the matter rests with the prime ministers. Thus far they have failed to withstand the pressure exerted by the captives' families. When he was defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin justified the Jibril deal in which Israel released more than 1,000 prisoners in exchange for three soldiers captured during the first Lebanon war by saying he couldn't take the look on the face of Miriam Grof, the mother of one of the soldiers to be freed, Yosef Grof.


In a country that has mourned many of its sons, there have been only two spontaneous political demonstrations that toppled a prime minister. The protest movements launched by veterans after the failure of the Yom Kippur War led to Golda Meir's resignation just a short time after she was re-elected along with Moshe Dayan despite the thousands of dead soldiers. Meir and Dayan were not mentioned by the Agranat Commission, which investigated the events leading up to the war.


The second political demonstration took place during the first Lebanon war, a conflict that needlessly dragged on and sent high-school graduates straight onto the battlefield to fight a war whose purpose was never clear. The public gradually found it harder to see the benefit of the war's endless bloodletting. A cynical song, which rhymes in Hebrew, summed up the mood of those days: "Oh airplane, take us to Lebanon, we'll fight for Sharon and come back in a coffin." The grassroots protest resulted in Menachem Begin's psychological deterioration. During the final days of his tenure, he acknowledged that he could not face up to the scene of protesters camped outside his home. Every morning these demonstrators brandished signs tallying the war's death toll.


While the two aforementioned demonstrations were rooted in political considerations and ended in the ouster of two prime ministers, the Shalit abduction has morphed into a human drama that puts us in a difficult dilemma, all courtesy of the Shalit family's efforts. While Aviva and Noam Shalit have not kept quiet for even one day, they also have not raised their voices. They know that the only person deciding their son's fate is the prime minister. Ehud Olmert, however, refused to pay the price and Bibi is still not budging from his position. When the Shalits were asked at one point to tone down their message so as not to harm the negotiations with Hamas, they heeded. But the personal tragedy is etched on their faces. Their quiet restrained voices are screaming to the high heavens.


I do not know how many people took part in the protest march organized by the Shalit family that stretched from the north to the Prime Minister's Residence. Even if the figure falls short of 200,000, it was still the loudest quiet protest ever staged in this country. Much like Forrest Gump, who was spurred by the death of his mother to begin walking and was gradually joined by tens of thousands of people, all with their own reasons, tens of thousands joined the Shalits, their pain and the war for the life of their son.


Not all who marched in this impressive demonstration believed in their hearts that Gilad should be freed at any price, yet they identified with the parents' anguish. When the march paused opposite the Akirov Towers, the home of Barak, his wife Nili Priell joined in and marched for a stretch of the route. She did not demonstrate against her husband, but she did empathize with the family's pain. Meanwhile, all the luminaries and stars there were less interested in making a political impact and more interested in appearing on television just so people would know they were there.


This was a protest for the parents, not against the government. There is no doubt that among the marchers were people who spoke differently behind closed doors, people who felt that the state cannot be held hostage to the fate of one soldier. Today they will release 1,000 murderers, and tomorrow they will demand that we relinquish Jerusalem in exchange for one captive soldier.


The Shalit march was not a political event, but one that came from the heart. It was the most spontaneous, humane and impressive demonstration ever held here. At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, it was good to see the face of the beautiful Israeli.









Yuval Steinitz is acting as if he's in a battle for his life, sparing no word or deed to warn us of the gathering storm. The finance minister has described the growth of the defense budget as "wild," criticized the news reports implanted by the army over the latest Hezbollah rocket threat, and garnered support among ministers and journalists for his desperate demand to curtail defense spending.


A high-level Finance Ministry official describes Ehud Barak as the "most expensive defense minister in Israel's history," and Udi Nissan, the Finance Ministry's budget director, says such massive defense spending comes at the expense of welfare, education and health services.


The defense budget has experienced fantastic growth over the past few years - from NIS 44 billion in 2006 to NIS 55 billion this year. The recommendations of the Brodet Commission that was tasked with examining the defense budget have, in Nissan's view, collapsed and efforts to streamline the defense establishment were barely carried out.


What's more, of the billions in misdirected funds, "the portion allotted for salaries is rising while the army's fighting power is on the wane. That has to change," says Nissan.


Steinitz has compared the defense budget's meteoric rise to "an F-16 taking off," while other government ministries chug along "like an old Piper plane." That growth, he said, reminds him of the steep spike in defense spending following the Yom Kippur War that led the Israeli economy to a "lost decade." The finance minister doesn't want another.


Let there be no mistake - Steinitz's demands are exceedingly modest. He seeks only to reduce the budgetary increase the Israel Defense Forces would receive from NIS 3.4 billion to NIS 2 billion. That small cut could return the military to within the parameters outlined by the Brodet Commission, which it somehow managed to exceed.


The panel's recommendations were the worst thing ever to happen to the state budget. The government approved them in 2007 as part of a misguided attempt to implement the lessons of the Second Lebanon War, and the result was that the IDF began receiving fantastic budgetary additions at the expense of social, educational and welfare services.


At the same time, the army failed to meet its obligations to streamline. The IDF continues to oppose raising its retirement age to a more reasonable level, a move that would save billions - today one may leave the army at 42 and receive a pension for 38 years! It's unclear why an economist at the Kirya defense compound in Tel Aviv can't work until 60 before retiring.


Steinitz has already promised on several occasions to personally file a decision to raise the retirement age, though he is doing so with full knowledge that he may fail. The army continues to make fools out of us, claiming with unimaginable chutzpah that raising the retirement age would only bring about a spending increase (! ).


The defense establishment lives in its own world, without effective parliamentary supervision. At the start of the year it is budgeted a certain sum, but by year's end that has grown by some NIS 3 billion or NIS 4 billion. The army refuses to cut its number of employees despite overlaps within its ranks, and is unwilling to shrink the bloated defense delegations to New York, Washington, Paris, Brussels and Berlin, which serve as wonderful professional sabbaticals for their cronies.


It's clear Steinitz is wagering the entire weight of his influence on this gambit, but he is a featherweight. Barak is hardly paying him any mind. The finance minister will meet with Benjamin Netanyahu next week, scare him a little and receive whatever it is he wants.


The prime minister, after all, isn't worried about the damage that could be caused to society and the economy. All that's important is his own seat, for which he is willing to pay any price required.









A yeshiva student who burned an Israeli flag on the eve of Memorial Day asked a court on Sunday not to convict him. He claimed that his freedom of expression took precedence over harmed sensitivities. Yesterday, Anat Hoffman, head of Women at the Wall, who want to read the Torah out loud at the Western Wall, was arrested for the crime of holding a Torah scroll in the Western Wall Plaza because it hurt the sensitivities of the public.


A comparison shows that Israel recognizes only the sensitivities of the ultra-Orthodox. Others don't have them: Secular people who want to drive on the primarily ultra-Orthodox Bar-Ilan Street in Jerusalem on the Sabbath only want "freedom of movement" - not to feel free in their country. Women who want to pray at the Western Wall want "equality," not a sense of sanctity. And since only Haredim have sensitivities, only they can suffer when their sensitivities are hurt.


But secular people should protest vehemently. The state recognizes these sensitivities only when they preserve the power structure it finds convenient. That is, when harm to the sensitivities of religious people actually conceals harm to exclusivity, to authority or to power in the hands of men - then the state prohibits such harm.


In the issue of Bar-Ilan Street, for example, the High Court of Justice recognized that opening the road was harmful to Haredi sensitivities, but still ruled in favor of the neighborhood's secular residents. In other words, it prefered to maintain the open character of Jerusalem and not contribute to making it more ultra-Orthodox.


In the failed petition to ban pornographic channels, in which Haredim joined feminist groups, the harm to Haredi sensitivities was deemed negligent compared to important values like freedom of expression, freedom to humiliate women, freedom of occupation of men and freedom to employ rape victims under abusive conditions. No one mentioned harm to the sensitivities of women.


In matters of marriage and divorce, however (and in yesterday's bill, conversion as well ), the state grants exclusivity to the ultra-Orthodox establishment, because it is so pleasant and convenient that there is a body that is, as it were, not the state, that will protect our Jewish racial purity, and familial and legal male superiority.


In ruling on the petition of Women at the Wall as well, harm to the sensitivities of the ultra-Orthodox justified limiting freedom of expression, freedom of worship and even freedom of occupation of ordained women rabbis, as well as their religious sensitivities. That is what the cabinet decided, as well as the High Court, in a ruling by the ostensibly activist justice Aharon Barak.


That is how male superiority is preserved. Moreover, Women at the Wall are praying publicly in prayer shawls and sometimes in skullcaps, absolute male accoutrements, and that fact alone is enough to be perceived by ultra-Orthodox and even secular people as sacrilege. After all, even very liberal men want their women "feminine."


This is what is done to Reform women. But what about ultra-Orthodox? The High Court is shortly to rule on the matter of buses in Jerusalem in which women are allowed to sit only at the back. One wonders whether the enlightened court is the body that will decide for the less enlightened Haredim what to do with their women on the bus, or whether it will decide that Haredi women are not an important enough issue over which to harm the sensitivities of their men.


It seems that the case of the non-Zionist, flag-burning yeshiva student invokes inviolate sensitivities: national sensitivities, the feelings of soldier-men and heros. He may not be punished to the full extent of the law, but apparently but even his freedom of expression will not be able to trump these important sensitivities.




******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




For nearly 25 years, a serial killer stalked South Los Angeles, murdering at least 10 people. He was caught last week through the use of a much-debated DNA technique that involves tracking down relatives of convicted criminals. The technique, known as familial searching, has significant potential as a crime-fighting tool and is likely to spread to other states now that it has passed its first successful test in this country. But there must be stringent safeguards to prevent abuse.


Normally, if investigators find some DNA at a crime scene, a lab checks for matches in the database. If there is no exact match, the database search ends there. But sometimes the sample matches part of other people's DNA, and the matches are strongest with a family link.


In the case of the serial killer nicknamed the "Grim Sleeper," DNA samples he left at several crime scenes were a close partial match to Christopher Franklin, who was in a California prison on a weapons conviction. Investigators could tell that the killer had to be a close relative of Mr. Franklin and narrowed it down to his father, Lonnie Franklin Jr., after they found the father's DNA in saliva on a discarded slice of pizza. Lonnie Franklin Jr. was charged with 10 counts of murder.


Using a partial DNA match this way could raise all sorts of privacy and civil liberties issues if not carefully controlled. Hundreds of people could fall under suspicion simply because they are related to someone in the criminal DNA database. Because blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately represented there, a first-time black offender has a better chance of having his DNA lead to a familial match than does a first-time white offender.


These concerns are serious but should not block the use of familial searching, which has led to several successful arrests in Britain. If other states want to proceed in this area, they need to follow the example of California, which has strict requirements for the use of the technique.


Under rules set up by Attorney General Jerry Brown, familial searching cannot be used unless all other investigative leads have been exhausted. The crime must be murder or rape, and the criminal has to be an active threat to public safety — still committing crimes.


A committee of lawyers and forensic experts in the attorney general's office evaluates all requests to do a familial search and votes on whether to proceed based on those criteria, as well as the strength of the DNA match and several other factors.


Those procedures, however, are not codified into law, and they need to be, in California and in any other state that moves in this direction. (Currently, only California and Colorado have written policies.) Another attorney general could come along and loosen the procedures to allow abusive fishing expeditions.


One example of the potential for abuse is taking place elsewhere in California, where the district attorney of Orange County, Tony Rackauckas, has set up his own database, apart from the state's, which he can use as he pleases. It includes many people whose arrests do not meet the standards set up by the state for inclusion in the DNA database. State lawmakers across the country need to require centralized databases with statewide laws governing their use.


Crime-fighting technology may be improving — and DNA sampling has been a huge boon to many innocent prisoners — but it must balanced alongside constitutional protections against intrusive searches.







Excessive pay for bankers, and huge rewards for risk-taking, brought this country and the world to the brink of financial disaster. The Obama administration recognized the problem and then did far too little about it. It appointed a tough pay czar, but it only gave him the power to forbid excessive pay at banks that had not yet reimbursed the Treasury for their bailout. The Federal Reserve has issued pay guidelines, but it has not set limits on cash pay or taxes on remuneration to reduce bankers' perverse incentives.


Thankfully, Europe is not waiting for the United States to lead the way. Last week, the European Parliament approved tough limits on bankers' bonuses.


Under the new rules, bankers will receive only 20 percent to 30 percent of their bonus in upfront cash. Banks must defer payment of 40 percent to 60 percent of bonuses for 3 to 5 years. And half of a banker's upfront bonus must be paid in shares or "contingent capital" — bonds that convert into equity if the bank gets in trouble. The rules allow for banks to claw back bonuses paid to executives whose investments are initially profitable but go awry a few years down the road.


This should go a long way to curb bankers' penchant to take on any bet — no matter how enormous its risks — to reap short-term profits and "earn" a large bonus, oblivious to what may happen afterward.


National regulators of the 27 members of the European Union are expected to implement the new rules by January. Banks in Europe are already warning that if the United States does not impose similar restrictions on bonuses, American banks — wielding large rolls of cash — will poach many of their most creative and talented financiers.


Of course, the most creative and talented financiers in American and European banks are the ones that brought us the no-doc, reverse amortization adjustable-rate mortgage, the mortgage-backed security and the credit default swap.


That is the sort of brain-drain we don't want. And it is one more reason why the Obama administration needs to get serious about curbing bankers' bonuses in the United States.







There is much to admire in India today, including its vibrant democracy and economy and its rich traditions. It should also lead the way in protecting and empowering women by ending so-called honor killings.


Jim Yardley recently reported in The Times on the case of Nirupama Pathak, a 22-year-old journalism graduate student from northern India who was found dead in her bedroom in April. Police arrested her mother on suspicion of murder; the family insisted Ms. Pathak had killed herself after confessing that she was pregnant.


The legal process must move forward, but what is clear is that Ms. Pathak's family — members of the Brahmin caste, the highest Hindu caste — fiercely disapproved of her engagement to a young man she had met at school who was from a middle-upper caste. When she told her family of her plans to marry, The Times reported, she was accused of defiling her Hindu religion.


Her family gave police conflicting stories about how Ms. Pathak died. First, it was said that she had died from electrocution. Then the claim was that she had hanged herself. The autopsy showed that she had suffocated.


Responding to an apparent resurgence in "honor killings," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered a cabinet-level commission this month to consider tougher penalties in such cases. In June, India's Supreme Court asked seven states and the national government to report on what is being done to address the problem. Mr. Singh and the court need to follow through.


Honor killings are widely reported in the Middle East and South Asia, but in recent years they also have taken place in Italy, Sweden, Brazil and Britain. According to Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, there are 5,000 instances annually when women and girls are shot, stoned, burned, buried alive, strangled, smothered and knifed to death by fathers, brothers, sons, uncles, even mothers in the name of preserving family "honor." Ms. Pillay has rejected arguments that such family violence is outside the conceptual framework of international human rights.


There is a reason these religious and cultural beliefs are allowed to persist. Politicians don't have the courage to call it what it is: murder.







A friend who teaches at a well-known eastern university told me recently that plagiarism was turning him into a cop. He begins the semester collecting evidence, in the form of an in-class essay that gives him a sense of how well students think and write. He looks back at the samples later when students turn in papers that feature their own, less-than-perfect prose alongside expertly written passages lifted verbatim from the Web.


"I have to assume that in every class, someone will do it," he said. "It doesn't stop them if you say, 'This is plagiarism. I won't accept it.' I have to tell them that it is a failing offense and could lead me to file a complaint with the university, which could lead to them being put on probation or being asked to leave."


Not everyone who gets caught knows enough about what they did to be remorseful. Recently, for example, a student who plagiarized a sizable chunk of a paper essentially told my friend to keep his shirt on, that what he'd done was no big deal. Beyond that, the student said, he would be ashamed to go home to the family with an F.


As my friend sees it: "This represents a shift away from the view of education as the process of intellectual engagement through which we learn to think critically and toward the view of education as mere training. In training, you are trying to find the right answer at any cost, not trying to improve your mind."


Like many other professors, he no longer sees traditional term papers as a valid index of student competence. To get an accurate, Internet-free reading of how much students have learned, he gives them written assignments in class — where they can be watched.


These kinds of precautions are no longer unusual in the college world. As Trip Gabriel pointed out in The Times recently, more than half the colleges in the country have retained services that check student papers for material lifted from the Internet and elsewhere. Many schools now require incoming students to take online tutorials that explain what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.


Nationally, discussions about plagiarism tend to focus on questions of ethics. But as David Pritchard, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told me recently: "The big sleeping dog here is not the moral issue. The problem is that kids don't learn if they don't do the work."


Prof. Pritchard and his colleagues illustrated the point in a study of cheating behavior by M.I.T. students who used an online system to complete homework. The students who were found to have copied the most answers from others started out with the same math and physics skills as their harder-working classmates. But by skipping the actual work in homework, they fell behind in understanding and became significantly more likely to fail.


The Pritchard axiom — that repetitive cheating undermines learning — has ominous implications for a world in which even junior high school students cut and paste from the Internet instead of producing their own writing.


If we look closely at plagiarism as practiced by youngsters, we can see that they have a different relationship to the printed word than did the generations before them. When many young people think of writing, they don't think of fashioning original sentences into a sustained thought. They think of making something like a collage of found passages and ideas from the Internet.


They become like rap musicians who construct what they describe as new works by "sampling" (which is to say, cutting and pasting) beats and refrains from the works of others.


This habit of mind is already pervasive in the culture and will be difficult to roll back. But parents, teachers and policy makers need to understand that this is not just a matter of personal style or generational expression. It's a question of whether we can preserve the methods through which education at its best teaches people to think critically and originally.








The hustlers and high rollers at Wall Street's gaming tables are starting to feel lucky again.


Hiring is beginning to pick up in the very sector that led the country to the edge of a depression. An article on the front page of The Times on Sunday noted that this turnaround "underscores the remarkable recovery of the biggest banks and brokerage firms since Washington rescued them in the fall of 2008, and follows the huge rebound in profits for members of the New York Stock Exchange, which totaled $61.4 billion in 2009, the most ever."


The hustlers and high rollers are always there to skim the cream, no matter what's happening in the real world of ordinary American families.


In a column that was published a few days before Christmas 2007, the very month that the great recession began, I wrote about the record-breaking seasonal bonuses being handed out on Wall Street: an obscene $38 billion, the highest total ever. The subprime mortgage debacle was already upon us and the economy was sinking like a stone, but the casino crowd was celebrating as never before. "Even as the Wall Streeters are high-fiving and ordering up record shipments of Champagne and caviar," I noted, "the American dream is on life support."


The fattest of the fat cats live in a perpetual heads-I-win, tails-you-lose environment. But if you step outside the Wall Street casino, you'll notice that things aren't going too well in the rest of the country. More than 14 million Americans are out of work, and nearly half of them have been jobless for six months or longer. The unemployment rate for black Americans is 15.4 percent.


School districts across the country are taking drastic steps to cope with collapsing budgets: firing personnel, increasing class sizes, cutting kindergarten and summer-school programs and, in some cases, moving to a four-day school week. The Associated Press, in a demoralizing report, recently noted: "As the school budget crisis deepens, administrators across the nation have started to view school libraries as luxuries that can be axed rather than places where kids learn to love reading and do research."


What a country. We'll do whatever it takes to make sure the bankers keep living the high life and swilling that Champagne while at the same time we're taking books out of the hands of schoolchildren trying to get an education.


I'm no friend of the deficit hawks, but the staggering amounts of money we've been spending for the past several years have not benefited the people most in need of help and have not laid the foundation for a more secure economy going forward. We've handed over unconscionable tax breaks to the very rich (you can see the Prada paraders high-stepping along Fifth Avenue in their million-dollar flip-flops) and countless billions to the private contractors brazenly feeding off the agony of the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


(Sunday's paper also had an article about six more American G.I.'s killed in Afghanistan.)


What's needed is the same sense of urgency about helping struggling families and putting people back to work as the Bush and Obama crowds showed when the banks were about to go bust. That sense of urgency is always missing when it's ordinary people who are in trouble.


Millions of Americans are stuck in an economic depression. Several million have either lost their homes to foreclosure during the recession or are in imminent danger of losing them. The long-term unemployed are facing painful daily choices on such basic matters as whether to buy food or refill needed prescription medication or pay electric bills to keep the lights on.


Back in February, The Times's Peter Goodman wrote about the new poor, "people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come."


There can be no real national recovery with so many millions of people in such deep economic distress. We can pretend that we're locked in some kind of crisis of confidence, that if only people felt better about themselves and the economy then they'd start spending again. This is a variation on the "mental recession" lunacy spouted by Phil Gramm, John McCain's top economic adviser during the presidential campaign.


People who are out of work and deeply in debt don't have any money to spend. The only way to get real money back into their wallets and bank accounts (and thus back into the economy) is to get them back to work.


With our help, the banks and Wall Street have done fine. Better than they had any right to expect. It's the ordinary folks outside the casino, in the real world, who are still in desperate need of help. But in a society of, by and for the rich, that help will be a long time coming.








If you go to business conferences, you know that at lunch it is definitely better to be seated next to a prince than a grind. Princes, who can be male or female, are senior executives at major corporations.


They are almost always charming, smart and impressive. They've read interesting books. They've got well-rehearsed takes on the global situation. They can drop impressive names as they tell you about their visits to the White House, Moscow or Beijing. If you're having lunch or dinner with a prince, you're going to have a good time.


Grinds, on the other hand, tend to have started their own company or their own hedge fund. They're often too awkward to work in a large organization and too intense to work for anybody but themselves.


Over lunch, they can be socially inert. You try to draw them out by probing for one or two subjects of interest to them. But as often as not, you find yourself playing conversational ping-pong with a master of the monosyllabic response.


Every once in a while you'll run into one who can't help but let you know how much smarter he is than you or anybody else in the room. Sitting at this lunch is about as pleasant for him as watching a cockroach crawl up his arm. He'd much rather be back working in front of his computer screen.


Since the princes are nicer and more impressive, it is easy to be seduced into the belief that they also are more trustworthy. This is false. During the last few years, for example, the princes at Citigroup, Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers behaved with incredible stupidity while the hedge fund loners often behaved with impressive restraint.


As Sebastian Mallaby shows in his superb book, "More Money Than God," the smooth operators at the big banks were playing with other people's money, so they borrowed up to 30 times their investors' capital. The hedge fund guys usually had their own money in their fund, so they typically borrowed only one or two times their capital.


The social butterflies at the banks got swept up in the popular enthusiasms. The contrarians at the hedge funds made money betting against them. The well-connected bankers knew they'd get bailed out if anything went wrong. The solitary hedge fund guys knew they were on their own and regarded their trades with paranoid anxiety.


In finance, as in other realms of business life, social polish doesn't always go with capitalist success. Often it is the most narrow, intense, awkward people who start the best companies, employ the most people and create the most value.


Sadly, this recovery has been great for princes and horrible for grinds. The people who work at the big corporations are critical of the Obama administration, but the fact is they are doing very well. The big companies are posting excellent earnings. They're sitting on mountains of cash.


The aspiring grinds, meanwhile, are dead in the water. Small businesses are not growing. They are not hiring. They are struggling to stay alive.

Princes can thrive in a period of slow, steady growth, but grinds need a certain sort of psychological atmosphere. They need a wide-open economy with plenty of creative destruction. They need an atmosphere of general confidence, so bankers will feel secure enough to lend them money, so big companies will feel brave enough to acquire their start-ups, so they themselves will feel the time is ripe to take on their world and show their brilliance to all of humanity.


The princes can thrive while the government intervenes in the private sector. They've got the lobbyists and the connections. The grinds, needless to say, don't.


Over the past decade, professionals — lawyers, regulators and legislators — have inserted themselves into more and more economic realms. The princes are perfectly at home amid these tax breaks, low-interest loans and public-private partnerships. They went to the same schools as the professionals and speak the same language. The grinds try to stay far away and regard the interlocking network of corporate-government schmoozing with undisguised contempt.


The upshot is that we have an economy that is inching toward recovery but that is not creating much in the way of new innovations and new jobs. It's not that the overall labor markets are shrinking. It's just that very few grinds are bringing new ideas to scale and hiring workers to enact their us-against-the-world schemes.


For jobs to recover, the grinds have to recover, but it's hard to see how that will happen so long as households are still so leveraged, government debt is still so unnerving and the business climate is still so terrible for entrepreneurs.


We've been mired in debates over macroeconomic models recently. But maybe the real issue is how we are going to light a fire under the country's loners, its contrarians and its narrow, ambitious outsiders.








FOR many good reasons, Americans are doubting our ability as a nation to positively influence events abroad. We're involved in two conflicts with dubious outcomes and we've begun to question whether any step we take, anywhere, will be the right one. But it was not long ago that the United States intervened abroad in a bold way that led to undeniably positive results.


From 1983 to 2005, more than two million people died and four million were forced from their homes in southern Sudan during a war between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army. Shortly after George W. Bush entered the White House, he decided he would put the full diplomatic leverage of the United States to work in ending this war, one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century.


He succeeded. In 2005, the United States helped broker a comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the southerners. It was an important moment for international diplomacy and a prime example of what the United States can do when it focuses its influence effectively.


In the clear, simple and eminently enforceable peace agreement, South Sudan was granted three crucial things: robust participation in the central government while ruling the south semi-autonomously; a 50-50 split of all oil revenues (the country's oil is largely in the south); and the ability, in 2011, to vote to secede via referendum.


The assumption in Sudan is that when the referendum comes, southerners will vote overwhelmingly for secession. Since Sudan became independent in 1956, the people in the south have been marginalized, terrorized and subjected to countless human rights violations under successive regimes in Khartoum, and the possibility of forming a new nation in 2011 is viewed by southerners as a sacred right.


But the referendum is scheduled for January, a mere six months away, and all signs indicate that the Khartoum government will undermine the voting process or not recognize its results. The ruling National Congress Party has stalled on virtually every pertinent part of the peace agreement, and the national and local elections in April — which most international observers agree were stained by fraud — are a foreboding precedent.


If January comes and goes without a referendum, or if the results are manipulated, then fighting will break out. Both sides have been arming themselves since the peace agreement, so this iteration of north-south violence will be far worse than ever before. And if war resumes in the south, the conflict in Darfur, in western Sudan, will surely explode again.


To allow this triumph of international diplomacy to collapse and leave the people of southern Sudan vulnerable is unconscionable. But the questions are stark: what can the United States do to help prevent a war that could cost millions of lives? How can the United States once again influence the behavior of a government willing to commit crimes against humanity to maintain power?


These are certainly the worries of the Obama administration. Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, the administration's special envoy to Sudan, recently said: "We have no leverage. We really have no pressure."


But we do have leverage. The peace in Sudan is one the United States "owns." Developing a more robust package of carrots and sticks — rolled out multilaterally when possible, unilaterally if necessary — would strengthen America's diplomatic hand, not weaken it.


We propose that the threatened pressures should include placing sanctions on key ruling party officials, blocking debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, supporting International Criminal Court arrest warrants (including the one issued on Monday for Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, for three counts of genocide in Darfur), tightening the United Nations arms embargo and providing further support to the south.


For this diplomatic effort to be effective, real incentives should be on the table as well: If — and only if — true peace comes to Sudan, we could offer conditional, one-year suspensions of the International Criminal Court warrants and normalization of relations between Khartoum and Washington. And experienced American negotiating teams should be deployed immediately to support African Union and United Nations efforts already under way to end the war in Darfur and prevent one between the north and south, just as we did with the 2005 deal.


Bill Clinton often says his greatest regret as president is that he didn't do more to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. There were signs that trouble was brewing long before the killing started, but when it did begin, Mr. Clinton and the international community did not act decisively.


This is President Obama's Rwanda moment, and it is unfolding now, in slow motion. It is not too late to prevent the coming war in Sudan, and protect the peace we helped build five short years ago.


Dave Eggers is the author of "What Is the What." John Prendergast, the co-founder of the Enough Project, is the co-author with Don Cheadle of the forthcoming "The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes."







Arlington, Va.

AFTER seven months of politicking, the new Broadcasting Board of Governors was confirmed by the Senate at the very end of last month. The bipartisan board, now headed by the former CNN chairman Walter Isaacson, supervises the government-financed programs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Arabic-language Radio Sawa and Al Hurra TV, and Radio and TV Martí, which broadcast to Cuba.


The board faces an increasingly competitive global media environment. The benchmark is the British Broadcasting Corporation's World Service, which produces radio programs in 32 languages, plus television in Arabic and Persian, and has a global weekly radio audience of 180 million people — about 10 million more than the combined audiences of the American international stations.


Can the B.B.G. catch up with its cousins at the BBC? It might seem difficult, given that President Obama has just asked all federal agencies to plan for a 5 percent reduction in spending.


A budget cut, however, might be just the thing. After all, the BBC World Service keeps its audience listening on an annual budget of $420 million. The United States spends close to twice as much on international broadcasting — $757 million per year.


A common explanation for this discrepancy — that the BBC World Service gets free support from its parent agency, the domestic BBC — doesn't really hold up. A World Service spokesman tells me (and provides documentation to back this up) that the BBC "does not allow for any cross-subsidy between the various funding streams."


The real reason the United States spends so much more is that, instead of having one entity that produces all broadcasts, American international broadcasting is a collection of often redundant agencies working under the banner of the Board of Governors.


In more than 20 of the languages covered by American broadcasting, both Voice of America and Radio Free "surrogate" stations transmit programs. The theory behind this is that the Radio Free station provides news about the target country, while Voice of America presents United States and general world news. If that were true, the audience would have to tune into two American stations at different times and different frequencies to get complete news coverage. In reality, V.O.A. also extensively covers its target countries. If it didn't, no one would listen. As a result, there is much duplication of effort.


The new Broadcasting Board of Governors has a chance to change this. It should propose to Congress and the Obama administration a merger of the separate broadcasting entities into one corporation under the board's supervision, similar to the BBC World Service. This would eliminate the duplication and reduce overhead, compensating for the 5 percent budget cut and then some. It would also free up money to invest in television, an expensive medium that is necessary to attract audiences in many target countries.


The present mixture of broadcasting bureaucracies, created over the decades by this and that legislation, must be replaced by a consolidated structure that can increase audience reach without reaching for taxpayers' wallets.


Kim Andrew Elliott, an audience research analyst for the United States International Broadcasting Bureau, has taught communications at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and blogs on international broadcasting.








Inside Washington, Head Start — the federal preschool program for low-income children — ranks right up


there with motherhood and apple pie. Head Start's promise is that it can change lives by giving disadvantaged kids a much-needed boost in school readiness.


But an increasing body of evidence suggests that the program, established in 1965 as part of President Johnson's war on poverty, isn't living up to that promise. The latest indication: a study of 5,000 students earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which found virtually no difference in academic achievement by the end of first gradebetween those who attended Head Start and those who were eligible to attend but didn't.


Despite this sobering finding, President Obama has requested an additional $989 million in funding for the program in the next fiscal year, which would ratchet up Head Start's budget to about $8.2 billion. (Head Start also got an extra $2.1 billion as part of last year's supposedly temporary economic stimulus.)


Here's a novel idea: How about fixing the program before throwing more money at it?


One place to start is better-qualified teachers. A 2007 law mandated that half of teachers have bachelor's degrees by 2013. Another requirement, yet to be enacted, would force Head Start centers to compete for funding, unless the program can prove it's providing a quality education. But to fully transform the program, more changes are needed. These include:


•Promoting increased collaboration between Head Starts and local public schools to ensure that kindergarten

and first grade build on, not re-teach, the skills Head Start attendees have.


•Streamlining the program to be more academic-focused, rather than mandating that it divide its energies among academic, social and health needs.


•Aggressively attacking fraud, which — based on the findings from a recent undercover sting conducted by the Government Accountability Office — might be widespread as a way to boost enrollments.


The problems seem to be more with Head Start than with the concept of early education generally. Low-income children often begin school academically behind their more affluent peers, and early education offers these children a chance to start at less of a disadvantage.


The HHS study, which followed the students from 2002 through 2006, showed that before entering kindergarten, the children in the Head Start group did score higher academically in some areas than the non-Head Start group. But that gap virtually disappeared in less than two years, suggesting it's time to explore other early education options to see whether they can provide a longer impact.


One option is state-funded preschool programs. Three states — Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida — haveuniversal preschool for 4-year-olds, while 35 help fund preschool programs. A 2009 Georgetown Universitystudy of free-lunch eligible students in Tulsa-area Head Start and Oklahoma Pre-K programs found that students in the state program showed more progress, in both cognitive development and social-emotional skills, than their Head Start peers.


Another idea worth exploring is preschool vouchers for low-income children, giving their parents the chance to choose the preschool that best satisfies the family's needs.


For all its popularity inside the Beltway, and its presence in just about every congressional district, Head Start shouldn't be politically untouchable. Taxpayers —and low-income children— deserve an effective program that delivers long-term results.









At-risk children who depend on Head Start should not have their futures jeopardized by a study that leaves many questions unanswered or by decision-makers who seem to be ignoring the study's very first conclusion: Head Start children outperformed the control group "on every measure of children's preschool experiences."


OUR VIEW: Fix Head Start before throwing more money at it


Head Start's value has been affirmed by people who experience the outcomes. Just ask police chiefs who know that people who began in Head Start commit fewer crimes and go to jail less often. Just ask school administrators. For example, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland recently found that kindergarteners with special needs who had been in Head Start needed 3.7 hours of special education per week on average, versus 9.8 hours for non-Head Start children — a huge financial saving.


Head Start works because the investment returns significant dividends to individuals, families and communities. Head Start's real and proven long-term effects are found inissues we all care about: higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates and lower teen pregnancy rates, for example.


If we want strong communities, expand Head Start, don't contract it. Right now, because of tight budgets, Head Start serves only 41% of at-risk preschool students, and Head Start for infants and toddlers serves a minuscule 3.5%. The president's budget asks only for the funds to continue Head Start services at this year's level, already a reduction from the total amount spent last year.


If the funds are not approved, there will be a real loss of educational opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens: 64,000 children and families will miss out and an additional 24,000 workers will lose their jobs (at a time when every job is needed for the recovery).


The opportunity to succeed in life is a core American principle, and Head Start provides that opportunity to our most vulnerable children. Head Start, like many programs, can be improved, and we are finding new ways to extend the benefits of Head Start well beyond the program years. At the same time, we must continue the critical work underway now.


Yasmina Vinci is executive director of the National Head Start Association.








The successful 2010 Census left millions of Americans puzzling over its race question. Many disliked declaring any race; others were uncertain which box fit them; some wondered why the government even asked their race. In fact, the question does not work well, and we can do better. But first, how did we get here?


Eighteenth century science ordained a hierarchical ordering of five human "races." At America's founding, given legal and demographic realities, it counted three in its first Census in 1790: White, Black, Red. It added a fourth race in the mid-19th century when, driven by hysteria over the "yellow peril," the distinct Chinese and Japanese nationalities blurred into the catch-all Asian race, which then became the Census home for additional Asian nationalities.


Mid-20th century civil rights policies that statistically measured racial discrimination needed to accommodate people from the Caribbean and Mexico, so the strange Hispanic/Non-Hispanic ethnicity-but-not-a-race question was shoehorned into the mix. Multiculturalism in the 1980s put pressure on Census categories, especially on behalf of a multiracial choice, leading the 2000 Census to introduce the mark-one-or-more option.


Out of this history came our current classification, which uses color (White and Black); civil status (Native American enrolled tribe); nationality (Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and six more) summarized as two umbrella races — Asian and Pacific Islanders; and Hispanic ethnicity (with three nationalities listed).


Why race?


But, asks the public: "Why does the government insist on sorting and counting us by race?" There is no simple answer because assorted purposes — each reasonable on its own terms — have been yoked to an archaic classification. These purposes trace to our history and to contemporary conditions. The tragedies of black slavery and Indian genocide left inequalities that racial justice policies are still trying to erase. Policy responses to disparities in employment, education, health and incarceration call for statistics on groups being left behind. Diversity goals in universities and businesses use Census categories. How new Americans are assimilating is a further question answered with Census statistics.


Beyond specific policy uses of Census data, citizens see in the Census an opportunity to express pride in their heritage. President Obama emphasized his African heritage by checking only one Census box, rather than recognizing his dual black and white parentage. Social justice, social disparities, social assimilation and social pride are all folded into a Census question based on the five 18th century "races" of Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, White and a question insisting that there are only two ethnicities in America: Hispanic/Non-Hispanic. No wonder the questions puzzle and irritate.


Some demand that the questions be dropped altogether, expecting this to magically produce a color-blind society. But when discrimination penalizes groups because of their color, ancestry or immigrant status, a nation committed to fairness will not choose to be statistically ignorant of these facts.


A simpler way


The next Census, however, doesn't have to repeat today's questions. It should simply ask:


What national origin, ethnicity, tribe, language group or ancestry do you consider yourself to be? (List all those important to you.)


This open question finally erases the 18th century racial hierarchy, dispenses with the slippery term race itself, easily allows self-expression and can happily embrace multiple identities. This question doesn't assume that a recently arrived Ethiopian belongs to the same race as 10th generation descendents of enslaved people from Africa's Gold Coast. It doesn't put fifth generation Chinese Americans into the same race box as first generation Vietnamese. It doesn't count an Argentinean who speaks only English the same way it treats a Mayan immigrant.


From the open-ended responses, answers can be categorized in the various ways that make sense depending on public purposes at hand, even re-constructing the five 18th century races if that is desired.


This open-ended question should be paired with questions on immigration status:


Where were you born, and where were your parents born?


This question, combined with the one above, tells us how immigrant status interacts with national origin, ethnicity or language group, so that we can eliminate barriers as 21st century newcomers follow the path marked out by Italians and Irish a century ago, or Germans and Swedes a century earlier.


Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the Obama White House will initiate a serious national conversation about today's patched together racial classification. "Too political," they will conclude. But America's universities, think tanks, advocacy organizations and news media can supply the intellectual work we need to ensure that carefully designed questions will provide information relevant to the public purposes that justify asking the questions in the first place. And if one day everyone simply writes "American," the color-blind society will have arrived by public choice.


A statistical portrait of how different groups are faring remains necessary both to erase the inequities of historical racism and to prevent discrimination as the recently arrived strive to participate fully in their new country — but only if we draw the portrait more carefully than that produced by the 2010 Census.


Kenneth Prewitt is professor of public affairs at Columbia University. He directed the U.S Census Bureau during the 2000 Census.








It's time for a change, Michael Steele — time for you to find a new political home.


Born into a family of Maryland Democrats, you became a Republican when the most revered members of the state's GOP wereTheodore Roosevelt McKeldin and Charles "Mac" Mathias.


McKeldin was the moderate Republican who gave the nominating speech for Dwight Eisenhower at the party's 1952 convention, and who later broke with the GOP to back Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential campaign. A two-term governor, McKeldin was twice elected mayor of Baltimore. And unlike many other Republicans — then and now — he won widespread support from black voters.


Mathias, a liberal Republican who helped draft the 1964 Civil Rights Act, served in the Senate for 18 years before retiring in 1987. For his willingness to put principle above party, he was called the "conscience of the Senate" by Democratic leaderMike Mansfield.


Your political roots are in the GOP of McKeldin and Mathias, not the Republican Party that is now commanded by right-wingers such as Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and Ohio Rep. John Boehner.


There is no room for you in today's GOP. For all the talk of a "big tent," the Republican Party is a neoconservative pup tent where those with differing views are forced to kowtow to these ultra-right-wingers. Their political absolutism chased Florida Gov. Charlie Crist from the GOP and has reduced Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe to backbenchers. And more than once, it has forced you to retract something you said — when it seemed you spoke from the heart, not the party's playbook.


It's time to "man up," Michael Steele, time to put your principles ahead of your job as GOP chairman, time to move into another political space — one that will let you be you. It's time for you to become a Democrat.


As it is now, you're widely thought to be a gaffe-prone embarrassment to the GOP. You called Rush Limbaughan incendiary "entertainer," then you apologized after he turned his mediamegaphone against you. You told GQthat abortion is "an individual choice," and then backpedaled when the anti-abortionists squealed in protest. And as quickly as you said at a Connecticut GOP fundraiser that the Afghanistan war is a conflict of President Obama's choosing and is unwinnable, you retreated when GOP hawks demanded your resignation.


While many of your views would not prevail in the Democratic Party, you wouldn't have to eat your words. You could become a member of the party's conservative "Blue Dog" faction and influence the Obama administration's policies and congressional legislation.


Sure, the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress is decidedly liberal. But the party has space within its ranks for moderates such as California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and conservatives such as Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler. They aren't forced to genuflect to an ideological litmus test. In the GOP, you're treated like a malfunctioning dupe of the party's claim of diversity. In the Democratic Party, you'd be yet another example of the inclusiveness it admittedly struggles with but hasn't abandoned.


Breaking away from the Republican Party would be a tough move, but clinging to the belief that you can remain in the GOP and be your own man, ultimately, will cause you greater trauma.


DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.








With the six-month anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake in my home country of Haiti, it's more important than ever for all of us to think of this devastated nation's future.


There's the near future, in which we need to continue to provide as much support and aid as possible to the people still living in tents (about 1.2 million at last count), those living on the streets and those living in the rubble of their homes. They all lack adequate water supplies, enough food, a sense of security.


I just got back from my most recent trip to Haiti at the end of June and saw how powerless they all feel. The economic conditions in Haiti — compounded by the massive destruction to infrastructure from the quake — have left them with little hope for today, let alone for looking ahead.


We do need to be planning for Haiti's long-term future in the recovery efforts — for the of the country and its people — especially its children, who have long been my major focus.


Active involvement


Five-and-a-half years ago, I co-founded Yéle Haiti, a non-governmental organization that supports the country's educational programs, as well as the Jean et Marie Orphanage, which houses, feeds, clothes and educates its children. On our last visit to Haiti, we gave care packages to the 57 orphans who live there.


Haiti's education system has been a challenge, even before the earthquake. Less than half of the teachers in Haiti have a sixth-grade education. And more than 90% of students from first grade up have to pay to go to school. This system is unacceptable and must be overhauled. Why not make reform part of the country's rebuilding effort? No country can progress until its young people have the basic human right of access to education.


The young people also need physical education to help them take their minds off these difficult times. Yéle sponsors L'Athlétique d'Haïti, an after-school program that plans activities for 650 kids and gives them a safe place to go instead of hanging out and getting into trouble — or worse, being at risk for becoming a victim of the crime and violence that's everywhere in Haiti. On Yéle's recent trip, we presented the program with a $10,000 check to keep up its great work, and we gave the kids cleats, water bottles and jerseys. But, man, you should have seen their smiles when the guest we brought to meet them, French national soccer star Florent Malouda, said he'd play futbol with them.


As happy as we were to see them so carefree, it was also a reminder that our efforts aren't enough. It's so important to Haiti's long-term recovery and rebuilding that more NGOs, businesses, government agencies and individuals take up the cause of restructuring the education system so that we can give Haiti's youngest generations the tools they need — and deserve — to be productive, innovative participants in the Haiti of the future.


Protect the environment


Another issue that might not seem so obvious, but that is absolutely essential, is revitalizing the environment.


In Haiti now, there isn't enough food grown to sustain even a third of the country's population, and there is less than 2% tree cover. Most of us living other places in the world can't even imagine that. Sufficient tree coverage is necessary to help protect the island from the worst of damages caused by the many storms blowing through and to help lessen soil erosion, which is especially bad in the rainy season (which is happening right now). It also worsens the conditions for agriculture, linking it directly back to the ability of the people to support and sustain themselves.


During a recent trip, my wife, Claudinette, presented an agricultural community center in the mountains with a $10,000 check. The farmers in this community pick the majority of the vegetables that are bought and sold in Haiti, and we want to do what we can to make sure that keeps happening. On our trip, we also kicked off Yéle Vert, the forestation program we're co-sponsoring with the American clothing company Timberland, with a tree-planting ceremony.


Everything we're trying to accomplish in Haiti might come down to this word: growth. We are trying to make sure the nation's kids, its youngest generations, are given what they need to grow up strong and healthy and hopeful, and we're trying to make sure everyone of all ages has what they need to literally grow what the country needs.


There's still so much to do for this vision of growth to become a reality. It has been six months since the earthquake — a good time to be reminded of what Haiti needs, but, more than that, a time to commit ourselves to acting, before it's too late.


Wyclef Jean is a Haitian-American musician.








Chattanooga's city government initiated a legal services arrangement nearly half a century ago that allowed a prominent local attorney to share the city's legal work with his partners and to practice law privately for other clients on the side. The potential for conflicts-of-interest was subsequently dismissed by a string of mayors in favor of retaining an independent attorney who was not technically a city employee and who could be paid by the case, and not by the year. Though the city ended the terms of this long standing arrangement last November, finally making city employees of the current attorney and his staff, the old arrangement came under fire last week in a scorching opinion by the state Comptroller's office.


The Comptroller's staff attorney, Chadic W. Jackson, claimed in a letter to City Auditor Stan Seawall that the prior arrangement violated state law and that current city attorney Mike McMahan could be charged with fraud for having used city funds to pay part of his office and staff costs before the arrangement was stopped.


Mr. Jackson's assessment may be technically correct. But even if it is, his judgment of Mr. McMahan's role is excessively harsh. Given an arrangement that continued nearly 47 years under terms explicitly acknowledged and condoned by top city officials, there hardly seems grounds to consider the arrangement fraudulent.


It was not considered fraud when the city contracted with former city attorney Gene Collins in 1963 to work under those terms. Former Mayor Robert Kirk Walker, an esteemed lawyer himself, for example, was among the several mayors who repeatedly blessed the arrangement.


When Mr. Collins retired in 1990, the same year the former five-member City Commission gave way to the current nine-member City Council, the new Council continued the practice, promoting Randall Nelson, a member of Mr. Collins' firm, to the job under the then existing terms.


Mr. McMahan, another well-regarded associate in that firm who had helped represent the city for years, was named city attorney in January, 2009, when Mr. Nelson retired.


When the city auditor raised questions about the city's practice of subsidizing the overhead costs of salaries, office expense and health care of Mr. McMahan's staff of five lawyers, an investigator and six clerical/administrative aides last year, city officials decided to move them into the city hall annex and make them full-time city employees.


The current $1.1 million budget for the city attorney's office eliminated potential conflicts of interest and met state legal requirements regarding direct staff costs. It also left Mr. McMahan, with a salary of $105,000, as one of the state's lowest paid full-time municipal attorneys.


The legal questions apparently revolved around the use of city funds for a private attorney's staff support, as opposed to attorneys' fees per se. Smaller cities, which generally cannot afford to have a full time attorney, typically keep attorneys on retainer and pay higher hourly fees. Such hourly fees generally cover an attorney's overhead and staff costs. Chattanooga's arrangement, if it erred, could have been negated by converting the direct staff subsidy into higher hourly fees for the attorneys' work.


The present arrangement should suffice to correct the problem if the costs are relatively fair, as seems to be the case. Certainly it suggests that the Comptroller's critical assessment is more hyperbole than reality.







Congress and prior presidents have been long on rhetoric but short on results when it comes to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders.

They've sent troops into war pledging the best care possible for those who carry the burden of service, but looked away when returning warriors who suffered severe emotional trauma were denied help by the barbed wire of red tape.


A new rule announced Monday by the Department of Veteran Affairs should greatly relieve those who suffer PTSD.


The Obama administration's rule, which is retroactive to cover all of veterans of prior wars, lifts the strict regulation that previously required veterans to document the time and place of specific actions that induced their PTSD. They no longer will have to prove that a particular event in a combat zone — an attack, bomb or fire-fight, for example — caused their PTSD.


Though a VA physician still must certify a claim of PTSD, veterans may now qualify for benefits for counseling or disability for service rendered in a war zone, whether or not they were in combat.


The change is entirely sensible and is rightly being welcomed by veterans and cheered their advocates across the board. It makes sense because many of the stresses that cause post traumatic stress disorders occur broadly in war zones.


In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, truck drivers who transport food and equipment around Baghdad, Kabul or Kandahar to bases in other cities or to the countryside are as likely to be shot at or blown up, or nearly blown up, by IEDs (improvised explosive devises) as are combat troops on fighting missions.


Soldiers in Vietnam had to contend with similar asymmetrical warfare. Children or women could walk up to soldiers unchallenged and ignite TNT strapped to their bodies. Village farmers could hide weapons near their rice paddies or in tunnels, where they disappeared at night to fight.


The cumulative effect of seeing death and maneuvering as a soldier in such hostile environments may produce PDST as surely as an horrific battle. Indeed, experts estimate that as many as 20 percent of the 2 million service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 will develop PTSD.


Yet just 78,000 veterans have had disability claims approved in that period, well short of the 400,000 who might be affected.


In fact, only some 150,000 PTSD cases have been diagnosed by the VA, many of which have qualified only for free counseling. Veterans' advocates say the number is so low because so many applications have been denied on overly strict grounds.


Critics of the new rule, however, say they fear that easing the standards to qualify for benefits will make it too easy for cheaters to claim aid.


Benefits may range from free counseling and health care to disability payments from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 per month, and that may attract some bogus claims.


The rule, however, not only requires a VA physician's certification for a particular level of benefit, but benefits may also be trimmed over time as symptoms are treated and relieved.


The initial estimate is that more compassionate care, and a pent-up backlog, may cost up to $5 billion over the next seven years. That would be expensive, but it would also be significantly more fair to veterans who deserve the benefits promised them — and wrongly denied.


The VA must look for reasonable signs for cheating, but its priority focus should be to assure that all veterans' wounds, including PTSD, are properly treated.







Ever since Social Security was adopted in 1935, many Americans have looked forward to receiving retirement checks from the federal government to provide for their "old age."


Now, more than 52 million Americans receive Social Security checks each month.


The problem, however, is that the Social Security pay-out promises have exceeded the eventual prospects of sufficient tax money to pay for them.


Fortunately, no one now receiving Social Security needs to worry that his or her checks will stop. But there will be huge problems in future years.


Social Security began with the promise of checks at age 65. But as payments have been increased, the retirement age has been increased two months for each birth year, so retirement on full Social Security benefits for those born in 1960 or later has advanced to age 67.


Social Security is so important to so many people that any suggestion of any changes involving higher taxes, reduced benefits or later eligibility invites a "lightning strike" reaction.


Most people want full Social Security benefits, even increased ones, without raising taxes to pay increasing costs.


Many people think their payroll tax deductions for their later Social Security benefits have been, and still are, put in a "set-aside fund" for the payment of pensions. But that's not true.


Our federal government has been financially irresponsible, spending too much over many years. The "Social Security money" has been spent for other purposes. "IOUs" have been put in the Social Security fund. That means general taxes on the American people eventually will have to be paid to make the IOUs good when retirement benefits have to be paid in future years.


With taxes now too high, and with the federal government spending billions of dollars more than it is collecting in taxes, the national debt is $13.2 trillion. People are worrying about how payments will be made.


How and by whom will the national debt be paid, if ever? How and from whom will taxes be collected to make good the Social Security promises?


"Payday" must come "someday." With government deeply in debt, and more debt being added, few people want to consider raising any taxes.


Most people -- especially politicians who have to run for election -- don't want to talk about it.


But some say taxes must be raised -- or the retirement age must be advanced to, say, 70 -- or both.


You won't find anyone running for office suggesting that Social Security benefits should be "cut," or that taxes should be raised, because millions of people would be adversely affected.


We currently are spending more each year than taxes are bringing in, and promises for future pay-outs are increasing. What will happen when reality strikes?


Many just shrug and say, "It won't happen in my lifetime."


But do we who love our children want to pass our national economic irresponsibility problems off to them and our grandchildren by our refusal to face facts today?







With Elena Kagan having been nominated by President Barack Obama to become a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States, the Senate Judiciary Committee will make its recommendation soon, perhaps this week, setting the stage for a final decision by the whole Senate.


Will the Senate make a mistake?


The issue should not be about whether the nominee is a nice lady, and one of intelligence. The issue should be about whether she would be a Supreme Court justice dedicated to upholding the Constitution and the law -- making judicial decisions with absolute impartiality, not substituting or injecting personal political and philosophical opinions.


She has indicated in previous statements, however, that she would not be an impartial justice, but would be another "activist" liberal on the court if she is confirmed.


That's why she should not be confirmed. All nine members of the Supreme Court should rule strictly according to the Constitution and the law -- without injecting any personal opinions.


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have the right, indeed, a duty, to express their opinions and represent their constituencies -- but justices do not.


Unfortunately, it appears Elena Kagan will be confirmed, continuing too much personal liberal partisanship in the decisions by the highest court in our land.

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America runs on energy, and a big part of that energy comes from oil. But as we all know by now, oil exploration involves risk.

The nation is transfixed by the ongoing oil spill that started April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank, spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.


Attempts to halt the leak continue. But in the meantime, we are horrified to watch plumes of oil drift about in the Gulf, harming wildlife and coming ashore in some places. We lament how the oil is undermining tourism, fishing and other industries along the shore and inland. And we are sorrowful over the 11 workers who died in the tragedy.


Yet we would be in terrible trouble if we did not have oil, as well as coal, nuclear and other energy sources, that our economy needs to keep running every day. There are tradeoffs involved in meeting our energy needs, and one of them is the danger of rare but large oil spills.


It was unreasonable, therefore, when President Barack Obama imposed a six-month ban on deep-water oil exploration in the Gulf in response to the Deepwater Horizon explosion. However serious the BP spill is, such a spill is extremely rare and should not have prompted such a severe response, which threatened many workers' livelihoods.


A federal judge ruled that the Obama administration's ban was too broad, and the judge struck down the moratorium. A federal appeals court has now rejected the administration's request that it reinstate the ban.


Rather than shutting down important oil exploration, the administration should focus on working with BP and government and private-sector experts to get the spill stopped and to protect our waters and coastlines from the oil.







There's an old saying that "If you've got your health, you've got just about everything."


At least, good health means you are more likely to be able to handle your problems.


But the bad news is that two big health problems that are striking the American people are "self-imposed."


What are the problems? They are obesity and smoking.


No one has to eat so much that the many health problems that arise from obesity occur.


And certainly, no one has to take up the habit of smoking tobacco, or using it in any form.


Yet millions of us invite serious health problems from eating too much and smoking.


There are many health problems that are unavoidable. But bad eating habits and smoking are adversely affecting many even young people and shortening lives.


There's another old saying: "A word to the wise is sufficient."


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It is certainly a sign of the odd times: On the one hand, we have Turkey on the verge of a dramatic curtailment of relations with erstwhile ally Israel amid uncompromising ultimatums. On the other, we have Syria, Israel's diehard enemy, talking about moving toward a peace treaty with its longtime nemesis. Not only that, but in an interview last week in Lebanon's As Safir newspaper, Syrian President Bashir al-Assad even envisioned the day when tourists from the two countries would be visiting one another.


As for Turkey resuming its much-celebrated broker's role, "Thanks but no thanks," say the Syrians essentially. "We think we can work just fine with the United States."


Yesterday, our diplomatic reporter Fülya Özerkan reported on these developments.


"Syria wanted to open up to the West via Turkey but if the Turkish-Western relationship is being harmed as a result of many developments, including Turkey's 'no' vote on the Iran sanctions, Syrian-Turkish relations become less attractive," one diplomatic observer told Özerkan. "Turkish-Syrian relations are good for the sake of the two countries, but they are not good enough or satisfactory for Syrian interests as Damascus is also willing to have good relations with the West."


It was thoughtful of Marwan al-Kabalan, a Syrian analyst with whom Özerkan spoke, to try and soften the blow. "Syria insists that Turkey be the main mediator," he said. But the phrase came amid a host of caveats that this is now "complicated" by recent events. To twist a phrase from diplomatic jargon, this ambiguity is constructive indeed.


Meanwhile, who is conducting the most meaningful diplomacy in the region? It is not U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It is not regional envoy George Michael. It is Arlen Specter, a senator from Pennsylvania noted for switching to the Democratic Party last year after 44 years as a Republican. His name is hardly a household word in Mideast policy circles and he doesn't even serve on the Senate's foreign relations committee. But here he is, shuttling between Tel Aviv and Damascus.


Perhaps it is too early to read a great deal into these developments. But it is not too soon to read something into the current turn of events. One, the U.S. is certainly confused about its next steps, considering that we have a new volunteer stepping profoundly into the vacuum left by the Obama administration.


Second, it appears to us that Turkey is not so much "shifting its axis" in regional affairs as so many commentators suggest. Rather it losing control of it. A "rudderless" foreign policy is the more apt metaphor.


The current all-consuming focus on Gaza and the aftermath of Israel's brutal raid on the Mavi Marmara is understandable. It is also shortsighted and counter to our interests. America's Specter and Syria's Assad have read current affairs astutely. So must we in Turkey.








My purpose here is not to discuss the latest ruling of the Constitutional Court.


We either supported the decision or criticized it. Or we were in between. There were even some who dared to insult the court.


I either criticized or supported rulings of the Constitutional Court for a long time. But I've begun to understand that it is impossible for the court to reach a decision that everyone likes and respects no matter how the structure is changed or who its members are.




I think, for two reasons:


1) The Constitutional Court decides according to the supreme charter describing the law of politics. It is very difficult to distinguish how much the law regulates politics or vice versa.


The court reaches political decisions in essence. To regulate the law of politics in a way to please everyone is impossible in a country where neither political ground (democracy) nor understanding of law state is properly settled.


2) The law of politics is based on traditions and customs as much as rules and written procedures. In a society in which people have failed to internalize democracy, it is quite difficult to find common points of action or a mainstream approach.


Let me say it clearly, the adoption of the state of law in societies unable to transform rules of democracy into tradition/custom or habits in time is not just difficult but seems unfit.


Just like a kid who is trying to keep his pants up, we are trying to save the law in Turkey.


The chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Paul Stevens, 90, requested retirement in April. He was the most liberal member of the court. Therefore, he was expected to be close more to the Democrat Party. However, Stevens was appointed by a Republican president, Gerald R. Ford, in 1975.


The U.S. President in 1975 was the one who completely understood the fact that democracy has its own unwritten traditions and customs and who acknowledged the rule of law. (Cüneyt Ülsever - Hürriyet daily - Apr. 13, 2010).


The other day columnist Yalçın Doğan shared an anecdote which explains what I mean (Hürriyet daily, July 10, 2010). He wrote the following:


"As faculty members were discussing implementations in other countries, one of them says, 'The king appoints university presidents in Sweden.' Another one continues, 'I will comply if the Swedish king makes an appointment in our country.'"


My readers know that I frequently criticize U.S. President Barack Obama.


But I say that if President Obama makes appointments to the Turkish Constitutional Court, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, in the Council of State and the Higher Education Board, or YÖK, I will truly comply with it.


What makes him decide will be traditions and customs. But we don't have any.


We have a single custom:


"It doesn't matter who he is if he is a friend of mine!"


For this reason we are getting caught by civilian tutelage while we try to save ourselves from a military tutelage because in this country we are accustomed to living under "tutelage"!


And to overcome the spirit of tutelage goes way beyond the Constitutional Court!








Medical doctors generally recommend multiple therapies for every illness. However, they say all therapies have their own side effects. Patients then decide on the most effective, or least intrusive, therapy for themselves.

In economic policies, the case is similar. For every economic policy package there are alternatives having different side effects. In several cases, when unpleasant side effects begin to create distress for people, an alternative policy is chosen which carries less unpleasant side effects but at the same time is less effective. This might cause an unwanted relapse of the problem.


Governments in Turkey during the last nine years (after the 2001 crisis) have been trying to implement a simple stability program, whatever label is put on it. For some, it is a recipe from the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, for others, it is a textbook remedy. Stability programs are not the kind of measures to be left in the middle of the road before reaching the target. Faults, mistakes and misuse of some instruments can be revised, but the core of the package must not be thrown aside. Otherwise, unexpected problems might emerge as has been experienced several times in Turkey. Why did the economy face an almost hopeless situation and the IMF was called for help in 1999? After the year 1950, how many times has Turkey tried to implement stability measures supported by the IMF and after a short while, faced serious problems due to quitting those measures prematurely?


Stability programs mean fighting against inflation. The reason is obvious. Inflation is the main cause of economic, social and even political problems. The consequences of inflation are numerous, including high interest rates, unjust income distribution, increasing poverty, widening budgetary and foreign trade deficits, excessive borrowing, etc. To cure all of these diseases it becomes necessary to take a very strong medicine, which has as many unpleasant side effects as the cure is strong. As a result, people want to forget both the problems and the remedy. Governments who know people's tendency very well can easily abandon stability measures.


It is interesting to observe how quickly complaints about inflation replace complaints about tight monetary and fiscal policies. A group of people even defend the idea that governments implement these measures not for rebalancing the economy but for foreigners' favor. Living conditions of workers and farmers begin to become the main topic during daily discussions. Business circles continuously criticize the high interest-low exchange rate policy.


Many times it has been explained that it is not a government policy but a natural result of the timely decision taken to move to the floating exchange rate system in order to stop the rapid outflow of foreign currency and the fast climb in foreign exchange and interest rates during the 2001 crisis. In addition, no government or central bank has the power to control both the foreign exchange rate and the interest rate at the same time. Hence, it is not wise to force the authorities to move again to fix the exchange rate system and wait for a decision about a dramatic raise in the exchange rate (or for a serious cut in interest rates in order to divert demand from the Turkish Lira towards foreign currencies for an automatic increase in exchange rates). Such a decision only deteriorates the existing macroeconomic balances and might trigger a new crisis. It is a relief that the majority of the big businesses and economists defend the floating rate system as we have read in our newspaper's July 5 issue.


With a new election date coming closer, governments suddenly remember that there are some alternative policies, which do not have very unpleasant side effects but are less effective. This means a new inflationary period is ready to begin. The end of this story is, after a short time, the implementation of another stability package, the same complaints and the same results. At this stage, a very important question comes to mind: Why do inflation and the accompanying problems become almost a destiny, particularly for developing countries? Is this an incurable disease or a widespread addiction? And who is responsible for this peculiar situation: the people or their governments?


There are rumors that an early election is possible. Early or timely, when the election date comes nearer, almost all governments in democratic countries loosen monetary and fiscal policies. The unhappy result is a huge budget deficit and the unbelievable volume of accumulated debt seen in many European countries today. Turkey must take care not to repeat the same mistake. We will wait and see.








Disastrous as the "Macondo Oil Spill" may be, the fact is that, as a new report from the Energy Policy Research Foundation, or EPRINC, shows, offshore oil spills caused by blowouts are extremely rare, particularly in the U.S. In fact, historically the most common and largest spills have been those from oil tanker accidents. Thus, ironically, as the U.S. has to import more oil if it cuts domestic production, a reduction of offshore drilling will lead a higher risk of accidents, argues EPRINC. It is just one of the fascinating details coming out of EPRINC's contrarian cost-benefit analysis.


No one can deny that BP has made a terrific mess of things in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, the response from the U.S. government and American society at large to this terrible accident, is by now turning into something that looks like a regular witch-hunt. What no one could have imagined on April 20, when the blowout of the Macondo well happened, is becoming ever more likely: the drive to punish BP is driving the company towards bankruptcy. In addition to having to pay huge damages and running the risk of being shut out of future activities in the US, BP is facing a mountain of lawsuits that are likely to lead to stratospheric penalties that would ruin the company altogether. Some in the US are even calling for the outright nationalization of BP's U.S. assets.


Without belittling BP's sins, one cannot help feeling that government representatives and activist groups are using the disaster to pursue their own agendas. Politicians and bureaucrats have seized on the oil spill to divert attention away from other problems and see it as an opportunity to be seen as the great guardians of the public interest. Activists have their own ideological (anti-business) axes to grind. In the end, though, ruining BP, let alone the entire deepwater oil industry, will hurt rather than protect the "public interest."


It goes without saying that those responsible for (criminal) negligence should be appropriately punished. But there is no need to go any further than that. BP is already doing all it can to compensate the victims of the oil spill. Bankrupting the company certainly won't help those victims.


In addition, appropriate measures should of course be taken to avoid similar accidents, but it would certainly not be in the "public interest" to impose prohibitive costs on all offshore oil production or shutting it down altogether. To be sure, accidents will happen, whatever measures are taken. And yes, this may be a good reason to protect vulnerable natural areas from oil and gas production, but it cannot be a justification for avoiding any and all environmental risks. That would be tantamount to stopping any kind of human progress and making economic well-being impossible. Indeed, if "Macondo" is the "Chernobyl" of the offshore oil industry, then there is every reason to be optimistic about the future. After all, after Chernobyl no similar accident has happened in the nuclear industry.


It should be noted that EPRINC is an oil industry organization, which naturally defends the industry's interests. Nevertheless, we believe that their report does an excellent job in providing a much-needed cost-benefit analysis of the possible responses to the Gulf disaster. It concludes that the costs of the current ban on deepwater drilling operations are


much higher than any possible environmental benefits. If the government's policies should lead to a curtailment of all deepwater offshore drilling in the U.S., then, the report shows, "Macondo" would become an economic catastrophe indeed – not just for BP, but for the whole of the U.S.


Karel Beckman is the editor-in-chief of European Energy Review, in which this article was originally published.











JOHANNESBURG – I think that, no matter how many times I go there, I will always write "It was the most spectacular show in the world."


We were invited by Coca Cola. So, I was able to watch the World Cup championship match in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Where should I start, from the 85,000 person capacity giant stadium or the atmosphere adding more adrenalin to the night, or from how Del Bosque brought the World Championship to Spain and from how he was thrown in the air? He was hired by the Turkish BJK football club, but was teased, nicknamed the "butcher" and sent back!


I don't know what to begin with.


The only thing I know is the 85,000 people in the stadium, carrying the legendary South African leader Nelson Mandela, gave Del Bosque a standing ovation. The most emotional moment of the World Cup final took place as the father of South Africa entered the stadium. Everyone was crying.


Can you imagine, the symbolic name behind the sovereignty of this country appeared perhaps for the last time before his people?


No wonder people got emotional.


Spain won the World Cup, but South Africa is the real winner.


For South Africa under African leadership means the real ownership of the country is reborn.


The most prestigious championship of the world, therefore, was completed without a flaw. South Africans were proud to organize a giant show.


You should've seen the joy of the people.


You should've seen the pride of blacks, who have proven they can achieve the most difficult tasks, too.


You cannot understand the spirit without watching the final game or only by reading articles.


On top of everything, it was a show that every single detail and every moment was calculated precisely, and every step turned into a giant show itself.


Riot of colors, riot of voices, joy and excitement; it is a realm of mix.


Even if you don't support any team or don't know any of the players, you get excited. The atmosphere pulls you in.


It doesn't matter who deserves the cup or if there is a offsides call, but experiencing the moment is enough.


For this reason, we owe a "thank you" to Coca Cola CEO, Muhtar Kent, and all the team members of the company.


* * *


All South Africans turned Spaniards


Whoever I run across in the street, answered me:


• Spain must win


• The Netherlands must lose


• The ugly Dutch must be taught a lesson.


And then I met a South African businessman at the hotel bar.


He looked around to African waiters who were serving others and said, "I now see how much they hate us. If they could, they'd kill us and take whatever we have."


He might be right. Why not? The people he was referring to were the Dutch, who were the former owners of South Africa. They established South Africa and treated Africans like animals.


The Dutch speak English with a unique accent. They usually speak Dutch among themselves. As the country became richer, the Dutch turned more violent against Africans.


As black men raged against them, the Civil War spread. According to Anglo-Saxonism, South Africa belonged to them and those who should leave were the Africans. They thought brute force might help, but it did not.


The movement of freedom symbolized by Mandela handed the country over to its real owners. However, traces of Apartheid are still visible. And the hatred goes deep. It doesn't seem like it will end soon.


As Holland became a finalist, the South Africans had long faces until the final game.


It was worth seeing.


As Spain won the match, the streets filled with South Africans dancing as if they won the game, as if they were freed a second time around, as if they had taught a lesson to the Anglo-Saxons.


Today, South Africa is facing more critical issues compared to the past, but these new and real owners of the country are happy and proud.


* * *


A World Cup can bring anything to a country


It is hard to understand if you don't see and experience it.


Since I saw, I want to share everything with you.


As I see how much big organizations such as the World Football Championship or Olympiads can offer to hosting countries, I believe more and more that Turkey should never give up.


I am sure of how much China gained through the Olympic Games; you watch them on television too.


Now I look at South Africa.


The country has spent a billion dollars.


Highways were reconstructed, modern stadiums have been built to accommodate the games, and brand new, modern hotels have been erected.


So, the return is enormous.


Plus, everything built or made is a gain for a hosting country.


We don't spend money for such things normally. I mean, can you earmark money for the construction of a stadium if there is no specific reason?


No. But the Olympic Games or the World Cup give hosting countries a reason to make all of these. Following the championships, countries own, almost for free, sports units for public use.


Turkey should keep on trying for the Olympic Games, the European Cup and the Football Championship.










In my last piece in this column I commented on Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's "wake up call for Turkey," also indicating that his various remarks of central importance to Ankara vis-à-vis its Middle East policy are curiously "under-reported" in this country.


This continues to be the case as Assad gives us more indications that Turkey's threats of severing ties with Israel are diminishing the value of any potential role Ankara may play in the region, especially in terms of the Syria-Israel track. It is clear that Damascus needs these ties to continue for any role Turkey wants to play in the region to be meaningful.


Judging by reports emerging now, it appears Assad has started searching for alternatives to Turkey in his efforts to kick-start the diplomatic search for peace with Israel again. Put another way: Assad wants peace and normalized relations with Israel.


That he should desire such a thing, at the very moment when Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is trying to keeping the international heat on Israel, must be seen as another shock for the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration in Ankara. It must be an added shock for Prime Minister Erdoğan, who always lauds the great friendship he has with the Syrian leader.


The mistaken assumption in AKP circles is that Syria is the last country that would want to normalize ties with Israel at a time when Israeli brutality against the people of Palestine is more apparent than ever. It appears, however, that this is not the case at all.


The following are recent remarks by President Assad to the Lebanese As Safir newspaper, as quoted by Gideon Levy, a highly respected Israel journalist at the Israeli daily Haaretz.


"Our position is clear: When Israel returns the entire Golan Heights, of course we will sign a peace agreement with it … What's the point of peace if the embassy is surrounded by security, if there is no trade and tourism between the two countries? That's not peace. That's a permanent cease-fire agreement. This is what I say to whoever comes to us to talk about the Syrian track: We are interested in a comprehensive peace, i.e., normal relations."


Levy, interestingly enough, also indicated in his column (July 11) that these remarks of Assad's did not make the headlines in Israel. It appears that Israelis, like Turks, have a preset notion of the Syrian president, and anything that does not tally with this notion is best avoided.


In fact, Assad is emerging as a leader in the Middle East whose consistent remarks peg him as a person who desires not only peace with Israel, but also enhanced ties with the West, and particularly the United States.


The fact that he has reportedly asked US Senator Arlen Specter to try to find common ground between Syria and Israel now is only the latest indication of this. There are also reports that France too is going increase its mediation efforts between the two countries, having good ties with both.


These developments follow Assad's statement last week, during a visit to Spain, where he indicated quite clearly that if Turkey severs ties with Israel this will not only increase instability in the region, but will also make it difficult for Turkey to play a role in mediation efforts there.


This is not music to AKP ears, of course, and the reason is simple. Islamists in Turkey have a tendency to group Syria together with Iran and to see the former as being different from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose regimes are considered to be on "Washington's payroll."


It is more than obvious that this represents a skewed and superficial understanding of the Middle East. In fact, as the Assad remarks quoted above show clearly, there is a fundamental difference between Syria and the Mullah regime in Iran, which makes Damascus more like the countries considered to be on "Washington's payroll."


The key point here is Syria does not say Israel should be wiped off the map as Iran does. It says, "Give me back Golan and there will be peace." It's as simple as that. What is also interesting in Assad's remarks quoted above is he does not provide any preconditions concerning the plight of the Palestinians for normalizing ties with Israel.


This may be a source of anger for Turkish Islamists but it represents a well-established reality of the region. The Palestinians are usually the last people on the minds of Arab leaders when the chips are really down, despite all the crocodile tears shed on their behalf.


Put another way, there is a serious disconnect between Turkish perceptions about a leader like Assad, who is assumed to be an enemy of Israel to the bitter end, and the situation as it really is. What makes this disconnect even odder is Turkey has a foreign minister who claims to understand the region better than most. Developments appear to indicate this is not in fact the case.










First, abandoning the confrontational style of his predecessor Deniz Baykal, the new Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu declared his readiness to come together with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss important problems of the country.


The prime minister, in his typical majoritarian obsession, tried to make the best use of the opportunity offered by Kılıçdaroğlu to gather a summit of political leaders, as if he was senior to all, or he was the president. Naturally, Kılıçdaroğlu refused a summit of leaders under Erdoğan's leadership and reiterated his readiness to host the prime minister at a bilateral meeting, stressing it was apolitical for the premier to attempt to summon opposition leaders.


Finally, Erdoğan agreed to make separate meetings with opposition leaders, with the exception of the leaders of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. According to Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, the MHP was a party "exploiting" separatist terrorism to beef up its nationalist support, while the BDP was critical of the anti-terrorism struggle and thus there was no benefit in meeting with leaders of those two parties. The attitude of the AKP of course demonstrates the "advanced democratic mindset" with which the AKP has been saying it would carry Turkey to an "advanced democracy." Anyhow, at least the prime minister was generous enough to exchange opinion with the main opposition leader about how to fight better separatist terrorism and share information, hopefully, on the plans of the government regarding its long-stalled Kurdish opening.


The meeting, which is apparently planned for Thursday, unfortunately will be the first of its kind in many years – to be precise ever since the AKP came to power eight years ago – as the "Mr-Know-It-All" prime minister did not feel until now to come together with the main opposition leader to discuss or exchange opinions over any of the many problems this country has. Even though it is not yet certain whether the prime minister has abandoned his rather perverted perception that compromising with the intention of establishing a consensus would mean surrendering to minority groups and views, and even if the meeting might not produce any tangible result, the coming together of Turkey's top two political leaders will be an important and promising development.


As was specified in the letter Erdoğan sent to Kılıçdaroğlu, the prime minister and the CHP leader are expected to focus on what measures Turkey ought to take in view of the surge in separatist terrorism. Probably, Erdoğan will share some intelligence with Kılıçdaroğlu, or perhaps Kılıçdaroğlu will tell the prime minister that if he wants the support of the main opposition party he must share some confidential information with the awareness and confidence that any secrecy request would be fully respected.


The meeting will be significant for Kılıçdaroğlu. Contrary to the aggressive style of his predecessor Baykal, with the meeting Kılıçdaroğlu will demonstrate success of his "resolution oriented" approach in doing politics. Irrespective of whether a consensus will emerge or not from the meeting, the fact that for the first time after eight years a CHP leader and Erdoğan will come together will demonstrate the success of the "new style" of leadership in the CHP. Will that be the end of polarized politics in the country? Naturally, as the nation is heading on the one hand to a referendum in which the AKP has been adamantly trying to promote "Yes" votes and the CHP has been doing its best to produce a national "No" to what it considered a package consolidating the autocratic aspirations of the AKP, political polarization will continue gripping Turkey, given also that the nation will go to parliamentary elections in less than a year.


For Erdoğan, on the other hand, the meeting will be important because rather than his traditional majoritarian obsessive rejectionist attitude for a change he will be attempting, even if the meeting cannot produce any tangible result, to engage the main opposition in the resolution of a very important national problem.


That is irrespective whether or not Thursday's meeting produces any tangible result, it will be a positive and promising sign for the future of Turkish politics. As Deputy Prime Minister and State Minister [in charge of crying] Bülent Arınç confessed recently, this is a hopeful contribution of Kılıçdaroğlu to Turkish politics.








The Barack Obama administration introduced a series of drastic changes in its newly engineered AF-PAK policy, which could have potentially devastating outcomes. Replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus and applying severe conditionality on the economic aid to Afghanistan are among the recent changes that have become subject to universal controversies. Although the former may be a justified debug, the latter carries fundamental drawbacks, for it alienates the Afghan government.


Confronting insurgency, according to David Galula, one of the pioneers of the modern school of counterinsurgency, is a protracted struggle. It requires long-term commitment and a flexible strategy that can fit into several circumstances. An effective counterinsurgency campaign evaluates the situation throughout the course of war and introduces necessary productive changes. These changes, however, should be handled with caution, for it otherwise could further exacerbate the problem and bestow more leverage to the enemy.


The U.S.'s dramatic changes and pressures on the Afghan government do not seem to satisfy the conventional requirements of an effective counterinsurgency model. The first major recent change in the U.S. policy on Afghanistan is the deployment of Gen. Petraeus as the new chief of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Petraeus, who gained a remarkable reputation for his effective performance in Iraq, became Obama's suitable figure to deal with the security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.


In an article recently published on the BBC, Petraeus said he does not intend to change the current strategy originally engineered by Gen. McChrystal, yet he acknowledged that he would reconsider its application. While doing so, he vowed to protect the Afghan population and lower the number of civilian causalities.


Though it is too early to claim whether Petraeus' appointment as the new chief of the counterinsurgency team in Afghanistan is a suitable change, one can surely claim that his military experiences in Iraq do not automatically make him the man of the era.


The insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq might posses some common features, but they are different to a large extent. First of all, the geographic and demographic features of the countries are radically different – Afghanistan is a rigidly mountainous terrain composed of a completely heterogeneous population made up of Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras, just to name a few. Iraq is a desert region with not only an ethnically but also a religiously divided population, which forms two semi-majorities of Shiites and Sunnis. Yet, most importantly, the reason why the Afghan and Iraqi insurgencies cannot be countered on similar strategies is mainly due to the fact that the insurgents in each country have fabricated a distinctive cause.


Since the collapse of the regime of Taliban in 2001, insurgents in Afghanistan are in pursuit of reestablishing the Islamic Emirate, which controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. In Iraq, on the other hand, the main cause for which the insurgents are fighting is to expel the foreign forces out of their country and gain representation in the government; they do not necessarily demand the installation of a theocratic regime.


Gen. Petraeus became well-known primarily for his reconciling with and integrating the Sunni portion of the Iraq population into the surge. The Los Angeles Times wrote, "Perhaps most importantly, he [Petraeus] embraced the so-called Sunni Awakening, a movement by Iraq's Sunni tribes to set up local defense units to fight the insurgency. Petraeus nurtured the trend by pressuring the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government to pay the units, which helped turn the tide in Iraq in 2007."


This approach was partially successful mainly because the radical Sunnis in Iraq demanded political inclusion in the Iraqi government. Hence, a part of their demand was satisfied through their integration into the government, and they thus succumbed to the central regime. Yet, when you look at the bigger picture, Petraeus's strategy did not alter the basics of the insurgency. The fight for inclusion and the loyalty to Saddam's legacy remained prominent. Petraeus's surge plan had a rather defensive mechanism. By dollar-bathing the Sunnis, Petraeus only managed to protect the American soldiers.


Petraeus is more likely to approach the insurgency in Afghanistan in a similar fashion. He will certainly try to negotiate with the Taliban and other militia leaders. The process of integration and reconciliation if carried forward skillfully could play a determining role in the overall security situation in Afghanistan. However, there are pre- and post-integrating conditions, which need to be met in order for this process to work.


The pre-conditions may include distinguishing between the "foot-soldiers" and the radical elements. The former may be subjugated through providing economic incentives, security assurance and the provision of some sorts of employment, because the main reason these "foot-soldiers" joined the insurgency is they were disgruntled by the failing Afghan government.


The radical elements of the Taliban movement cannot be subdued through such incentives. These groups of radical insurgents are in pursuit of achieving their ultimate goal, which is the recreation and reinstallation of the Islamic Emirate.


These radicals have already announced their denial of such possibilities and said, "Why should we talk if we have the upper hand, the foreign troops are considering withdrawal and there are differences in the ranks of our enemies?" (BBC News).


This statement by the Taliban spokesman clearly indicates their disinclination to reconcile with or integrate into the Afghan government. Therefore, Petraeus needs to consider the complexities and the nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan and know that what worked in Iraq cannot be applied in Afghanistan.


The second sudden change in the AF-PAK policy is the reduction in monetary aid to the Afghan government. The 2011 year economic plan for Afghanistan cut the Afghan budget by almost $4 billion. The main drive behind this reduction was the presence of corruption in the Karzai administration. The congress called upon the Afghan government and warned Karzai if he does not take serious measures against the existing corruption in the system, the U.S economic help will deteriorate further (BBC News). In theory, one could argue this move by the U.S government will stabilize the Afghan government. However, practically speaking, this decision will only exacerbate the problem.


Placing conditionality on the already fragmented Afghan government only intensifies the current problem. It alienates Karzai, who is a crucial partner in the counterinsurgency campaign. This, however, does not imply that the U.S. should not fight against the existing corruption. Taking the carrot-and-stick approach toward the newly born Afghan government is not the right method of fighting corruption.


As emphasized earlier, counterinsurgency and state building is a protracted struggle and necessitates a long term commitment. In order to lower the level of corruption, it is important to first strengthen other institutions and develop a functioning mechanism. Furthermore, the U.S and other foreign