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Saturday, July 31, 2010

EDITORIAL 31.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month julyy 31, edition 000585, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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THE PIONEER

  1. CAMERON CHARMS INDIA
  2. RETURN OF THE CHEETAH
  3. DHAKA FEELS HURT, DELHI TO BLAME - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  4. CHASING MAYA IN PURSUIT OF GOD - AJIT BISHNOI
  5. WIKILEAKS OR WIKIHYPE? - S RAJAGOPALAN
  6. A DECADE OF LIES AND MURDERS - WILSON JOHN
  7. PAKISTAN A DOUBLE DEALING NATION - TUNKU VARADARAJAN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THE TAXMAN'S DAY OUT
  2. BIG GOVERNMENT MUST GO - MINHAZ MERCHANT
  3. IT'S A MATTER OF CHOICE
  4. BEAUTY ISN'T SKIN-DEEP - RUDRONEEL GHOSH
  5. PAK DUPLICITY RUNS OUT OF STEAM - DILEEP PADGAONKAR

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT
  2. THE RAINBOW PEOPLE - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
  3. MUCH BIGGER THAN THE VIETNAM LEAK - PRATIK KANJILAL

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MIZORAM'S SURPRISE
  2. PROBLEM SETS
  3. ENHANCED, ENDURING
  4. THE POWER OF ONE - SHEKHAR GUPTA 
  5. THE DREAMLIFE OF CITIES - YOGINDER K. ALAGH 
  6. LEMONADE IN SINGLE MALT - SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI 
  7. CASTE IS NOT INVISIBLE - SHARAD YADAV 
  8. TOWN AND GOWN - MEETA SENGUPTA 
  9. THE PLACE THAT WILL TAKE YOU IN
  10. PAKISTAN-OBFUSCATED KASHMIR - RUCHIKA TALWAR 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. ON PRICE RISE
  2. BUILDING CITIES
  3. INVESTMENT CONTINUES TO BOOM - MAHESH VYAS
  4. THE SINGHS GET IT RIGHT AGAIN - MG ARUN
  5. INDIAN STUDENTS PREFER THE UK - NIKHILA GILL

THE HINDU

  1. A DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP
  2. THE VOTE AND BEYOND
  3. THE POLITICS OF TALIBAN RECONCILIATION - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. UNEXAMINED DANGER OFF THE SHORES - SATYAJIT SARNA
  5. GENDER WAR, YET TO BE WON - V.R. KRISHNA IYER
  6. JULY IS DEADLIEST MONTH OF AFGHAN WAR FOR THE U.S.

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. CAMERON, IN INDIA, SENDS RIGHT SIGNALS
  2. TEMPORARY GAINS - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. PEACE WITH PAK, BUT WITH A BIG STICK- S.K.SINHA
  4. IN BED WITH BRITAIN - SHOBHAA DE
  5. THE MEDIOCRE CRAFTSMEN - KISHWAR DESAI

 

DNA

  1. OUTSOURCE THE GAMES
  2. VENKATESAN VEMBU
  3. DREAMS OF BEAUTY IN THE SHANTIES - PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE
  4. I'M MERCENARY: I WROTE DAY OF THE JACKAL FOR MONEY: FREDERICK FORSYTH - VENKATESAN VEMBU

THE TRIBUNE

  1. PYRRHIC VICTORY
  2. RIGHT TO EDUCATION
  3. THE LEGEND LIVES ON
  4. EXTENSION FOR KAYANI - BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  5. A PATCH OF PARADISE - BY VIJAI SINGH MANKOTIA
  6. YOU NEED TWO TO MAKE - RAJSHREE SARDA
  7. LOVE AAJ KAL - SAJLA CHAWLA

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. 1951 redux - T n ninan
  2. Rbi 1, subbarao - SURJIT S BHALLA
  3. REVERSE EAST INDIA COMPANY - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. CITY DEVELOPMENT VIA DEVOLUTION - DEVANGSHU DATTA
  5. A GENERATION GOT LEFT OUT -  SUBIR ROY
  6. INSIDE MYANMAR - FACT AND FICTION - V V
  7. MAKING EUROPE WORK - JEAN PISANI-FERRY
  8. THE STORY OF JADUI PANKH - GEETANJALI KRISHNA

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. CURRY MANTRA
  2. TRY OUT SCHOOL VOUCHERS
  3. IT'S A MIXED BAG
  4. TON HAS MORE WEIGHT
  5. FROM CONCEPTION TO INCEPTION - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  6. WE MAKE SCIENCE FUN TO LEARN: ARVIND GUPTA - JAYASHREE BHOSALE
  7. REVISIT SEBI'S CONSENT ORDERS - M R MAYYA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. CAMERON, IN INDIA, SENDS RIGHT SIGNALS
  2. TEMPORARY GAINS - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. MID-CAREER HOLIDAY FOR TOP COPS
  4. PEACE WITH PAK, BUT WITH A BIG STICK - BY S.K. SINHA
  5. THE MEDIOCRE CRAFTSMEN - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. IN BED WITH BRITAIN - BY SHOBHAA DE

THE STATESMAN

  1. UNDER-EQUIPPED 
  2. GENDER CENSUS 
  3. LOSE SOME, WIN SOME
  4. NUCLEAR COOPERATION

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. STADIUM AS SYMBOL
  2. INSTRUMENT OF THE SELF - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ELITIST SELF-DELUSION
  2. CONFIDENT SURGE
  3. KICKING UP THE DUST - BY RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA
  4. KNOWN TURF: DAKU MORALITY - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. NEIGHBOURLY VIBES - BY BHARATHI PRABHU

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. A TOUGHER CAR SAFETY AGENCY
  2. THE FIGHT OVER EDUCATION IN WASHINGTON
  3. DETENTION AND THE DISABLED
  4. FECKLESS AND CRUEL
  5. LET'S MAKE IT REAL - BY GAIL COLLINS
  6. OBAMA'S 'RACE' WAR - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. NO AFGHAN ALLY LEFT BEHIND - BY SEYMOUR TOPPING

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. 'DEMOCRATIC SELF-GOVERNMENT' AND DECENTRALIZATION - CENGİZ AKTAR
  2. BRITAIN IS GREAT, INDEED - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  3. ANTI-TURKEY CLIMATE IN THE US CONGRESS - İLHAN TANIR
  4. JAPANESE NO LONGER BUY BOTICELLI - GİLA BENMAYOR
  5. WHAT DO AIDS ACTIVISTS WANT MORE MONEY FOR? - ROGER ENGLAND
  6. A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - IT COSTS TOO MUCH - ADVENA AVIS
  7. THE CORRIDOR - THE CHP'S NEW IDENTITY - GÖKSEL BOZKURT
  8. WOMEN'S RIGHTS NGOS APPLAUD TURKISH PERFORMANCE AT UN - MERAL ÇİYAN ŞENERDİ
  9. WOMEN'S RIGHTS NGOS APPLAUD TURKISH PERFORMANCE AT UN - MERAL ÇİYAN ŞENERDİ
  10. WHAT A SECURE E-STATE? - YUSUF KANLI
  11. PAINTING A MORE OPEN TURKEY - MARK VAN YETTER
  12. A MULTICULTURAL RIDE IN NATURE - VISA REGULATIONS - SADETTİN ORHAN

I.THE NEWS

  1. FLOODED OUT
  2. EVEN KARZAI NOW
  3. MANMOHAN'S DESIRE
  4. WIKILEAKS OMINOUS FOR PAKISTAN - ARIF NIZAMI
  5. ON PSYCHOPATHS
  6. CHARLES FERNDALE
  7. FADING ROMANCE - BABAR SATTAR
  8. BJP PLUNGES TO A NEW LOW - PRAFUL BIDWAI
  9. GOJRA - WASIM ARIF

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. ORCHESTRATED TIRADE AGAINST PAKISTAN
  2. TASK BEFORE SARDAR ATTIQUE
  3. ANOTHER RAMZAN GIFT OF THE GOVERNMENT
  4. FIGHT WITH TALIBAN - HUSAIN HAQQANI
  5. CAMERON: ROAD TO HAGUE - RIZWAN GHANI
  6. BROUHAHA OVER GEN KAYANI'S EXTENSION - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  7. HILLARY CLINTON'S TERSE WORDS - BURHANUDDIN HASAN
  8. CURBING YOUR ENTHUSIASM - PAUL KRUGMAN

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. INDEPENDENT ACC
  2. KUTUBDIA PROJECT
  3. REPAIR YOUR UMBRELLA..!
  4. A NEW FORMAT IN THE US-UK RELATIONS
  5. PAKISTAN NEVER FULLY ABANDONED TALIBAN
  6. ISRAELI RIGHT'S VISION ON ONE STATE SOLUTION

 THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. FRESH IDEAS NEEDED ON REFUGEES
  2. AN EXHAUSTED BODY POLITIC FAILS THE NATIONAL INTEREST

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. IT TAKES A LOT MORE THAN JUST WHATEVER IT TAKES
  2. DOES MY BUM LOOK DIFFERENTLY SIZED IN THIS?
  3. POLICY BOASTS: THIS IS A KNIFE LAW
  4. MELBOURNE'S IN THE NANNY STATE - OF BLISS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: QUESTION TIME
  2. UNTHINKABLE? LIFE ON MARS
  3. BOOK PUBLISHING: SCARY READING

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MIYAZAKI CRISIS ALMOST OVER
  2. A CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY DEBATE
  3. BEIJING'S ASIA POWER PLAY - BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. PROTECTING CONSUMERS
  2. STRUGGLING FOR LITERACY IN ENGLISH: VOICES FROM THE CLASSROOM - SETIONO SUGIHARTO
  3. BETWEEN INFOTAINMENT, RAMADAN AND PUBLIC MIND - KHAIRIL AZHAR
  4. GLOBAL HOMEWORK FOR RI - DEWI ANGGRAENI

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CAMERON CHARMS INDIA

BUT SCEPTICISM REMAINS ABOUT UK'S RELEVANCE


In some respects, Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to India is the most successful ever undertaken by a British Prime Minister to this country in recent times. For plain-speaking — whether on terrorism and role of the Pakistani state, or on India's economic potential — public symbolism and an obvious individual motivation to enhance the bilateral relationship, Mr Cameron has had few peers in 10 Downing Street. In that sense, he has picked up the thread from Mr Tony Blair, the first Western leader to talk of India's growing economic weight and to invite it as a guest to meetings of the Group of Eight. Unfortunately, in the post-Blair era, ties suffered somewhat. Britain encountered a bruising internal debate on Iraq and the larger war on terror; the economic recession crippled it; and despite good intentions, Mr Gordon Brown simply lost his way. India was the victim of confused thinking in Whitehall in this period, particularly when a whippersnapper Foreign Secretary turned up only weeks after the November 26, 2008, terror strikes in Mumbai, to give India a remarkably crude and unsympathetic lecture on how it had invited the attack on itself. That visit — in a history of British diplomatic disasters, it would probably rank just below Neville Chamberlain's trip to Munich — had a far greater impact than the immediate. It not only convinced the Indian strategic establishment that Britain was an unreliable and unwilling partner in the larger battle against pan-Islamism, it also suggested Britain's global role was sharply contracting and the process had more or less become irreversible. Indeed, in a reckoning of bilateral interlocutors, Washington, DC, Beijing, Paris, even Singapore and Canberra, have begun to upstage London in recent years. This is a telling commentary on how Britain has 'let itself go'.


Mr Cameron's initiative to reinvent the equation with India has to be seen in this context. The recovery of Britain hinges upon its ability to put its economy back on the rails. Getting a slice of the India growth story will be an important parameter. Unlike the 1990s, it is not just a question of increasing British investment in India; the momentum has gone far beyond that. Today, Indian companies are significant investors in Britain, particularly in once-great but now decaying manufacturing companies. A combination of Indian entrepreneurship and component outsourcing can yet revive these declining brands. Tata Motors's purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover is a case in point. The second imperative is to make Britain attractive to skilled immigrants from India. London has a fair number of financial services professionals from India, but for the most part the rest of the country has not marketed itself to, for instance, Indian IT companies, which have set up facilities in even Ireland. There are also opportunities for British defence companies and universities in India, though here too they will find their American cousins ahead of the game. Finally, whether it is on terrorism or on any other international challenge, Mr Cameron's Government seems to find it important to establish Britain's credibility as an all-season friend and not one given to volatility in its approach to India. Too often in the past decades has Britain sought to second guess the United States and adopted a me-too policy on India. Consequently, India, realising this, has learnt to take Britain less seriously. There is a gap here that Mr Cameron needs to fill. The bells and whistles of his visit were chosen to do just that.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

RETURN OF THE CHEETAH

GOOD IDEA TO REVIVE SPECIES, BUT WILL IT WORK?


If all goes well, the cheetah will soon roam India forests once again. The Government and wildlife enthusiasts appear tremendously excited by the prospect, and understandably so. The fastest animal on Earth vanished from India some 40 years ago, and it is the only big cat that is missing from the Indian wildlife map — lions, tigers, leopards and snow leopards are all there. The fact that it derives its name from Sanskrit seems to have caught Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh's imagination, but that's really inconsequential. What is important is the reintroduction of the cheetah in the wild will have a positive impact on the ecological life cycle. We are still some years away from achieving this goal since a huge amount of ground work needs to be done. Funds have to be sourced, sites need to be readied and villages located within the proposed reserved areas have to be relocated. The Government also needs to convince naysayers among wildlife activists who believe that it is unwise to import and re-introduce cheetahs when we are incapable of protecting our tigers from poachers. There are others who question the cost of undertaking the project — according to one estimate, the Government may have to spend Rs 300 crore in the first year towards the upkeep and maintenance of the proposed cheetah reserves. Critics argue that this money would be better spent in preserving existing wildlife species and protecting reserved forests.


Yet, it's a tantalising idea to bring home an animal that has long disappeared from our country. Viewed from this perspective, it is worth the effort and expenditure. Not only would a species be revived in India's wild, but also new reserves would be created. Together, they are bound to enthuse wildlife enthusiasts as well as generate greater awareness among the masses to preserve animal life in the wild. While it is true that the tiger conservation programme has faltered at various stages, it has succeeded in firmly keeping the issue of protecting big cats in the limelight. As a result, several projects for protecting tigers continue with commendable work despite heavy odds. Lessons have also been learnt that can be put to good use while re-introducing the cheetah. The project, as envisioned, is modest in scale, as it should be to begin with. Initially 18 cheetahs, sourced from West Asia (where north African cheetahs are bred), Iran, Namibia and South Africa will be introduced in the designated reserves at Kuno-Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary (in Madhya Pradesh) and Shahgarh Landscape at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Hopefully, these cheetahs will take to their new homes and multiply over the years. Whether nature allows that to happen, however, remains to be seen. 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DHAKA FEELS HURT, DELHI TO BLAME

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


An article, published under the headline, "Have Bangladesh-India relations hit a snag?", in The Daily Star, one of Bangladesh's leading newspapers, on July 24, deserves some attention. The author, Mr Serajul Islam, a former diplomat, quoted his country's Commerce Minister as saying that an agreement on the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, arrived at between India and Bangladesh during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's state visit to India, had not been implemented though six months had passed. Mr Islam had further said that the Minister had "criticised the bureaucrats on either side for things not having moved the way they should have". He added that Bangladesh's Foreign Minister, who had earlier spoken eloquently about the success of Sheikh Hasina's visit and the paradigm shift in India-Bangladesh relations it portended, did not comment before media about the Commerce Minister's statement. This and the Foreign Ministry's silence "has surprised many who are following Bangladesh-India relations and left them guessing about what is exactly happening".


Mr Islam's article reflects the concern felt by an increasingly large number of Bangladeshis over their country's relations with India, which are not progressing as they should. Dhaka, they feel, has done more than its share, particularly in addressing New Delhi's security concerns. Its pro-active role in curbing the activities of rebels active in north-eastern India operating out of its territory has landed in India's custody such militants as Arabinda Rajkhowa of the ULFA and Ranjan Daimari of the NDFB. Bangladesh has also come down hard on Islamist terrorists acting against India from its soil. Among those detained are Mufti Obaidullah of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, an Indian national who had fled to Bangladesh in June 1995, and LeT organiser and Indian national Maulana Mansur Ali. Also arrested are Daud Merchant, a close associate of Daud Ibrahim, and his associate, Zahid Sheikh — both Indian nationals.


Needless to say, Sheikh Hasina has been severely attacked by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Khaleda Zia and fundamentalist Islamists gathered around the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh who had turned Bangladesh into a major launching pad of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism inside India. They have been accusing Sheikh Hasina of selling out to India. In an article in The Daily Star shortly after Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in January 2010, Mr Reaz Rahman, a former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh and an important BNP functionary, had observed that her trip was a failure. She had received little, conceded much. 


It is not that India has not done anything. But the credit of $1 billion it has provided for the development of Bangladesh's power sector will take time to show results. Its offer of providing 250 MW of power to Bangladesh will require the linking of the power grids of the two countries through the construction of a 100-km long transmission line for actualisation. The sharing of the waters of Ganga and Teesta will also take time to sort out. Hence the importance of progress in areas where results will be relatively quick. Redressing Bangladesh's heavily adverse balance of trade with India by facilitating Bangladeshi exports to this country is one such area. Regrettably, despite promises, very little has been done here since Sheikh Hasina's visit. Even more so is the total lack of progress in respect of the flyover which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina had agreed to be constructed at Teen Bigha enclave. The functioning of the Joint Working Groups on border disputes and trade have been such that they might not have existed at all. The SAARC group on infrastructure, which is supposed to meet every six months, has reportedly not met in the last two years.

One can hardly blame the Bangladeshis for feeling chagrined. Some doubtless argue that Bangladesh has not provided transit to Indian goods to north-eastern India through its territory; nor has it agreed to sell natural gas to — nor stanched the flow of illegal immigrants into — this country. On the first two, progress will take time. As to illegal immigration, the main threat to India relates to its security. The porous border, which permits easy crossings, is used by Islamist terrorists to come over from Bangladesh. Poor border management complicates matters. Sheikh Hasina's strong steps against terrorist organisations like Harkat-ul-Jihadi-al-Islami Bangladesh and Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, as well as organisations like the LeT, promises to take out the most contentious issue out of the immigration debate. The important point is that the crackdown must continue, which will not if she loses the 2014 parliamentary election and the pathologically anti-India BNP-Jamaat-led coalition returns to power. India needs to ensure that this does not happen and Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League remain in power after 2014. It must rest its relations with Bangladesh not on the basis of loss and gain, but on its strategic vision of South Asia anchored to its security compulsions.


The year 2014 is going to be critical, and not merely because of the election in Bangladesh. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan told a one-day international conference in Kabul on July 20, 2010, "I remain determined that our Afghan national security forces will be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014." It is also the year in which parliamentary election is due in India and serious consequences will follow if these do not produce a strong and stable Union Government and the strategic environment deteriorates sharply.


Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's Secretary-General, no doubt told the Kabul conference that "conditions, not calendars" would shape the transition to Afghan-led security and "Our mission will end only when... the Afghans are able to maintain security on their own." But given the way things are going, one cannnot rule out the possibility of the US and Nato countries withdrawing from Afghanistan following a face-saving agreement which paves the way for a Taliban take-over. Once this happens, Pakistan will unleash an unprecedented wave of terrorism against India, spearheaded by the jihadi groups it has been nursing and backed by its entire military might enhanced by the massive aid it is receiving from the US. It is easy to imagine what will happen if a hostile Bangladesh with Begum Zia as Prime Minister ensures that India has a troubled eastern border.

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CHASING MAYA IN PURSUIT OF GOD

AJIT BISHNOI


A verse in Bhagavad Gita runs thus. "Out of thousands of men, hardly anyone strives for perfection. Out of those striving yogis, too, hardly anyone knows me in essence." When I first read this verse, I was surprised. It is the second part of the verse that sparked doubts in my mind. Why would hardly anyone from among those taking the trouble to attempt linking with god know him in reality? 


I have subsequently realised why. God is a repository of riches — both material and spiritual. We approach him seeking either or both. However, what does practically everyone want? Material riches, of course, owing to maya — illusion that overpowers all. How else can one explain spiritualists also seeking what an ordinary man seeks? Spiritualists, too, seek fame, wealth, comforts, attention, rewards and power. Additionally, they seek the status of being worshipped by disciples and a large following. 


In doing so, they fail to realise the spiritual aspects of god. Maya is prominent even in the matter of one's body; one remains attached to it, even though liberation is actually being free of it. It is an unbelievable contradiction for most spiritualists, a fatal flaw in their approach. 


We seek god for four reasons, when in trouble, when seeking material benefits, when one is inquisitive about god, and when one is cognisant of god (verse #7.16). Obviously, the last pertains to the category of greatest beneficiaries. Once someone has had a taste of the resulting bliss, he or she is likely to continue pursuing the connection with god and not get sidetracked by material attractions. (verse #2.59) 


We have two choices — to seek material gains and remain in perpetual bondage to the cycle of birth and death or seek god in the true sense and be free of this cycle. For those who choose the latter, there is an additional advantage — that of feeling liberated even while alive. But those who choose this path are rare because the gains begin to appear only after a long time. No wonder, practically all take the other route. Their illusion is overpowering but the fact remains that you cannot know god if you try linking with him only for material purposes. 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WIKILEAKS OR WIKIHYPE?

NATIONS OFTEN HAVE CONFRONTATIONS WITH "THE TRUTH", BUT INVARIABLY END UP DOING NOTHING WITH THEM. THIS WEEK AMERICA HIT SUCH A CROSSROADS.

S RAJAGOPALAN


Who is Julian Assange? Many would have asked until last Sunday, when the soft-spoken Australian made a bold statement that has shaken America's corridors of power. A former computer programmer, a convicted hacker and a sometimes journalist, the 39-year-old put out some 92,000 classified United States military documents relating to the war in Afghanistan on the whistleblower website that he founded four years ago — WikiLeaks. 

Airing the material pertaining to the 2004-09 phase of the ongoing war has startled and infuriated the White House and the Pentagon alike. For the record, however, the authorities have downplayed the import of the expose. President Barack Obama was dismissive: "The fact is these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan." But he added he was concerned that the disclosures could potentially jeopardise individuals or operations. 


Assange does not agree with Obama or other functionaries of his administration about the significance of the leaked material. He for one believes that what he has brought to light is comparable to the Pentagon Papers saga of the 1970s, when contributor Daniel Ellsberg turned over the top-secret analysis of the US's unpopular involvement in the Vietnam War to the New York Times and later to the Washington Post. Assange for his part opted to hand over the Afghan war logs to three different media outlets — NYT, Britain's Guardian and Germany's 

Der Spiegel — with instructions not to report on them till July 25, when he would post the 92,000 odd documents on the WikiLeaks website. 


Ellsberg himself has a word of praise for Assange, saying the young Australian "is serving our (American) democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country". 


Whatever the contention of the US authorities over the worth of the disclosures, the expose has strongly vindicated India's long-held stand on the machinations of Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The war logs have vividly brought out the ISI's covert support to the Taliban, despite Islamabad receiving billions of dollars from the United States to help crush the Taliban-al-Qaeda combine's insurgency. More than 180 intelligence files in the war logs are said to detail accusations that the ISI has been supplying, arming and training the insurgency since at least 2004. Although the ISI's shenanigans have been chronicled in the past, here they are contained in field reports from US troops. Washington just cannot pretend to be looking the other way. 

The leaked documents are mostly reports written by soldiers and intelligence officers from the field, describing lethal military actions, intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures and related details. The Pentagon says the disclosure has put the lives of Afghan informants at risk and threatens to undermine intelligence work in the war-torn nation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai too feels the same way. Assange argues that no one has been harmed, yet concedes: "Should anyone come to harm of course that would be a matter of deep regret — our goal is justice to innocents, not to harm them." He says he has delayed the release of about 15,000 reports "as part of a harm minimisation process demanded by our source". He, however, proposes to release them as well after further review, with occasional redactions.


More than the contents themselves, the debate that is currently raging in the US is on whether WikiLeaks should have brought the documents to the public domain and whether NYT should have collaborated with "a stateless organisation" and done the reporting. A war of sorts has also broken out with rivals, who were bypassed by Assange. Washington Post, for one, lost little time to run down the disclosure. In an editorial, titled "Wikihype". It carped: "Though it may represent one of the most voluminous leaks of classified military information in US history, the release by WikiLeaks of 92,000 reports on the war in Afghanistan hardly merits any hype offered by the website's founder." Anne Applebaum, a Post columnist, followed it by commenting: "They give newspapers a chance to pretend they've got scoops. The documents might even help bring in advertising revenue." Assange retorted: "I assume a Washington Post bias simply because they didn't have access to the great big scoop."


NYT offers its own explanation on its website. "Overall these documents amount to a real-time history of the war reported from one important vantage point — that of the soldiers and officers actually doing the fighting and reconstruction….(NYT) spent about a month mining the data for disclosures and patterns, verifying and cross-checking with other information sources, and preparing the articles that are published today. Deciding whether to publish secret information is always difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes chose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times. The documents illuminate the extraordinary difficulty of what the United States and its allies have undertaken in a way that other accounts have not." 


Whatever they may add up to, one thing WikiLeaks looks set to achieve is to sharpen the polarisation among the pro and anti-war groups in America. Though the leaked material largely relates to predecessor George W Bush's White House years, President Obama knows he would have to convince Congress and the people at large that his war strategy remains on track. With the mid-term Congressional elections just three months away, he has to be mindful of any political fallout. Curiously enough, the Republicans, opposed to a hasty pullout from Afghanistan, are more forthright in their criticism of Assange, who remains a strong opponent of wars.


As the Obama administration grapples with what the WikiLeaks maverick has thrust on its lap, Assange himself is savouring his moment in the spotlight. The man who ostensibly does not have a permanent address and is so much on the move that he is "living in airports these days" says that the one place that he should not be going to right now is the US. 


-- The writer is Washington correspondent, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A DECADE OF LIES AND MURDERS

WILSON JOHN


The biggest ever leak of military documents — will it lead to course correction? Quite a question given the layers of dubious pragmatism at the basis of the US-Pakistan relationship. Besides, how do you wake up somebody pretending to sleep? 


What does the 90,000-plus classified documents on Afghan War show? Two things are the most obvious-the Americans have lost the script in the Hindu Kush and that Pakistan has emerged as a full-fledged terrorist State, supporting and sustaining terrorist groups that are capable of carrying out worst kinds of nightmarish attacks in any parts of the world today. 


Even a cursory reading of some of the relevant documents can reveal that the US lost the war in Afghanistan when it decided to make Pakistan first its 'strategic ally', then its 'non-Nato ally' to hunt Osama bin Laden and his deputies. President George Bush, blinded by his own vision of being a swashbuckling General of the B-Grade Westerns, found a partner in the roguishly charming Pervez Musharraf, who spoke the right words and did all that could be wrong. Musharraf played to the galleries in Washington and elsewhere in the western world, charmed his way to the treasuries and back home talked peace with terrorists, helped them to find a sanctuary in Waziristan and nearby tribal areas along the Durand Line. The leaked classified documents from the battlefield during Musharraf's tenure (2003-2006) showed how desperate the men and officers of the US military were in keeping up the charade played by their President and his advisors in the White House. When Musharraf and his Generals, including Kayani, were being hosted and feted in the White House, their proxies were raining death on the American soldiers. 


An obvious inference that ought to be drawn by the American public is that their government funded the terrorist sponsors who were fighting the sons, brothers and husbands of ordinary American families to keep the flag flying in a distant land. In many ways, the leaked documents showed how criminally dim-witted the leaders in Washington were in courting the enemy's chief sponsor. Perhaps, for the public, the only way to compensate the losses they suffered in the past decade is to try, most of all, President Pervez Musharraf, as a war criminal. He is singularly responsible for creating and sustaining the bigger terrorist sanctuary in the world within his country. He is not only responsible for the death of several hundreds American soldiers but also that of Pakistani soldiers who were pushed into the battlefield unprepared. 


The world must act on the damning evidence provided by these documents about Pakistan's terrorist intentions and activities which are clearly detrimental to peace and stability of the world. Documents after documents reveal how Pakistan and its military not only supported the terrorist groups but also guided, armed and provoked them to carry out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and India. This is not the first time that such revelations have come about but unlike in the past the sheer volume of evidence makes it impossible to deny and affirms Pakistan's role in endangering the world. 


The US must declare Pakistan a terrorist State. There have been occasions in the past when the US government came close to making such a declaration but shied away from it due to the powerful lobby groups employed by Pakistan. Such a step is now imperative to protect the US homeland from terrorist attacks originating from Pakistan. Pakistan's terrorist leanings are not only a threat to the US but to the entire world. By supporting terrorist groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda and its various allies and proxies, Pakistan has created a global syndicate of terror that is not easy to dismantle or contain. The world will pay for the follies committed by successive US governments. 

One of the most alarming bits of information hidden in the leaked documents is the interest shown by the Taliban to acquire a radioactive material to configure bombs. One of the commanders, the document showed, had succeeded in locating a possible seller of uranium in Lahore; the deal fell through on price. 


The document dated July 23, 2008, (when General Ashfaq Kayani was the chief), said one "Dr Mohammad" was quite keen on making chemically-enhanced munitions for the Taliban to fight the US forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban also was interested in procuring uranium for this purpose. The document said: "The uranium was allegedly available from an unspecified factory in Lahore, Punjab province, Pakistan, at a cost of approximately 35,000 Pakistani rupees for ten grams. ($538.)" The said 'Dr' had reportedly learnt his nuclear skills from AQ Khan. This group had several members from Pakistan's tribal areas who were aligned with a radical Sunni group, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which was instrumental in helping the Taliban-al-Qaeda elements to escape and find shelter in Pakistan when the US began bombing their hideouts following the September 11 attack. This single document is enough to show how dangerous a country Pakistan has become under the leadership of Musharraf first and then Kayani. 


Another ominous inference that become obvious from the documents is the role played by General Kayani in supporting and sustaining groups inimical to the US-led forces in Afghanistan. The Obama administration's courting of Kayani is therefore littered with perils both known and unknown. The Obama-Kayani relationship is no different from that of Bush-Musharraf nexus in running a disastrous global war on terror. The Obama-Kayani duo's disastrous Af-Pak war has been so effectively exposed by the documents made public of Wikileaks. The references to ISI in hundreds of documents point to the role played by Kayani as the ISI chief. He promoted anti-US forces led by terrorist syndicates run by Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbudin Hekmatyr. 


The Haqqani clan is instrumental in killing more American soldiers than any other terrorist group in Afghanitan. The Haqqanis are the protégé of Pakistan Army and are protected by Kayani and ISI chief Shuja Pasha, both of whom managed to wrangle extensions with the help of the Americans from a weak-kneed, divided political leadership in Islamabad. Kayani's refusal to part ways with terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) reveals his mindset and the dangers such policies could pose to region, and more importantly to the US. Kayani wants the Americans to leave Afghanistan for his military to lord over the Afghans, a delusion riven with enormous dangers. 


Since the Afghans, even Pashtuns, have no lost for Pakistanis whom they consider as `Punjabis`, Kayani and his men can at best trigger only a bloody civil war to keep not only India but rest of the world from Afghanistan, creating in the process a much bigger terrorist sanctuary or `emirate` than his predecessor, Musharraf, carved out of the tribal areas. 


The leaked documents are a foretaste of grave dangers created by a blundering American policy in Afghanistan and its dependence on the terrorist-sponsor State, Pakistan, to bail it out of a lost war. 


-- The writer is vice-president, Observer Research Foundation, author and columnist 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PAKISTAN A DOUBLE DEALING NATION

TUNKU VARADARAJAN


The United States must demand that Pakistan state unequivocally whether it is "with us or against us". For nearly a decade now, their caveat-linked policy has cost America untold harm, billions of dollars and hundreds of dead citizens.


The latest gaudy gush from WikiLeaks will leave the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department soggy and irritable for many days. But one aspect of the leak-that concerning Pakistan's brazenly unstinting support for the insurgency in Afghanistan — should be news to absolutely no one.


In fact, one might say that the one good thing to come out of this latest leak —a thing so good that it is worth the "collateral damage" to the US from everything else — is that it could spell the end of Pakistan's repulsive double game. This is a game in which that country takes billions of dollars of our aid money (money paid, in part, in taxes by the kin of American soldiers killed by the Taliban) and then blithely, devilishly, mendaciously stabs us in the back by arming, protecting, financing, hiding, and advising the same forces against whom this country is at war. We pay them money so that they can help our enemies kill us.


Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, is essentially a decent man. He has, by instinct and by inclination, no truck with the malign men in khaki who run Pakistan's Army. But watch him over the next few days as he contorts himself before the press, prevaricating, offering us canned lies, nuggets of tergiversation scripted in Islamabad. Don't buy a word of it. And if the White House does buy from him, be sure to read the subtext of the purchase agreement. Above all, be skeptical —aggressively skeptical.


We are now at a crossroads with Pakistan, a point at which we need to pull out old words from the Bush playbook. It is time to state to them — to state, in particular, to Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, the Pakistan Army's chief of staff — that Pakistan is either with us, or against us. There can be no caveats, no exit clauses, no fine print, no weasely handwringing about Pakistan's need to retain "strategic balance" in Afghanistan.


Much of the latest involvement in the Afghan insurgency by the ISI —Pakistan's military intelligence — happened on Gen Kayani's watch, when he was the head of the ISI. That very same man, Kayani, whose agency lovingly breastfed the Taliban, and who was later elevated to chief of army staff, has just been granted a three-year extension by Pakistan's civilian government. It boggles the mind that this duplicitous underminer of the U.S. war effort is now General David Petraeus' direct interlocutor. Petraeus will need to navigate a labyrinth of misinformation and half-truths, accompanied by typically unctuous protestations that Pakistan is doing everything it can to help us in the war against al-Qaeda. (Readers will not have missed Hillary Cinton's tart remarks, last week, in which she said on television that "someone" in the Pakistan government must, surely, know where Osama bin Laden is.)

 

My sense is that the latest leaks will have broad repercussions of an ungovernable variety. But of one result I'd like to be certain: that the White House will now read the riot act to Pakistan, squeezing hard, if need be— and I mean this somewhat metaphorically — on the double-dealing epaulettes of Gen Kayani. Pakistan is either with us, or against us. Right now, as I see things —leaks and all — it is resoundingly, irrefutably against us.

 

With permission from The Daily Beast

 The author is a columnist 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

THE TAXMAN'S DAY OUT

 

Read my lips, pay your taxes. The next time income tax-wallahs say that, we mustn't sulk. For, taxmen aren't merely monochromatic bureaucrats bent on burning holes in pockets. Several of them have just participated in art exhibitions and travelling workshops to fete a momentous occasion: 150 years of India's I-T department! They've displayed their dabblings, drawings, paintings and sculptures, alongside the works of art professionals. The aim? To 'paint' income tax that source of universal fear and grumbling in a new, people-friendly light. Surely a feat for the Great Masters. 


Surprise, surprise: taxmen can give full-time artists a run for their taxable money. Was that why some full-timers had churlish misgivings about whether income tax could be beautified for an inflation-hit public? In the event, they supported the taxman's message: if bitter medicine's good for health and cabbage soup's good for the soul, tax is good for both plus the country. Amen. 


Sans taxmen's services, Indians could hardly see taxpayer-fuelled growth and development. That they also see taxpayer-funded free lunches for netas and babus is another matter. Now, sharpened aesthetic sense will help tax decriers appreciate one symbolically loaded painting: a bull - representing growth driven by a taxman in a humble dhoti. Where but in art is there licence to put cart (taxes) before horse (wealth creation)? Another artist portrays taxmen as bees collecting honey for the greater good of the community. See? It's not just about the money, honey. 


Tax guys elsewhere haven't been exempted from image problems, which they've never thought of fixing as creatively as our boys. A US humorist once said that he knows it's tax time whenever he looks at documents that make no sense no matter how many beers he's guzzled. Another had advice for people fretting about the audits of the formidable Internal Revenue Service: avoid showing "a red flag", that is, any leftover money in bank accounts after paying taxes! Did similar disgruntlement provoke non-payment of certain taxes in the past by no less than the current US treasury secretary? Not that it stopped him from getting hired to promote Obama's Tax Americana. 


Back here, our taxmen haven't betted on art alone to reach out to citizens. Two highest taxpaying film stars pitched in, to appear in a documentary tracing the long way taxation has come. For the I-T department, it's been a happy way too, given last fiscal year's whopping Rs 3,80,000 crore mop-up. Who knows, with the PR coup of taxmen-turned-Picassos getting back-patted by Bollywood biggies, direct tax revenue may well shoot up, answering the deficit-saddled FM's prayers. 


Only, to get returns on a true image makeover, shouldn't our netas expedite that model tax code that's supposed to usher in lower, compliance-friendly taxes, simpler rules and reduced scope for litigation? Or will our tryst with tax reform for direct or indirect taxes take another 150 years? If yes, let's redraw that picture and make it a bullock cart, not bull, driven by a dhoti-clad taxman. If no, cheers to less taxing times.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

BIG GOVERNMENT MUST GO

MINHAZ MERCHANT

 

Rising food and fuel prices hurt us, literally, where we live. But the real cause of India's chronic double-digit inflation, largely ignored in the current debate, lies elsewhere: wasteful government expenditure. The central government's fiscal profligacy with annual expenditure nearly 50 per cent higher than annual revenue rather than decontrolled fuel prices, as the opposition erroneously believes, is the principal reason for runaway inflation. 

Big Government rarely makes for Good Government. Kanti Bajpai has rightly pointed out in these pages that India is underserved with just 5,000 IAS and 670 IFS officers. Like a pyramid, India's bureaucracy has a narrow tip and a bloated base: the number of people employed by the central government, according to the last census conducted in March 2001, was 38.76 lakh. That's 683 federal employees for every IFS/IAS officer. A bottom-heavy government is one of India's biggest inflationary burdens. 


Figures tell the tale. In 2010-11, total government expenditure is projected at Rs 11.09 lakh crore. Barely noticed in the minutiae of the mid-year fiscal review is the breakdown of targeted expenditure. Nearly 38 per cent (Rs 4.19 lakh crore) of total government expenditure this year will be spent by the government on itself - salaries and overheads for its overstaffed ministries. Another 22 per cent (Rs 2.49 lakh crore) is kept aside for interest payments to service the government's huge accumulated debt. Around 10 per cent (Rs 1.16 lakh crore) will be spent on subsidies, much of it siphoned off by complicit district officials. 


Now do the maths. The government will spend 70 per cent of its total annual expenditure this year on itself, interest and subsidies. The remaining 30 per cent (around Rs 3.30 lakh crore) goes into defence, social services, pensions and yes just 2 per cent (Rs 22,154 crore) on police services. Worryingly, a mere Rs 1,50,000 crore (14 per cent) will be used to build productive capital assets, including infrastructure. 


On the revenue side, individual and corporate taxpayers contribute Rs 4.23 lakh crore. Excise, customs and service tax accounts for another Rs 3.15 lakh crore, totalling Rs 7.38 lakh crore. That leaves a fiscal gap, after transfer of receipts to the states and other adjustments, of Rs 3.45 lakh crore the money the government borrows from the market to keep itself going. That, along with a failed agricultural policy and public distribution system, is the root cause of high food inflation in India. 


Clearly, unproductive costs must come down and expenditure on productive assets must rise. The government's total domestic and external debt is Rs 34 lakh crore. It can halve this with calibrated PSU stake sales. The value of the government's shareholding in 48 listed PSUs at current market prices is over Rs 18 lakh crore. Selling 51 per cent of this shareholding to institutions through a structured auction process over the next four years of the UPA government, braving the misconceived ideological opposition of a coalition partner, would slice India's external debt by nearly a third, save interest costs of Rs 85,000 crore a year (by retiring expensive old debt) and make PSUs more efficient. The government's remaining stake in these PSUs would, as a result of improved efficiencies, rise in market value, allowing the staggered future sale of another 15 per cent of the government's balance shareholding (while still retaining a veto-carrying 26 per cent minority stake). This would more than halve India's debt (excluding pension and provident funds) and shave permanently nearly Rs 1.20 lakh crore off annual interest costs a third of the projected fiscal deficit of 5.50 per cent. 


Trimming expenditure (currently Rs 4.19 lakh crore) on overstaffed government departments by just 15 per cent would save over Rs 60,000 crore. Cutting wasteful subsidies, routinely appropriated by middlemen, out of a total subsidy bill of Rs 1.16 lakh crore could save the government another Rs 45,000 crore a total cost reduction of Rs 1,05,000 crore a year. Thus, the permanent annual saving in interest payments, subsidies and government overheads would amount to Rs 2.25 lakh crore. 


That still leaves an annual fiscal gap of around Rs 1.25 lakh crore. This can be tackled from the revenue side. The new Direct Tax Code (DTC), to come into force on April 1, 2011, should increase tax compliance and along with the fine-tuned goods and services tax (GST) raise gross tax revenues from the current Rs 7.47 lakh crore to Rs 9 lakh crore over the next two years. Only 3 per cent of Indians (34 million) today pay taxes and our tax-GDP ratio hovers around a low 11 per cent. Both will increase under a sensible, simplified DTC and GST. The extra revenue will take India's budget into sustainable surplus for the first time in decades bringing with it low long-term inflation. 


Indians have a right to ensure their money is spent wisely. In the US, scrutiny of public finances is continuous and rigorous. In India, the scrutiny lasts 48 hours during and after each annual budget. Such lack of accountability can make finance ministers complacent. 


Detailed planning for the next budget will begin after the monsoon session of Parliament. The wise and experienced finance minister that he is, Pranab Mukherjee has the opportunity in the remaining four years of this government to make India a budget-surplus country and leave a lasting legacy of both high growth and low inflation. 

The writer is an author and chairman of a media group.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

IT'S A MATTER OF CHOICE

 

The website, BeautifulPeople.com, launched in 2002 in Denmark and now with a presence in 190 countries, purports to be only for beautiful people. Photographs of potential members are voted upon by existing ones to determine if they should get membership. This website has now expanded into providing potential parents having difficulty conceiving with a fertility forum where they can search for attractive sperm and egg donors in order to raise their chances of having a beautiful baby. Predictably, there has been criticism. Yet, it is all a matter of choice. Those who think this website seems to be fetishising beauty too much can simply ignore it; to those for whom physical attractiveness is important, it is a useful resource. 


This quest for the perfect child is nothing new. All one has to do is read the papers or look at the number of popular books on the issue to realise how the idea of conceiving a physically and mentally gifted child has become a cottage industry today. Studies and articles tout everything from expecting mothers listening to classical music to reading stories aloud to living a rigidly prescribed physical lifestyle. And if these methods are considered acceptable if not for everyone, it would be somewhat disingenuous to ignore that principle of choice and criticise parents who expend the same effort on ensuring their babies are beautiful as well. 


Beauty, physical and spiritual, has been an aspirational ideal down centuries. In society, attractiveness can be an essential attribute for some, for others it may not matter. Someone's love of beauty may even extend to the children she hopes to have. What the website concerned does is bring together people who prioritise beauty highly. Given that a response to its services is entirely voluntary with no compulsion involved, people need not read sinister designs into it. 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTER VIEW

BEAUTY ISN'T SKIN-DEEP

RUDRONEEL GHOSH

 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful or be in the company of beautiful people. But when beauty is treated as a label for a superior class, it isn't as acceptable. This is precisely what the people behind a beauty-promoting website are guilty of with their launch of a fertility forum. It is one thing to create a platform for so-called good-looking individuals to meet and socialise, even though beauty itself is a highly subjective concept. But to actually provide, according to the website, a "charitable service" to those wanting 'beautiful' babies is nothing short of a brand of narcissism reminiscent of many a discredited regime's advocacy of eugenics. 


For, the idea behind the fertility forum appears to be that beautiful people are genetically superior, which is not unlike the Aryan supremacy theory which believed that white, blue-eyed, blonde-haired people with sharp features were genetically superior to all other races and ethnicities. Other cultures have had their theories. History bears testimony to the miseries that this sort of prejudice spawns. There is a fine line that separates appreciating beautiful people and treating them as better than others. That line should never be crossed. 

Beauty-promoting websites like the one in question are encouraging a morally bankrupt trend that focuses on the superficial. After all, how does one categorise someone as beautiful and others as ugly? It is a reflection of our extreme materialistic culture that some people are actually thinking along those lines. And if allowed to continue, it could have serious repercussions on our society as a whole and create a deplorable source of discrimination. To counter this we should celebrate the spiritual aspect of beauty and refrain from trying to create a universal standard for the same. The website in question needs to be denounced. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TALKING TERMS

PAK DUPLICITY RUNS OUT OF STEAM

DILEEP PADGAONKAR

 

The leakage of a staggering number of secret US military documents about the war in Afghanistan is, first and foremost, a triumph of the new media over the big guns of the traditional Fourth Estate. The mastermind of the biggest journalistic coup in American intelligence history is WikiLeaks, a whistle-blower website run on a shoestring budget. To its founder, Julian Assange, goes the singular credit for putting in the shade the last major leak of this nature the publication in June 1971 of the Pentagon Papers, an official account of the blunders of successive US administrations in the conduct of the war in Vietnam. Those blunders eventually led to America's messy and humiliating exit from Indochina. 


The whistle-blower in this case was Daniel Ellsberg, an analyst at the Pentagon, who, after turning into a bitter opponent of the war, purloined the document and passed it on to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Where Assange has surpassed Ellsberg's feat is in the devastating blow he has dealt to America's spooks. Consider the sheer scale of the material he was able to put together on his website: more than 90,000 intelligence reports that provide minute details of how and why the war in Afghanistan went horribly wrong between January 2004 and December 2009. In substance they reveal that the Bush administration, and later the Obama administration, exaggerated the success of the US-led troops, minimised the strength of the Taliban and generally failed to make public the loss of civilian lives in the theatre of operations. 


The disclosures are significant on another count. They confirm, often with dramatic precision, the duplicitous role of the Pakistani army in the protracted turmoil in Afghanistan. For years all the stakeholders in this beleaguered country were aware that the army, and especially its intelligence wing, ran with the Taliban hare and hunted, or so it claimed, that very Taliban with the American hound. But the generals in the GHQ in Rawalpindi, smug in their conviction that Pakistan's cooperation was indispensable to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan, would deny every allegation of double-crossing with a straight face, point to the ever increasing number of casualties in their own ranks and, as a just recompense for these 'sacrifices', seek, and swiftly obtain, billions of dollars in aid and the most advanced weaponry. 


True to style, Islamabad has rubbished the WikiLeaks disclosures from end to end in the absolute certainty that Pakistan will be able to brazen out this controversy just as it had brazened out other revelations of double-dealings. Now, however, things could become exceedingly difficult for the American president and, by extension, for Islamabad should the US Congress ask why the administration kept it in the dark about Pakistan's dubious role in Afghanistan when it was called upon to approve a massive package of military and economic assistance to that country. Why did it keep mum when it knew all along that Pakistan had used American taxpayers' money to kill American soldiers and destabilise the government of Hamid Karzai, America's chosen

man in Kabul? 


Unless the US administration answers these questions in a transparent manner, resentment against the president, both in Congress and in public opinion at large, is certain to escalate. At that point, Obama will have no option but to warn the Pakistani army that if it does not mend its ways the 'strategic partnership' between the two countries will come under intolerable strain. The choices he exercises in the weeks ahead are bound to lead to new power equations within Pakistan and in the region as a whole. 


This prospect presents India with an opportunity to cast aside its pusillanimous approach to talks with Pakistan. It needs to put terrorism where it firmly belongs: at the very core of bilateral relations. It needs to make it loud and clear to Islamabad that it will safeguard its legitimate interests in Afghanistan. And it needs to send an unequivocal message to the GHQ in Rawalpindi that no amount of nuclear sabre-rattling on, say, Kashmir or the water issue, will wash if New Delhi is obliged to explore other means to make its point. We must not repeat the post-Bangladesh fiasco in Shimla when Indira Gandhi fell victim to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's perfidious guile.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT

 

The monsoon session of Parliament has brought with it a sinking sensation for the Congress as it finds itself increasingly unable to keep its head above the water. News that the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), which is fighting for a separate state in Andhra Pradesh, has swept 11 of 12 seats in the assembly by-polls makes it all the more difficult for the Congress to swim against the tide.

 

The government had managed to put the divisive Telangana issue on the backburner last year by first promising statehood and then referring the matter to the Srikrishna Commission. Any hopes that the demand had dissipated are disproved by this election. Humiliatingly, the Pradesh Congress Committee chief who had projected himself as a possible chief ministerial candidate lost overwhelmingly in Nizamabad.

 

In addition to the Telangana sentiment re-emerging stronger than before, the late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy's son Jaganmohan Reddy seems to be thumbing his nose at the all-powerful Congress high command with his just-concluded consolation yatra with the veiled threat of breaking away from the party.

 

The only comfort that the Congress can draw from the situation is that though he has been drawing large crowds, political leaders have shied away from openly supporting him. But the demand to accommodate him at the Centre prior to giving him the chief ministership of the state is strong. All this means that the Congress's vote share in this politically crucial state has dropped and issues which will come to haunt it later have got a fresh lease of life. Had the party installed a more charismatic CM in the wake of the death of the popular YSR, it might have been able to contain the crisis better.

 

But Mr Rosaiah is reluctant to even stay on in the job. This lays the field wide open for aspirants like Mr Reddy who feel that they have a better claim to the chair.

 

The indecision in the government and the Congress appears to have divided the state on both the Telangana issue and that of leadership. The Srikrishna Commission members rushing to the state now amounts to bolting the stable door after the horse has fled. It is clear that people are not willing to abide by decisions taken by a commission on Telangana. If the agitation flares up again, and there is no reason to believe it will not, it spells untold hardship to people in the state. The Congress should look for a lifeline unless it wants to slowly sink under the weight of these problems.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

THE RAINBOW PEOPLE

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

 

A friend from Delhi, on a rare visit to Chennai, was calling and we were engaged in pleasant talk when the doorbell rang. Two self-assured women in silk stood at the entrance with long sheets of paper in their hands.

 

"We are from the census department," they said in a mix of excellent Tamil and effective enough English. "Can we ask some questions?"

 

I was torn. Here we were, my caller and I, having a much longed-for chat on nothing and everything over steaming coffee, and here were two enumerators on serious professional duty. I could either ask my friend to forgive the intrusion or ask the count-takers to return later. I chose to let my friend bear the interruption.

 

"Name, sir?"

 

I spelt it out for them, apologising for its length. "How many in the family, sir?"

 

"Just my wife and I."

 

"Your Mrs' name, sir?"

 

"She is out at the moment," I said, giving my wife's name.

 

"Father's name?"

 

I spelt it out again.

 

"Do you not want my mother's name?" I asked, "that is equally or even more important".

 

"Yes, sir, we want that also."

 

There was no need to spell that one. Who does not know 'Lakshmi'?

 

"Sir," she then asked in Tamil, "you have a car?"

 

"Ille," I replied.

 

"Two-wheeler?"

 

"Ille".

 

"Bicycle?"

 

"Ille, it is many years since I cycled".

 

"Okay, sir," she said reassuringly and moved on with the questionnaire.

 

"Profession?"

 

"Pensioner".

 

This was noted in a small square on the sheet.

 

"Department?"

 

No wonder, I thought, our Upanishads have a Prasnopanishad, the Upanishad of Questions but no Uttaropanishad giving us the answers.

 

"Retired from the IAS".

 

Further questions followed about my "academic qualifications". Whether this millionth respondent is literate, a school-finalist, graduate and so on would be an understandable Census curiosity. But the subjects of his under-graduate and post-graduate study?  Surely, that is a redundancy? Reminding myself that the enumerator was only asking what she had been told to ask, I volunteered: "English Literature".

 

The session went on for a while but the 'question of questions' did not come. From the moment the queries began I was expecting the big question about my caste to be posed and readying myself for a likely answer.  But no, nothing was asked.

 

Being the child of a mixed caste marriage, I was unsure as to what, if anything at all, I should say if asked "Are you SC, OBC…?" The question did not come.

 

Returning to my friend with admiration for the gargantuan exercise that the Census of India is but also relief at the ending of the question-and-answer session, I told him about the missing question. "That issue has been frozen for now," he reminded me.

 

Would the caste query have taken us back to what we had ceased to think about? But then, who are the 'we' we are talking about? 'Out there' in the villages, caste has not been forgotten. And so…

 

Besides, censuses are not just about fixing numbers. They are tools to shape policy, and who can deny that social backwardness in India must be weighed against numbers if it is to be tackled?

 

Predictable thoughts, these were, and they proceeded on predictable lines.

 

The mixed-caste puzzle did not, however, leave my thoughts. The 'mix' is not just of castes. There are the offspring of parents from different religious backgrounds, Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-Christian, Hindu-Sikh, Hindu-Jaina, Hindu-Parsi, Hindu-non-Hindu Scheduled Tribe and even of different nationalities, half-Indian and half-European or half-Japanese, or half-American (though not, it must be said, so many half-Indian and half-African). Where do all these rainbow people fit? Does the architecture of caste have a home, a room, even a verandah for them? Probably there is a Shastraic text somewhere which accommodates them. I am not aware of one.

 

I spoke some days later about this to a valued friend, the distinguished social anthropologist, Professor Andre Beteille. "Tell me," I asked, "if the question about my caste had been posed to me, what should I have said to the two enumerators?"

"You could of course have declined to respond to that question," he replied, "but if you wanted to respond, you would've had to say that as your father was a bania and your mother a brahmin, the Dharmashastra of Manu makes you a…"

 

Professor Beteille, whose mother was a Bengali Brahmin and his father French, then said, "you see in Manu's scheme, I would be a…"

 

Traditional rules of marriage in India, Professor Beteille has explained elsewhere, are changing and the sanctions behind the concepts of 'anuloma' and 'pratiloma' are now virtually obsolete. The younger generation in Hindu society is unlikely to have even heard of the phrases. But by custom an 'upper caste' Indian can marry and have children from a woman of a 'lower' caste without jeopardising caste. Not so, if the reverse happens. 'Out there', where Manu speaks and the laws are undecided or unverifiable, custom prevails and khap panchayats are called upon to turn the greys of life into the black or white of social authority. Caste identities with their not-so-subtle gender axis, entrench male superiority in the name of caste.

 

Those from a 'clear' caste line will, therefore, wrestle — and enjoy wrestling — with the issue of whether the caste question in Census 2011 is a progressive or a regressive step. They will know the answer they are entitled to give. But for one of mixed parentage I have in mind, the issue becomes more complicated. It is not about answering or not answering the controversial question. It is about finding the right answer, even if to keep it to oneself. It is also about positioning oneself in India's male-female discourse. 

 

Is that a serious enough issue? After all how many children of such mixed marriages would there be in our country? Several million, I should imagine. 'Several' is no quantification. The truth can drown in that description, like the man who sank in the swimming pool's deep end because he went by its average depth. To find out with any accuracy, the size of India's 'mixed-parentage' puzzle in a post-Manu sense, however, the question: "Would you like to mention your caste status… SC, OBC..." would have to be accompanied by a sub-question: "or TC…?"

 

Trans-caste, trans-community, trans-creed, trans-creation?

 

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator,  diplomat and governor.

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

MUCH BIGGER THAN THE VIETNAM LEAK

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

Last weekend, WikiLeaks.org published its gold edition — the 'Afghan War Diary', a collection of 91,000 documents snitched from US military networks. They reveal that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) maintains an assassination squad, that collateral damage is seriously under-reported, that Pakistan helps the US with one hand and the Taliban with the other, that the Inter-Services Intelligence ordered the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul and paid blood money for the killing of Indian contractors in Afghanistan.

 

Amazing stuff, but isn't it common knowledge? It can amaze only if it is expedient to feign amazement. And so an amazed US State Department gave India a self-righteous 'heads up' on the developments and clamoured for Pakistan to act on 26/11. Pakistan was urbanely amazed that anyone could suspect it of chicanery. And a small army of retired colonels who surfaced to harrumph about security breaches and data theft was amazed at the idea that media leaks could change the course of a war.

 

Actually, they were right. The Afghan war is on an unalterable trajectory. The only difference that the leaks can make is to precipitate troop withdrawal by depriving President Obama of support for the war. Otherwise, they can only force the players to make polite noises and keep up appearances, such as giving India a "heads up", ironically alerting us to the validity of our own allegations about Pakistan using militants as instruments of foreign policy.

 

But the diary does confirm our worst suspicions, and we can now hazard the trajectory of the war. It was already clear that the US would withdraw at some time because Washington's war is on terrorism, not Afghanistan. After the leaks, it is equally clear that the US cannot wipe out the Afghan Taliban, fairly strong adversaries who can win by surviving, like cockroaches survive holocaust. And if Pakistan is maintaining unofficial links with them, it knows that after Uncle Sam goes home, the Taliban will control Afghanistan. It's certainly a heads up for India, but it's not the one so kindly proffered by the US.

 

WikiLeaks has published only a portion of the damaging material at its disposal. It's a developing story, so it's a good idea to understand this whistleblower network.

 

It's a Cold War-style dead drop, a point where anyone can leave information anonymously, which is then made public on the web. It is a mysteriously reclusive but otherwise regular international organisation based in Sweden and Iceland. It's front man, Julian Assange, affects an air of fugitive victimhood which the media loves but which harms professional perceptions of the validity of his work.

 

But there is nothing mysterious about him. He is an Australian hacker with a libertarian ethic who has 31 charges against him. That looks like serial carelessness but let's not be judgmental because with WikiLeaks, he has broken new ground.

 

Its revelations are being compared with the Pentagon Papers, a secret study of the Vietnam War leaked in 1971, but that's like comparing Stilton with processed cheese. The Pentagon Papers provided pre-digested analysis. WikiLeaks.org gives you a whiff of the stink of war — raw logs straight from the military's data churn. To understand a dirty war steered by spin doctors, it's prescribed reading.

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".

Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."

No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.

Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MIZORAM'S SURPRISE

 

Mizoram's upset win over Kerala in the pre-quarter final stage of the 64th Santosh Trophy is a tale of hope within the larger tale of wishful longing and disappointment that's been the trajectory of Indian football. Ever since the Fifa world rankings were created in 1992, India's best rank has been 100 — in 1993, the first year of the published rankings. India, currently No 132, fell to a low of 157 in 2006 and are 126 on average.

 

Notwithstanding the cynics, the door to a footballing future had never closed for India. If internationally, India haven't moved much upwards, Indian national football's geography has changed significantly, if not unrecognisably. And that's not just a story of nurturing raw talent or of the training provided by the Tata or SAIL academies. It's also a tale of how our club and inter-state/service football leagues have seen new champions. Bengal, Punjab and Kerala no more monopolise Indian football than do East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. The Northeast, where football is indeed cared about, threw up a Santosh Trophy champion in Manipur in 2002-03. Now, Mizoram has made it to the quarter final league.

 

Such changes, even ruptures, are good for Indian football. Especially when we note that Mizoram, which has excellent talent, has no footballing infrastructure — not even "a single proper football ground" as the team manager has said — and depends on financial assistance from the state government and the training provided by the academies. This success was long awaited, and Mizoram will now hope to emulate Manipur. If India are to re-emerge as a serious footballing nation, investment in infrastructure and academies will be imperative, along with full-scale professionalism and player exposure to international standards. However, spreading out the domestic success and discovering talents across the country is news of renewed possibility.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PROBLEM SETS

 

The Congress sealed its own fate, perhaps, when it decided to ride the choppy Telangana wave last year. An issue that is tangled up with the very creation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, it has been taken up by parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi — but the Congress, seeking insta-credibility, announced separate statehood for Telangana last December. Later, it tied itself up in knots trying to sort out the ensuing chaos in the absence of a real reorganisation mechanism. Its Telangana failure is now writ large, as it has been significantly bruised in the by-polls to 12 assembly constituencies in the area, while the TRS, which derives all its strength from the statehood cause, is expected to comfortably win most of the seats. Tellingly enough, the Congress state president, D. Srinivas, was beaten by a 12,600 vote margin from the Nizamabad (urban) constituency. With TRS support, the BJP candidate, Y. Lakshminarayana, sailed through.

 

The Congress depends heavily on Andhra, which hauled in 29 seats for UPA-I and 33 for UPA-II. After YSR's death, however, the party has been floundering from crisis to crisis. It has visibly failed to contain the Jagan problem, and faces the possibility of the state unit turning on itself. By taking on an insufficiently understood issue like Telangana, it has undercut its previous pan-Andhra talk. And with this loss to the TRS, it has demonstrated how easily a flammable cause can be converted into political opportunity. Both the TDP and Jagan have raised the emotional pitch, and may yet hurt the Congress further.

 

The TRS has no issues weaving in and out of political formations, so long as it manages to be the loudest and most unremitting voice speaking for Telangana. Just last year, it made the latest in a series of political flips — after joining the third front's grand alliance, it went back to announce it was going with the NDA. The party had been severely diminished in both state and national elections. Now, if they find themselves rejuvenated, that has much to do with the Congress's self-destruction in the state.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ENHANCED, ENDURING

 

British prime ministers possess a flair for naming their governments' bilateral ties and David Cameron has chosen to speak of an "enhanced and enduring" relationship with India. As he well might. Leading the largest prime ministerial delegation to India since 1947, on what he called a "jobs mission" to rustle up business for British industry, Cameron in the most high-voltage manner righted the tenor of India-British engagement. In comments that predictably drew protests from Islamabad and unexpectedly also ruffled the London intelligentsia and opposition, he warned Pakistan on "promoting terror in any way in India, in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world". To his credit, his candour endured in engagements beyond Bangalore, where the remarks were first made. He stuck by them in New Delhi. And in the sense that Cameron got India interested simply by understanding its concerns, the visit can be termed British diplomacy's George W. Bush moment.

 

Fact-checked any which way, there would appear to be nothing exceptionable in Cameron's statements on Pakistan. He said he wanted to see a "strong, steady, democratic Pakistan", but that equally it could not be allowed to "look both ways" on promoting terrorism. The barrage of criticism he's attracted back home reveals the clutter of misrepresentation he has cut through. Shadow Foreign Secretary, and globetrotter-in-chief in Gordon Brown's government, David Miliband has seized upon Cameron's words. Asking him to mind the difference between straight-talking and being a loud mouth, Miliband holds that Cameron tells "half the story" — and misses the death toll in Pakistan on account of terrorism. It is not just that the British refusal to separate terrorism against Pakistan from the terrorism encouraged by its establishment has always belied the facts. But, as exemplified by Miliband's own dealings as foreign secretary, the British elite's condescending attitude towards India has manifested in a certain negativity. The urge to patronise, as it were, has been fed by lectures on how India should rectify itself, never mind the reality. This background explains the scant build-up in this country to Cameron's visit and then the spontaneous appreciation of his refreshing candour.

 

However, countries do not reorient foreign relations for the fleeting thrills of popular appreciation — they do it on the basis of a reading of the national interest. Terrorism with roots in Pakistan is a worry for Britain, as Brown too publicly acknowledged. Stating it as it is on Pakistan "looking both ways" on terrorism is a meaningful start not just in rooting Indo-British ties in concrete realities. It can also be the start for purposeful diplomacy to the good of India, Britain and Pakistan.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE POWER OF ONE

SHEKHAR GUPTA 

 

 Last Saturday, I found myself at an unusual sort of book release. This was the launch, at India Habitat Centre, of The Cobra Dancer, written by veteran Andhra journalist Devipriya. It is the somewhat curiously titled biography of former and legendary Central Election Commission observer K.J. Rao, who will always be remembered for giving us the cleanest elections in Lalu's Bihar. Of course, Rao has also become a very familiar face to us in the capital, as a member of the Supreme Court-appointed team of commissioners to oversee the demolition and sealing of encroachments and illegal constructions in the capital.

 

This event was different not only because it was so unlike the usual Page 3-type book release with celebs, cheese and wine. The audience was mostly Rao's current and former colleagues, many senior citizens and some activists. There was almost no national or even local media. The only cameras I spotted were from some Telugu TV channels. But there was some wisdom dispensed in that IHC hall that morning, and a reassuring takeaway as the speakers, with the exception of this writer, were all people who have built fame and admiration in not just leading our greatest institutions, but also developing them into the brands we feel so proud of: former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh and S.Y. Quraishi, who now moves into the top job at Nirvachan Sadan. It was something that Justice Verma said, while explaining the challenge of institution-building, that should get us all thinking. An institution can rise to its true strength, and truly play the role the founding fathers mandated for it, only if it is led by a person "who has no past, and no expectation (of any reward) from anybody in the future".

 

Someone who has no past and no greed for anything in the future? Simple enough, you might think. But it isn't as simple as that. It is tough enough to find many people with nothing to hide in their pasts, so they are not prone to blackmail, or pressured by IOUs conceded. People who can judge a case, run an election, prosecute a criminal politician, investigate a corrupt bureaucrat effectively and fairly. But where do you find someone who, in addition to this, would be willing to retire quietly into obscurity? Our system is much too brutal and clever to let such rare people rise anywhere close to the top. That is why it is only providentially, rather than by choice, that one such is put in charge of an institution. And then the institution changes, and rises to its true power.

 

How many of our institutions do we really feel proud of today? That we trust fully to protect our constitutional rights and liberty? Your count will not go beyond two, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission. In both cases, we were fortunate that just a couple of remarkable people came to lead them at some crucial junctures of our history. Justice Verma himself picked up the thread from the great judges of the seventies, a remarkable handful led by late Justice H.R. Khanna in a cruel and crucial decade for our democracy, to raise the Supreme Court to its true constitutional power, respect and glory. Verma then also took the weight of the same moral authority to the National Human Rights Commission. T.N. Seshan showed the country — and the Election Commission itself — the power that the Constitution had intended to grant it but that his predecessors had never used, in the mistaken belief that they were merely another department of the government. The EC was fortunate again to get an even more formidable — and not a fraction as controversial or idiosyncratic — chief in J.M. Lyngdoh, who took its reputation and credibility even higher, burying a tradition of state-sponsored rigging and terror threats in Kashmir and defying Narendra Modi's loaded "James Michael Lyngdoh" chants to hold another election in Gujarat on his own terms. Between the two of them, they built Brand EC to such a level that even the frailties of the odd lesser successor have not been able to dent it. Seshan himself failed to pass the second part of Justice Verma's test, by his delusional quest for Rashtrapati Bhavan. But to his credit, he had taken the image of the institution so high that the only stature his hubris damaged was his own. Of course, EC was fortunate that Lyngdoh, one of our sharpest and cleanest civil servants, followed soon in his wake. EC then survived many controversies and shenanigans, and at least one CEC who completely flunked the Verma test. Forget going into retired obscurity, he cadged a Rajya Sabha membership on a party ticket and then a ministry so insignificant that the only reason he is noticed is because of his unseemly turf wars with Suresh Kalmadi and a fellow Gill, of the Indian Hockey Federation.

 

Today nobody dares to mess with either the EC or the SC. One can still countermand an election in Bihar or Kashmir and the other can set the CBI on the Sohrabuddin case. Both have survived sabotage, subterfuge, allurements and vilification by the political class. All because a few, just a few, good men came to lead these at some providential moments of time.

 

Can you imagine how much stronger we would have felt as a nation if just two other institutions, the CBI and the CVC, had also been similarly fortunate? The sad fact is that the Supreme Court has repeatedly enhanced the powers and autonomy for both these institutions and the law places the CBI under the CVC's superintendence, to give one autonomy and the other investigative muscle.

 

But neither has been blessed with a leader who would be willing to embrace this power of institutional autonomy. Instead, an entire succession of our CBI directors have only made news through rotten controversies, and have spent their tenures "fixing" cases politically, one way or the other. As for our CVCs, do you remember the names of any? They have been so ineffectual, such non-entities, and so inadequate for the job that their office has mostly been reduced to a post office where claimants for public sector jobs and their lobbyists or rivals write endless complaints against each other and ensure that these are duly leaked.

 

A clean-up of the CBI is probably too much to ask for in today's political climate. But maybe, with some luck, if only we could get a strong and wise CVC. A formidable chief justice has taken over the Supreme Court. A CEC, Navin Chawla, has retired today after a distinguished tenure and he has been succeeded by S.Y. Quraishi. Both have worked together to enhance the EC's reputation over the past five years. And as that gathering last Saturday morning showed, this city still has many people who will risk their lives and future interests for as little as Rs 12,000 a month (which is all that K.J. Rao was paid when he cleaned up the Bihar election) and leave a brilliant legacy behind. The challenge is to find and empower them. Just a few of them. You cannot make a better investment than that for India's sake.

 

sg@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE DREAMLIFE OF CITIES

YOGINDER K. ALAGH 

 

 Great poets make your imagination fly. Cities of bricks and concrete develop a soul from them. Umashankar Joshi, whose birth centenary is being celebrated now, was an institution in Ahmedabad — when you were with him, he created a world of imagination and harmony. Ordinary events found a dream-like beauty and significance.

Ahmedabad in the late '60s was a city full of intellectual life. It was industrialising. When the rest of India was cursing capitalism, Ahmedabad's textile seths built petro-chemical empires, emerging from the P.C. Mahalanobis socialist dream, in what was called the joint sector. Cooperatives and NGOs were also expanding. There was, of course, a communal riot in 1969. And yet, the city had an intellectual soul.

 

Its economists were on a different train, however — western Indian socialists were respected. D.T. Lakdawala, V.M. Dandekar and M.L. Dantwala passionately believed in egalitarian objectives but were always savvy about markets and the strategic instruments to achieve them. Nitin Desai once described it as the practical market socialism of western India. But the real outlier was B.R. Shenoy, who built a school in Ahmedabad, castigating those who never made money. His world was unfashionable as the country moved to the left, but he had a hardcore following.

 

The world of Ahmedabad was not only chai and khaman in the homes of the dons and journalists or tomato soup and ice cream in the Ellisbridge Havmor. It was that of western Indian Gandhian values and socialism confronting Shenoy's acolytes. Lakdawala worked in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Dantwala would come occasionally. Nirhu Desai was editing Gujarat Samachar, which one felt compelled to read before the English newspapers. All of them, and people like S.V. Desai and Yashwant Shukla, were openly contemptuous of the metropolises.

 

Umashankar Joshi and my architect-friend Balkrishna Doshi would elevate life, from the limited world of journalists, economists, those who had been jailed by the imperial power (like Dantwala and Gandhian and Congress socialists) to the peace of trees and forests and the sound of falling raindrops. In the fiery world of economics and capitalism and markets and even Gandhian socialism, there was always conflict. Joshi and Doshi, however, found peace and harmony in the lasting world of Gandhi. Doshi would plant a cluster of trees in a house, and the world and humanity were at peace. Umashankarbhai would take you there with his chaste Gujarati verse, and create another world.

 

I once travelled with him in the region where western Rajasthan melts into northeastern Gujarat. The moon was full, and its light over the sand created an ethereal effect as the train chugged through little village platforms. It is the same experience as in the stretches of the cold Mongolian desert, or Ladakh, or the dark clouds, winds and waves in Helsinki harbour or in Swedish fjords at night. It was an experience never to be forgotten. The poet wanted to go into the forest without a bhumiya (guide). For the time you spent with him, only this world of beauty was real. If you have lived it once, you are never the same again.

 

Like all poets, he was not practical. Indira Gandhi nominated him to the Rajya Sabha but he would take his idealised politics seriously and intervene in parliamentary debates. He would also criticise all and sundry. He was politely told that nominated members are not political but intellectual contributors to the debates. They cannot even vote. But Umashankarbhai was not deterred. When a great man with a limited idea intervenes in the lives of ordinary beings with unalloyed gold, there can be problems because practical men use alloyed gold, and indeed, the alloy gives it strength. As the dean of the first school of linguistics at Gujarat University, and later its vice chancellor, he put in all his might in replacing English with the mother tongue, with the logic that you can only be creative in this first language. Two generations were lost and it has been reversed only now, with Gujarati youngsters now overwhelming the higher civil services, chartered accountancy and other national exams from where they were long exiled.

 

It was a different world. We are now richer, materially more prosperous, but perhaps poorer. With the mindless violence and disrespect for social authority, narrow hatred and criminalisation (in spite of the imported goodies and instant soul masala from the wired global village), there is no time for the men who want to go to the forest and look for the stars without a bhumiya. Space for someone like Umashankar Joshi, in this canned skill-based education and communication world, could give us the peace of the forests, the stars and sand dunes.

 

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand

 

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

LEMONADE IN SINGLE MALT

SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI 

 

 Something must be wrong, the NDTV anchor said, I have never seen the two of you (Mani Shankar Aiyar and, as NDTV described him, a senior journalist sympathetic to the BJP) agree so much. Something was wrong. Not what the anchor said. And not what's usually wrong with news TV chats. Our talk TV is mostly a prime time reminder of our primordial selves — you hear noise, fervent pleas and extravagant denunciations, you sense that everyone involved has a blind belief that there's a higher being, even though he or she frequently can't set things right (the anchor).

 

That wasn't the case here at all. The NDTV anchor, Aiyar and the journalist with BJP sympathies (let's shorten that to BJPJ) were in, how do I put this, 'we-are-in-the-living-room-having-a-nice-natter' mode. You could almost smell the single malt (you can substitute this with a fine beverage of your choice). Now, there's nothing wrong with that. A nice, even tempered chat on prime time can do a power of good to news TV. I would rather watch news TV and entertain the illusion that I can smell single malt than think, as I usually have to, man, they must have all had spiked masala chai.

 

On that count, one must raise the tumbler to the anchor, Aiyar and the BJPJ — good show, chaps. But then, why the persistent feeling that something was wrong, as if someone had added lemonade to your single malt? It wasn't because Aiyar and the BJPJ had a chuckle or two that great poetry is lost on Suresh Kalmadi. This is a free country and if some men in public life feel a warm glow that they can appositely quote TS Eliot in the context of sports administration, we must let them.

 

The lemonade in the single malt was this: NDTV never quite asked whether elegantly articulated non-arguments, from Aiyar and the BJPJ, are of any real value as a response to the undoubtedly sloppy execution of an ongoing public project. The anchor asked the right question of Aiyar: granted all the things that are wrong with CWG preparation, isn't expressing happiness at the prospect of failure a bit over the top? Aiyar said that's up to the anchor, who is the commentator, to decide.

 

Nope. That's for Aiyar to explain. Ask him again, gently and nicely, quote a great poet if you have to, but ask him was he OTT or not? NDTV didn't. The BJPJ said he wouldn't be happy if the games were botched, but that his problem was that Delhi is dug up in so many places and that CWG is one of those events that has alienated the local population. Having set out that premise, the BJPJ concluded that he had nothing but fulsome praise for what Aiyar had said. NDTV seemed fairly content with that, too.

 

But one moment, gentlemen. As we understood the BJPJ, he doesn't want the games botched but how lovely it would have been if all the construction had been executed better, and the locals were oh-so-excited. Fair enough. But if you say that, should you say Aiyar was fundamentally wrong or should you say Aiyar made a cracking good substantive point? Where's the logic if you choose the second alternative, as the BJPJ did?

 

Let's laugh at Kalmadi, but let's not just laugh, even if, as Aiyar said, he (Aiyar) has wit and the BJPJ has a sense of humour. Wit and a sense of humour are in short supply on news TV. But so are solid arguments. The presence of the first can't hide the absence of the second. Not even if you can quote Eliot, or appreciate Eliot being quoted.

 

The BJPJ also said his problem was the spending on CWG is a waste of scarce resources. Oh! So he then agrees with Aiyar, does he? Or was he saying that it is the fact that Delhi hasn't been rendered prettier that marks out the spending as wasteful? What was he saying? What was Aiyar saying when he said as sports minister he had tried to create a different organizational structure for CWG construction — that it wasn't the games per se that he had a problem with? Why did NDTV not find any of this odd?

 

Even if you don't have wit, a sense of humour and you think Eliot is a name of housing project in Noida, you can figure out CWG prep work is in a shambles. That was more or less the only real point that emerged from the NDTV chat.

 

He's a man of god, Aiyar said of the BJPJ, and added, so am I. If he's anti-national, said the BJPJ of Aiyar, we are all anti-nationals now. Witty, witty. But I wasn't looking for god or the true meaning of nationalism that evening when I watched the NDTV chat. I was looking for a little logic. And I was looking for NDTV to step in when that was in short supply.

 

Thankfully, as is always the case, there's single malt to dilute your disappointment.

 

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CASTE IS NOT INVISIBLE

SHARAD YADAV 

 

 An unnecessary debate is going on over a possible caste census in India. Those opposing it claim that it will promote casteism, and that is why it is not desirable. One very interesting fact about this opposition, though, is that almost all of those who do oppose it belong to some dominant class of society that has been a beneficiary of the caste system. They may claim that they are against this caste system, and want it to wither away; but the problem is caste will not wither away merely from wishful thinking. We have to take many actions against it. Yet, oddly, those opposing the caste census are not coming out with any solution to end the menace of caste.

 

While the government is yet to take a formal decision about the caste census, we are witnessing another kind of caste menace in India's largest state by population. Some parents in Uttar Pradesh have not been allowing their children to go to school, because Dalit cooks have been appointed to prepare mid-day meals. This is a clear case of the practice of untouchability, where parents do not want their children to eat food made by so-called untouchables. This incident has exposed the claims of those who say that the caste system has weakened in India and that untouchability is fast turning into a thing of the past.

 

It is interesting to see that those who oppose the caste census are silent over happenings in UP. All those writers and columnists who have been creating a lot of heat over the caste census have no words when the ugly face of the caste system becomes visible in the country's most populous province. And this kind of caste reaction happens in other parts of the country too: we have received news that students have been withdrawn from schools for this reason elsewhere, as well. The difference is that in UP, we witness this on a large scale, because almost all of its schools have got Dalit cooks.

 

Our Constitution has abolished untouchability. Sixty years have passed since its adoption, but we still face a situation where parents won't even allow their children to go to school because the meal they will have there may be prepared by Dalit cooks.

 

We cannot ignore incidents like this by saying that these are minor things, mere exceptions. In fact, the opposition to Dalits cooking mid-day meals is widespread, and the state government is under pressure to change its policy of keeping Dalit cooks in schools — and, reportedly, has already diluted this policy in certain areas.

 

Our political class should take a serious view of these happenings. Our Constitution-framers had thought that the caste system and untouchability would lose its relevance in independent India: that is why political reservations for scheduled castes and tribes were provided only for 10 years. They had thought that after 10 years, untouchability would have become a thing of the past.

 

Whenever political reservations for SCs and STs are extended for a further decade, a great hue and cry is raised by certain elements in our society. They say: it was only for 10 years, why are we extending it? They fail to understand that our Constitution-framers' expectations that caste would lose its sting after 10 years proved wrong.

 

Those who are against the caste census say that it will promote casteism, that the era of casteism is over, and those who are demanding caste census are trying to reintroduce it. My question is: if casteism is over, then why are people forcing their children to boycott classes?

 

The facts are otherwise. Sixty years after of the adoption of our egalitarian Constitution, we have yet to free our society of caste discrimination. Only we are to be blamed for it. We have ignored the caste reality of this country; we have ignored the fact that we should give special attention to the abolition of caste-based disparities and discriminations. We just shy away from talking about caste. Indeed, we did not conduct caste censuses, only because we do not want to talk about caste publicly.

 

Caste is a disease our society suffers from, one we cannot get rid of by suppressing. The fight against it has been on for centuries. Saints like Kabir, Ravidas, Peepa and others had launched a campaign against it. Guru Nanak fought it in the best-organised manner. Yet our society still has this disease. Because caste is not merely a social disease, but also an instrument of rule in the hands of the powerful ruling class.

 

Caste is a political institution and so it has to be removed using political power, but as politicians in power, we try to evade questions of caste as far as possible. That is why there is no caste census. We do not study caste; so there is no institution solely devoted to the study of caste. No university in our country even has a specialised department of caste studies.

 

Yet casteism pervades each and every institution of our society and polity. These incidents in Uttar Pradesh are just the latest example, and are only a modest form of the casteism practised in India. In fact, it is being practised even in the most cruel of forms beyond our sight, and those who have been victims of discrimination know this.

 

I see only one difference between those in the villages who do not allow their children to eat school meals

cooked by Dalits, and those in our cities who oppose talking about, and conducting censuses of, caste. The rural

people who practise untouchabilty are a bit honest, while those who are against the caste census are totally intellectually dishonest.

 

The writer is an MP and president of the JD(U)

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TOWN AND GOWN

MEETA SENGUPTA 

 

 Our higher education institutions are in trouble. A few thousand of them churn out half a million graduates every year, operating on a larger scale than in most other places. But many of these graduates are rated as unemployable without further training, the blame for which is squarely set on the shoulders of the universities. Recent work from the Confederation of Indian Industries estimated that only between 40 and 50 per cent of graduates and diploma holders are employable, on average.

 

This is not merely a crisis of scale, nor is this just a story of ineffectual behemoths. The truth is that India's universities are suffering through a deep and fundamental identity crisis. This is a case of irrelevance, of lost purpose and one of misdirected effort.

 

Academic higher education is designed for intellectual life, not for employability. Professional and vocational education are both clearly designed to create direct economic value in an economy — hence employability. When higher education institutions seek to deliver employability while retaining academic structures, they find themselves at a loss. Such institutions need to today make a choice between academic and professional structures. They each need to know clearly where they are headed. The trauma of rocking between academia and vocational education is damaging our ability to deliver any sensible education to our students.

 

Consider management education. Managing resources is a skill, not a science, and as such does not require an academic degree. It falls in the same category as other professional qualifications such as accountancy, law and, dare I say, medicine. In terms of pedagogy required, management education is closer to vocational training which is learnt by doing — rather than merely reading up on precedent or literature in the area. A sad (though perhaps necessary, at the time) effort to glamorise management education saw it classified as higher education. This might not have damaged management education, but its success has led to a near-identity crisis in higher education institutions.

 

The questions I hear from educators in universities range from the issue of teaching qualifications, to purpose, to employability, to values and ethics. What I do not hear is the question of value addition. I hear discussions on quality and have yet to see a single native measure of this quality. In this lies the rub: employability of candidates is a key target of professional education, which implies metrics and measurement of the target, and all systems must be geared to that. Higher education that is academic is geared to creating people who will think and create a better world — which implies that they must have depth of knowledge and the freedom to explore. This is the antithesis of a metric-oriented pedagogy.

 

Is it not possible for an academic university to deliver on both professional and academic value? Of course it is, but it must be designed for that purpose. In spite of the conflict in pedagogy, there is much synergy between the resources required for both types of education. The problem is that, in seeking credibility from academic models, institutions tend to replicate them in areas of professional education. This will naturally confuse the purpose and process of teaching and learning. More importantly, the expectations from teachers and learners are diametrically opposed to each other.

 

The structures and practices in our universities are frequently called antiquated. While that is often undeniable, these institutions carry a host of burdens. From political interference to a lack of transparency in operations to a sluggish and restrictive legal system, they are trapped in a quagmire that is not all of their own making.

 

Sadly, even students have contributed to the downfall of universities. We often choose courses not because we are passionate about the subject but because we think of them as "prestigious". Many who would prosper in vocations and professions tend to go through three years of academic conditioning. This skews the demand for courses and the clearing system delivers faulty results. Once within an institution, one's lack of aptitude and interest skews the learning process.

 

With their supply structure confused as to its purpose, demand skewed due to societal mores and pressures and their governance processes sadly manipulated, is it a wonder that our universities are floundering?

 

The ones that are doing well, or are seeking to introduce new ways of doing things, are also unable to manage their stakeholders. The University of Delhi recently tried to introduce the semester system, which admittedly does have some advantages — but met with strong opposition from within. An attempt has been made to make undergraduate degrees more flexible by allowing students to pick and choose units of equivalent value from across various traditional disciplines. This liberal approach is yet to find a significant response.

 

To prosper, our higher education institutions need greater clarity of purpose and process. They are all trying too hard to be everything for everybody.

 

The writer is an education strategist

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE PLACE THAT WILL TAKE YOU IN

 

Now about to circle back to London after 30 years, I've been thinking about my family's odyssey. We lose sight of the long arc of things in the rapid ricocheting of modern life. This is just one story among many, with its measure of joy and tragedy, and I recount these events not because I find anything exceptional in them but rather because I believe the pain of displacement amounts to a modern pathology.

 

I'll begin in South Africa, where I recently went to the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Johannesburg. It was a perfect winter's morning on the high plateau, still and luminous. On a wall, beneath pines, there is a plaque inscribed to the memory of my mother, who was born there in 1929.

 

In Africa, it is your forefathers' graves that identify your land. On that principle, it seems right that my mother be remembered in Johannesburg. Her parents are buried in that cemetery, as is her grandfather. I have a photo of him, chin jutting, suit impeccably pressed, in full tycoon pose; a South African Henry Ford.

 

Fortunes come and go. His went, which is another story. Well before that happened, my mother enjoyed the fruits of his entrepreneurship. Then love of a young doctor, my father, lifted her from that comfortable cocoon into the cold and the rationing of post-war London.

 

She made the best of it. Uprooting is hard. The surface current of her English life appeared smooth at times, but in the depths the tug of African sun and light never abated. She abhorred the damp. Hers was the land of avocado trees and dry heat. In her latter years she spent more time in South Africa. It was her soul's home, another reason for putting the plaque there rather than in London.

 

Where is home? For Robert Frost, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, / They have to take you in." It's "Something you somehow haven't to deserve."

 

My mother knew South Africa would always take her in.

 

You can live somewhere for decades and still in your heart it's no more than an encampment, a place for the night, detached from collective destiny. Across the world today millions are bivouacked, dreaming of return. The inverse is also true: home can sink its roots in little time, as if in a revelation. But that is rarer than lingering exile.

 

I myself have wandered and found at last a home in New York. It's the place that will take me in.

 

Standing in the cool air of that Johannesburg cemetery beside the grave of my great-grandfather Isaac, who left Lithuania as a boy for South Africa, I wondered at our restlessness and at the depressive family gene transposed across continents. I wondered at the bonds of the heart, the bones of forefathers and the beauty of the world.

 

And now I move on again to Europe to continue this column from there. For me, it is also a return to something deep and unresolved. Reading James Salter's haunting novel A Sport and a Pastime, full of the twinned formality and sensuality of France, I encountered this passage: "Life is composed of certain basic elements," he says. "Of course, there are a lot of impurities, that's what's misleading. ...What I'm saying may sound mystical, but in everybody, Ame, in all of us, there's the desire to find those elements somehow ..."

 

Technology is wondrous but also multiplies the "impurities." In the end we must go back to the things — birth, death, love and beauty — that spoke to me on that South African plateau. And we must each discover and render the elemental in our own lives.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PAKISTAN-OBFUSCATED KASHMIR

RUCHIKA TALWAR 

 

 This week saw Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan take over as "PM" of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The area, which Palistan calls Azad Jammu and Kashmir or AJK, has since its 2006 elections been in a state of political crisis.

 

Dawn reported on July 26: "Just 30 hours before the vote on a no-confidence motion against PM Raja Farooq Haider, a faction of the ruling Muslim Conference which moved the motion claimed that 18 of 24 cabinet members had resigned... the AJK Assembly speaker, who is supporting the PM, said he hadn't received any resignation... He called a session of the assembly for a vote. It will be the third time the assembly will vote on a no-confidence motion since its election in 2006... Former PM Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, who had been voted out in January last year, has been nominated again as the Leader of the House. A spokesman for Sardar Attique, who is spearheading the move against the PM (of his own party), claimed to have the support required..." The incumbent "PM" tendered his resignation on July 27. According to Daily Times, he accused the federal government of "conspiring against him." The ISI is a guiding force behind this move, suggests a report in The News: "Haider, while talking to this correspondent... admitted to having met General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, DG ISI but said people had created an impression he was an anti-state person and he met Pasha to clarify his position. 'I convinced the general and at the end of the meeting, Pasha said that after listening to your views I have found you a patriotic person,' the AJK PM said."

 

Tension over extension

 

General Ashfaq Kayani's three-year extension has raised eyebrows within Pakistan as well. Quoting PM Yousaf Gilani, a report in Dawn on July 26 stated: "Dispelling a perception that the extension to General Kayani would help the PPP government complete its five-year term, he said he drew his strength from parliament and there had never been a 'threat' to the government from any quarter. Granting extension was an administrative decision which didn't require consultation with political parties. 'However, I called Mr Nawaz Sharif two hours before my address to the nation but his son told me he was travelling.' " The News reported PMLN didn't accept this explanation: "Nawaz Sharif is concerned over the PM's attempt to contact him only two hours before announcing the extension... Discussion on crucial matters... takes place not only days but months before... The PM had phoned Nawaz just to inform him..."

 

The PPP clarified its stance, according to Daily Times on July 27: "Information and Broadcasting minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government was not bound to consult the opposition on every issue. 'It is the present government which has started consulting the opposition on important national issues,' he said." When quizzed by reporters, Sharif dodged the issue and employed Faiz Ahmed Faiz's famous couplet, reported Daily Times on July 28: "Aur bhi gham hein zamaney main mohabbat kay siva..."

 

Open secrets out

 

WikiLeaks has put Pakistan on the defensive, report newspapers. Dawn reported on July 27: "the ISI lashed out against the reports... calling the accusations malicious and unsubstantiated... Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman denounced the reports as 'skewed' and inconsistent with realities on the ground..." Daily Times quoted PM Gilani as saying at a function: "Pakistan harbours no aggressive designs against any state, but was determined to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty."

 

Killer weather

 

The weather played villain in Pakistan this week, as the country saw its worst aviation accident. The News reported on July 28: "Islamabad woke up to a beautiful heavenly monsoon morning with heavy rains and dark clouds rolling over the Margalla hills. But within one fateful moment, it stood transformed into a heart-wrenching hell as an Airblue passenger jet slammed into the Margalla hills... killing all 152 on board." Torrential rains in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have claimed over 200 lives so far, reported Daily Times on July 28.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ON PRICE RISE

 

Food inflation has finally come down to single digits, recording 9.67% for the week ended July 17, down from 12.47% a week earlier. But that isn't likely to offer the government much relief in the immediate short run with the Opposition continuing to mount pressure in (or should we say outside) Parliament. The decline in inflation doesn't, of course, mean that food prices have fallen; in any case much of the decline can be explained by the base effect. So there continues to be a serious problem of persistently high food prices. Unfortunately, neither the government nor the Opposition seem to have the political will to propose the structural reforms that are essential to combat the problem of rising food prices over the medium term. The Opposition has been vociferous about the government's inability to tackle food prices but is the Opposition willing to propose and back reform measures that can actually alleviate the problem?

 

One of the most important reform measures that can help dampen food prices, in particular, is enabling the extension of big retail, particularly FDI in retail, which will help cut out the many commission-gobbling intermediaries between the farmer and the final consumer. The UPA government has unfortunately blown hot and cold on retail FDI, but the Opposition (Left and BJP) has arguably done worse by staunchly opposing FDI in retail. The Left, of course, is caught in an ideological bind and the BJP is apparently in sympathy with kirana store owners, even though all available evidence suggests that there will be no wiping away of their businesses should FDI in retail be allowed. The Opposition hasn't exactly been forthcoming on other reform measures either. No one has raised serious questions about the government's decisions to continuously raise the MSP of key crops, something that may be contributing to higher consumer prices. No one is effectively criticising the wasteful public distribution system and calling for its complete reform or indeed abolition, something we have argued in favour of in these columns. There will be limited dividend for the Opposition if it simply continues to stall parliamentary proceedings on the issue of price rise without actually presenting convincing policy solutions for the same. Tactically, the Opposition, particularly the market-friendly BJP, may be missing a chance to lay down the gauntlet to the government on carrying out serious agricultural reforms. If the BJP were willing to support radical reform, the UPA would have fewer excuses for its inaction.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 BUILDING CITIES

 

Everyone recognises that India's economic growth will be accompanied by further, more intense urbanisation. Currently, our cities generate almost 70% of the country's taxes and they will become even more critical resource centres in the near future. Before we zoom in on how antiquated government architectures continue to stymie urban infrastructure projects, let's underline that such projects are not without positive impact on agricultural incomes and rural development. After all, when cities' ability to satisfactorily absorb agriculture's labour surplus increases, it incentivises mechanisation and other kinds of farm productivity enhancement. Given that Indian cities have been really lackadaisical about preparing for the existing rural influx, there is legitimate cause to worry when one looks at the projections for urban expansion. Analysts suggest that while it took 40 years for the urban population to rise by 230 million, the next 250 million will be added in just half the time—with 40% of India's population expected to live in cities by 2030. In theory, our policymakers have embraced everything from community-sensitive approaches and systemic development of run-down areas to non-parochial adoption of sensible ideas. In practice, we have a whole different story. Consider the monsoon woes that spring up with torturous monotony every year. Instead of celebrating the rains, the people of Delhi and Mumbai find themselves entrapped in an ancient quagmire of flooded streets, clogged drains and short circuits. The traffic jams, of course, seem worse every year. If the country's political and financial capitals are thus logjammed, one can only imagine the condition of smaller urban centres.

 

The Commonwealth Games, however scorned in certain pockets, have given the capital a significant facelift. Some question the need for new pavements, others complain that the chief minister has mutated into a drains inspector. But nobody can deny that this is a city at work, what with new flyovers, expressways, stadiums, public utilities and so on. But projects remain entrapped in a bureaucratic maze extending from the MCD and NDMC to the DDA and PWD. We grant that the Games are the first major international sporting event to be held in the capital in 27 years—they are also the world's third-largest multi-discipline sports adventure. But Delhi deserves infrastructure development on an ongoing basis. Crunching up projects into an abbreviated time frame is a second-order option at best. To be fair, the Metro success story has shown that urban infrastructure projects can be delivered by Indian managers within budget and as per schedule. If this means chopping off the entrenched bureaucracy's umbilical cord, few would shed tears.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

INVESTMENT CONTINUES TO BOOM

MAHESH VYAS

 

The latest data from CMIE's CapEx database indicates that investments into fresh capacities continue to boom. During the quarter ended June 2010, the CapEx database recorded 900 new project announcements to invest Rs 5.8 lakh crore.

 

Statistically, this is the second largest amount of fresh investments proposed in a quarter. The highest fresh investment proposals were made in the quarter ended March 2009 when Gujarat held its 'Vibrant Gujarat' show. Total fresh investment proposals in that quarter peaked at Rs 8.8 lakh crore. Of this, the show had attracted fresh investment proposals worth Rs 3.6 lakh crore. However, most of these were mere announcements and have not made much progress. Thus, net of the Vibrant Gujarat's Rs 3.6 lakh crore, the new investments attracted during the March 2009 quarter was Rs 5.2 lakh crore.

 

The June 2010 quarter's fresh investments spike is also influenced partly by the Global Investors' Meet organised by the Karnataka government during this quarter, which claims that the meet attracted investments worth a whopping Rs 5 lakh crore. However, details are available only for projects worth Rs 86,731 crore. Net of these, the fresh investments in the June 2010 quarter was an impressive Rs 5 lakh crore. This compares well with the earlier peak in March 2009 as well as with the average fresh investment of Rs 3.5 lakh crore per quarter in the preceding four quarters. This is a good indication that the investments boom continues to soar and corporates feel confident of the sustainability of the growth in demand.

 

Corporate sales and profits are expected to grow well in the coming four quarters. Growth is expected to be robust in sales, initially. Growth in profits is expected to accelerate in the last two quarters of the current fiscal year. Profit margins have hovered around 8% and are expected to remain at these levels. Evidently, at these profit margin levels, corporate India is enthusiastic about investing.

 

The boom in investment proposals since 2004 is bearing fruit in fresh capacities being added to the order of Rs 6.5 lakh crore in 2010-11. This is much higher than the Rs 3.7 lakh crore worth of project commissionings recorded in 2009-10, which was higher than the Rs 2.9 lakh crore in 2008-09 and the Rs 2.3 lakh crore in 2007-08. The total value of projects commissioned in 2009-10, currently at Rs 3.7 lakh crore, is expected to go up to Rs 4 lakh crore as new data becomes available.

 

Various projects that were in the initial proposal stages or that were suspended in the 2008 crisis have revived. Anecdotal evidence point towards an acceleration in the pace of implementation of investment projects. The CapEx database shows that investments worth more than Rs 10 lakh crore will be commissioned in 2011-12. But we expect this number to decline substantially as often claims regarding commissioning that are more than 12 months into the future are subject to a lot of revision. Nevertheless, even after discounting for such revisions, it is apparent that the current investment boom is likely to continue for a few more years. It is likely that investments worth Rs 8 lakh crore or more will be commissioned in each of the coming three years.

 

The sustained interest of corporate India in announcing new investment projects indicates that the boom may sustain itself a lot longer than just the next three years. The current investment boom is driven largely by domestic consumption demand. In the coming 2-3 years, if the global economy recovers fully, it will only strengthen this boom in India. The downside risks are limited.

 

A global financial crisis in 2008 followed by a drought in 2009 did not stop this investment juggernaut; it is unlikely that a hike in interest rates would.

 

The commissioning of fresh projects is expected to push up capacities in a number of industries. The electricity sector is expected to see a capacity addition of 16,144 mw in 2010-11. The sector has never seen such a huge increase in capacity. Other industries are—steel (15.5 million tonnes), aluminium (1.3 million tonnes), cement (41.7 million tonnes) and hotel (22,672 rooms).

 

This substantial increase in new capacities should reflect in the official gross fixed capital formation growth estimates. Real gross fixed capital formation had increased by 7.2% in 2009-10. We expect this to accelerate to 12% in 2010-11 and then to revert to the 15% growth that it had clocked before the 2008-09 crisis.

 

Interestingly, the differences between official statistics and independent statistics continue to intrigue. In 2008-09, according to official statistics real gross fixed capital formation growth fell sharply to 4% compared to a 15% per annum growth recorded in the preceding three years.

 

However, the annual accounts of over 8,000 non-finance companies show that the nominal growth in gross fixed assets accelerated to 19% in 2008-09 after having grown by around 14% in the preceding three years. Even after adjusting for inflation, the difference in direction and quantum is intriguing. If we believe the official statistics, then investments growth had collapsed in 2008-09. If we use independent statistics as seen in CMIE's Prowess and CapEx databases, then investments were not impacted by the 2008-09 global financial crisis.

 

—The author heads the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE SINGHS GET IT RIGHT AGAIN

MG ARUN

 

When brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh, promoters of Fortis Healthcare, exited the race for Singapore healthcare chain Parkway Holdings, they pocketed a cool Rs 399 crore. The exit reminded one of a similar deal the Tatas struck with Coca-Cola in May 2007, when Tata Sons and Tata Tea sold their 30% stake in Energy Brands to the

 

US beverage major and made a profit of $523 million (around Rs 2,144 crore) on the deal. The Tatas executed the deal within a year of acquiring Energy Brands's Glacéau in August 2006, while the Singh brothers carried the Parkway deal through in less than four months. Tata made use of an irresistible offer from Coke, using the money to retire a part of Tata Tea's debt and acquire other beverage companies abroad. The Singhs' decision, however, was driven by a surprise move by the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah to acquire shares of Parkway at a price 6% higher than Fortis paid.

 

In both cases, it is sheer business sense that prevailed. One could say, the Singhs have been consistent in ensuring their heads ruled their hearts. They sold family silver Ranbaxy to Japan's Daiichi Sankyo in June 2008, at a time when the generic play was being heavily impacted by stiff competition in the developed markets. The Indian company was also under stress from a slew of patent suits in the US. The Tatas, in contrast, persisted in their bid to acquire Corus in January 2007 for $12 billion, and won it in a bidding war with Brazilian steel maker CSN. Corus and its European operations continue to be a drag on Tata Steel, despite the firm taking stiff cost control measures, including mothballing a plant in the UK.

 

The Piramals also recently joined the Singhs and the Tatas to prove that in tough business times, an opportunity to cash out of a business should not be missed. The sale of Piramal Healthcare's domestic formulations business to Abbott Laboratories will look justified, if one considers the value of the deal, pegged at nine times sales. At Rs 17,000 crore, the offer was too good for the Piramals to resist. Sterlite's Anil Agarwal also showed restraint and business acumen when he backed out of a June 2008 deal to buy the operating assets of US-based Asarco for $2.6 billion. Agarwal put forward a new bid, with changes in certain components of the earlier bid, citing the melting down in metal prices, but eventually lost out to Grupo México, which won the bid, backed by a US court. The tussle between Sterlite and Asarco landed up in court, but Agarwal must be relieved that he did not overpay and face the prospect of a demand glut and falling metal prices.

 

The Reddys of Dr Reddy's Laboratories were not so lucky. They bought Germany's Betapharm in February 2006 for 480 million euros, only to find the company run into a string of troubles as the high-margin branded generics market turned into a low-margin volume play, with the introduction of government reforms. For the first time since then, the Reddys have now said the unit is turning around and making cash profits. But the 4-year wait had been agonising.

 

The Singhs have already said they will still keep up their hunt for more assets abroad, but what baffles experts like Navroz Mahudawala of Candle Partners is the whole rationale behind an overseas acquisition in the healthcare space.

 

While acquisitions within the home turf will accord synergies of operations and scale, managing an acquisition in the global space will be quite a challenge. Experts see the healthcare segment as a highly localised industry. There is little synergy to be realised through an overseas buy. When the Singhs announced the Parkway stake buy this March, eyebrows were already being raised about the price they paid. Now, they say the group has between $800-900 million in cash and a well-established line of credit, so it may not be long before they zoom in on another company. Shareholders, who gave a thumbs-up to the brothers when they exited Parkway, may not be happy with yet another overseas adventure. In August last year when Fortis acquired 10 hospitals from debt-ridden Wockhardt for around Rs 900 crore, it was hailed as a great move since it gave Fortis, largely restricted to the northern part of India, a pan-India presence, apart from providing operating synergies.

 

In healthcare, what really matters is building up credible operations over a longer period of time and creating a very strong local footprint. The Singhs have the wherewithal and the energy to take this forward, but they need to focus heavily on improving their existing domestic operations rather than jumping all too soon on to the global bandwagon.

 

—mg.arun@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

INDIAN STUDENTS PREFER THE UK

NIKHILA GILL

 

The UK has, after years, upstaged the US as a preferred destination for Indian students. The data on visas issued for the academic year starting the fall of 2010 shows that the US issued 32,000 student visas, a figure almost doubled by the UK consulate that issued 57,500 visas for new student entrants. These numbers signify a change since 2009 when the US had more new students (34,000) compared to the UK (27,000). This change of preference has come about despite the hotly debated proposal for a cap on non-EU immigration into the UK and stricter visa rules. On a side note, Downing Street will consult New Delhi on this a subject, a result of what David Cameron described a 'spirit of humility' towards India. David Willetts, UK's minister for universities and science, also downplayed the effects of the new policies saying that the move only seeks to ensure the delivery of high quality education to international students and eliminate exploitation of foreign students by non-accredited universities.

 

The UK's international education and skills sector generates 28 billion pounds annually, of which international education is worth over 5 billion pounds. Contributing to this sector are 40,000 Indian students enrolled in higher education courses in the UK in 2009, the second largest international student community after China. However, although the

 

UK is growing in eminence, the US still has the largest number of Indian students enrolled in its higher education institutions at over 1,00,000.

 

Besides its relatively shorter (and therefore less expensive) programmes and flights back home, there is another important issue that probably contributes to Indian students' preference of the UK over the US. The UK allows international students to work in off-campus jobs as opposed to the US, where students are restricted to working on-campus and vie for a limited number of jobs. This is an important consideration since a large number of Indian students need a job to support them through their time at university.

 

As far as reverse migration is concerned, there are only 500 British students in India, a number that David Cameron wants to see increase, with more collaboration in research. And such collaborative efforts may just be what India is looking for—a helping hand for India's bid to increase innovation on its shores.

 

—feedit@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP

 

Writing on his blog before his 2006 visit to India while he was Leader of the Opposition in the British Parliament, David Cameron said he was going for "a simple reason: India matters so much in the modern world …Our relationship with India goes deep. But I think it can and should go deeper … I think it's time for Britain and India to forge a new special relationship for the twenty-first century." Visiting India again this week, this time as Prime Minister, Mr. Cameron went all out to prove his determination to make those words come true. It is no secret that the recession-hit United Kingdom is eyeing India primarily through an economic lens. On his two-city tour, Mr. Cameron made a strong pitch for improving bilateral trade and investment, particularly for India to relax rules on foreign direct investment in legal services, banking and insurance, and in defence manufacturing. Although the joint statement was short on specific economic commitments, both countries agreed to "substantially increase trade and significantly increase investment," and find ways to double it in the next five years. But the British delegation had at least one substantial achievement to celebrate — the clinching of the Rs.5,100 crore deal to supply Hawk trainer jets to the Indian Air Force and Navy. The document notes the "opportunities for wide-ranging cooperation" in the nuclear field after the signing earlier this year of the U.K.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Declaration. The Indian interest in attracting foreign investment in infrastructure development was reflected in the joint statement, with both countries agreeing to explore how best to go about this.

 

With Mr. Cameron determined to woo India, both sides seemed to have deliberately avoided speaking on difficult bilateral issues publicly. If New Delhi reiterated its reservation on the British cap on immigration, it did so quietly. While there has been no change in substantive positions, the atmospherics this time were far better than during the final years of the Labour government under Gordon Brown when David Miliband's tone and comments, particularly on Kashmir, had not been received well. Prime Minister Cameron was careful not to mention the Kashmir issue at all. Unsurprisingly, his candid statements on terrorism emanating from Pakistan against India, Afghanistan, and the other parts of the world, have endeared him to Indians. That the same statements have caused outrage in Pakistan — casting a shadow over President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to the U.K. next week — and come under criticism in Britain, where Mr. Cameron has been attacked for antagonising Islamabad, only goes to show that in diplomacy, you cannot please all the people all the time.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE VOTE AND BEYOND

 

Quite understandably, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti is portraying the results of the 12 Assembly by-elections in Andhra Pradesh as a referendum in favour of a separate Telangana State. The party won all the 11 seats it contested; the twelfth went to the Bharatiya Janata Party with which it had an understanding. After all, the by-elections were a direct fall-out of the Telangana issue with the sitting MLAs — 10 belonging to the TRS, one to the BJP and another to the Telugu Desam Party— resigning in protest at what they saw as a delay on the part of the Centre in carving out a new State. Statehood was indeed the dominant issue right through the campaign, and the TRS won all its seats with huge margins, a marked improvement over its performance in the general elections just a year ago. Its chief, K. Chandrashekhar Rao, who spearheaded the Statehood agitation by undertaking an indefinite fast last year, must be feeling vindicated. Both the Congress and the TDP, which have been equivocal on the Statehood issue, received a drubbing. Indeed, in a high stakes contest for the Congress, the party's State president, D. Srinivas, lost to the BJP candidate in the Nizamabad Urban constituency. The TDP, apart from conceding one seat to the TRS, lost its deposit in several constituencies, finishing a poor third. A pro-Statehood sentiment was clearly in evidence in all the constituencies that went to polls.

 

However, with the Srikrishna Committee now seized of the Statehood issue in all its aspects, Mr. Rao must resist the temptation to capitalise on the popular mood to fall back on his brand of political brinkmanship. The issue concerns the whole of Andhra Pradesh, and any decision on dividing the State will have to be taken on the basis of a broad consensus after due deliberations on its social, economic, and political implications. Although popular support for a separate State seems to have increased considerably within Telangana, too much must not be read into the poll outcome. The 12 constituencies were in any case the core base of the TRS and the Telangana movement. But the by-elections should force a serious rethink within the Congress and the TDP. The two parties, whose political base is spread across the State, have spoken in different voices at different times and at different places. Instead of seeking to tap parochial sentiments, political parties must take a reasoned, long-term view of this complex issue. While the TRS might be emboldened by the results, the proper course for the party will be to await the report of the Srikrishna Committee.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE POLITICS OF TALIBAN RECONCILIATION

THE ONUS IS ON THE GENERALS IN RAWALPINDI TO EFFECT THE HARDCORE TALIBAN LEADERSHIP'S RECONCILIATION AND, AS A QUID PRO QUO, WASHINGTON RECOGNISES PAKISTAN'S "LEGITIMATE INTERESTS" IN AFGHANISTAN.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

 

A battle-hardened Soviet journalist told me in a convivial conversation in Moscow circa 1989 that he wished to metamorphose into a fly and perch on Unter den Linden, Berlin's grandest boulevard — as in a Franz Kafka novel. Mikhail Gorbachev had just arrived in East Berlin on October 7 as the guest of honour at the gala parade to celebrate 40 years of communist rule in East Germany. By then, he had become communism's leading agnostic. My good friend's journalistic instinct was to eavesdrop on Mr. Gorbachev's improbable conversation with his East German counterpart, Erich Honecker. Mr. Gorbachev's hard-hitting message, overshadowing East Germany's birthday celebrations, was "life punishes those who come too late." Indeed, Mr. Honecker was forced to step down 11 days later, the Berlin Wall was breached on November 9 and, within a year, the German Democratic Republic was no more.

 

Diplomatic engagements can be deceptive. The politics of reconciliation with the Taliban has all along been deceptive — and remains so. Indian journalists interpreted that the visiting U.S. Special Representative, Richard Holbrooke, ruled out the participation by the dreaded "Haqqani network" in the Taliban leadership in any Kabul set-up. Yet, he merely said he could not countenance circumstances under which the Haqqanis will become amenable to reconciliation — that is, it is up to the U.S.' sub-contractors in Rawalpindi, the Pakistani military leadership, to show otherwise.

 

Yet, a day later, the U.S. administration added another son of Jalaluddin Haqqani to its blacklist of Afghan fugitives. On the contrary, only three days earlier, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked, while on a visit to Islamabad, about the Haqqanis, she refused to be drawn into the minefield. Indeed, on an earlier visit to Islamabad, Mr. Holbrooke's own reaction to a query whether there could be any reconciliation between Haqqani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai was: "Who knows?" At the Kabul conference on Afghanistan last week, Ms Clinton repeated the mantra: "We are also closely following the efforts to reintegrate insurgents who are ready for peace. There have been positive steps since last month's consultative peace jirga [in Kabul]. President Karzai's decree establishing the Afghan peace and reintegration programme has created a useful framework, but progress will depend on whether insurgents wish to be reintegrated and reconciled by renouncing violence and the al-Qaeda, and agreeing to abide by the constitution and the laws of Afghanistan."

 

Clearly, the onus is on the generals in Rawalpindi to effect the hardcore Taliban leadership's reconciliation and as a quid pro quo, Washington recognises Pakistan's "legitimate interests" in Afghanistan and regards its military as "essential" to bring stability to the Afghan region — and accordingly, renders substantial aid to that country. Which is why, as Mr. Holbrooke underlined with a touch of unintended irony in New Delhi, "Improved U.S-Pakistan relations are not bad for India." Another aspect of the U.S. doublespeak is that Washington is helpless about what transpires between Mr. Karzai and the Pakistani military leadership regarding the Taliban's reconciliation. This incredible alibi enables Washington to distance itself publicly from the Pakistani military's ongoing efforts to mediate a reconciliation agreement with both the Haqqani and the Gulbuddin Hekmatyar groups, which are on the U.S. "wanted" lists. Are we to believe that when the ISI diligently goes about identifying who among the Taliban leadership are "reconcilable" enough to be brought into the loop, the Americans and the British — their spy engines et al — are simply standing back and watching? This charade is wearing thin.

 

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen (who came alongside Mr. Holbrooke to Delhi last week), would like India to focus on its military-to-military cooperation with America and, of course, to work hard with the U.S. to counter China's "assertive … territorial claims [and] aggressive approach to the near-sea areas recently." His demarche buttresses Mr. Holbrooke's advice that India should not needlessly worry about the future of Afghanistan, where New Delhi too would have a role to play. Interestingly, Mr. Mullen suggested that India's priority should be to work with the U.S. to contain alleged Chinese expansionism, which he claimed was a shared concern. Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Mullen's demarche makes sense. India, after all, belongs to the Pentagon's Pacific Command, whereas Pakistan falls under the Central Command.

 

The U.S. isn't quite the helpless onlooker at the ISI's subsoil manoeuvrings to reconcile the Taliban. Mr. Holbrooke travelled to New York on July 6 specifically with the mission of negotiating the removal of select Taliban members from the U.N. anti-terror blacklist. In effect, he acted as a facilitator for the Pakistani military, which insists that dropping the Taliban from a list of individuals targeted with travel and financial sanctions is a first step to convince it to end its insurgency and strike a peace deal with Mr. Karzai. Of course, Mr. Holbrooke's mission was frustrated, thanks to stalling by Russia, which maintains that there is insufficient evidence to remove the Taliban from the U.N. list. In effect, the Russian Foreign Ministry snubbed Mr. Holbrooke's mission. In a forceful lengthy statement, Moscow said: "According to our estimates the military-political situation in Afghanistan so far unfortunately does not offer an objective basis for a positive review… In this regard, we have serious misgivings about the attempts of the Afghan leadership, with the backing of representatives from a number of western states, to foster talks with Taliban leaders and build a mechanism of 'national reconciliation' on this basis."

 

It added: "We continue to insist that the possible pinpointed and careful work on the return to civilian life of repentant Taliban members should under no circumstances be substituted by a campaign to rehabilitate the Taliban as a whole and by the revival of a spirit of tolerance towards the terrorist ideology preached by the Taliban, which opens the possibility of its leaders' return to power and the restoration of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Even more, we are against the use for these political purposes of the procedures of the sanctions regime approved by UNSCR 1267 (1999)." Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated Moscow's stance in his statement at the Kabul conference.

 

Like an avalanche, U.S. officials, past and present, are descending on New Delhi. Washington's angst is palpable. It is apprehensive that India might join hands with Russia and Iran — and China — in putting roadblocks on the path in which the U.S-British-Pakistani caravan is travelling. Where is the caravan headed for? It is heading toward an El Dorado where bloodshed ceases in Afghanistan so that the western troops can stay in that country in peace and tranquillity ad infinitum. Mr. Karzai speaks of the end of foreign military presence in Afghanistan in 2014, whereas the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation think differently. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrote some time ago: "Our mission will end when — but only when — the Afghans are able to maintain security on their own … Afghanistan will need the continued support of the international community, including NATO. It is important we send a clear message of long-term commitment … To underline this commitment, I believe that NATO should develop a long-term cooperation agreement with the Afghan government."

 

India needs to have foresight and clarity of mind. At stake are not only Afghanistan's neutrality but the region's long-term security environment. Mr. Lavrov has made it clear that Russia opposes the open-ended western military presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. is constructing a sprawling $100- million military base near Mazar-i-Sharif, which needs to be operational the latest by early 2012. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to build new military facilities in Afghanistan so that the GI can maintain his familiar lifestyle as in Okinawa, Subic Bay or Yongsan. The new base in Mazar-i-Sharif is a key link in the "string of pearls" along the soft underbelly of Russia and China that the U.S. is tenaciously kneading in the Central Asian region — military facilities and "lily-pads" alike. The U.S. diplomacy is astutely tapping into the visceral fears of the Central Asian countries over a militant Islamist upsurge in the region in the aftermath of the Taliban reconciliation, which will be interpreted by jihadis all over — North Caucasus, Ferghana, Xinjiang or Kashmir — as the defeat of a superpower in the Hindu Kush.

 

Meanwhile, the recent Afghan-Pakistan transit agreement, brokered by Washington, brings dramatically close to realisation the U.S.' Great Central Asia strategy. Russia has invited Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan for a summit in Sochi in August. Mr. Holbrooke and Mr. Mullen have come at a most crucial juncture in regional politics — to mollify India over the Pakistani role in the geopolitics and persuade it to integrate into the U.S. regional strategies. The last thing Washington wants is a resuscitation of anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan. A fly buzzing around Vijay Chowk could easily tell that the politics of Taliban reconciliation is getting to be very serious.

 

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS    

UNEXAMINED DANGER OFF THE SHORES

CRISIS MANAGEMENT TOOLS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PREPARED PREVENTIVE ACTION, WHICH HAS BEEN FOUND WANTING IN THE CASE OF SEVERAL OFF-SHORE OIL RIGS IN INDIAN WATERS.

SATYAJIT SARNA

 

In April this year, a BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, caught fire and collapsed, killing eleven people and triggering an oil spill on a scale not experienced since the Exxon Valdez spill in1989. The full impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, including its catastrophic effect on the marine environment, the fishing industry and regional tourism will only be fully evident in the years to come but it would be reasonable to believe that in its wake, governments across the world would be carefully re-examining the drilling operations off their own shores.

 

In the post-catastrophe examination of Deepwater Horizon from a regulatory perspective, the blame has fallen squarely on the weakness of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process in the United States in that it did not require a "worst case scenario" analysis. Any major project in India requires an EIA; that is, a focused and extensive examination of the possible environmental effects of any activity in the terms of the EIA Notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2006. All offshore oil and gas activities which were set up after the notification automatically fall into Category A set out in the Notification; that is, they require an environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests based on the recommendations of a Central Environmental Appraisal Committee. A series of Right to Information applications filed by this writer to determine how closely the environmental impact of India's offshore petroleum installations have been examined revealed disturbing results, including on the manner in which these responses are given.

 

Ironically, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, whom one would have expected to be most concerned, responded to an RTI query regarding the possibility of oil and gas pollution in Indian waters with a bland statement that the matter had been disposed of in the Ministry and that the relevant authority was the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons, falling under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

 

The response to an appropriate RTI query from the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons was more revealing. It indicated that there are 36 offshore installations falling within India's Exclusive Economic Zone that have been installed in or prior to 2006. Of the 36 installations, 25 fall in the richer oilfields in our western waters. ONGC is the joint venture partner in most of these blocks, and the major international commercial players include RIL, Niko Resources, Cairn and Hardy. The oldest of these is in the Panna Mukta field off the western coast, set up in 1986.

 

Logically speaking, the older an installation, the more likely it is to use outdated technology or to suffer from the wear, tear and strain inflicted by ocean waves and currents. However, since the EIA Notification only came into effect on September 14, 2006, only the six most modern installations are covered in its ambit. The other 30 offshore installations have not been subjected to the same environmental scrutiny. This fact raises the serious question — if these installations are not covered by the EIA Notification, then has a thorough environmental examination been done by any authority at all?

 

The Ministry of Petroleum has issued the Petroleum (Safety in Offshore Operations) Rules, 2008. However, these Rules are broadly worded injunctions to conduct operations in a safe manner and to immediately notify the government in case of an accident or "release of hydrocarbon or other noxious substances whereby safety of…marine environment is likely to be endangered." The rules impose no specific environmental conditions at all and their effect is largely to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.

 

The Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD) is the authority for all offshore drilling operations. Before an installation may commence operations, the OISD must give its consent to operate and also conduct safety audits on installations. When queried through an RTI application about the lack of environmental assessments for installations prior to 2006, the OISD denied responsibility, implicitly kicking the ball back at the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

 

Most critically, even where these rules and procedures exist, their objective is confined to the safety of people and installations, and not the environment. While the limited objective is honourable in itself, it does not substitute for the elaborate and holistic environmental survey that a complete EIA provides for.

 

The problem is exacerbated by the attitude of some of the parties involved. A query directed at ONGC as to the number, nature and location of their installations was answered with the cryptic "Confidential and cannot be shared". The Directorate General of Hydrocarbons was happy to provide the same information in detail, which leads one to wonder how confidential it was in the first place and on what basis the determination is made that a citizen of India may be denied information which another arm of the government freely provides.

 

The most important rule in environmental law and jurisprudence is the precautionary principle, which may be stated broadly to say that one need not wait for definite proof of a danger to justify guarding against the risk. The genesis of the EIA mechanism is this understanding that an audit of the environmental risk associated with each project needs to take place before any danger is given an opportunity to arise. The reason that the approach espoused by environmental law is so cautious and forward looking is that, while environmental disasters are unlikely, they are also catastrophic in scale when they do take place. While ONGC and the OISD have their own oil spill units and the Coast Guard is mandated to tackle any danger that may arise, these are crisis management tools and no substitute for prepared preventive action by the government.

 

Moreover, India is also a party, since 1995, to the Law of the Seas Convention of 1982. Articles 204, 206 and 208 of this Convention cast a duty on the state-party to prevent pollution and assess the risk of any potentially polluting activities, and provide that such rules, practices and procedures may be no less stringent than international standards. Besides our own interest, there remains upon us an international obligation to prevent and monitor any threat to our marine environment.

 

What emerges from this RTI investigation is a worrying pattern of abdication of responsibility and duty. If the Directorate of Hydrocarbons, the Oil Industrial Safety Directorate, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas or the Ministry of Environment and Forests are not, collectively or individually, responsible for the environmental assessment and compliance of 30 oil and gas installations, then who is? Surely the presence of a possible danger is justification for a full investigation and audit by the most qualified Ministry. This lacuna in regulation and preparedness in an exceedingly sensitive area calls for urgent redress. A good first step would be for the Ministry of Environment and Forests to frame a set of rules providing for a comprehensive survey and audit of the offshore installations that predate the 2006 EIA Notification. Preventive action should be the mantra. Ex-post facto legalistic justifications sound abysmally weak in the face of ecological disasters and their devastating impact, as is evident from the happenings in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

(Satyajit Sarna is a lawyer at the Delhi High Court. He may be contacted at satyajit.sarna@gmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

 NEWS ANALYSIS    

GENDER WAR, YET TO BE WON

THE MOVE TO CREATE A U.N. ENTITY FOR GENDER EQUALITY AND THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN, NAMED U.N. WOMEN, IS A MAJOR STRIDE FOR HUMANKIND.

V.R. KRISHNA IYER

 

Whether you believe in god or not, every effect must have a cause. Out of nothing, nothing comes: ex nihilo nihil fit. Any creation must have a creator: call him Brahman, God, Allah the Merciful... God is everywhere and in everything. As the philosopher Arthur Young said, god sleeps in the mineral, wakes in the vegetable, walks in the animal, flies in the bird and thinks in man. This critical awareness is unique to human beings, gives them the power to identify themselves with creativity and universal consciousness. Call it omnipresent infinity through absolute power present universally and ubiquitously. The vedic seer's universal vision of existence does not discriminate.

Walt Whitman wrote: "… [A] leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars. And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren, and the tree toad is a chef-d'oeuvre for the highest, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven." Indeed, the deepest waters and the summit skies are made sublime by the same divine wonder.

 

Jesus described this infinite wonder the kingdom of god and made it the universal truth: "The Kingdom of God is within you," he told humanity. The upanishads called it Advaita Brahman. Islam stands for peace, purity, submission. Every human being finds a celestial essence in cosmic brotherhood, whatever his or her religion. So he is all-merciful. The vedic vision is absolute unity in creation. Brahman is not plurality of gods but one god — Advaita.

 

So, whatever be your religion we have but one god, the awakened over the supreme wonder as the Buddha. The Buddha did not preach. God believed in truth and non-violence — the Enlightened One, a Hindu avatar. So I am a Brahmin, a spark of Brahman. Thus I am a Christian with Jesus' vision, and also Islam's single brotherhood credo. This profound unitary global glory is the foundation of Indian constitutional-cultural-theological secularism. Ignorant of this deeper spiritual core, those who set off religious acrimony and communalism forget the quintessence of secularism. Vulgar religious rivalry violates sublime secularism.

 

We discriminate between man and woman and consider the latter to be inferior. No man is born without a woman. There are some biological differences but they do not warrant basic discrimination. Man, woman and child are humanity in unity.

 

This sublime, supreme truth of divinity has led the United Nations to found a gender wonder. It seeks to give a stronger voice to the notionally illusory weaker sex. They are equal in terms of their potency. The queen on the throne is no less than the king can be. Indira Gandhi was as powerful as her father was before her. So too the spiritual-temporal jurisprudence of peer sex power.

 

The U.N General Assembly on July 2, 2010 voted unanimously to create a U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, named U.N. Women (UNW). The new entity is meant to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide. It aims to create a new vibrant ethos, a valiant instrument to accelerate gender equality and women's empowerment, bring to a close discriminatory disparity, according to a U.N. statement. UNW brings four U.N bodies dealing with gender issues under one umbrella. It is meant to be an egalitarian organ.

 

With the creation of UNW, the egalitarian gender jurisprudence is affirmed unanimously. Hopefully, a grand transformation is under way now that it has come into being. A man or a woman can be vibrantly one. But, give woman nuclear weapons, and she will bomb as terribly as a man will.

 

Every faculty in the cerebral power is equal across genders. But this militant equality has yet to become a social reality. Indian culture accepts the wealthy and the 'illthy', the rich and the indigent, equally in its epics. Egalite is writ large in constitutional print. Currently in Indian politics a few women are right at the top, such as Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati. But in Parliament, the judiciary and the executive, or in the professions, have women gained gender equality? It is a war yet to be won.

 

The U.N. resolution has called for the appointment of an Under-Secretary-General to head the UNW, and the establishment of an executive board to provide intergovernmental support to and supervision of its operation. All public institutions must aid this process.

 

This move must be radically supported by every country. India should not lag behind. It is a shame that the Indian Parliament does not yet have one-third composition of women members. In the judiciary, too, women are obscure. India should have at least a third of all judges coming from the humblest among women. Then social justice will become gentler, more compassionate and real.

 

Equal roles

 

Women are not domestic slaves to be sold for a dowry and beaten up by alcoholic husbands. They are equal and eligible to wield public power. Women can be economically independent and be the guardians of minor children under the law.

 

More women should come into the police department, for one. They are generally less corrupt and harsh than many of their male counterparts, less violent in handling persons in custody, kinder to women offenders and juveniles. We need more police women in high positions, just as we need successful women District Collectors, Chief Secretaries and Chief Justices.

 

Women, awake, arise and make every political party include equal gender justice as a policy in their manifesto. In the matter of C.B. Muthamma, who was the first woman to join the Indian Foreign Service, I had condemned statutory gender discrimination resorted to by the Union government.

 

A women's code to deal with special requirements for gender development calls for special institutions. The right to be born healthy must be guarded for the girl. In education, sports, conjugal life, maternal facilities, old age maintenance, the law has to show special concern. This writer once presented a fair and comprehensive women's code, prepared by a committee appointed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. But there has been no legislation in this regard yet. Public pressure is needed to make the code a law. India has promises to keep for gender justice. A Ministry for gender justice is essential.

 

UNICEF made me chairman of a committee to prepare a children's code since the Government of India had failed to produce a statute under the International Children's Convention. Margaret Alva, a Minister under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, appointed me chairman of a panel to prepare a report on the maladies facing women kept in custody. In both these cases the committees drafted exemplary codes and presented them to the Central government. But the story ended there: the reports were not implemented.

 

Many gender-oriented reforms in jurisprudence were recommended by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission, of which this writer was the Chairman. The Bills are progressive and will transform society if implemented. But there has not been any movement on this front.

 

The unanimous U.N resolution for the creation of the UNW was a great day for world womanhood, indeed all of humankind. All thinking persons will greet the decision. Gender power will gain strength as humanity becomes aware that sans mother there is no man. When I advocate the development of womanhood I really argue for the cause of humanity as a whole.

 

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THE HINDU

JULY IS DEADLIEST MONTH OF AFGHAN WAR FOR THE U.S.

 

Three U.S. troops died in blasts in Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for July to at least 63 and surpassing the previous month's record as the deadliest for American forces in the nearly nine-year-old war.

 

The three died in two separate blasts in southern Afghanistan the day before, a NATO statement said on Friday. It gave no nationalities, but U.S. officials said all three were Americans. U.S. and NATO commanders had warned casualties would rise as the international military force ramps up the war against the Taliban, especially in their southern strongholds in Helmand and Kandahar provinces. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan last December in a bid to turn back a resurgent Taliban.

 

The tally of 63 American deaths in July is based on military reports compiled by The Associated Press. June had been the deadliest month for both the U.S. and the overall NATO-led force. A total of 104 international service members died last month, including 60 Americans.

 

— AP

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

CAMERON, IN INDIA, SENDS RIGHT SIGNALS

 

The empire has faded. In the decades since Indian independence and decolonisation, Britain has leaned across the Atlantic toward the United States in search of economic and political consolidation. In more recent times, with the emergence of the European Union, the British inclination has been to combine its American relationship with solicitousness for Europe. However, with even the powerful European economies as well as the US recording at best moderate growth rates over the years, it has been natural for London to pay more attention to India which not so long ago was viewed as "an exotic basket case". But that was then. With the recent near collapse of the international financial system, and the Indian economy still making a stab at a nine per cent rate of growth, there was little question that Prime Minister David Cameron would seek to lay the "foundations for an enhanced relationship" with this country, to use his words before he began his three-day India visit earlier this week.


The British leader's visit has been a huge publicity success, with Mr Cameron making the right social and political pitch in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, not to mention his ability to be one of the boys wherever he went. He didn't lecture. He didn't go on village safaris. He just let people think he was being himself. That's a quality people like in a leader. Perhaps the Prime Minister could conduct himself in the manner he did because he was able to facilitate the £700 million agreement between BAE-Rolls Royce and Hindustan Aeronautics to purchase 57 more Hawk trainer jets. This is a big boost to British manufacturing in bad times. But the importance of Mr Cameron's visit will be judged by going beyond trade. His sharp criticism of Pakistan on the terrorism issue, and later statement that he stood by what he had said, would earn the new British leader bonus points in India. No Western leader has spoken with such frankness on the subject of Pakistan from Indian soil. The Americans have typically equivocated. The other Europeans are not as culturally and historically tuned to the subcontinent as Britain is. So, somewhere it matters, and what Mr Cameron had to say stung Islamabad into almost cancelling President Asif Ali Zardari's proposed visit to London in early August. It is too early to say if British policy toward Pakistan is changing in any basic way, but many will hope London looks at Islamabad on merit. It has to make a considered judgment whether pandering to Pakistan would really be of help in containing or eliminating the prospects of future terrorist strikes in Britain.


On his three-day trip, Mr Cameron led a team of as many as six Cabinet ministers, including the foreign secretary, chancellor of the exchequer and business minister, besides top corporate executives and culture and art heavyweights. It is said there hasn't been a larger British trade delegation "in living memory", or a larger top-level delegation since the end of the Raj. The focus of the visit was clearly trade "and jobs", as the British leader noted. If that's the case — and Britain does need to recover from going from fourth to 18th place as the source of India's imports — then Mr Cameron's trip would carry greater meaning if he is able to attend to the key question of permitting Indian entrepreneurs, professionals and students from purposeful residence in Britain. Slashing non-EU immigration from next year would probably hurt deserving Indians more than people from any other country. Britain is pitching for trade in civil nuclear energy, banking, insurance and legal services. All of these will naturally have to be negotiated. But Mr Cameron has begun on a positive note.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

TEMPORARY GAINS

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "No help your sermons now —

The one blue stretches.

No consequence the solemn vow —

The faces of the wretches..."

From Cadences by Bachchoo

 

"Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage", says the Clown in Twelfth Night and, if one ignores the ribald double entendre, we may take that as the extreme Elizabethan measure to prevent mismatches. In India there are less severe remedies — the horoscopes or caste credentials don't agree, there are congenital idiocies in the contracting family... etc. We rarely resort to the rope.


In my family, a generation and more ago, when a marriage was mooted, senior female members were despatched to examine the credentials of the suitor and his or her family.


Now Britain has sent a "special relationship" delegation to India led by Prime Minister David Cameron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other ministerial and business worthies. They are talking imports and exports with capitalists, trade political influence and diplomatic leanings for real rupees with ministers and will come away with a special relationship.


As with the talks that precede an arranged marriage the two parties must understand each other and assess each other's strengths and predilections. All this will no doubt happen in the bilaterals. It's an opportunity and event of such importance that I am tempted to assume the role, not of a negotiating aunt — I wasn't invited — but a third cousin thrice removed who stands on the periphery and plays either the bad fairy at christening or Cassandra on the walls warning against Brits bearing gifts.


Before I assume such a role I ought, in fairness to the reader, make two confessions. A Conservative politician of the old school, one Norman Tebbit, formulated a "cricket test" to ascertain the loyalties of immigrants. When the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is playing a Test against Pakistan, for which side does the Bradford boy with Mirpuri ancestry cheer? I apply this useful cricket test to myself whenever the MCC is playing India and inevitably find that I cheer for the side that's winning. If the Indian team are bowled out in the first innings for 33 runs, I am distinctly for our MCC boys and Queen and country. If, however, the Indian XI stages a recovery and bowls the MCC out for even less, my allegiance switches to Mother India, land of my birth — "chak de…" etc.


My second confession is that I am not a Tory or a Lib-Dem. Most immigrants except the millionaires, and the aspirant foolish who think they may become millionaires, vote Labour because through the ages the Labour Party has professed to represent the poor, and being poor we support it even realising that the likes of Tony Blair are for Tony and Mrs Blair rather than for us starving masses.


Declarations over, let me get on with my reservations about the Indo-Brit "special relationship" visit. With the instability, volatility and even nasty ambition of several countries around India, such a relationship is most desirable.


But with whom is the relationship to be established?

The present coalition government of Britain is desperate to prove to Britain's people and the world, its stability. If it makes changes, passes laws, signs treaties whose substance has then to be made flesh, it has to inspire faith in its continuity. One would hardly negotiate trade deals with Mussolini while the population was beginning to drape ropes across the lamp posts. That was why the visits of the last British foreign secretary David Milliband achieved very little.


Perhaps nothing like that is about to happen to Mr Cameron, but there are now reports of a little bit of spinning and weaving of rope-fabric going on in remote parts of the Liberal-Democratic kingdom of Nicholas Clegg, deputy Prime Minister and coalition slipper-carrier.


Mr Clegg and the seniors of the Liberal Democratic Party joined the coalition either through a miscalculation that even the dumbest of political minds (yes, Here I Stand!) could have computed and warned them about, or they went for it out of sheer greed for the trappings of temporary office.


Their party has long made constitutional reform of Britain's voting system its central aspiration and policy. They argue that the first-past-the-post system of electing members of Parliament leaves the people who vote for the minority without a voice in a democracy. As a very simplified example, suppose in a two-party system a Tory won the seat by one vote in every constituency. There would then be no Opposition in the House and half the voting population, maybe more if the numbers in each constituency differed, would not be represented. Lib-Dems want the system reformed so that actual numbers of votes translate into seats in Parliament.
There are several systems of vote transfer and preference which can, to one extent or another, achieve this end.
To tempt the Lib-Dems into a coalition, the Tories offered them inconsequential or bound-to-be-unpopular jobs in Cabinet and a referendum on a system of voting which could make the vote fairer. It wasn't quite the system the Lib-Dems had formulated, but their leadership represented it to their party as the Holy Grail which could lead them to the paradise of parliamentary power. Several Lib-Dems, senior and junior, got a distinct whiff of the rat: The promise was not for a change to the system but for a referendum asking the public whether they want it. Even if the public says "yes", the system has to pass into law and it is certain that most Tories and all of Labour won't vote for such a bill. The Lords will almost certainly reject it.


Then the spinning and weaving of ropes in the Lib-Dem kingdom will progress from a cottage industry into production-line manufacture and Lib-Dems will start testing the strength of the nearest lampposts.
Then will they denounce every budget cut the coalition and their leaders instituted this year and they will trumpet their policy of favouring complete membership of the European Union and death to the Tories' opposition to it. The coalition will fall apart.


This doesn't mean that Labour will win the election next June and that we may finally have a Prime Minister called Balls. Mr Cameron could still make it all on his own and the Lib-Dems fall into the sewer, the yellow-leaf.


But for now, as we classically educated poor say, caveat emptor. Can the delegation that set out this week, this new East India Coalition Company, deliver on the deals it makes in Delhi?

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

PEACE WITH PAK, BUT WITH A BIG STICK

S.K.SINHA

 

The recent Indo-Pak talks fiasco has understandably agitated the nation across political divides. We need not blame Pakistan for what happened or for the intemperate language of Pakistan foreign minister S.M. Qureshi. We need to blame ourselves for daydreaming for anything better. We seem to have been obsessed with Mungeri Lal's dreams in pursuit of good relations with Pakistan at all costs.


The origin and history of Pakistan has been of relentless hostility towards India. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan, had grandiose plans of reviving a new Mughal Empire in India. He not only wanted Pakistan to comprise the Muslim majority provinces in the West and the East, but also wanted a 1,000-mile corridor connecting the two wings passing through the well-known Muslim cultural centres of Delhi, Lucknow and Patna. Besides, he put forward the legal argument that the Princely States had entered into a treaty with Britain acknowledging the latter as the paramount power. After British withdrawal, those treaties would lapse and paramountcy should revert to the rulers of those states. They should decide the future of their state, in terms of opting for either India or Pakistan. Jinnah had his eyes on Hyderabad, hoping to secure the largest Princely State in India — the size of France. He even tried to lure the rulers of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer to join Pakistan. As for Kashmir, he was confident about geography and demography favouring Pakistan and that Kashmir would fall like a ripe plum into Pakistan's lap. The British were willing to oblige. The Indian Independence Act of 1947, passed by the British Parliament, catered for the provinces to be allocated to the two dominions on the basis of religion and the Princely States on the basis of the decisions of their rulers.


Maharaja Hari Singh's decision to accede to India was perfectly legal. It also had moral sanction with Sheikh Abdullah, the state's tallest political leader with the maximum following, endorsing it. Kashmir being a part of India is something totally unacceptable to Pakistan. They call Kashmir the core issue and say until it is resolved there can be no peace on the subcontinent. They have, to an extent, succeeded in putting this across to the international community, particularly the US. The fact is that this issue is not the disease, but only its symptom. Even if it were to be resolved on Pakistan's terms, it would only whet Pakistan's appetite for bigger gains. In the context of Al Qaeda's international jihad, and of other such terrorist organisations, jihadi victory in Kashmir would be a step towards establishing a caliphate. There is little realisation of this internationally.
Before Partition, Jinnah had thundered that he would see India divided or destroyed. His grandiose vision of a new Mughal Empire floundered. He could get only a moth-eaten Pakistan. Within weeks of Independence, he unleashed a tribal invasion under Pakistan Army leadership to annex Kashmir. Successive military invasions by Pakistan — 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 — failed. From 1989 Pakistan started cross-border terrorism but that has been largely contained. Jihadi terrorism has spread to various cities in the rest of India. 26/11 was the mother of all terrorist attacks. The military, which rules the roost in Pakistan under a facade of civilian rule, considers the terrorist outfits as strategic assets. With increasing realisation in the US that the war in Afghanistan is not winnable, and the US planning to exit with honour, Pakistan is now well placed to pursue its strategic goals in Afghanistan and at the same time continue targeting Kashmir and settle the issue on its own terms. For the last three years Pakistan and its supporters in Kashmir have been trying to whip up a mass movement in the Valley to break away from India. In 2008 it was the Amarnath controversy, based on totally false and absurd propaganda of India changing the demography of the Valley like Israel had done in Palestine. The communal card was played to the hilt. In 2009, the accidental drowning of two women in Shopian was projected as a case of rape and killing by the security forces to create an anti-India frenzy. A CBI investigation brought out the conspiracy and those guilty of fabricating false evidence are now on trial. This year emotions have been aroused against the security forces at the deaths of some "innocent" stone-pelting young boys. The PDP has been hand-in-glove with the organisers of these three successive mass movements. It is significant that the stone-pelting operation, with support from across the border, was organised on the eve of the recent Indo-Pak talks in Islamabad.


Pakistan has a long history of violating written agreements. It violated the Standstill Agreement and invaded Kashmir in October 1947, the Ceasefire Agreement and launched the 1965 war, the Shimla Accord and started cross-border terrorism, and the Lahore Declaration with the Kargil intrusion. In 2004, Gen. Pervez Musharraf gave a commitment that Pakistani territory would not be allowed to be used for terrorist action against India, but that continued abated. Pakistan has always denied its hand in acts of aggression against India but subsequently the lie has got exposed by its own people and from overwhelming evidence. Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan's book, Raiders Over Kashmir, gave details of the Pakistan Army's involvement in the 1947 war; Gen. Mohammad Musa's book, My Vision, showed how Pakistan launched the 1965 war; Gen. Musharraf's book, In The Line of Fire, throws light on the intrusion in Kargil. Pakistan's stand that there is no cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and that it is an ongoing freedom movement was given the lie by a former ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Javed Ashraf Qazi, in Pakistan's National Assembly. In the case of 26/11, it has been the same story with evidence from Ajmal Kasab and David Headley blowing the lid off. But Pakistan yet drags its feet on taking action.
The story is no better in terms of observing civilised behaviour and diplomatic norms. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto talked of a thousand-year war and referred to Swaran Singh at the UN as an "Indian dog". Musharraf's breakfast press conference at Agra violated democratic norms. On the eve of foreign secretary-level talks, Mr Qureshi, in a speech at Multan, said Pakistan was not on its knees asking for talks, it was India that had done so. Mr Qureshi's recent barbs against Mr Krishna and India have been reprehensible.


India has always pursued a peaceful foreign policy. This can only be done from a position of military strength. Ashoka the Great had nearly a million-strong standing army. We learnt a lesson in 1962 — that peace cannot be pursued from a position of military weakness. Pakistan has been involved in the nuclear blackmarket and is the epicentre of international terrorism. It is both a rogue and a terrorist state. Libya, for doing much less, had been declared a terrorist state. No doubt India must ardently pursue a policy of peace with Pakistan, but this must be done from a position of military strength, and not under external pressure. We should not be seen as a soft state chasing illusions.


The author, a retired lieutenant-general, wasVice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

IN BED WITH BRITAIN

SHOBHAA DE

 

goes, his references to national icons and symbols (Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin, curry, lingo) during his Bengaluru lecture for 2,000 techies, won him several extra brownie points. Mr Cameron is a smart cookie and it really was high time the British figured out how the cookie crumbles in India. A steamy Indo-British romance is heavily in the air. So far, we are reasonably pleased with the suitor's efforts. Mr Cameron is on a mission to woo us — and we aren't being bashful or coy, either. In these crass and nakedly commercial times, nobody should shy away from discussing lolly. In fact, it should be the number one item on the agenda — money. How much are we going to make after getting into bed with Britain? I'm all for a pre-nup. That's the bottomline, everything else is secondary. Once those dirty filthy commercial details are taken care of, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can also praise Lady Gaga, Elton John and their cricket captain. But he must never ever make the mistake of praising British food or else the world will know he is lying.P.R. giriBandgala… and it sure looks like Mr Cameron is ready to wear one. What better way to woo those restless natives. All for a good cause, of course! As photo-ops go, his "namastey" in Bengaluru made a few front pages. As goodBritish Prime Minister David Cameron is hip, hot and sexy. A little like that other perennial British pin-up — Elizabeth Hurley. What fun! They can be conveniently bracketed in the "same same but different" category given their India connections. Hurley is married to Mr


Courtship rituals vary, but Mr Cameron and his band of merry men (well, mostly… there were very few saucy lassies on his team of 90), stayed with a fairly traditional, even predictable script. The mood was "Hawk-ish" — the Rs 5,200 crore deal for advanced jet trainers is in the bag. There were several other "farmaishes" on the British wish list — from UK law firms interested in setting up shop in India, to British banks and supermarket players like Tesco getting down to serious business here. Let's do a little sing along folks, "All I want is a deal somewhere… far away from this cold nightmare… oh, wouldn't it be loverly"? This two-day visit — let's call it a quickie — spells (and smells of) just one thing — cash. But at least there is no fake attempt at making the whirlwind trip sound like anything other than what it is — a shopping jamboree.


the local politicians present. The Mumbai crowd is so much more blasé and cosmopolitan — the guy can relax and have a great time".gheraoMr Cameron's crack team is packed with cuties, too. George Osborne whizzed through Mumbai, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, despite his hysterical schedule. As always, Mumbai's unchallenged power couple, Parmesh and Adi Godrej, pulled out all the stops and showed the visitors what the megawatt Mumbai magic is all about at a marvellously structured dinner party for 60 of their closest and dearest friends — other industrialists, Bollywood stars, fashionistas, socialites, writers, professionals. It was a dazzling line up of the city's best and brightest, to say nothing of the hottest. Since the dishy under-40 Chancellor of the Exchequer was the star invitee, Mumbai sat up and took notice, giving him the sort of "bhav" generally reserved for Bollywood royalty and nobody else. An invitee who had flown in from Delhi especially for the soiree commented wryly, "Thank God for Adi and Parmesh. Thank God George's first impressions of India will be formed at an evening like this, rather than at a stuffy Delhi dinner, where guests often ignore the visiting chief guest andDilliwalla observed, while he braced himself for round two of partying in the capital the following night.in sight, as thebehenjibelieves this priceless necklace belongs to him or her — as it indeed does. Members of Georges' team were caught ogling the lovely ladies present. The lucky visitors had the chance to feast on enough eye candy to give them a bellyache for weeks. Gorgeous men and women floated around dressed in the most eye-popping couture. A mega industrialist's beautiful wife was sporting a whopper of a diamond (not less than 40 carats)… and oh-so-casually at that (over a classic black dress). Everywhere one turned, there was red hot glamour (starting with the hostess dressed in a figure hugging red Herve Leger). Mercifully, there wasn't aMumbaikarWell, given that gallons of Dom were generously flowing and the dinner table was laden with baked crab and salmon, it must have been very difficult for Georgie Boy to concentrate on biz talk or even believe he was indeed in India. How many times did he pinch himself that night? The enticing stretch of the glittering Queen's Necklace glittered wickedly beyond the tranquil infinity pool of the Godrej mansion. Ironic! The Queen (Victoria) to whom this "necklace" was dedicated was the Empress of British India at the time! And now everyWell, the Big Boys from Britain have successfully pulled off a charm initiative. As a seasoned legal eagle who attended a cruelly timed (7 am) breakfast meeting with Osborne, the morning after the night before, commented, "He made all the right noises and kept repeating, 'We are here to learn'… that's a good place to start". You bet! Especially when you forget to add, "We are here to sell…" Let us watch how it goes once the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), make it official.


It is payback time, buddies. We know how to drive hard bargains and squeeze the testicles of trading partners when needed. Your time begins now — tick, tick, tick, tock. The mouse ran up the clock. Big Ben and Rajabai Tower are the new BFFs in town.


Oye, Lucky, Oye!!

 

— Readers can send feedback towww.shobhaade.blogspot.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE MEDIOCRE CRAFTSMEN

KISHWAR DESAI

 

Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to India was in the news in the UK, but only because of his remarks on Pakistan. So what happened to the 90-strong entourage? This was enough for at least one large all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood extravaganza scene, complete with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh humming "Singh is King… Singh is King… Singh is King". Apart from cruel cartoons showing Cameron as a slumdog begging for alms from a millionaire Singh, Mr Cameron's India visit has only created a media impact following his remarks that Pakistan must not look "both ways". Perhaps in such an old historic relationship it would take a very large earthquake to generate headline grabbing moments. Or could it also be that in state visits, most people would ask "But what's in it for me?" and lose interest.


Perhaps security problems, i.e., terrorism emanating out of Pakistan, are issues which do concern all of us and therefore become essential grist for the media mill. And what could generate more fear and excitement than the thought of an angered Pakistan? But believe me, this is simply untrue. In the world of David Cameron, who is the world's most optimistic Prime Minister, it is possible to be a friend of both, India and Pakistan. And I can assure you that when the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visits UK early next month, he will have the time of his life at Chequers, Mr Cameron's country home. All this gnashing of teeth and mock anger at Mr Cameron's statements will be history, but the so-called anti-Pakistan remarks will have pleased the Indians hugely.


It has been a clever move because it has completely distracted everyone from the other big elephant in the room: the issue of the immigration cap on non-EU (European Union) workers, which for some reason is exercising Indian industry and the Indian government. However, this should not be allowed to become an emotive issue — because in reality it barely affects the relationship between the two countries. There is a strong and thriving diaspora in the UK which is quite capable of looking after its own self interests, and the Indian government should not fall into the trap of pandering to businessmen who feel that they can, by importing cheap Indian labour, somehow make a quick buck. After all, if you invest in another country you should be quite prepared to employ local talent and expertise, and not be so obsessed with carrying your Indian chefs and masala makers with you. Nor is the Indian professional so bereft of opportunities that he or she has to come to Britain.


UK and, in fact, London has a large and comfortable Asian presence, and certainly, we have taken over most of the service counters in almost every large department store or shopping mall. We are in the National Health Service and are employed in most corporations. We are already well represented here, and there is no need to feel that the immigration cap is a racist backlash. It is an internal problem of the British government which is struggling to deal with recession and the huge bill of social services and should not be misread as a policy to exclude.


In fact, even those of Indian origin who live here, do state that this is after all an island, and there is no sense in permitting the quality of the local services to deteriorate because they simply cannot take the pressure of more migrants. There is an equal worry about EU migrants — but they cannot be prevented from coming as the EU permits free movement between its member countries. Remember this is a highly subsidised welfare society — with free medicare and excellent public services. Part of the joy of living here is the fact that, as yet, the country's scarce resources have not been stretched to the point of breaking down completely. If policies of open immigration continue then the fear is that perhaps one day London will be as overcrowded as Delhi — with chronic shortages of water and electricity, and huge mountains of garbage everywhere.

Next week I will be in Delhi, and already a new electricity inverter is being installed in my home because of the frequent outages. This summer we have been calling water tankers and I have no doubt that when I reach, if it is raining, the roads around the house will be flooded. Those who raise their voices against "immigration caps" must look around India's capital and see what happens when uncontrolled migration takes place. The free movement of people between countries is an idyllic thought — but perhaps phasing the migration over time may be a more pragmatic move.

 

MEANWHILE, ANOTHER stalwart bites the dust. I always wondered how long it would take to happen… After all, be honest, how many people do you know have admitted over a quiet drink in a noisy bar (where they cannot possibly be overheard) that they have picked up a Salman Rushdie book and been unable to complete it? However, they always add, rolling their eyes and with gritted teeth, "But he writes so well… one day I must finish it". And so the years fly by. And many Rushdie books pile up unread.


However, now finally the real reason may have been revealed. Sir Salman Rushdie has been named, among other literary leading lights, by the former Weidenfield professor of comparative literature at Oxford University, Gabriel Josipovici, as "profoundly disappointing".


He adds that "You feel Rushdie's just showing off rather than giving a sense of genuine exploration". Sacrilege! will be the united scream which goes up around the world of Rushdie worshippers. But wait, Professor Josipovici has not spared Ian McEwan or Martin Amis either in an interview to the Guardian newspaper. About those writers, such as Ian McEwan who have graduated from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course, he says, "They all tell stories in a way that is well crafted , but that is the most depressing aspect of it — a careful craft which seems to me to be hollow".


And, shock and horror, he has included hamara Noble Prize-wallah V.S. Naipaul in the list. He says that while Guerillas, the 1975 story written by Naipaul is "exquisitely crafted" it was one "to which we certainly would not want to return". So those of you who were trying to complete reading it for the 66th time, put it away, there is absolutely no point. Prof Josipovici has spoken.


And now the debate has been joined by Park Honan, emeritus professor of English and American literature at Leeds University, who blames the electronic media for the decline of literature. "We are becoming superficial", he says. Becoming superficial? Wake up, profs, we are superficial.


Now, let me grab my iPhone and download my abbreviated audio-version of Alice in Wonderland…

 

n The writer can be contacted at


kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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DNA

EDITORIAL

OUTSOURCE THE GAMES

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

The news that the construction of stadiums and hotels for the Delhi Commonwealth Games is horribly behind schedule has justifiably given rise to much existential angst. It now appears more than a little likely that Games visitors will have to stay in tent cities in the absence of adequate accommodation options.

 

As if all this wasn't embarrassing enough, Mani Shankar Aiyar, the killjoy spoilsport, is conducting Varuna japa yagnas to propitiate the rain god into rendering the Games a washout.

 

Isn't there any way out of what is certain to be a colossal loss of face for us - and simultaneously keep everyone happy? Oddly enough, there is.

 

By a curious alignment of circumstances, Britain — whose prime minister David Cameron came calling asking for Indian investments to revive the down-and-out UK economy — is hosting the 2012 Olympic Games in London. And because the Brits have forsaken the limitless joys of bureaucratic red tape they gifted us, the London Olympic stadiums are in a rather more advanced state of preparedness than our own Games infrastructure is. So, here's the deal.

 

Let's outsource the Commonwealth Games to London and have them host it on our behalf without our having to pay them a penny.

 

Here's how it would work: for the entire duration of the Games, London will be rechristened 'New Delhi' and vice-versa, and the new 'New Delhi' will see the Games through, down to the last detail. Again, during the Games, all Brits will invoke distinctive Indianisms in their speech — such as "Your good name?" and "Mind it!"

 

Why, you might ask, would the British agree to this lunacy? There are many compelling reasons why they should (and likely will) embrace it. First and foremost, it's the Commonwealth Games — hello! — so they would be doing it for "Queen and country". Second, they get a chance to stress-test their overall Olympics preparedness in somewhat exacting real-life circumstances.

 

Third, and most important, the goodwill they generate with us by hosting the Commonwealth Games on our behalf could grease the tracks for the Indian investments they seek in their economy.

 

And they really have nothing to lose: these are the same chaps who sailed the seas to colonise us, braved death and disease, tolerated the heat and the dust, and learnt (thanks to Hobson-Jobson) to say "There was a banker" when they wanted doors shut! Now, they just have to pretend to be us for a fortnight without leaving the comfort of their home. What could be easier than that? As for us, our incomplete stadiums won't go entirely for waste either. We could always hand them over to Mani Shankar Aiyar for him to perform his Varuna yagnas. God knows we need the rains.

 

It's a winning proposition for everyone, mind it! Now, let the Blighty Games begin...

 

URL of the article: http://www.dnaindia.com/opinion/column_outsource-the-games_1416803-all

 

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DNA

MAIN ARTICLE

DREAMS OF BEAUTY IN THE SHANTIES

PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

 

At five in the morning, 17-year-old Sonia steps out of her shack, walks down her lane past the garbage and the gutter, and hops on to a bus. Half an hour later, she is in another world — inside a South Delhi middle-class home where she washes the dishes, scrubs and mops the floor. The chores are repeated in three more houses.

 

'Dull' pretty much describes Sonia's life unless you meet her in her other avatar — that of an aspiring beautician. Here, inside a room in a vocational training centre, Sonia is one of the many young shanty dwellers, learning skills that could unlock the door to her dream world. It is a class on beauty culture run by Deepalaya, an NGO, working with families classified as BPL — below the poverty line.

 

Beauty and BPL may not seem an obvious fit. But to Sonia and the

 

young girls picking up tweezing tips for perfect eyebrows, hair treatment, or the secrets of bridal make-up, beauty is the passport to mobility. Sonia dropped out of school after the fourth grade to look after her siblings. Her father is a cook, her mother is a housemaid. Both work seven days a week to feed the family of seven. Earlier, girls like Sonia with no money and little education would have had little to hope for. But today, things are changing rapidly even in shantytown India.

 

Girls from the shanties are as fired by the dream of looking good as their counterparts in middle-class neighbourhoods or the urban elite who live in gated communities. Where there is no clean water or toilets, should there be talk about waxing and tweezing? What is the role of beauty in the lives of those denied the basics? There is no easy answer.

 

In her best-selling book, The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf argued that images of beauty - found on television and in advertisements, women's magazines, and pornography — are detrimental to women, as well as to the men who love them. Wolf was referring toAmerican culture when she asserted that concept of "beauty" as projected in the popular culture is a weapon used to make women feel badly about themselves.

 

One wonders whatWolf might say were she to visit Sonia's home and then observe her as she experiments with 'party make-up' during her beauty class.

 

Simranjeet Kaur, Sonia's instructor, says makeover tricks offer wonderful entry points to people who urgently seek change.

 

"These girls are surrounded by dirt and filth. When they come here, we first talk about the importance of cleanliness and hygiene. Then we tell them how every woman can be beautiful. The message has a profound impact. You can see the changes within weeks. When they go back home, they have a heightened sense of beauty, and they try to make their home and surroundings more appealing in little ways".

 

The girls cannot afford expensive toiletries, points out Kaur. But in the class, they learn about beauty on a budget and how to turn kitchen leftovers like scrapings of potatoes, papayas, tomatoes and cucumber into beauty aids.

 

Many of the girls who are now enrolled in the beautician's course faced stiff parental opposition at the start. "Deepalaya staff had to mount a full-fledged campaign to win over the family and community elders. The first girl who came from the shanties where Sonia lives paved the way for the others. Today, there is a queue to join the course." says Pradeep Kumar, who manages Deepalaya's vocational training centre.

 

Like so many other industries, the beauty industry is short of trained staff, a scenario which energises Sonia's class of aspiring beauticians. Jobs in parlours are easy to come by. With experience and some capital, one can establish one's own salon or even go freelance, paying home visits.

 

Sonia's dream resonates across shanties the world over. The global economy may be in deep crisis but the beauty business is roaring in emerging economies. India's slums and Brazil's favellas are choc-a-bloc with tiny cosmetic stores and beauty salons. For those who live here, the triumph of style over substance is not an evil. It offers hope to a better life.

 

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DNA

INTERVIEW

I'M MERCENARY: I WROTE DAY OF THE JACKAL FOR MONEY: FREDERICK FORSYTH

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

For four decades now, British author Frederick Forsyth has kept adrenaline levels of millions of his readers pumped up with his pulsating spy thrillers and breathless, best-selling narratives of political assassinations.

 

His first novel, The Day of the Jackal, which he says he wrote "for the money" when he was down and out in London, became a cult classic and, later, a film under Fred Zinneman's direction, with Edward Fox starring as the hitman hired to assassinate French statesman Charles de Gaulle. Since then, Forsyth, banging away on his typewriter, has churned out 11 novels — besides short story collections and works of non-fiction. DNA recently caught up with the 71-year-old storyteller at the Hong Kong Book Fair, where he'd come to promote his latest thriller, The Cobra, about international cocaine cartels.

 

How was The Jackal born?

 

As a young man, I hadn't the slightest intention of becoming a novelist. When I was a kid, I had only one overweening ambition, and it derived from the fact that when I was a two-year-old, I remember staring up at what seemed like silver fish whirling and twirling in the sky, leaving contrails of white vapour. I was watching the Battle of Britain and in my tiny little baby way, I wanted to be a pilot.

 

Growing up, I remained consumed by the ambition to fly. I rebuffed all attempts to send me to university and joined the RAF. Still later, I had a second ambition: to see the world, and so I became a foreign correspondent for a newspaper and then Reuters, and travelled the world, until finally, 40 years ago, I found myself back in London from an African war, broke, without a job. That's when I wrote The Day of the Jackal.

 

What drives you to write?

 

I'm slightly mercenary: I write for the money. I feel no compulsion to write. If somebody said 'You're not going to write another word of fiction as long as you live', it wouldn't matter a damn. But today, I'd say that if you want to make money, you shouldn't write a novel.

 

Why's that?

 

For a person trying to make himself reasonably wealthy, writing a novel is probably the most unlikely, hazardous and slow method. Forty years ago, I didn't know that. Everybody I knew said I was out of my mind, that the chances of my getting published were 1 in 1,000, and even if I were published, I'd probably sell 50 copies. I was just too dim to take their advice.

 

In every publishing house, eyes glaze over at the arrival of an unsolicited manuscript from a no-name author. They're all bundled up and sent back, almost all of them unread. If you want to make money, you're better off being, say, a bond trader — not a writer of novels.

 

Do you need a quiet place to think and write in?

 

In the early stage of thinking up a plot, I can be anywhere: on a fishing boat in the tropics or walking the dogs — and thinking, When my son was a toddler, he once asked me what I was doing, and I said Iwas working. And he said, "You were not working, you were staring at the wall." And I said, sternly: "That is work!"

 

The only time I need quiet is when I am physically writing. I've a farm, and I've converted the upper floor of the barn into a writing room. There I sit and type: 10 pages a day for 50 days. But there's been at least a year or more of meticulous preparation before I hit the first keys.

 

You do it the old-fashioned way, on a typewriter?

 

I don't have a computer, never wanted one. I'm constantly asked why I don't use a word processor. But there are two charming young ladies at the publisher's, who take my miserable offering and turn out an impeccable manuscript. Why should I deprive them of their job?

 

Until last month, when we heard of a Russian spy ring in the US, espionage seemed to be going out of fashion. Is it?

 

There was a belief that around 1991, when the Soviet Union was dismembered, that the KGB had also been abolished. But it wasn't: it was simply broken up into its various divisions, and renamed. The first chief directorate of the foreign espionage division was renamed the SVR. It still conducts espionage operations outside Russia against all of us. In that sense, it wasn't a surprise that some Russian spy sleepers had been discovered in America. The surprise was in how ineffective they were: they'd just about penetrated the golf club! But the rest of it goes on: we do it, they do it. There's been a slight reorientation towards combating Islamic fundamentalism, which is perceived to be a major threat. But the amount of espionage we carry out against Russia is probably not much less than it used to be — and vice-versa.

 

How big is China on the espionage scale? May we expect a Forsyth thriller set in China?

My first visit to Hong Kong was in 1978. My host was the British head of station, and he took me to a Chinese restaurant, run by a father and two sons, all 6 feet 2 inches tall. In the end, when I offered my compliments on a wonderful meal, I was told, "See, that's the Peking intelligence service!" I said, "I thought they were our enemies." My host said: "Good god, no! They're our friends. The Russians are our enemies!"So, we never really had an awful lot of antagonism towards Beijing, and where it suited us to cooperate, we did. I don't think it's changed much. We've common threats, and in the same way that my enemy's enemy is my friend, we cooperate on, for instance, Islamic fundamentalism.

 

How involved were you with the screenplay of the films based on your novels?

 

I learnt early on that the least desired person anywhere near a film set is the book's author. Directors have their own ideas, and they don't want to be told by an author: "I didn't say that." You have to make up your mind if someone comes up to you and says "Here's a cheque, take it or leave it, but if you take it, don't interfere in the making of the film." You might go in on the film's opening night, curious about what you'll see. It will probably be a disappointment, but never mind. One must go back to Liberace's aphorism: when he was rebuked for the levity of his music, he said, "I know, which is why I cry all the way to the bank!".

 

\Did you ever feel under pressure to 'sex up' your thrillers?

 

When I wrote Jackal, I thought — because I knew nothing about writing — I was supposed to put sex scenes in. And I did; it was awful because it was unlikely and not very stimulating. My publisher said, "Well, keep them in, but don't do it again." I haven't put sex into any of my other novels, and it doesn't seem to have done any harm to the sales whatsoever.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PYRRHIC VICTORY

TRS WIN NO REFERENDUM ON TELANGANA

 

FRIDAY'S spectacular victory of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) candidates in the by-elections to 12 seats in the Andhra Pradesh State Assembly was not entirely unexpected. The by-elections were necessitated by the resignation of all 10 legislators of the TRS and one each of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on the issue of a separate Telangana state early this year. Undoubtedly, the results are a big blow for the ruling Congress and the TDP. The defeat of Andhra Pradesh Congress President D. Srinivas from Nizamabad Urban at the hands of BJP candidate Lakshminarayana is all the more humiliating. For Mr Srinivas, who has lost the elections for the second time in a row, it was a do-or-die battle. He not only fancied himself as a future Chief Minister but also counted on a win here as a step towards fulfilling that ambition. For the Congress, the results are a major setback because it has failed to make inroads into TRS strongholds and reduce its political base to lead the pro-Telangana movement.

 

TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu, who was optimistic of winning at least half a dozen seats, also received a drubbing. He had virtually no poll plank till the second week of July. The Babhli dam construction project did come to his party's rescue. However, his campaign against Maharashtra over the issue did not cut ice with the electorate even though the dam is perceived to affect the flow of water to the Sriram Sagar project — the lifeline of six Telangana districts.

 

The TRS camp is entitled to celebrate its victory. However, it would be erroneous for one to dub the election results as a referendum in favour of a separate Telangana state. It can at best be described as a pyrrhic victory. Its leader, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao, and others would do well to tread with caution and act responsibly over Telangana. While the Justice Srikrishna Commission is seized of the matter, any decision on Telangana should be taken only after a calm and cool examination of the problem. Clearly, the Centre cannot be forced to take any decision through violence, intimidation and pressure tactics. Andhra Pradesh had to pay a very high price during the prolonged agitation in the state over Telangana. Wise counsel should prevail over all political parties in dealing with the issue. 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

LOGJAM REMOVED, MUCH REMAINS TO BE DONE

 

THE Centre has taken a positive step to break the logjam that bedevilled the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act. At the root of it all are the funds needed to implement the Act. The RTE followed the pattern of the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, in which the ratio between the Centre and states is 55-45. Some states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, among others, had called upon the Centre to take on a greater share of the cost of the RTE implementation. The Centre has agreed and the expenditure finance committee approved an additional Rs 60,000 crore. The total expenditure slated for ensuring compulsory education to all children up to class VIII is expected to be Rs 2,31,000 crore over five years.

 

It might sound like a lot, but clearly, India, which boasts of vast human resources, needs to educate its population and it is a shame that more than six decades after Independence, a vast number of Indians do not even have the ability to read and write. Social uplift can only be meaningful in an environment where each child is educated, and is helped to achieve his or her potential.

 

Education plays a major part in the development of a child. While it is widely acknowledged that primary education lays the foundation of a child's future, it is this very sector that is the weakest and most ignored. There is a major shortage of infrastructure, including qualified and dedicated teachers, which needs to be addressed forthwith. Also, schoolteachers deserve far better salaries, but along with that should come accountability and a mechanism for regular monitoring. At the same time, poverty-stricken parents should be encouraged to send their children to schools rather than to work and supplement the family income. The government, society and indeed, every citizen must do his or her bit to ensure a bright future for India's children. Only then will the Act, which was passed by Parliament in August 2009 and came into force on April 1, 2010, achieve its laudable objective.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE LEGEND LIVES ON

SHIV BATALVI'S APPEAL UNDIMINISHED

 

POLITICIANS may have their own reasons to celebrate the birth anniversary of Shiv Batalvi, but Punjab's most loved poet had died without the then government offering him proper treatment in his last days. His wife and well-wishers did their bit, but Shiv left hospital to die in his in-laws' house at Kiri Mangial in Gurdaspur district in neglect. Shiv Batalvi (1937-73) lived and flourished in an era dominated by progressive writers, who wrote about rural poverty, discrimination, inequality and exploitation. In fact, Shiv was criticised for his "excessive romanticism" and "lack of social consciousness". His critics included Punjabi poets Paash, Dr Jagtar and Amarjit Chandan.

 

Part of the criticism stemmed from envy. Shiv Batalvi was a rage among the young and the young at heart. When this melancholic handsome poet sang his own poems on stage, he got wild applause. None in Punjabi literature has received such mass adulation. The craze for his songs has only increased with time and with the easy availability of cassettes of his songs sung, among others, by Mahendra Kapoor (Ek kudi jida naa muhabbat), Jagjit Singh (Eh mera geet kise na gana) and Asa Singh Mastana (Mainu tera shabab lai baitha). If generations of Punjabis have adored Shiv Batalvi, it is because his poetic creations have touched universal human emotions — longing for love, separation from the beloved, pain of living and a romantic obsession with death. He died when he was just 36.

 

His major work, an epic-like play in verse, Loonan, for which he got the Sahitya Academy Award in 1967, gives a new identity to Loonan's character. In the mythical folklore of Pooran Bhagat, Loonan is condemned as lustful and wicked. But Shiv has portrayed her as a victim of patriarchal society. He has rewritten the folk tale from a woman's point of view. These days when khaps are hounding young lovers for having partners of their choice, Shiv Batalvi has a special appeal and relevance.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

EXTENSION FOR KAYANI

WILL THE PAK ARMY CHIEF FOLLOW OBAMA?

BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

IN its 63 years of independent existence, Pakistan has had 14 Army chiefs. The first two were Britishers. Of the other 12, five had either two tenures or were Army chiefs for longer durations. Generals Ayub Khan, Mohammed Musa and now Kayani have had two tenures sanctioned by superior authority, democratic or otherwise.

 

Three Generals had one tenure. They were Generals Tikka Khan, Aslam Beg and Abdul Waheed Kakkar. Two dictator Army chiefs, Generals Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf remained as army chiefs for 11 and nine years respectively. In four cases, the incumbents could not complete the tenure. General Yahya Khan resigned after losing the Bangladesh war. General Gul Hasan was forced to resign after being accused of Bonapatism by Z.A. Bhutto, the President. General Asif Nawaz died in office under mysterious circumstances. Jahangir Karamat voluntarily tendered his resignation when accused of impropriety by Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff.

 

The Pakistan Army prides itself on its discipline. The story of betrayals, however, begins with Ayub Khan overthrowing his long-term patron Iskander Mirza. Yahya Khan toppled his benefactor, Ayub Khan. The charge against Gul Hasan was Bonapartism. Zia-ul-Haq turned on his patron Z.A.Bhutto.

 

The widely believed version of Zia's death is that he was assassinated by disaffected army personnel. General Musharaff deposed the Prime Minister who selected him superseding his senior. Kayani had no compunction in joining with the civilian politicians and packing home the man who made him the Army chief.

 

This tendency to turn against one's benefactor is not confined to the Pakistani military only. Z.A.Bhutto owed his meteoric rise to Ayub Khan. He helped to bring him down. Benazir Bhutto made Farooq Leghari the President. He sacked her in 1996. Once General Zia explained to an Indian Editor that in Islam, according to his interpretation, it did not matter how a ruler came to power, but he must implement the Shariah. The Pakistani politico-strategic culture displays a distinct loyalty-deficit among majority of politicians and generals.

 

In Pakistan, though there is an Election Commission, the ultimate control over the elections vests in the Army which conducts it. One General explained that the voting in Pakistan has always been free. It is at the counting stage that angels intervened. The counting was usually rigged. And this came out clearly at the time Musharaff stood for elections for the first time.

 

One of Kayani's qualifications for extension was he held the second free and fair elections in the entire history of Pakistan. The first was held under General Yahya Khan in 1970 when the Inter-Services Intelligence predicted a hung National Assembly. Contrary to the prediction the election returned Mujibur Rahman as a clear majority leader. The Army would not accept that verdict, leading to the civil war which resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh.

 

This time, since Kayani was one of the architects of the Musharaff-Benazir reconciliation deal, presumably, the ISI assessment was a victory in the polls for Benazir's Pakistan People's Party, especially after her assassination. Therefore, there was perhaps no problem in the Army in conducting a free and fair election.

 

Kayani earned his popularity by enabling the return of the sacked Chief Justice and other judges and quietly showing the door to Musharaff to vacate the presidency and exit. In Pakistan, there is a very apt description of the state of their politics. Either the General is standing behind the chair or actually sitting on the chair. General Kayani has been a far more sophisticated person than the brash commando, Musharaff, he succeeded.

 

He has left the day-to-day governance to the politicians and got them to face all the unpopularity and disaffection arising out of misgovernance. He has kept in his hands the reins of real power by keeping the veto on defence, foreign affairs and intelligence fields. He has clearly demonstrated that he is in change in several ways. Prior to the strategic dialogue with the US, he summoned all concerned civilian Secretaries to the General Headquarters and finalised the agenda for the dialogue.

 

On her two visits to Islamabad, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent more time talking to the Army Chief than to any other minister including the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. In the Washington strategic dialogue, Foreign Minister Quereshi was only the nominal head and the Pakistani delegation was, in fact, headed by the Army Chief. The US Administration accepted that reality.

 

Though the Pakistan civilian government moved the UN Security Council to appoint a panel to investigate the circumstances of Benazir murder, it was compelled to protest against the criticism of the panel against the establishment (Army) and the Intelligence Services (ISI) in particular. The Army Chief and the corps commanders were critical of the provisions of Kerry-Lugar legislation on aid to Pakistan and US rushed Senator John Kerry, the author of the legislation and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to mollify the Army leadership.

 

The Wikileaks covering 90,000 documents over a period of five years have clearly exposed the double game played by Pakistan Army during the period 2004-09 when pretending to cooperate with US, the Pakistan Army had been financing, equipping, sharing intelligence with and providing logistic support for the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Haqqani Faction and other Jehadi groups.

 

From 2005 to 2008, General Kayani was the Director-General of ISI and then Army Chief. In fact, he was the person who executed the policy of double dealing with the US for the last five years. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has extended his tenure to ensure continuity of policy and direction for the counter-terrorism operation launched by the Army after 2009 when the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) turned rogue and launched terrorist attacks on Army and intelligence installations.

 

Though the US has been urging the Pakistani Army to launch attacks on all terrorist groups, the Pakistan Army has not complied with the US request. US officials have told their Legislatures Intelligence Committees that the Pakistan Army considered some of the terrorist groups as their strategic assets against India and to hedge their bets in the post-US withdrawal phase in Afghanistan.

 

In those circumstances, extension of tenure for Kayani is a direct rebuff of President Obama strategy to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the five terrorist groups having safe havens in Pakistan and hitherto shielded and nurtured by the Pakistani Army and ISI. After the leaks, US Vice-President Biden said that the problems Wikileaks described within Pakistan's Intelligence Services were being dealt with and things were changing.

 

The next few weeks will reveal to the world whether General Kayani will fall in line with Obama strategy or continue to pursue his double-dealing game with the US.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A PATCH OF PARADISE

BY VIJAI SINGH MANKOTIA

 

DURING my military career one of the most memorable postings that I had was in the enchanting Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan at Thimphu. It came as a windfall. After a dozen-odd years of service in the army a certain restlessness had taken hold of me and I felt a sense of drift and stagnation. Thus it was that I decided to put in my papers and seek voluntary pre-mature retirement.

 

It was the beginning of the seventies decade. The legendary General Sam Manekshaw, later to be elevated as independent India's first Field Marshal, was the Army Chief. Most likely it had been mentioned to him about my putting in my papers.

 

One fine day out of the blue came orders of my assignment with the Royal Bhutan Army headquarters at Thimphu, along with that of two others. It appeared that some sensitive issues had cropped up and Sam had flown to Thimphu for a one-to-one discussion with His Majesty the King. Not much later this posting followed.

 

Just before leaving for Bhutan I was lucky to meet the Chief at an informal function. 'This assignment may help change your mind about quitting the Army,' he said with a twinkle in his eyes. "Even though Bhutan is next door nevertheless it's a foreign country. Acquit yourself with dignity and don't be naughty. Bhutan is out of this world, believe you me".

 

Verily it was. Bhutan's beauty and splendour defied imagination. A patch of paradise if ever there was. We spent perhaps a little over four years, my wife and our two little children, adapting with ease to the extremely friendly people and the overwhelmingly hospitable environment.

 

The Chief of the Royal Bhutan Army was a person of outstanding merit, imbibing great human values and we were privileged to be accepted in the highest circles of Bhutan's hierarchy and nobility with His Majesty the King himself extending his generosity and graciousness, much cherished by us to this way.

 

We were witness to history as His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was crowned King of Bhutan on his coming of age in 1974. His father had been a great visionary, a steadfast and a trusted friend of India who ushered in far-reaching social and economic reforms, a legacy followed to this day even by the new King, maintaining their commitment to providing to the people of Bhutan an enlightened and pro-democracy monarchy.

 

My tenure, already overstretched with extensions, was coming to an end. The snow-covered mountains, the lush green forests, the crystal clear waters of the lakes and the rivers running through the fertile valley's of Paro, Ha, Punakha, Tashiganw and Thimphu itself would be difficult to part from. So content were the peace loving inhabitants and so rich their heritage, their tradition, custom, culture, religious belief and faith. In the corridors of power in Thimphu there was a hint of a suggestion that if I so chose I would be welcome to stay on in any capacity suitable to my status.

 

"Is it true what I hear?" very discreetly inquired the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, a highly distinguished and a seasoned diplomat. "If it were Sir, and you were in my place, what would your decision be?" I queried wanting to seek sage advise. He pondered for a while and then articulated succinctly: "You are the best judge," he said.

 

"These people here in Thimphu, particularly those who matter, have for all intents and purposes taken to you in a big way and what is more they trust you implicitly. But the decision to my mind must hinge delicately on just one factor. Would you rather enjoy the right of unfettered freedom that democracy bestows on you in your country or accept the laws, the customs and the way of life in a monarchy, wise and benign even as it may be".

 

Many are the years that have rolled by. The SAARC summit at Thimphu recreated images and memories came rushing back. Saying farewell to Thimphu was not easy. But then the very essence of Buddhism is the acceptance of the philosophy of impermanence. I still hear the mountain breeze murmur songs of divine invocation and picture the countless prayer flags flutter against the backdrop of exquisitely structured monasteries and clear blue skies.

 

Thank you Field Marshal, for affording me an opportunity that enrichened our lives. Thank you Bhutan, for the patch of paradise and the immensurable moments of happiness and bliss that shall last forever. And last but not the least, thank you Mr Ambassador Sir, for your words of infinite wisdom that brought to me the realisation of the gift of freedom.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

YOU NEED TWO TO MAKE

A MARRIAGE WORK

YOUNG AND PROFESSIONAL WORKING COUPLES ARE FINDING IT DIFFICULT TO SAVE THEIR MARRIAGES. DINK (DOUBLE INCOME NO KIDS) ENABLES THEM TO SPLURGE BUT CONTRARY TO EXPECTATIONS, MANY OF THEM DO NOT LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. THEY COMPLAIN OF BEING OVERWORKED AND HAVE LITTLE TIME FOR THEMSELVES. 
RAJSHREE SARDA

 

WHEN a woman goes out to work, it can throw many an organised households in turmoil. The most frequent trouble occurring in the family of a working couple stems from the man allowing his job to come first over everything else. His wife, who has to cope with the pressures of her own job, is then expected to take the sole responsibility of the family. She begins to feel resentful and he thinks that she wants too much, which unfortunately he has not been trained to either expect or give.

 

If he cannot dominate, he withdraws. Love for men means handing over the pay packets and having the final word in a relationship. Instead of sharing responsibility equally, they start grieving about lost authority, all the while feeling inadequate and vulnerable to an adolescent notion of love that cripples the emotional equilibrium that a woman is dreaming about.

 

Husbands of working women should be mindful of the fact that all this is new to us. We do not have the models handed down over centuries of cultural process. It is only in the relatively recent past that women have taken to jobs in a big way. Most of us would not allow a job to wreck the family and the men need to understand that a job bolsters a woman's self esteem, which in turn would make her more adept at handling situations at home and challenges outside. When I started working once my children were a little older, I did it because my inner happiness depended on it. I knew the time had come to take myself seriously, to treat myself as a person of worth and that meant being financially independent.

 

Working women are more likely to have had mothers who were employed when they were children than women in traditional marriages. Years ago, if someone's mother was working, her daughter wanted to be a housewife because she felt she missed her mother's all-too-essential presence at home. Now women's roles are emerging differently with new commitments and interest in career. Women are not content to play the second fiddle and are seeking a better deal for themselves at home and outside.

 

I meet a lot of people who are struggling to maintain this delicate balance. In my capacity as a counsellor, I outlined solutions for two couples who were facing a crisis that threatened to rip apart their family life. With time and a sustained conscious effort, these couples were able to overcome their differences with a little bit of understanding and mutual respect for each other's feelings. They made a deliberate attempt to put the other before oneself on some occasions and this yielded positive results, stimulating a sense of harmony.

 

CASE STUDY-I

 

Arvind (name changed) says: "I encouraged her to work, and suddenly she is an expert on everything. I did not marry a libber nine years ago and if she wants to wear the pants, I am certainly not going to take that."

 

Neha (name changed) agrees she has changed. "I just want to have some say. My opinion is respected at work and it is hard to play the little girl at home. Any time I offer an opinion, he gets upset. I love him, but I am a responsible adult and he must understand that. The least he can do is hear me out," she says.

 

Arvind is threatened since his judgment and authority are being questioned. He wonders if his function has thus far been to take decisions, what will his role be now? Is he still a man by his own definition?

 

Arvind was made to get in touch with his fear of becoming redundant and the anger and insecurity it produced. Neha was also asked to get in touch with her feelings. They had to have a frank discussion and were told not to use words like "you act" or "you do" for it would lead to a breakdown of communication. Instead of saying "you treat me like a little girl", she could say, "there are times when I feel I am being treated like a little girl". The same message, but less inflammatory. It does not matter who is right. The attitude has to be: this is the problem at hand and we have to deal with it together.

 

It is not always a woman's job that upsets a family's routine. What happens when the husband's job suddenly places new demands on this routine?

 

CASE STUDY-II

 

A couple preached sharing of income and parenting responsibilities, but when it came to a crunch situation, there was furore in the house.

 

Amrita (name changed) says they had the system worked down pat. "He would run the children to school on some days and we would take turns with parent-teacher meetings, doctor's appointments, etc. It was working well until Manoj's (name changed) boss decided that he needed to travel. He must do that if he has to head his zone, but my life is hell when he is away. Work piles up and I get frantic. My social life is zero and I resent being stuck with all of it alone," she complains.

 

I helped them discover insights to alleviate guilt and blame. They sought outside help to make adjustments with childcare, alternative work schedule or relocation assistance. Amrita had to reassess her priorities. Too often we have arrangements that fit our current situation and we forget to change them when the situation alters. I suggested that they make alterations in their life and when her husband travels, she must set up a reward system for herself. Do something that made her look forward to days when he was away. She started playing bridge, which she had given up after the arrival of her children. She started pampering herself and kept a full-time maid. She invited friends to play at home so that she didn't need extra help with children. Manoj requested his boss for an assistant. He still works hard, but the guilt and exhaustion are gone and the children look forward to seeing him before they go to bed.

 

All relationship problems can be worked out, but both partners have to be committed to rearranging their priorities.

 

The writer is a psychologist

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

LOVE AAJ KAL

LOVING WITHOUT PASSION IS LIKE PLAYING A PIANO AT A COMFORTABLE MIDDLE KEY AND NEVER KNOWING THE CRESCENDO AND THE ECSTASY OF IT ALL 

SAJLA CHAWLA

 

THE striking thing about the movie Love Aaj Kal was the idea of a break-up party and the woman's eyes lighting up at the novelty of it. Cinema mirrors society. It would be difficult for Generation Y to understand the dark depression of Devdas or Romeo-Juliet and Heer-Ranjha, for whom love was an eternal pact never to be forsaken. Today, a heartache wouldn't translate into copious tears and bouts of drunkenness. Are we heading toward a numb society where individuals so objectifythemselves and love is dispensable? Perhaps, the logic is what could be more liberating than to celebrate one's lack of ability to make a relationship work and proudly accept it. The youth sees relationships as just another success or failure story — like a career, an exam or a hobby class. There is always another opportunity. There is ample choice. A relationship is of consequence only if it satisfies well-defined needs. The idea of suffering for the sake of love is dwindling. Where is the passion gone? To put the heart and soul into a relationship is surely more gratifying than to love in pieces. It is like playing a piano at a comfortable middle key and never knowing the crescendo and the ecstasy of it all.Materialism has so crept into our lives that we often do not draw a line between things and people. Things are disposable and on easy offer at malls. The youth conveniently gives up on past connections and moves on to the new, more useful ones. This utilitarian culture sometimes unconsciously extends to relationships too. We are now less tolerant of our parents, spouses and partners.In the end it is our choice whether we are content to love in a manner that is tepid and sustains only due to social pressure or children; or walk away when the going gets tough; or give it all and accept a person with all the constraints. The former is at best a compromise. The latter is like the blood that flows in one's veins; strong, passionate and zestful – the elixir of life itself.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NOT ALL IS LOST

 

In the West, people love and marry, here we marry and love. Despite the claims that India is going the western way, the young brigade still believes in this sacred union even though it is true that it has become easier to walk out of a relationship and even a marriage. But the percentage is miniscule and insignificant going by the diversity that we have in our country.

 

— Manoj Godara, married a year ago

 

The meaning of relationships has changed. Trust that formed the basis of a relationship is now diminishing. This holds true of all relationships be it husband and wife or father and daughter. Everyday we hear shocking reports of a man raping his niece, husband killing his wife, wife hiring professional killers to eliminate her husband for property, etc. It is time we take steps to reclaim faith in relations.

 

— Manju Sharma, married for two decades, coordinator Hansraj Public School, Panchkula

 

Earlier, a man and a woman would try to adapt themselves to the needs of each other. But now the definition of marriage or even a steady relationship has completely changed. Being a single parent, single or a divorcee is not a stigma any more. People do not want to adjust in any relationship beyond a certain level. The altered equations have adversely affected the family. It has become easier to walk out of a marriage.

 

— Prof Rajesh Gill, dept of sociology, Panjab University

 

As told to Smriti Sharma Vasudeva

 

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******************************************************************************************BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

1951 redux

With only weeks to go before commonwealth games, construction deadlines have been missed, budgets have multiplied 10-fold and corruption is rampant

T n ninan

 

A sports extravaganza is supposed to be a "coming out" party for the host country. Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games in 1964, timing it with the introduction of that new wonder of the world, the Shinkansen (the "bullet trains"), to announce Japan's rebirth from the ashes of 1945. Seoul, after three decades of rapid economic growth, hosted the Olympics in 1988 with the same objective, as did Beijing in 2008. All three countries also primed their athletes to bring in record hauls of medals, so that the statement to the rest of the world was made on the track and field too, not just in the act of playing host. In contrast, Athens hosted the 2004 Olympics, 108 years after it hosted the first of the modern Olympiads — but it was a last-minute mess. You could have predicted that a corruption-ridden, public sector-dominated, disorganised Greece was headed for the crisis that has now overtaken it.

 

 India hosted the first Asian Games, held in 1951 over eight days with 11 participating countries. The Games had been scheduled for 1950, but postponed because (you guessed it!) the new National Stadium was not ready in time. Still, India came second in the medals tally, even bagging the football gold. The country hosted the Asiad again in 1982; this was a double-coming out party because Rajiv Gandhi as a debutant politician chose a successful organisation of the Asiad as his personal launch pad. In the event, the preparations were behind schedule and in the usual mess (incomplete flyovers, a stadium with suspect design specs, hotels meant for the Games not built, etc.); in desperation, the government turned to Jagmohan, who took charge and delivered what became a successful Games. Indira Gandhi told a relieved country that this meant that India could "do it".

 

Now, 28 years later, it would seem that we still can't "do it" properly. With only weeks to go before the curtains go up on the Commonwealth Games, all construction deadlines have been missed, budgets have multiplied an unbelievable 10-fold and more, and corruption is rampant. Far from a confident statement of national ability, the run-up to the Games testifies to the breakdown of the government system. If you want to understand why immunisation levels in the country have come down instead of going up, why Bangladesh is overtaking India on one social indicator after another, why 85 per cent of government programme money is mis-spent, and why Maoism is spreading, simply look at what has unfolded in broad daylight in the national Capital.

 

It may still fall into place at the last minute, as Sheila Dikshit has been promising for two years — as though that is how it is meant to be; and the event may yet pass off as smoothly as the 1982 Asiad did (the alternative is too horrific to imagine). Delhiites will get an expanded metro network as a present for having been subjected to a sustained civic mess, but they will also have to live with higher taxes to pay for the corruption and bloated budgets. The pity is that, as coming-out parties go, the Delhi Commonwealth Games will always be compared with the organisational efficiency of Beijing 2008. One positive fallout: China-India comparisons will be made less frequently at booster-ist Indian talk shops.

 

Half a century ago, Galbraith called India a "functioning anarchy". Today the functioning part seems to be in the private sector, while anarchy typifies the government. And so, the Central Vigilance Commission and other hound dogs can be expected to provide plenty of post-Games sport; but it seems too much to hope that Suresh Kalmadi will not be seen or heard from again.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

RBI 1, SUBBARAO 0

UNFORTUNATELY, WITH RBI, HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF AS BOTH FARCE AND TRAGEDY MUCH TOO OFTEN

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

For a moment, it looked like Indian monetary policy-making would step out into the modern world. The job of monetary policy is to be forward-looking, to anticipate future possibilities, rather than practise "rear window" economics. And, as financial and product markets around the world globalise and integrate, so should monetary policy divine not only what is happening and will likely happen in India, but also infer the same about the economies of the western world and that of our competitors in Asia. Very likely, this is what D Subbarao had in mind when he joined RBI as governor in September 2008.

 

 That is what all governors have had in mind. But RBI is an old institution, all puns intended. It still believes that monetary policy means controlling the quantity of money, like the good old days of planning. And it still believes, unique among modern central banks, in looking at inflation through the prism of the wholesale price index (WPI). And it still believes that the best inference about the future course of growth and inflation is via use of headline year-on-year (y-o-y) movements in industrial production and wholesale prices.

 

And these two indicators are screaming — tighten. So are most of the analysts, commentators, and investment banks' research departments. The "market" demands, nay dictates, a tightening, and reminiscent of Greenspan, RBI readily obliges. The simple point is that a central banks like RBI should act as a leader — ample evidence is that it continues to act as a dutiful market follower. What the above evidence indicates is that Dr Subbarao has given in to the slavish market followers — always late to do the right thing, and consequently, almost never right on time. (Click hre for table)

 

The table illustrates the folly of RBI, and now Dr Subbarao. The first two rows in the table illustrate how we do policy. In the US, no one has been caught napping, or defining inflation via the US equivalent of the WPI, the producer price index (PPI). The deficiencies of this index for inferences about generalised inflation are well-known outside of India; nevertheless, even this deficient index can yield inferences if used with delicate care.

 

What the US PPI (not seasonally adjusted) shows is that inflation has been high in the US, and extremely volatile. It was in double digits in the first nine months of 2008, then collapsed into deep negative territory post-Lehman for the next 12 months, and then bounced back to nearly a 9 per cent level in March 2010. In June 2010, the y-o-y PPI for the US was rising at a 5.4 per cent rate. What is the actual inflation in the US? Going by the GDP deflator (or the CPI), inflation has been running at close to a 1 per cent rate.

 

Now a similar calculation for India. Almost identical pattern to the US, for both the WPI and the GDP deflator! There is a difference in the level of inflation — in the US it is close to 1 per cent, in India it is close to 4.5 per cent.

 

Three-month seasonally adjusted annualised rates (3SAAR) data for the US and India show a similar pattern. What is noteworthy is that, as of June 2010, 3SAAR WPI inflation in India is running at a 3.3 per cent rate. And yet an anonymous but true-blooded senior RBI official is clamouring for raising rates even more because his analysis (sic?) suggests that we have runaway inflation in India. S/he can peruse these data at leisure, but the story of misconception and misguidedness at the highest policy levels in India will not change.

 

The effects of this misguided policy are clearly seen in the data on industrial production. The bounceback from the post-Lehman decline (quite noticeable in the US as well!) was interpreted by our monetary masters as over-heating. So, the great unwinding started — we have to get back to normal and raise real rates up and back to the "normal" 2008 levels. While the rest of the world is talking of a new normal of lower growth and even lower inflation, our conventional-wisdom (CW — an abbreviation shared by the clueless in wonderland types) analysts want to get back to nominal interest rates of 2008! A year (in)famous for the highest oil price of $147, the highest euro price $1.60, the highest food prices, and the highest practically any price you can think of. And that is the pre-Lehman "normal" our experts are advocating!

 

It is advisable to look carefully at the three-month SAAR data. Our policy-makers' expectation of 8-9 per cent GDP growth was predicated on industrial production growth at near double-digit levels. As we bask in the glory of y-o-y double-digit industrial growth, note that for the last six months, January-June 2010 (June y-o-y industrial growth estimated by Oxus to be close to 8.5 per cent), such growth has only been around a 1.5 per cent annualised rate. Recall a near-identical train wreck in pre-Lehman 2008 India. We used the same misguided y-o-y WPI (and food!) inflation numbers to tighten furiously in 2007-08, and brought industrial growth down to zero per cent in August 2008 — that is before the Lehman September. Unfortunately, with RBI, history repeats itself as both farce and tragedy much too often.

 

What we have had in India is food inflation, an inflation which is not attributable to monetary policy but entirely to gross mismanagement at the Centre. The correction of that does not entail a tightening of monetary policy. What RBI possibly doesn't realise is that it is falling into the well-laid trap by the central government. As food inflation falls because of good weather and/or less bad-bad food policy, the Centre will claim credit. And as growth falters because of bad-bad monetary policy, the Centre can point fingers at RBI — don't ask us, look at the misguided RBI.

 

The author is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm. Please visitwww.oxusinvestments.com  for an archive of articles etc.; comments welcome at: surjit.bhalla@oxusinvestments.com

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

OPINION

REVERSE EAST INDIA COMPANY

CAN CAMERON EXPLAIN HOW INDIAN ENTERPRISES IN BRITAIN WILL HELP INDIA'S ECONOMY?

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

 

I was taken aback by David Cameron's claim that Indian businesses employ 90,000 people in Britain. It seemed an exaggeration. But, then, I began counting, and the figure soon appeared to be a gross underestimate.

 

 Indian restaurants alone (10,000 in 2003 according to one count) must absorb that number and more unless, of course, Britain's prime minister is splitting legal hairs. But if he counts the restaurateurs as Bangladeshi, so must the food be. You try telling that to the Brit bent on his chicken tikka masala. Or change Madras vindaloo on the menu to Mymensingh vindaloo!

 

In fact, the curry pioneer — Sake Dean Mahomet whose weatherbeaten grave I discovered in Brighton — was more Bihari than Bengali. Sheikh Din Mohammed, to restore his real name, who launched the Hindostanee Coffee House in London in 1809, came from Patna.

 

But Cameron doesn't want settlers. He wants expats. Not Swraj Paul's Caparo but Tata's Corus and Mittal's Arcelor. He wants the East India Company process reversed. But could he explain to his hosts how the expansion of Indian enterprises in Britain, or any other foreign country, helps India's economy?

 

Oh, afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason must have been additionally thrilling for the very few Indian glitterati who knew that the "Queen's Grocer" was Indian. Baroda's flamboyant Maharaja Pratapsinhrao Gaekwad owned the shop until 1951. But splurging on a Fortnum's hamper didn't put a paise into any pocket in India. Neither does riding a Jaguar or Rover create jobs here except perhaps if the chauffeur is Indian. As for Arcelor, try telling adivasis not to join the Maoists because we own the world's biggest steel mill.

 

So, why should Indians invest there? The British corporations and managing agencies that flowered in Calcutta were altogether different. The bosses were British. The products they sold were made or developed in Britain. Whatever they earned went back to Britain even though, sometimes, Indians provided the money to launch these undertakings. It doesn't take a distinguished economist like Manmohan Singh to know that Indian companies in Britain are as irrelevant for India's growth as Mohamed Al-Fayed's Harrods was for Egypt's.

 

This matters more than the Cameron's commitment to curb what amounts to non-white immigration. Whatever one thinks of that, a country that aspires to superpower glory should be ashamed to send construction workers to Singapore and Malaysia, labourers to the Gulf, professionals to the US and people of all categories to Britain. Their need to seek a living abroad underlines the failure of the Indian state. Instead of accusing the Cameron government of racism, self-respecting Indians should try to ensure there are no reasons for the flight of manpower.

 

What New Delhi wants are British endorsement of its Security Council ambition, nuclear status and stand against Pakistan. Cameron promised the first; despite half-promises, Britain's position on the other two will always remain dodgy. Remember the time when Churchill, lunching at Buckingham Palace, bowed to George VI and his consort and boomed, "I believe that this is the first time I have had the honour to be invited to luncheon by their Majesties the King and Queen of Pakistan"? Modern strategy and American priority reinforce historical sentiment.

 

What Cameron wants — especially after a dramatic fall in Indian imports from Britain — is our burgeoning market. He also seeks a share of India's defence (the Hawks got the trip off to a flying start) and infrastructure spending. Hence soothing talk of a "special relationship" with Britain the "junior partner". But pragmatism must contend with prejudice. Outsourcing may not be as controversial for Cameron as for Barack Obama but is nevertheless problematic. I was going to call railway inquiries in London once when an elderly Englishwoman burst out, forgetting who she was addressing, "Don't! You'll find yourself talking to Bangalore or Bombay or heaven knows where. They won't know a thing and you won't understand a word they say!"

 

Presumably, Cameron didn't ruffle feathers by calling the prime minister "Manmohan" and the finance minister "Pranab". But those who accused David Miliband (now hoping to one day take over Cameron's job) of impertinence should remember that the problem is that the British are floundering in unaccustomed modernity. Otherwise, would Tony Blair's father who wrote to congratulate his son in 1997 and signed himself "your loving Pa" receive a stiff acknowledgement addressed to "Mr L Pa"?

 

Much can be forgiven a nation that, having lost an empire, hasn't — adapting Dean Acheson — found its bearings. Like India, Old Blighty bumbles along.

 

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CITY DEVELOPMENT VIA DEVOLUTION

DEVANGSHU DATTA

 

Some Arab tour agencies tout "Mumbai Monsoon" packages as adventure tourism, which is a fair description. For someone who has never seen rain, a standard-issue Mumbai downpour is a life-changing experience. Factoring in the epic Mumbai commutes, spending time in the western metro could indeed be considered the 21st century's equivalent of the legendary Victorian expeditions into Darkest Africa.

 

 Even for diehard Kolkatans like yours truly, for whom rain and flooding hold few terrors, Mumbai in the monsoons is trying. The options, if you must travel, are grim. One possibility is to hang from a train with the rain slashing down, risking decapitation, or horrific injury. The other is to allocate an hour plus for every 5 km, if you choose to move by road.

 

This may make Mumbai an exotic destination for tourists with time to spare. It is less entertaining for the 12 million-odd, who brave it on a daily basis. The Mumbai commute is not a pleasant experience, even in winter. The travel time may be marginally less but the traveller usually arrives bathed in sweat, shaken, stirred and jolted by an uneven ride.

 

This is because Mumbai's infrastructure sucks. The roads and expressways could be more accurately described as moonscapes. The drainage system is appalling. So is telecom connectivity, especially during the monsoons, when dropped calls exceed completed ones.

 

This is not because the city is short of money. It generates a disproportionately high percentage of tax revenues. Many of the folks hanging out of First Class compartments, and queueing up for cabs at the Bandra Kurla Complex, earn six-figure salaries. Ludicrous land prices suggest that the Mumbaikar has higher per capita than the New Yorker.

 

However, the wealth of Mumbai's citizens doesn't translate into better infrastructure. It never will, and there is not much they can do about it. This is because of the gerrymandering inherent in Indian electoral politics. In India, the rural vote counts for much more than urban votes.

 

The revenues of Mumbai are controlled by politicians, whose constituencies lie deep in the Maharashtra hinterland. Using that money to improve living conditions in Mumbai would do nothing to help them win re-election. So, beyond taking their turn at the feeding trough, they see no necessity to overhaul city infrastructure. Nor can the Mumbai municipal agencies raise debt by issuing bonds or securitising their own revenues because the city is tied to a state with poor finances.

 

Mumbai is an extreme example. But all of urban India suffers from the same problem. Infrastructure is uniformly poor, ranging to terrible. Urban revenues are controlled and allocated by politicians, who have little interest in the urban landscape.

 

At the same time, more and more people are migrating to urban areas. So, the pressure on existing infrastructure is increasing. The cities attract people because they offer more income opportunities. In turn, those people generate more revenues for cities.

 

The only way to improve urban infrastructure is devolution of power to local authorities. The British model does seem to work to a large extent with city councils raising and spending their budgets. The Americans do something similar and the mayor of major cities are big wheels.

 

Devolution makes local authorities more powerful as well as more answerable to locals. Oddly, India's politicians have seen the utility of devolution when it comes to panchayats. It's also worked well in the city-state of Delhi, where the state government empowered residents' associations through bhagidari.

 

If some version of devolution isn't implemented soon in major cities, we may see a situation where India has well-administered villages with small populations, while most people live in anarchic, urban slums. Paradoxically, the city-dwellers will have more money but they'll have a lot less in the way of amenities.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

A GENERATION GOT LEFT OUT

MAKE ENOUGH AT THE PEAK OF YOUR CAREER, SO THAT THERE NEED BE NO SYSTEMATIC EFFORT TO EARN THEREAFTER

SUBIR ROY

 

When my father retired at the age of 58 four decades ago, he did so fully, in mind and body, and stepped onto a new life thereafter. The sedentary life of a judge, coming abruptly after a youth spent in good part on the cricket field and tennis court, had taken its toll. Diabetes and high blood pressure had arrived too.

 

Post-retirement, he spent a happy decade and more discharging his new dual responsibilities — that of a key figure in the management of his guruji's ashram and within the family that of a punctilious grandfather. He was able to do all this without undue financial worries because of his government pension that survived even after his departure as family pension for my mother. Significantly, she had more pocket money in her last days than ever before in her long life of struggling to run a family on a subordinate judge's pay, courtesy the revision in pension rates after every pay commission's award.

 

When my father needed higher medical consultation, he walked over to the state-run SSKM Hospital near our South Kolkata home and sat across the table of some senior specialist (once a judge sahib always a judge sahib) in his chamber and had his consultation done free. When my mother had to be operated upon a couple of times, a competent specialist in the same hospital performed the task and my mother stayed at the Woodburn ward which was for the so-called VIPs.

 

She complained about the bathroom which had a broken bathtub which no one would remove but was well treated by the nurses. Her own sweet nature saw to that. We never thought of taking either of them to a speciality, posh private hospital because they were not the rage then as they are now and also because we knew they were beyond our means.

 

I was born at home with my grandmother in attendance but our son was born at a distinctive private hospital, Woodlands, the bill paid by the provident fund money that I withdrew when I changed jobs. I wouldn't have been able to do that at today's charges. For most of their school life, our children went to school by car and their performance in school was enormously helped by costly private tuition.

 

But the biggest generational change became clear once they completed college. They did not have a fraction of the concern about finding a decent job that my generation was burdened with at a similar stage in our lives. My children's prime concern was finding out what they really wanted to do for which experimentation and directional change were par for the course. Our daughter is in her second job and still not so sure what she wishes to do with her life. Our son, after changing disciplines, knows what he wants to do but is far from being able to consider his career successfully launched.

 

How neatly our generation fell in between these two! I began life as a journalist but had to yield to intense family pressure when I landed a prized nationalised bank job. On joining I found that over half my batch was made up of people, some of them till lately college lecturers, who were there simply because there were so few other decent jobs. In my father's time, the middle class sailed into decent jobs much more easily and its perception of what was decent was also far more modest.

 

But change caught up with my generation soon. The media exploded after the Emergency and thereafter arrived the new genre of business journalism as the corporate sector came riding the coat-tails of the slow liberalisation that began in the 80s. Those who took the plunge like me, changing security for doing a fun thing, had few regrets. Media salaries were ahead of the curve, compared to public sector pay.

 

But there is one aspect that I forgot to take care of, or to be honest, wilfully ignored — the small matter of a pension which had kept my parents going. Now that I have retired, reality has caught up with me in an even bigger way. My father at that juncture in his life was physically and mentally ready to take a window-side seat in the bus. I am not. I don't feel like a grandfather, either in mind or body, and I am far from turning religious.

 

These days when I advise youngsters, I carefully spell out the one-third rule. Spend a third of your life skilling yourself, the next third earning all that you will need for the rest of your life and then the last third in doing what you like to do without, and this is vital, having to bother about where the upkeep will come from. In sum, make enough at the peak of your career, which should not stretch into your 50s, so that there need be no systematic effort to earn thereafter. Then you can do what you have always longed to do but couldn't afford to, like writing a novel or taking up mountaineering or simply seeing the world at leisure.

 

So, my generation got left out in the middle. It is ready to start living life anew at 60 but Indian earnings in the 80s and 90s weren't good enough to allow the crucial financial cushion to be created to enable that. We should be worried but life's too good to be ruined by the frown on the face of your accountant. The romantic notion of a journalist who always lives for the day dies hard.

 

subirkroy@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

INSIDE MYANMAR - FACT AND FICTION

V V

 

It is now a well-accepted fact that almost all our categories — politics and economy, state and society, feudalism and capitalism — have been conceptualised primarily on the basis of western historical experience. Too often these generalisations rest on the belief that the West occupies the normative starting position for constructing general knowledge. If you accept this proposition, then how much do you accept of western reportage of Third World societies, particularly those that are not too open like North Korea, Iran, several Arab states, and so on? And closer home, of Myanmar (formerly Burma ) that has been closed to western observers especially since San Suu Kyi, its Opposition leader, has been incarcerated by the military junta? Not very much, because what passes off as facts are really so much hearsay, fopped off by jaundiced observers.

 

Emma Larkin's Everything is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma (Granta Books, Special Indian Price, Rs 599) is reportage from the frontlines (Larkin is the nom de plume of an American living in Bangkok). It shows all the tell-tale signs of western reporting, ill-equipped (how many know the language, demography or even the geography?) to understand the complex societies that they venture to write about.

 

 It is a common journalistic ploy that when hard facts are scarce, you use a peg to hang your story on. The peg here is the devastating Cyclone Nargis that hit the Irrawady delta in May 2008 when an estimated 100,000 people lost their lives. (The whole region, including Bangladesh and the Andhra west coast, is particularly prone to cyclones.) The military junta that has governed the country since April 1992 is reported to have refused all outside help from the UN, countless NGOs, and even the American navy. Emma Larkin, who was fortunate to have got a visa in the aftermath of the catastrophe, set out to find out why isolated regimes are so paranoid about letting in outsiders to help rehabilitate broken lives. Is it fears of subversion, or prejudice or even superstition of what the foreign devils may bring?

 

With very little data available and all official sources clamped up, Larkin falls back on bazaar gossip of which there is plenty to pick on, depending on which side of the political fence you are on. But the one that sticks is that the generals are a superstitious lot who don't do anything without consulting soothsayers. Larkin tells the story of the wife of General Than Shwe, "the senior general" who went for a nocturnal walk around Myanmar's holiest pagoda with a dog and a pig on a leash: in Burmese mythology, the dog symbolises Monday and the pig Wednesday, and since Suu Kyi was born on a Tuesday, she would always be powerless. This is all mumbo-jumbo but it is a known fact that dictators hanging on to power by the skin of their teeth do believe in the stars to guide their destinies. (Incidentally, General Than Shwe, the military ruler currently on a five-day visit to India has begun by visiting the Mahabodhi temple to invoke the blessings of Lord Buddha for the success of his mission.)

 

Larkin is free to pick and choose her "facts" but she believes that given the importance the military rulers give to soothsayers, it wouldn't be surprising if it was their advice that blocked foreign aid from reaching the victims of the cyclone. If this isn't bizarre enough, she goes further (supported by another Burmese rumour that went around at the time) to say that since Than Shwe saw himself as an incarnation of ancient kings ordained by the Gods above, he couldn't be bothered how "his slaves" were doing: "Their death or hardships is not his concern."

 

This again is peculiar logic because the General for whatever he is couldn't have remained in power for over 15 years now if he was also not a compassionate Buddhist, or at least perceived to be one. The problem with this book is that when you replace hard facts with motivations, (many dictators in history have done this to remain in power), which is what Larkin does to pan out her story, you don't really get to know much of this complex and diverse country. Myanmar is much more than Yangon, Mandalay, and the few small towns along the Irrawady, with the northern half cut off by ethnic tribes that have resisted integration with the rest of the country. In any case, the mountainous terrain and dense forests ensure that no central authority imposed its will.

 

So, how much do we get to know the country? If you take gossip and rumour as the truth, there would be something to talk about, but you can bet it will be far from the real condition. Even we, especially those in the North-East states that have an open border with Myanmar with regular trade on a daily basis, know precious little about what goes on behind the scenes. If you want to know the pulse of the country, you would do better to read George Orwell's Burmese Days and his essay Shooting an Elephant that tell you more in a smaller compass.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

MAKING EUROPE WORK

SHOULD EUROPE EMBRACE FISCAL FEDERALISM TO STRENGTHEN THE EUROZONE AND RESTORE INVESTOR CONFIDENCE?

JEAN PISANI-FERRY

 

It is an old debate, but tensions within the euro area have revived it: can a monetary union survive without some form of fiscal federalism? This issue is of persistent concern for investors worldwide. Holders of European government bonds believed that they knew what they had bought. Sure, there was no such thing as a eurozone sovereign security. But German, French, Spanish, and even Greek bonds all carried roughly the same interest rate, so they were deemed equivalent.

 

Investors now recognise that they did not really understand what these bonds represented — that is, the institutional construct behind the European currency. And if the global financial crisis has taught us anything, it is this: when you do not understand a financial product, you should not buy it. But if investors actually take that lesson to heart, the European crisis will be far from over. So, should Europe embrace fiscal federalism in order to strengthen the eurozone and restore investor confidence? The problem is that fiscal federalism means different things to different people.

 

Americans think they know what it is: a central government with a large budget (about 20 per cent of GDP), whose macroeconomic role is to carry out counter-cyclical spending and taxation, as most US states are constitutionally committed to some sort of balanced budget. This was clearly true in the case of the stimulus programme launched in 2009, which included federal transfers to the states to sustain state-level fiscal spending. Similarly, when a state such as Michigan is hit by recession in its key economic sector (the auto industry), Washington collects less federal tax but maintains — if not increases — local spending, which partially offsets the shock to state income.

 

Economically, therefore, the federal budget cushions regional shocks automatically through discretionary action and stabilising transfers to the states. Politically, it embodies solidarity and thus helps cement the union.

 

If this is what is meant by federalism, it is better for the European Union (EU) to forget about it. The EU budget amounts to about 1 per cent of GDP, just one-fortieth of total public expenditure. No one, not even diehard European integrationists, imagines that it can reach 5 per cent of GDP (it is more likely to decrease). But even a 5 per cent-of-GDP budget would be insufficient to play a meaningful macroeconomic role.

 

A second solution is what can be called "distributive federalism". The goal is not to absorb shocks but to reduce income gaps across regions. In Germany, tax revenues are redistributed between the Länder. This is another form of solidarity, which also exists in the EU, where regional development funds are allocated to poorer regions to foster catch-up growth. These transfers are significant for poor countries: about ¤300 per person for Greece and Portugal every year from 2000 to 2006. Europe, in this respect, is not qualitatively different from the US.

 

These transfers have accelerated convergence when put to good use (for example, in several Spanish provinces), but have been ineffective when wasted (as in Greece). This feeds doubts about solidarity's usefulness. Germans, who since reunification in 1990 know what they are talking about when it comes to such transfers, do not want to hear about a Europe where rich regions would permanently finance pockets of under-development. They are not alone in this.

 

What, then? Conceptually, the eurozone must include solidarity with countries facing hardship, because this is what unites and gives strength to the whole — but without the heavy machinery of a federal budget or a permanent increase in transfers. It needs some sort of mutual insurance, or what could be termed "insurance-based federalism".

 

This is what inspired the decision taken in May to create the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), by which assistance can be provided, jointly with the International Monetary Fund, to partner countries in times of crisis. It is also what inspired the European Central Bank to launch an asset-purchase programme, which has been used to buy Greek and Portuguese government bonds.

 

But the uproar caused by these decisions reinforces, rather than dispels, doubts. In Germany, many consider the EFSF a breach of the fundamental principle that EU governments cannot be bailed-out by their partners. And the transformation of the central bank into a quasi-fiscal agent (because if Greek debt is restructured, the ECB will record losses) is regarded with horror, as it violates the separation between money and public finances.

 

Instead, it is claimed, eurozone members should have been allowed to default. No matter that the public debt of the average US state is less than 0.5 per cent of total US GDP, compared to 5 per cent in the eurozone, which implies that the financial impact of a eurozone sovereign default would be much stronger. And no matter that there is no prohibition on the purchase of government bonds on the secondary market: the Rubicon has been crossed, and the Germans are nervous.

 

So, there is no agreement yet to make the EFSF permanent, and it has been designed to be as un-federal as possible. When it comes to ECB purchases of government bonds, no one understands exactly for how long and for what purpose the new weapon is to be used — which reduces its effectiveness. Meanwhile, proposals for pre-adoption assessment of national budgets by the EU have attracted criticism in France and elsewhere, which serves as a reminder of the distance there is between calls for coordination and actual acceptance of its implications.

 

The Europeans have begun to assemble the bricks for a new building, but without having agreed on its size and design. For the time being, they rather give the impression to have thrown sandbags in disorder in an attempt to stop a wave. This may make sceptics the very people European policy makers wanted to convince. It is time to accept that those who finance EU governments through purchasing their bonds are entitled to ask inconvenient questions, and to expect clear answers.

 

The author is director of Bruegel, the EU economic and policy think tank based in Brussels, professor of economics at Université Paris-Dauphine, and a member of the french prime minister's Council of Economic Analysis 

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE STORY OF JADUI PANKH

GEETANJALI KRISHNA

 

 

The atmosphere was tense. While this was no India-Pakistan cricket match, the Inter-Basti 20:20 championship trophy was to be one of the most important T20 cricket matches ever played. The trophy? A mixer-grinder. Given the intensity of rivalry between the two teams, the Man of the Match trophy should have been a Mercedes. It was, in fact, a bicycle — far more useful to a slum kid than a fancy imported car could ever be. The captains of the warring cricket teams came forward for the toss. The spectators watched with bated breath. The umpire looked for a coin in one pocket, but it was empty. Then, he put his hand in his other pocket. That was empty too!

 

I was watching "Cricket Match", one of the stories told in Jadui Pankh — a film about a street kid, Guru, who sets out to make a film with just Rs 101. His movie comprises seven engrossing tales told by children like him. The first story was of Raju and Kaju, two street magicians who foil the nefarious plans of terrorists. "Jadui Pankh", after which the film is named, was about a magical peacock feather that a young boy, Ali, finds…. And yet another, "Netaji", was the story of Durga who fights her evil uncle who wants to sell her off, with the help of her naari sena (women's army).

 

 The stories were barely 20-odd minutes long. Although they were set in slums, their tone was light-hearted, almost frothy in feel. "We've all seen films about slums that dwell upon the filth, poverty and often desperate struggles to survive there," said Nitin Das who'd made Jadui Pankh. Such films, Nitin believed, often achieved the opposite of what they set out to do. "Instead of drawing more people like you and I to offer our time, creativity and resources to people in slums, they foster a fear that a slum is too dirty a place to visit…," said he.

 

Instead, Nitin focused on the fact that although these slum children are poor in monetary terms, they're very rich in emotions, friendships and talent. "ThroughJadui Pankh, I wanted to tell urban, educated viewers that interacting with slum children could be an enriching experience for them too," said he, adding, "I wanted to show viewers that even in the darkest times and difficult situations, one can find happiness, friendship and hope…."

 

This maverick filmmaker has an interesting past. An IIM Lucknow alumnus, he soon realised that corporate life wasn't for him. "I just hated black leather shoes!" he quipped. Instead, he did a filmmaking course in New York and on returning, began volunteering with some Mumbai NGOs. "Six mad, creative months of theatre workshops with the kids in slums, and I realised they were a goldmine of talent! Hence, the idea of Jadui Pankh was born."

 

Nitin received a couple of corporate sponsorships from Nokia, Deutsche Bank, HDFC and others — enough to cover the cost of the film. Instead of going through the usual marketing channels, he decided to market the film exclusively online, on a pay-per-download basis. "Fifty per cent of the profits from this film shall be used to support children in vulnerable situations," said he, "and I hope it does its bit in showing people like us that slums too can be interesting places!"

 

Jadui Pankh has been selected for the Munich International Film fest, and the Leeds UK film fest. But Nitin wants more — "I really want my film to go mainstream, maybe on children's TV channels — but they've not shown any interest yet," he rued.

 

Maybe what he needs is a wave of the Jadui Pankh…

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CURRY MANTRA

 

The notion that British Prime Minister David Cameron was looking to curry favour with a resurgent India has been in the air ever since he took office. To that extent, the simple fare at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's dinner — reportedly comprising chicken curry, roti and mango kulfi — should have filled Mr Cameron's heart with joy, if not his stomach. 


It was a previous British government that declared chicken tikka masala to be the national dish, but the honest, ghar-ka-khana served to Cameron instead of some fancy-schmancy creation by a celebrity chef, could be deemed proof of Britain's renewed special relationship with India. 


Homestyle food, after all, is for family; guests have to be dazzled. The lack of fanfare could also be a reiteration of the fact that India now takes on the world on its own terms. Time was when we meekly stood by as curry houses in Britain passed off ruthlessly-mangled Korma, Madras and Vindaloo as Indian food, graded thus only for their chilli-powder content. No longer. 


Not only has the Bangladeshi hand in the criminal subversion of curry in Britain been exposed, genuine Indian chefs there have taken our desi cuisine to justified Michelin-starred heights. It would soup up Indo-British bilateral relations if Mr Cameron also highlights this difference between sub-continental neighbours, on the lines of his Pakistan admonition. 


Meanwhile, in India, we are also no longer willing to swallow whatever the west dishes out. Hence, the world can now taste a new, compelling repast too: Paneer bruschetta and keema pizza, aloo-tikki burgers and masala fried chicken, not to mention gobi Manchurian and chilli fish. Though mutual bans on importing of foodstuff precludes his carrying a hamper back, Mr Cameron could consider encouraging his compatriots to also follow the Indian ethos that spawned these tasty innovations and much more: Adopt and adapt.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TRY OUT SCHOOL VOUCHERS

 

School vouchers should be an integral part of the Centre's plans to implement the Right to Education (RTE). For the state to spend gargantuan amounts on school education is fine, but to insist that the delivery too would be by the state is meaningless. 


Surveys have shown that government teachers are absent from their schools and children cannot do simple arithmetic or write small paragraphs after years of schooling. Reforms in governance are, therefore, a must. Designing a market in which schools would compete to attract students carrying school vouchers would complement administrative steps to improve governance and quality in the school system. 


Once students have choice, they would vote with their feet, and schools without children should be closed down. Awareness of such a terminal destiny should help concentrate the minds of teachers who play hookey. 

A voucher can surely be a tool to change the way governments fund education of the poor. However, no one size fits all as global experiments on school vouchers have shown mixed results. Countries such as the US, Sweden, Denmark and Italy saw an improvement in the quality of education and more competition among public and private schools. In the Netherlands, however, vouchers led to ethnic segregation and had no significant impact on the achievement levels of students. And, in England, it did not trigger competition among schools. 

The success (or failure) will largely depend on the design of the scheme. Now, state governments led by Delhi, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are experimenting with school vouchers, taking a page from School Choice, launched by the Centre for Civil Society in Delhi. 


An assessment of the Delhi project on vouchers, covering 408 students, showed that a majority of the beneficiaries switched over from government to private schools. Parents were happy the learning progress of their children, the teachers and the standard of discipline. The RTE provides a huge opportunity for other states to foster public private partnership in education, along with fundamental reforms in governance.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

IT'S A MIXED BAG

 

Infosys Technologies disappointed with its April-June 2010 quarter performance, with its profit growth declining 2.4% from a year ago. But this time, the performance of the IT bellwether did not exactly presage a trend. Its peers TCS and Wipro surprised the street while HCL Tech's performance was in line with market expectation. 

TCS saw its post-tax profits climb 24.3%, from a year ago, and Wipro reported a 31% rise in its net income from IT services, despite pressures from an appreciating currency. HCL Tech's net income grew a modest 3.7%. But the growth in client additions, net increase in staff hiring and the 10-20 % salary increases indicate the outsourcing business is gradually returning to normal. 


Of course, it has not returned to the days of heady growth experienced till the financial crisis hit the globe, and may not either anytime in the foreseeable future. For, there is increased pressure in countries such as the US to keep jobs at home and the sovereign credit crisis in the southern European countries would weigh on the performance on the outsourcing companies. These along with the currency fluctuation can spell trouble. Europe is the second-largest market for Indian software companies: it accounted for about 20% of Infosys revenues, 28% of TCS, 25% of Wipro and 26% of HCL. 


The domestic market account for a small portion of the software majors' revenues; in the instance of Infosys, income from domestic business was as low as 1.7%. 


Even as the global environment remains uncertain and pricing pressures persist, seeking opportunities in the domestic market will stand the companies in good stead. E-governance in particular presents a great opportunity, and the unique ID project is only one such projects. 


The government has rolled out or intends to roll out extensive IT infrastructure for the new pension scheme, a national treasury management agency, the tax information network, and goods and services tax, all of which would be software intensive. The big four should not only seek partnership with the government to roll out these projects, but should put some of their brightest people on the task. India too deserves to benefit from its software prowess.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TON HAS MORE WEIGHT

 

How do you define century on debut? Imagine someone is selected as a No. 6 batsman and in his first Test, the first five batsmen rattle up a huge score and the innings is declared. The team wins by an innings and, hence, no second innings. So he does not bat at all. In the next Test, he scores a century. Is this a century on debut? Wisden, with whom I raised this query, has said no. But if this is correct, then are centuries scored in the second innings of a debut Test logically a century on debut? After all, he has already batted in the first innings. Next, how to count centuries. Today, double and triple hundreds are counted as one century although they are far more difficult to score. Ask Tendulkar himself. If double centuries are counted as two centuries and triple as three, then the order of batsmen may change. 


In the entire history of Test cricket, there have been about 2,000 centuries, 200 double centuries and about 20 triple centuries. Thus, it is 10 times more difficult to score a double century and 100 times more difficult to score a triple century. If these weights were used, the order of batsmen will change dramatically. Bradman, I think, will still be on top. When we claim that some Nobel prize winners were Indians, why not give Ranji and Pataudi their due? 


T R Ramaswami, 

Mumbai, July 30

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FROM CONCEPTION TO INCEPTION

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

Last night, your columnist dreamt of a spoonbill. The beautiful white bird with sulphur crest and liquid brown eyes was being held and repeatedly caressed by a bright-faced Muslim child in a vast grey mangrove filled of unseen menace. Was this an example of dream invasion? For, this writer could clearly trace the images to that morning's front page anchor in The Times of India about the parlous state of Mumbai's hills and dales and mangroves. Dream invasion and extraction is the big idea too in Christopher Nolan's Inception. Leonardo DiCaprio is the protagonist skilled in the art of 'extracting' information from sleeping subjects. He and his crew invade into the skull cinema of drugged subjects and infiltrate their subconscious. Their job is to snoop around in the palace of your dreams like stealth Ninjas of nightly natter. 


Further embellishment might serve as a spoiler. Suffice it to say the idea is not to plan a heist but rather to implant a twist or an idea. For, as the protagonist intones ponderously, a single idea can transform the entire world. That leads naturally into the layered world of dreams within dreams, something with which readers of classics such as Gunadhya's Ocean of the Rivers of Stories (Brihat-Katha-Sarita-Sagara) and that philosophical

tour de force, Yoga-Vasistha, have long been familiar. 


The world of action within action yields vertiginous sequences of simultaneous murther and mayhem. The physics and pyrotechnics of one level are explosively influenced by what is happening at stories (pun intended) above as well as below. When the hero is, for instance, dunked in a bath tub to wake him up, a flash flood hits him in the dream world! The key element in the context of Yoga-Vasistha is recognition (Pratijna), whether of the great illusion or an individual's own 'true' identity. 


"The twist that the Yoga-Vasistha adds is that you cannot wake from the dream, because it may be someone else's dream," writes Indologist Wendy Doniger in her alternative history, The Hindus. "Release means staying asleep but being aware that you are dreaming." 


This is also the message of many myths in which kings, beginning with Indra, become enlightened, wish to awaken -that is, renounce material life -but must be persuaded to renounce even this wish to renounce, to remain engaged in life with the caveat that all this is one great illusion.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

WE MAKE SCIENCE FUN TO LEARN: ARVIND GUPTA

JAYASHREE BHOSALE

 

Six small magnets, an old slipper and a pencil. That is all it takes to make a toy that explains magnetic levitation, the principle on which Maglev trains run. This was also the toy that set a young girl on her path to recognition, that came in the form of a minor planet being named after her. 


She had played with this toy, made from scrap, like many others at the Muktanagan Vigyan Shodhik (MVS), the Children's Science Centre at Pune's Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA). Arvind Gupta, who heads the Children's Science Centre, has a self-imposed mission in life: Give a happy childhood to children to have a peaceful society. 


The MVS office is crammed with toys like a water sprinkler made using straw, an electric motor made using a 1.5-volt battery, a pump to inflate balloons and toys made using old newspapers, pins, nails, empty water bottles, cycle tubes, CDs and other scrap. It is a treasure trove for a child to know how things work. 


Mr Gupta graduated from IIT-Kanpur, with a degree in electrical engineering, and had a short stint at Telco (now Tata Motors) in Pune. He then decided to work and make science fun for school children. "Children develop a distaste for science due to the sophisticated instruments in school laboratories," he said. 


These toys make children feel that science can be easy to learn. He shows some geometrical shapes that have been made using matchsticks and valve tubes from a bicycle. This model easily explains that a triangle is the most rigid geometrical shape. This ease of teaching is perhaps the reason Mr Gupta became a popular personality for a generation of children who watched his science programmes on national television. 

To take science teaching aids to every child in the world, the four-member MVS photographs the toy-making process using a simple household camera and uploads the clip on the web in several languages. Diagrams and text are also used to explain the making of the toy. Mr Gupta trusts the professionals in the system and the power of the digital world to popularise the beauty and simplicity of science. 


Digitisation and knowledge-sharing are the core principles of his work. A CD priced at Rs 12, containing 1,000 books, 5,000 photos and 150 one-minute films, is distributed to thousands of schools and teachers. With the government encouraging the use of computers in all schools, Mr Gupta is hopeful that the CDs will reach children in the remote parts of the country. He has translated 70 scientific books in the last 30 years and put

more than 2,000 books on his website. 


For those who do not have access to computers, Mr Gupta has brought out low priced books on science for children. He has written more than a dozen books on low-cost science activities and toy-making. One of his books, Matchstick Models and Other Experiments, published in 1987, has been translated in 13 Indian languages and has sold over half a million copies. 


Mr Gupta has broadened the scope of his educational work beyond making innovative teaching aids and writing books for children. He has collected classic books on education and children's literature from across the world. Most of these books are about the experiments done in every nook and corner of the world to make learning and schooling a happy experience. "We need a variety (of schools)," he says. 


"In our country, we have the second-largest pool of scientists, but there is not much original research to our credit. We need to have creative people for original research. And only those who have a happy childhood can becomes individuals who have their own minds and who can think creatively," he said. 


Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window is a Japanese book, that he brought to India and its Marathi translation is available for a modest price. "The irony is that one will not get these low-priced books in any of the shops in Pune, considered a centre of education, because the bookseller's margins are very low on such low-priced books. The situation in the smaller towns is far worse," he said. 


According to him, more than 70% of the research in the world focuses on defence equipment. "If we want to have a peaceful society, then we have to give a happy childhood to our children." 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

REVISIT SEBI'S CONSENT ORDERS

M R MAYYA

 

A debatable point is whether the procedure evolved by Sebi for settling various kinds of enforcement actions through consent orders wherein parties neither admit nor deny the guilt, is proper at all. Can ends of justice be met by payment, particularly for such serious offences like price manipulation, creation of artificial market, insider trading, manipulation of financial results, etc? 


Consent order scheme was introduced in April 2007 with a view to clearing the huge backlog of cases without much delay through an alternative route of dispute resolution. 


Of the 1,591 applications received for consent terms since 2007, 744 applications were disposed of by passing consent terms as on September 30, 2009, with a collection of Rs 66.53 crore, including disgorgement, settlement and legal charges. Apartment from consent charges, some cases included debarment from dealing in securities market and suspension of certificates of registration for different periods. 


The consent order scheme, not surprisingly, has progressively been becoming popular with the offenders. In fact, in 2008-09 , the number of applications filed for consent orders rose sharply to 666 from 81 in the previous year, with disposal of 428 applications being disposed of and 236 applications being rejected. 


It is true that the terms for consent orders offered by an affected party are scrutinised by an internal committee of Sebi and placed before a high-powered advisory committee headed by a former judge of a high court and based on its recommendations, a panel of two wholetime members of Sebi takes a decision whether to accept the terms so offered for consent orders. This is aimed at ensuring that serious offences warranting penal action do not go unpunished. 


While the intention of the scheme was to expedite disposal of minor cases, avoiding the long-drawn litigation process, many high-profile cases involving serious offences are opting for consent terms. Even cases pending before the Supreme Court and Securities Appellate Tribunal and other designated courts are being settled by consent orders. 


Cases involving serious offences such as manipulation of prices, IPO manipulation, etc, affecting adversely the interests of the investors are settled by consent terms. Quite a few cases involving manipulation of market prices are reportedly settled for relatively-small amounts compared to the gravity of the offences. Even some of the habitual offenders are reported to be taking undue advantage of the scheme. 


In the recent notorious case of Satyam Computers involving a fraud of over Rs 8,000 crore, its auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, have filed an application for consent order to explore and bring to a close the issues they have with the market regulator as a fallout of the scam. 


While the bulk of consent orders are detailed and speaking orders spelling out the allegations against the applications, several others are rather sketchy and the public are not able to comprehend what the allegations are. 


Undoubtedly, the scheme of consent orders is well-intentioned: Not to drag on relatively-minor offences and to bring to a close as early as possible all such cases. But when the scheme is utilised by unscrupulous elements involved in serious offences and, willy-nilly, the regulator agrees to settle such cases by consent orders, the deterrence that is required gets diluted. This is not to doubt the integrity and bonafides of those who administer these matters. 

 

The scheme can, at best, be utilised where technical or procedural lapses are involved. The scheme can also be put in operation where disputes between two identities are involved like between a broker or a sub-broker and their clients. The consent order scheme should, at any rate, not be resorted to where market as a whole is involved, such as manipulation, artificial market, IPO scam, fraud, etc. 


The system has been borrowed from the US where the Securities and Exchange Commission settles a large number of administrative and civil cases by consent orders. Even in the US, there have been several serious cases where the consent order scheme was resorted to. 


It is pertinent to note in this correction that in the UK, Financial Services Authority (F&A) has evolved from October 2005 a discount scheme for financial penalties in appropriate cases for early settlement. If a settlement between the Regulatory Decision Committee (RDC) of FSA and the persons concerned arrive at the amount of financial penalties, a discount is applied on this amount varying from 30% in the case of an early settlement, 20% for settlement up to the expiry of the period for making written representation to the RDC, and 10% up to the issue of the decision notice. 


In FSA terms, a settled case is one where the regulatory outcome — in terms of regulatory breaches and sanctions to be imposed — has been accepted by the firm or individual concerned. The FSA does not specifically adopt the no admission-no-denial concept as adopted by the SEC in US. Infractions of law cannot be made a tradable commodity, nor can be used as reservoir for mobilisation of funds. It is only a guilty regulatee who agrees for a settlement. 


For facilitating early settlement, we can adopt the UK model of a discount scheme with perhaps higher rates of discount going even up to 75% of the penalty amount depending on the stage of settlement and seriousness of the case. The conviction should, however, remain. 


The consent order system, therefore, calls for a review to consider whether the scheme can be improved upon to make it foolproof or whether the scheme needs to be abandoned so that offenders of law do not go unpunished. A public debate may be held on the findings of the review before a decision is taken. 


(The author is former executive director of the Bombay Stock Exchange) 

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CAMERON, IN INDIA, SENDS RIGHT SIGNALS

 

The empire has faded. In the decades since Indian independence and decolonisation, Britain has leaned across the Atlantic toward the United States in search of economic and political consolidation. In more recent times, with the emergence of the European Union, the British inclination has been to combine its American relationship with solicitousness for Europe. However, with even the powerful European economies as well as the US recording at best moderate growth rates over the years, it has been natural for London to pay more attention to India which not so long ago was viewed as "an exotic basket case". But that was then. With the recent near collapse of the international financial system, and the Indian economy still making a stab at a nine per cent rate of growth, there was little question that Prime Minister David Cameron would seek to lay the "foundations for an enhanced relationship" with this country, to use his words before he began his three-day India visit earlier this week. The British leader's visit has been a huge publicity success, with Mr Cameron making the right social and political pitch in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, not to mention his ability to be one of the boys wherever he went. He didn't lecture. He didn't go on village safaris. He just let people think he was being himself. That's a quality people like in a leader. Perhaps the Prime Minister could conduct himself in the manner he did because he was able to facilitate the £700 million agreement between BAE-Rolls Royce and Hindustan Aeronautics to purchase 57 more Hawk trainer jets. This is a big boost to British manufacturing in bad times. But the importance of Mr Cameron's visit will be judged by going beyond trade. His sharp criticism of Pakistan on the terrorism issue, and later statement that he stood by what he had said, would earn the new British leader bonus points in India. No Western leader has spoken with such frankness on the subject of Pakistan from Indian soil. What Mr Cameron had to say stung Islamabad into almost cancelling President Asif Ali Zardari's proposed visit to London in early August. It is too early to say if British policy toward Pakistan is changing in any basic way, but many will hope London looks at Islamabad on merit. On his trip, Mr Cameron led a team of as many as six Cabinet ministers, including the foreign secretary, chancellor of the exchequer and business minister, besides top corporate executives and culture and art heavyweights. It is said there hasn't been a larger British trade delegation "in living memory", or a larger top-level delegation since the end of the Raj. The focus of the visit was clearly trade "and jobs", as the British leader noted. If that's the case then Mr Cameron's trip would carry greater meaning if he is able to attend to the key question of permitting Indian entrepreneurs, professionals and students from purposeful residence in Britain. Slashing non-EU immigration from next year would probably hurt deserving Indians more than people from any other country. Britain is pitching for trade in civil nuclear energy, banking, insurance and legal services. All of these will naturally have to be negotiated. But Mr Cameron has begun on a positive note.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TEMPORARY GAINS

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "No help your sermons now —

The one blue stretches.

No consequence the solemn vow —

The faces of the wretches..."

From Cadences by Bachchoo

 

"Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage", says the Clown in Twelfth Night and, if one ignores the ribald double entendre, we may take that as the extreme Elizabethan measure to prevent mismatches. In India there are less severe remedies — the horoscopes or caste credentials don't agree, there are congenital idiocies in the contracting family... etc. We rarely resort to the rope.

In my family, a generation and more ago, when a marriage was mooted, senior female members were despatched to examine the credentials of the suitor and his or her family.

 

Now Britain has sent a "special relationship" delegation to India led by Prime Minister David Cameron, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other ministerial and business worthies. They are talking imports and exports with capitalists, trade political influence and diplomatic leanings for real rupees with ministers and will come away with a special relationship.

 

As with the talks that precede an arranged marriage the two parties must understand each other and assess each other's strengths and predilections. All this will no doubt happen in the bilaterals. It's an opportunity and event of such importance that I am tempted to assume the role, not of a negotiating aunt — I wasn't invited — but a third cousin thrice removed who stands on the periphery and plays either the bad fairy at christening or Cassandra on the walls warning against Brits bearing gifts.

 

Before I assume such a role I ought, in fairness to the reader, make two confessions. A Conservative politician of the old school, one Norman Tebbit, formulated a "cricket test" to ascertain the loyalties of immigrants. When the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is playing a Test against Pakistan, for which side does the Bradford boy with Mirpuri ancestry cheer? I apply this useful cricket test to myself whenever the MCC is playing India and inevitably find that I cheer for the side that's winning. If the Indian team are bowled out in the first innings for 33 runs, I am distinctly for our MCC boys and Queen and country. If, however, the Indian XI stages a recovery and bowls the MCC out for even less, my allegiance switches to Mother India, land of my birth — "chak de…" etc.

 

My second confession is that I am not a Tory or a Lib-Dem. Most immigrants except the millionaires, and the aspirant foolish who think they may become millionaires, vote Labour because through the ages the Labour Party has professed to represent the poor, and being poor we support it even realising that the likes of Tony Blair are for Tony and Mrs Blair rather than for us starving masses.

 

Declarations over, let me get on with my reservations about the Indo-Brit "special relationship" visit. With the instability, volatility and even nasty ambition of several countries around India, such a relationship is most desirable.

 

But with whom is the relationship to be established?

 

The present coalition government of Britain is desperate to prove to Britain's people and the world, its stability. If it makes changes, passes laws, signs treaties whose substance has then to be made flesh, it has to inspire faith in its continuity. One would hardly negotiate trade deals with Mussolini while the population was beginning to drape ropes across the lamp posts. That was why the visits of the last British foreign secretary David Milliband achieved very little.


Perhaps nothing like that is about to happen to Mr Cameron, but there are now reports of a little bit of spinning and weaving of rope-fabric going on in remote parts of the Liberal-Democratic kingdom of Nicholas Clegg, deputy Prime Minister and coalition slipper-carrier.

 

Mr Clegg and the seniors of the Liberal Democratic Party joined the coalition either through a miscalculation that even the dumbest of political minds (yes, Here I Stand!) could have computed and warned them about, or they went for it out of sheer greed for the trappings of temporary office.


Their party has long made constitutional reform of Britain's voting system its central aspiration and policy. They argue that the first-past-the-post system of electing members of Parliament leaves the people who vote for the minority without a voice in a democracy. As a very simplified example, suppose in a two-party system a Tory won the seat by one vote in every constituency. There would then be no Opposition in the House and half the voting population, maybe more if the numbers in each constituency differed, would not be represented. Lib-Dems want the system reformed so that actual numbers of votes translate into seats in Parliament.

 

There are several systems of vote transfer and preference which can, to one extent or another, achieve this end.

 

To tempt the Lib-Dems into a coalition, the Tories offered them inconsequential or bound-to-be-unpopular jobs in Cabinet and a referendum on a system of voting which could make the vote fairer. It wasn't quite the system the Lib-Dems had formulated, but their leadership represented it to their party as the Holy Grail which could lead them to the paradise of parliamentary power. Several Lib-Dems, senior and junior, got a distinct whiff of the rat: The promise was not for a change to the system but for a referendum asking the public whether they want it. Even if the public says "yes", the system has to pass into law and it is certain that most Tories and all of Labour won't vote for such a bill. The Lords will almost certainly reject it.


Then the spinning and weaving of ropes in the Lib-Dem kingdom will progress from a cottage industry into production-line manufacture and Lib-Dems will start testing the strength of the nearest lampposts.

 

Then will they denounce every budget cut the coalition and their leaders instituted this year and they will

trumpet their policy of favouring complete membership of the European Union and death to the Tories' opposition to it. The coalition will fall apart.


This doesn't mean that Labour will win the election next June and that we may finally have a Prime Minister called Balls. Mr Cameron could still make it all on his own and the Lib-Dems fall into the sewer, the yellow-leaf.

 

But for now, as we classically educated poor say, caveat emptor. Can the delegation that set out this week, this new East India Coalition Company, deliver on the deals it makes in Delhi?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MID-CAREER HOLIDAY FOR TOP COPS

 

Mixing business with pleasure (both at taxpayer's expense of course), IPS officers from the state who are on a compulsory mid-career training programme in London, have extended their stay or gone on to visit other European countries. A team from the SV National Police Academy went to London for a five-day training programme that ended on July 30. But taking advantage of the government-provided airfare and stay they have sought leave to enjoy a little holiday. The additional director general of police (sports), Ms Tejdeep Kaur Menon, has taken leave for four days from August 2-5 and will stay on in London during that time. The additional DG, Coordination, Mr Venkatramana Murthy, will spend three days visiting other European countries. Mr Navenee Rajan Wasan, officer on special duty at AP Bhavan in Delhi, will stay an additional four days in London and so will the AP State disaster response and fire services director general, Ms Aruna M. Bahuguna. Visiting foreign countries is supposed to broaden one's horizon and outlook and we can only hope that our police men and women derive some much-needed benefit from these foreign jaunts.

 

WHOSE LAW IS IT ANYWAY?

Curious, how politicians who make the laws often break them and don't even know they are doing so. Recently, the city traffic police, who are on a drive against violators of rules regarding car number-plates, intercepted the vehicle of Hyderabad mayor Karthika Reddy and demanded that she pay a fine of Rs 3,000. Her number-plate egoistically read MAYOR in large bold letters with the number pushed to a side of the plate. This was blatantly against the rules, but the first citizen of the city decided not to pay the fine and instead asked the cops to give her ten minutes to rectify the error. The car was rushed to a number-plate painter and the plate was rectified in accordance with the Motor Vehicles Act. She was then let off by the traffic police.
Meanwhile, she is not the only violator. Seven ministers in Mr Rosaiah's cabinet have been served notices for violation of the number-plate rule under the Motor Vehicles Act, and have been threatened with a hefty fine. They have all made the requisite changes. It looks like unless they are threatened with punishment, our netas will not do the right thing.

 

INTELLIGENCE MOVED BABU TO BABLI
What made the former Chief Minister, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, take such a dramatic stand on Babli? The byelections in the Telangana region was the obvious reason. But the behind-the-scenes story is that it was an intelligence report leaked to him by trusted officers who still keep track of developments in the state. The report said that Mr Naidu's influence has come down drastically in Telangana and the Telugu Desam's vote share had slid to 10 to 15 per cent. This came as a big shock as the Congress's vote share was something around 20-25 per cent and the TRS's more than 50 per cent. The report apparently reached the TD leader a day after it was prepared, and he decided on the do-or-die mission to make a comeback in Telangana. Having garnered much media coverage and public sympathy for his fight for water for Telangana, Mr Naidu is now waiting for the next intelligence report and hoping that it would prove that his heroics in Maharashtra were worth it.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PEACE WITH PAK, BUT WITH A BIG STICK

BY S.K. SINHA

 

The recent Indo-Pak talks fiasco has understandably agitated the nation across political divides. We need not blame Pakistan for what happened or for the intemperate language of Pakistan foreign minister S.M. Qureshi. We need to blame ourselves for daydreaming for anything better. We seem to have been obsessed with Mungeri Lal's dreams in pursuit of good relations with Pakistan at all costs.

 

The origin and history of Pakistan has been of relentless hostility towards India. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan, had grandiose plans of reviving a new Mughal Empire in India. He not only wanted Pakistan to comprise the Muslim majority provinces in the West and the East, but also wanted a 1,000-mile corridor connecting the two wings passing through the well-known Muslim cultural centres of Delhi, Lucknow and Patna. Besides, he put forward the legal argument that the Princely States had entered into a treaty with Britain acknowledging the latter as the paramount power. After British withdrawal, those treaties would lapse and paramountcy should revert to the rulers of those states. They should decide the future of their state, in terms of opting for either India or Pakistan. Jinnah had his eyes on Hyderabad, hoping to secure the largest Princely State in India — the size of France.

 

He even tried to lure the rulers of Jodhpur and Jaisalmer to join Pakistan. As for Kashmir, he was confident about geography and demography favouring Pakistan and that Kashmir would fall like a ripe plum into Pakistan's lap. The British were willing to oblige. The Indian Independence Act of 1947, passed by the British Parliament, catered for the provinces to be allocated to the two dominions on the basis of religion and the Princely States on the basis of the decisions of their rulers.

 

Maharaja Hari Singh's decision to accede to India was perfectly legal. It also had moral sanction with Sheikh Abdullah, the state's tallest political leader with the maximum following, endorsing it. Kashmir being a part of India is something totally unacceptable to Pakistan. They call Kashmir the core issue and say until it is resolved there can be no peace on the subcontinent. They have, to an extent, succeeded in putting this across to the international community, particularly the US.

 

The fact is that this issue is not the disease, but only its symptom. Even if it were to be resolved on Pakistan's terms, it would only whet Pakistan's appetite for bigger gains. In the context of Al Qaeda's international jihad, and of other such terrorist organisations, jihadi victory in Kashmir would be a step towards establishing a caliphate. There is little realisation of this internationally.

 

Before Partition, Jinnah had thundered that he would see India divided or destroyed. His grandiose vision of a new Mughal Empire floundered. He could get only a moth-eaten Pakistan. Within weeks of Independence, he unleashed a tribal invasion under Pakistan Army leadership to annex Kashmir. Successive military invasions by Pakistan — 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999 — failed. From 1989 Pakistan started cross-border terrorism but that has been largely contained. Jihadi terrorism has spread to various cities in the rest of India. 26/11 was the mother of all terrorist attacks. The military, which rules the roost in Pakistan under a facade of civilian rule, considers the terrorist outfits as strategic assets.

 

With increasing realisation in the US that the war in Afghanistan is not winnable, and the US planning to exit with honour, Pakistan is now well placed to pursue its strategic goals in Afghanistan and at the same time continue targeting Kashmir and settle the issue on its own terms. For the last three years Pakistan and its supporters in Kashmir have been trying to whip up a mass movement in the Valley to break away from India. In 2008 it was the Amarnath controversy, based on totally false and absurd propaganda of India changing the demography of the Valley like Israel had done in Palestine. The communal card was played to the hilt. In 2009, the accidental drowning of two women in Shopian was projected as a case of rape and killing by the security forces to create an anti-India frenzy.

 

A CBI investigation brought out the conspiracy and those guilty of fabricating false evidence are now on trial. This year emotions have been aroused against the security forces at the deaths of some "innocent" stone-pelting young boys. The PDP has been hand-in-glove with the organisers of these three successive mass movements. It is significant that the stone-pelting operation, with support from across the border, was organised on the eve of the recent Indo-Pak talks in Islamabad.

 

Pakistan has a long history of violating written agreements. It violated the Standstill Agreement and invaded Kashmir in October 1947, the Ceasefire Agreement and launched the 1965 war, the Shimla Accord and started cross-border terrorism, and the Lahore Declaration with the Kargil intrusion. In 2004, Gen. Pervez Musharraf gave a commitment that Pakistani territory would not be allowed to be used for terrorist action against India, but that continued abated.

 

Pakistan has always denied its hand in acts of aggression against India but subsequently the lie has got exposed by its own people and from overwhelming evidence. Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan's book, Raiders Over Kashmir, gave details of the Pakistan Army's involvement in the 1947 war; Gen. Mohammad Musa's book, My Vision, showed how Pakistan launched the 1965 war; Gen. Musharraf's book, In The Line of Fire, throws light on the intrusion in Kargil.

 

Pakistan's stand that there is no cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and that it is an ongoing freedom movement was given the lie by a former ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Javed Ashraf Qazi, in Pakistan's National Assembly. In the case of 26/11, it has been the same story with evidence from Ajmal Kasab and David Headley blowing the lid off. But Pakistan yet drags its feet on taking action.

 

The story is no better in terms of observing civilised behaviour and diplomatic norms. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto talked of a thousand-year war and referred to Swaran Singh at the UN as an "Indian dog". Musharraf's breakfast press conference at Agra violated democratic norms. On the eve of foreign secretary-level talks, Mr Qureshi, in a speech at Multan, said Pakistan was not on its knees asking for talks, it was India that had done so. Mr Qureshi's recent barbs against Mr Krishna and India have been reprehensible.

 

India has always pursued a peaceful foreign policy. This can only be done from a position of military strength. Ashoka the Great had nearly a million-strong standing army. We learnt a lesson in 1962 — that peace cannot be pursued from a position of military weakness. Pakistan has been involved in the nuclear blackmarket and is the epicentre of international terrorism. It is both a rogue and a terrorist state. Libya, for doing much less, had been declared a terrorist state. No doubt India must ardently pursue a policy of peace with Pakistan, but this must be done from a position of military strength, and not under external pressure. We should not be seen as a soft state chasing illusions.

 

* The author, a retired lieutenant-general, wasVice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE MEDIOCRE CRAFTSMEN

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to India was in the news in the UK, but only because of his remarks on Pakistan. So what happened to the 90-strong entourage? This was enough for at least one large all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood extravaganza scene, complete with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh humming "Singh is King… Singh is King… Singh is King". Apart from cruel cartoons showing Cameron as a slumdog begging for alms from a millionaire Singh, Mr Cameron's India visit has only created a media impact following his remarks that Pakistan must not look "both ways". Perhaps security problems, i.e., terrorism emanating out of Pakistan, are issues which do concern all of us and therefore become essential grist for the media mill. And what could generate more fear and excitement than the thought of an angered Pakistan? But believe me, this is simply untrue. In the world of David Cameron, who is the world's most optimistic Prime Minister, it is possible to be a friend of both, India and Pakistan.

 

However, this should not be allowed to become an emotive issue — because in reality it barely affects the relationship between the two countries. There is a strong and thriving diaspora in the UK which is quite capable of looking after its own self interests, and the Indian government should not fall into the trap of pandering to businessmen who feel that they can, by importing cheap Indian labour, somehow make a quick buck. After all, if you invest in another country you should be quite prepared to employ local talent and expertise, and not be so obsessed with carrying your Indian chefs and masala makers with you. Nor is the Indian professional so bereft of opportunities that he or she has to come to Britain.

 

UK and, in fact, London has a large and comfortable Asian presence, and certainly, we have taken over most of the service counters in almost every large department store or shopping mall. We are in the National Health Service and are employed in most corporations. We are already well represented here, and there is no need to feel that the immigration cap is a racist backlash. It is an internal problem of the British government which is struggling to deal with recession and the huge bill of social services and should not be misread as a policy to exclude.

 

In fact, even those of Indian origin who live here, do state that this is after all an island, and there is no sense in permitting the quality of the local services to deteriorate because they simply cannot take the pressure of more migrants. If policies of open immigration continue then the fear is that perhaps one day London will be as overcrowded as Delhi — with chronic shortages of water and electricity, and huge mountains of garbage everywhere.

 

Those who raise their voices against "immigration caps" must look around India's capital and see what happens when uncontrolled migration takes place. The free movement of people between countries is an idyllic thought — but perhaps phasing the migration over time may be a more pragmatic move.

 

MEANWHILE, ANOTHER stalwart bites the dust. I always wondered how long it would take to happen… After all, be honest, how many people do you know have admitted over a quiet drink in a noisy bar (where they cannot possibly be overheard) that they have picked up a Salman Rushdie book and been unable to complete it? However, they always add, rolling their eyes and with gritted teeth, "But he writes so well… one day I must finish it". And so the years fly by. And many Rushdie books pile up unread.

 

However, now finally the real reason may have been revealed. Sir Salman Rushdie has been named, among other literary leading lights, by the former Weidenfield professor of comparative literature at Oxford University, Gabriel Josipovici, as "profoundly disappointing".

 

But wait, Professor Josipovici has not spared Ian McEwan or Martin Amis either in an interview to the Guardian newspaper. About those writers, such as Ian McEwan who have graduated from the University of East Anglia's creative writing course, he says, "They all tell stories in a way that is well crafted , but that is the most depressing aspect of it — a careful craft which seems to me to be hollow".

 

And, shock and horror, he has included hamara Noble Prize-wallah V.S. Naipaul in the list. He says that while Guerillas, the 1975 story written by Naipaul is "exquisitely crafted" it was one "to which we certainly would not want to return". And now the debate has been joined by Park Honan, emeritus professor of English and American literature at Leeds University, who blames the electronic media for the decline of literature. "We are becoming superficial", he says. Becoming superficial? Wake up, profs, we are superficial.

 

Now, let me grab my iPhone and download my abbreviated audio-version of Alice in Wonderland…

* The writer can be contacted atkishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IN BED WITH BRITAIN

BY SHOBHAA DE

 

British Prime Minister David Cameron is hip, hot and sexy. A little like that other perennial British pin-up — Elizabeth Hurley. What fun! They can be conveniently bracketed in the "same same but different" category given their India connections. Hurley is married to Mr Bandgala… and it sure looks like Mr Cameron is ready to wear one. What better way to woo those restless natives.

 

All for a good cause, of course! As photo-ops go, his "namastey" in Bengaluru made a few front pages. As good P.R. giri goes, his references to national icons and symbols (Shah Rukh Khan, Sachin, curry, lingo) during his Bengaluru lecture for 2,000 techies, won him several extra brownie points. Mr Cameron is a smart cookie and it really was high time the British figured out how the cookie crumbles in India. A steamy Indo-British romance is heavily in the air. So far, we are reasonably pleased with the suitor's efforts. Mr Cameron is on a mission to woo us — and we aren't being bashful or coy, either. In these crass and nakedly commercial times, nobody should shy away from discussing lolly. In fact, it should be the number one item on the agenda — money. How much are we going to make after getting into bed with Britain? I'm all for a pre-nup. That's the bottomline, everything else is secondary. Once those dirty filthy commercial details are taken care of, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can also praise Lady Gaga, Elton John and their cricket captain. But he must never ever make the mistake of praising British food or else the world will know he is lying.

 

Courtship rituals vary, but Mr Cameron and his band of merry men (well, mostly… there were very few saucy lassies on his team of 90), stayed with a fairly traditional, even predictable script. The mood was "Hawk-ish" — the Rs 5,200 crore deal for advanced jet trainers is in the bag. There were several other "farmaishes" on the British wish list — from UK law firms interested in setting up shop in India, to British banks and supermarket players like Tesco getting down to serious business here. Let's do a little sing along folks, "All I want is a deal somewhere… far away from this cold nightmare… oh, wouldn't it be loverly"? This two-day visit — let's call it a quickie — spells (and smells of) just one thing — cash. But at least there is no fake attempt at making the whirlwind trip sound like anything other than what it is — a shopping jamboree.

 

Mr Cameron's crack team is packed with cuties, too. George Osborne whizzed through Mumbai, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, despite his hysterical schedule. As always, Mumbai's unchallenged power couple, Parmesh and Adi Godrej, pulled out all the stops and showed the visitors what the megawatt Mumbai magic is all about at a marvellously structured dinner party for 60 of their closest and dearest friends — other industrialists, Bollywood stars, fashionistas, socialites, writers, professionals. It was a dazzling line up of the city's best and brightest, to say nothing of the hottest. Since the dishy under-40 Chancellor of the Exchequer was the star invitee, Mumbai sat up and took notice, giving him the sort of "bhav" generally reserved for Bollywood royalty and nobody else. An invitee who had flown in from Delhi especially for the soiree commented wryly, "Thank God for Adi and Parmesh. Thank God George's first impressions of India will be formed at an evening like this, rather than at a stuffy Delhi dinner, where guests often ignore the visiting chief guest and gherao the local politicians present. The Mumbai crowd is so much more blasé and cosmopolitan — the guy can relax and have a great time".

 

Well, given that gallons of Dom were generously flowing and the dinner table was laden with baked crab and salmon, it must have been very difficult for Georgie Boy to concentrate on biz talk or even believe he was indeed in India. How many times did he pinch himself that night? The enticing stretch of the glittering Queen's Necklace glittered wickedly beyond the tranquil infinity pool of the Godrej mansion. Ironic! The Queen (Victoria) to whom this "necklace" was dedicated was the Empress of British India at the time! And now every Mumbaikar believes this priceless necklace belongs to him or her — as it indeed does. Members of Georges' team were caught ogling the lovely ladies present. The lucky visitors had the chance to feast on enough eye candy to give them a bellyache for weeks. Gorgeous men and women floated around dressed in the most eye-popping couture. A mega industrialist's beautiful wife was sporting a whopper of a diamond (not less than 40 carats)… and oh-so-casually at that (over a classic black dress). Everywhere one turned, there was red hot glamour (starting with the hostess dressed in a figure hugging red Herve Leger). Mercifully, there wasn't a behenji in sight, as the Dilliwalla observed, while he braced himself for round two of partying in the capital the following night.

 

Well, the Big Boys from Britain have successfully pulled off a charm initiative. As a seasoned legal eagle who attended a cruelly timed (7 am) breakfast meeting with Osborne, the morning after the night before, commented, "He made all the right noises and kept repeating, 'We are here to learn'… that's a good place to start". You bet! Especially when you forget to add, "We are here to sell…" Let us watch how it goes once the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), make it official.

 

It is payback time, buddies. We know how to drive hard bargains and squeeze the testicles of trading partners when needed. Your time begins now — tick, tick, tick, tock. The mouse ran up the clock. Big Ben and Rajabai Tower are the new BFFs in town.

 

Oye, Lucky, Oye!!

 

 Readers can send feedback towww.shobhaade.blogspot.com [1]

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

UNDER-EQUIPPED 
EXCEPT IN THE TALL-TALK SPHERE 


AFTER 26/11 triggered a change of guard in North Block many a promise was made, not just about revamping the counter-terrorism apparatus but of an overall police upgrade; at least of those forces under the control of the central government. And even as the then "new" home minister set about boosting the National Security Guard, creating a National Investigative Agency, mooting an overarching intelligence-appreciating unit, and initiating matching legislative action he also took some political pot shots ~ pointing to the NDA government's permitting huge vacancies to develop in the IPS cadres. Yet in the midst of the din now customary at the commencement of every session of Parliament comes a revelation that on at least one element of the police-reform process UPA-II is more talk than action. It has failed to ensure that paramilitary personnel have what is now accepted as standard equipment for major assignments ~ bullet-proof jackets. 


There was a shortage of some 86,000 units. Significantly it was the CRPF, that bears the brunt of the task against Maoist insurgents and separatist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, which was the worst equipped: 40,000 fewer jackets than required. The BSF, Assam Rifles, ITBP, CISF and SSB also reported shortfalls. Even the "premier" NSG could do with another 1,700 the minister of state for home affairs disclosed in a written reply to a query. No immediate relief was in the offing, even in terms of orders placed (with deliveries due by the end of 2010) there was a deficiency of 27,000. Just bear in mind that procuring jackets is less complicated than filling personnel vacancies. It might be speculative to contend that the CRPF would have done better in both J&K and along the Maoist-swathe across central India had every member of the force been issued a protective jacket ~ many of the duties it performs are routine law-and order tasks needing little equipment of that nature ~ but it is the message that matters. View the jacket shortage in the context of makeshift accommodation, lack of mosquito nets in a jungle environment, the fatigue factor and it explains why the men have been caught napping by the Maoists. Or why they tend to use excessive force against stone-pelting Kashmiri youth. Why should the paramilitary have cause to feel they are the poor relatives among the security forces? And just imagine the plight of the unfortunates serving in the cash-strapped state forces.
                                                                                                                         
 
GENDER CENSUS 

DIGNITY OF THE HOME-MAKER 


THE Supreme Court has upheld the dignity of labour. And it has been upheld with a strong message for the executive ~ that it has tied itself up in knots over the census operations. Unable to be decisive, the government has referred the caste-count to that latest embroidery called a Group of Ministers. The listing of home-makers as "non-workers" ~ in league with prostitutes, beggars and prisoners ~ was a conscious mockery of the dignity of labour that yields an honest income. What the Bench calls a "totally insensitive and callous approach" has now been rectified. And with it the "strong gender bias against women". The recent ruling leaves no scope for sanctimonious cant on judicial intervention. If the court has to intervene even in census enumeration, it reinforces the popular perception of a bumbling UPA-II despite the loud talk of women's reservation. 
Domestic helps are almost a fixed element in South and South-east Asian households, though admittedly not in the enlightened West. As often as not the victims of harassment and persecution within the household, they would doubtless have suffered even more if the census authorities had had their way with a conscious policy of exclusion from civil society. The Supreme Court has now accorded the home-maker his/her rightful place. "The time has come for Parliament to pass a law for properly assessing the value of home-makers' and householders' work." Though the order was passed in a matter of compensation to the family of a home-maker who was killed in a road accident, the significance is profoundly generic. The observations have a bearing on the laws of gender equality, with the caveat that "it is time to change the colonial mindset", and shed what it calls the "distinct gender bias in the laws on welfare". It devolves on both the legislature and the executive to bring about the measure of equality that the country may be proud of  but still cannot claim. If not a caste-less India, the census will register a forward movement if it can ensure gender equality and the dignity of labour. 

 
LOSE SOME, WIN SOME

PRE-ELECTION MADRASA REVAMP 


IT is a matter of semantic quibbling. The impost in the case of private colleges is called a capitation fee; in missionary schools and convents the admission surcharge is collected in the name of development. Indeed, admission is assured only if the parents agree to shell out this fee. And per child, the charge is now in terms of lakhs of rupees. The West Bengal government's recent decision to bar madrasas from collecting the development fee is an oblique admission of the fact that this extortion in disguise exists even in institutions that impart instruction with a profound religious content. The imposition by the madrasas comes over and above the Rs 78 crore sanctioned by the state last year for the development of infrastructure. The decision will doubtless spare hundreds of families, who send their children to madrasas, from of an additional burden at the threshold. To that extent, the belated awakening of the minority affairs department arguably has an electoral connotation. The relief would have raised no cavil were it not for the selective application. There is no reason why the ban on development fees cannot be extended to Anglo-Indian schools, and so-called public schools, believed to be the most culpable.  Any such joint decision by the departments of minority affairs and school education ought not be misconstrued as an interference in the fee structure. A development or capitation fee is an irregular and out-of-the budget source of revenue coerced out of guardians. 


With an unmistakable eye on the Muslim vote, the minister of state for minority affairs has announced a fairly ambitious plan for revamping madrasas. And precisely in the border districts of Bangladesh that bear witness to a demographic change.  Particularly progressive must be Abdus Sattar's announcement to set up 12 English medium madrasas. Yet the government cannot be too sure that it will be able to countenance the opposition from the fundamentalist fringe. It is the segment that has resisted the Chief Minister's efforts to upgrade the syllabi with contemporary disciplines; it may well have reservations on the medium of instruction and the abolition of development fees. The madrasa clock stands still. Will the government rock the boat with less than a year to go for the Assembly elections? Unlikely.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

NUCLEAR COOPERATION

 

INDIA, of late, is in the process of signing civil nuclear cooperation agreements with major players in the field of nuclear power generation. The latest in the series is the Indo-Canadian civil nuclear deal. It ended Canada's 36-year embargo imposed on nuclear cooperation with India following the  1974 nuclear explosion in which Canadian-designed reactors were used. Russia has been a major source of nuclear fuel to India since the early Nineties.


Following a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group in September 2008, which allowed India to begin international nuclear trade despite being a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the country has struck nuclear deals with several nations. These include France, the USA, the UK, Namibia, Mongolia, Argentina, and Kazakhstan.


Being a rapidly growing economy, India's energy requirement is increasing at an exponential rate. And given the limited and depleting reserve of fossil fuels, policy-makers have started considering nuclear power as an effective way of meeting energy needs. Nuclear power is the fourth largest source of electricity in India, after thermal, hydro and renewable sources. We have  set the target of 20,000 MW nuclear power generation capacity by 2020. The nuclear deals are naturally viewed as the most appropriate step in the direction of achieving that goal. However, on closer analysis, the deals appear to be fraught with perilous possibilities and are likely to do more harm than good if proper corrective measures are not taken.


Deals & disarmament

There seems to be an unmistakable incongruity between the recent spate of deals and the professed goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. As part of the Indo-US deal, the government accepted such conditions as agreeing to continue the voluntary moratorium on further nuclear weapon-testing and opening the civilian nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. 


  Predictably, the deal heightened tension between India and Pakistan. Islamabad fears that Delhi might divert the technology and nuclear fuels, received as part of the deal, to a clandestine weapons programme. It demanded a similar engagement with the USA. America refused citing, among other issues, Pakistan's poor non-proliferation record. The AQ Khan episode is still fresh in public memory. China stepped in, offering a deal to Pakistan, thereby making India face the heat. Beijing signed an agreement with Islamabad for building two nuclear reactors just a month after the signing of the Indo-US deal in October 2008. Very recently, China announced that it is going ahead with  the sale of the reactors to Pakistan. India expressed reservations, but was assured by the Nuclear Supplier Group that Pakistan would not be granted a similar waiver already awarded to India. 


However, what worries India is that the Obama administration has not categorically ruled out the possibility of offering a similar deal to Pakistan. Washington needs to keep Islamabad in good humour to enlist its support in the ongoing war against the Taliban and the Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Given the dominant role of the army in Pakistani politics, technological assistance through a nuke deal may be put to military use. This will seriously jeopardise India's effort to move towards nuclear disarmament.


India has remained outside the NPT regime mainly because it considers the arrangement to be discriminatory. And yet it has received preferential treatment from the NSG, the entity in charge of enforcing the NPT regime, thereby incurring, quite justifiably, the charges from countries, notably Iran, that both the USA and India have acted in a hypocritical manner. India's campaign for nuclear disarmament has a measure of credibility because of the fact that while advocating peaceful use of nuclear technology, India continues to keep its nuclear weapons option open.


True, India has earned the moniker of being a responsible nuclear power. However, because of rampant corruption and the low level of accountability and transparency in our public institutions, the possibility of pilferage in nuclear power installations can never be ruled out. One hopes the Prime Minister will act on the promises made by him at the Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010. It was convened by the USA to safeguard nuclear materials, to forestall any possibility of terrorists gaining access to such materials and to ensure foolproof protection of our nuclear power plants.  India will have to ensure nuclear safety both at home and abroad should Dr Manmohan Singh's proposal for the setting up of an International Nuclear Safety Centre in India be accepted and implemented.


Accidents in N-plants

Dealing with accidents in nuclear plants is another critical issue. The proposed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill has sparked  a stormy debate. The Bill is necessary to activate the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement as American nuclear manufacturing companies will require the liability legislation to get insurance cover in their home states. 


  The Bill, while defining the financial and legal liabilities of suppliers, manufacturers and operators of a power plant envisages that in case of an accident, the foreign companies will have to pay a maximum of Rs 500 crore while the operator (government controlled Nuclear Power Corporation of India) will pay the remaining amount that is required to cover losses. Experts reckon that Rs 500 crore is a negligible amount if a nuclear disaster of considerable magnitude takes place. This is a chilling reminder of how after the Bhopal gas tragedy, the offending Union Carbide could get away paying a pittance as compensation. The tax payers are now actually paying for the new compensation package. In light of this bitter experience, the Bill should be suitably modified to bring the compensation mechanism in line with established international norms and practices. The safety and security of the citizens ought to get maximum priority. Foreign companies cannot be allowed to show the kind of disregard for the value of  life, in the manner of  Union Carbide.


As an advocate of nuclear disarmament, India should take its rightful place in the Global Zero campaign, an international initiative launched in December 2008 to achieve the goal of total elimination of nuclear weapons. 

 

In the aftermath of the devastation in Hiroshima after the first atomic explosion, Albert Camus remarked, "Our technical civilisation has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests ." Intelligent and cautious use of nuclear technology by India and all other members of the comity of nations is the need of the hour.

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THE TELEGRAPH

STADIUM AS SYMBOL

 

An important sporting event, like the Olympic Games or the Commonwealth Games, is an opportunity for the host country to make a statement for itself. One significant way to do this is through the design of the main stadium where the games are going to be held. In very recent times, China led the way by erecting a stadium that has already acquired the status of an iconic building. The 'Bird's Nest' stadium, where the 2008 Olympics were held, is justifiably considered one of the marvels of modern architecture. It stands apart from the city and conveys to the viewer a radically new image. It becomes a symbol and a metaphor for something more profound than sports. In a secular world, it inspires awe in the same way as icons of Jesus Christ evoked awe and reverence in the Byzantine world. The 'Bird's Nest' excites wonder. There are other contemporary buildings that have been hailed as iconic by historians of architecture. The first building to be thus described was the little church in Ronchamp which bore the signature of Le Corbusier. Frank Gehry's new Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has also earned for itself the accolade of being iconic. China thus used the Olympic Games to create for itself and the world a building — marvellously conceived and designed by Herzog and de Meuron — which has become part of its glorious architectural heritage.

 

India, when it decided to host the Commonwealth Games for 2010, had a chance to give itself a new stadium that could bid to be considered iconic. Following China, it could have opened a bidding process for internationally acclaimed architects and then chosen the best to give the nation a new symbol. Those responsible for organizing the Commonwealth Games chose to refurbish existing structures. Not only was an opportunity missed but a mindset was also revealed. It is a mindset that prefers the public works department to international designers and architects. In this regard India has regressed. When Jawaharlal Nehru decided that India needed a new city to be the capital of Punjab, he did not leave its conception and design in the hands of government engineers. He went for the world's best. Chandigarh thus became one of Le Corbusier's signature creations. Nehru had a vision for India that was both artistic and modern.

 

The comparison between India and China has become the pet theme of those who are called developmental economists. Figures of gross domestic product and trade are bandied around to demonstrate the state of the race between the two Asian giants. But the matter is not one that can be discussed at the level of dry-as-dust statistics concerning the economies of the two countries. It is also a matter of the vision that the leadership of the two countries want to present regarding their countries to the world and to their own citizens. In this context, India is a very poor second. The story of China's stadium and India's stadium says it all.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

INSTRUMENT OF THE SELF

A FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND A VIOLIN IN THE AIR

POLITICS AND PLAY: RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

Every year, a music festival is held in Bangalore around Ram Navami. It takes place in Basavanagudi, in the heart of the old city, under a shamiana in the grounds of the Fort High School. The artistes are mostly of the Southern or Carnatic tradition, but occasionally a Hindustani musician is invited to perform. During the Ram Navami festival of 1998, I took an older friend with whom I often exchanged cassettes for what turned out to be the last concert he ever attended.

 

The artiste that evening was the violinist, N. Rajam, who was reared in the Tamil country, in a family of musicians. Where her brother T.N. Krishnan took to playing the violin — superbly — in the Carnatic style, Rajam travelled all the way to Banaras to learn Hindustani music under the tutelage of the great vocalist, Omkarnath Thakur. After her studies she stayed on in the holy — if polluted — city, and joined the music faculty of the Banaras Hindu University, where she taught the violin to girls and boys from (one presumes) all parts of the country.

 

Rajam is a little lady, who was dressed that day — in deference to her audience — in Kanjeevaram, rather than Banaras, silk. She also wore, as I recall, rather a lot of jewellery. But once she started playing, it was our aural sensibilities that took over. She really is a brilliant violinist, with a very wide range and a sensitive, smooth touch, which must come from being trained originally in the Carnatic tradition. (For some reason, violinists from the north tend to have a more jerky style.) I cannot recall what she played that day, although I would like to think (for reasons that will soon be apparent) that it was Gorakh Kalyan. Anyway, what I do distinctly remember is that halfway through her recital it began to rain. As the shower got heavier, Rajam's violin got louder. She matched and eventually overcame the sound of the water hitting the shamiana's roof, till, in the end, the rain stopped, exhausted. The violinist celebrated her victory over the elements with a concluding dhun.

 

I had heard Rajam once before, in the Kamani auditorium in New Delhi. I have not heard her live since, but do possess several of her CD's, among them a Mian ki Malhar and a Gorakh Kalyan. I also have a wonderful jugalbandi of her and her fellow Banarasi, the shehnai vadak Bismillah Khan, playing Durga. Now that Bismillah, Ali Akbar Khan and Nikhil Banerjee are all dead, I think I can say that N. Rajam is my favourite living instrumentalist.

 

The Bangalore Ram Navami festival started in the 1930s. A younger, but no less robust, festival is the Yuva Ustav run by the Bangalore-based singer, Lalita Ubhayaker. An accomplished vocalist trained in the Agra style, Ubhayaker is a generous and public-spirited lady, who, some two decades ago, started an annual festival to showcase younger musicians. This is held in a hall off Sankey Road, named after the legendary Carnatic violinist, T. Chowdiah.

 

The Yuva Utsav features singers and instrumentalists who are less than 25 years of age. However, just as the Ram Navami festival varies its fare by inviting the odd Hindustani musician, Ubhayaker's festival has, of late, had one slightly older artiste, with the caveat that this person should have previously performed at the Yuva Utsav when they were young and obscure. In recent years, this role has been assigned to, among others, the vocalists, Rashid Khan and Kaushiki Chakrabarty.

 

At the last Yuva Utsav, the violinist, Sangeeta Shankar, was asked to play on the final evening. I rearranged my travels so as to be in town that day, since the lady in question is the daughter of N. Rajam, and I had in my possession a CD of the two playing together. A teenage vocalist was to sing before the interval, with the prodigy now come good, Sangeeta Shankar, scheduled to perform after the break. Normally, the first act would have comprised a single khayaland a single thumri or bhajan. As the thumri was coming to an end, I saw some agitated whispering in the front row, between Lalita Ubhayaker and one of her colleagues. This was followed by a note to the youngster on the dais, which, it turned out, had asked him to sing for another 15 minutes (an opportunity he was naturally happy to accept).

 

The boy who was singing was talented, if not wholly mature. No one in the hall that day grudged him his turn, but few wanted it unduly extended. The crowd was polite, but some murmurings began when it was announced, at the end of the youngster's second or third thumri, that there would be an interval of 20 minutes (instead of the normal 10). At the break, I was given the inside story by Tara Chandavarkar, a close friend of Lalita Ubhayaker, and a well-known patroness of the arts herself. Apparently, on the flight over from Banaras (via Delhi), Sangeeta Shankar's violin had been damaged. A substitute instrument was needed — where, at this short notice, would it be found?

 

Someone — it may have been Ubhayaker herself — remembered that there was a Carnatic violin teacher who lived in the back lanes of Sadashivanagar, behind the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Sangeeta Shankar was taken by her accompanist for the evening, the Bangalore-based tablaplayer, Ravindra Yavagal, to borrow a functioning violin from this man, who was a Mr Ganapathy, I believe. In Chandavarkar's (colourful yet probably accurate) rendering, the portly, cheerful Yavagal took the silk-sari-clad Sangeeta Shankar on the back of a bicycle to the local violinist's house. There the instrument was seen, tested, borrowed and conveyed back to the grand hall where she was to play.

 

The concert started without a word of explanation for the delay. Shankar played an exquisite and elaborate Gorakh Kalyan, then a dhun or two. At the end of her concert, she acknowledged the applause by saying, "God came to my rescue today." That was a somewhat enigmatic summing-up of what must have been a very harrowing couple of hours indeed.

 

This incident happened several months ago. I was prompted to write about it now by reading an essay by the journalist, Robert Fisk, about a flight he once took from Paris to Beirut. On board with him was the great cellist, Mstislav Rostropovich. The musician sat on seat 1J; beside him, on seat 1K, was his precious and irreplaceable instrument. Rostro- povich told Fisk that this was how he always travelled — with one seat in first class booked for himself, and another for his cello.

 

The violin is a much smaller instrument than the cello. Rostropovich was a larger-than-life Russian, whereas Shankar, like her mother, is a South Indian lady with an understated personality. To book a separate seat for her violin would be sheer exhibitionism. But perhaps she should henceforth carry a spare violin with her. Not every city she shall perform in has an obliging Mr Ganapathy, or a Mrs Ubhayaker who knows where to find him.

 

ramachandraguha@yahoo.in

 

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

EDITORIAL

ELITIST SELF-DELUSION

'SCHOOLS MUST ABANDON THEIR NARROW OUTLOOK.'

 

In theory private schools are a good idea, but many of them  increasingly operate in windowless and soundproof shells. Sequestered in an environment in which every pupil is expected to be from the same socio-economic strata, the private schools are separated from the real world, from new ideas and from a progressive ethos grounded in principles of equality and celebration of diversity. A controversial circular issued to students' parents by Bangalore's Bethany high school smacks of elitism and snobbishness and reinforces the impression that private schools are fit for toffs born with silver spoons. Bethany's narcissism is unjustified as it would be for other private schools working on same wavelength.


Two weeks back, speaking at a function, the vice chancellor of Bangalore University exposed a narrow mindset when he hinted that yokels cannot make it in the slick corporate world. Generally, as in the West, private school-educated pupils are considered more confident and articulate. There is no doubt that students in these schools are privileged in that they are better prepared to face the admissions challenges to colleges once they graduate and are presumed to have a solid grounding before they take on the vicissitudes of the job market. But the circular issued by Bethany goes against the country's constitutional principles in which educational institutions are expected to follow equality and offer equality of opportunity. A deviation from these long-cherished principles in as diverse a country as India would suggest that there is always going to be discrimination in the applications process and, as elitist as that is, it will take many years to eradicate. To presuppose, as the Bethany circular did, that students from poorer and disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds would have a corrupting influence on those who belong to more suave backgrounds is down right narrow and disrespectful of children who happen to be born to deprived parents.


Some private schools, not just in Bangalore but elsewhere in the country, must abandon their elitist and narrowly defined notions of academic competence and concentrate on providing the best of education to the brightest, regardless of pupils' social standing and financial status. Across the country — in the past and now — there are shining examples of students from non-elite backgrounds with immense intellectual richness who have brought leadership assets to the country. The putative upwardly mobile schools must set their self-delusion aside and work toward a more meritocratic educational system.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CONFIDENT SURGE

'IT SECTOR HAS BOOSTED THE COUNTRY'S SELF-CONFIDENCE.'

 

Nasscom (National Association of Software and Services Companies) president Som Mittal's projection of impressive employment growth in the industry in the coming years is no exaggeration, going by the pace at which it has grown in the past. He has estimated that direct employment in the IT and BPO sector would go up from the present 2.3 million to 10 million and indirect employment would touch 20 million. This is eminently possible considering that there was a five-hold increase in employment in the last one decade. In revenue terms the industry is expected to reach its long-cherished export target of $50 billion this year. But for the global slowdown, the goal would have been achieved in 2008. A decade ago it was just $2.6 billion. The exponential growth is a testament of India's ability to assume world leadership through excellence and competitiveness. It has given the country greater self-confidence in other sectors also, as the growth story of the last decade also indicates.

The challenge before the industry now is not to secure business opportunities but to manage them efficiently. This was a theme of the summit in Chennai where Nasscom called upon the industry to adopt the best ethical practices and norms of conduct. It was, for example, pointed out that discouragement of frequent job changes would ensure a more stable work culture and help companies to perform better. These norms would help the staff also in their professional and personal lives. Another challenge for the industry is to spread out its geographical presence. It has already moved partly from Tier-1 to Tier-2 cities, and is now moving into Tier-3 cities. The shift has important economic and social implications as the smaller towns in the country will also participate in the industry's progress. Another notable feature is the high percentage of women staff. This is also a big positive with a high social value.


Once the $50 billion target is achieved, the next goal would be $100 billion. The scorching 30 per cent growth, seen till 2008, is again achievable and the target might be reached in quicker time too. Rising protectionism in developed countries and increasing competition are adverse factors, but the Indian software industry has reached the stage where it can handle them with confidence.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

KICKING UP THE DUST

BY RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA


Cong padayatra, if nothing else, has caused enough consternation to Yeddyurappa to make him proactive in dealing with illegal mining.

 

 

The sudden rise in political temperature in Karnataka over the last three weeks would make one wonder whether a general election is round the corner. No, the 26-month-old BJP government is seemingly stable, the convulsions of last October, when over 40 ruling-party MLAs briefly rebelled against chief minister B S Yeddyurappa have subsided, the Reddy brothers are on the defensive and the Opposition is in no position to bring down the government. There is nothing to suggest that the BJP government's tenure is coming to a premature end.


And yet, there is no denying that a sense of instability haunts the Yeddyurappa government and it is forced to constantly indulge in fire-fighting that adversely affects the administration of the state. That the visiting British prime minister David Cameron, who made a customary call at Infosys, a business trip to the HAL and had a brief interaction with the governor, had no meeting fixed with the chief minister, tells its own tale. The 'business-minded' Cameron delegation perhaps felt that a chief minister pre-occupied with political battle of his own would have little to offer them.


From the chief minister's utterances and body language, it is abundantly clear that the state Congress leaders have upped the ante for him by undertaking a padayatra from Bangalore to Bellary to highlight the 'loot' of the state's resources. The enthusiastic public response to the 320 km-long, 15-day padayatra has not only served to rejuvenate the moribund Congress, but it has succeeded in bringing into sharp focus the chief minister's Achilles heel — the total helplessness to deal with daylight robbery in the name of mining, legal or illegal, which is milking the state of crores of rupees a day.


Yeddyurappa may be right when he says that it is unfair to hold him alone responsible for the illegal mining as previous governments, including that of the Congress and the JD(S), had also winked at such activities and it is no secret that some Congressmen too are into mining of iron ore and granite. He is also perfectly justified in blaming the Central government for being a 'partner' with private miners in the plunder of mineral wealth as it has consistently turned a deaf ear to states' plea to link royalties to the market price of the minerals.


But Yeddyurappa fails to convince anyone with his argument for three reasons: One, you cannot expect people to condone your crimes by pointing fingers at others. Two, there is no comparison in the scale of operations between that of the Reddy brothers and some smalltime Congress leaders whom the chief minister has named; the Reddy brothers being part of the government have enjoyed extraordinary protection and even complicity from official machinery to rake in huge profits. Three, blaming the Centre carries little conviction when you hand over the entire administration of the mining districts to the miners as if it is their personal fiefdom to do what they please.


No response

The Congress padayatra, if nothing else, has caused enough consternation to the chief minister to make him proactive in dealing with illegal mining. At the recent National Development Council meeting in New Delhi, he openly advocated a ban on export of iron ore, but found no positive response from the Centre.

Now, in a bold move, the Yeddyurappa government has not only restricted the movement of iron ore supplies only to the steel mills operating within the state, but also asked the mines and geology department not to issue mineral dispatch permits for export of iron ore from any of the state's 10 minor ports which are within its jurisdiction. Exports, with proper documents, will be permitted only through the Mangalore port, which operates under the Union shipping ministry.


It is said that the chief minister has given clear instructions to officials that illegal mining should come to an end and that the movement of ore should be strictly monitored — a far cry from a situation even a few days ago when over 5,000 trucks were being allowed to ferry ore daily, largely without permits, with utter disregard for the environment and the carrying capacity of roads.


Some of the miners have protested saying the ban on export will hurt their businesses and thousands of mine workers will lose their jobs. The chief minister has taken a stand that the ban is consistent with a high court direction issued earlier and he would prefer the ore to be used locally with value addition. The government's policy is to encourage more steel mills to come up in the state and when that happens, the locals will get better-paid jobs.


Mining baron Janardhana Reddy has reacted favourably to the ban, causing some surprise. It is said that since most of his operations are in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, he would not mind an export ban in Karnataka. The others argue that he has several benami operations in Karnataka and the ban will impact his business, but he is playing politically safe by supporting the chief minister's move.


The question is, in the long run, can Yeddyurappa afford to antagonise the Reddy brothers by taking steps that directly hurt their business interests? Are the Reddys as powerful as they were a year ago or do they find themselves isolated in the party? Finally, is the BJP ready to dump them to reclaim its image, unmindful of the repercussions on the government? The answers, at least for some of them, should not be too long in the coming.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

KNOWN TURF: DAKU MORALITY

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


'Known Turf' by Annie Zaidi (Tranquebar) has been lying in a heap of books I plan to read. Despite its unappetising title and jacket I did get down to it because it had been recommended by P Sainath and Tabish Khair whose opinions I value.

 

 

I was not disappointed. Zaidi writes of her encounters with Chambal Valley dacoits including Phoolan Devi and half a dozen male gangs. What emerges is the fact that most of them kill rival gangsters and not common people for the simple reason that they encroach on their sources of income.


Zaidi heard of the exploits of the legendary Sultana Daku, watched films based on the lives of dacoits, notably Gabbar Singh.


My own limited knowledge of dacoits goes back to my childhood in village Hadali. 


The most dreaded name in the desert region of the river Jhelum was that of Tora Daku. 


He was known to have killed dozens of rivals and members of his own gang who had questioned his leadership.

Tora Daku and his gang visited Hadali in broad daylight, rifles slung on their shoulders. As word went round, people shut their front doors and a deadly silence enveloped the village. 

 

Among the many doors he knocked on with butt of his rifle was ours. My grandfather would open the door to let him in. They embraced each other like lost friend.


My grandmother would serve him 'pinnees' (gur ladoos) with tea. And offer the same to his men who stayed outside. He addressed her politely as 'Vaddi Bhain'; she called him 'puttar' (son). 


After he had finished, my grandfather gave him an envelope full of currency notes. Tora counted them before putting them in the pocket, as it was not robbery but protection money to ensure us that no other gangster would come to our home.


The gang visited a few other Hindu and Sikh houses. Before leaving he said "Allah Hafis".


No one dared to lodge a report against them to the police. He also helped with money in marriage of poor girls of the parents who could not afford.


Annie Zaidi's collection has good reportage, peppered with humour and most readable.



Name the poet


I have carried Shankar Sen's poems in my columns more than once. He wrote to say that he is busy translating Buddhadev Guha's epic novel 'Madhukari' into English. Guha has quoted a few couplets in Urdu without making the poet.
I am unable to do so. I invite readers to do so. I reproduce both original Shankar Sen's translations.

Taaruf rog ban jaye to usko bhoolna acchha

Taaluk bojh ban jaye tou usko torhna acchhaIf familiarity becomes 
oppressive,

It is better to forget it.

If a relationship becomes a burden

It is better to break it.

Afsaana Anjaam tak 

leyjaana ho mushkil

To usko ek khubsoorat morh de kar chhorna acchha

If an affair is not easy to 

carry to its conclusion

It is better to give it a 

beautiful turn and let it go.

Gustakhi ham sey hogi sirf ek baar

Jab sab challengey paidal

Aur ham hongey kandhey pey sawaar

I shall be at fault just once

When others shall walk on foot

And I shall be borne on their shoulders.

 

New convert

A Parsi of ill-repute chose to seek forgiveness for his sinful ways through Baptism. So he decided to recast his

will. Instead of a Zoroastrian priest, he summoned his lawyer and his doctor and asked them to stand on either side of his death bed.


"Why do you want us beside you at this time?" they asked. Replied the recently baptised Zoroastrian: "I want to die like Jesus Christ with two thieves on either side of me".

(Contributed by B T Mody, Bangalore).

Makims revised

Love thy neighbour's neighbor

To err is human; to blame others for it is good politics

Self before service

Be Indian, buy foreign

An onion a day keeps everybody away

Behind every unsuccessful man, there are many women

(Courtesy: K J S Ahluwalia, Amritsar)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

NEIGHBOURLY VIBES

BY BHARATHI PRABHU


The loudness of music was not an issue and we maint-ained neighbourly distance.

 

When the going gets tough, the loving gets going. This has been reinforced by my soon-to-be ex-neighbours. This family has been living next door for over 20 years now and one invariant ritual has been the loud music of the 80s played out every Sunday morning by the son of the house. Since we too liked that music and since he was otherwise a decent chap, the loudness was not an issue and we maintained neighbourly distance. Once his children became playmates with my son, the distance reduced and the daughter-in-law of the house and I started exchanging notes often.

 

The discussions centred around children most of the time. But every once in a while the lady would mention about her husband's take on this and that. Never once taking his name she would proudly say, "He wants me to be independent and that is why he taught me to ride the two-wheeler. "He says we should not be bothered by others' opinion." "He is taking care of the medical bills of so and so…"


The more I heard about 'him' the more my respect for the chap grew and 'he' became a catch word in our house. After my tete a tete with the lady, the husband or daughter would ask jokingly — "So, what does 'he' say?" or they would say 'he' is riding pillion with his wife, but never quite managing to bring  the love that she brought into that one word.


About a year back we noticed trouble brewing in the family. There were heated discussions between the daughter-in-law and the mother-in-law every other day. Lots of people would pour in over the weekends and there would be loud arguments late into nights. The Sunday music started becoming less frequent. The children whispered to my son about changing house.


When one night, I found the couple sitting on the steps forlorn, I could no longer control and asked her next morning what was wrong. It was as if she was just waiting to be asked. Crying, she told me about the property dispute, the loss in business and the uncooperative mother-in-law. Over the next couple of months, she frequently confided the various options they were considering. All through this stressful time, the one constant has been the couple's love for each other. The lady has stood by her husband's decision to wind up business here and sell the house. They have decided to move to her maternal city and start afresh. I have no doubts that they will prosper there.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A TOUGHER CAR SAFETY AGENCY

 

The United States has done a fairly good job so far of policing the safety of cars and trucks. The number of deaths in traffic accidents dropped to an estimated 34,000 last year — the least since the 1950s. But that is still too many deaths.

 

The recall of millions of Toyota cars and trucks because of persistent problems of uncontrolled acceleration has exposed unacceptable weaknesses in the regulatory system. These weaknesses are allowing potentially fatal flaws to remain undetected. Democrats in Congress are pushing legislation to improve regulation and oversight of auto safety. It should be passed into law without delay.

 

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act requires all vehicles to have a brake override system to ensure that a vehicle can be stopped even if the throttle is open. Pedals must exceed a minimum clearance from the floor to avoid snagging car mats. Electronic control systems must meet minimum performance standards, to be set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And all vehicles must come fitted with recorders that log operational data and help determine the causes of accidents.

 

But perhaps more important, the bill would broadly change the system of overseeing and enforcing safety rules. That should help the N.H.T.S.A. identify serious problems faster and provide tools to ensure automakers' compliance with its standards of safety and disclosure.

 

Both the House and the Senate versions of the bill demand public disclosure of early warning data about defects, which should encourage drivers to report safety problems. They call for the creation of a safety hot line and extend whistle-blower protections to employees of carmakers, dealers and suppliers. To reduce conflicts of interest, both bills have provisions imposing long interim periods before former N.H.T.S.A. employees can lobby for car companies.

 

Both versions vastly increase the N.H.T.S.A.'s resources — which today amount to a paltry 1 percent of the Department of Transportation's budget. The House version goes further, requiring that carmakers pay a fee that would start at $3 for each vehicle they sell. The fee would rise every year, to help pay for the agency's monitoring efforts.

 

The bills also give N.H.T.S.A. a bigger stick. Currently, the maximum fine that can be imposed on a company for failing to promptly notify the agency about a safety problem is a paltry $15 million. The bills propose raising the cap to $200 million or $300 million. And they establish that a senior company official would have personal legal responsibility for safety reports submitted to the regulator. The Senate version requires that this person be the company's top United States-based executive.

 

Automakers support some of the provisions in the bill — like the call for event data recorders and brake override systems, which are already installed in many vehicles. But they oppose the bigger fines and the new safety fees. They argue that disclosure of defect information could reveal confidential information to competitors.

 

But legislators should not back down on these provisions. N.H.T.S.A. needs vastly more resources to monitor potentially lethal flaws in the nation's increasingly high-tech fleet. And it needs more compelling fines if it is to persuade carmakers to comply with its rules. N.H.T.S.A. could fine Toyota only $16.4 million for delays in revealing problems with defective accelerator pedals that left the throttle open after being released. That's pocket change for a company of its size.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE FIGHT OVER EDUCATION IN WASHINGTON

 

Congress is unlikely to take up its school financing bill, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, until next year. But teachers unions and other forces of the status quo are already trying to subvert the measure by discrediting President Obama's signature education initiative, the Race to the Top, which requires the states to make reforms in exchange for federal grants.

 

The grant program has focused the country's attention on school reform and has angered the unions, especially by pushing the states to take student performance into account in teacher evaluations.

 

The attacks picked up in earnest this week, when a coalition of civil rights groups that included the National Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P. signed onto a statement that attacked not just Race to the Top, but the very idea of using competitive grants to spur reform.

 

President Obama came out swinging on Thursday, before the National Urban League in Washington. He pledged to protect Race to the Top, even if it meant using the veto pen. He seemed particularly incensed by the baseless claim that Race to the Top had shortchanged minority children.

 

He said the charge that it "isn't targeted at those young people most in need is absolutely false because lifting up quality for all our children — black, white, Hispanic — that is the central premise of Race to the Top. And you can't win one of these grants unless you've got a plan to deal with those schools that are failing and those young people who aren't doing well."

 

The president is not planning to apply the competitive grant system to mainstay, formula-financed programs, like Title I, which provides extra help to impoverished children. But he wisely plans to use the competitive approach for modestly financed new programs, like the one that will reward districts for innovative plans aimed at turning around consistently failing schools.

 

This week's dust-up came just as the administration announced that 18 states and the District of Columbia had produced reform plans that qualified them for a share of $3.4 billion in grant money from Race to the Top. The winning states will be well positioned to enact reforms. But even those that do not win will benefit from the process of creating road maps to reform.

 

The protest document was quickly embraced by the National Education Association, the more retrograde of the country's two large teachers' unions. That means the administration will need to fight hard to get its school reform plan through Congress.

 

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DETENTION AND THE DISABLED

 

The Department of Homeland Security has been working to clean up the immigration-justice system it inherited from the Bush administration, a sprawling detention-and-deportation operation plagued by overcrowding, mistreatment and shocking medical neglect. Ongoing scrutiny from legal experts and human-rights advocates shows how much work remains.

 

A new report from Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union lays out in unsettling detail the burdens faced by a particularly vulnerable group: immigrants with mental disabilities.

 

The immigration-justice system is notoriously unjust and difficult to navigate. Noncitizens have no right to an appointed lawyer, for example, and most end up fending for themselves in immigration court.

 

For the mentally ill or disabled, often unable to understand the charges and punishment they face, the experience is even worse, with prolonged detentions and removal without a fair hearing — "deportation by default," in the report's words — all too common. Defendants who cannot represent themselves in court — and cannot afford a lawyer or find a family member — end up being represented by an official of Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting as a "custodian." Some defendants, unsurprisingly, end up in limbo, detained but not deported while awaiting a hearing that may not happen.

 

Sometimes the system snares American citizens, the report says. It cites the case of Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled California man who was picked up by ICE and mistakenly deported to Mexico, where he wandered three months before being returned to his family.

 

There is no official count of how many mentally disabled people go through immigration courts or detention, though the report extrapolates from statistics to estimate the number at roughly 57,000 in 2008.

 

The report makes solid recommendations for reform, urging the government to exempt the mentally disabled from mandatory detention, to train judges to recognize people with mental disabilities and oblige them to safeguard their rights. It seeks an end to the rule allowing ICE custodians to represent the mentally incompetent and urges ICE to consider alternatives to detention, like supervised release with families and community treatment programs.

 

Noncitizens must overcome a high bar to prove their right to stay in the United States. But all deserve a fair hearing, particularly those least able to make the case for themselves.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FECKLESS AND CRUEL

 

In a shameful bout of election-year politicking, the House has rejected badly needed help for rescue workers and residents still suffering from the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center. What should have been swift bipartisan approval of a plan for medical and economic compensation turned into an ugly political brawl.

 

The House action was an insult, especially to the tens of thousands of ordinary citizens who pitched in selflessly for weeks in the cleanup, and have since developed grave illnesses from the toxic dust and debris of ground zero. Their needs were pushed aside as lawmaking degenerated into a game of election-year chicken.

 

The Democratic leadership, cowed by the Republicans' relentless campaign-focused bluster no matter what the bill, foolishly ordered limited debate. That meant they had to accept an impossible two-thirds vote for approval. Republicans then voted no in near lock step. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was correct in pronouncing a pox on all as the bill fell short, 255 to 159.

 

The measure, which calls for $3.2 billion in medical aid over eight years and $4.2 billion in economic compensation, should have been put to a simple majority vote. If Republicans chose to oppose it with campaign boilerplate, the blame for failure would undeniably be theirs.

 

The House leadership needs to bring the measure back for a second vote requiring a simple majority. A small window remains after the summer recess. Lawmakers will have a chance to show that, beyond the fear and loathing that's driving vicious House partisanship, a shred of comity can still be managed, especially when it comes to the victims of Sept. 11.

 

The main sponsors, Representatives Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler, Democrats of New York, and Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, are rightly still pressing to get the bill passed this year. This September marks the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The country must not forget any of its victims.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

LET'S MAKE IT REAL

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

At the beginning of his much, much, much discussed visit to "The View," Barack Obama squished himself into a long, low banquette where the five women who converse on the program were seated.

 

"These couches were made for these little people," he complained mildly.

 

I cannot tell you how happy this moment made me. During the presidential campaign, whenever Obama was sharing a stage with Hillary Clinton, the seating arrangement always seemed to involve high stools. He draped his tall, lanky frame over his stool gracefully. Clinton, who would have looked like a middle-aged schoolgirl doing detention if she perched up there, opted to stand and be uncomfortable.

 

On behalf of all the short women of America I say — go for it, women of "The View." I'm sure you did not want to cause the president of the United States any distress, but he was so totally due.

 

"For the first time in American history, a sitting president is visiting a daytime talk show — us," Whoopi Goldberg said proudly. The only real innovation was the hour of the day. "The View" isn't any less serious than "The David Letterman Show," where the president has already guested. It's not as if he volunteered to have himself shut up in the "Big Brother" house, or sent Joe Biden to play wooden spoons on "America's Got Talent."

 

The dissolution of the boundary between entertainment and politics is old news. Now we're dissolving the boundary between reality and entertainment. Or perhaps reality and reality. I was reminded of this when Obama was gently grilled by the lone Republican on "The View," Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who came to the show after a stint on "Survivor," where she lasted 39 days in the Australian Outback despite a crippling inability to catch fish.

 

"Survivor" is a first-generation reality show, in which everything is actually supposed to be real, except for the unseen production crew and copious editing. Now, some of the most talked-about shows on television are programs like "Real Housewives" and "Jersey Shore" that capture real people going about their real lives — except the producers arrange things so that the real lives are much more interesting than they are in reality.

 

"Jersey Shore" is basically Mario Cuomo's nightmare. It stars a bunch of young people who call themselves "guidos" and "guidettes" and live out every dreadful Italian-American stereotype in beach houses provided by the producers. On "The View," Obama claimed he had never heard of the show's breakout star, Nicole (Snooki) Polizzi. But it turned out that he once made a joke about Snooki, listing her and John Boehner, the House minority leader, as the top victims of the administration's plan to help pay for the health bill with a tanning salon tax.

 

Snooki, whose hard-partying got her hauled off to the pokey on Friday, has added the president's line to her own repertoire. "I don't go tanning-tanning anymore because Obama put a 10 percent tax on tanning," she said in this week's episode. "McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning. Because he's pale and would probably want to be tan."

 

She was interviewed recently on the Web site The Daily Beast by Meghan McCain, daughter of John, who asked her how she felt when she received a Twitter message from the Arizona senator, confirming his strong opposition to taxing tanning beds. "So that was pretty awesome and I'm really happy that he actually knows who I am," Snooki said.

 

We may be moving beyond actors running for office, into a new era with candidates who became TV stars by playing artificially enhanced versions of themselves. In Wisconsin, the seat of David Obey, the retiring House appropriations chairman, could be taken by a local Republican district attorney named Sean Duffy. His prior claims to fame include a stint on the reality show "Real World Boston." His wife, Rachel, was a star of "Real World San Francisco." They found love in the spinoff.

 

Now, Rachel sometimes sits in for Elisabeth Hasselbeck on "The View."

 

In his pre-presidency, Obama made a guest appearance on the wrestling show "Raw" during the 2008 primaries and mimicked one of the stars, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. Like everybody in the pseudosport, Johnson was part of a scripted soap opera in which he played a wrestler named Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. Among the other characters were the philandering league owner, Vince McMahon, played by owner Vince McMahon, and his long-suffering wife, Linda.

 

Linda McMahon is now running for the United States Senate. Dwayne Johnson is an actor who recently starred as the tooth fairy. Really.

 

And, of course, Barack Obama became president and appeared this week on "The View." There, he denied knowing the identity of Snooki, who plays a woman named Snooki on "Jersey Shore," where she recently criticized his revenue sources for health care reform.

 

Compared to this, "Inception" is a simple tale of people who enjoy napping.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

OBAMA'S 'RACE' WAR

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

Americans are engaged in a war over a word: racism.

 

Mature commentary on the subject has descended into tribal tirades, hypersensitive defenses and rapid-fire finger-pointing. The very definition of the word seems under assault, being bent and twisted back on itself and stretched and pulled beyond recognition.

 

Many on the left have taken an absolutist stance, that the anti-Obama sentiment reeks of racism and denial only served to confirm guilt. Many on the right feel as though they have been convicted without proof — that tossing "racism" their way is itself racist.

 

The "racists crying racism" meme is being pushed hard, on multiple fronts, all centered around the president.

 

After the N.A.A.C.P. asked the Tea Party "to condemn extremist elements" within its ranks, the right went on a witch hunt for black racists in the N.A.A.C.P. Not finding any, it created one. Andrew Breitbart presents: "The Sherrod Charade."

 

Journalism is being tarred with the sins of some on JournoList, a now defunct listserv through which a handful of people wrote heretical things like the possibility of calling conservatives racist to divert attention from Obama's connection to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

 

This was hardly a vast left-wing conspiracy, but it fed the right's defensive narrative that the word "racism" has become a weapon — not the shot of a rifle carefully aimed at a clear target, but a shotgun blast sprayed wide and loose at all things anti-Obama.

 

There's also the charge that the president is protecting the New Black Panthers from voter intimidation charges. This nonstory has been knocked down more times than a blind boxer, but the right keeps pushing it.

 

And then there's Glenn Beck. He's on a crusade to convince the lemmings of Foxland that President Obama is governing under the principles of Black Liberation Theology, a "grave perversion" of Christianity in which "minorities are saved in the sense that white people constantly confess and repent of being racist and meet the economic demands of minorities via the redistribution of wealth as a consequence of, in some form or another, reparations." What? Oh, Glenn.

 

I have to say, I don't know how these Fox viewers do it. Listening to a Beck argument is like living in an M.C. Escher drawing — fantastical illusions that defy logic and strain the brain.

 

Blacks, stunned by this new topsy-turvy world of racial politics, continue to rally around Obama. In opinion polls, they consistently rate Obama's performance and policies highly, I suspect as much out of solidarity as conviction.

 

Whether the president likes it or not, he's the nexus of this debate. I, for one, think that he should stand up and redirect it from the negative to the noble. There will be some grumbling to be sure, but there already is.

 

It's your choice, Mr. President. I say stand up — for America, for common humanity, for civil discourse. To paraphrase the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., they can't ride your back unless it's bent.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

NO AFGHAN ALLY LEFT BEHIND

BY SEYMOUR TOPPING

 

A TALIBAN spokesman announced Thursday that the group is poring over the tens of thousands of classified military documents published by WikiLeaks this week, looking for the names of pro-American Afghans.

As in the past, those identified will likely be added to lists of people to be assassinated, or rounded up once the United States and its allies leave the country. We're already seeing this in Iraq where, as American troops prepare to withdraw, there is a campaign by insurgents tokill members of the Awakening movement and others who have cooperated with the United States.

 

With the United States' deadlines for leaving Afghanistan only a year away, we need to plan for what will happen to our allies once we're gone. And we must certainly not allow a repetition of what happened in Indochina after the withdrawal in 1975 of our military forces, our diplomatic establishment and the Central Intelligence Agency.

 

Because the United States made virtually no provision for the security of its friends and collaborators, millions of people accused of being American sympathizers were killed, imprisoned or compelled to flee as the North Vietnamese took power in South Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Pathet Lao in Laos.

 

In South Vietnam, only a small number of collaborators was evacuated by Marine helicopters to ships off the coast. Just weeks later, as the North Vietnamese seized full control of the South, Le Duan, the hard-line Marxist successor to Ho Chi Minh, instituted a purge of American allies, consigning as many as 400,000 people to prison camps.

 

More than a million others fled the country by boat over the next 15 years. Some were picked up at sea by the

United States and resettled here. But American policymakers never seriously considered the fate of our South

Vietnamese allies.

Conditions were even worse in Cambodia. Pol Pot, the genocidal leader of the Khmer Rouge, ordered the immediate execution of Cambodian soldiers and officials who served in the American-supported government of Lon Nol. Over the next four years, the United States stood by while an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died by execution, starvation and maltreatment as Pol Pot set about cleansing the country of "foreign influence."

 

In Laos, the United States abandoned its most loyal allies, the Hmong hill people, who had been employed by the C.I.A. to battle the Communist-led Pathet Lao and disrupt North Vietnamese military traffic along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which snaked through Laos on its way into South Vietnam. True, from 2000 to 2005 the United States gave asylum to 15,000 of the estimated 100,000 Hmong who had fled to Thailand. But it did nothing when, last December, Thailand deported more than 4,000 of the remaining refugees back to Communist-ruled Laos, where they could face retribution.

 

There are many parallels between the American experience in Indochina and the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. As the United States prepared to withdraw from Indochina, particularly Vietnam, it undertook a program of, in President Nixon's words, "Vietnamization," in which American forces trained and equipped allied armies to take over the fighting.

 

That we are doing the same in Afghanistan and Iraq should raise concerns. Vietnamization was predicated on the promise of continued American air support and other military aid. But as Congress became impatient with the ineptitude of the allied leaders and the war's continued costs, that assistance was cut off, leaving our allies practically defenseless.

 

We can see similar tendencies in Congress today. Criticism of government leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as demands for reductions in military spending and accelerated withdrawal timetables, could be a harbinger of cuts to financial and military aid after we leave.

 

We must plan now to protect our allies in the future. We should consider leaving behind residual forces to ensure their security. We should refuse to negotiate political settlements with Taliban factions without iron-clad security guarantees for those who cooperated with the United States. We should seek international arrangements, possibly with United Nations support, to assure peaceful and humane political transitions.

 

And, if need be, we should offer asylum to anyone directly endangered for helping us. Having fought brutal wars in their countries to protect our interests, we owe them nothing less.

 

Seymour Topping, an emeritus journalism professor at Columbia and a former correspondent for The Times, is the author of "On the Front Lines of the Cold War: An American Correspondent's Journal from the Chinese Civil War to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam."

 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'DEMOCRATIC SELF-GOVERNMENT' AND DECENTRALIZATION

CENGİZ AKTAR

 

The concept of "democratic self-government" brought to the agenda by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, did not manage to capture the attention of the public. That's not surprising, though. The reason is our being totally unfamiliar with the topic of discussion.

 

(A Turkish version of the proposal can be found online at http://demokratikozerklik.blogspot.com.)

 

Quite to the contrary, for instance, the recent decision of the International Court of Justice regarding Kosovo's declaration of independence was considered by all as irrelevant in the Kurdish case while it was seen as valid jurisprudence for Turkish Cyprus. We shall come back to this obvious double standard in another piece.

 

For the last two centuries, these lands have been paralyzed by a very centralist administrative philosophy. Since the first document on decentralization, the Sened-i İttifak (Charter of Alliance), imposed in 1808 on the child Sultan Mahmoud II, was disregarded by the rulers from its inception, administrative practices totally against the spirit of this charter took over and have survived to the present day.

 

The Westernization process of the Ottoman Empire was, at the same time, a process of re-establishing control of the center following the loss of control during the 18th century. The reformist period starting with the Constitutional Monarchy (Meşrutiyet) was too little, too late to stop the collapse of the empire and certainly not sufficient to challenge the understanding of a centralist administration. In fact, the takeover by the Young Turks' Committee of Union and Progress with the coup d'etat of 1909 equated to the takeover of the centralist approach.

 

In the following years of the early 20th century, a new republic was set up on a hyper-centralist approach to government. The Treaty of Sèvres, the culmination of the collapse and loss of territory, transformed into the "Sèvres syndrome" in political literature, and the fear of division has survived from then on without the slightest change.

 

As a result, "region," "regionalization" and "decentralization" are concepts and practices that are neither discussed nor heard of in the Republic of Turkey. Actually, they are concepts that have been feared all along.

 

In this sense, the "democratic self-government" call of Kurdish politicians is too assertive. In the actual legal/constitutional framework, it cannot be materialized easily. And in the case of a unilateral declaration independent from the legal framework it wouldn't help, but only escalate tension.

 

The European Charter of Local Self-Government

 

Today, any of the relevant laws pertaining to local government, let alone "democratic self-government", cannot go beyond de-concentration, which is the most primitive form of decentralization, whereby an overburdened center transfers, under full control, some of its duties to local administrations. The international agreement to which some refer nowadays as a possible legal basis for the "democratic self-government," the 1985 European Charter of Local Self-Government, is, contrary to popular belief, totally irrelevant. Law No. 3723, which approves the charter, was adopted May 8, 1991. 

 

The principles enumerated in the preamble of the charter relating to decentralization are far from the actual Turkish legal system. For instance: "Local authorities are one of the main foundations of any democratic regime; the right of citizens to participate in the conduct of public affairs is one of the democratic principles that are shared by all member states; it is at the local level that this right can be most directly exercised; the safeguarding and reinforcement of local self-government in different European countries is an important contribution to the construction of a Europe based on the principles of democracy and decentralization of power…"

 

The second article, giving a description of the legal and constitutional foundations of local self-governments, reads, "The principle of local self-government shall be recognized in domestic legislation, and where practicable in the constitution." That means Turkey is exempted by the charter, as we simply don't have a "local self-government" concept or principle in our administrative system.

 

There are a total of 18 articles in the charter, 11 of which, composed of 31 clauses, are operational. Turkish law No. 3723 approved only 20 clauses. Though the charter, as with any agreement of the Council of Europe, is non-binding, preventive measures were taken by lawmakers so as not to cause any trouble in the future. For instance, the sixth clause in Article 4, which states, "Local authorities shall be consulted, insofar as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters that concern them directly," does not exist in Turkish law.

 

The most ironic part is that the present chairman of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Council of Europe, which is the owner of the charter, happens to be a Turkish citizen.

 

If the charter is of no practical use, to where should we turn? To the European Union's Regional Policy, of course. I have written many times on the subject and will continue to do so.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

BRITAIN IS GREAT, INDEED

MUSTAFA AKYOL

 

I have been a fan of many names that are British — from John Locke to Adam Smith, from Dire Straits to Pink Floyd. And now, if he stays the course, it seems that I might also add David Cameron to the list.

 

The new British Prime Minister spent just less than an hour last Tuesday to win me over. His speech in Ankara, where he paid an official visit, was just brilliant. Some critics argued that he "pampered" us Turks, and "said what his hosts want to hear." But so be it. He could have been rude and arrogant, as politicians from some other countries of the EU have been.

 

Besides being polite, he was also smart. Just take this quote he made from a French leader who opposed the EU membership of a candidate:

 

"Here is a country that is not European, its history, its geography, its economy, its agriculture and the character of its people… all point in a different direction. This is a country that cannot, despite what it claims and perhaps even what it believes, be a full member."

 

Willful misunderstanders

 

You could have guessed that this was Monsieur Sarkozy speaking about Turkey. But it was General de Gaulle speaking about the United Kingdom, before vetoing the latter's accession to the EU. The Brits, apparently, faced the fundamental problem with the mainstream French political mind — cultural racism — decades before us, the Turks.

 

Another fundamental problem with another political mind, which keeps ranting about "Turkey's drift to the East" these days, was also well captured by Mr. Cameron. "They think that Turkey has to choose between East and West," he said, "and that choosing both is just not an option." These people, he explained, see the world "through the prism of a clash of civilizations" and even "willfully misunderstand Islam."

 

On the latter point, I am not going to deny that some of the current manifestations of Islam are indeed troubling. (See: Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the "religious police" of the Saudis, etc.) The "willful misunderstanding" here is to extrapolate from these bad examples to decide not just what Islam is but also what it can be. A similar mistake would be to go back to the medieval times, and to look at the crusaders and the Inquisition to reach a verdict about Christianity.

 

In other words, Islam is much more diverse than what its most radical forms manifest. Moreover, even mainstream Islam is open to evolving into more liberal forms — as it is silently happening right now in Turkey. The outcome is not exactly what some Westerners expect from "moderate Islam" — a stance they mainly test by having zero problems with Israel and her 43-year-long occupation of Palestinian lands. Nor is it a love affair with a "secularism" that is about banning religion in public life. It is rather something a little more pious, self-confident and unmistakably Muslim. And that is where its strength and appeal actually comes from.

 

On the issue of Israel, too, Cameron spoke well. He noted, "The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable." (The Americans who disagree might find the recent piece by Roger Cohen in the New York Times, "The Forgotten American," interesting.) He also said, "Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."

 

The term "prison camp" raised some objections for its probable evocation of the Nazis. I agree that using a language that equates Israel with the Third Reich is wrong. The latter's evil is unmatched — by either Israel or, for that matter, Iran. But probably some people are driven to this sort of language because they are understandably enraged by the maddeningly pro-Israel stance of the "international community," which is, of course, led by the United States.

 

Best of both worlds

 

America, the other Anglo-Saxon county that I have always admired along with Britain, is indeed senseless when it comes to the Middle East. Instead of taming Israel's expansionist ambitions, and forcing her to respect UN Security Council decisions, successive American administrations have rather given her full support. It is funny they then wonder why they are so unpopular in the Middle East, and keep discussing, "Why do they hate us?"

 

To avoid the spotlight, the Israeli establishment insists that the only problem is the quintessential evil in the hearts of their enemies. So, they speak of nothing but "terrorists," disregarding their own role in the latter's making, as if it were a wild species that loves violence for its own sake. Meanwhile, they never recall the fact that some of their own leaders, including the ideological forefathers of Benjamin Netanyahu, were also "terrorists" who attacked British targets in Palestine in the late '40s.

 

Perhaps that's one reason why the British have often been more balanced than the Americans on the Arab-Israeli issue. On matters of liberty, including religious liberty, they are already a beacon of light, especially when compared to the illiberal French. So, in the famous divide between the Anglo-Saxons and the continental Europeans, I call them the best of both worlds.

 

Thanks for reminding us of that again, Mr. Cameron. And please just keep up the good line. 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ANTI-TURKEY CLIMATE IN THE US CONGRESS

İLHAN TANIR

 

The U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on Wednesday morning titled "Turkey's New Foreign Policy Direction: Implication for U.S.-Turkish Relations."

 

The chairman of the Committee, Mr. Howard Berman, in his opening statement described the meeting as "the first full-committee hearing devoted exclusively to Turkey" because of questions "about Turkey's orientation and its ongoing commitment to strategic partnership with the United States." Therefore, the hearing was in essence to discuss whether Turkey is changing its direction from west to east, a claim that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has vehemently opposed.

 

The hearing was only the latest testimony about how bad the anti-Turkey or anti-AKP climate in the U.S. Congress is following a host of issues in recent months. The committee's leader, Howard Berman, does not have a good reputation among Turks, especially since the management style he displayed during the Armenian genocide resolution vote in early April, at the same committee.

 

The New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman told a group of Turkish journalists and experts in Washington last week that he also has some real issues with some of the Turkey's foreign policies, such as "zero problems" following an interview for the Studyo Washington. Friedman argued that North Korea's dictator or China's foreign policy makers, too, can deliver the zero problem policy. Friedman stated while elaborating his analysis that, Turkey should promote a set of values in its neighborhood as a Capitalist Democracy and invite its neighbors to join Turkey on the same road instead of letting anyone do whatever it wants and giving away roses.

 

Along the difference over the Iran nuclear policy, Turkey's strained relations with Israel has been the second biggest crack in the relations between the U.S. and Turkish administrations. Following the flotilla raid, various protests and condemnations proved that the Israeli government has been isolated further in Europe and many other corners in the world, and it felt compelled to ease the blockade on the Gazan people. And the AKP government has been isolated further in the halls of the American Congress and snubbed by the leaders of both parties.

 

When one looks at the power balance of the current U.S. Congress, it can be safely noted that the AKP government has lost its PR war against Israel badly.

 

President Obama learned his limits when it comes to the tough love policy against Israel in recent weeks. It remains to be seen whether the AKP administration will change its Israel policy, following a long pandering period of the U.S. Congress through signed letters which have urged Turkey to repair the relations with Israel repeatedly and given stark statements that Turkey has had to endure.

 

Since the flotilla crisis, it is the Republican opposition party leaders and members who have reacted the most fervently against the Turkish foreign policies, a party that has been traditionally enjoying more comfortable relations with Turkey. Therefore, it seems that the problem will not be disappearing anytime soon with the November elections when one considers it is not only the Democrat Party ranks that the Turkish administration is going through a sour relationship episode.

 

For example, the Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida lawmaker who could become the next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee if Republicans win in November, quickly issued a press release declaring, "Instead of giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it's time for us to kick the PLO out of the U.S. once and for all, and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs," as a reaction when the State Department announced it was upgrading the Palestinian Authority's Washington office to a "general delegation" as a symbolic gesture, a similar status as in Europe. "The unrepentant, unchanged PLO deserves no U.S. concessions," such as flying "the so-called 'Palestinian flag,'" Ros-Lehtinen added. One wonders how would such strong right-wing rhetoric of her chairwomanship at the committee fare when it comes to the relations with Turkey in the future.

 

According to current committee leader Berman's testimony in the same hearing, "evidence of a negative foreign-policy shift by the AK Party government has been clear at least since February 2006, when Turkey invited Hamas leader Khaled Meshal for a visit. Concerns about Turkey hit a new peak with the flotilla incident, the apparent ties between the AK Party and the Hamas-associated nongovernmental organization İHH, and then the Turkish vote against U.N. Security Council resolution 1929, the historic sanctions resolution aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program."

 

Soner Çağaptay, Director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was one of the four witnesses for the committee hearing and stated in his testimony to the committee that, "now with Al Qaeda pursuing a war between the "Muslim world" and the West, a gray area in which Turkey can position itself no longer exists; it must become an EU member and part of the West, or else fold into the Muslim world, as per Al Qaeda's vision."

 

Çağaptay argued that "it is time to signal to the AKP that its anti-Western policies have a cost. To this end Washington should deny the AKP political access ― this will cost the party prestige that matters greatly in Turkish politics."

 

Amb. Ross Wilson, on the other hand, as another witness, said Turkey, "stronger than at any time in a couple hundred years, is now inclined to try to influence events on its periphery in ways that it [has] not in the past." Following a summary of Turkey's relations with Iran, Iraq, Middle East and Caucuses that he prepared for his remarks, Wilson asked "is there another ally that has such a large stake in how so many problems that are so important to us get addressed?" Wilson's recipe to repair the damaged relations with Turkey to the committee members is, "no choice but to work with it [Turkey] and work with it and work with it."

 

When asked about the current anti-Turkey climate in the Congress, a high level Turkish diplomat stated that "Berman's particular anti-Turkish stance has been clear since the passage of the Armenian genocide resolution."

 

However, the official stated that there will be a difficult time ahead for Turkey in the Congress before the November elections, when the domestic politics and its calculations on the part of the members for re-elections are flying high.

 

Though the official accepted that the bad climate for Turkey in the Congress is negatively affecting the U.S.-Turkish relations, he argued that there is hope that this hostile climate should disappear once the November midterm elections are over.

 

"If not," the official concluded, the anti climate in the U.S. Congress would become a serious crisis between the U.S.-Turkey relations.

 

We will see if the AKP leadership offers any policy changes to recalibrate its expectations from U.S. and Israel or if it continues to unnerve the West and urge the U.S. administration to change some of its policies regarding Iran, Israel and the wider Middle East.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

JAPANESE NO LONGER BUY BOTICELLI

GİLA BENMAYOR

 

I am in Tokyo for a few days, together with executives of Çimsa, Sabancı Holding's cement group.

 

The reason behind the short trip is a signature ceremony of a joint project by Çimsa and Japanese cement giant Marubeni.

 

Let me summarize what this project is about:

 

Çimsa's "White Cement" is one of the three leading brands in the world. So the company has launched its transition into becoming a "low carbon economy." The goal is to reduce carbon emissions gradually.

 

And the agreement signed with the Japanese is about a project to produce electricity from waste gas in a facility located in Mersin.

 

The production of electricity from waste gas may be considered "a first" in Turkey.

 

Çimsa will regain 50 percent of the waste through Marubeni's Kawasaki technology at the Mersin facility.

 

It is thrilling to see the efforts of a world brand Turkish company to set its pace in line with a "low carbon economy."

 

 Beautiful Simonetta at Marubeni

 

Because the Japanese love ceremonies, I can say that the signature ceremony in Marubeni's chic headquarters in Japan lasted almost half a day.

 

As I walked down to the room, I saw fantastic paintings on the side walls of the corridor.

 

First I thought they belonged to Japanese artists, but then I was surprised to realize they were of renowned artists of the 20th century such as Bernard Buffet, Maurice Utrillo, Vlaminck and George Rouault.

 

But the biggest surprise to me was a top-level Marubeni executive's question: "Have you seen Boticelli?"

 

The Beautiful Simonetta owned by Marubeni is without doubt the most beautiful painting of Sandro Boticelli, the most popular artist of the Medici family.

 

The Marubeni Group in Japan, which gained a reputation with kimono trading during the Edo period, has experience for over a century. To me, this piece on display at the Marubeni building is important for another reason as well.

 

 Golden years, rich collections

 

Boticelli is the symbol of the "golden years" of the Japanese economy.

 

Though some economists termed the "golden years" a "soap bubble" later, who could have stopped Japan 20-25 years ago?

 

Back then, just like Marubeni having a rich collection consisting of nearly 300 paintings, some other Japanese companies were competing with each other at auctions. We know that.

 

The days in which blind-eye investments were made into art or Van Gogh paintings were sold at record prices are left behind now.

 

As a Japanese friend of mine said, the Japanese don't buy Boticelli anymore.

 

Toward the middle of the 1990s, Japan faced a serious economic crisis and still suffers today.

 

Before I headed to Japan, I read a statement by the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, Kenneth Rogoff.

 

Population, the biggest problem

 

"The end of the road for Japan is not really clear. Their population is decreasing, and they have no specific solution to sustain the labor force… People get retired and ask for their premium back. Where will retirement funds find money?"

 

If you hear Marubeni's young executive Nishimura, who has learned Turkish in the past two years in Turkey, Japan can beat the odds.

 

"Decreasing population is a problem, but Prime Minister Naoto Kan is trying to solve it by giving child monetary incentives to families," Nishimura said.

 

He has two kids, and his friend has four, Nishimura added.

 

Kan promised to pay $300 per child but then reduced it to $150, according to Nishimura.

 

In a country with $6,000 per capita income, could money solve the population problem once and for all?

 

Could the days where Japanese bought Boticelli, Van Gogh or Buffet return?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHAT DO AIDS ACTIVISTS WANT MORE MONEY FOR?

ROGER ENGLAND

 

Activists invaded the platform at the International AIDS conference in Vienna last week to demand more money - but for what? With drugs now less than $100 per person per year, treating the five million people now on therapy should cost $500 million, say $1 billion including logistics and support. Yet the world spends $16 billion annually on HIV. Where's it going?

 

"In too many countries, too much money pays for too many people to go to too many meetings and get on too many airplanes to do too much technical assistance," former U.S. President Bill Clinton told the conference. His diagnosis that the HIV industry has become fat on aid is spot on: those activists depend on this aid, mostly through the army of NGOs it has created.

 

A good start to cutting waste could be made by closing down UNAIDS, the UN's lobbying organization that costs tax payers the best part of half a billion dollars a year.

 

It was set up in 1996 by U.N. agencies persuaded that HIV was so special that it should be removed from the

purview of the World Health Organization. From the start, UNAIDS has been self-serving, providing the U.N. with data and arguments for massively expanding HIV funding regardless of other global health priorities.

 

Much of its data and arguments have been proved wrong (in 2007 it had to halve its estimates for India and slash others) and much of its lobbying has been based on alarmist projections (like the pandemic long-predicted for East Asia that did not and will not happen).

Data from a few hard-hit southern African countries was used to make global policy, and to secure for AIDS an excessive 40 percent share of health aid to Africa, depriving other more important areas including family planning and reproductive health.

 

In addition to unscientific claims of impending disaster, UNAIDS was slow to accept inconvenient scientific evidence. Its mantra that HIV is a "disease of poverty" willfully ignores the evidence that prevalence is higher in the middle classes of Africa than the poorer.

 

On prevention, UNAIDS has been dismal. It was slow to grasp the key role of concurrent sexual partners in driving transmission, instead promoting broad prevention aimed at the general population, most of whom are at minimal risk. It was slow to support clinical circumcision in prevention despite mounting evidence in favor.

 

UNAIDS has not hesitated to take credit for recent declines in HIV but, in fact, HIV has been falling in Africa since the late 1990s before UNAIDS was working and before the big HIV funding started. The decline is more a result of the natural course of the disease.

 

How important is HIV? Globally it is insignificant, accounting for 3 percent of deaths. Even in Africa HIV is not significant for the vast majority of the continent's 53 countries. Excluding just five countries (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda) with the highest number of HIV deaths relegates HIV for the rest of Africa to around 6 percent of deaths - below deaths from diarrhoea, childhood diseases, malaria, respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, maternal and perinatal conditions, and accidents and injuries.

 

Yet last week in Vienna UNAIDS continued its sleight-of-hand propaganda that, globally, AIDS is the biggest killer of women of reproductive age, when this is true in only a handful of southern African countries.

 

The cost of putting five million people on HIV treatment could prevent 10 million child deaths every year from pneumonia and diarrhoea that are simpler and cheaper to treat. It is a tough choice - but not one AIDS activists are concerned with.

 

President Obama is right to shift new aid to support underlying health delivery systems that will be there for all health needs, not just one disease. The self-serving lobbying of UNAIDS, by contrast, illustrates vividly the folly of a single-disease U.N. agency. Time to put half a billion dollars to better use.

 

*Roger England is chair of the Health Systems Workshop, an independent think-tank promoting health systems reform in poor countries. He has worked for several international agencies including secondments to the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW - IT COSTS TOO MUCH

ADVENA AVIS

 

One of the problems with you humans is that for some unknown-to-us-birds reason, you have established for yourselves wrong priorities that work to the benefit of only a small, powerful and rich minority of humanity who can also be described as the "haves," the opposite being the "have nots." 

 

At a moment when humanity is facing a global financial crisis without precedent, it is amazing to see important figures of the political-military establishment like the Secretary General of NATO or the U.S. Ambassador to NATO advocating the non-reduction of military spending by NATO countries, including those who are facing serious budget deficits. Their argument is that a strong NATO provides security and that under a secure environment they can better restructure their economies. And our question has always been security against whom? Who is the enemy? Perhaps the citizens of the countries who face economic difficulties will create social unrest? If you humans were to share equally your resources among yourselves, then the need for security would become obsolete as would the need for war.

 

Efforts have to be made to allocate funds for the construction of desalination plants in those countries of the world that suffer from the lack of clean, fresh water. As a consequence many humans die from this lack. Very few have been constructed. Why? Because when the issue comes up, politicians usually say that "it costs too much." The result is usually a political compromise and an underbudgeted solution with no practical results. Consequently, desalination plants are never constructed. New priorities appear, demanding funds for weaponry acquisitions for which the politicians agree. These funds usually surpass many times their previously asserted ideas of what they could not afford.

 

You humans cannot afford to do peacefully the logical thing that you ought to do in order to establish a solid basis for humanity to live together. That is to produce and distribute the existing wealth to satisfy the needs of humanity. Instead your "haves" are imposing wars on those "have nots" out of pure greed to further exploit, dominate and expand their power and wealth. And for these wars you spend much more money than it would have cost to provide basic living standards and security to those you are waging war with. If it costs too much, why don't you cut, in a reasonable way, the costs? Fewer tanks and fewer drones could finance more desalination units. 

 

This reflects the existing situation of humanity today. And everybody is doing nothing to extract yourselves from this vicious circle. The G-20, the EU and the U.N. have failed, even though the latter is doing more on the ground. So if you humans do not adopt a radical approach that would enable you to get out of this vicious circle, we are afraid that your civilization will be doomed to collapse sooner rather than later. And the planet might be better off without your presence, but for us birds it will be quite lonely. 

 

Ponder our thoughts dear humans for your benefit.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE CORRIDOR - THE CHP'S NEW IDENTITY

GÖKSEL BOZKURT

 

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has been advocating different approaches to the basic themes of his party since day one. Apparently, party policies bearing the trace of former leader Deniz Baykal's personal touch now are being transformed into the product of a collective mind.

 

Let's not be unfair, though. Baykal also administered the party according to the party program and bylaws. However, his influence was very effective. In an interview I did with Kılıçdaroğlu last week, I openly asked him: "The CHP is being criticized for [a lack of] inner-party democracy. What will you do?"

 

Kılıçdaroğlu sincerely answered, "The CHP needs a new identity."

 

It seems Kılıçdaroğlu will make serious changes on the subject of inner-party democracy. He even has a timeline for it. First of all, the CHP leader will run a "No" campaign until the Sept. 12 referendum. He believes the campaign will not help the government. The meaning is: The popular vote is being presented in some circles as a success threshold for Kılıçdaroğlu. So by saying, "It will not be a vote of confidence," he doesn't allow others to think the referendum will be a test for him.

 

The CHP leader points out the general elections to his competitors. "If there is no remarkable change of votes, I will not remain in the seat," he says, putting the elections at stake. He gives a message that he could leave if the CHP wins more votes and that he would never get into dirty political tricks.

 

Kılıçdaroğlu wants to create a brand new political image for the elections. He sees democracy inside the party as a final touch to complete the picture. Following the elections, the CHP leader will push the button for a "new identity," or so he says. This means Kılıçdaroğlu finds the inner-party democracy established by Baykal and his team inadequate. The most important part of this new identity is a new party program and bylaws. Anti-democratic articles will be eliminated in the bylaws. For instance, giving signatures in front of the party administration body during a general convention will not be a rule anymore. For the selection of candidates, a strong "primary" will be set as a reference. Instead of a block list, a sheet list will be preferred.

 

In addition to the party bylaws, the party program will also undergo some radical changes. (And, of course, everyone is curious about who will replace Önder Sav, who is praising himself for having been in politics for a half century.)

 

Kılıçdaroğlu has a tendency to change the discourse of his party in subject areas varying from the Kurdish question to economy policies. Apparently, in the "new identity" matter, military-civilian relations will be another priority. Inter-institutional dialogue will play a critical role in this.

 

"Soldiers remain in barracks," says Kılıçdaroğlu. Then he gives the "U.S. model" as an example. "The military is under politics, but politics needs to be under people's command and accountability must work," the CHP leader adds. He stresses democratization. That is why Kılıçdaroğlu insists on an amendment to Article 35 of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK's, Internal Service Act, which military takeovers leaned on in the past.

 

The new chairman of the CHP seems determined to adopt a new identity for the party. He will meet people in the elections with the CHP's new identity and program. If Kılıçdaroğlu is given a green light by the people – for which 25 percent or higher could be enough – the CHP will proceed with a new identity and a new leader. Otherwise, Baykal and his friends are ready to topple Kılıçdaroğlu in the backstage.

 

Young Erbakan period in the SP

 

A stir in the Saadet (Felicity) Party, or SP, continues. SP leader Numan Kurtulmuş is being punished for saying "No" to tutelage. Founder of the national view movement and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and his friends collected about 650 signatures in order to push Kurtulmuş for a new convention. Their goal is to bring officials who were eliminated by Kurtulmuş back to the stage. No one knows if they can manage to take Kurtulmuş down, but they surely want to keep him under siege.

 

If the Erbakan team becomes successful, will Kurtulmuş remain in the party? Or will he split and form a new party, just like today's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and today's President Abdullah Gül did in the past? Or will he transfer to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP? All these are being debated.

 

The fact behind the SP is that the Erbakan family will not let go of the party administration. It seems Erbakan's son Fatih will become the new leader of the party. Then Erbakan will be comfortable. He has been preparing Fatih for politics since he was in his 20s and has given some roles to Fatih in the party administration. But this time, Kurtulmuş skipped Fatih in the administrative body. One of the reasons for this fight is exclusion of Fatih and Erbakan's daughter Elif from the administration. Apparently, the SP is approaching to a new period, the period of young Erbakan.

 

Record-breaking hard work in Parliament!

 

After a hectic working period, Parliament broke a record and then adjourned. Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin announced striking figures about this legislative term. A total of 170 draft laws and 243 motions were submitted to Parliament, 141 of which were passed. The plenary met 139 times and held 725 sessions. Parliament worked for a total of 935 hours, 52 minutes. Şahin says this is a record over the last two terms.

 

The total number of pages of minutes is 45,373. Parliament also hosted 2,710 visitors in this period. A total of 233 motions were presented for lifting immunities. In the 23rd term, the total number of motions stands at 672. Parliament, however, had some flaws in response. Deputies submitted 6,586 written and 659 oral motions; 2,448 of written motions were answered, compared to 196 oral motions.

 

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WOMEN'S RIGHTS NGOS APPLAUD TURKISH PERFORMANCE AT UN

MERAL ÇİYAN ŞENERDİ

 

A new round of talks between the United Nations, the Turkish government and the Turkish Civil Society on Women's Rights took place in New York two weeks ago. 

 

As Turkey is a party to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, it is under obligation to submit a report once every four years on the progress on women's rights.

 

Although Turkey submitted its last report in 2005, it presented its sixth report with a delay of one year. According to the procedures of the CEDAW Committee, established to implement the U.N. convention, nongovernmental organizations working for the empowerment of women also sent their views on the current state of affairs, called the "shadow reports." On the invitation of the committee, representatives of the Turkish government as well as civil society met in New York, in what was called a "consideration session."

 

Anyone familiar with Turkey would share the view that Turkey for years has not been a good lobbyist. This is valid for both the representatives of the state as well as the civil society. Yet female organizations have lately become incredibly active in advancing their issues through efficient lobbying efforts. The latest exercise in New York is a testimony to the success of women's nongovernmental organizations in joining forces for a common purpose. First of all, two women's organizations: Women for Women's Human Rights, or WWHR, and New Ways and the Executive Committee for NGO Forum on CEDAW- Turkey were successful at compiling the reports of all the nongovernmental organizations. They submitted one essential report to the CEDAW Committee, which was endorsed by six nationwide women's platforms and numerous NGOs.

 

The representatives of the two main women's organizations that went to New York were equally successful in making their voices heard. Apart from the official time provided to them by the committee to listen to their views, they also organized a lunch brief, where they found the occasion to voice in further detail their assessments to at least two dozen members of the CEDAW Committee.

 

In the past, the meetings on human rights, be it general human rights or the rights of women, children and others would have perceived as a clash between representatives of the government and the NGOs. At times, the government would not even be well represented, which was indicative of the lack of interest it showed on the issue.

 

Yet this time, the NGOs were happy to see the state well represented as well as well-prepared. Selma Aliye Kavaf, the minister responsible for women's and family issues, was accompanied by what NGO representatives called a team well-aware of all the issues.

 

Şehnaz Kıymaz from WWHR said the whole process could be interpreted as successful for all three sides.

 

 "Our report had been prepared by compiling many drafts of the co-studies of various NGOs," Kıymaz said. "Therefore, it successfully covered the many aspects of women's issues, including field surveys, implementations of the related legislation and academic studies."

 

She said the long-running work was based on the cooperation of volunteers from many fields and NGOs. Kıymaz was also very happy to see the representation level of the state, although government officials failed to give convincing replies from time to time to questions coming from the committee, she said. But looking at the interest shown by the Turkish state delegation, her hopes have risen as to the future cooperation between the state and NGOs.

 

A veteran representative of the NGOs, Yıldız Tokman from KADER, a women's rights NGO active in the southeast, having her second experience after the CEDAW session in 2005, also sounded happy with the effective presentation and lobbying of the NGOs at the meeting and anticipate that their labor would be instrumental for the U.N. report. 

 

The CEDAW Committee will be sending its "concluding observations" to the Turkish state in two weeks' time. The document will be a sort of "homework" for the interested party for the next four years.  The NGO representatives expect that the "concluding observations" or the review report of the committee will reflect their views and recommendations. It will definitely include suggestions under the title of "call for action" for each issue.

 

"We hope this will be an initiation for a more institutional cooperative processes for CEDAW reporting cycle between women's rights organizations and the state," said Kıymaz.

 

In short, the civil society representatives are hopeful that, if the state shows the same level of interest it showed in New York back in Turkey and cooperates with the NGOs, then the future is brighter for the progress of women in Turkey.

 

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WOMEN'S RIGHTS NGOS APPLAUD TURKISH PERFORMANCE AT UN

MERAL ÇİYAN ŞENERDİ

 

A new round of talks between the United Nations, the Turkish government and the Turkish Civil Society on Women's Rights took place in New York two weeks ago. 

 

As Turkey is a party to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, or CEDAW, it is under obligation to submit a report once every four years on the progress on women's rights.

 

Although Turkey submitted its last report in 2005, it presented its sixth report with a delay of one year. According to the procedures of the CEDAW Committee, established to implement the U.N. convention, nongovernmental organizations working for the empowerment of women also sent their views on the current state of affairs, called the "shadow reports." On the invitation of the committee, representatives of the Turkish government as well as civil society met in New York, in what was called a "consideration session."

 

Anyone familiar with Turkey would share the view that Turkey for years has not been a good lobbyist. This is valid for both the representatives of the state as well as the civil society. Yet female organizations have lately become incredibly active in advancing their issues through efficient lobbying efforts. The latest exercise in New York is a testimony to the success of women's nongovernmental organizations in joining forces for a common purpose. First of all, two women's organizations: Women for Women's Human Rights, or WWHR, and New Ways and the Executive Committee for NGO Forum on CEDAW- Turkey were successful at compiling the reports of all the nongovernmental organizations. They submitted one essential report to the CEDAW Committee, which was endorsed by six nationwide women's platforms and numerous NGOs.

 

The representatives of the two main women's organizations that went to New York were equally successful in making their voices heard. Apart from the official time provided to them by the committee to listen to their views, they also organized a lunch brief, where they found the occasion to voice in further detail their assessments to at least two dozen members of the CEDAW Committee.

 

In the past, the meetings on human rights, be it general human rights or the rights of women, children and others would have perceived as a clash between representatives of the government and the NGOs. At times, the government would not even be well represented, which was indicative of the lack of interest it showed on the issue.

 

Yet this time, the NGOs were happy to see the state well represented as well as well-prepared. Selma Aliye Kavaf, the minister responsible for women's and family issues, was accompanied by what NGO representatives called a team well-aware of all the issues.

 

Şehnaz Kıymaz from WWHR said the whole process could be interpreted as successful for all three sides.

 

 "Our report had been prepared by compiling many drafts of the co-studies of various NGOs," Kıymaz said. "Therefore, it successfully covered the many aspects of women's issues, including field surveys, implementations of the related legislation and academic studies."

 

She said the long-running work was based on the cooperation of volunteers from many fields and NGOs. Kıymaz was also very happy to see the representation level of the state, although government officials failed to give convincing replies from time to time to questions coming from the committee, she said. But looking at the interest shown by the Turkish state delegation, her hopes have risen as to the future cooperation between the state and NGOs.

 

A veteran representative of the NGOs, Yıldız Tokman from KADER, a women's rights NGO active in the southeast, having her second experience after the CEDAW session in 2005, also sounded happy with the effective presentation and lobbying of the NGOs at the meeting and anticipate that their labor would be instrumental for the U.N. report. 

 

The CEDAW Committee will be sending its "concluding observations" to the Turkish state in two weeks' time. The document will be a sort of "homework" for the interested party for the next four years.  The NGO representatives expect that the "concluding observations" or the review report of the committee will reflect their views and recommendations. It will definitely include suggestions under the title of "call for action" for each issue.

 

"We hope this will be an initiation for a more institutional cooperative processes for CEDAW reporting cycle between women's rights organizations and the state," said Kıymaz.

 

In short, the civil society representatives are hopeful that, if the state shows the same level of interest it showed in New York back in Turkey and cooperates with the NGOs, then the future is brighter for the progress of women in Turkey.

 

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHAT A SECURE E-STATE?

YUSUF KANLI

 

The then Interior Minister Abdülkadir Aksu was proud in declaring the completion of the "Mernis Project," that is the "Central Registration Administration System." With the project, a unique personal identification number was assigned to every Turkish citizen, including some long dead, and personal details of all Turkish nationals were gathered in a databank.

 

Presumably, in line with the constitutional stipulation of secrecy of private data, the details of Turkish nationals – not only their unique identification number, but also details of their office and residence addresses, family ties and such sensitive information – the Mernis system would never be fully open to public. As such details were recorded in the state's databank, bureaucratic paperwork would be minimized, services of the state to its citizens would be facilitated and combat with crime would become far easier and more effective.

 

Despite strong concerns for secrecy of private data and worries that the Turkish state might turn into a "big brother" watching all activities of its citizens, Mernis, or the so-called e-state, entering into operation was hailed by almost everyone in this country. How could Turkey stay away from the opportunities offered by advancing technology, which would make life easier for Turkish nationals?

 

Shocking confession of police

 

This week the Police Department made a statement about the capture of an alleged gang of 15 people.

 

What was the crime that the members of the alleged gang were accused of?

 

Hold on… According to the police statement, the alleged gang broke into the electronic data banks of several state agencies, somehow managed to have access to the Mernis data bank, stole personal details of the entire Turkish population and marketed the personal details – the secrecy of which are placed under the guarantee of the state – of Turkish citizens to some 600 lawyers dealing with debt or bankruptcy cases and to some illegally operating money lenders, or to put it more precisely to loan sharks.

 

Oh la la!

 

Was not the state supposed to protect the secrecy of private life? Was not the state supposed to take every possible measure to prevent personal data stored in the Mernis system from falling into some unauthorized hands?

 

According to the statement of the police, the alleged gang not only somehow managed to have access to the personal details stored in the state's databank, but copied all those details, incorporated them in an address program they wrote and sold to those "lawyers" and loan sharks.

 

It is perhaps understandable to see loan sharks buying and using such an address program containing secret personal details of the entire nation as violating the law for the sake of promoting their own businesses and personal interests. This might be nothing new for such people. But it is indeed difficult to accept how some 600 lawyers, people who should have received an extensive law education, should be aware of what's a crime and should be expected to promote the law, were involved in such a blatant violation of secrecy of private life of the entire Turkish nation.

This was no ordinary news.

 

Perhaps at least some people would recall thanks to the Mernis system how all of a sudden, weeks before the last polls, the number of eligible voters jumped by an additional five million people and, after the elections, the numbers returned to "normal." The electricity cuts in big cities while the votes were counted and the sharp changes seen in voter preferences after electricity was restored a while later should be remembered as well. Could there be a political gimmick in the making once again? Let's wait for whether there will be a sharp increase in the number of the Turkish electorate ahead of the referendum or the upcoming parliamentary elections.

 

Put aside everything, is there any other country on this planet where some thieves – right, e-thieves – have managed to steal and market personal details of an entire nation?

 

What kind of a country is this? Because of mass wiretapping, talking on the phone with your darling has become a daring task. Police cameras are following your every move. Your personal details that the state is required to firmly safeguard are being stolen and traded.

 

"We have captured the gang. We have done our duty. The rest is up to the Turkish judiciary," and such statements cannot be enough. Someone must come up with a clear and convincing statement on how such a dastard crime happened and provide satisfactory assurances that not only all copies of the address program containing presumably secret personal details would be found and destroyed, but also what additional measures would be taken to prevent such a thing from happening again.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PAINTING A MORE OPEN TURKEY

MARK VAN YETTER

 

Looking at the shape of the art world's character today, there is one aspect that clearly stands out. Modern art's trajectory, which remains centered in Northwestern Europe and the United States, is experiencing a shifting of axis. Countries long exempt from participation, such as Turkey, are eager to establish themselves as players in the art industry.

Several art centers, museums and galleries of merit have opened their doors in Turkey over the last decade – and this trend seems to be growing. These institutions have done much to expose Turkey's tradition of modern art, centered in Istanbul.

 

Notable among these include the art and cultural complex called santralistanbul which recently held a magnificently curated retrospective of 76-year-old Turkish artist Yüksel Arslan. Living in self-imposed exile in Paris to avoid censorship of the socialist and satirist themes of his works, which focus on the working class, the artist returned to Turkey in 2009 for a seven-month show.

 

In May 2010, a new gallery space, Rampa, hosted a large show of works by Cengiz Çekil, the artist credited with establishing conceptual art in Turkey, whose work reflects the political and social tensions before the 1980 military coup. Another gallery of note, BAS, recently featured a display of magazines and works by KORİDOR, a group of artists who worked between 1988 and 1995. It is only now that many of these artists' works have been seen in mainstream outlets in Turkey.

 

However, this movement is still small. Only recently have these forums for artistic cultivation and dissemination begun to appear as the Turkish public begins to embrace its artistic movements.

 

Considering the greatest achievements in modern art in the West, it's obvious that artists who radically threatened established societal and cultural values were the ones who made the most important contributions.

 

Western artists like Germany's Joseph Beuys, regarded as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, challenged the idea that art must be confined to the making of objects. He developed the idea of "social sculpture" and saw society itself as complicated artwork which everyone takes part in creating. For example, to raise eco-consciousness and social change, Beuys planted 7,000 oak trees in Kassel, Germany with the help of volunteers. A basalt stone accompanied each tree, collectively creating a sculpture entitled "7000 Oaks".

 

Likewise, a group of Turkish artists and writers used modern art to challenge the murder of the Editor-in-Chief of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, Hrant Dink, a proponent of human rights. Creating a life-size work of art, the artists covered themselves in newspaper and lay down in the street where Dink was shot to protest his death and the controversy surrounding his newspaper's coverage of Turkish society's views on the Armenian deaths in 1915 by Ottoman forces.

 

But to understand the recent interest in Turkish modern art, one must first examine the country's recent history.

 

The last military coup in Turkey was in 1980. The military, which staunchly protects Turkey's secular political system, employed violent methods, such as threatening journalists and assassinating left-wing intellectuals in order to maintain the secular system during the years leading up to and following the 1980 coup. With no space to challenge the status quo, Turkey's modern art scene remained underground for a long time.

 

Since the founding of the Republic, Turkish society has neither had the opportunity nor the outlet to be openly critical of the military state. The Republic continued the Ottoman program of supporting art primarily as a tool to reinforce national sentiment. This is evident in the large number of commissioned portraits and statues of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

 

However, in part due to new policies related to Turkey's EU bid and greater global exposure through the Internet, the last decade has seen the emergence of a society more open to dialogue and debate about various social and political issues. Turkish society is now more willing to confront its brutal past. Topics that were never permitted to be discussed are now open for debate.

 

Here I see the greatest hope for the emergence of a more open Turkish society, one that works towards a vibrant open future. And, thanks to an environment more conducive to open dialogue, there now appears a foundation for interesting Turkish modern art to flourish.

 

* Mark Van Yetter is an artist and Director of Marquise Dance Hall, an independent art space in Istanbul. This article first appeared on the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

 

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A MULTICULTURAL RIDE IN NATURE

 

Recently I started a new sports activity. I am riding my mountain bike into the forest for 2-3 hours on Saturday mornings. For someone who wakes up at 6:45 a.m. every morning for a different sports activity, this is nothing special. A friend of mine advised me to fool my body with different activities rather than doing the same thing every day, which fits perfectly with my passion for change. It also satisfies the adventurous side of mine as one might get lost now and then.

Last Saturday morning we were a group of three. My bike buddies were an American banker and a German telecom executive. In most of the places we ride, you get limited sunshine due to the trees. However, as it was very hot, we had decided to go as early as possible. This time we wanted to try a new route, which raised the probability of getting lost. Our aim was to get to a hill where we have been before and show our German friend the Black Sea view from there.

 

After 10 minutes, the track we were on came to a dead end. Now we all had to get out of the comfort zone and started to have a tougher ride on a difficult ground through the woods without knowing exactly where we were heading. That was the first time I noticed our different reactions. Coming from an internal-focused culture, my American friend took the lead and started look for a new track. Wherever he got confused he was consulting, but he was trying very hard to get us back on our planned track. Our German friend was the second guy following the leader. Coming from a very neutral cultural background, he seemed very cool about the change. He was more focused on the technicalities of his new bike and which gear he should use on this ground. I was the last on the row, trying to enjoy the new scenery and changing landscape. My instinct told me our direction was right (so as my iPhone whenever we caught the signal) and the rest would eventually come.

 

In Turkey, we have grown up with changes that we cannot control around us. Political and economical factors kept changing and we have learned quickly how to adapt to these changes and keep on going. Economic crises, devaluations chucking half of our savings away, we learned how to prevent the damage, wait and recover. Exactly what the rest of the world is learning today.

 

On the way back, my American friend had a problem. One of the wires of his back tire got detached from one side. If we had continued like that, it would have gotten in between the chain. This is not a problem you would like to have in the middle of the forest. As a successful executive who has been working for a matrix organization, he immediately stopped and discussed the problem with us. The first opinion came from me. "Let's pull it out from the other side and continue." He said he thought about it, but it was screwed in and we could not get it out with our hands. This was the moment where our cultures coincided: when you have a problem, do whatever is necessary to solve it. Then our German friend leaned down and slowly tied the loose wire to the next one. The problem was solved in a technical manner without using force.

 

As Latin cultures, we either love or hate, Americans sympathize or outrage. Being extra-extroverted most of the time, these cultures seek immediate reactive actions. On the other hand, northern Europeans approve or disapprove and Asians respect or disrespect. Being relatively introverted, these cultures take less impulsive actions compared with the first two. You can easily feel the differences in your daily life, business or even in the forest.  

 

Zafer Parlar is the founder of istventures (www.istventures.com), which supports international companies in their market entries and development in Turkey, as well as Turkish companies in their local operations and expansion plans abroad.zafer.parlar@istventures.com

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

VISA REGULATIONS

SADETTİN ORHAN

 

This week, I want to respond two different questions. The first of them is about tourist visas. A reader asks:

"Dear Orhan; 

 

I am the owner of a business, but I do not work. I have two Turks who run my business. Can you tell me if this information is correct regarding non-work residence permits?

 

Foreigners who were previously able to make an exit and immediate return to obtain a new 90 visa will no longer be able to do so. If you try to enter on your passport alone without waiting 90 days outside of Turkey you will not be allowed entry. I asked for clarification about this saying I have friends who are now outside of the country after having been here for 90 days on a tourist visa. They have only been outside of the country for one month, will they be let in? The officer said that they wouldn't be let in. The only way to come back as a tourist is to wait 90 days or to apply at a Turkish consulate or embassy outside of Turkey?"

 

Dear reader, visa applications are varies from country to country. However, we can talk about some general rules. These rules are:

 

· Without a resident permit, you can not stay in Turkey more than 90 days with a tourist visa.  

 

· After the 90-days visa period, to receive a new visa you need to stay abroad 90 days. At the end of these 90

days, you can apply for a new tourist visa.

 

The most important reason for this regulation is to prevent the illegal activity (i.e. illegal working). As a result, the information given is true.

 

* Editor's Note: As the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to print Friday, the Interior Ministry had said it was temporarily delaying the new visa procedures requiring foreign nationals without a residence permit to stay abroad for 90 days at the conclusion of their 90-day Turkish tourist visa. Please see the Daily News' South Weekly supplement on Monday for more information.

 

The second question is about bringing a car to Turkey. Reinis' question is as follows;

 

"Dear Sadettin,

 

I am a citizen of the EU. This September I will be coming to Balıkesir for a year of European Voluntary Service. The period of my stay will be one year (12 months, September to September). Currently I am considering bringing my 20-year-old retro vehicle with me (EU registration, EU insurance, EU mot). What are my options? What documentation and costs should I prepare? Many thanks."

 

Dear Reinis, I have previously written about bringing a car to Turkey. Here, I will repeat the regulations. First, for bringing a car to Turkey, you must obtain an Alien Vehicles Temporary Entrance Carnet from the Turkey Touring and Automobile Association, or TTAA. The documents required for the Carnet are as follows:

 

· Residence Permit (working purpose), passport and driving license;

 

· Work permit photocopy issued by relevant state authority;

 

· Ownership document (license, invoice) as the evidence of the vehicle belongs to him/her, if any vending;

 

· Writing from workplace specifies his/her task and its term addressed to the TTAA;

 

· Security according to engine capacity and year model of vehicle;

 

· Application form to be completed and signed by owner of the vehicle (you can download it from "turing.org.tr").  

 

For your car bringing to Turkey, you must consideration these costs:

 

· Transportation of the vehicle;

 

· The Carnet fees to TTAA;

 

· Security deposit (this deposit is returned to you when you go abroad);

 

· Customs fees;

 

· Insurance (green card);

 

· Tax fees;

 

· And notary fees.

 

The total costs vary depending on the type of vehicle, but for an average car, it may cost you about 5,000-6,000 euros.

 

For your questions: sadettin.orhan@hdn.com.tr

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FLOODED OUT

 

Hundreds of people have died across the country in the havoc unleashed by the rains which began a week ago. The heavy downpour which continued in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for 36 hours, with over 230 millimetres of rain descending on many parts of the province, has affected tens of thousands and, according to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa information minister, at least 408 people are reported to have died in that province alone as these lines are written. The devastation in Swat and Charsadda has been acute with villages surrounded by churning waters. The toll on houses and crops is high. Damage to road links means it has been impossible to move in much-needed aid. The Karakoram Highway is cut at Bisham and there are reports of heavy damage to infrastructure and property around Skardu. Further heavy rain is expected before this monsoon season blows itself out. According to reports this has been the heaviest spell of rain in 50 years in the province; flooding of the kind seen now has not been experienced since 1929 – beyond the living memory of most KP residents. In such conditions, there is obviously immense despair. People have lost livestock and with this their means of livelihood. There has been rain havoc too in FATA areas though its scale is still far from clear. The districts of Tank and DI Khan have also been affected. It appears the woes of these areas, hit by fierce fighting terrorism and bombings, will never end.


Many areas affected in KP are those where militants have wreaked a different kind of destruction, which raises the responsibility of authorities. The people of Swat were just recovering from the war that raged in their towns and villages through 2009. The rhythm of life had just begun to swing back to normal. The floods will disrupt this process once again and affect those who had been attempting to resume farming and business activities. These people – like those in other parts of KP – will need support and assistance to ensure they can gradually continue this. Those who have lost houses lack the capacity to rebuild them. They too need help to overcome the latest disaster to hit them. There is a possibility the worst may lie ahead. All rivers in the country are reported to be flowing at high levels; the Swat River burst its banks but was reported to be subsiding at midday on Friday. We hope the authorities have taken note and are doing what they can to carry out work which can ensure that people are spared further suffering as the monsoon season continues across the country for at least four more weeks.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

EVEN KARZAI NOW

The regional game of finger pointing continues. This time blame has been directed towards Pakistan from the West, with President Hamid Karzai saying in Kabul that allies should be aware that the training centres and sources of funding for militants in Pakistan are a key reason for terrorism in Afghanistan. He also suggested that ISAF forces target militant strongholds in Pakistan, a statement that almost beggars belief for its naïveté. Mr Karzai, it seems, regards an invasion of our sovereignty as little more than an operational trifle. We wonder how he would react if we suggested that in an attempt to cut cross-border criminal activity Pakistani forces should target his half-brother who allegedly runs a vast criminal organisation out of Kandahar. As of late, we have become something of a punching bag, with various accusations coming in from a number of places that we harbour terrorists – or worse. The charges have come from the US, the UK and from India. Now Afghanistan and its wobbly president have jumped on the bandwagon.


Pakistan has a terrorist problem and there is no point in denying this. But it is also not alone in creating it, nor is it the only country where militant bases exist. The main issue that needs to be emphasized is that the relentless game of redirecting blame will lead nowhere at all. The countries of the region, and others involved in the war on terror need to sit down together and agree on a joint plan to defeat militants. Such cooperation is essential. We know the groups that operate on either side of the Durand Line are closely linked. They can be overcome only if countries work together -- and not against each other -- for this purpose. It is unfortunate that a willingness to accept this has not developed. Only when Kabul, Islamabad and also New Delhi are willing to work together will any headway be made against the terrorist threat. Mr Karzai in his address also spoke of a desire for friendship with Pakistan. He must understand that making accusations is not the best way to move towards this. The antagonism that exists between the two countries has strengthened the militants. Kabul must recognise this and work towards the cooperation required to weaken them in all the countries where they operate.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MANMOHAN'S DESIRE

 

The Indian prime minister has continued to speak in positive terms about Indo-Pak relations, and has stated that, in time, talks between the two countries will resume. The comments of course say very little that is concrete. Manmohan Singh has in fact refused to be drawn into the debate of how the foreign ministers of the two countries handled the last round of dialogue, though he did suggest that the barbs heard at the Press Conference in Islamabad were, at best, unwise. This of course is true, though the matter of the unfortunate comments made in New Delhi regarding the alleged ISI involvement in Mumbai on the eve of the talks has not been taken up.

The statement of course does nothing to break the current state of deadlock. Nevertheless, it expresses a sentiment of good intent and a desire to move on with the peace effort. This in itself is important. Without goodwill, the bid to improve relations between India and Pakistan would undoubtedly flounder. Mr Singh's assertion that he does desire better ties is encouraging. What is crucial though is for him to work out what the best way is to proceed from this point on. Islamabad too needs to think along similar lines. The bogging down of the process will lead nowhere and only push back the many dividends that peace can bring to both countries and also to the South Asian region as a whole.

 

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I.                   THE NEWS

OPINION

WIKILEAKS OMINOUS FOR PAKISTAN

ARIF NIZAMI


The timing of the release of thousands of classified US documents on the whistleblower website appropriately named "Wikileaks" is ominous for Pakistan. The documents detail connections between the Taliban and other militant groups and the ISI. They mostly relates to the past six years, when Pakistan's present military leadership and its intelligence apparatus were at the helm of affairs.


Whatever the veracity of theses documents and notwithstanding the vehement denials by Pakistani officials, it is a lot of egg on Islamabad's face. The US administration has assured Pakistan that it will be business as usual between the two governments despite the embarrassing leaks. But will it?


With the role of the Pakistani military in the war on terror being discussed in the public domain, the pressure being exerted on Islamabad to do more by its Western benefactors is bound to increase manifold. The ISI's efforts to broker a deal between Karzai and the Haqqani network have also received a setback.


The leaks, which are no less significant than the Pentagon Papers that surfaced during the Vietnam War, could have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan, whose complicity with militants has never been in doubt in the eyes of the West. Perhaps emboldened by the leaks, British prime minister David Cameron, who is presently on a visit to India, had no qualms in coming hard on Islamabad on the issue of terrorism. His Indian hosts must be extremely pleased by the turn of events.


As reported in the New York Times, one of the newspapers which scooped the leaks, several US administration officials have privately expressed the hope that the Americans will be able to use the revelations. The officials referred to a "sometimes duplicitous Pakistani ally" to pressure Islamabad to cooperate more fully with the United States on counterterrorism. The newspaper quoted two other administration officials, raising the possibility of warning the Pakistanis that "congressional anger might threaten American aid." 


The US leaks surfaced in the immediate aftermath of Gen Kayani being given another term of three years as chief of the army staff. Had the government been tipped off about the embarrassing leaks beforehand by the US administration, and hence the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Gilani in a late-night three-minute address on television? Another theory on the hasty announcement is that the matter of Gen Kayani's extension had become too intense a subject of debate in the media. Mostly negative articles started appearing in the print media about an extension being granted to the military chief, no matter how valid the reasons for the decision. Whatever the actual reason, however, neither the government nor the spokesmen of the military have bothered to explain it.


In countries where the principal of civilian control over the armed forces is sacrosanct, such appointments are a matter of routine and rarely raise an eyebrow. Even across the border, how many people even know the name of the Indian army chief? It is a sad commentary on our civilian leadership that in most comments in the Western media Gen Kayani is portrayed as "the most powerful man in Pakistan."


In his reaction to the media on Gen Kayani's extension, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers' movement and a PPP stalwart, has lamented that we never learn from history. It will be interesting to examine what actually is our history in this context.


So far as Gen Kayani's extension is concerned, it is practically a first. Previously, such an extension was given to Gen Ayub Khan by President Iskander Mirza, who not an elected head of state. That came at a time when politicians were squabbling with each other and Ayub had already started conspiring for a military takeover.

 

Ayub had no qualms in sending his benefactor home after a coup in October 1958.


It is interesting that, almost without exception, every general promoted out of turn bit the hand that fed him. Gen Yayha Khan, who superseded two generals, was designated commander-in-chief in March 1966. He deposed Field Marshal Ayub Khan three years later.


Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto promoted Gen Ziaul-Haq to army chief in 1976 despite Zia's being junior-most among the corps commanders. He superseded seven corps commanders. Ziaul-Haq's claim to fame was that he was the greatest sycophant in the army.


As corps commander of Multan, he invited Bhutto to be honoured as colonel-in-chief of the Armoured Corps. After the function, Ziaul Haq placed his hand on the Quran and said: "You are the saviour of Pakistan and we owe it to you to be totally loyal to you." Ironically, the same "loyal general" deposed Bhutto a year after becoming army chief and then hanged him.


On the death of Asif Nawaz Janjua, Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar was promoted to army chief by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in January 1993. Gen Kakar superseded four generals. On Kakar's elevation, a Pakhtun like the president, an analyst commented that "the era of Pakhtuns had begun." However, barely six months later the president was shocked when his protege asked for his resignation, along with that of Nawaz Sharif.


In 1998, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promoted Gen Pervez Musharraf, the corps commander of Mangla, to chief of the army staff, over other senior officers. Gen Musharraf was one of the corps commanders who had sided with Nawaz Sharif during his tussle with President Leghari over Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.


Nawaz Sharif, who in his two stints as prime minister had not been able to get along with any of the army chiefs, wrongly calculated that Musharraf, being a Mohajir, had no constituency in the army and would therefore side with him. Musharraf, however, obliged by not only deposing Nawaz Sharif on Oct 12, 1999, but also handcuffing him, imprisoning him and having him tried on charges of hijacking, though he later spared his life by sending him into exile. 


Jehangir Karamat, the general who had superseded none and had no political ambitions, had been sacked by Nawaz Sharif just a few months before he was due to retire. Nawaz, who vowed during his exile not to play footsie with the generals, has understandably refrained from commenting on the re-elevation of Gen Kayani.

Reportedly, he had advised President Zardari some months ago not to tinker with the promotion process as whoever is promoted to the top in the army is loyal to the institution, and in some cases to himself, rather than to the political leadership. Lt Gen Khalid Shameem Wyne should have been named as the next chief, but his being a Kashmiri, like the Sharifs, might have been a factor in Mr Zardari's not having him elevated. 


Gen Kayani was appointed vice chief of staff on Oct 8, 2007, by Gen Musharraf and took over as COAS on Nov 28. Kayani had been Musharraf's trusted ISI chief for three years. As such, he was fully aware of, if not involved in, key decisions like the president's asking for the resignation of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the controversial raid on Lal Masjid, which cost many lives.


Musharraf naively assumed that as army chief Kayani would remain his trusted man, readily doing his bidding. To his disappointment, he was soon learnt that Kayani was his own man. As the new army chief Gen Kayani not only extricated the army from politics but is also credited with supporting the conduct of free and fair elections. Later he continued the hands-off policy by backing the civilian setup, only quietly playing a behind-the-scenes role for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.


In many ways, Kayani is different from his predecessors. But despite all the valid reasons for the renewal of his term, the civilian government by default might have started the process of the advent of another "man on horseback."

The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email: arifn51@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ON PSYCHOPATHS

CHARLES FERNDALE


On July 14, The News ran an article about two anonymous people (supposedly psychiatrists working in Pakistan) who claimed that all those in government found to have fake educational qualifications are dangerous psychopaths. It must be said that these two people are reckless psychiatrists. No good psychiatrist would ever diagnose someone as being a psychopath just because that person had a fake degree. It may be that all Pakistanis in government with fake qualifications are indeed psychopaths; it may also be that none are. Further, it may be that all members of the Pakistani political establishment are psychopaths, or that some are, or that none are. But none of these claims could be shown to be true only on the basis of their possessing, or not possessing, fake qualifications. 


Having fake educational qualifications is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for a reliable diagnosis of psychopathy. Diagnosing psychopaths is an exceedingly difficult thing to do accurately and should never be done without long, careful observation by dispassionate professionals experienced in the field, accompanied by detailed knowledge of the person's cultural background and personal history.


It is true that all psychopaths do persistent harm to themselves and to those around them. It is also true that they invariably seek and abuse power. But not all people who meet these criteria are psychopaths and psychopaths are not necessarily the most destructive of those who seek and abuse power. Nevertheless, psychopaths with power are dangerous in proportion to the power they hold, so it is vital they be kept from power.


How, then, can one decide whether or not a person is a psychopath? A detailed knowledge of the person's background is essential. Psychopaths show themselves to be such at a very early age, often as young as six, but usually at around the age of fourteen. They have a tendency to be cruel to other children and to animals. They are persistently selfish and always take more than they give, by force if necessary, or by subterfuge if that is easier. They are persistent liars and manipulators of others. They have no shame when caught in misdemeanours. 

Though they are sometimes skilled at the use of moral language, their use of it is shallow and insincere. Morality is not something they really understand. Their use of the language of feeling is no more sincere than that of a talking computer. They use the language of feeling only to manipulate others. 


They are morally blind (or what early German psychiatrists called "value blind"). They are oblivious of the rights and interests of others. They appear to have imperfect concepts of other minds. They cannot imagine others having interests and feelings separate from their own; for them, others only think what the psychopaths think they think, which is why psychopaths are so irritated when others act independently. They are unable to share the suffering of other sentient creatures. They have no feeling for others. They have poor foresight and an imperfect grasp of the motives of others. Their understanding of anything is patchy and inconsistent. 

They despise kindness, and see it only as an opportunity to take advantage of the kind person. They are predators, swindlers, thieves, cheats, fabricators of tall tales, heartless opportunists, greedy, insatiable. But even the possession of many of these characteristics does not, in itself, settle the issue of whether or not they are psychopaths. 

Psychopathy is a syndrome. It is a set of characteristics, possessed to a greater or lesser degree. To some degree, possession of all, or certain, of these characteristics defines a person as a psychopath. The pattern and degree to which these characteristics are possessed define the type of psychopath a person may be. Psychopaths differ in the severity and pattern of their personality disorder. Only a small minority commit appalling crimes like serial murders. Many are found in governments, banks, the legal professions, in armies, universities, schools, hospitals--indeed they can be found anywhere. 


Estimates of the number of psychopaths among us range from 10 per cent (Hervey Cleckley: The Mask of Sanity) to 2 per cent (Robert D Hare: Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us). A distinction must be made between people who are psychopaths and those who only behave psychopathically under certain circumstances. Soldiers are trained to be psychopathic in battle. Some terrorists, including those working for mercenary organisations and national secret services, often behave psychopathically, but may, or may not, be psychopaths. 


Some terrorists may be altruists. The selection process for the British SAS is supposed to screen out real psychopaths, who tend to make bad soldiers, because they are unreliable. Occasionally, history favours psychopaths and such people rise to great power and do terrible damage (Hitler was almost certainly a psychopath, but the picture is confused, because he developed during the First World War an addiction to various drugs (e.g., amphetamines), the effects of which mimic psychopathy). 


Psychopaths are never like the fictional character Hannibal Lecter in the film Silence of the Lambs. Hannibal Lecter is an entirely fictional character, the likes of which has probably never existed. Psychopaths seldom exude evil. They are usually not frightening to behold (except for a tendency amongst some of them to have an intense, though blank, stare). What makes psychopaths usually so dangerous is not that they look obviously evil; it is their abundant charm, which can be so great that even when their true natures have been unmasked, the community in which they have lived, and to members of which they have done great damage, flock to their support and refuse to believe that they are bad people.


Psychopaths smile a lot. Two experienced, streetwise war journalist friends of mine were left for dead in a room at Flashman's Hotel in Rawalpindi by the infamous Charles Sobhraj and his girlfriend. They were entirely taken in by him at Jan's Hotel in Peshawar. When I asked them whether they had not sensed anything ominous about Sobhraj, they said, "He appeared no more evil than you do. We, who are not naïve people, trusted him completely. We were grateful to him for his help." The "medicines" he was administering to them, to treat the poison he had put in their drinks, knocked them unconscious, so they could be robbed. Why did he not kill them, as was his custom? They think it was because he liked their dog. Sobhraj was an admirer of the religion of Thugee (Thugs were always charming, before they strangled their innocent victims. Were all thugs psychopaths? An interesting question, which there is no space here to explore). 


Psychopathic murderers are frequently released from jail on parole, having fooled the parole board into thinking they are reformed. They promptly commit more murders. Since about 25 per cent of all people in jail are psychopaths, parole officers, who are experienced with such people, should not be easy to fool. But even the world's greatest expert in psychopathy, Robert D Hare, admits to having been taken in, from time to time, by people in jail whom he had every reason to believe were psychopaths. So, some of the nicest people you know may be psychopaths. Most do persistent, but relatively minor, damage to themselves and others. 


Psychopathy is almost certainly an untreatable condition--psychopaths can probably never be reformed, so a psychopath is usually a psychopath for life. The severity of psychopaths' destructiveness tends, statistically, to decline after the age of forty. This does not mean that every psychopath over the age of forty is safe; far from it. 

The two psychiatrists who diagnosed the possessors of fake degrees as being dangerous psychopaths, though reckless, did however raise an important issue. Psychopaths seek and abuse power. And when circumstances put them into a position of power they wreak havoc. It should therefore be a constitutional requirement that all those who seek power in any political system be screened for psychopathy. Had this been common practice in the past the world would certainly have been spared some terrible catastrophes. 


Fortunately, there is a reasonably accurate diagnostic tool which, used by experts, can usually sort the psychopaths from other types of opportunists. It was designed by Robert Hare and is called the Psychopathy Checklist. It has been repeatedly validated by years of use. 


Here are the main features possessed by psychopaths. First, their emotional and interpersonal traits: they are glib and superficial, egocentric and grandiose, they lack guilt and remorse, they lack empathy, they are deceitful and manipulative, and they are emotionally shallow, they are dedicatedly selfish. Second, they are impulsive, have poor control over what they do, have a marked need for excitement; they are irresponsible, show behavioural problems early in life, are bad at getting on with others for any extended period; they break promises and abuse friendships in many other ways; they take advantage of others whenever they can with scant foresight. 

Each of these traits can be possessed to a greater or lesser degree, but all psychopaths show all these traits to some degree. Each of these characteristics is more complex than the above descriptions suggest. All are described in more detail, along with examples from case histories, in Robert Hare's books, including Without Conscience. 

Readers may be forgiven for thinking that all the politicians of the major parties in Pakistan fit this profile. (I exclude Imran Khan until there is reason to include him.) Nevertheless, though politics is a profession that is likely to attract psychopaths, most Pakistani politicians are almost certainly not psychopaths. Nevertheless, if all Pakistani politicians were screened by a well trained professional (unconnected with Pakistani politics), I think that at least one prominent member of Pakistan's political establishment might fail the test. But he is a psychopath not because his educational qualifications are bogus, but on the basis of quite extensive background evidence. 

The writer was trained in experimental psychology and neurophysiology at Oxford and in abnormal human psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, London. Email: charlesferndale@yahoo.co.uk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

 FADING ROMANCE

BABAR SATTAR


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.


The rule of law movement was a struggle to give meaning to the concepts of independence of judiciary, democracy and constitutionalism. It was nurtured by the belief that judges functioning as independent and neutral arbiters of law were a prerequisite for a functional justice system. While the movement was triggered by the arbitrary removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9, 2007, and reignited by the removal of the entire superior judiciary on November 3, 2007, it was not simply about restitution of judges to their constitutional offices. This movement was fuelled by the hope that the restoration of judges would be the harbinger of a silent revolution that would result in humanising our justice system. But what was meant to be a deep-seated romance with lofty ideals and soaring expectations is turning out to be a summer fling of the unpleasant variety.


The judges' restoration was meant to be the first step in an arduous reform process. There was hope that the rule of law movement would lead to an overhaul of the manner in which the judiciary is organised. It would result in revamping of the lower judiciary, which functions as an interface between ordinary citizens and the justice system. It would bring back in office a reflective superior judiciary (humbled by its experience in exile and truthfully self-conscious of past judicial mistakes) unwilling to reduce itself to the role of a pawn in the larger power game that the judicial branch has played for a large part of the country's history. The movement was expected to cause introspection and improvement in the professional and ethical standards observed and practised by the bar. None of this seems to be coming to fruition.


The National Judicial Policy 2009 has become another fancy document comprising legalese that means nothing. The structural reform that should have accompanied the policy to make justice more accessible to the litigating public is completely missing. There has been no effort to increase the number of judges in lower courts, their remuneration, service conditions and training. There has been no effort to put in place a case management system to remove arbitrariness from the way in which cases are presently fixed and heard that creates opportunities for kickbacks. Neither has there been an effort to institute a transparent system to audit the functioning of judges and tie their professional advancement to their performance. 


The conduct of lawyers has been a bigger disappointment. The ugly hangover of the success of the rule of law movement simply refuses to go away. As if hooliganism with litigants, police and members of the media was not enough to whet our appetites as officers of law, we have now decided to take on the lower judiciary. For the past two weeks our brethren in Lahore have kept the court of the District and Sessions Judge locked up. Lawyers are angry with Zawar Ahmad Sheikh and want him transferred out, for he is stern and allegedly misbehaves. But there are many judges in the High Court and the Supreme Court who misbehave as well. Are we going to lock up their courts too? Judges should not need to lose their composure or adopt an abusive tone with lawyers pleading before them. But exhibition of bad manners by judges is no excuse for lawyers to act as rogues. 

Notwithstanding how unpleasant Zawar Ahmad Sheikh might be, what business do lawyers have to break the law, use physical aggression to lock up a courtroom and chase judges out of the premises of the courthouse? What kind of legal ethos are we promoting by establishing such a precedent? And is it not unbelievable that just because lawyers have ganged up, driven by pique and fake pride, the Lahore High Court has restrained the District Judge Lahore from performing his judicial duties and has constituted a committee to resolve the issue amicably? Is judicial independence a virtue preserved for members of the superior judiciary alone? Are we pursuing a deliberate policy to keep the lower judiciary weak in order to continue to rely on ad hoc exercise of suo moto jurisdiction by superior courts?


The conduct of the Supreme Court, especially during the 18th Amendment case hearings presently underway, is not inspiring either. There are at least three issues in this regard that deserve mention. One, through the PCO Judges case and the NRO case our apex court seems to have weaved together a welcome doctrine of constitutionalism, democracy and limited judicial authority. While we will have to wait for the judgment in the 18th Amendment cases to determine the fate of this doctrine, if the comments of judges during the current proceedings are any indication, the prognosis about its longevity is not reassuring. The basic structure theory, if adopted by the court, will sound the death knell of the doctrine of limited judicial power, which was used in the PCO Judges case to bury the doctrine of expediency. 


We further hear the court questioning the viability of the constitutionally mandated first-past-the-post election system as a legitimate gauge of the representative credentials of parliamentarians. The bench appears to be toying with the dangerous idea of sitting in judgment over whether or not public representatives are giving effect to the will of the people. What credentials does the judicature – an institution that is neither representative nor directly accountable to the people – have to try and ascertain the will of the people? Will it set up a polling service or order referendums to audit the popularity of legislative choices made by parliament in the name of citizens of Pakistan? Can our "people's court" arrogate to itself the responsibility of being the measure of popular opinion and chide parliament for not performing? Is that not a power that our Constitution vests in the citizens, which is to be exercised through the electoral process?


Two, the bench seems to be working with the notion that the chief justice of Pakistan is an institution that the 18th Amendment will destroy. Isn't an institution meant to be larger than an individual? Isn't it the concentration of authority in individuals that institutions are meant to remedy? Are we going to defend excessive authority vested in the office of the chief justice under the archaic (part paternalistic, part-sycophantic) notion that he is pater familias (head of the family) and knows better? Shouldn't the chief justice be the administrative head and first among equals, instead of being an individual that lords over the entire judiciary and has exclusive power to determine who sits on what bench, hears what case and when? Has Lord Acton not been borne out by our history that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely"? 


And three, does a sense of self-righteousness rightly belong to our restituted judiciary? How does the manner of restoration of the honourable judges fit into a legal discussion about the legality of the 18th Amendment for example? Further, does demonising the political class for past political sins such as 'Changa Manga' behove the present incumbents of an institution that has an equally murky past and has abetted martial laws through ruling such as the Nusrat Bhutto and Zafar Ali Shah cases? The rule of law movement was not about turning the clock to March 8, 2007, for our justice system was broken even then. The ideals of the justice movement will remain frustrated if the apex court continues to act upon its do-good saviour instinct to venture deeper into the political thicket. And that would be a real travesty for the millions who are relying on judges to act as neutral arbiters of law and breathe life into a moth-eaten justice system. 


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BJP PLUNGES TO A NEW LOW

PRAFUL BIDWAI


The Bharatiya Janata Party periodically behaves as if it had come unhinged. This typically happens on its trademark issues involving politicised religion, which pit it against the rest of the political spectrum barring the Shiv Sena. Examples are the Babri Masjid -- where it insisted, despite lack of historical evidence, that a temple was destroyed -- rewriting textbooks along viciously communal lines; demanding a Uniform Civil Code; and its revolting defence of Narendra Modi for the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat. 


Now, the BJP has come unhinged on another issue: governance in "Hindutva laboratory" Gujarat, where it's entrenched deeper than elsewhere. It's shielding junior home minister Amit Shah for plotting the cold-blooded murder in 2005 of Sohrabuddin Shaikh, a petty criminal, his wife Kauserbi, and eyewitness Tulsidas Prajapati. Shah brazenly evaded arrest for two days after the Central Bureau of Investigation charged him last week. 


The BJP hysterically claims that the CBI is partisan towards the Central government and framed Shah at its behest. But the BJP has itself demanded any number of times that the CBI investigate recent scams. Besides, the Gujarat government has admitted that Sohrabuddin was killed in a fake encounter. 


The BJP is substituting ill-tempered rhetoric for facts and logic. It's not the CBI that initiated the Sohrabuddin investigation, but the Supreme Court. The investigation, based largely on Gujarat police evidence, concluded prima facie that Shah was complicit in the killings. 


The filing of the chargesheet at minimum demanded that Shah face arrest and trial. He was tasked with defending the rule of law, but subverted it while protesting his innocence, like all seasoned criminals do. Nobody in charge of a state home department has defied Constitutional legality so brazenly.


The BJP's pro-Shah campaign is exceptionally shrill. No party in India barring the Shiv Sena has stooped so low in shielding a gravely indicted leader. 


The campaign appears set to attract ridicule. Senior police officer NK Amin -- part of the "encounter specialist" gang, who witnessed the crimes in question -- is turning approver, and claims to possess evidence that can demolish Shah's defences. 


Consider the bare facts. In November 2005, the Gujarat police abducted Sohrabuddin -- a small-time extortionist who often worked as a money collector for Shah and Vanzara -- and Kauserbi. They accused him of being a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who planned to assassinate Modi. 


Gujarat DIG and "encounter specialist" DG Vanzara and SP Rajkumar Pandian killed Sohrabuddin in cold blood because he had become inconvenient for Vanzara's extortion racket. Branding him a terrorist would also help glorify Modi. 


The CBI says it has unimpeachable evidence of Shah's complicity in these killings, including records of his cellphone conversations with Vanzara and Pandian. (Pandian is a disgrace to the police. He has publicly said that whoever killed "terrorist" Sohrabuddin deserves a national award.) 


Yet, what's indisputable is that Shah transferred Vanzara and other policemen to organise these "encounters". Gujarat reported 17 "encounters" between 2003 and 2007, for which 14 policemen are in jail. It's equally indisputable that Shah, Vanzara and Company ran a large-scale extortion racket. According to the CBI, many people paid them Rs75 lakhs and Rs25 lakhs in bribes to stage fake encounters or get trumped-up charges dropped.

Shah also covered up a scandal at the Madhavpura Bank, which was defrauded of Rs 1,030 crores by a notorious stockmarket scamster, Ketan Parekh. Gujarat's own Criminal Investigation Department found strong evidence that Shah helped Parekh jump bail for a Rs 2.5-crore bribe. It recommended that the CBI investigate Shah's role in the scandal. Modi buried the CID report. 


By shielding Shah, the BJP is defending the indefensible. Even if the charges against him are framed, Shah must stand trial and disprove them. He has every right to due process of law. But he subverted that very process. No interior minister could have set a worse example before the public, police and judiciary. 


Thanks to its hysterical pro-Shah, anti-CBI campaign, the BJP has again proved itself the Odd Man Out of Indian politics. Its Hindutva project is uniquely sectarian; it rejects India's multi-religious, plural and secular character; and it wrongly claims it's a victim of the system.


The BJP's appetite for contrived victimhood is limitless. When faced with reasoned criticism from secularists, the BJP for decades accused the English language press of being viscerally hostile to it. 


It nurtures victimhood even when unleashing violence or calumny against the religious minorities, which it depicts as invaders and aggressors. There's an intimate connection between manufactured victimhood and anti-minority violence, seen as "well-deserved" retribution. 


That's why the BJP defends "Sadhvi" Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt-Col Shrikant Purohit and Abhinav Bharat activists, all involved in the Hindutva-inspired terrorist network responsible for explosions in mosques/dargahs in Hyderabad and Ajmer (2007) and Malegaon (2008), and possibly, on the Samjhauta Express (2007). 


At the heart of this well-ramified organised network are current and former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members committed to establishing a Hindu rashtra, including Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sunil Joshi, Pravin Mutalik and Dayanand Pandey. They made, transported and planted explosives targeting ordinary Muslims.


The network is ruthless towards its own members. The CBI believes it murdered RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi in 2007 just when investigators were closing in on him, having found that the explosives used in Hyderabad and Ajmer were similar to those Joshi wanted to use against a Muslim congregation in Bhopal in 2003.


This network is as dangerous as the jehadi outfits that kill innocent people in "retaliation" for the harassment and persecution of Muslims since the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Indeed, what makes it even more pernicious is its claim to "nationalism" (read, Hindu majoritarianism) and its infiltration into the police. 


This network must be exposed and ruthlessly punished. The BJP, RSS and their cohorts are the greatest apologists for Hindutva terrorism and the biggest obstacle to its prosecution. Their senseless defence of it is as condemnable as the BJP's pro-Shah campaign. 


The real reason why the BJP shamelessly defends Shah is that the case against him would eventually implicate Modi. Modi is indispensable to the BJP. He's its longest-serving Chief Minister and the Number One leader after Advani.


Astonishingly, BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad and senior leaders Arun Jaitly and Sushma Swaraj rant that Sohrabuddin was a terrorist. Even if this is true, it can't justify his non-judicial execution. 

Justifying non-judicial killings in "extreme" or "exceptional" cases is a slippery slope. It means granting the police impunity and condoning murder. No citizen can be safe in such a society. The BJP must answer if that's the kind of society it wants. 


The pertinent point is that the BJP sees democracy as a mere instrument of power, to be used through elections. This conceptualisation undermines the content of democracy -- the rule of law, human rights and Constitutional freedoms -- and is incompatible with a civilised social order. 


The BJP is increasingly isolating itself from the aspirations and concerns of the people, including the middle class, its sole (and shrinking) constituency. As it gets Modi-fied, the BJP forfeits its claim to being a party which abides by the law of the land and the ground-rules of democracy. Such a party can only have a bleak future. 

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

GOJRA

WASIM ARIF


The ghosts of Gojra continue to haunt Pakistani society a year after the hate crime that was committed there. 

Fanish Masih hanged himself in his prison cell after being accused of desecrating the Holy Quran in Jatheki near Sialkot. Before that suicide, the Christian community had been meted out collective punishment for his alleged crime, through the burning of a local church. 


Former federal minister Sherry Rehman said afterwards: "Fanish Masih's death, whether it was suicide or murder, is most tragic as it highlights the misery suffered by our citizens when they face an institutional denial of fundamental rights."


Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman of the Lahore High Court ordered a judicial enquiry into the Gojra incident. The 258-page report resulting from the enquiry was completed in October, But it has not seen the light of day, although federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti asked the Punjab government to make it public. The Lahore High Court has not acted to ensure that the report is made public.


The recent killing of Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel shows that the situation has not improved for Pakistan's Christians. The denial of fundamental rights to Christians and other minorities is not only a scar on the collective conscience of Pakistan but a betrayal of the Islamic faith. 


In 628 C.E., Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery at Mount Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights. The Covenant of the Exalted Messenger reads:


"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a Covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far: We are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and, by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.


"No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry away anything from it to Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's Covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.


"No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (the end of the world)."


The Charter of Privileges should be made law. Ideally it should be included in any future constitutional amendment. Such constitutional protection will go a long way in the protection of Pakistan's minorities. Moreover, it will remind the majority Muslim population of their responsibility to protect Pakistan's religious minorities.

Let the lessons learnt from the Gojra incident be the beginning of the salvation of Pakistani society. The Muslim majority of Pakistan should reclaim their true faith. The pledge of protection promised to Christians in the Covenant should extent to the other minorities of Pakistan. Pakistanis should start living by the ideals and responsibilities of the Charter of Privileges. Only then will there be closure to the Gojra tragedy.

The writer blogs at www.blog.otherpakistan.org. Email: wasim@otherpakistan .org

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ORCHESTRATED TIRADE AGAINST PAKISTAN

 

THE cat is now out of the bag. A few days back, when Wikileaks Website published reports about Afghanistan and he ctonduct of the occupation and allied forces, it was widely believed that the leak is deliberate and is solely aimed at pressurising Pakistan. This was considered to be in line with the well-known Western policy to put maximum pressure on Pakistan to squeeze more undue cooperation in the war against terror so that skin of their own occupation forces is saved in the face of strong resistance, which is not weakening despite testing of all types of lethal weapons against Afghan people and worst kind of human rights abuses in the known history.

The fears of patriotic Pakistani circles are coming true, as an orchestrated campaign has been launched to malign Pakistan and its security agencies. Wikileaks published thousands of papers on its Website concerning war in Afghanistan but to the exclusion of all others a few pages that contained material against Pakistan are being used to browbeat Pakistan and all sorts of comments are being made by leaders of the United States, Britain and Kabul. The most scathing attack came from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who, in an apparent attempt to please Indian leadership, alleged that Pakistan was exporting terrorism. Pakistan has rightly described his outburst as shocking, with both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani warning that such irresponsible statements can affect the war on terror. Foreign Office spokesman was, however, somewhat diplomatic as he did not go beyond expressing 'sadness' over the uncalled-for remarks, despite popular demands that the country should take the issue seriously and go for counter-measures including cancellation of the planned visit of the President to the UK. This is least Pakistan can do to convey sentiments of the people to Britain, as the outrageous comments amount to making a mockery of the huge sacrifices offered by Pakistan and its lead role in the war against terror, which has saved lives of the British soldiers as well. Cameron's statement once again proved that Britain blindly follows the United States and it has lost its own independent diplomatic strategy. This is also evident from the fact that he also followed footsteps of General Mullen in pointing accusing fingers at Lashkar-e-Tayyaba as well. The absurdity of the statement has even compelled former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to describe Cameron as 'loudmouth'. Regrettably, Afghan President Hamid Karzai too jumped into the fray by urging NATO forces to destroy militant hideouts in Pakistan. All this shows that Pakistan's policy of pleasing the coalition partners is backfiring and, therefore, there is an urgent need to revise it as per national interests.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TASK BEFORE SARDAR ATTIQUE

 

SARDAR Attique Ahmed Khan once again took over as Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday after the Legislative Assembly expressed its confidence in him with an overwhelming majority. While extending our greetings to the charismatic Azad Kashmir leader, we expect that he would utilize all his energies for the development of the State and resurrection of the Kashmir cause.


We are of the opinion that there was no justification for his removal from the post earlier in January 2009 because the Muslim Conference had comfortable majority in the Legislative Assembly. In the past one and a half years, Azad Kashmir witnessed political polarization and with his election, we hope Sardar Attique will bring about the much-needed stability. We firmly believe that after settling down, Sardar Attique would chalk out a strategy in consultation with all the stakeholders to deal with the issues staring his eyes. There had been no development work in the State since he left and for that he will have to pick up the pieces and perhaps revisit the Annual Development Plan of the State for the current financial year. What is more important is that at this critical juncture, Kashmir policy needs to be fine-tuned. We say so because the commitment of elderly statesman Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan to Kashmir cause is seen positively across the LOC and people have pinned high hopes in him. To reignite the Kashmir issue, Sardar Attique will have to utilize all his capabilities at the national and international level, particularly by mobilizing overseas Kashmiris who are very active and enjoy great influence in European countries, including the European Parliament. The task would be difficult for him and the Kashmiris particularly in UK because the incumbent Prime Minister Cameron is moving closer to India and during his just concluded visit he had strongly advised his Ministers not to utter anything about Kashmir. Anyhow the world recognises that there can be no peace and development in South Asia unless Kashmir issue is resolved and we are confident that a person of his stature will be able to build on this favourable view and boost pressure for the resolution of the lingering dispute.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER RAMZAN GIFT OF THE GOVERNMENT

 

IT seems that the role of the regulatory authorities is confined to protecting the interests of the utility companies as frequently they accommodate their unending pleas for hike in rates. While increase in prices becomes somewhat understandable when there is commensurate increase in oil prices in the international market but frequently upward adjustment is allowed just to cover up losses that these companies incur just because of their inefficiency and corruption.


The decision of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) to allow per kilogram increase of Rs 1.70 to Rs 1.78 in the prices of CNG from July 30 is also reflective of this phenomenon. Instead of urging the companies to recover their huge dues from CNG stations and take measures to prevent theft of the gas that is taking place in collusion with the staff of the companies, the OGRA thought it appropriate to allow upward revision in prices, which would trigger yet another wave of price-hike and that too close to Ramzanul Mubarak. We have been pointing out in these columns that the inflation is mostly the product of the Government's own short-sighted policies and these are adding to the burden of the common man. It is ironical that a Government that claims to be champion of the rights of people earlier increased price of sugar by Rs 10 a kilo in one go, then hiked the power charges and now increased the CNG prices. The Government is supposed to take measures to discourage the trend of fleecing the masses during the holy month but regrettably it is doing just the opposite.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

FIGHT WITH TALIBAN

HUSAIN HAQQANI

 

The much publicized leaking of several thousand classified documents relating to the war in Afghanistan may have provided the war's American critics an opportunity to press their objections. It does not, however, make the case against military and political cooperation between the governments of the United States and Pakistan, made necessary by the challenge of global terrorism. 


Under elected leaders, Pakistan is working with the U.S. to build trust between our militaries and intelligence agencies. In recent months, Pakistan has undertaken a massive military operation in the region bordering Afghanistan, denying space to Taliban extremists who had hoped to create a ministate with the backing of al Qaeda. Pakistan-Afghanistan relations have been enhanced to an unprecedented degree. And exchanges of intelligence between Pakistan and the U.S. have foiled several terrorist plots around the globe. The WikiLeaks controversy and the ensuing speculation about Pakistan's role in the global effort against the terrorists should not disrupt the ongoing efforts of the U.S. and Pakistan to contain and destroy the forces of extremism and fanaticism that threaten the entire world. 


Pakistan is crucial for helping Afghanistan attain stability while pursuing the defeat of al Qaeda led terrorist ideologues. For that reason the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have denounced the leaking of unattributed and unprocessed information implicating Pakistan in supporting or tolerating the Taliban. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, a Democrat, warned Monday against judging Pakistan's role in the Afghan war by "outdated reports," adding that Pakistan had "significantly stepped up its fight against the Taliban." Most Americans and many Pakistanis agree on the need for improvements in Pakistan's efforts, but that is not the same as suspecting lack of cooperation. 


The tragedy that has unfolded in South Asia is the product of a long series of policy miscalculations spanning fully 30 years. The U.S., in its zeal to defeat the Soviet Union—a noble goal indeed—selected Afghanistan as a venue. Pakistan became caught up in an ideological battle between communism and a politicized version of our Islamic faith. 


The most violent and most radical elements of the Mujahedeen resistance were empowered to fight the surrogate war against the Russians. Concerns—such as former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's warning in 1989 while visiting the U.S. that the world had created a Frankenstein monster in Afghanistan that would come back to haunt us—were generally ignored.


Alliances and relationships forged among supporters of the Afghan jihad 30 years ago have not been easy to dismantle within Pakistan. But they have been dismantled. After 9/11, Pakistan made a deliberate and courageous decision to confront the terrorists as the civilized world's first line of defense. Since the return of democracy in 2008, Pakistan has paid a terrible price for its commitment to fight terrorism. More Pakistanis have been killed by terrorism in the last two years than the number of civilians who died in New York's Twin Towers. Over the past nine years more Pakistani than NATO troops have lost their lives fighting the Taliban. Two thousand Pakistani police have been killed; our mosques and hotels have been savagely attacked; scores of billion dollars of foreign investment were frozen; and tens of billions of dollars of funding for education and health have been diverted to the battlefield against the extremists. 


We cannot undo the past, but we can certainly alter the course of the future. The democratically elected government of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has followed a clearly laid out strategy of fighting and marginalizing terrorists, even when that decision was less than popular with a public still cynical because of what it believed was the political manipulation of the past. The course laid out by Pakistan's democratic leaders has been executed brilliantly by Pakistan's military and intelligence services. 


The documents circulated by WikiLeaks do not even remotely reflect the current realities on the ground. For example, a retired Pakistani general is named as the master planner of the Afghan Taliban's strategy. But this is a man who hasn't held any position within Pakistani intelligence or the military for more than 20 years. For its part, Pakistan's current leadership will not be distracted by something like these leaks. We have paid an unprecedented price in blood and treasure over the last two years. We will not succumb to the terrorists.


As we speak, the military of Pakistan is engaged in a bloody battle, taking enormous casualties, in the mountains of South Waziristan to purge the tribal areas of terrorist sanctuaries. Our intelligence forces are gathering information across the country and targeting terrorist cells in North Waziristan to thwart their designs for destabilizing our government and terrorizing our people.


This is Pakistan's war as much as it is a battle for civilization. Pakistan's very existence and traditional way of life are at stake. We fight alongside our friends from all over the world to protect freedom. The U.S could not have a more committed ally in this defining battle of the third millennium than the people, the government and the military of Pakistan.

 

The writer is Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

CAMERON: ROAD TO HAGUE

RIZWAN GHANI

 

In his anti-Pakistan offensive from Delhi, Cameron has publicly endorsed UK (and US') anti-Pakistan foreign policy. He said that we (UK and US) cannot tolerate Pakistan look both ways and is able to promote and export terror whether to India, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. Cameron said Pakistan could no longer look both ways by tolerating terrorism while demanding respect as democracy (Cameron remarks, The Guardian July 28). In Today program, Cameron said that he chooses his words carefully and thereby rejected Downing Street's statement that PM was not accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism. He also ignored Pakistan's foreign office rebuttal. 


Reportedly, ministers accompanying Cameron to India were briefed not to mention Kashmir (Kashmir subcontinents internal matter, The Guardian July 28). During Cameron's visit to India, both countries will sign a deal, which will allow export of civil nuclear energy and expertise to India. The reports in Pakistani press about America praising Pakistan's positive anti-terror role is nothing but use of good cop bad cop policy by the west. 

Cameron has chosen Delhi to take on Pakistan. Instead of demanding apologies or clarifications, Islamabad should scrap President Zardari upcoming visit to UK. Hopefully, Zardari would not want to meet a British PM harboring such disdain for Pakistan. Next, Islamabad must support British Muslims demanding holding of public inquiry into 7/7 London Drama to drop a curtain on terrorism on world stage. It is opined that London Drama was an inside job to help lend credence to America's so-called war against terrorism (SWAT). Furthermore, Pakistan should stand for the rights of Northern Ireland and abuse of minorities in UK. 

Reportedly, Brown has refused to hold public inquiry of London drama. The Ripple Effect, a BBC documentary, raises serious questions about UK's claims that it was an act of terrorism. Bush also refused to order public inquiry of 9/11. In case Cameron refuses to order public inquiry of 7/7, Islamabad should raise the issue in UN to protect democratic right of minorities within UK and to bring an end to the nexus of false accusations against Pakistan. Karzai's statement that West has the capability to take targets within Pakistan is case in point. In fact, Bush's "axis of evil" policy is being implemented in Asia (and ME) to brace for the emerging China. Both Cameron and Karzai are acting as his master's voices. 


PM Gillani has admitted that NATO is losing Afghan war. Washington is using Cameron to scapegoat Pakistan to sell US Afghan defeat to American public and avert impending defeat of Democrats in upcoming Congress, Senate and Governor Elections. Islamabad should not be surprised to see weakened Obama authorize a military operation against Pakistan to save his presidency. 


West is using SWAT as an excuse to justify blocking one and a half trillion-dollar Pak-China trade route via CARS. Delhi is supporting UK and US to win its share in the regional markets. In exchange, Delhi is opening its 1.2 billion-consumer market to the west. The direct foreign investment of $6 bn in Chennai by the foreign automobile industry including America is case in point. 


Islamabad should therefore stand up to protect its national interests. Islamabad can avoid any military misadventure against Pakistan by securing its borders with help of a different steps including use of obstacles, ditches, fences and walls, electronic surveillance, mines, deployment of paramilitary forces, police, enforcing international travel agreements on both side of Pak-Afghan borders, judiciary and help of its allies and international media. Similarly, tell US forces operating in Pakistan to leave (US lawmakers reject motion for pulling US troops out of Pakistan, Local press, July 29). 


As part of Road to Hague policy, Islamabad should bring International Criminal Court (ICC) option on the table. Based on the Chilcot Inquiry and Nick Clegg's statement that Iraq war was illegal, Islamabad should approach international platforms to bring Bush, Blair, Brown, Musharraf and their teams to ICC. A strong stand to demand arrest warrants of American, British, Iraqi, Afghan leaders for their involvement in crimes against humanity will help bring an early end to cacophony of do more on SWAT drama. 


It is opined that there is a pattern in anti-state dramas including 9/11, 7/7, Mumbai, and Cheonan (drowned military ship of South Korea). To expose Mumbai drama to the world, as an observer member state of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Islamabad should demand an independent inquiry into Cheonan to expose alleged international conspiracy aiming to isolate Beijing in Korean Peninsula. The timing of the incident just before 2nd Sino-US Strategic Dialogue has been questioned by Chinese media. It is opined that Cheonan was used to influence Beijing to devalue its currency. The US-South Korean naval exercises in China's backyard are a ploy to justify permanent presence of US forces in South Korea (China Daily, June 1), and scuttle Sunshine Agreement between both Koreas. The Agreement would have allowed reunification of both Koreas on lines of Germany. Arguably, Cheonan is one more excuse to continue US presence in the region, just like Manila and Tokyo. Similarly, Delhi is using Mumbai drama to keep its control on Kashmir, and in exchange, it is bringing Myanmar and Washington closer despite the poor human right record of its infamous ruling elite. Thus, Islamabad should not be apologetic on Mumbai drama. Instead, it should stand up for Kashmir as its integral part on line of One China policy. 


West has been blaming Beijing for its human rights record. Islamabad should demand SCO to freeze its trade relations with UK, USA and other NATO allies for human rights violations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine by the occupying forces. According to international laws, every nation has right to defend itself against the occupation forces. SCO and international human rights platforms should demand accountability for gross violations of human rights and international conventions in occupied countries. Next, call for arrest warrants of leaders involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine on lines of Darfur genocide for millions of deaths and gross violations of human rights and international conventions. Beijing must exert its moral and diplomatic influence to help end crimes against humanity, illegal wars, and abuse of state machinery by states to quell legitimate resistance for upholding UN Resolutions. 


Beijing refused to host Robert Gates following US-Taiwan arms deal to protect its one-China policy. The respect of Pakistan's sovereignty, nuclear status, resolution of Kashmir as per UN Resolutions and right to protect its economic interests and independent foreign policy should form the basis of its relations with rest of the world including US and UK. The provision of nuclear technology, military equipment and sale of trainer aircrafts to India are unacceptable to Pakistan. These pacts undermine Pakistan's security, geo-strategic and geo-economic interests. They also undermine balance of power in the region and are part of propping up India against China. Islamabad needs to review its pro-UK, US and non-NATO ally policy. 


Finally, Pakistan has to review its foreign policy, as non-NATO ally its support for America's SWAT to protect its economic, trade and security interests in the region. Cameron's use of 'we', signing of nuclear and military deal with India and refusal to raise Kashmir issue are cause of genuine concern for Pakistan. Pakistan should push for bringing to book the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of international laws and conventions. London will try to spin its way out of Cameron's anti-Pakistan remarks, but without who would believe UK while Indo-UK nuclear and military deals are intact and there is no progress on holding public inquiry of 7/7 drama. Similarly, Beijing should play it role to help hold independent investigate of Cheonan so that world also see truth of Mumbai drama. 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

CAMERON: ROAD TO HAGUE

RIZWAN GHANI

 

In his anti-Pakistan offensive from Delhi, Cameron has publicly endorsed UK (and US') anti-Pakistan foreign policy. He said that we (UK and US) cannot tolerate Pakistan look both ways and is able to promote and export terror whether to India, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. Cameron said Pakistan could no longer look both ways by tolerating terrorism while demanding respect as democracy (Cameron remarks, The Guardian July 28). In Today program, Cameron said that he chooses his words carefully and thereby rejected Downing Street's statement that PM was not accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism. He also ignored Pakistan's foreign office rebuttal. 


Reportedly, ministers accompanying Cameron to India were briefed not to mention Kashmir (Kashmir subcontinents internal matter, The Guardian July 28). During Cameron's visit to India, both countries will sign a deal, which will allow export of civil nuclear energy and expertise to India. The reports in Pakistani press about America praising Pakistan's positive anti-terror role is nothing but use of good cop bad cop policy by the west. 

Cameron has chosen Delhi to take on Pakistan. Instead of demanding apologies or clarifications, Islamabad should scrap President Zardari upcoming visit to UK. Hopefully, Zardari would not want to meet a British PM harboring such disdain for Pakistan. Next, Islamabad must support British Muslims demanding holding of public inquiry into 7/7 London Drama to drop a curtain on terrorism on world stage. It is opined that London Drama was an inside job to help lend credence to America's so-called war against terrorism (SWAT). Furthermore, Pakistan should stand for the rights of Northern Ireland and abuse of minorities in UK. 

Reportedly, Brown has refused to hold public inquiry of London drama. The Ripple Effect, a BBC documentary, raises serious questions about UK's claims that it was an act of terrorism. Bush also refused to order public inquiry of 9/11. In case Cameron refuses to order public inquiry of 7/7, Islamabad should raise the issue in UN to protect democratic right of minorities within UK and to bring an end to the nexus of false accusations against Pakistan. Karzai's statement that West has the capability to take targets within Pakistan is case in point. In fact, Bush's "axis of evil" policy is being implemented in Asia (and ME) to brace for the emerging China. Both Cameron and Karzai are acting as his master's voices. 


PM Gillani has admitted that NATO is losing Afghan war. Washington is using Cameron to scapegoat Pakistan to sell US Afghan defeat to American public and avert impending defeat of Democrats in upcoming Congress, Senate and Governor Elections. Islamabad should not be surprised to see weakened Obama authorize a military operation against Pakistan to save his presidency. 


West is using SWAT as an excuse to justify blocking one and a half trillion-dollar Pak-China trade route via CARS. Delhi is supporting UK and US to win its share in the regional markets. In exchange, Delhi is opening its 1.2 billion-consumer market to the west. The direct foreign investment of $6 bn in Chennai by the foreign automobile industry including America is case in point. 


Islamabad should therefore stand up to protect its national interests. Islamabad can avoid any military misadventure against Pakistan by securing its borders with help of a different steps including use of obstacles, ditches, fences and walls, electronic surveillance, mines, deployment of paramilitary forces, police, enforcing international travel agreements on both side of Pak-Afghan borders, judiciary and help of its allies and international media. Similarly, tell US forces operating in Pakistan to leave (US lawmakers reject motion for pulling US troops out of Pakistan, Local press, July 29). 


As part of Road to Hague policy, Islamabad should bring International Criminal Court (ICC) option on the table. Based on the Chilcot Inquiry and Nick Clegg's statement that Iraq war was illegal, Islamabad should approach international platforms to bring Bush, Blair, Brown, Musharraf and their teams to ICC. A strong stand to demand arrest warrants of American, British, Iraqi, Afghan leaders for their involvement in crimes against humanity will help bring an early end to cacophony of do more on SWAT drama. 


It is opined that there is a pattern in anti-state dramas including 9/11, 7/7, Mumbai, and Cheonan (drowned military ship of South Korea). To expose Mumbai drama to the world, as an observer member state of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Islamabad should demand an independent inquiry into Cheonan to expose alleged international conspiracy aiming to isolate Beijing in Korean Peninsula. The timing of the incident just before 2nd Sino-US Strategic Dialogue has been questioned by Chinese media. It is opined that Cheonan was used to influence Beijing to devalue its currency. The US-South Korean naval exercises in China's backyard are a ploy to justify permanent presence of US forces in South Korea (China Daily, June 1), and scuttle Sunshine Agreement between both Koreas. The Agreement would have allowed reunification of both Koreas on lines of Germany. Arguably, Cheonan is one more excuse to continue US presence in the region, just like Manila and Tokyo. Similarly, Delhi is using Mumbai drama to keep its control on Kashmir, and in exchange, it is bringing Myanmar and Washington closer despite the poor human right record of its infamous ruling elite. Thus, Islamabad should not be apologetic on Mumbai drama. Instead, it should stand up for Kashmir as its integral part on line of One China policy. 


West has been blaming Beijing for its human rights record. Islamabad should demand SCO to freeze its trade relations with UK, USA and other NATO allies for human rights violations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine by the occupying forces. According to international laws, every nation has right to defend itself against the occupation forces. SCO and international human rights platforms should demand accountability for gross violations of human rights and international conventions in occupied countries. Next, call for arrest warrants of leaders involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine on lines of Darfur genocide for millions of deaths and gross violations of human rights and international conventions. Beijing must exert its moral and diplomatic influence to help end crimes against humanity, illegal wars, and abuse of state machinery by states to quell legitimate resistance for upholding UN Resolutions. 


Beijing refused to host Robert Gates following US-Taiwan arms deal to protect its one-China policy. The respect of Pakistan's sovereignty, nuclear status, resolution of Kashmir as per UN Resolutions and right to protect its economic interests and independent foreign policy should form the basis of its relations with rest of the world including US and UK. The provision of nuclear technology, military equipment and sale of trainer aircrafts to India are unacceptable to Pakistan. These pacts undermine Pakistan's security, geo-strategic and geo-economic interests. They also undermine balance of power in the region and are part of propping up India against China. Islamabad needs to review its pro-UK, US and non-NATO ally policy. 


Finally, Pakistan has to review its foreign policy, as non-NATO ally its support for America's SWAT to protect its economic, trade and security interests in the region. Cameron's use of 'we', signing of nuclear and military deal with India and refusal to raise Kashmir issue are cause of genuine concern for Pakistan. Pakistan should push for bringing to book the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of international laws and conventions. London will try to spin its way out of Cameron's anti-Pakistan remarks, but without who would believe UK while Indo-UK nuclear and military deals are intact and there is no progress on holding public inquiry of 7/7 drama. Similarly, Beijing should play it role to help hold independent investigate of Cheonan so that world also see truth of Mumbai drama. 

 


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

BROUHAHA OVER GEN KAYANI'S EXTENSION

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Some media men – anchorpersons, analysts – 'brilliant' panelists and retired generals have made a pure administrative matter of extension to COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani highly controversial. As soon as there was a hint from the prime minister for using his prerogative to accord extension to General Kayani, a renowned English daily had carried an article by a retired major, who does not use the pre-fix of major with his name had taken the lead to oppose such extension and others just followed it up. There were quite a few letters to the editor to start a vicious campaign. After the prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced 3-year extension, unnecessary brouhaha in the print and electronic media gained momentum. Barring some honourable exceptions, some retired generals who have assumed the role of defence analysts together with some anchorpersons and panelists started tirade against the government. Even ex-ISI chief General ® Durrani said that if at all extension was necessary it should have been for one year or so. One does not understand why retired generals are so bitter about on-duty-Generals. 


Whereas in peace times and normal circumstances, extension is never an issue, but in case of extension to General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, pragmatism has taken precedence over the idealism because of the dire conditions and the existential threat to Pakistan from local and foreign-inspired terrorists. But the debate is raging in print and electronic media, and many analysts oppose it on the grounds that persons are not important whereas institutions are. And secondly it will deprive many officers of a promotion which automatically comes with the retirement of the COAS. One has to bear in mind that Pakistan is at war with the terrorists and there are threats to Pakistan's internal and external security. In such circumstances, extension to the army chief is justifiable. In America, even Mike Mullen has been given one year extension because the war on terror has entered in a very crucial stage. One can ask them the question whether America does not have competent Generals to replace Admiral Mike Mullen?


But the problem is our leaders have the penchant for making good decision look bad when they implement it in a manner that gives rise to suspicions. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's remarks that all major stakeholders — the president, the prime minister, the Supreme Court chief justice and the army chief — were in a "secure position" until 2013, is a case in point. On the other hand, detractors of the government and a few media men associated with a particular media group, who had supported the appointment of ad hoc judges, are opposing the extension to the army chief. By highlighting the 'heartburn' of those military officers, who will not get promotion due to this extension, efforts are being made to undermine the respect for the chain of command, which is hall mark of Pakistan army. They do not realize that by doing so they are wittingly or unwittingly trying to sow the seeds of dissension among the army personnel, who are always willing to give supreme sacrifice for the integrity of the country. 


Pakistan had civil and military governments during the last six decades divided over almost equal spans. And it was primarily because of internecine conflicts between the political parties – ruling and the opposition parties, who often created anarchic conditions to justify the military intervention. Both types of dispensation had done some good things as well queer things that proved disaster. Whereas no right thinking and democracy loving person would hold brief for any dictator, but our history is replete with examples of politicians invited the army chief to topple the elected government, then supported the military dictators and strengthened their hands. And today they have become self-styled champions of democracy. In a television talk show, one retired general also said that former prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif was not informed about Kargil operation, Earlier, when Mushahid Hussain was information secretary of PML-N, he and chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had confirmed that briefing did take place thought they were not aware of complete details. 


Anyhow, retired generals have to realize that even after retirement they are under oath and are not supposed to divulge any information that could help the enemy or create a stir in the society. On that count, they also deserve to be court-martialed. It is common knowledge that Army is the most disciplined institution of the country, and because democracy could not take roots in the country, in the first place due to incompetence, intolerance and internecine conflicts of the politicians, some military adventurers also tried to stretch their rule whereas they could have finished the job of holding elections within 90 days and gone back to the barracks. But many countries of the world have dictatorships and army rule. In Turkey, Thailand, South Korea and many other countries army used to be in and out, but the intellectuals and retired military officers do not create so much fuss about it. 


If an army official who resigned while refusing to be a part of plans for removal of a democratically elected government, criticizes the military that may be acceptable. But those who were part of the setup and played active role in overthrowing elected governments have no right to criticize the on-duty-generals especially when they are performing their duties according to the Constitution. The same principle applies to the judges. Those judges who never took oath under Provisional Constitution Order - not only during Musharraf era but also during Zia era - have moral high authority to criticize the military dictators. Whereas the opposition by the retired generals to President Musharraf was not a very serious aberration, it was ironical that some retired generals, admirals, air marshals, who started their career as a lieutenant and became four or five star generals over time, have the tendency to criticize the army and generals in uniform, whereas during service they did not disagree with the top brass so that they could get promotions. 


They conveniently forget that they had enjoyed all perks and privileges of service; got allotment of plots in the defence housing societies in more than one city, which was perhaps their right; and they were given agricultural lands for rendering meritorious services. They also held the posts of ambassadors, served in civil departments on deputation enjoying lucrative posts after retirement. 


Today, instead of using ex-servicemen forum, they should join the political parties to dominate the political scene. Lt General (r) Hamid Gul who has been very vocal and critical of previous civilian governments – Benazir Bhutto as well as Nawaz government feels proud of having played an important role in jihad against former USSR when its forces had entered Afghanistan. It is ironical that he has started believing that he is the one who demolished the Soviet Union. He did not understand the simple fact that success of operation against Soviet forces in Afghanistan was as a result of firm faith and commitment of jihadis and also the logistic support, funds and propaganda by the international media that motivated hundreds and thousands of Muslims to join jihad. 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

HILLARY CLINTON'S TERSE WORDS

RANDOM THOUGHTS

BURHANUDDIN HASAN

 

This time around US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to Pakistan with a chip on her shoulder and a bagful of goodies worth a small change of $ 690 million. In a talk session with journalists in Islamabad she was unambiguous when she said Pakistan is not doing any thing to conserve its meager resources of water, nor has built any big dam since the time of late President Ayub Khan due to inter provincial disputes, but wants America to help it in getting water from India. However, she was kind enough to throw a change of $ 690 million in Pakistan's kitty for some small projects in the areas of energy, water, health and education. 


This is what happens to poor nations which are unable to generate their own resources and depend entirely on foreign dole and also hear rebukes. There is no doubt that Pakistan is in dire straits, but is not doing any efforts to increase its revenues nor to reduce government's lavish expenditure. Referring to such people the Holy Qur'an says "God has sealed their hearts and covered their eyes and ears." Mrs. Clinton warned that despite all efforts deep mistrust exists between Pakistan and America over the issue of terrorism which is cardinal for US safety. She clearly warned if America suffered any future terrorist attack on its soil, which is traced back to Pakistan it would have devastating consequences for Pak-US relations. The reasons for this fear and mistrust are obvious. America believes that anti American terrorist groups are openly operating in Punjab under the protection and support of the government of the largest and most powerful province of Pakistan. Besides all major opposition parties including diehard religious groups which have mass support, are promoting anti American phobia and openly supporting terrorist elements. The government too, has not been able to bring these elements under control and promote pro-American feelings among the masses. The media too is promoting anti American bias openly trough venomous anti US programs. 


American electronic media which is widely watched in Pakistan is also adding fuel to the fire. America has a persistent feeling that Pakistan is not doing enough to root out terrorism which has seeped into its soil. Hillary Clinton is somehow or other convinced that Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omer are hiding in Pakistan's belligerent Balochistan province. She has said this many times but Pakistan has consistently denied. Hafiz Said, the chief of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, India alleges masterminded the Mumbai attacks, is freely living in Lahore. Likewise, recent terrorist attacks on most sensitive places which caused huge loss of human life could not be controlled by Punjab government either due to incompetence or by design. This has shaken America's belief that Pakistan is not doing enough to contain the onslaught of terrorists on its own heartland. That is probably the reason that America has flatly refused to give its civilian nuclear energy to Pakistan. It has also expressed its concerns over the Sino-Pakistan nuclear cooperation. Mrs. Clinton clearly said that America is deeply concerned over Pakistan-China deal. She also expressed US reservations on any possible reconciliation with Taliban's Haqqani group. Referring to Pakistan's recent failed talks with India, she said the US would continue its hands off policy over the Kashmir issue.


Mrs. Clinton also saw the signing of Pak-Afghan accord on transit trade between Afghanistan and India through Wagah border. This fulfills America's 'long cherished desire' to bring Pakistan and Afghanistan together. According to New York Times the accord has cost a positive glow over Mrs. Clinton's visit which was meant to ease suspicions between Pakistan and the US. The paper further says American aid announced by Mrs. Clinton for several projects in different sectors, however beneficial in economically fragile country; does not dispel other nagging sources of friction between the two countries. In addition to US doubts about Pakistan's commitment to rooting out Taliban insurgents, there are new fears about Pakistan's nuclear program. Pakistan plans to buy two nuclear reactors from China, a deal which alarms the US. Relations could be further tested if the Obama administration decides to place leaders of a major Pakistan insurgent group, the Haqqani network on the State Department's terrorist list. Pakistan maintains ties to this group through its intelligence agencies and is seeking to exploit those contacts.


Shortly, before Hillary Clinton's visit, Indo-Pak Foreign Minister level talks were held in Islamabad which ended in a deadlock in a chilly atmosphere of trust deficit and the only outcome was the decision to remain engaged. Both ministers blamed each other for the deadlock. But the Pakistan Foreign Minister crossed all limits of decent diplomacy by saying that the Indian Foreign Minister Mr. Krishna was selective in his approach and it seemed he had no mandate for the talks as he kept ringing New Delhi for briefing quite frequently. He said that the narrow minded approach adopted by India cannot take us forward. The Indian Foreign Minister on his return to New Delhi did not spell out all the topics he discussed with Pakistan, but categorized some as burning issues that confronted both the nation. 


—The writer is former Director News, PTV and a senior political analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

CURBING YOUR ENTHUSIASM

PAUL KRUGMAN

 

These questions were inspired by the ongoing suspense over whether President Obama will do the obviously right thing and nominate Elizabeth Warren to lead the new consumer financial protection agency. But the Warren affair is only the latest chapter in an ongoing saga.


Mr. Obama rode into office on a vast wave of progressive enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was bound to be followed by disappointment, and not just because the president was always more centrist and conventional than his fervent supporters imagined. Given the facts of politics, and above all the difficulty of getting anything done in the face of lock step Republican opposition, he wasn't going to be the transformational figure some envisioned.And Mr. Obama has delivered in important ways. Above all, he managed (with a lot of help from Nancy Pelosi) to enact a health reform that, imperfect as it is, will greatly improve Americans' lives — unless a Republican Congress manages to sabotage its implementation.


But progressive disillusionment isn't just a matter of sky-high expectations meeting prosaic reality. Threatened filibusters didn't force Mr. Obama to waffle on torture; to escalate in Afghanistan; to choose, with exquisitely bad timing, to loosen the rules on offshore drilling early this year. Then there are the appointments. Yes, the administration needed experienced hands. But did all the senior members of the economics team have to be protégés of Robert Rubin, the apostle of financial deregulation? Was it necessary to install Ken Salazar at the Interior Department over the objections of environmentalists who feared, rightly, that his ties to extractive industries would make him slow to clean up a corrupt agency?


As F.D.R.'s labor secretary, Perkins, a longtime crusader for workers' rights, served as a symbol of the New Deal's commitment to change. I have nothing against Hilda Solis, the current labor secretary — but neither she nor any other senior figure in the administration is a progressive with enough independent stature to play that kind of role. What explains Mr. Obama's consistent snubbing of those who made him what he is? Does he fear that his enemies would use any support for progressive people or ideas as an excuse to denounce him as a left-wing extremist? Well, as you may have noticed, they don't need such excuses: He's been portrayed as a socialist because he enacted Mitt Romney's health-care plan, as a virulent foe of business because he's been known to mention that corporations sometimes behave badly. The point is that Mr. Obama's attempts to avoid confrontation have been counterproductive. His opponents remain filled with a passionate intensity, while his supporters, having received no respect, lack all conviction. And in a midterm election, where turnout is crucial, the "enthusiasm gap" between Republicans and Democrats could spell catastrophe for the Obama agenda.


Which brings me back to Ms. Warren. The debate over financial reform, in which the G.O.P. has taken the side of the bad guys, should be a political winner for Democrats. Much of the reform, however, is deeply technical: "Maintain the requirement that derivatives be traded on public exchanges!" doesn't fit on a placard. But protecting consumers, ensuring that they aren't the victims of predatory financial practices, is something voters can relate to. And choosing a high-profile consumer advocate to lead the agency providing that protection — someone whose scholarship and advocacy were largely responsible for the agency's creation — is the natural move, both substantively and politically. Meanwhile, the alternative — disappointing supporters yet again by choosing some little-known technocrat — seems like an obvious error. So why is this issue still up in the air? Yes, Republicans might well try to filibuster a Warren appointment, but that's a fight the administration should welcome. O.K., I don't really know what's going on. But I worry that Mr. Obama is still wrapped up in his dream of transcending partisanship, while his aides dislike the idea of having to deal with strong, independent voices. 

Just to be clear, progressives would be foolish to sit out this election: Mr. Obama may not be the politician of their dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of their nightmares. But Mr. Obama has a responsibility, too. He can't expect strong support from people his administration keeps ignoring and insulting. —The New York Times

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

INDEPENDENT ACC

 

A study, conducted by the Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB), says that the amendments proposed by the government to the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) Act are not liked by majority of the people. As high as 57 per cent of the respondents, taken from a cross section of people,  expressed their disapproval of the move. An overwhelming majority of 97 per cent have favoured an independent and effective ACC. On the question of one of the proposed amendments requiring the ACC to seek permission of the government before initiating investigation into alleged corruption by government officials, however, 73 per cent have made their opposition known. However, 34.8 per cent of the respondents supported all the four amendments, including the three concerning the government's right to appoint the secretary of the ACC, making ACC accountable to the president and the provision for up to five years of imprisonment of key functionaries of the watchdog body for biased or motivated filing of cases. 


Had the people been well aware of what the ACC ought to be and the first three proposed amendments seek to do, the approval by 34.8 per cent respondents for those at least would have been unthinkable. This brings home the message that there is a need for launching a campaign to sensitise people about the role and function of such bodies like the ACC. As for the third amendment, it has come purely from mistrust. 


Question may be asked as to how the popular approval rating will be measured. It is quite simple. If ACC is independent and performs its job well, corruption in the country will come down to the minimum. Has the ACC any chance of outgrowing itself if it is given freedom? If there is any such apprehension, ensuring the transparency of its investigation and all other related acts can do the trick. Well, if we care not to make its accountability a casualty, other ways can be found.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

KUTUBDIA PROJECT

 

The news that windmills at Kutubdia are under threat is disquieting, as it is not simply a case of river or sea erosion.  With reports saying that the problem lies with the embankment this too raises questions about the suitability or otherwise of the chosen site. If, as some say, the construction of the embankment is shoddy, that too must be determined.


The Wind Energy Programme by the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) has so far shown positive results. The BPDB has already installed several wind turbines under its renewable energy programme (REP) and the project at Kutubdia was doing well. However, as utilisation of wind energy is still at an early stage, it is possible for mistakes to be made. For example, a location must be fully assessed to evaluate the wind energy potential of the place in question and we can only assume this was done. There is also a variation of wind resource at different locations, which must be taken into consideration when choosing a site. 
With conventional energy resources such as biomass getting depleted, turning to alternative energy is logical. Moreover, the production of conventional energy with its high transmission and distribution costs does not permit the expansion of the network for people living in remote and coastal areas. Therefore, wind energy is an obvious choice and suitable for inaccessible coastal areas to meet the demands there.  And though wind energy is yet to become popular, its potential is great. If the sea devours the Kutubdia project, this will have a negative impact on the future for such projects. A full inquiry about the pitfalls is warranted so that similar misfortunes do not arise in future as we desperately need to set up more wind projects in future.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

REPAIR YOUR UMBRELLA..!

 

The other day I asked an employee of mine to get my umbrella repaired, "Why don't you buy a new one sir?" he asked with a smirk.


"Because this one can still be used," I said, "and I don't believe in wasting money!"


This incident made me think of a story:


Buddha, one day, was in deep thought about worldly activities and maybe ways of instilling goodness in human beings when one of his disciples approached him and said humbly "Oh my teacher! While you are so much concerned about the world and others, why don't you look into the welfare and needs of your own disciples also?" 


Buddha looked at his disciple, smiled and said, "So tell me how I can help you?"


"My attire is worn out and is beyond the decency to wear the same. Can I get a new one, please?" asked his disciple. 
Buddha found the robe was indeed in a bad condition and needed replacement. He asked the storekeeper to give the disciple a new robe to put on. The disciple thanked Buddha and retired to his room. A while later, Buddha went to his disciple's place and asked him "Is your new attire comfortable? Do you need anything more?" 


"Thank you my Master." Said the disciple, "The robe is indeed very comfortable. I need nothing more." 


"Having got the new one," said Buddha, "what did you do with your old attire?" 


"I am using it as my bed spread." 


"Then I hope you have disposed off your old bed spread?" 


"No, no, master. I am using my old bedspread as my window curtain." 


"And your old curtain?" 


"Being used to handle hot utensils in the kitchen." 


"Oh I see. Can you tell me what did they do with the old cloth they used in kitchen?" 


"They are being used to wash the floor." 


"And the old rug that was used before to wash the floor?" 


"Master, since it was so worn out, we could not find any better use, but to use as a wick in the oil lamp, which is right now lit in your study room...." 


Buddha smiled with contentment and left. 

I've always liked this story, and if not to this degree of utilization, can we at least make the best use of all our resources at home and in the office, and also not throw away something if we can get it repaired and reuse it?


A great country that America once was, was built on the idea of thrift, not waste, and we people from the developing nations of the world need to do the same. 


Repair your umbrella..!


— bobsbanter@gmail.com

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

OPED

A NEW FORMAT IN THE US-UK RELATIONS

 

Apart from the oil disaster, BP has been implicated by Americans in releasing Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basetel-Megrahi, a Libyan, from Scottish prison last year where he has been serving life imprisonment for bombing Pan American airline plane causing death to 243 passengers and 16 crews, mostly Americans in 1988. It is not understood why the issue of releasing Lockerbie bomber has arisen now who was released one year back on compassionate ground by a Scottish court. Wide range of issues including war in Afghanistan, global economy, BP's oil leak and peace in the Middle East and Iran's uranium enrichment programme received attention of both leaders of the United Kingdom and America. There has been unanimous opinion on these issues between two leaders of transatlantic. However, British Prime Minister has apparently defended giant oil company of the British by saying that both countries are being benefited by the British Petroleum and said that BP must cap the leak, clean up the mess and pay losses of the victims as a result of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Having actively campaigning and stiff hearing from congressional energy committee President Obama has succeeded in obtaining a pledge from BP a $ 20 billion "escrow fund" to provide compensation to businesses along the Gulf coast region and workers affected by oil spill. The British Prime Minister also did not subscribe to the suggestion that BP had a role in releasing of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish Prison in exchange of granting permission by Libyan government to off-shore oil drilling to BP. Scottish authorities have released him on compassionate ground. David Cameron turned down the request of America for fresh inquiry into this matter, but BP would face hearing from Senate Foreign Relations committee soon. Both Obama administration and the British government acknowledged that the decision by Scottish government was wrong.
Having bilateral discussion with President Obama and lunch the British Prime Minister at a joint press conference said that linking justifiable anger over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with BP's suspected deal in releasing of a Libyan bomber undermine the viability of BP which plays a significant role to the economies of both countries. Thousands of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic depend on BP, the British Prime Minister pointed out. David Cameron also met four Senators from the Democratic Party who actually raised the issue of involving BP in releasing Libyan bomber.


Despite sour relations arising out of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by deepwater broken oil rig of BP, both Cameron and Obama in fact presented a united stand on the issues of global security, war in Afghanistan. Both of them had praise over recent development in Afghanistan and international conference in Kabul on July 19 which endorsed Afghan President Karzai's efforts of reconciliation with Taliban, and reaffirmed their commitment to war-ravaged Afghanistan. The United Kingdom is the second largest contributor of troops to Afghanistan to fight against Taliban. On domestic front both of them are on same wavelength to reduce deficit and bring reforms in financial sector. President Obama has succeeded to bring bipartisan bill reforming financial sector a couple of days back. President Obama commended Cameron's calls for drastic cuts in spending which is logical in comparison with Britain's debt to GDP ratio. They discussed deteriorating situation in the Middle East.


In the opening statement President Obama reiterated special relationship that two countries enjoy while avoiding mentioning role of BP in creating ecological catastrophe. On the other hand, the British Prime Minister echoing same sentiment said that it should be tested with the passage of time. The word special relationship was coined by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1945 at the end of Second World War.
In the twenty first century, political landscape, both in the United States and United Kingdom, has been changed. Power has been lying with relatively young politician in the United States and United Kingdom who appear to be pragmatic and realistic towards domestic and global issues. Cameron and Obama in fact have much in common, although they represent two different types of governments. Both leaders are on the same age group. In the election campaigns both talked about change and hope. 

President Obama has been maintaining excellent relationship with the United Kingdom although some commentators, both in the United States and United Kingdom, speculate that Obama would be less warm to the United Kingdom than some of his predecessors because of Obama's grandfather was detained by the British during Mau-Mau rebellion in Kenya. The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was snubbed because the White House ruled out traditional joint press briefing. This assumption has been strengthened when Obama has replaced bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval office by his political guru Abraham Lincoln. Bust of Winston Churchill was presented by Tony Blair to Obama's predecessor George W. Bush. Obama not only removed bust of Winston Churchill, it was handed down to the British Ambassador to the United States which by all accounts tantamount to discourteous and undiplomatic behaviour.


Both America and the United Kingdom maintain more exclusive ties in economic, military and sharing of intelligence than with any other country. New York and London are regarded as financial centre and are interlinked. Both the countries are the biggest foreign investors in each other country.


President Obama has changed style of maintaining relations with leaders of the world, particularly with three transatlantic countries, Britain, France and Germany through video conference to discuss issues of mutual interests ranging from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East to financial and economic crisis. In other words, President Obama has introduced video conference diplomacy. We heard shuttle diplomacy and Ping Pong diplomacy and now video conference diplomacy has added in diplomatic parlance. President Obama's relations with the United Kingdom is excellent as has been reflected when both President Obama and the British Prime Minister bet over a bottle of beer on the outcome of US-UK soccer game in the world cup match. 


Wearing an identical blue suits and blue tie both of them at a press conference on July 20 have made a joke on betting beer on football match between US and UK in the first round that ended in a tie. It gives the impression that two leaders of both side of Atlantic ocean have come to an understanding despite BP's mess in the Gulf of Mexico which is likely to cost democratic party in congressional election in November this year. q

(The writer, a retired Bangladeshi diplomat and former President of Nova Toastmasters International Club, writes from Virginia)

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THE INDEPENDENT

OPED

PAKISTAN NEVER FULLY ABANDONED TALIBAN

 

British prime minister David Cameron's post-WikiLeaks remarks on Pakistan helping the enemy in the Hindu Kush shouldn't be taken too seriously. The carefully orchestrated "outburst" in India was designed to please his hosts and seal a few business deals (Cameron and Cable are fagging for the British arms industry). It's all part of the schmoozing. 


Pakistan's official response was equally disingenuous. Since it's impossible for Islamabad to attack the organ grinder, it went for the monkey. Meanwhile all sides know full well what the Pakistan army has been doing with various Taliban factions since Afghanistan was occupied nearly nine years ago. Three years ago a US intelligence agent was shot dead by a Pakistani soldier at such talks - as reported in the Pakistani press. A source close to the Pakistani military told me last year in Islamabad that US intelligence agents were present at recent talks between the ISI and the insurgents. No reason for anybody to be surprised. The cause, too, is clear.

 

The war cannot be won. 


It's hardly a secret that Pakistan never totally abandoned the Taliban after 9/11. How could they? It was Islamabad that had organised the Taliban's retreat from Kabul so that the US and its allies could take the country without a fight. The Pakistani generals advised their Afghan friends to bide their time. 


As the war in Afghanistan deteriorated, the insurgency grew. It was the social chaos and the political corruption of Hamid Karzai's outfit that made a foreign occupation even worse in the eyes of many Afghans, bringing a new generation of Pashtuns into battle - young men who had not been part of the displaced regime. It is this neo-Taliban that has effectively organised the spread of resistance, which as the IED diagram revealed by WikiLeaks showed, extends to virtually every part of the country. 


Matthew Hoh, a former marine captain serving as a political officer in Afghanistan, resigned from the service in September 2009. His explanation was clear: "The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies ... I have observed that the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul." 
In 2007, the US attempted to wean a section of the insurgents away from Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, by offering them government positions. The neo-Taliban leaders refused to join a government while there were foreign troops in the country. But in order to make the contacts in the first place, the Pakistan army was critically important. This army, used as cover by the US on several occasions, was now forced to shed its Islamist skin (necessary for the jihad against the Soviet Union). This angered many within its ranks, and there were three attempts on General Musharraf's life. 


The ISI, whose autonomy was always overrated, was brought under almost total control, and General Ashfaq Kayani (who replaced Musharraf as chief of army staff) re-organised it from top to bottom. A few rogue elements revealed themselves when they approved the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008; they were immediately disciplined and removed. Today, attacking the ISI has become convenient for the west, who need General Kayani and so cannot attack him directly. There is no way the ISI or any other wing of the military could help the insurgents without Kayani's knowledge - and Kayani knows full well that in order to preserve contacts the insurgents fighting Nato have to be offered a few carrots. 
Karzai was so desperate a few months ago to woo the Taliban that he requested General Eikenberry, the doveish US ambassador in Kabul, to remove the entire Taliban leadership, including Omar, from the most wanted list. Eikenberry did not refuse but suggested each case be considered on its merits. What better indication that the war is lost. 


WikiLeaks appear to have revived Karzai temporarily. "It is a different question whether Afghanistan has the ability to tackle this," he said in response to a question about Pakistan support for the Taliban, "... but our allies have this capability. The question now is, why they are not taking action?" 


But they are. And have been since Barack Obama became president. The drone attacks were intended to burn out support for the insurgents across the border. Instead, they have resulted in destabilising Pakistan. Last year, the army forcibly removed 250,000 people from the Orakzai district on the Afghan border and put them in refugee camps. Many swore revenge, and militant groups have targeted the ISI and other military centres. On 8 June this year militants bearing grenades and mortars attacked a Nato convoy in Rawalpindi. Fifty Nato vehicles were burnt and more than a dozen soldiers were reported dead. 


This can only get worse. Time for Obama to abandon all pretences used to justify a war that can only lead to more deaths but no solution. An exit strategy is now desperately needed. Q


(Tariq Ali's new book, The Obama Syndrome: War Abroad, Surrender at Home, will be published in October) 

— Guardian News & Media 2010

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

OPED

ISRAELI RIGHT'S VISION ON ONE STATE SOLUTION

 

If David Cameron is feeling a tad frustrated by the lack of progress in the Middle East - breaking with usual diplomatese during a visit to Turkey yesterday (27JULY) to brand Gaza a "prison camp" - then he is not the only one. "Everything is stuck," sighs Jamal Zahalka, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament on a visit to London. The small Arab nationalist party he leads is formally committed to the two-state solution which would see a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but he sees no prospect of it. Those in charge are interested only in "conflict management, not resolution", he says. Talk of two states lives on in the seminar room, but it is not on any horizon visible in the real world. I'm told the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, is "on the verge" of giving up on the two-state approach he has believed in since the 70s. And there are plenty of Israeli Jews who share that pessimism. 


So it's hardly surprising that people are searching for other answers, even lighting upon an idea long confined to the margins, advocated only by extremists and dreamers: the "one-state solution." This holds that the two warring peoples should not live in two separate entities, with separate flags and governments, but as citizens of a single state. Jews and Arabs would no longer face each other anywhere as occupier and occupied, as they do now. They would live side by side, in a shared country. 


But here's the twist. This vision comes not from diehard Arab rejectionists, who refuse to countenance any arrangement which allows for a distinct Jewish state, nor from old-school student lefties from the 80s, once tireless in their advocacy of a "sec dem" - as in secular, democratic - state. No, the new advocates of the one-state solution are the Israeli nationalist right, including several luminaries of the settlers' movement. 


The most prominent to break cover was Moshe Arens, who served as both foreign and defence minister in the Begin-Shamir era two decades ago. He wrote last month (JUNE) that it was time for Israel to look at "another option", one that would see a single state on the land that is now Israel and the West Bank. The Palestinians who live there would, wrote Arens, no longer be a people under occupation but full citizens. As Haaretz has reported, its editorial jaw dropping, the former minister has been joined by an array of rightist eminences, including a founder of the settlers' organisation, Gush Emunim, a former chief of staff to Binyamin Netanyahu, a senior Likud member of the Knesset, and the parliament's current speaker. 


To understand quite how taboo-busting this is, recall the case of the scholar Tony Judt. In 2003 he too floated the notion of a single state to be shared by both Arabs and Jews. Judt's essay was instantly denounced as anti-Zionist heresy; among many Israel supporters he was rapidly ostracised. Thereafter Judt was identified as firmly on the radical left of the Israel-Palestine debate. Yet now those same thoughts are aired on the radical right. 
For all that, it is not so hard to see why this once forbidden notion now appeals to Israel's nationalist camp. The two-state solution may be conventional wisdom across the globe, endorsed by almost all democratic governments, but for settlers and their allies the very idea reeks of trauma: any division of the land is assumed to entail the dismantling of the towns and villages they call home. For the devout, this means leaving places they regard as part of the ancient biblical homeland. Some threaten armed resistance; rightwing soldiers warn they will refuse any order to evacuate settlements. But if there's a single state, all that trauma can be avoided. "It's preferable for the Palestinians to become citizens of the state than for us to divide the country," says Knesset speaker and Likud MK Reuben Rivlin. What's more, there would be no place for the current wall, or separation barrier, that some rightists believe disfigures and artificially divides what should be the sacred, and whole, Land of Israel. 


How has the right come to this new realisation? In a word: Gaza. Before Israel's 2005 disengagement from the strip, any talk of a single state struck demographic fear into Israeli hearts. For if Israel were to absorb the Palestinians of both the West Bank and Gaza, their combined number would instantly endanger the country's Jewish majority: there would soon be numerical parity between Jews and Arabs. But for Arens et al, that link to Gaza has now been severed, taking its 1.5 million Palestinians off the books, as it were. That leaves the Palestinians of the West Bank, estimated variously as 1.5 or 2 million, whom Israel could just about absorb. 
At first glance, this new direction might look appealing to Palestinians too. Plenty are sick of waiting for a state that never materialises: why not continue the struggle on a new front, using their strength of numbers at the Israeli ballot box? There would be immediate benefits. Families split by the 1967 battlelines might be unified once more; Palestinians would have access to jobs and economic opportunities inside Israel. 
But they should pause. For one thing, the rightist one-staters are making no instant promises: the granting of citizenship would, they warn, be "gradual". Nor are they offering a truly binational state that would grant equal status to the two nations. Instead Israel would remain a Jewish state, with West Bank Palestinians offered only the civil rights owed to them as individuals, not any national, collective recognition. They would be treated much the same way as the 1 million Palestinians who are already citizens of Israel. Given the long history of discrimination that community has endured, that might not be such an enticing prospect. 
When I put the idea to Zahalka's fellow parliamentarian, Haneen Zoabi, she was adamant: to accept such an offer would amount to surrendering the Palestinian claim of sovereignty over the West Bank. "We will never give that up," she said. 


Israeli Jews have every reason to be equally sceptical of this one-state talk. If Zoabi is right that West Bankers will not accept citizenship in a Jewish state, then the alternative is a properly binational entity. Yet what evidence is there that two peoples who couldn't get along well enough to negotiate a divorce will do better in a marriage? Support for such an idea is close to zero. It is hard to see that changing so long as Israelis, and Jews around the world, continue to yearn for the thing that almost every other nation takes for granted: a state of their own. 


And yet this development is not to be dismissed out of hand. The one-staters of the right say they are raising the issue now because the status quo has become intolerable to world opinion, corroding Israel's legitimacy. "The international community takes that stance because we are still occupiers," one Likud MK said. "There will be greater legitimacy when the occupation ends." 


That the right has finally reached this realisation is good news in itself. Avraham Burg, a former Labour politician on an ideological journey of his own, says these new noises from the right will put pressure on Netanyahu, forcing him to reach a two-state solution before it's too late. "The days of the two-state solution are numbered," Burg says. "It's not there forever, with no expiration date." 


The Israeli right are banking on the assumption that it's already too late. It's up to those who still believe that two states represent the last, best hope for both Israelis and Palestinians to prove them wrong. q

— Guardian News & Media 2010

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

FRESH IDEAS NEEDED ON REFUGEES

ASSESSING APPLICANTS FOR THEIR ABILITY TO ASSIMILATE HAS MERIT

 

THE 1951 UN convention on refugees has comprehensively failed the test of globalisation. It was established to assist Europeans displaced by World War II and the sealing of the eastern bloc rather than the complexities of the post-Cold War era. The 4067 asylum-seekers and crew who have arrived in Australia by boat so far this year shrink into insignificance beside the 15 million people seeking asylum worldwide. The convention gives each one of them an incentive to present themselves at the door of a signatory country where they can enforce an immediate obligation to be processed.

 

The test for asylum -- a genuine fear of persecution -- is difficult to prove. Somali-born writer and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali claimed this week that the process is meaningless since most applicants lie. Hirsi Ali was granted asylum in The Netherlands in 1992 on the grounds she was fleeing from the Somalian war. She now admits that was a fiction and she was escaping from an arranged marriage. Hirsi Ali told The Australian this week that the current test should not be the reason for acceptance but willingness to live by the values of the host country. The right of resettlement would come with a responsibility to assimilate, a concept that has been banished from polite conversation in much of Australia but which, in Hirsi Ali's view, is the key to a successful multi-ethnic society.

 

Her proposal may be a bridge too far, but it is a starting point for a debate we need to have. There is little doubt that the courage and determination that drives people to attempt to reach Australia by boat are the very qualities that would make them excellent settlers. But in a world where demand for refugee places far exceeds supply, hard choices must be made. Those in gravest need deserve priority, not those with the money to pay for a dangerous sea voyage. The case for off-shore third country processing, now accepted by both major parties, is clear. Contemplating more effective ways of processing refugee claims does not negate the need to stop the boats. It is vital that desperate people paying a high price no longer run the serious risk of drowning.

 

Australia should also take the initiative to encourage multi-lateral development of an updated alternative to the UN convention. Such a move should receive support elsewhere, especially in Europe, where Germany, France and Britain hosted more than a million refugees last year.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

AN EXHAUSTED BODY POLITIC FAILS THE NATIONAL INTEREST

BOTH SIDES OF POLITICS PAY THE PRICE OF THEIR CYNICAL CULTURES

 

THIS election campaign is defined not by a contest of ideas but by the art of combat between professional politicians unwilling and ill-equipped to prosecute the national interest. The battle being played out between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott has revealed the exhaustion of contemporary politics. It is a development that carries significant risks and casts doubt on the willingness of our elected representatives to govern rather than engage in the shallow pursuit of power.

 

We understand the brutal reality of politics, that you must win to have any impact. We appreciate the need for politicians to heed the polls as well as manage the 24/7 cycle of modern media, from television to Twitter. It is true that reducing politics to 140 characters tends to trivialise the process, but technology cannot be blamed entirely for the hollow campaign we are witnessing. The demand for daily interviews is not the cause of this low level of debate. If both sides have retreated from reform in order to joust over state-based issues such as law and order and traffic congestion, it is not because radio has acres of airtime to fill. And if Labor is hostage to Kevin Rudd, it is not because his replacement hasn't managed to counter those star turns on Rove.

 

There is a deeper problem that reflects the change in the way politics has been practised in recent decades. Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have risen to the top with experience of little else other than the practice of professional politics. They have emerged as energetic, politically smart communicators, but the process has robbed them of authentic engagement in the key debates -- such as our economic future -- that have raged in Australia throughout their adult lives. In their success we see, perhaps for the first time, the triumph of the political class over the national interest.

 

The narrowing of ideas that began with the so-called "Bob Carr experiment" in NSW and was then transferred over to the national arena has led to political leaders following a set of rules designed to minimise risk and neutralise issues. It is a technique developed by the Labor NSW Right and finessed nationally by people such as Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar and Labor's favoured consultants, Hawker Britton. During Mr Carr's reign, we entered the realm of virtual politics, where the message became an end in itself. It appeared that it did not much matter whether the government actually built infrastructure such as the northwest Sydney rail link, so long as it scored a story in Sydney's Daily Telegraph every six months about its intention to do so. But the medium as the message only works for so long, as the NSW government is discovering, with voters ready to crucify it at the March election.

 

In the federal arena, this modus operandi has created an election campaign devoid of debate as politicians refuse to risk even the slightest public argument on policy. This week, as the Prime Minister tried to explain why she had raised questions about the fiscal responsibility of increasing pensions, she was rewarded with a front page accusing her of not understanding the needs of older Australians, a story accompanied by a Photoshopped picture of her as a worn and grey pensioner. This week, too, a debate about foreign ownership of farms switched rapidly from rationality to racism. It is a long way from the serious debates of the Hawke, Keating and Howard years. In 1985, Bob Hawke and his treasurer had a stoush over the so-called Option C at the tax summit. In 1998, John Howard staked a second term on a GST. This week we saw an inconsequential debate over tiny cuts to corporate tax while both leaders ignored the reform options offered by the Henry tax report. In 1986, Paul Keating's infamous "banana republic" line helped change national attitudes to the economy. Who would have the courage to use such a phrase today? Instead our leaders sit on the couch at Women's Weekly or Hey Hey, It's Saturday and choose to take on footballs and fish rather than the issues of the day.

 

It was Mark Latham who first demonstrated the rise of self-interest in our leaders. A man of considerable intellectual prowess, he has nonetheless been willing to detonate his own party to justify himself. Mr Rudd is cut from similar cloth. He is not a creature of Labor and could as easily have sat on the other side of politics, yet he, too, has surprised by his actions. Two months ago, he invoked the 1910 election of Andrew Fisher's first majority Labor government as a template for his own, yet is now widely seen as leaking in the most damaging fashion against his party's interests. This approach is not confined to Labor. Malcolm Turnbull, too, clung to his passion for an emissions trading scheme even when it was clear a majority of his parliamentary colleagues wanted him to hang back. But the campaign shows how deep the malaise is on the Labor side. Indeed, with the nation on a holiday from tough thinking thanks to China Inc, it is hard to see how national politics can avoid a descent into a NSW-style mire, with the prime minister's job a plaything of the Right, like the NSW premiership.

 

The failure of contemporary politics can be seen in the squandering of public support for action on the environment. Hedley Thomas reports today on the failings of the star ratings system for energy efficiency. The fundamental flaws in a system being sold to the public as a responsible approach to climate change are deeply worrying. But the real cost is the loss of trust among people well-disposed to caring for the environment. So it is with politics when we are confronted by a culture that rewards "whatever it takes" ahead of concern for the nation.

 

In 1970, Labor great Kim Beazley Sr railed at his colleagues as the "dregs of the middle class". He had a point, even though many thought him out of touch with social issues of the day. Forty years on, Labor needs a few more real workers in its ranks, rather than the apparatchiks who have made a career out of factional warfare. The Liberals, too, would do better with a few more Howard-style figures, people reared in the real world of small business.

 

Paul Kelly commented after the leaders' debate that the Prime Minister should watch her "hovering glibness". Within days, Ms Gillard reasserted her natural demeanour as she fought back against damaging leaks. She should stick with this approach. We need fewer glib lines, and less Hawker Britton if we are to have any hope of dealing with the serious issues confronting the nation.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

IT TAKES A LOT MORE THAN JUST WHATEVER IT TAKES

 

IF, AS now seems quite possible, Labor loses the federal election, it should look to the events of this week to understand why. Not those on the national stage. And not in Queensland, where because of its mishandling of the mining tax and the ousting of Kevin Rudd, a Queenslander, as prime minister, Labor clearly fears a serious loss of support. It should look to NSW. Here there has played out in public a short but compelling battle in the long war between Labor's factions which encapsulates what is wrong with the way the party sees, and practises, politics.

 

It is worth going over the events of the week briefly. The NSW Education Minister, Verity Firth, announced on Tuesday that the government would replace all unflued gas heaters in government schools, a program likely to cost at least $170 million. She set no timetable for the program. Firth apparently believed her own department would be able to find the money with in its existing budget, and had not taken the matter to cabinet. That left her vulnerable to factional rivalries: Eric Roozendaal, the Treasurer, and - more importantly in Labor's eyes - a leading factional warrior from the right sensed that his control over spending was being infringed. The premier, Kristina Keneally, carpeted Firth, and then publicly humiliated her - repudiating her announcement and calling on the Greens and the Liberals' education spokesmen to offer their suggestions for fixing the problem. Keneally realised, though, that her actions implied the government wanted to do nothing about the gas heaters which may pose a health risk to some children. So she then re-announced the same policy, while praising effusively the Education Minister she had been humiliating only 24 hours before. Firth, amazingly, did not resign. For most outsiders the whole row must seem pointless - typical perhaps of this shambolic government, but otherwise meaningless. As we reported yesterday, however, the episode has a deeper significance: it has broken the truce between the party's factions which has existed since Labor's factional fixers dumped the left's Nathan Rees in favour of Keneally last December. It is a symptom in other words of Labor's tectonic plates grinding against each other. These massive, subterranean blocs are causing political earthquakes with increasing frequency.

 

In Friday's Herald, Deborah Snow revealed the role played by Mark Arbib, formerly state secretary of the ALP, and now a senator and a junior member of the Gillard ministry, in contemporary Labor politics. Arbib is best known as one of the factional warlords who dumped Kevin Rudd in favour of Julia Gillard last month. But he had had plenty of practice in state politics, undoing first Morris Iemma in favour of Rees, then Rees in favour of Keneally. Iemma, who led Labor to victory in 2007 when it should have lost, made the mistake of trying to run the state efficiently, and not for his union backers. Rees, a member of the left, similarly strained to hard on the short leash on which his right-faction minders held him. Keneally so far has proved docile.

 

Rudd's crime was to have his poll standing fall after he dumped Labor's emissions trading scheme at Arbib's and the ALP national secretary, Karl Bitar's, insistence, and took on the mining industry over a resources rent tax in a fight he was unable to win. He thus offended modern Labor's ruling credo, success at any cost, and became fair game in the never-ending factional war.

 

Gillard now appears to be going the same way. Previously an energetic and combative deputy to Rudd, she has been groomed into blandness and dumbed into inanity by her minders, Labor's supposed political professionals. The disastrous poll results we publish today show the result: in a few short weeks she has been transformed from a certain winner to a likely loser.

The people of NSW are only too familiar with the way Labor's ruling factions work. They have suffered years of incompetence in Macquarie Street, where the manipulation of opinion takes precedence over sound policy and good government. For a while Rudd, and then Gillard, looked like people who might be able to rise above the party's morass in this state to achieve something worthwhile at federal level. As the days of the campaign pass, though, Gillard is being brought steadily back to earth by her own party.

 

The motto of the NSW right might be the phrase used so memorably by its former leader, Graham Richardson: whatever it takes. But times have changed, and people have grown sick of the second-rate manipulation it encapsulates. Whatever it takes is no longer enough.

 

DOES MY BUM LOOK DIFFERENTLY SIZED IN THIS?

 

ACCORDING to a minister in the British government, doctors should call fat patients fat, not obese. Anne Milton, a Conservative (why does that not surprise us?), said the term obese tried to minimise offence but it distanced people from the problem, and calling them fat would encourage personal responsibility. We must admit her approach has a certain robust brutality that is quite attractive. But would fat people actually be more motivated to slim down if a doctor called them fat rather than obese? We believe not - and it is because, as euphemisms go, obese doesn't. It means the same as fat, and is almost as rude. These days people expect their euphemisms to be genuinely waffly, and to consist of several words. How about "differently sized"? Now that's a euphemism - non-judgmental, unthreatening and so politically correct it has no meaning. Try it. "You shouldn't wear those jeans - they make you look differently sized." See? You can insult people with it and they won't feel a thing.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

POLICY BOASTS: THIS IS A KNIFE LAW

ONE EFFECT OF TOUGH-ON-CRIME LAWS IS GUARANTEED. EVERYONE LOSES RIGHTS.

 

LAW and order is often invoked to justify ''tough-on-crime'' policies, involving harsher laws to protect public order. Victorians have been exposed to a double dose this year, with federal and state elections three months apart. The federal Labor and Coalition parties couldn't resist buying into an area of state policy when Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott came to town this week. Each vowed to tackle knife crime, which Mr Abbott said was ''disturbingly high''. It is a perception that drove the state to pass laws this year that increased police search powers and penalties. A new bill aims to increase search powers and penalties again, to the dismay of civil libertarians. Victorians should be concerned, too.

 

It is understandable that, as polls tighten, the state government feels a need to respond to an effective opposition law-and-order campaign. As Ms Gillard said, ''Knife crime worries people.'' Federal Labor has promised tougher import bans on knives and agreed with the states to move towards uniform laws on such weapons. Mr Abbott also vowed to widen bans and to set minimum penalties for carrying knives. Politicians are detecting public anxiety about knife crime and responding to it. However, populist politics rarely makes for good, considered policy.

 

Recent years provide ample evidence that playing on public insecurity can lead to disproportionate, even draconian, policy responses. Victorians need to take stock of the facts of knife crime, the effect of the recent laws, and the implications of the latest amendments. Policymakers need to distinguish between the perceived and actual scale of problems, and between symptoms and causes. It must be demonstrated that the practical benefits of increasing state and police powers outweigh the cost to every individual of losing some of their legal protections against abuses of power. That is another side of law and order - the democratic balance between state and individual rights - which is often neglected.

 

The first question that must be answered is what effect this year's legislation has had. The relevant crime statistics and assessments of how police used their new powers are not yet available. In 2008-09, there was an increase in robberies with weapons, including 752 robberies with knives, a 9.1 per cent increase (adjusted for population) on the preceding year. The 1087 assaults with knives represented a 2.9 per cent decline - before the new laws were passed. What effect have tougher powers and penalties had?

 

Advocates of tougher laws must explain their rejection of expert advice to tackle the causes of crime through a multi-agency approach involving violence prevention and education programs. These focus on changing social attitudes and responses to insecurity, which go to the reasons some people in some areas carry knives and others don't. This is not mere theory - such measures have a proven record - but it is more complicated and costly than changes in the law.

 

Victorians should not lose sight of the fact that this is a safe state. The level of crime does not justify trading away rights that exist for very good reasons. In addition to existing stop-and-search powers on the basis of reasonable suspicion, police would be able to conduct random searches, including strip searches, in designated areas. Children under 18 could be searched without parental or independent supervision, as could people with an intellectual impairment. First-time offenders aged 16 or older face $1000 on-the-spot fines for carrying a knife without a lawful excuse. Mr Brumby says the new laws are the toughest in Australia. These are also intrusive and arbitrary powers that breach the government's Charter of Human Rights and cast doubt on its worth. Many community and legal groups oppose the bill as an unreasonable intrusion on individual rights, as Human Rights Commissioner Helen Szoke says.

 

Police Minister Bob Cameron's response that the government is protecting ''the rights of people to go about their business without the fear of being stabbed'' is all too glib. The law should never be used as a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. A year ago John Brumby spoke of the need to ''nip this problem in the bud'', an implicit indication of its limited scale. In 2008-09, police caught 287 people aged between 15 to 19 and 58 children between 10 and 14 carrying knives or bladed weapons. Does this justify a substantial erosion of the right of every one of 5 million Victorians to go about their business without random, unsupervised searches, which increase the risk of harassment, intimidation and other abuses of power? Without proper checks and balances, Victoria risks becoming more of a police state and less of a democracy. Our leaders should ponder the direction such laws might take our society.

 

Source: The Age

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

MELBOURNE'S IN THE NANNY STATE - OF BLISS

 

IT'S NOT often a star is born with a carpetbag in one hand, a parrot-head umbrella in the other, soaring implacably over the heads of the audience at Her Majesty's Theatre. Thus the undeniable success of Verity Hunt-Ballard as P. L. Travers's immortal, redoubtable nanny, Mary Poppins. The stage adaptation of the Poppins stories, via the Walt Disney film that Julie Andrews made famous, has been long in gestation; but its Australian premiere on Thursday night proved an immediate critical success, as well as turning Ms Hunt-Ballard into an instant hit.

 

The last time Melbourne saw a coup-de-theatre like the flyaway Poppins was about 20 years ago, when a man in a frockcoat and mask set loose a chandelier over the stalls of the Princess. That was The Phantom of the Opera, and it ran for 1048 performances, took $82 million at the box-office, and boosted Victoria's economy by half a billion dollars. Entertainment, that most fickle of businesses, does not always realise its best ambitions, but it seems possible that Mary Poppins could do for kites, chimney pots and spoonsful of sugar what Phantom did for the music of the night and cut-crystal lighting. Certainly, Melbourne Major Events, which has invested in the musical, can begin counting the increase in tourist numbers, as the show's popularity catches on.

 

The feelgood factor belongs to both sides of the footlights. For the cast and production team, the Australian premiere - Melbourne is only the fifth city in the world to stage the show - means work that, if successful, could mean secure employment in this capricious business. For the audience - particularly children - the show is an expression of unalloyed bliss, yet (like Mary Poppins herself) tempered with commonsense and clarity. It also proves, while the theatre always has room for meaningful messages and wayward production values, that sometimes the simplest messages are often the most memorable and endurable. A nanny - a ''practically perfect'' one - who restores peace and order to a dysfunctional household in the age of pea-soup fog and chimney sweeps, might sound olde worlde, but Mary Poppins remains relevant to any society - even in the age of Julia Gillard's Australian working families.

 

Source: The Age

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: QUESTION TIME

MR DUNCAN SMITH WILL BE JUSTIFIABLY PLEASED THAT HE HAS BEEN FREE TO POSE THE BIG QUESTIONS

 

At least he cares. The former hard man of the Tory right, Iain Duncan Smithspoke with feeling yesterday about the problems and perversities that the benefit system imposes on poor people. He went on to publish apaper on welfare reform which was less a plan of action than a statement of faith that things can be improved. It is putting it gently to observe that the work and pensions secretary's document contained more questions than answers.

 

Mr Duncan Smith's grasp of the poverty trap is clear enough, but he shows no appreciation of how it came to be laid in the first place. Most fundamentally, he is blind to the reality that many of the perversities he talks about are inescapable in a social security system which must simultaneously try to compensate people for being poor while also encouraging them to better themselves. He is blind, too, to the progress Labour made in reconciling the dilemma: work still pays far too little, but at least Gordon Brown ensured that the benefits lost when an extra hour is worked would never actually exceed the extra pay being earned. And blind to such achievements, Mr Duncan Smith cannot grasp why Labour failed to make more progress. He is blind, too, to the malign effects of the coalition's budget: the red book itself contained figures which showed that the Osborne package will increase the number of people whom the system saddles with an effective tax rate of 60p, 70p or even 90p in the pound.

 

One of the few proven means of reconciling the contradictory aims of social security is through a contributory system of the sort devised in Bismarck's Germany, and adapted for Britain by Beveridge. Workers first pay in, and then – where need be – they draw out as a right, with no need for means tests which can discourage saving and reduce the rewards for others in the family who work. The problem with such schemes is that they tend to be expensive – so expensive, in fact, that yesterday's paper placed a question mark over the future of those benefits which still operate on contributory lines. In cash-strapped times, targeting the money that is available towards the poor is a perfectly defensible priority, but Mr Duncan Smith must understand that if he goes down that route then many of the dependency traps he rails against will only tighten their hold.

 

Various other ideas that he is floating, such as merging benefits and tax credits, are also worth considering, but will do little more than squeeze one corner of the balloon while inflating some other problem. Take money away from people more gradually as their earnings rise, and then slightly higher earners – who were previously outside of the system – will be dragged back in, blunting their incentive to work. A more plausible way to sharpen work incentives in the current climate might be to cut benefits, but that would obviously only work by making the poorest poorer. After the budget tinkered with indexation in a manner that will ratchet down the safety net every year, it was chilling to see one option floated in yesterday's paper which involved cutting the basic rate of income support to just £50 per week. With that sort of idea as part of the mix, it is hard to greet other ideas – such as more regional welfare – with the open mind that they might otherwise deserve. The commendable words about reducing form-filling and raising the service offered to benefit claimants to match that provided by banks to their customers run into similar doubts. Social security administration is exactly the sort of "back-office function" that the coalition is most determined to cut.

 

Mr Duncan Smith will be justifiably pleased that he has been free to pose the big questions which ministers

were often barred from doing during New Labour's control-freak years. When it comes to finding the answers, however, he will soon discover that a lack of hard currency is a more formidable roadblock to reform than Mr Brown ever was.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

UNTHINKABLE? LIFE ON MARS

 

Astronomers once thought Mars was covered in a network of canals carrying water from the ice caps

 

There are no little green men on the red planet, but there might just be something alive. Astronomers once thought Mars was covered in a network of canals carrying water from the ice caps. Nineteenth-century researchers imagined seas full of marine life, and even forests: a new new world, and not a friendly one. Martians invaded Earth in HG Wells's novel The War of the Worlds. "So vain is man, and so blinded by his vanity, that no writer … expressed any idea that intelligent life might have developed there far, or indeed at all, beyond its earthly level," he wrote. There was a good reason for that lack of imagination, as everyone discovered when telescopes got better and spacecraft began to arrive on a planet that turned out to be very bleak and very dry. But that did not stop people dreaming. Yesterday it was reported that researchers, while not finding life, have found somewhere they think it might be able to exist, in the form of very primitive microbes. Nili Fossae, a fracture on the planet's surface partly filled in with rubble, is said by a group of private researchers in California to resemble Australia's Pilbara region, whoseancient rocks show apparent traces of microbial activity. Sceptics may think the comparison tenuous. They may also note that yesterday's news reports either framed the possibility as a question – could there be life? – or put it in inverted commas. There is no proof. There is quite likely no life either. Or just possibly, as HG Wells warned, it is out there – and watching us.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

BOOK PUBLISHING: SCARY READING

 

Three-quarters of a century after Allen Lane launched its cheap paperbacks, publishing faces another disruptive technology

 

Seventy-five years ago this week, the publisher Allen Lane launched a series of cheap paperbacks – a read that you could pick up cheap at a railway station and not fret too much if it got left behind on the train. The rest, as they say, is an almost infinite stack of orange-spined (and not just orange) Penguins.

 

The paperbacks that Lane championed in 1935 would today be called adisruptive technology: an innovation in the book market that drew in masses of new customers (in the old hardback age, many households would have only a Bible and possibly The Pilgrim's Progress). Yet it also depressed prices. "The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence," thought George Orwell. "So splendid that if other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them."

 

It has taken three-quarters of a century for the book industry to be landed with another disruptive technology, but one is certainly here now: the ebook. That much was clear in the comments made to this paper yesterday by Lane's contemporary successor as head of Penguin, John Makinson. As he put it, the fact that readers can now load dozens of novels or histories on to their iPads or Kindles or Sony whatevers and cart them around all summer long "does redefine what we do as publishers".

 

Which is putting it mildly. Readers are no longer constrained by the weight of books, the vagaries of print runs or – given how many texts are available free or at heavy discount online – even price. No wonder thatAmazon claims to have sold more digital books for its Kindle in America than hardbacks over the past three months. After all, hardbacks have been a declining market for years and – with (in many cases) smaller typefaces, meaner jacket designs and loo-roll paper – no longer feel like the publishing equivalent of luxury goods. More striking is that Amazon expects ebook sales to outstrip paperbacks by next Christmas.

 

A revolution for readers, then – but one that the giants of the publishing industry, just like their counterparts in music and, yes, newspapers have been slow to recognise. Mr Makinson is right to acknowledge the new and exciting possibilities for the book provided by digital publishing – hyperlinks, pictures, music – but his remarks reflect how late-developing all this thinking is. The same goes for the issues around who actually owns the publishing rights to digital books. Meanwhile, the gatekeepers to these new digital texts are no longer publishers, but IT companies (just like record labels effectively ceded control to Apple's iTunes, or news media to Google). An exciting new world for readers beckons, but the future for publishers is as tense as any Agatha Christie.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MIYAZAKI CRISIS ALMOST OVER

 

The Miyazaki Prefectural Government on July 22 lifted its last ban on the shipment of livestock. This is a sign that the foot-and-mouth disease crisis in the prefecture, which lasted more than three months, is nearing an end. But it must be kept in mind that the eradication of the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease has not yet been confirmed.

 

It only is confirmed that there are no more new cases of foot- and-mouth disease. There is the possibility that the virus remains in animal waste on livestock farms and in other substances. To prevent its spread, thorough disinfection must be carried out.

 

The prefectural government is visually inspecting all livestock in the prefecture — some 940,000 animals. It plans to officially declare an end to the foot-and-mouth disease crisis on Aug. 27, when the treatment and disposal of animal waste on livestock farms is completed.

 

The first case of foot-and-mouth disease in the latest crisis was detected April 20. By July 4, the disease had spread to 292 livestock farms. The shipment and movement of livestock was prohibited within a 20-km radius of affected farms. Some 290,000 cattle and pigs were destroyed.

 

The central government's manual to cope with foot-and-mouth disease, based on the experience of a more minor foot-and-mouth crisis in Miyazaki Prefecture in 2000, did not work. It is vital for both the central and prefectural governments to study the latest crisis closely and determine the route that allowed the disease to spread so widely.

 

In Britain, some 6.45 million livestock animals infected with foot- and-mouth disease were destroyed in 2001. A 1997 foot-and-mouth disease crisis devastated Taiwan's livestock industry. Japan must remain on guard to prevent another outbreak (even humans can carry the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease). In addition, farmers affected by the latest crisis should be given sufficient public support to allow them to restart their livestock businesses.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

A CALL FOR DEATH PENALTY DEBATE

 

Until July 28, no executions had been carried out for a year in Japan, with death row convicts numbering a record 109. On that day, two inmates were hanged in the Tokyo Detention House.

 

Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, a human rights lawyer who used to be a member of a Diet members' league for the abolition of the death penalty, ordered the executions. Moreover, she witnessed them — probably the first justice minister to do so.

 

Torn apart between her personal belief and duty as justice minister, Ms. Chiba must have had a hard time. After the executions, she said, "(Seeing the executions) forced me to think deeply again about the death penalty." She said she will set up in her ministry a panel to discuss the death penalty, including whether it should be continued, and open the gallows at the detention house to mass media coverage.

 

Because capital punishment in Japan has been veiled in secrecy, wide public discussions are needed. The Justice Ministry started announcing executions and the number of inmates executed as late as November 1998, followed by the names of inmates executed and the places where the executions took place in December 2007.

 

Already 139 countries have abolished the death penalty or suspended executions for a long time. Japan is among the 57 countries that maintain capital punishment. The panel must get and disclose concrete information on the relationship between the existence or nonexistence of the death penalty and the occurrence of serious crimes.

 

In a December 2009 government poll, 86 percent of those surveyed supported capital punishment. With the lay judge system in place, the possibility cannot be ruled out that citizens have to hand down death sentences.

It is all the more important that full information be provided to citizens about capital punishment and that they develop well-informed opinions. The panel should include people from outside the Justice Ministry and should take into account the opinions and feelings of death row inmates. Ms. Chiba should consider calls from various groups for suspending executions while the panel's discussions are going on.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPINION

BEIJING'S ASIA POWER PLAY

BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON

 

China's economic and military might has grown in recent years along with its overseas trade and investment. China is becoming an oceanic power with growing clout in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

It demonstrated naval, air and amphibious strength this year by holding exercises in the South and East China seas, where it has unresolved territorial and maritime boundary disputes with several Southeast Asian countries and with Japan.

 

Both areas appear to have become core national interests, meaning that sovereignty and other claims to control by China will be vigorously defended.

 

Recently the Yellow Sea between Korea and China was added to the areas where Beijing is warning the United States and its allies not to intrude. "We resolutely oppose any foreign military vessel and planes conducting activities in the Yellow Sea and China's coastal waters that undermine China's security interests," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson declared in July.

 

But Beijing may have overplayed its hand, miscalculated the resolve of the Obama administration, and underestimated regional alarm at assertive Chinese actions. Nearly half of the 27 delegations taking part in a July 23 meeting in Hanoi of the ASEAN Regional Forum on security raised concerns about potential instability in the South China Sea. Japan was one of the countries voicing its concern.

 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that America had "a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea." She added that while the U.S. did not take sides on the competing territorial disputes (mainly involving China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines), Washington opposed the use or threat of force by any claimant.

 

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi responded in a statement in English posted July 27 on the foreign ministry Web site. He said that Clinton's "seemingly impartial remarks were in effect an attack on China and were designed to give the international community a wrong impression that the situation in the South China Sea is a cause for grave concern." If navigation freedom and safety had been hindered, why had seaborne trade been growing so rapidly and why had China become the number one trading partner of many Southeast Asian countries, he asked rhetorically.

 

What may happen next? A key underlying problem is that China and the U.S. have sharply divergent views not about civilian shipping, but about the rights of foreign military ships and aircraft in waters and airspace around China.

 

China insists that any foreign naval vessels entering its territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles from the coast must first get permission. The U.S. says they have right to innocent passage under international law.

 

What has proven even more contentious in recent years are the divergent views of Beijing and Washington on military activities allowed in and over China's Exclusive Economic Zone stretching out to as far as 200 nautical miles from the coast.

 

The U.S. says this zone is part of the high seas and international airspace where its military have rights of transit, maneuvering, exercise, flight operations, surveillance and intelligence collection, surveys, munitions testing and firing, communications and cable laying. China says such activities are prohibited without prior approval. However, Chinese naval ships or auxiliaries regularly conduct submarine operations, military surveys, and surveillance and intelligence gathering in the EEZs of Japan and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region without approval.

 

U.S. survey ships were harassed at least three times last year by Chinese vessels in China's EEZ in the South China Sea.

 

The U.S. and South Korea recently started a series of sea exercises to deter North Korea. The first was held in waters to the east of Korea. But U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that some of the exercises later in the year would be held west of Korea in the Yellow Sea, despite China's objections.

 

The U.S. has a long-standing Freedom of Navigation program. It is used to challenge what Washington regards as excessive coastal state claims over oceans and airspace anywhere in the world. The challenge can involve protests made through diplomatic channels, negotiations, and sending US warships and combat aircraft to assert rights of passage.

 

This is where the danger arises. China and the U.S. have no military crisis management system in place. China suspended military contacts in January after the U.S. said it would supply defensive arms to Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a rebel province. Among activities frozen were the bilateral Military Maritime Consultative Agreement set up to promote common understandings in conducting naval and air operations in line with international law.

 

Meanwhile, America is seen as hypocritical and the legitimacy of its position is being challenged because it is the only major power not to have signed the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention. Many countries do not agree with the way the U.S. interprets the law of the sea. Several dozen have sought to regulate military activities in their EEZs. These zones encompass nearly 30 percent of the world's oceans.

 

But it's China that's trying to extend its jurisdiction as far as possible out to sea. The aim is to create a security buffer, limit the operating areas of U.S. naval and air forces, erode ties between America and its regional allies and friends, and put China in a stronger position to enforce claims to control islands, seas and resources far beyond its internationally recognized borders.

 

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

 PROTECTING CONSUMERS

 

The Supreme Court's recent decision requiring a parking operator compensate a customer for a lost car is a good precedent for consumer protection. We praise not only the court for its decision, but also Hontas Tambunan, the owner of the lost car, for his persistence in fighting for his rights.

The court's ruling, which upheld the verdicts of the lower courts, is expected to encourage people to fight for rights that frequently been ignored by parking operators. At the same time, it will force parking operators to give more protection to their customers' property.

 

The story started in March 2000 when Hontas went shopping at a mall in Central Jakarta. His Toyota Kijang van, which was parked in a lot operated by PT Securindo Packatama Indonesia, was stolen.

 

He filed a lawsuit against the operator, who offered only meager compensation.

 

The Supreme Court ordered the company to pay Hontas Rp 60 million (US$6,600), far more than the Rp 5 million originally offered by the parking operator.

 

It is natural for Hontas to feel disappointed. We may feel the same if we were in his position. But how many of us are persistent enough to fight for our rights for 10 years? There is no guarantee that lawsuits will be successful. Supreme Court spokesman Andri Kristianto Sutrisno indeed said that the ruling would not automatically apply for future lost car complaints.

 

Andri's statement is supported by conflicting regulations. Article 19 of Law No. 8/1999 on consumer protection stipulates that businesses are required to compensate consumers for damaged or property and other losses, while Jakarta City Bylaw No. 5/1999 on parking says that parking operators are not required to pay compensation for losses.

 

It is unfair to make parking operators and business owners completely liable for losses. Parking operators have claimed that the money collected from parking fees was insufficient to cover the operational costs, including rent for parking lots and employee salaries.

 

However parking operators do get a subsidy from building owners, which varies from one operator to another, to cover the shortfall.

 

It is understandable for parking operators to demand higher parking fees to pay the insurance premium in response to the court's ruling.

 

Parking fees for cars in Jakarta are currently Rp 2,000 for the first hour and Rp 1,000 for each following hour, and Rp 1,000/Rp 500 for motorcycles.

 

The city administration must provide legal protection to consumers. However, we also suggest that the administration give parking operators the freedom to determine parking fees based on market conditions. It means that parking fees can be different in different areas.

 

Allowing parking operators to decide on fees based on the market will help them pay the insurance premiums, give consumers optimum protection and help ease traffic congestion in Jakarta.

 

Differential pricing is expected to discourage Jakartans from driving their own cars.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

STRUGGLING FOR LITERACY IN ENGLISH: VOICES FROM THE CLASSROOM

SETIONO SUGIHARTO

 

In an effort to internationalize the country's education system, it is quite relevant to pose questions like the following: What contributions do our scholars in the field of literacy and our teaching practitioners give to foster literacy development among young generations? What intellectual legacy have our senior scholars passed on to their juniors in attaining an international recognition?

 

 Thanks to our scholars' strong commitment to boosting literacy in the country, a relatively large number of research on literacy (for example, writing) has been undertaken, generating important insight into how writing pedagogy in the country can be improved.

 

  A number of studies in the field has been conducted in the local context (Indonesia), with some having been presented in national and international conferences, and published in anthologies as well as local accredited and international journals.

 

While this painstaking endeavor should be lauded for the light they throw on writing pedagogy, many of such studies are more concerned with the curricular design of the teaching of writing, writing instruction in school and students' written products.

 

As such, these studies ignore the importance of understanding the process of how written by-products come into being and how students behave while writing. The discursive and intricate process of writing student writers are experiencing cannot therefore be overlooked as information obtained from this process can serve as a useful guidance for curriculum design, teaching instruction, and the treatment of written products.

 

As a teacher-researcher of some 12 years dedicated to composition teaching, I find it revealing to spell out what the students expect from their writing teachers, and what strategies they employ as they are trying to struggle to grow as a writer.

 

Using a variety of methods (class observation, students' reflective essays, field notes and an informal interview), I manage to document students' voices as follows:  

 

First, students demand that writing teachers relinquish their roles as ones who have authority over their texts. Exercising too much control over their texts severely limits their ways of communicating.

 

Students desire writing teachers be their counterparts and interested readers rather than a corrector or an omniscient judge of their writing.

 

Second, students cannot simply accept teachers' remarks that often accuse them of lacking sensitivity toward standard writing conventions adopted from writing textbooks. Discouraging remarks, the students say, can increase apprehension to writing, making them fear taking risks, which is a necessary part of the writing process.

 

Third, students want their teachers to be flexible in imposing writing strategies on them and to respect their individual strategies. Rigid application of rules is counterproductive and can create writing blocks, which psychologically inhibit students' writing growth.    

 

 Personality factors, linguistic maturity, preferences to using and rejecting certain writing conventions and styles all affect the extent to which individual students employ certain writing strategies.

 

Finally, students demand they be given room to negotiate the conflicts they face. They want to be treated as individuals that have the right to question, resist and challenge writing conventions, which are often at odds with their intellectual tradition, identity, culture and value.

 

These diverse voices show that the classroom is not only an important site for research exploration, but a site for an intellectual engagement among teacher-students and student-students. Though locally situated, insights generated from this exploration certainly have far-reaching implications on our writing pedagogy.  

 

 By accommodating these voices, teachers can not only treat student writing with respect, but they can hopefully be, to borrow Henry Giroux's coinage, a transformative intellectual.

 


Many studies are more concerned with the curricular design of the teaching of writing, writing instruction  and students' written products. 

            
The writer is an associate professor at Atma Jaya Catholic University and chief-editor of the Indonesian Journal of English.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

BETWEEN INFOTAINMENT, RAMADAN AND PUBLIC MIND

KHAIRIL AZHAR

 

For some sessions of English training for teachers, I thanked so much for the presence of a TV program called "infotainment". With such elaboration and manipulation, I used the teachers' knowledge on some content of the program to make them practise English more in a more lively manner and meet pedagogical requirements.

 

Here, certainly, my adult students and I found that the degree of infotainment content's interest was unavoidably helpful.

 

But someday at home, my wife told me something that made me react more tactically. She was pregnant and therefore we were preparing ourselves to welcome a new baby. She told me that in welcoming her new baby an Indonesian "religious preacher" celebrity would change almost all of her house decoration since her baby had been predicted a to be a girl. He would make everything pink.

 

"Why should we do that?" I replied with a laugh. And I then knew that she had just watched an infotainment program and the news had been repeated several times on different TV stations. There were many celebrities trying to totally change their houses' appearance because of the coming of a new baby. Put simply, the infotainment series had imposed some change on her point of view.

 

Now, in an Indonesian context, in welcoming the Muslim holy month Ramadan, the presence of infotainment program on TV stations is widely discussed, especially among the ones who think they represent the public's interest, such as some members of the House of Representatives. And as it is trendy nowadays for their involvement in many "trivial" issues, the clerics take an active part to severely criticize and even wish to impose such a ban on the programs.

 

First of all, the infotainment content is not only about being interesting". I myself, honestly, would prefer to watch an infotainment to listening to a boring religious preaching. Or, it might be better than watching how a cleric is being reported to having allegedly broken the law with a pedophilia case.

 

Accordingly, a "news maker" celebrity like Ayu Azhari was likely correct to say that rather than watching news on wars or mass-violence, the public, including underage children, are better watching news on how a celebrity lives her life as it appears on an infotainment program.  

 

But some content of infotainment is not socially and legally unproblematic. We exactly know that the demarcation between private and public areas is often violated. Certain ethical codes on educative aims of journalism are repeatedly abandoned. Even the violation of common legal rights on prejudice or innocence often takes place related to the coverage of certain celebrities' legal disputes.

 

 We realize that the fear of "social consequences" as they are alleged by the supporters of the banning is partly reasonable. As it can be seen in the second story above, TV programs with their direct exposure may easily influence the way someone thinks or even inflict the way they behave. In a wider context, they might change the perception of an entire society.

 

Yet, it is absolutely wrong that because of a rotten twig we should chop down a tree. Instead of giving and taking advantages, this reactive and hasty solution will cause disadvantages since it blindly challenges the principles of freedom in broadcasting such as regulated in the 2002 Indonesian Broadcasting Law and the well-established institutions.

 

Therefore, we should be more considerate. The first possibility of why this unrest occurs is likely to come from the problem of packaging. A well-packaged report on how a celebrity copes with his family dispute, for example, should actually inspire the housewives (who are alleged as the most viewers) to better maintain harmony in their own families. Good journalists should know that interest is one aspect of good news while proportionality and educative angles and plot are also necessary.

 

Here, whoever is involved in producing a report or a program must be concerned and knowledgeable enough on press-ethics and social responsibilities. As a rational viewer, for instance, I will be more challenged to keep watching a program that makes me have fun with knowledge benefits rather than watching infotainment with some violent features. And people with this rational mind can be in the thousands or even millions.

 

Second, it's undeniably about proper timing. Certain programs, labeled as "for adults" should not fill the days of children. Regardless, the responsibility of parents and the social responsibility of the TV stations should be taken into account. I do believe that all rational viewers will agree that prime-time should be filled with the ones viewable and beneficial for children.

 

In some occasions, for example, many parents that I meet at schools clearly state that one reason why they decide to subscribe to cable TV is to protect their children.

 

They believe that the programs on Disney or Playhouse Disney are more educational and safe rather than the local TVs'. And they willingly spend some amount of money for their availability.

 

Lastly, for the clerics or supporters of a banning action, sooner or later, with the more flowing information, individuals in a modern society are actually becoming more rational.

 

There is such an invisible hand leading them to better choose what they actually need among the offered things in the bigger and freer market.

 

And this rational mind is even more powerful than such edicts released by religious figures.

 

So, while the holy month of Ramadan is important for Muslims, an infotainment program is just another thing that should not be abolished with an iron fist of a religion.


The writer is a teacher at Lazuardi-GIS Jakarta.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

GLOBAL HOMEWORK FOR RI

DEWI ANGGRAENI

 

As a relatively young nation, one issue that looms large in the Indonesian people's collective consciousness is education.

 

Ideally, we want our education process to yield bright, broad and flexible-minded people such that these individuals can go on to lead full and satisfying lives, and serve our society and nation well.

 

In 2008, the government's investment in education constituted approximately 15 percent of the state budget, with a promise of an increase of up to 20 percent. This increase is crucial, because to reach our goal — where Indonesia's education system functions properly — will take an enormous amount of work.

 

Before we begin making changes to the existing system, however, we should note that today's concept of serving our society and nation, goes in tandem (and is probably even contiguous) with being adept at functioning and operating in an increasingly globalized world.

 

Whether we like it or not, a failure to address globalization issues head-on will very likely push our nation into economic and political isolation.

 

If we want the next generations of policy makers, society and business leaders to have the psychological and mental agility to take Indonesia to a level on par with leading nations in the region and around the world, we need to prepare them through proper education.

 

Here we come face to face with the need to internationalize the Indonesian education system. Ideally we should bring all levels of education up to an international standard. However, at this stage it is more 
realistic to focus on higher education.

 

In Internationalization of Higher Education Practices and Priorities: 2003 IAU Survey Report, Jane Knight defines this process as "integrating an international, intercultural, or global dimension into the purpose, functions or delivery of post secondary education."

 

In plain English, this means Indonesia needs an education system that yields graduates whose qualifications are internationally recognized, and in their employment capacity can move seamlessly across national and cultural borders, negotiating any communication problems effectively.

 

According to the recent Indonesian Students International Conference (KIPI), held in Melbourne from July 16-18, Indonesia is in the early stages of internationalizing its education system, and has not yet addressed related teething problems generally accompanying any new developments.

 

During the conference, aptly organized by the Association of Indonesian Students in Australia (PPIA), numerous aspects of the internationalization of education were discussed, and various issues surfaced.

 

One legitimate concern was the likelihood of cosmopolitan "perceived as foreign" values eventually overriding local mores. However, if tasks are planned and managed properly and carefully, this should not necessarily happen.

 

One of the objectives of this process is to provide quality education that transcends cultural and national boundaries. This will eventually attract and motivate more international students to study, and quality teaching staff to teach at Indonesia's universities.

 

If internationalization meant uniformity of content throughout the world, there would be no reason for anyone from another culture or country to go overseas to study.

 

Nobody would need to come to Indonesia for that purpose, for example. More importantly, very few would have learned anything that would help them develop the ability and confidence to deal with other cultures and mores.

 

So, national identity and local cultures are one of the strong attractions that make seeking knowledge and learning various skills in this country more worthwhile and desirable than doing so in a student's country of origin.

 

The internationalization of education, however, is a process involving many more parties than just educational institutions. While the actual reform and restructuring must be handled largely by institutions themselves, without the participation of other players in society at every level of the political, cultural and environmental sectors, this process could cause fragmentation and unwelcome social division.

 

One immediate problem is the costs involved. If these are mostly borne by students, a social division would no doubt develop where only those who could afford it could enjoy education, while those who could not would be left behind.

 

If the government does not come to the party in time, development assistance would have to be found elsewhere to keep the program afloat until it reaches a stage where it could run on its own. Other organizations in the private sector or multilateral international agencies who share similar visions could be invited to be significant shareholders in the venture.

 

Ainun Naim, the deputy rector of Gadjah Mada University pointed to a trend where the regulated 
and centralized welfare state is gradually shifting its focus toward market mechanisms or evolving 
into a competitive welfare state. Serious measures to address the push of globalization may be behind this trend.

 

On a more optimistic note, the internationalization of education is not a new concept. Hindu and Buddhist institutions of 600 BC such as Taxila and Nalanda, operated internationally, using Sanskrit as their medium of teaching and learning.

 

Many countries with world-class education systems in fact draw revenue from their education export. In Australia, for instance, international education is the third-biggest export earning industry, bringing in US$17 billion a year and employing more than 100,000 people.

 

The added value this industry could bring to the Indonesian economy could be much greater, considering that this country is much more labor intensive in every sector.

 

There are, without doubt, many traps and pitfalls in this process, so good planning, budgeting and constant control, which Ainun Naim also emphasizes, are crucial.

 



The writer is a journalist and an adjunct research associate at the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

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