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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

EDITORIAL 20.10.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month october 20, edition 000656, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH EDITORIAL http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. GREEN EVANGELISM
  2. INTELLECTUALLY DAFT
  3. TERROR OUT OF AFRICA - CLAUDE ARPI
  4. BRING THE WRONGDOERS TO BOOK - RAJIV DOGRA
  5. HISTORY BEING REPEATED IN KASHMIR VALLEY - BD MISHRA
  6. UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF KHRUSHCHEV'S DIPLOMACY - NIKOLAI TROITSKY 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TIME FOR A RESET
  2. GIRL, INTERRUPTED
  3. A TALE OF TWO SCANDALS - SHALINI SINGH
  4. 'QUALITY OF RESEARCH DEPENDS ON GLOBAL COOPERATION'
  5. KASHMIR BARGAIN - JUG SURAIYA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. BLACK HOLE OF OLD KING COAL
  2. STRIPES AND GRIPES
  3. PEOPLE NOT LIKE US - LALITA PANICKER
  4. OPEN UP OUR TREASURE CHESTS - SURESH NEOTIA
  5. ONE IS NOT ENOUGH - M.R. SHARMA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MUTING MAHARASHTRA
  2. GAMES WE PLAY
  3. COURTING CONFRONTATION - EJAZ HAIDER 
  4. EXCHANGING RATES - MK VENU 
  5. THE VERY HUMAN MIRACLE
  6. THE CROWDS OF OCTOBER - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE 
  7. TALKING AT CROSS-PURPOSES
  8. PROBE DELAYS EXPECTED
  9. AXING ZARDARI - C. RAJA MOHAN 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. KANGAROO COURTS
  2. CHINESE CHEQUERS
  3. APPRAISING ELECTRICITY REFORMS - YOGINDER K ALAGH
  4. A CONFIDENCE TRICK FOR INVESTORS - SATYAJIT DAS
  5. EAVESDROPPER
  6. PRINCELY LIKENESS

THE HINDU

  1. DIGGING FOR VALUE
  2. MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS & INDIA - K.S. JACOB
  3. CHINA TO CUT EXPORTS OF RARE EARTH MINERALS - KEITH BRADSHER
  4. GOOGLE TO BRING DEAD SEA SCROLLS ONLINE - J.K. ROWLING WINS DANISH AWARD
  5. DIALOGUE FOR ME IS RECOGNITION OF THE SERIOUS: ROWAN WILLIAMS - P. JACOB

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. NITISH SITS PRETTY AS BIHAR GOES TO POLLS
  2. EUROPEAN ROULETTE - K.C. SINGH
  3. JUSTICE, NOT CATHARSIS - SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

DNA

  1. ANOTHER BOOK, ANOTHER SURRENDER
  2. GREEN CAUSE VERSUS GREENFIELD PROJECTS
  3. FRENCH SIREN BRIGITTE BARDOT'S PET CAUSE
  4. YOU HAVE A PURPOSE, WORK ON FINDING IT - RAMESH MENON
  5. WHY OBAMA'S CLAIMS AREN'T CUTTING ANY ICE
  6. OBAMA & CO ARE PLANNING TO RUN AWAY FROM AFGHANISTAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. HERITAGE OF AKHNOOR
  2. LEARN FROM LEH
  3. PAK PROXY WAR AGAINST INDIA - BY M K DHAR
  4. APPOINTMENT OF INTERLOCUTORS - BY ANIRUDH PRAKASH
  5. AILING ANIMAL SECTOR IN J&K - BY TAHIR KHATANA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TACKLING KHAPS
  2. THE AL-QAIDA THREAT
  3. SHIV SENA'S NEW STAR
  4. INDIA-US DEFENCE RELATIONS - BY GEN V.P. MALIK (RETD)
  5. NEVER GIVE IN - BY MAJOR-GEN R.S. MEHTA
  6. ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND ITS PROSPECTS - CHARANJIT SINGH AULAKH
  7. PERSONAL HEALTH VERSUS PRIVATE WEALTH - SHALINI

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. LEAVE A R RAHMAN ALONE!

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. ENVIRONMENTAL CHOICES
  2. CSR GOES 'GLOCAL'
  3. INDIA IN THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL - SHYAM SARAN
  4. THE PUBLIC SECTOR ADVANTAGE - A K BHATTACHARYA
  5. VICARIOUS LIABILITY CATCH - M J ANTONY
  6. SHOULD INDIA BID FOR THE OLYMPIC GAMES? - K P S GILL

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. DON'T STALL POSCO
  2. DISQUIET ON PRICE FRONT
  3. THE RECYCLING GAME
  4. SMALL EXPECTATIONS - SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR
  5. SHOULD RBI CHECK RUPEE'S RISE?
  6. CAPITAL INFLOWS: DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD - SONAL VARMA 
  7. EXITS AND ENTRIES - VITHALC NADKARNI 

THE STATESMAN

  1. SQUEALS REVEAL
  2. FAMILY POWER 
  3. CURTAINS 
  4. THE HUNGER INDEX - BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  5. A HEAVY PRICE TO PAY FOR THIS WAR
  6. TAKE COMFORT FROM PLANTS - SUDHA PALIT 
  7. SUFI WOMEN SAINTS AND THE TALIBAN - NILEEN PUTATUNDA 

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. NITISH SITS PRETTY AS BIHAR GOES TO POLLS
  2. EUROPEAN ROULETTE - BY K.C. SINGH
  3. MONEY DON'T BUY YOU LOVE, OR VOTES - BY DAVID BROOKS
  4. HEZBOLLAH'S PROGRESS - BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
  5. LEARN TO BE TRULY HAPPY - BY SADHGURU
  6. JUSTICE, NOT CATHARSIS - BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

DECCAN HERALD

  1. PUNISH THE GUILTY
  2. A GOOD AUGURY
  3. FLAUNTING RICHES - BY SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. METALLIC POISON IN FOOD WE CONSUME - BY Y P GUPTA
  5. SNEAKING SNAKES - BY K RAMANATHAN

THE JERUSALEM  POST

  1. NO CONTRADICTION BETWEEN 'JEWISH' AND 'DEMOCRATIC'
  2. A CONFERENCE OF OPPORTUNITY - BY STAS MISEZHNIKOV  
  3. THE LION'S DEN: ISRAEL AND CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS - BY DANIEL PIPES  

HAARETZ

  1. JUSTICE MINISTER: I'LL QUIT IF LOYALTY OATH APPLIES ONLY TO NON-JEWS - BY JONATHAN LIS
  2. DELUDED AND DECEIVED, TEL AVIVIANS REJOICED - BY GIDEON LEVY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. IRAQ'S STALEMATE
  2. DEBATABLE CANDIDATES
  3. NAGOYA HAS TO DO BETTER
  4. THEIR DEBT IS PAID
  5. MAKING IGNORANCE CHIC - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  6. JUST KNOCK IT OFF - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  7. GET TOUGH ON PAKISTAN - BY ZALMAY KHALILZAD

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON MARIJUANA: IF CALIFORNIA GOES TO POT, REST OF U.S. GETS DRAGGED IN
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON MARIJUANA: 'PROHIBITION IS A DISASTER' - BY JOSEPH MCNAMARA AND STEPHEN DOWNING
  3. IN U.S. POLITICS, ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL - BY ROSS K. BAKER
  4. IN OUR SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD, IS EMPATHY DYING? - BY BREE BARTON

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. THE FDA UNDER SIEGE
  2. GOING TO COLLEGE AND PROUD OF IT
  3. MY' SHARE OF NATIONAL DEBT?
  4. ANOTHER BAD ECONOMIC SIGN
  5. IS SARAH PALIN JUST TEASING, OR ... ?
  6. NO LIMIT TO EVIL, BUT SOME AVERTED
  7. CRYSTAL 'BROKEN'

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS - STRAIGHT: KILIÇDAROĞLU ON A 'BROAD FIELD'
  2. A DIFFICULT TASK FOR THE COUNTRY! - NURAY MERT
  3. THE UNITED STATES: COUP PATRON AND TERROR SPONSOR - BURAK BEKDİL
  4. REVENGE OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY - ORHAN GAFARLI
  5. EYES QUICKLY TURN TO TURKEY - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  6. COULD YOU BE MY ULEMA? - ÖZGÜR MUMCU
  7. TENSE US-PAKISTAN TIES ECLIPSE REAL GOALS IN AFGHANISTAN - NAVEED AHMAD
  8. LETTER TO THE EDITOR - ON TURKEY AND ISRAEL - NO SURPRISE AT ALL - YUSUF KANLI

 

THE NEWS

  1. WE HAVE TO DIFFER
  2. shimKILLING FIELDS
  3. THE MIRAGE OF TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  4. TEN ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  5. WHAT STRATEGIC DIALOGUE? - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI
  6. A REGION UP FOR GRABS - SALEEM SAFI
  7. RESETTING PAK-US TIES - DR MALEEHA LODHI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. MPS IN FACT SHOULD BE ROLE MODEL
  2. MALIK DOES SOME FIRE-FIGHTING IN KARACHI
  3. LET EP DELEGATION VISIT IHK
  4. MISPLACED OUTBREAKS OF OPTIMISM - KHALID SALEEM
  5. WILL OBAMA TELL INDIA TO END HINDUTVA TERROR? - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  6. MUCH ADO ABOUT PRESIDENT'S IMMUNITY - DR S M RAHMAN
  7. MUSHARRAF'S DALLAS VISIT - SAEED QURESHI
  8. WE WORSHIP GOD OF SECURITY - HENRY G BRINTON

 

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. ANOTHER INDICTMENT OF NEGLECT
  2. MR ABBOTT IS MAKING MISCHIEF
  3. LABOR IS CREATING ITS OWN CRISIS IN REFUGEE POLICY

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. NO RISK WE WILL LEAD THE WORLD
  2. A FRANCE OUT OF GAS
  3. ASYLUM SEEKERS AT MERCY OF POLITICAL WINDS
  4. WHAT THE INTERVENTION HASN'T DONE

 

THE GUARDIAN

  1. BIODIVERSITY: VARIETY AS THE SPICE OF LIFE
  2. DEFENCE AND SECURITY REVIEW: GROPING FOR A STRATEGY
  3. IN PRAISE OF … MAPPING THE NATION

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MORE NUCLEAR POWER SNAGS
  2. JAPAN'S POVERTY PROBLEM
  3. U.S. IS NO ROLE MODEL FOR PROSECUTOR REFORM - BY DAVID T. JOHNSON
  4. THE PARADOX OF BLINKING - BY KISHORE MAHBUBANI
  5. A FRUGAL SUPERPOWER'S RULES - BY MICHAEL MANDELBAUM

 

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. ONE YEAR ON, THE THRILL IS GONE
  2. TOP ISSUE: MANAGING CAPITAL FLOOD - JUDA AGUNG
  3. CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS HEALTH IN INDONESIA - TOMMY DHARMAWAN
  4. INDONESIAN ECONOMY WITH A US$3,000 PER CAPITA GDP - CYRILLUS HARINOWO HADIWERDOYO

 

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. SUPPORTING TERRORIST VALUES - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. SOBYANIN WILL BRING GROWTH AND INTEGRITY - BY OLEG MITVOL
  3. WHY PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF NUCLEAR POWER - BY DAVID ROPEIK 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

GREEN EVANGELISM

WE NEED FORESTS AND FACTORIES TOO


After the Vedanta alumina mining and smelting project, it is the turn of the proposed $ 12 billion Posco integrated steel plant, which was to have included a captive port, in Odisha to fall foul of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. In January, the Ministry had asked the Odisha Government not to hand over any forest land for the Posco project. Thereafter, in August all work was suspended on the Ministry's instructions. Meanwhile, a four-member team of experts was set up to look into allegations of non-compliance with the Forest Rights Act, the Environment Protection Act and the Coastal Regulation Zone Act. The team has now submitted its report — three of the members have recommended that all sanctions and clearances given to Posco in 2007 should be cancelled, which in effect would mean scrapping the project altogether; the fourth member, a former Secretary of the Ministry, has suggested that Posco be asked to submit a fresh environment impact assessment report without withdrawing the approvals already given. Given the Ministry's record ever since Mr Jairam Ramesh took charge as Minister, it is more than likely that the majority view of the experts' team will prevail. In any event, uncertainty now looms large over the setting up of the Posco plant, which was supposed to produce 12 million tonnes of steel every year. Nearly five years after Odisha — and India — celebrated the single largest foreign investment in the country, holding out promise of jobs and development in the poverty-stricken State, the South Korean steel giant could well decide to cut its losses and leave; it has already suffered huge expenses in trying to get the project off the ground with little success by way of land acquisition.

While it is nobody's case that big industrial and development projects should be allowed access to natural resources and land without ensuring the protection of the environment and preventing the plunder of forests, it is equally necessary to guard against green evangelism that militates against industrialisation and infrastructure creation. An elaborate exercise was undertaken to assess the impact of the Posco project on the environment and subsequently clearances were given under the Environment Protection Act and the Coastal Regulation Zone Act in 2007; the approval for use of forest land came in 2009. Of the 1,620.49 hectares land needed for the project, 1,253.22 hectares are designated forest land. The project would have adversely impacted eight villages; Posco had agreed to compensate the villagers. The experts' team, in its wisdom, has now come to the conclusion that the approvals were given in a 'farcical' manner and hence should be cancelled. If indeed due diligence was not applied, then those guilty should be punished. But it increasingly appears that the Ministry is using concern for the environment as subterfuge to pursue an anti-development agenda that flies in the face of the UPA's pro-development policies. And its actions are perceived to be tainted by partisan politics. Forests are important, so are factories. A pragmatic course would be far more preferable than the fundamentalism of experts who take an absolutist position. It's time the Prime Minister stepped in and rescued development from the clutches of jholawallahs.

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

INTELLECTUALLY DAFT

WHY ELSE WOULD SENA WANT BOOKS BANNED?


The Shiv Sena has lived up to its reputation by forcing Mumbai University to drop Rohinton Mistry's critically acclaimed book, Such A Long Journey, from its syllabus. If that's a shame, then it's a pity that the university's Vice-Chancellor, instead of standing up to the Sena's strong-arm tactics, complied with the demand without so much as a whimper of protest. Apparently, the Sena is incensed by what it believes to be offensive remarks against the organisation in the book and hence considers it unworthy of being included in the university syllabus. That's an absurd proposition, not the least because Mistry's finely crafted book has been in circulation for many years and more people have read it than would students of Mumbai University where it has been part of the syllabus for close to a decade. The absurdity is further underscored by the Sena's assertion that it has nothing against the book per se but is opposed to its mandatory reading! By the same yardstick, political parties and religious groups across India may find most books contain something or the other they do not agree with or feel upset about and hence are not fit for inclusion in university syllabi. And if each one of them was to have its way, then universities would soon have to struggle with keeping courses alive for dearth of reading material. Will we now witness those who subscribe to creationism demanding that Darwinism not be taught? Or, will those opposed to Marxism insist that Karl Marx and all Marxist writers be banished from the groves of academy? Such thuggery is antithetical to not only freedom of thought and speech, but also strikes at the root of academic freedom. The Sena's demand should have been resisted and the Sainiks should have been dared. Instead, a gutless Vice-Chancellor caved in and an opportunist Chief Minister, not wanting to be seen on the wrong side, has failed to take on the hoodlums. Worse, he has said those who cleared the book in the first place should be hauled up. It does not require imagination to figure out whether he has read Mistry's book. But then again, he has kept alive the Congress's tradition of banning books and films perceived to be 'offensive', never mind the fact that this mocks at the party's claim to liberalism. 


Hence, it is not surprising that the Congress-led Government in Maharashtra has quietly acquiesced in this suppression of academic freedom. Just as it did not come as a surprise when the same Government refused to lift the ban on James Laine's book, Shivaji — Hindu King in Muslim India, after the Supreme Court refused to endorse its proscription, also at the behest of the Sena. It is one of the oddities about the democracy in which we live that books are proscribed and films banned on the most specious grounds. At times, the motivation is no more than vote-bank politics, as was the case with India becoming the first country to proscribe Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. On other occasions, it is sheer cussedness. For all our claims to tolerance, perhaps we are not really that tolerant a nation.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TERROR OUT OF AFRICA

FRANCE AND OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES FACE A SERIOUS THREAT FROM AL QAEDA BASED IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB. THIS CALLS FOR COORDINATED ACTION

CLAUDE ARPI


The visit to India of Mr Jean-David Levitte, the 'sherpa' of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during the second week of October was hardly noticed. Monsieur Levitte is a very powerful man. In France, each and every file dealing with foreign affairs, terrorism and security lands on his desk. Recently, some voices were even heard in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that he was the de facto Foreign Minister and Mr Bernard Kouchner was only there for the show. Mr Levitte also acts as the unofficial National Security Adviser. 


His visit to India was to prepare for the visit of Mr Sarkozy, who will be in New Delhi early-December — soon after the visits of US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. He also briefed the Government of India about the serious terror threats faced by France (Paris has today several hostages in the hands of terrorist outfits in the Sahel region, Somalia and Afghanistan).


A few weeks ago, the world media widely discussed a Mumbai-type terrorist attack being planned in Pakistan against Britain, France and Germany. Though the plans were said to be at an advanced stage, it was fortunately foiled by European intelligence services. The BBC, nevertheless, called it "the most serious project planned by Al Qaeda in recent years".


On September 16, terrorists struck a blow to France in the far-away African state of Niger. Five French nationals and two of their African colleagues were kidnapped. Two of the French nationals were employed by the French nuclear energy firm Areva (which will soon operate two plants in Maharashtra) and the other three by French construction company Vinci. All five kidnapped French nationals were working at a uranium mining site in north Niger at a place called Arlit. Areva gets more than 40 per cent of its uranium supply from its mines in Niger, which incidentally is the world's sixth largest producer of the radioactive heavy metal.


Already worried by the possibility of a terrorist attack on French territory, authorities in France immediately suspected the Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb, referred to by its acronym AQIM and previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (known by its French initials GSPC). For years, this Islamist militia has dreamt of overthrowing the Algerian Government and instituting an Islamic state. But following a heavy crackdown by Algiers after 2003, splinter groups took refuge in the Tuareg regions of northern Mali and Niger.


In September 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's Number Two leader, announced a "blessed union" between the groups and declared France as the enemy. The group is led by Abu Musab Abdel Wadud, the Bin Laden of the Maghreb who is accused of killing a British hostage last year and a 78-year-old Frenchman, Michel Germaneau, in July 2010 (whose body has not been recovered so far). 


The Spanish Government is said to have recently paid millions of Euros to secure the release of two of its citizens captured by AQIM in Mauritania. The AQIM's main objective is clearly to attack French, Spanish and Algerian assets and personnel in the region. 


Though Areva had engaged some private security agencies to protect its sites, it appears that the guards were unarmed and forced to leave the job to the Nigerian Army. According to an agreement with the Government in Niamey, 350 armed troops were to defend the site. 

Soon after the kidnapping, the blame game started with the French company accusing the Nigerian authorities (apparently some 'insiders' helped the terrorists reach the spot and whisk the hostages away), while Mr Idi Ango Omar, the Nigerian Home Minister, declared that it was Areva's responsibility to protect its own personnel. The Minister also criticised the French company for using former Tuareg rebels to protect its interests.

Later, rumours circulated that the hostages had been taken to nearby Mali, forcing Paris to evacuate its nationals from the Saharan State. While Mr Luc Chatel, spokesperson of the Government, said that "France will do everything to free its hostages", he refused to answer whether Paris was contemplating a 'military operation'. 

A few days later, the AQIM officially claimed the abduction of the five French nationals, announcing: "We claim responsibility for this blessed operation and tell the French Government that the mujahideen will inform it with their legitimate demands at a later time."


In a voice message heard on Al Jazeera channel, AQIM spokesman Salah Abi Mohammed added: "We also warn (the French Government) against any sort of stupidity." He was referring to the possibility of a military operation. "Following the promise of our amir, Abu Mussab, a group of heroic mujahideen, under the command of Sheikh Abu Zeid, succeeded in penetrating the French mining site at Arlit in Niger," he added.


According to a specialised blog (Secret Defence) run by the French daily newspaper Liberation, the Special Operation Command has already sent a few hundred troops to Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso's capital, to prepare for a military operation to eventually free the hostages.


Ouagadougou is perfectly located, south of the desert of Mali and Niger. This force would have at its disposal about 10 Transall C-160 or Hercules C-130 aircraft for 'tactical transportation', as well as two helicopters. Long-range Breguet Atlantique aircraft and a Mirage jet equipped with sophisticated monitoring equipment are also said to have been despatched to Niger. The French intelligence agencies seem to have been able to track the terrorists and their hostages: They were heading towards Mali.


Meanwhile, Al Arabiya TV announced that the AQIM wanted France to repeal the ban on the burqa in public places and seven million Euros to free the hostages. The television channel quoted unnamed French sources as saying, "The abductors have unrealistic demands which Mali and France could not accept." Officially, Paris has remained silent, saying that it has not received any demands from the AQIM, though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that "no credit should be given to these rumours".


In any case, Paris faces a serious dilemma: If it pays ransom, it will set a dangerous precedent (the Spanish did this a few months ago). It can only encourage the terrorists to do it again and it will upset the Algerians who are battling hard against the terrorist outfits. If Paris decides to opt for a military operation, it will risk seeing the hostages killed, like in the case of Germaneau. There is no easy solution.All this may seem far away from New Delhi, it is however symptomatic of terrorists spreading their tentacles to new continents, a fact India can only be worried about. Interestingly, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, relieved from the incident-free Commonwealth Games, will soon visit France to discuss terrorism and other matters of common interest with Mr Sarkozy's Government. After Mr Levitte's visit, it will be an important trip considering that both nations are suffering from the same plague.

Some years ago, France and India decided to jointly address the terrorist threat; an India-France Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism was formed with the objective to strengthen 'operational contacts' in the face of common threats. With the Red Alert on in France and India, a lot can be shared by the two nations.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BRING THE WRONGDOERS TO BOOK

COMPARATIVE STUDIES IN STANDARDS OF HYGIENE ARE A WASTE OF TIME. IT'S IMMATERIAL WHO IS CLEANER THAN WHOM. WHAT SHOULD BOTHER US IS THE SQUANDERING AWAY OF CRORES OF RUPEES ON A BADLY-PLANNED COMMONWEALTH GAMES AND THE NEGATIVE PUBLICITY ABROAD. FINANCIAL MISDEMEANOUR MUST BE DEALT WITH STRONGLY AS IT IS A VIOLATION OF PUBLIC TRUST 

RAJIV DOGRA


Now that the fun and Games are over, let's get serious. A few days before the start of the Commonwealth Games, one of its functionaries made a comment, probably nose held, which catapulted him to instant international recognition. What he said was philosophically original: "Standards of hygiene differed from one person to the other and what one thought was clean may not appear that clean to the other."


Had it been France, he may have been called a new age visionary; someone who had swept in a new standard of smell and hygiene. He may even have been made a fellow of their most prestigious academies for triggering a radically new trend. Unfortunately for him he is no French man. As an Indian official he has to contend with the local reaction and a nosey media. 


Predictably an emotionally charged India felt slighted; the entire country termed him insensitive and worse. The international media latched on to his profundity on hygiene to take us to the cleaners. So intense and so humiliating were the comments in the foreign media that Salman Rushdie felt compelled to declare, "It has been a great humiliation for all of us." He went on to add, "That official who claimed that we in India have lower standards of hygiene, he should be spanked very seriously." 


It is not known whether the Government has since acted on Rushdie's advice. It is however quite possible that it may have done something of the kind because sometimes our Government acts in secret and inscrutable ways, so even if it had severely spanked that official we may never get to know about it.


On the other hand it is also possible that it may differ with Rushdie, and find itself in full agreement with that official. After all what he said boils down essentially to perceptions and practices; one individual's pudding could be a diabetic's poison.


There was a time, not so long back, in fact right up to the 1940s, when the Scandinavian countries were relatively poor; a bath then was considered a luxury. A family considered itself lucky if it could afford a bath once a week, the water heating bill being an avoidable burden on the purse. So the Sunday bath was greatly looked forward to, and the entire family would take turns to have the dip in the same warm water-filled tub. Since then times have changed, as have the Scandinavian financial circumstances and their sense of hygiene. Being clean is no longer finance driven; it is purely a matter of choice now.


If we look back further in time then the diaries of the 17th century French traveller Francois Bernier reveal some more interesting facts from those parts of the world. A courtier of Shahjahan named Danishmand Khan tells Bernier, "Listen, Francois, to this report of the Ambassador of Andalus who had travelled to a Scandinavian country. The Ambassador says, 'The Vikings are the filthiest race god has ever created. They do not wipe themselves after going to stool, nor wash themselves any more than if they were wild asses'."


Bernier also compares Delhi of those times to Paris and writes, "Delhi scores over Paris in the relative cleanliness of its streets, which are swept everyday by an army of sweepers. Although their brooms, made from a bunch of thin twigs bound at one end by a length of twine, raise a good deal of dust, it is undeniable that they keep Delhi free of boue, the stinking sewage that is spread over the streets of Paris. In Paris people have to walk on the street with a bouquet of flowers pressed against the nose or with a perfumed handkerchief to ward off the disgusting odours."


Therefore that official, whom Rushdie wants severely spanked, may not have been entirely incorrect when he maintained that the standards of hygiene vary from person to person. It is quite possible that he may have said it with his tongue firmly in the cheek; to remind everyone of our superior hygienic record in historical terms. Perhaps he had also taken into account recent reports from the Western world. In some European countries there is a prohibition against pulling the flush after 11 pm. It is said that the noise pollution of the running flush disturbs other residents of a multi-storied block. Therefore if you have to use the toilet there, be prepared to live with the resultant stink through the night.


So that official was no ignoramus. He was probably being profoundly philosophical at one level and pragmatically practical at another plane when he gave a Marxist fervour to the entire hullaballoo about hygiene by stating what essentially amounts to that famous quote: From each according to his means and to each according to his needs. In plain language it means that hygiene cannot have a universal standard; exactly the point which that official was making. It is, therefore, difficult to subscribe to Rushdie's view that this official should be severely spanked.


Let us also give him the benefit of the doubt. Let's sniff and examine the substance of his argument. Perhaps he is prophesying that the West, with recession and economic decline staring it in the face, may revert to hygiene-less days of the 16th and 17th centuries when they dumped their waste in the open, and could barely afford a bath. If that was his hidden message then it is better that it remains hidden, because it is highly unlikely that the West will fall on really bad days any time soon.


But should it really bother us as to what happens to the West, or for that matter to anyone else in the world? What we should really be concerned about is the way we live our life; our objectives should be the highest standards of public probity and raising the people's standard of living. Values, rather than the stench of corruption, ought to pervade our body-politic. 


People at large couldn't be bothered if the rest of the world stinks. What worries them are the reports of scandalous profligacy; of `70,000 crore wasted here and another many thousand crores not realised in a 2G spectrum sale. It is this violation of public trust that concerns people. 


At a time when we should be concentrating on economic development, we are squandering precious resources on ill-conceived schemes and badly-planned Commonwealth Games. 


There will be a time for that too, but this is not the time to fritter away our nascent resources. Our priority should simply be to set our house in order first. Such a list would include the obvious; a world class infrastructure of rail, roads and airports throughout the country, the supply of clean drinking water and ensuring failure free electricity at the flick of a switch. Sadly, we are light years away from getting anywhere near to achieving any of these goals. 


In the meanwhile we can take a humane view of that official's trespass. What he said had undoubtedly resulted in colossally bad publicity for the country, but essentially it was an ignorant and ill-judged comment. Therefore, let's not waste our energies in spanking him as Rushdie has suggested. 


But that same forgive and forget attitude should not apply to acts of financial misdemeanour, because that is a violation of a sacred trust. In such cases the state has a responsibility to act and to hold the erring to account; otherwise it will be open licence to the future wrongdoers. While we are at it let's also ensure that our standards of moral, as opposed to the merely physical, hygiene are second to none in the world.


--The writer is a former Ambassador. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

HISTORY BEING REPEATED IN KASHMIR VALLEY

THE SOLUTION TO THE SEPARATIST VIOLENCE DOES NOT LIE IN DILUTING AFSPA AS THAT WOULD HOBBLE THE ARMED FORCES, SAYS BD MISHRA

 

Sixty-three years after the attack of Pakistani tribesmen and troops on Kashmir in 1947, the Valley is once again on fire, albeit this time it is closure to the brink than it was in 1947. For the past five months, violent demonstrations, massive stone-pelting at the security forces and open secessionist activities, egged on by the Pakistani agents and local separatist leaders, have brought the normal life in the Valley to a grinding halt. As the events have it, the ruling dynasties in Srinagar and New Delhi are the same as they were in 1947. The Abdullahs are in office in Srinagar, while the Nehru-Gandhi family wield power in New Delhi. The present Chief Minister of Kashmir, Mr Omar Abdullah, and the chairperson of the ruling United Progessive Alliance in Delhi, Ms Sonia Gandhi, are the third generation of their respective dynasties. The unfortunate coincidence is that they hold the same age-old views on the solution to the Kashmir problem as their dynasties did in 1948-1949. Both are insensitive to the morale and the élan of the Army in Jammu & Kashmir.


This time, the crisis has occurred due to Mr Abdullah's political failures. To cover up his track, he has thrown up a very strange issue. He blames the Armed Forces Special Power Act for all the ills in Kashmir Valley today. He wants AFSPA to be removed at all cost. But the removal of AFSPA, to say the least, will hobble the Army in Kashmir and discredit the Forces for military incompetence and defeat. Other States of the Union may follow suit. 

The AFSPA, in broad terms, provides power to the Armed Forces personnel down to the rank of senior non-commissioned officers to act on their own judgement against terrorists, subversive elements and insurgents without having to take permission from a magistrate for search, arrest or to open fire to deal with grave and hostile tactical situations. This power has been given to the Armed Forces by the Government after serious deliberations and in agreement with the State Governments. The AFSPA is promulgated in extremely volatile law and order breakdown conditions. It is imposed in an area to deal with subversive elements who make use of the prevailing confusion and exploit the helplessness of the local population. In such situations, there is no reaction time with the Armed Forces to follow the long, winding procedures of going to the magistrate and getting his permission. Such procedures will be a calamity in an armed conflict where the troops have to take split second decisions. In such circumstances, the winner is the side that acts fast and first. So, the removal of AFSPA will be tantamount to tying the hands of the soldiers behind their back and then asking them to fight an outlaw. 

The political situation in Jammu & Kashmir is extremely complex and far more sensitive than any other State in India. It is so due to its terrain, demography, history and proximity with Pakistan. The sinister designs of Pakistan against India, which date back to August 14, 1947, the day Pakistan became independent, is a very important factor to the issue. The past events in run-up to the present situation in the Kashmir Valley are revealing. In 1947, when Pakistanis attacked India, the Indian Army was sent to Jammu & Kashmir by the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to save the Valley from being overrun. It was a touch and go situation. The Pakistani kabayalis had already decimated the Border Posts of Maharaja Hari Singh's militia that was ill-equipped to check the onslaught. The raiders advanced into the Valley, committing heinous crimes against women and defenceless civilians, and reached the outskirts of Srinagar. It was under extremely compelling and adverse military situation that the then Brigadier (later Lt General) LP Sen was ordered to ferry across his hastily mustered force in archaic Dakota planes across the Banihal hills.


The safety of the Valley was hanging in balance when Brigadier LP Sen reached the Srinagar air field. He had an ad hoc force of a handful of soldiers, but they succeeded in containing the raiders and throwing them back despite their vast numerical superiority. The Indian Army thus wrote a new saga of patriotism, bravery and sacrifices beyond the call of duty. 


What followed thereafter is the root cause of all troubles in Jammu & Kashmir. In 1948, the Indian Army had reached Uri and the last town of Maharaja Hari Singh's Kashmir, Muzaffarabad was well within their reach. They had to just roll down the high hills they had captured. Grotesquely, when the Pakistanis were retreating after being thrashed by the Indian Army, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ordered the forces to stop the hot pursuit of the Pakistani kabayalis and regular troops. It is intriguing as to why Nehru, so intently, overruled the highly patriotic and extremely competent Army Generals who were prosecuting the war to retake the Kashmir territory from the invading Pakistanis. Jawaharlal Nehru did another strange thing. He took the matter of Kashmir to the United Nations and sealed the fate of peace in Jammu & Kashmir forever.

Let us not make the same mistakes again. Let us not put the Armed Forces to a disadvantage by divesting them of AFSPA in the Kashmir Valley.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF KHRUSHCHEV'S DIPLOMACY

THE SOVIET LEADER IS THE ORIGINAL SHOE-HURLER WHO UNDERSTOOD SHOE POWER AND USED IT TO THUNDERING EFFECT, WRITES NIKOLAI TROITSKY 


Last week marked 50 years since a shoe was first used as a tool of diplomacy, when the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on a desk during a session of the UN General Assembly in New York. 


By 1960, many former colonies had gained independence, and this was the focus of this memorable UN session attended by the leaders of many countries. Khrushchev naturally gave a fiery anti-colonial speech. A representative of the Philippines, which was both a Spanish and US colony, took the floor after Khrushchev and committed an unforgivable gaffe in the minds of the Soviet delegation when he said: "It is our view that the declaration proposed by the Soviet Union should cover the inalienable right to independence not only of the peoples and territories still under the rule of Western colonial powers, but also of the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere, which have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights and which have been swallowed up, so to speak, by the Soviet Union."


Khrushchev was outraged by this affront, and he gave vent to his emotions. He banged his fist on the desk before using his shoe. The most amusing aspect of the whole affair was that the straitlaced Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko also had to take off his shoe and follow his boss's example. 


Kuzka's mother as a secret weapon: This episode acquired all the characteristics of a legend, including multiple interpretations. Khrushchev's son Sergei maintained that his father banged his shoe to attract attention. However, it is more likely that the hot-headed Soviet leader acted on a whim, trying to regain the floor at any cost. Khrushchev's impulsive style on the international stage can hardly be called diplomatic.


Many of the expressions he used in his official speeches were also far from diplomatic. Unlike all other Soviet leaders, he almost never read from a prepared text. He was a gifted speaker, but he did not shy away from coarse language to express himself. 


Khrushchev called the Filipino representative who prompted his famous outburst a "lackey" (translators spent a long time looking for the adequate English term). On another occasion, he told then Vice-President Richard Nixon, who was in Moscow for a visit, that "the American proposals reek of horse manure". He famously told Western diplomats, "We will bury you!" Once he promised to show the US "Kuzka's mother". In Russian, this expression means to "punish someone" but his interpreter gave a literal translation. The Americans thought that "Kuzka's mother" was the code name for some secret weapon. When asked about the Soviet suppression of the uprising in Hungary during his trip to the US, Khrushchev said that "the Hungarian issue is stuck in some people's throats like a dead rat — they are disgusted but they can't spit it out."


There are many stories like this from his career, but a person's shortcomings are usually just an extension of his positive qualities, and this applies to statesmen as well. Today, Khrushchev is too often unfairly depicted as a buffoon. He was a complex person, filled with blatant contradictions, as Lenin said about Leo Tolstoy. 


As the last faithful Communist in the top Soviet position, Khrushchev sincerely believed in the ultimate triumph of Communism all over the world. He was convinced that Communism would "bury" capitalism and the Soviet Union would "catch up and surpass America". He truly believed that "the current generation of the Soviet people will live under Communism". And with his characteristic passion and candor, he let the "capitalist-imperialists" know it.

That being said, Khrushchev was equally sincere in his desire for peaceful coexistence with the "capitalist-imperialists". He did his best to forge respectful if not friendly relationships with Western leaders, and he took offence when Presidents or Prime Ministers did not take his outstretched hand. His personality was a strange combination of naiveté and a peasant's shrewdness, which sometimes bordered on wisdom and sometimes on stupidity. 

The battle for the Third World: The shoe incident at the United Nations pales in comparison with Khrushchev's other, much more serious foreign policy adventures. Despite his zealous faith in the ultimate triumph of Communism, he did not expect countries like the US and Britain to go Communist in the foreseeable future. So he focussed his attention on Third World countries, which he helped move towards "the socialist road of development". 

Not all the leaders in the Soviet camp truly followed this road. Cuba's Mr Fidel Castro was more like the exception that proves the rule. Many heads of former colonies remained ideologically uncommitted, while others resorted to impudent bluffing, or accumulated personal power, all the while gladly accepting Soviet economic aid and weapons. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a classic example of this type of leader, and yet he was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. 


Khrushchev's proactive policies in the Third World greatly irritated Western leaders. They did not want to lose their influence in their former colonies, which occupied important strategic positions and abounded in mineral resources. This was the underlying cause of the Cold War, which soon extended all over the world and at times escalated into hot and bloody conflicts. But the blood is on Khrushchev's hands. Stalin took no interest in the Third World and had no plans for a global revolution. He was quite content with the post-war Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and Asia. 


Bluffing and blackmail: But this was not all. Khrushchev was personally responsible for another, much more dangerous trend in world politics. With breathtaking recklessness, Khrushchev constantly bluffed to the West, exaggerating the Soviet Union's nuclear potential and military capabilities. Moreover, he used the nuclear threat to deliberately blackmail America and Western Europe. Some incidents are truly incomprehensible. Khrushchev took a liking to Sen. Hubert Humphrey during his visit to Moscow. Khrushchev asked him what city he was from. When the senator responded that he was from Minneapolis, Khrushchev drew a red circle around Minneapolis on a map and said to his stunned guest: "So that I don't forget that this city should be spared when our missiles are launched." 


People from Khrushchev's inner circle said that he was not really planning to go to war. However, he constantly played with fire, and his gambling led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the brink of a nuclear war. In the end, Khrushchev had enough common sense to back down, but the crisis could have been avoided altogether. But then Khrushchev would not have been Khrushchev. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TIME FOR A RESET

 

When it comes to diplomatic engagement, symbolism is a potent tool. From making his upcoming India visit currently slated for November 6 to 8 his longest trip to any country as head of state, reflecting his estimation of the India-US relationship's importance, to staying at Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel in a show of solidarity with the victims of terrorism, US President Barack Obama seems to be ticking all the boxes there. But it will take more than symbolism to impart momentum to a relationship that has shown some signs of meandering of late. 

Strengthening economic ties must be at the top of the list of outstanding issues that will have to be addressed to make this trip a success. IT industry leaders' and New Delhi's wariness of Obama's stance on outsourcing follows the double whammy of raising HI-B and L1 visa fees for foreign companies potentially costing the IT industry $200 million annually and Obama's push to end tax breaks to companies that outsource. These are concerns that Obama will have to allay on this visit. And 
New Delhi must reciprocate by raising foreign investment caps in sectors such as defence and tightening its intellectual property regime. The potential for trade between the two countries it has doubled from 2005 to 2009 is too large to let these barriers come in the way. 

The planned Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries on shale gas could be another major achievement. Acquiring technology and investment from the US to exploit shale gas assets would significantly boost India's energy security. When it comes to transfer of technology, another irritant the strict controls imposed on India acquiring US dual-use technology is bound to come up. With the civil nuclear deal out of the way and India a strategic partner of the US, New Delhi should be upgraded to a level comparable to Washington's European partners when it comes to ease of high-technology imports. 


If these issues are not addressed and at least some of them resolved satisfactorily, the impact of Obama's visit will be symbolic rather than substantive. Along with these, both sides should reaffirm and strengthen the overarching architecture of their relationship. New Delhi must carefully consider how best to take a responsible position in international organisations commensurate with its global profile while also tending to national interest. Washington can buttress that position with support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for India. It has been a decade since the new relationship between the two countries was forged. It is now time to take it forward. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

GIRL, INTERRUPTED

 

They might have won laurels for the nation in the Commonwealth Games, but girls in Haryana continue to be out of favour. The state sex ratio in the 0-6 years age group has hit a five-year low of 834 girls for 1,000 boys. Traditionally a patriarchal society, the gender skew in Haryana can be attributed to a strong preference for the male child. What is alarming is despite several government schemes addressing female foeticide, the imbalance seems to have got worse. Advances in medical science have compounded the problem, facilitating early sex-selective abortion. Although laws against sex determination exist, their implementation has been rendered ineffective due to an unholy nexus between clients, clinics and law enforcement officials. 


Haryana may have one of the worst sex ratios in the country, but it is certainly not the only state grappling with the menace of female foeticide. Several socio-cultural factors such as landholding patterns, inheritance norms and dowry have tilted the scales against the girl child. A multi-pronged strategy is the need of the hour. Inspiration can be drawn from Tamil Nadu where policies such as free education for the girl child and other forms of government support have helped the state post one of the healthiest sex ratios in the country. The Ladli scheme of the Delhi government, which seeks to provide financial support to girls of poor families, is another positive move. Efforts should also be made to rope in community leaders. The role being played by gurudwaras in Punjab in campaigning against female foeticide is a good example. Economic empowerment of women combined with cultural and community initiatives are the answer to society's disastrous gender skew. 


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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

A TALE OF TWO SCANDALS

SHALINI SINGH

 

It is almost too good to be true. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears to be delivering on a promise made in August that those guilty of corruption in the Commonwealth Games projects will be handed out severe and exemplary punishment. A probe panel has been directed to submit a report in three months, and Organising Committee (OC) chief Suresh Kalmadi has been snubbed by the PM and Congress president Sonia Gandhi


The UPA government seems to be doing the right thing, offering a welcome palliative for a nation greatly wounded by the enormity of corruption that now threatens to destroy it. Citizens are beginning to believe in activism again, while the media, which campaigned relentlessly to bring corruption to the surface, is celebrating outright. The sweet scent of victory wafts powerfully from headlines like "PM and Sonia snub Kalmadi", "Payback time for CWG villains" and "Nail the corrupt", among others. 


Like Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, this could be the making of a larger, emerging story of great sacrifices being made for the sake of principle. But it is probably too early to celebrate considering that the government's track record in prosecuting people in high office on charges of graft is virtually zero. The UPA government's non-performance in the larger, over Rs 1 lakh crore 2G-spectrum matter is a closer, even more sobering reality. Like the Games, the 2G scam too is a high-visibility issue raised by the media. Yet, despite a similar promise of justice by the PM and multiple investigating agencies corroborating the evidence over the past year, justice is nowhere in line of sight. 


In the telecom case, like the Games matter, the CBI, CVC, CAG and Enforcement Directorate have been carrying out investigations. A year ago, the CBI registered an FIR against unknown persons in the department of telecommunications (DoT) for causing a huge loss to the public purse. Since then, there has been deathly calm. When pulled up for its inaction in the Supreme Court just a fortnight ago, the CBI counsel sought six months' time to investigate further in India and overseas. 


Since the CAG is making strides in the probe, telecom minister A Raja appears to be attempting to block the inquiry by floating an argument that a "policy decision" is above scrutiny. A PIL has been filed in the SC to ensure the CAG investigation is not derailed and reaches its logical conclusion. 


The Games scam appears far tougher to nail. Unlike the spectrum scam, where just the DoT is under the scanner, the Games investigation brings multiple agencies including PWD, CPWD, NDMC, DDA, the Delhi administration, the lieutenant governor's (LG) office and the OC under the lens. Second, if in the wrong, Kalmadi could not have acted on his own. This would lead the paper trail to senior IAS officers outside the OC, Sheila Dikshit, sports minister M S Gill, LG Tejendra Khanna and other political leaders in the Congress who are already busy blaming each other. Third, unlike the spectrum scam, which involved DoT dealing with five to six licensees, the Games scam involves roughly eight agencies giving out hundreds of contracts and tenders in India and abroad. 


The Games money trail is leading to international locations, offering a legitimate reason to seek an extension of the government's self-imposed three-month deadline. The Ayodhya matter and misappropriation of funds from the 1982 Asiad Games prove that, historically, multiple extensions following the first one are the norm for most such investigations. 


But the most important reason why this investigation has very little chance of succeeding is because it seems to implicate the Congress. Who is Kalmadi? A member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on a Congress ticket since 1982. He has been a Youth Congress leader from Maharashtra and minister of state for railways in the Congress government. Ditto for Gill, Dikshit, Khanna and Jaipal Reddy. The heavyweights being linked to the Games scam are Congress stalwarts. Any chink found in their character allows the BJP and other opposition parties to tear into the Congress. It is highly unlikely that the Congress will itself facilitate this political embarrassment. 


Nailing the corrupt in the telecom matter is far easier. The entire incident took place between May 2007 and November 2008 and all seven-eight files, which were handled by a clutch of five or six DoT officials, are in the CBI's and CAG's possession. Despite clinching evidence, the perpetrators of the 2G spectrum scam continue to hold their political and bureaucratic positions, allowing them to routinely obfuscate, delay and defend their actions. 

In contrast, the Games embezzlement involves multiple authorities of varying scale in multiple time zones and a dirty trail seeming to lead to loyal Congressmen. That's why expectations of quick redressal by prosecuting even one of the possible accused by February 2011 can be equated to blind faith. 


These unhappy comparisons force the logical conclusion that, despite the PM's skilful window dressing, the Games investigation is equally likely to see several extensions till it fades from public memory. Or, at best, small fish will be forced to take the blame. To belie the popular belief that justice is too good for some people, and not good enough for the rest, the PM must demonstrate that this public trial of a scam is not another sham.



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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'QUALITY OF RESEARCH DEPENDS ON GLOBAL COOPERATION'

 

Mauro Dell'Ambrogio , Switzerland's secretary for education and research, recently announced in Bangalore the setting up of swissnex India, the Indian unit of a global network of science and technology outposts. It's run by the secretariat for education and research in cooperation with the federal department of foreign affairs. He spoke to Shruthi Balakrishna about the Swiss government's efforts to promote science education: 


Why did you decide to set up an outpost in India? 

India and Switzerland both see science & technology as a catalyst for change and for strengthening and expanding bilateral relations. Global challenges need to be addressed by joining forces and developing strong partnerships in research as well as other domains. There clearly exists a synergy for broadening and deepening cooperation between the two countries. Bilateral research programmes are an important means to encourage international networking, which not only leads to new partnerships, but also strengthens existing ones. 


Bangalore is a hub for information and communication technology, which is an important area of collaboration between Switzerland and India. Swissnex and the consulate general in Bangalore will be a third official representation of Switzerland in India. 


What's the objective of setting up the outpost? 

Swissnex India will provide a platform for Swiss and Indian organisations to connect, share knowledge and form partnerships in science, higher education, technology and innovation. Swissnex's mission is to set up and maintain a dense network of contacts between universities, research institutions, companies and other organisations in India and in Switzerland, as well as to support Swiss scientists. It will also support and extend the bilateral research cooperation programme between Switzerland and India. 


What are the merits of having the outpost? 

Most importantly, swissnex India connects Indian and Swiss researchers and research institutions with their counterparts or potential partner organisations in Switzerland and India. Swissnex also showcases Swiss science through specific projects, for instance, by providing prominent Swiss researchers as keynote speakers for IIT Bombay and IIT Madras techfests. Swissnex currently has a travelling exhibition on 25 outstanding scientists doing research in Switzerland. This exhibition SCIENCEsuisse is being shown in Bangalore, New Delhi and Ahmedabad. 

What are the events which swissnex organises? 

It organises specific events illustrating cutting-edge Swiss research through exhibitions, guest lectures, workshops and conferences. We also support the development of joint summer schools between universities in Switzerland and India. This year, three summer schools from Switzerland came to Bangalore and a number of Indian students participated in summer schools in Switzerland in environmental engineering, information technology and business administration. 

What is the Swiss government doing to promote science education? 

In 2010, Switzerland was ranked as the most competitive country by the World Economic Forum. The strong collaboration between academic and business sectors, combined with high company spending on research and development, ensures that much of this research is translated into marketable products. However, no country alone is able to generate the full range of knowledge and skills. Research is an international activity whose quality depends on global cooperation. The Swiss government has just adopted its international strategy for education, research and innovation, where it encourages international cooperation. 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

KASHMIR BARGAIN

JUG SURAIYA 

 

(This piece is a comment) Would you trade a concession on Kashmir for a permanent UN Security Council seat? Such a hypothetical trade-off might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. When US President Barack Obama comes to India later this year, one of the items on his agenda will be Kashmir. New Delhi's position continues to be that Kashmir is an integral part of India and that the K-word is out of bounds for any third party. However, whether New Delhi likes it or not, Kashmir has acquired international ramifications, being one of the components of Washington's so-called AfPak policy. Having announced a pullout date for Iraq, a White House increasingly embattled with a host of domestic social and economic problems would like to chalk out a withdrawal plan from Afghanistan as well. In order to do that, however, it has first to somehow induce Pakistan to be a more reliable accomplice in the US-led anti-terrorist operations. The huge sums of money doled out to Islamabad by Washington have reportedly largely been spent on a clandestine promotion of the terrorism Pakistan ostensibly has been enlisted by the US to combat. 


As cash bribes haven't done the trick with Islamabad, Obama might have to try and pull another rabbit out of his hat to seduce Pakistan into cooperation. That rabbit could well be Kashmir, which Islamabad keeps underlining as its 'core issue' vis-a-vis India. 


The five-month-long ongoing azadi agitation in Kashmir, which has claimed more than a hundred civilian lives, could be a cue for Obama to put the Valley on the table, much though this will cause New Delhi's hackles to rise. But perhaps South Block need not be so predictably prickly about the K-word. Perhaps, for once, the taboo word could be used as a bargaining chip to gain a larger objective: a permanent seat in the UN Security Council which  historically turned down in deference to China. 


Give away Kashmir? Not for all the world! And certainly not for some poxy Security Council seat which India is getting anyway from January 2011 for a two-year period. No Indian government could even think of giving away Kashmir without committing immediate political suicide, with no hope of reincarnation. But what about making some token concession on Kashmir: not azadi, not an India-Pakistan plebiscite, but a restoration of the autonomy that the state enjoyed till 1953, and which is within the framework of the Constitution? 


Such a concession would not satisfy Pakistan. But it just might be enough to nudge Washington which is very keen on selling billions of dollars worth of arms to India to throw its weight behind New Delhi's ambition of securing a permanent and not just a two-year Security Council seat. 


Of the 15-member Security Council, five are permanent members: the US, Britain, Russia, France and China. These are the big boys, the P-5, who sit at the high table. It's in New Delhi's larger interests to go all out to turn the P-5 into the P-6 by including itself in an elite group that shapes global policies. Indeed, India has been a beneficiary of the P-5's clout, with Russia formerly the USSR having consistently used its veto to keep Kashmir off the international agenda. 


Making a concession on Kashmir the restoration of pre-1953 autonomy, say is not going to mollify Islamabad, which will remain hostile to India. But if New Delhi can become the 6 in P-6, it will have gained a measure of parity with China, the biggest kid on the Asian block. Pakistan will remain a painful thorn in India's heel, no matter what. But whom should India measure itself against: the virtually failed state of Pakistan, or the economic and military giant that is China? 

If it were your choice to make, which would you choose? 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

BLACK HOLE OF OLD KING COAL

 

India is a nation that survives by burning coal. However, it is the energy sector that receives the least amount of attention and interest. Black and smoky though it may be, it produces half the energy the country consumes and is likely to fuel the economy for decades to come. But coal has been stuck in a policy rut for nearly half-a-century. There is none of the dynamism of natural gas or excitement of nuclear and other renewable energy sources. The Coal India share offering will help kickstart some badly-needed change in this vital sector. The state-owned firm, which has a virtual monopoly on coal production, will at last have to answer to owners who will be more demanding than the sleepy Ministry of Coal. The firm will also have the resources that, if used wisely, will allow it to compensate for decades of under-investment in technology and capacity.

 

However, the share offering only provides a glimmer of light in an otherwise dark economic sector. As the Kirit Parikh committee report on energy has noted, when it comes out of the ground Indian coal is among the cheapest in the world. By the time the coal reaches its customers, and has been worked over by shambolic infrastructure and poor management, it is among the costliest. New Delhi frets it will run out of coal in 40 years while boasting it has the world's third largest reserves. The truth is it doesn't know: the coal ministry depends on an obsolete 1956 geological procedure to make its calculations. Coal India is criminally wasteful. It ignores coal buried below 200 metres and focuses on the low-hanging fruit of surface-mining. Unsurprisingly then, India's coal imports have been rising dramatically. In the past two years they have doubled to 60 million tonnes. Indian private firms like the Tatas are buying coalfields in Indonesia and Africa. Coal-fired power plants complain of endemic shortages of fuel.

 

The long-term solution lies not in infusing new life into Coal India but infusing competition into the coal sector. The government has sought to encourage private activity through roundabout methods like captive mining. The Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill that would allow private competition made a brief parliamentary appearance in 2000 and has not been seen since. The sector remains without an overall regulator. India's most important energy sector is, in effect, untouched by the changes brought about the 1991 liberalisation of the economy. Share offerings are all for the good, but fishing coal out of its socialist black hole is a more pressing need.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

STRIPES AND GRIPES

 

If there is one party in India that has its priorities right, it is the Shiv Sena. While the rest are kvetching and carping about the Karnataka imbroglio and rotting foodgrain, our Sena lads have asked for a ban on the burqa. And why, you might ask. It appears that a burqa-clad woman has kidnapped a baby from a Mumbai hospital. If she had been wearing a nine-yard sari, we presume the crime would have been less heinous. Does the Sena ask why hospital security allowed a stranger access to a baby? Of course not. Such footling details are not part of the Senavision.

 

Then we have the other Sena agenda, now successfully concluded, of getting Rohinton Mistry's book Such A Long Journey banned in Bombay University. No mean feat for Aditya Thackeray, the new kid on the blockhead. Earlier too while other parties were exercised over such trivial issues like food security and electoral rigging, the Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray tore a strip off Salman Rushdie for his less than complimentary references to a person who may or may not have resembled the former cartoonist. So what next for the Sena and its espousal of the Marathi manoos? A ban on that south Indian abomination, the dosa?

 

We hope for further fun and games when the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena of the fire-breathing Raj Thackeray tries to go one better and perhaps will ask for a new Marathi uniform that could be designed by the uber manoos Bal, maybe incorporating some stripes. And we certainly expect the Sena to come up with an answer to the Commonwealth Games that Delhi has pulled off. Perhaps a Marathi marathon that Uddhav can kick off. But given the Sena's commitment to modesty and Marathi culture, the participants will have to wear Maharashtrian clothing and drink local sherbets on the way. Those who cross the finishing line before any of the Sena worthies will be, if time permits, beaten up. Or banned along with the burqa.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

PEOPLE NOT LIKE US

LALITA PANICKER

 

We certainly had them fooled. Just when the world thought that the Commonwealth Games would collapse before it began, we pulled off a spectacular show. Mani Shankar Aiyar, eat your heart out, the stadium roof did not cave in, the aerostat stayed airborne with its psychedelic messages of Incredible India. And it didn't stop there. In a Merlinesque sweep of the wand, we also managed to spirit away all our beggars, homeless, even some domestics, giving foreigners the impression that beyond the scenic view-cutters lies a global power where everything works as well as the awesome aerostat which dazzled us so.

 

But now back to reality and all those 'unwanted' people are back, panhandlers, migrant workers and domestics who were part of the great Indian vanishing trick for the duration of the Games. How lovely our city looked without all this flotsam and jetsam, many said. Yes, indeed. But would we have been able to pull off this acclaimed feat without these people who are 'not like us'?

 

Indeed, the manner in which they were treated is reminiscent of the plight of the protagonist in the famous children's book by Dr Seuss called I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew. Troubled by small indignities, the protagonist sets off to a land where 'they never have troubles/at least very few'. En route he meets a bossy companion who makes him pull his wagon towards the promised land with the priceless explanation, 'This is called teamwork, I furnish the brains/You  furnish the muscles, the aches and the pains.' Does it not remind you of the Games organisers and those who toiled in less than salubrious surroundings to make it happen?

 

But now 'these people' are back in our midst sending a frisson of distaste down our collective spines. But, are we forgetting something? How many of us see our lives collapsing that little bit when the household help takes off? How we grouse and grumble about their perfidies, quite forgetting that in Manhattan where many of us already exist aspirationally, such help cannot be had for love or money unless you happen to be a man with a dead squirrel on your head like Donald Trump. As for personal chauffeurs, you should be so lucky.

 

Yes, it would be glorious if we could ship them all off to Bawana or Muzaffarnagar where they would be out of sight when we did not need them. There they would not clutter up our space and we would not have to put up with their less than hygienic ways. But then again, not too many of us would give them the extra money they would need to commute to our homes or let them off in time to catch whatever available transport they can back to their hovels far away from our aesthetically inclined personages. We certainly would want to have our paranthas and eat them too.

 

That migrant workers will come and go from our cities is a fact and temporarily shutting them out of view is not going to help. It is simply a matter of demand and supply. Every housing colony and apartment complex is meant to have some accommodation for the economically weaker sections who serve as support staff, according to some long forgotten guidelines. But the land meant for that is taken by the better-off and sold at market rates to dalals who then put up shacks and rent them out at exorbitant rates to the people who work in our homes.

 

The government still can frame a new set of guidelines making it mandatory for any new residential development to factor in the labour it will require on a permanent basis and charge the client accordingly. This would ensure some safety for both the workers and the clients. The harebrained plan of allowing support staff to fend for themselves and then rounding them up and getting rid of them whenever it becomes inconvenient is the ultimate in apathy and cruelty. It is, in fact, a grave violation of human rights that any government can decide when you can be seen and heard and when you cannot.

 

As for the issue of beggars who are a permanent fixture in many cities, not just here but across the world, it is clear that trying to get rid of them is a losing battle. As a matter of fact, the government is actually armed with a law, the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 which makes begging an offence. It is applicable now in 18 states including Delhi. It is no one's contention that a poor person with no means of livelihood should be punished for begging to get half a square meal. But the fact that despite such a law, the government has done nothing over the years shows that it knows that this phenomenon cannot be eradicated unless it puts its mind to the task of finding gainful employment for people.

 

It has become a pattern now to allow illegal hawkers, beggars and vendors to claim patches of territory only to be unceremoniously flung out as and when the government fancies. But to deprive a person of his pitiful shelter and livelihood so that we can show the world what a spiffy capital city we have does not bathe us in the luminous light that we so desire. Many of these evictees have now come back to the hostile streets bereft of jobs, even the patch of pavement they may once have fancifully thought to be their own taken away from them.

 

Perhaps now would be a good time to come up with a solution to the problems of accommodation for migrant workers and homeless people. There are over one lakh homeless people in Delhi alone. And 12 homes in which job-seekers, vagrants and beggars are all crammed in. Needless to say, at the first opportunity they run back to the streets creating the eyesores the so offend us.

 

So now that we have proved to the world that we can pull off such a huge sporting extravaganza despite all the glitches, the same tenacity should be put to finding at least a semi-permanent solution to the very real concerns of people who live on the margins. At the very least, we owe it to their tribe for making the Games such a success with their muscles and pains and for making our daily lives that much more painless.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

OPEN UP OUR TREASURE CHESTS

SURESH NEOTIA

 

It is heartening to see that the Ministry of Culture, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and administered by Secretary Jawahar Sircar, is actively considering amending the 1972 Act on Antiquities. Few laws have borne such bitter fruit as the Indian Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972, ushering in a Dark Age for the heritage it sought to protect. What prompted the then Government to enact this legislation was to prevent smuggling and help develop public interest in our heritage. The time has come honestly to appraise its effects.

 

The Act has destroyed legitimate domestic trade in antiquities, thereby making smuggling an attractive option. Its onerous provisions for registration (requires registering of objects more than 100 years old, 75 years in the case of textiles, with details of the purchaser, seller, price, origin of the piece along with photo documentation) and licensing have made antiquities a no-go area, to the extent that even scholarship and research into our heritage has gone into sharp decline. The chickens are now coming home to roost. The Government cannot find scholars of repute to head its museums and their specialised departments. More than 50 per cent of all our public museums (including the National Museum), home to the bulk of the nation's artistic patrimony, are headless.

 

Art and art scholarship depend on patronage and a lively market place. It requires a network of collectors, dealers and scholars to authenticate individual pieces, guide collectors and educate the public. The Act destroyed this network, the complexities of registration and possibility of prosecution deterring collectors. No collection of any significance has been formed since 1972, in sharp contrast to the numerous collections between 1947 and 1972. The licensing of dealers and the requirement of a detailed inventory for each object drove the trade underground. I am told there are only two dealers who ever took a licence.

 

The study of antiquities also withered. The story of the two auction houses which attempted to revive domestic trade in Indian antiques is well-known.  Sotheby's in 1992 and Bowring's in 2004 were auctioning registered pieces. The CBI and Archaeological Survey of India hounded them, forcing them to close shop. Bowring's case is still under adjudication after it won in the High Court but the ASI chose to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

 

The Antiquities Act was flawed in its scope and ambition. No distinction is made between humble art objects and works of art of high value. In the event, only a small proportion of the total was actually registered. The registration papers are scattered all over the country, often misplaced, requiring owners to re-register their collections.

 

The Indian contemporary art scene is fuelled by the new rich. Galleries, curators and auctions have mushroomed while prices have been benchmarked. The trading value of contemporary art runs into thousands of crores. There is, however, no means of evaluating the price of an Indian antique.

 

China, which destroyed its own priceless heritage during Mao's Cultural Revolution, has realised the importance of its inheritance. We, who are envious of its economic track record, should be equally so of what it is doing to protect its heritage. Its museums are now world-class. Though it has a ban on antique exports, China has opened up its domestic market. Chinese antiques are being sold to China's new rich at prices higher than in Western salerooms. Foreigners owning valuable Chinese artworks are increasingly selling these through Chinese auction houses. India's new rich, like their Chinese counterparts, have the appetite and resources to buy heritage art. My estimate is that benchmark valuations will grow exponentially once the competitive urge to acquire takes hold of rich Indians.

 

The Indian Antiquities and Art Treasures Act was passed during the heyday of the licence raj, an era brought to its end by none other than Dr. Manmohan Singh. It would be in the fitness of things if he could now free antiquities from the clutches of the bureaucracy with similar beneficial effects. Antiquities must once again become objects to cherish, not shun.

 

Suresh Neotia is Chairman, Ambuja Cement Foundation and art collector. The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

ONE IS NOT ENOUGH

M.R. SHARMA

 

The prime minister and the Congress chairperson's  insistence on an inquiry into the wrongdoings in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games is encouraging. It's important to first identify the aim of the probe. Is it meant to identify and punish the corrupt? Would putting a few culprits behind bars recover thousands of crores that were either siphoned off by officials or wasted in the Games' preparations? Sadly, the answer is no.

 

Does the wider aim of the probe embrace the poor management of the event and the authorities' indifference? Why did everyone wait till the eleventh hour to set off the alarm bells? Will the probe identify the 'anonymous' mandarins, who created a maze of diffused responsibilities that made everybody and yet nobody responsible for the various lapses? While lineage and loyalty to the 'tsar' replaced other criteria to become a member of the Organising Committee, the watchdogs appointed by the Centre failed to perform their duty. The probe should also take their inaction into account.

 

The probe is proposed to be four-pronged and will be headed by powerful agencies. Just like in a multi-pronged attack on an enemy stronghold, synchronisation among all the 'units' is important to avoid confusion. But who will coordinate their actions? There are two options. First, all four 'units' can discuss among themselves their individual roles and come up with a comprehensive 'action plan'. Else, a central committee can be appointed to approve, coordinate and monitor their activities. The latter should include only those people who have prior experience in dealing with such problems and are experts in fields like accountancy and human resource management.

 

If properly done, this probe will go a long way in making Indians learn from their mistakes. The findings of the probe would also make for a good case study that will benefit millions of students of business management.

 

But the purpose of the probe will be lost if one person is made the scapegoat. The nation is looking forward to an honest and a transparent probe, which will help us to find and punish the guilty. This is the least the government can do to restore people's confidence in our polity. We can't afford to treat this investigation like many others which, even after many years, have failed to return desired results.

 

M.R. Sharma is a retired Lt. General of the Indian Army. The views expressed by the author are personal

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MUTING MAHARASHTRA

 

It is unremarkable that Aditya Thackeray, as a dutiful young apprentice in the Shiv Sena, should flip through a novel and flip out. He was being perfectly conventional, as he prepares for a larger role in the family business. Rohinton Mistry's Such a Long Journey, published in 1991, has been on Mumbai University's English syllabus for a few years now — but after Thackeray grand-fils chanced upon a few unflattering references to his political patrimony, it was summarily excised from the curriculum. Mumbai University Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar leapt to action in 24 hours, in order to placate the Sena's student wing, and using emergency powers at his disposal. And now, that decision has been bolstered by the Congress chief minister, Ashok Chavan, declaring the book "highly objectionable" and unsuitable for academic attention.

 

It's just another instance of Maharashtra's pattern of parochialism, offence-taking and, ultimately, all institutions conspiring to constrict freedom. The Sena does what it has always done, nurse the small injuries of the Marathi manoos and build its political fortune on that sense of disenfranchisement. Any act that signals cultural machismo and embattled pride is good enough for the Thackerays and their ilk to exploit. But the Congress disgraces itself by seconding that intolerance. Perhaps Ashok Chavan had his own set of stakes in dismissing the Mistry novel, which doesn't enlarge Indira Gandhi's aura either. Either way, this is just one more in a long line of sorry examples where all mainstream political forces acquiesce, and let the most resentful extreme set the state's agenda.

 

Maharashtra's deep and dangerous illiteracy was last on display when James Laine's book on the Shivaji legend was opposed by every political party, who read it as an assault on Maharashtra's moral fabric. Then as in now, unofficial censorship prevailed. Free thinking is a university's fundamental project — and by letting a 20-year-old on the make commandeer the academic agenda, Mumbai University has sold itself terribly short. Instead of being the last haven of inquiry and free scholarship, the campus has become another flashpoint in the cultural war.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GAMES WE PLAY

 

The run-up to the Commonwealth Games was swamped in accusation and rumour, as many of the budget overruns and spending decisions surrounding the event were picked apart by a critical chorus. Big multi-sports events have a way of showing up the host's weakest link, and the last-minute scramble seemed to expose India's much cited inefficiency and lack of coordination. In the aftermath of the CWG, however, the system has swung into action with a striking focus. A plethora of investigating agencies have stirred into action: the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Central Vigilance Commission, the Enforcement Directorate, income tax authorities. Even retired investigators have been summoned. And as proof that their promise of haste is serious, the entire edifice responsible for organising the Games has now been placed in the dock: guilty until proven innocent.

 

This is the instinct of the banana republic, a grand sweeping away of all that has gone before, tarring each element with the same brush of corruption and wrongdoing. To demonstrate their zeal, the investigating agencies have plucked out four supposedly errant companies, and raided Sudhanshu Mittal who has been a long-time BJP associate. The opposition has flung the blame right back at the government, saying that all cost escalations had been signed off by the prime minister's office. This cycle of action and counter-reaction is not the way of mature democracies with functioning parts.

 

It is important that we undertake a patient systems check instead of picking on a few. This devalues the investigation, and does immeasurable harm to public faith in our punitive processes. Instead of a

 

generalised sense that everyone is complicit, we need a clear account of who veered from the script — and that must include the abdication of leadership at the highest level, starting with the Union sports and urban development ministers. After all, the CWG were also a labour of love for many who helped organise them, and it demeans their energy, commitment and integrity if, at the end of it all, they are looked upon with reflexive suspicion, and the investigation acquires a political hue. Right now, there is a sense that public anger is being wielded as a political instrument — a dangerous instinct for a democracy. We don't need a showy purge, we need responsible accounting — and the assurance that our democracy has the institutional processes to ensure transparency and accountability as part of its normal rhythms without opting for a witch-hunt.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

COURTING CONFRONTATION

EJAZ HAIDER 

 

 Analysing events in Islamabad with any degree of objectivity can throw anyone awry. The place may not lack nouns like the fictitious Tlön in Borges' famous short story did, but deductive reasoning can have its own pitfalls with the bizarre interplay of fiction and reality, until it becomes difficult to tell one from the other. Here's a recent example.

 

On the eve of last Thursday, first one, then another, channel broke the story about the impending move by the Pakistan Peoples Party government to rescind its March 2009 notification which restored the judges sacked by former General-President Pervez Musharraf through his November 3, 2007 emergency order. One would have thought this non-story, based as it was on a rumour, would be scoffed at as poor journalism. Instead, the judges went nuclear.

 

All 17 of them went into a late-night meeting and emerged from that huddle waving a long press release telling the government that it had been caught in flagrante delicto and if it were to do as it was rumoured to, the Supreme Court would invoke Article 6 of the constitution — high treason, mind you — to deal with its perfidy. The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) also formed a full bench to inquire into the matter, observing that he knew the story was correct.

 

When the rumour went viral, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani assured everyone that there was no truth in what was being put out as breaking news. The government also said it didn't have the foggiest idea that it was planning to do any such thing and if it didn't know of any such plan by itself, logic dictated that no one else should either. Corollary: no such plan existed.

 

This didn't wash with the court. It kept Monday as the day for the hearing and summoned the attorney-general and directors of three cable news channels to appear before the full bench. No one dared ask the CJP to place the evidence before the nation if he indeed knew, as reported, that the rumour was a fact. Why go through the procedural rigmarole?

 

However, seeing and sensing that this was headed towards a crisis for all the absurd reasons, Gilani decided to put his foot down. On Sunday, he spoke to the nation, flanked by the chief ministers of three provinces and a senior minister from the Punjab, in addition to the chief executives of Azad Kashmir (Pakistan Administered Kashmir) and Gilgit-Baltistan. While stressing that his government believed in institutional harmony and the independence of the judiciary, he also made clear that his word must be believed. "When the prime minister says something it must be respected and his word is as good as giving something in writing."

 

The content of the speech, as well as the presence of representatives from all federating units, was an astute signal to the court and the shadowy elements that want a confrontation, that the government has picked up the gauntlet thrown by the judiciary. Gilani also signalled to the court that the government will not give to the court any written assurance, as demanded by the latter, because his word was enough.

 

Gilani's take-it-or-lump-it signalling was immediately seized on by one media group that does not even pretend impartiality now, getting one talking head after another to lament the disrespect being shown to the court. There was hope yet in some quarters that the court could be suitably riled up for the Monday hearing when it would fire the nuclear salvo.

 

That didn't happen, mercifully. The court realised, as it should have from the word go, that the whole thing was a hoax. But consider some questions.

 

This government may not be descended from the Ten Commandments, but even with warts and all, no government can work if it has to face a crisis every once a week. Those who want it ousted have nothing to offer that is viable or has not been tested and found wanting. Democratic procedures, even leaving aside substance, at least offer the possibility of internal cleansing over time.

 

The second aspect is presented by the judiciary itself. The judges have to realise, as one hopes they do, that they can work independently only in a democracy. Their institutional turf cannot be safeguarded under any other system. They will rise and fall with the

 

system. Their functioning must keep that in mind and take a teleological approach.

 

Finally, the media: when should the media cross the line from reporting to becoming a political actor — or should it? Have we arrived at that point in Pakistan where media houses can have open ideological leanings or political preferences and agendas? These questions are value-neutral. Perhaps there is no such animal as a neutral media. Fine. But then no one should talk about an independent media. Agenda-driven would be a better description and honest.

 

The writer is contributing editor, 'The Friday Times', Lahore express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

EXCHANGING RATES

MK VENU 

 

Economist Jagdish Bhagwati, a professor at Columbia University who is known for his passionate advocacy of free trade, has advised India not to join America's "China bashing" over the "havoc wreaked by an undervalued yuan".

 

US President Barack Obama, of late, has stepped up the attack on China for "hurting" large parts of the global economy with a much cheaper currency which makes China by far the most competitive seller of goods in the world.

 

With the US unemployment problem far from abating, Obama has vowed he is going to "protect the US economic interests and we look for the Chinese to take actions. If the Chinese don't take action we have other means of protecting the US interest". The "other means" threatened to tame the Chinese include special complaints at the WTO and some legally mandated trade sanctions to prevent China from exporting to America.

 

The Economist describes this as a "phoney war" which may or may not degenerate into a real "dog fight". America's threats are possibly aimed at externalising a problem which is fundamentally internal.

 

Besides, the deep US-China trade and economic engagement is part of a strategic embrace between the two which dates back a few decades. It has had its own unique and complex trajectory.

 

So Bhagwati is right when he says India should not blindly join America's campaign against China's undervalued currency. This has largely been a bilateral issue between the two countries as China traditionally built the bulk of its forex surpluses by exporting to the US. This has essentially been a happy marriage of America's over-consumption and China's over-investment. The marriage is evidently turning a bit nasty now, at a time when the world economy is struggling to fully recover from the ravages caused by the 2008 financial meltdown. However, Bhagwati argues, America is now trying to multilateralise what was essentially a bilateral issue.

 

Recently, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged EU nations not to join America's chorus against the yuan. Like Bhagwati, Wen has also claimed that the reasons for China's growing trade surplus with the US cannot be entirely blamed on a cheap yuan. To buttress his argument, he said the yuan had appreciated 22 per cent against the dollar since 2005 and yet during this period China's surplus grew by a big margin.

 

Besides, during this period China accumulated a surplus in trade with the US and EU but ran deficits with Japan, South Korea and Asean nations. So the question Wen is implicitly asking is, how are countries like Japan and South Korea earning surpluses by exporting to China? Why can't the US do the same? He then concludes that the real issue is not the exchange rate asymmetry as much as structural changes in trade patterns caused by the rapid economic globalisation in the past decade-and-a-half, especially after trade barriers were dropped drastically following the Uruguay round of negotiations in the mid-'90s.

 

China reaped a huge comparative advantage, especially since 1994, in the export of goods. No wonder it runs big surpluses with the West in goods but has deficits in services. Clearly, the opening up of global merchandise trade helped China a lot more than it did other economies like India. An undervalued yuan might have acted as a top-up bonus to what was essentially a structural advantage China got.

 

India, in sharp contrast, runs a huge surplus in services trade even though no firm agreement has been signed at the WTO on services yet. Now just imagine the bonanza India might have had if there were a comprehensive multilateral agreement on services. The structure of global trade and the surpluses/ deficits between economies would have been of a different nature if services were as open as merchandise trade.

 

So India need not have the same problem as the US when it comes to dealing with an undervalued yuan. The RBI governor is right when he says India will get pressured to manage its own currency if China does not let the market forces decide the movement in the yuan. As a general proposition, the G-20 or some other forum must create a common currency governance system which China is also mandated to follow. But it would be a mistake to suggest that much of the distortion in the global economy is attributable to an undervalued yuan.

 

Top scholars such as Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell of Columbia and Ronald McKinnon of Stanford have also said the Chinese current account surplus and US current account deficit cannot be explained primarily by an undervalued yuan. At best it is one of the factors that explain the burgeoning US current account deficit.

 

Besides, other countries such as Germany and Japan too have consistently run current account surpluses with the US. An economist at the Berlin University told me some time ago that Germany had consistently kept its wages deflated to gain a big trade advantage with other nations. Real wages in organised manufacturing have hardly moved in recent years in Germany. This is a sort of substitute for undervaluing a currency and gaining a cost advantage in relation to other trading partners. Japan too has historically, especially after the Plaza Accord in 1985, kept appreciating its currency and yet continued to post big trade surpluses against the US. Even now, the Japanese currency is at a 15-year high against the dollar and yet Japan doesn't seem like losing its competitive edge against other big trade partners.

 

So the US may be barking up the wrong tree in drumming up global opposition to China's undervalued currency. And worse, the American officialdom may be privately aware that it is making out an excessive case against China. India has to particularly guard against this. For at a subsequent stage the Americans may well do some other complex deal with the Chinese which would neatly fit into their love-hate relationship matrix. Other emerging economies who echo America's rhetoric may then be left carrying the can. India cannot afford this because, in the decade ahead, China will become the primary absorber of world imports, like America was in the second half of the 20th century. India will do well to remember that opportunity.

 

The writer is Managing Editor, 'The Financial Express' mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE VERY HUMAN MIRACLE

 

Jesus Christ, of course, was 33. That's not scientific, but it's the age most people ascribe to the man Christians believe died on the cross for our sins. And, of course, there were 33 men trapped in Chile's San José mine and it took 33 days to dig the shaft that rescued them.

 

From the moment they made contact with the surface, more than two weeks after being trapped, they were indivisible as "Los 33." It is said the drill bit for "Plan B," the one that reached them almost a half-mile below ground, was changed 33 times.

 

The first men reached the surface on 13-10-10 — or 10-13-10 for Americans — and that adds up to 33. No wonder there was much talk of miracles and God. "A grand miracle," the wife of Florencio Ávalos, the first miner to emerge, said.

 

Let's set miracles aside for a moment. Something primordial has been going on in Chile. That's why the rescue held humanity riveted. Burial alive is the ultimate horror, the stuff of nightmares that, in one form or other, have haunted everyone.

 

To return from interment compels the imagination. The most powerful portrayal of such return is surely Piero della Francesca's "Resurrection," where Christ — his expression at once stunned and all-knowing (for he has seen what we can only imagine and is experiencing the unthinkable) — stands, one leg on a parapet, at the very moment of his rising. Four soldiers slumber beneath his powerful form.

 

I recall, at 17, seeing the painting for the first time in the small Italian town of Sansepolcro and being overcome. Aldous Huxley called it "the greatest painting in the world." The work is breathtaking because the artist has rendered an unnatural occurrence — a man's return from the grave — in a way that embodies the twinned humanity and godliness on which that entire religious faith hinges. But of course Piero della Francesca was depicting a miracle, which the Scottish philosopher David Hume described as "a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent." A miracle, because it is inexplicable by natural causes alone, buttresses theism: Only God could make it. Miracles are a must on the road to sainthood.

 

What has struck me about the Chilean rescue has in a sense been the opposite: the capacity of human beings using reason, technology, discipline, unity, hard work and conviction to overcome odds and produce an inspiring outcome.

 

This was a case of "blood, toil, tears and sweat," as the conservative Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, has acknowledged by going to Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms during a London visit. These are earthly qualities, the stuff of marathons, not miracles. Yes, there was luck. Yes, the faith of Piñera and the miners was important. But this was not "a transgression of a law of nature"; it was human nature in its highest expression.

 

More than all the global contributions — the food and exercise regime from NASA, the UPS-speeded delivery of drills, the Oakley sunglasses, the offers of Greek vacations (don't Greeks need their cash?) — it was the withholding of one gift that was particularly revealing. The donated iPods were not sent down to the miners for fear they would prove isolating and break the life-saving camaraderie of "Los 33." Salvation can still depend on seeing those around you.

 

Throughout the rescue, a couple of incidents kept returning to my mind, one in Chile, one in Europe.

 

Watching a free nation united behind Chile's first conservative leader since the end of military rule in 1990, I thought of the dark days I witnessed there, particularly the terrifying, jack-booted aftermath of the 1986 assassination attempt on General Augusto Pinochet. Across Latin America, the transformation since the Cold War's end has been uplifting, however great the enduring difficulties.

 

I also thought often of little Alfredo Rampi, the six year old Italian boy who in 1981 fell down a well. As in Chile, an earthquake preceded the accident. As in Chile, a nation was riveted, in the case of "Alfredino" by his crying in the depths. But there the similarities ended. Alfredo, initially, was just 36 meters down. Disarray characterised the Italian rescue attempt. A swing-like wooden plank lowered to bring him up got stuck. A parallel tunnel got blocked. A rescuer, suspended upside-down, got a hand to him but Alfredo kept slithering. And on the third day he died.

 

With today's technology, such an outcome seems unthinkable. Even then, it resulted from a disunity to which Chile never succumbed.

 

The real Chilean "miracle" was man-made. It lay in the redemptive solidarity displayed — below ground, by rescuers at the site and on a global level — at a time of shrieking polarisation in the United States, rampant self-obsession and persistent division. I raise a glass to that — of Rolling Rock beer whose mysterious "33" on the bottle may refer to the year Prohibition was ended or to some deeper, unifying mystery.

 

-Roger Cohen

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE CROWDS OF OCTOBER

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE 

 

Nepal has a rich mix of traditions, and a history of their tolerant practice. Except for the banning of conversions, there is little evidence of any individual or group being barred from practicing their faiths and traditions, despite the country being a Hindu nation until about five years ago. Nor did that stop any one from being an atheist or agnostic.

 

However, during their brief stints in power — first as a major partner in the government and then as leader of the coalition — the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) obstructed daily worship in the Pashupatinath temple twice, briefly, between January 2007 and January 2009, shortly after the state was declared "secular" following the political changes of April 2006. The obstruction came as a result of protests from believers and temple authorities when the government tried to replace Indian priests without following the age-old traditions that governed new appointments.

 

However, as political parties faced charges of having succumbed to the "influence" of the western world and of the church in declaring Nepal a secular state, even the communists and secularists tried to respond to those charges in the manner they thought appropriate. G.P. Koirala, who took over as head of government and acting head of state post-2006, suddenly ceased to be the "atheist" that he had claimed to be all those years, and began visiting temples — in his official capacity.

 

He had to send out the message that he had not bartered the nation's Hindu status for money, nor was ending that status some sort of "surrender" to the Western world. Dr Rambaran Yadav, the Republic of Nepal's first president, observed all the religious and traditional practices that, earlier, the kings had performed. Thus, Yadav's presidential durbar was crowded with the general public on October 17, the second Vijaya Dashami since he took over. This used to be the one occasion in the year on which the royal palace would be open to all, and on which the king and queen would offer the public prasad.

 

But the crowd that went to the president's house on the occasion was smaller than that which queued up before Nirmal Niwas barely 200 yards away, the house of the former king. He had recently said he would prefer to be called just Gyanendra Shah, and not the "ex-maharaja" — or "his majesty", as some people would still address him. But that crowd held him in different esteem. The size of the crowd also indicated clear disapproval of the express order that caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Nepal had issued last month putting the former king under house arrest minutes before he was to leave for darshan of Kumari, revered as a living goddess by many in Nepal. Madhav Nepal, in his first-ever move to deny a Nepali "commoner" the right to free movement and practice of religion, was trying to appease President Yadav, whose own visits were being overshadowed by the crowds' response to Gyanendra.

 

Thus, two days prior to Vijaya Dashami, Gyanendra informed the government that he would want to visit various shrines of Shakti on the day of Maha-ashtami at any time that would be convenient for the government and the president. Dr Yadav chose to visit the temples in the forenoon, but Gyanendra's visits two hours later drew much bigger crowds.

 

Politically, from the speaker of the constituent assembly to the president, everyone has said one thing: that the key elements of the 2006 movement — republicanism, secularism and federalism — will only be institutionalised once the new constitution comes in place, something that seems nowhere close to realisation.

 

The assembly has not only failed to elect a government in about a dozen attempts spanned over more than three-and-a-half months, but also failed to deliver a proper budget even four months after the new financial year began, combining political crisis with constitutional deadlock. Clearly, the villains are the current political parties, including the Maoists. And the monarchy, in this new perception, is both a victim and perhaps, still an institution that Nepal needs.

 

This could get much more intense in the near future, with the blame-game and infighting among the three major political parties already headed towards the derailment of Nepal's peace and constitution-making process. Each of them blames the others — but the people blame them all collectively.

 

yubaraj.ghimire@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TALKING AT CROSS-PURPOSES

 

When Americans and Pakistanis sit down in DC this week for their third "strategic dialogue," it will come at a time of mutual tension. Seldom has the relationship been more strained. If there were to really be what diplomats call a full and frank exchange, the dialogue might go like this:

 

America: It's quite simple. Stop sitting on your hands and go into North Waziristan and clear out that nest of terrorists you've been sheltering.

 

Pakistan: It's not at all simple. You are scapegoating us after having failed in Afghanistan for nine years. Some Taliban taking advantage of a notoriously porous border is not the real problem. The problem is that the Pashtuns were shut out of the new Afghanistan when you put their historical rivals, the Tajiks and Uzbeks, in power. They're underrepresented in the army, too; so it's viewed as yet another foreign occupation force in Pashtun territory. The Taliban has become a national movement there, and is not dependent on trying to hide in our territory.

 

Our forces are stretched thin enough as it is. We are fighting the Pakistani Taliban, which represents a danger to the state. It is a tall order to demand that we take on the Afghan Taliban, which is not threatening our state.

 

America: The line between the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban is also growing thin.

 

Pakistan: It would be madness to recklessly take on another armed group of Pashtuns when we haven't got the means to cope with it. And besides, you Americans are encouraging talks with the Taliban. Why should we completely sever a longstanding relationship that you originally helped foster? Those same groups you now want us to kill might help us thwart India's intrigues when the Taliban are part of the new, post-American Afghanistan we will be stuck with when you leave. Our influence with the Taliban might help you make the deal you are looking for.

 

America: If only you would get rid of this paranoia about India.

 

Pakistan: What you don't understand is that after a bloody partition 63 years ago, four hot wars and the dismemberment of 1971, we are in a cold war every bit as serious to us as your cold war against the Communists. As you well remember, in a cold war you probe for weakness along the perimeters, as you did with Contras in Nicaragua and other proxy wars. Your endearment of India may come at our expense. All right, we have stung them from time to time, as they are stinging us in stirring up Balochistan.

 

America: But you are losing control of groups you thought you could unleash with impunity.

 

Pakistan: Just as you did with the Afghan forces we unleashed together against the Soviets. But what we want is a true strategic partnership, not a transactional one in which you seek only to buy our loyalty. God knows we need the money, but you don't attempt to understand what is vital to us. Your war has brought terrorism into the heart of our country. Our once-pleasant capital, with its blast walls, checkpoints and barbed wire, looks more like Baghdad than Washington. We have allowed you your drones, which infuriate our people, but please consider that our difficulties and strategic interests may not always jibe with your own. And don't cross our red lines and let your General Petraeus send special-ops teams into our country, which he is dying to do.

 

America: But we've told you that if a made-in-Pakistan terrorist act is committed in the United States, the American people will demand retaliation.

 

Pakistan: So you give any terrorist group the incentive to bomb you in order to have you bomb us? Why would you want to hold us hostage to terrorist whims when we both struggle with home-grown terrorists?

 

America: We are always talking at cross-purposes here.

 

Pakistan: On that we can agree.

 

-H.D.S. GREENWAY

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PROBE DELAYS EXPECTED

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced the setting up of a committee to look into allegations of corruption in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, but the parties of the Left doubt whether accountability will be fixed and the guilty brought to book.

The lead editorial in CPI(ML) weekly ML Update says the "corrupt and inept organisers" are now trying to bask in the glory achieved by Indian sportspersons hoping that the country will forget and forgive. "But given the maze of scams and the multiplicity of agencies involved in the whole process... it is quite possible that the process of investigation will get lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth and the political games of mutual mudslinging and shadow-boxing," it says.

 

"The government has decades of experience in delaying and diverting such probes and blunting their edge by finding a scapegoat or two. Moreover, the major political parties are all closely involved in the business of running the sports and games show in the country," the article argues, saying saying this calls "for a high degree of sustained civil society activism."

 

Defanging pharma

 

An article in the CPM's People's Democracy argues that multinational companies are poised to take over the Indian drug industry, which once boomed mainly because the Indian Patents Act of 1970 allowed domestic firms to produce drugs patented by foreign companies while restrictions were in place on the operations of foreign companies. Strong public-sector drugmakers also existed. The article asserts the situation has changed because PSUs like Hindustan Antibiotics Limited and Indian Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Limited were "systematically undermined," the protection that was provided to Indian firms vis-à-vis MNCs withdrawn and the Patents Act amended.

 

The most disturbing trend in the drug industry, it goes on to argue, is that "de-industrialisation" has increased at a "frightening pace", and many companies are now dependent on imported bulk drugs. While news of Indian drug majors tying up with MNCs has become commonplace, the number of acquisitions of Indian firms by multinationals is increasing, too. "The Indian drug industry, built by diligent application of public policy that sought to achieve self-reliance in the pharmaceutical sector, is poised to be handed over to foreign multinational corporations. The government of the day, in pursuit of neoliberal reforms at any cost, is a willing accomplice," the article complains.

 

The BJP's looters

 

The political crisis in Karnataka has exposed the BJP as a political outfit which is willing to go to any extreme to survive in power, the lead editorial in CPI weekly New Age opines. It alleges that the power struggle in the southern state and the decision to form a government in Jharkhand establish that looting public money is the party's main consideration. Another article notes that although Governor H.R. Bhardwaj was not necessarily above-board, "corruption has become the hallmark of the administration. The chief minister himself is accused of helping them [the Reddy brothers] in grabbing prime land. The chief minister has no control over the loot by party workers. The greatest beneficiaries were the Reddy brothers, who wield more influence than the chief minister."

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

AXING ZARDARI

C. RAJA MOHAN 

 

It is always easy to underestimate Pakistan's capacity to muddle through crises that outsiders consider impossible to navigate. Nevertheless, there is a growing sense that the multiple crises confronting Pakistan today might lead to an internal political rearrangement in the near future. A little over half-way through its five-year term, the luck of the civilian political dispensation led by Asif Ali Zardari might be running out. Going by the record that no recent civilian government was allowed to complete a full five year term, the betting must be that a regime change is at hand in Islamabad.

 

The frontal assault on Zardari comes from the judiciary, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The Supreme Court is forcing the government to reopen the corruption cases against Zardari that were taken off the table as part of a political deal that was negotiated between the Pakistan Peoples Party and General Pervez Musharraf in 2007.

 

There is speculation that Zardari, with his back to the wall, might want to unseat the judges whom he had restored in 2009 after a popular protest. As rumours swirled around Islamabad last week that the government was issuing an executive order to that effect, the judges sat through the night demanding a written denial from Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Zardari is also facing fire from his political flanks. In a London press conference on Monday, former prime minister and the chief of the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif demanded that Zardari return the looted millions and apologise to the nation.

 

In Karachi, renewed ethnic violence between the Pashtuns and the Mohajirs is raising questions about the PPP government's ability to maintain peace. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which represents the Mohajirs and has been a partner for the PPP, is threatening to walk out of the coalition if the PPP does not act.

 

After the floods the economic situation in Pakistan has worsened and the government has little room left for financial manoeuvre. International assistance following the floods has been way below what was expected, and all the macroeconomic indicators are shaky.

 

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who holds the most important job in Pakistan as the army chief, continues to deny that he wants to take charge. He is certainly pressing Zardari to get his act together and start by dropping a few ministers from the cabinet. With Zardari either unwilling or unable to reorganise the front office of the Pakistani state, it is probably when and not if Kayani chooses to lower the boom on Zardari.

 

Strategic Dialogue

 

The third round of the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Washington this week will see some intense bargaining between the Obama administration and the Pakistan army. The growing bitterness between the two was reflected in Rawalpindi's decision earlier this month to close down the Khyber Pass after NATO helicopter attacks across the Durand Line killed a few Pakistani troops.

 

Having apologised for the attacks in order to get the Pakistan army to reopen the Khyber, the Obama administration is now pressing Rawalpindi to launch the long-awaited military operations in North Waziristan against Al-Qaeda and other militant outfits holed out there.

 

After a meeting of the so-called "Troika" — General Kayani, President Zardari and Premier Gilani — last weekend, Pakistan insisted that the operations will be launched only on the basis of Islamabad's "own judgement, priorities and the national interest". This, of course, is code for saying the US must offer better incentives for Pakistan to act.

 

Kayani's List

 

General Kayani is flying to Washington to oversee the bargaining with the Obama administration. The last time he was in Washington for the first round of the strategic dialogue, Kayani had left a long wishlist with the White House.

 

Among the many demands were the transfer of drone technology to the Pakistan army and the immediate release of funds to reimburse the Pakistani operations in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. The Obama administration had begun to hold back these funds as leverage against Rawalpindi. The army also wants the United States to give Pakistan a nuclear deal of the kind negotiated with India during 2005-08. Rawalpindi would also like to see President Obama take up the Kashmir question during his visit to India.

 

While it can't meet all of Pakistan's demands, the Obama administration is said to be readying a new package of military assistance that will allow Kayani to buy new American arms and strengthen the army's counter-insurgency capability.

 

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

KANGAROO COURTS

 

The majority verdict of the expert panel set up by the environment ministry to look into the alleged violations of environmental laws by the Posco steel project in Orissa is no major surprise, given the composition of the committee and their earlier rulings on similar other occasions. While the credentials of the former environment secretary, who had the lone dissenting view arguing for a fresh environmental impact assessment, need no certification, the background of the other three members raises doubts about either their expertise on environmental issues or their ability to adopt an objective approach towards such issues. But two other members of the expert panel have no technical expertise on environmental issues, one being an anthropologist whose work is focused mainly on tribal issues and the other a civil liberty activist, with neither of them having any background in evaluating costs and benefits of giant projects. And the subjective bias of the fourth member, though a former director of the Forest Survey of India, is evident from some of his earlier reports, including that of the environment ministry's expert committee that outlined the gross violations and serious non-compliance on environmental issues in the Sardar Sarovar, Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar projects; it tried to vindicate the arguments of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, and thereby limit the reservoir storage and stop canal construction and extension of the irrigation network. Adopting the recommendations of such arbitrary panels packed with activists would bring no gains either to the communities, whose welfare they claim to represent, or to the economy, and are just kangaroo courts whose verdict can be predicted in advance.

 

The Posco steel plant, which is the single largest foreign direct investment in the country, has been in limbo since 2005 and brooks no more delays. The steel plant has the potential to contribute a tenth of Orissa's GDP and Posco's Finex technology will turn the state's high grade iron ore to steel at the most competitive of prices. There are also a lot of externalities associated with the project, including building infrastructure like rail links, roads, townships and ports. With the employment multiplier of steel being high, the state will generate 8.7 lakh person years of employment annually for the next 30 years. Exploitation of iron ore and other rich mineral resources is at the core of the development strategy of Orissa and it would be unfair to the people, including the tribal groups, to deny them this opportunity.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CHINESE CHEQUERS

 

India's second largest IT exporter Infosys's reported move to set up a 20,000-seater campus in China will help it develop and nurture long-term talent, which is very critical for the IT industry. With attrition once again rising in the software industry—Infosys reported a 17% increase in attrition in the quarter ended September this year as compared with 11% a year ago—setting up campuses abroad will ensure that quality is sustained and the industry does not face a backlash against outsourcing. In fact, Indian outsourcing companies are hiring foreign talent to head their operations abroad as proximity to clients helps in taking decisions faster. Moreover, as the US contributes 60% of the outsourcing industry's revenues and it is becoming critical to manage this share due to political sensitivities and increasing competition in the region, non-Indian recruits bring with them experience from top multinational companies and effective networking, which will help Indian companies grow onshore. The focus of outsourcing is now shifting from the US and Europe to Asia and Africa, and China is emerging as a major service delivery location for Far East countries. Globalisation of the Chinese economy is leading to a growing need for modern software and their domestic IT services market is double the size of the Indian market. No wonder TCS, Wipro, Infosys and HCL are setting up centres in the Middle Kingdom with a three-pronged approach to expand business: service multinational clients that have expanded operations in China; create China as sourcing base for servicing neighbouring markets; and tap the domestic market that has demand for services and solutions.

 

As Indian companies are considering China as a strategic country and will be there for a long time, nurturing local talent will be cost-effective in the long run. This is especially evident in the software industry where margins are coming down and companies are looking for new avenues of growth. China is attractive from the perspective of a service delivery destination due to the talent availability and labour arbitrage. Hence the prospects of servicing customers near shore at close to offshore rates makes it more attractive. The Indian manufacturing sector has already taken a lead in hiring local talents as the Tata Group is now the largest manufacturing employer in Britain. The Indian IT industry must now set a similar precedent.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

APPRAISING ELECTRICITY REFORMS

YOGINDER K ALAGH

 

The mid-term appraisal of the Eleventh Plan, now on the Internet without much fanfare, giving way to the tweeting on the Twelfth Plan, is a readable document, full of information and assessments. It wounds but does not strike unlike its predecessor, the mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Plan. It is best on electricity just as its predecessor was on agriculture. According to the Planning Commission, "The likely growth of supply in first three years of Eleventh Plan works out to 5.59% as compared to actual growth of 5.32% in the Tenth Plan period." But generation efficiency seems to be peaking as a source of growth since plant load factors now are not increasing, actually going down from 78.6 to 77.2, we learn on page 322. As regards transmission and distribution, India by now has one of the largest high-voltage direct current transmission capacities at around 1,500 circuit kilometres (ckm), which is to rise to 1,600 ckm. The 765 kV lines are at 1,088 ckm and will reach around 2,500 ckm. And 400 kV lines of around 17,000 ckm and 220 kV lines of around 17,000 ckm will be doubling in the next two years. India has the largest capacity in high voltage DC lines in the world.

 

But there are problems. "Although the power transmission segment has been opened to private investment in 1998, there has been only limited success in attracting private investment." They lament. I also cry, since I was the power minister in 1998 and got the contentious Transmission Bill through a parliamentary committee unanimously. They go on to say: "Although the power transmission segment has been opened to private investment in 1998, there has been only a limited success in attracting private investment. The only public-private partnership project—the Tala transmission system—has been operational since May, 2007." But this is not true.

 

The first project was approved and implemented in the late 1990s, but once that reform was given up, the memory of that investment also seems to have vanished, for the Commission is too professional to deliberately be incorrect. In 1997, foreign direct investment approvals reached Rs 25 billion from less than a tenth of that earlier and actual inflows reached around Rs 10 billion from nothing earlier. In his analysis, Kandula Subrahmanian, a good historian of power, notes in his book published by the University of Pennsylvania, "The framework of this draft legislation (Parliamentary Committee approval to the Transmission Bill discussed above; parentheses added) was used to approve the first major private transmission project in Mangalore in India in 1997, by YK Alagh as minister."

 

(K Subrahmanian, p 40-41). Subrahmanian notes that, "The National Grid of the UK, which was to execute the Mangalore transmission project, is the only foreign utility company in India maintaining operations to date. That (the legislation) was cleared only in 1998, and to date there have been no private investments in the transmission sector. (p 41)." Foreign direct investments dried up in the period 1999-2005 and by 2001 was close to zero. Approvals declined to less than a tenth by 1998 and reached close to nothing by 2004 and so did actuals. The legislative policy failures and management of the political fallout have tremendous consequences. So do successes in political management. There is now revival in FDI in generation projects, but not in transmission and, therefore, the lament of the Planning Commission this month on limited success in private investment in transmission.

 

Another issue the Commission ruefully notes is that AT&C losses are rising and tariff reform is few and far between. T&D losses at the national level were at 29% in 2006-07 and are expected to fall to 27% in 2007-08. But AT&C losses are reported to be over 30%. While T&D losses are technical losses incurred in transmission and distribution of electricity to the consumer, AT&C represents aggregate technical and commercial losses, which estimates commercial losses (covering theft and deficiencies in billing and collection).

 

They give fascinating cases of reform and a table of best practice cases, but being good guys don't say that it is the politics stupid! Nobody who is anybody is saying this is rotten. We have the technology and the proven capacity but not the will to cover the last mile. Some day it will again turn around. Until then happy tweeting on the Twelfth Plan.

 

—The author is a former Union minister

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

A CONFIDENCE TRICK FOR INVESTORS

SATYAJIT DAS

 

As European sovereign debt concerns return, increasing attention may focus on the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), a key component of Europe's financial contingency plan. The success of recent debt issues by countries like Greece are largely underpinned by the perceived support provided by the facility.

In order to finance member countries as needed, the EFSF will need to issue debt. The major rating agencies

have awarded the fund the highest possible credit rating AAA. The EFSF structure echoes the ill-fated Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs) and Structured Investment Vehicles (SIV).

 

The 440-billion euro rescue package establishes an SPV backed by individual guarantees provided by all member countries. Significantly, the guarantees are not joint and several, reflecting the political necessity, especially for Germany, of avoiding joint liability. The risk that an individual guarantor fails to supply its share of funds is covered by a surplus 'cushion', requiring countries to guarantee an extra 20% beyond their shares.

 

The arrangement is similar to the over-collateralisation used in CDOs to protect investors in higher quality AAA-rated senior securities. Investors in subordinated securities, ranking below the senior investors, absorb the first losses up to a specified point (the attachment point). Losses are considered statistically unlikely to reach this attachment point, allowing the senior securities to be rated AAA.

 

If 16.7% of guarantors (20% divided by 120%) are unable to fund the EFSF, lenders to the structure will be exposed to losses. The adequacy of the cushion is questionable. If one peripheral Eurozone member has a problem then others will have similar problems.

 

Where a Eurozone member draws on the facility, the amount of funds lent by EFSF is adjusted by deduction for a 50 basis point service fee and a percentage equal to the EFSF's on-lending margin. This fungible general cash reserve (the reserve) supports all EFSF debt. An additional reserve specific to each loan made by EFSF (the buffer) will be created.

 

The requirement for the reserve and buffer significantly reduces the funds available from the EFSF. After adjusting for the guarantee overcollateralisation and the exclusion of Greece from EFSF's programme, the EFSF can raise up to 350 billion euros (20% lower than the announced amount). After adjusting for the fact that borrowing governments cannot guarantee EFSF bonds and deduction of the reserve and buffer the potential available EFSF lending is further reduced. Assuming a reserve of, say, 13.5% and a buffer of 10%, this would reduce the amount available to around 270 billion euros (39% lower than the announced amount).

 

Assuming an equivalent reduction in the IMF component of the package, the total amount available is around 460 billion euros. This compares to the forecast budget financing need of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain of over 500 billion euros in the period 2009-13.

 

In order to attain the coveted AAA rating, the EFSF structure has been 'tweaked' subtly. If a larger Eurozone member encountered financial problems, then the rating and viability of the EFSF might be in jeopardy. For investors, there is a risk that if the cushion is reduced by problems of a Eurozone member, then there is a risk that the EFSF securities may be downgraded, resulting in losses to investors.

 

At this stage, the EFSF has indicated that they don't plan to issue any debt, as they do not anticipate the facility being used. The facility also has a very short maturity, three years till 2013. However, as pressures mount and market access becomes problematic for some Eurozone members, the EFSF and its structure will be tested.

 

Ironically, the actual structure of credit enhancement encourages troubled countries to access the facility early to ensure availability. If market conditions deteriorate, market access becomes limited and countries draw on the EFSF facility (eliminating them from the guarantee pool), then increased financial pressure will be exerted on the AAA-rated Eurozone countries. The need to maintain adequate coverage to preserve the EFSF's AAA rating on existing debt will mean that the buffer will increase and the capacity of the EFSF to lend may become impaired.

 

The government and policymakers are playing elaborate financial games to try to stave off financial instability and create conditions for economic recovery. The EFSF's structure raises significant doubts about its capacity to support financially challenged Eurozone members. Investors are placing significant faith in a mechanism that may be little more than a 'confidence trick'. As HL Mencken observed: "Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."

 

—The author published 'Traders, Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives—Revised Edition'

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EAVESDROPPER

LEFT DILEMMA

 

With the campaign for the panchayat and municipal elections in Kerala swinging into the final phase, both the ruling Left Democratic Front and the Congress-led United Democratic Front have left no stone unturned to expose their rivals. Though the Left Front has so far made no claims of repeating their feat in the last elections to the local bodies, they still seem to be confident of capturing a majority of the districts. But the UDF has used the lottery scandal and other issues to beat the ruling front. While the LDF has been able to, at least partially, neutralise some of the major UDF accusations, including in the lottery case where Abhishek Singhvi gave them the much-needed respite, they have floundered on one crucial issue. They have been, so far, unable to explain to the electorate why such a large number of workers from West Bengal have migrated to the state and were even ready to work at much lower wages than their Kerala counterparts after decades of Left Front rule in the state. And for once, the CPM cannot attribute the accusation as a media propaganda, given the high visibility of the large migrant workforce across the state.

 

Victory's many fathers

 

The successful conduct of the XIX Commonwealth Games in New Delhi has finally brought in some pot luck to the media. Major stakeholders, such as the construction companies who were engaged in building the infrastructure for the sporting event, including the stadiums, the Games Village and the various flyovers and bridges and had chosen to remain in the shadows when the media highlighted the scandals and the inefficiencies, have now finally come out and are widely advertising their role in the successful conduct of the Games. As the saying goes, victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

PRINCELY LIKENESS

 

In the Chinese lexicon, princelings are party stars borne of a parent who was a party star in yesteryears. Xi Jinping's father was once pals with Mao Zedong, but this legacy is complicated. For when the father fell out of favour, Xi was sent off to labour in a rural commune where he "ate a lot more bitterness than most people". Father climbed back into the party's good books to serve as a governor of Guangdong, an early laboratory of China's market reforms. Father again soiled his books by speaking out against the Tiananmen repression. It says much for Xi that he has lived down this complicated legacy to emerge as someone slotted to take over the reins when President Hu Jintao steps down in two years. He has been an effective Fujian governor, who has overseen both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 60th anniversary of Communist China last year, and headed a sensitive party office that clamps down on the Internet, and dissidence in general. As closely as he has echoed the official line, it's difficult to predict how his leadership would differ from that of the incumbent president.

 

A 2009 speech gives us a sense of Xi's vision: "Some foreigners with full stomachs have nothing better to do than point their fingers at our affairs... But China does not export revolution, hunger and poverty. Nor does China cause any headaches. What else do you want?"

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

WHY WE NEED GM LABELLING

 

Our right to know includes the right to know what we eat. We live in a transgenic age, one in which it is no longer sufficient for food labelling to stop with listing such things as nutritional values, chemical additives, and possible allergens. Although there is no evidence that approved genetically modified food is unsafe for human consumption, people have the right to choose not to eat it for ideological, ethical, or other reasons. Informed consumer choice demands that a mechanism for mandatory labelling of GM foods is put in place. In India, the issue assumes significance with the possible commercial release of the country's first transgenic food crop, Bt brinjal, which has been placed under an indefinite, open-ended moratorium. Although Bt cotton, approved for commercialisation in 2002, is not a food crop, it is well known that cotton oil produced from these transgenic plants is used as a cooking medium in many areas. Moreover, the lack of a proper labelling regime has resulted in the import of processed foods made from genetically modified material. At a time when the European Union and countries such as Australia, Japan, and China have mandatory labelling requirements of GM foods, which require food processors, retailers, and sometimes producers to display whether their products contain genetically engineered material, it is strange that India has not enforced a strict labelling regime. This despite the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issuing rules in 2006 to include compulsory GM labelling in the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules 1955.

 

Not surprisingly, the lobby against the mandatory labelling of GM foods is led by companies such as Monsanto. One of the world's leading transgenic seed producers, it pioneered the beneficial introduction of Bt cotton into India and awaits clearance for Bt brinjal, which it co-developed with the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco). Claiming unconvincingly that mandatory labelling would put a huge burden on regulatory agencies, the lobby piously declares it has no objection to voluntary labelling, under which companies would be free to declare their products to be GM-free. Such a voluntary regime is likely to strangulate consumer choice as many companies are likely to prefer staying clear of the attendant risks and liabilities of going in for GM-free certification. Leaving GM labelling to the whims and fancies of food processors, packagers, and retailers would compromise one of the basic principles behind the demand for mandatory certification — offering consumers a clear-cut choice. Anything less than mandatory GM labelling is an unacceptable compromise of the public's right to know what it consumes.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

DIGGING FOR VALUE

 

Coal India's initial public offer (IPO), which opened for public subscription on October 18, is expected to fetch over Rs.15,000 crore, making it by far the largest public offer ever made in India. Coal India is the only Navratna that has remained unlisted, and its entry into the capital market has been welcomed with a rare degree of unanimity by a wide range of analysts and investment bankers. Three of India's credit rating agencies have accorded the highest rating to the offer. The government is divesting a 10 per cent share in the company and, there being no additional share offer by CIL, the entire proceeds from the issue will accrue to it. This IPO will give a pig push to the government's disinvestment programme, and the annual target of Rs.40,000 crore seems achievable. The CIL's success is expected to lead to a flurry of share offerings by other companies, including some leading ones in the public sector. The company's financial performance is extremely impressive. Its profit after tax increased from Rs.6,113.6 crore in 2006 to Rs.9829.4 crore in 2010. As of March 31, 2010, the company's net worth was estimated at Rs.25,843.74 crore. The total debt at Rs.2086.85 crore is a small fraction of its cash and bank balances.

 

CIL derives its robust financial position from its competitive strengths. The company is the largest coal producer in the world and is well positioned to exploit its reserves, among the largest anywhere. Demand for coal is slated to surge as more coal-based power plants come up. CIL, which boasts a sound track record of growth and cost efficient operations, has demonstrated capabilities in exploration, mine planning, research, and development. The company plans to move up the value chain by increasing its sales of beneficiated and higher quality coal. It has a lot to gain from the reforms that are under way in the pricing of coal. However, it has also to reckon with a number of risk factors. They include extensive regulation at different levels, high compliance costs, and remoteness of mining operations in many cases. Some of its mines are located in politically unstable areas. Environmental concerns have led to the stoppage of mining activities of some other companies. Still, CIL's public offer at a price band of Rs.225-245 per share presents an attractive investment opportunity for most types of investors. Retail investors who had been lukewarm to earlier offerings of government companies are now expected to respond enthusiastically. Overall, it is a healthy development that should at once reduce the budgetary deficit and invigorate the market.

 

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS & INDIA

INDIA'S VAST POPULATION, ITS DIVERSITY, THE VARIABILITY OF SERVICES AND THE DIFFERING BASELINES ACROSS REGIONS COMPLICATE THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE MDGS.

K.S. JACOB

 

The Millennium Development declaration was a visionary document, which sought partnership between rich and poor nations to make globalisation a force for good. Its signatories agreed to explicit goals on a specific timeline. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set ambitious targets for reducing hunger, poverty, infant and maternal mortality, for reversing the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and giving children basic education by 2015. These also included gender equality, environmental sustainability and multisectoral and international partnerships.

 

The 10th anniversary of the declaration was used to review progress and suggest course corrections to meet the 2015 deadline. The glittering banquets, the power lunches and the rhetoric at the formal meetings, attended by many celebrities, ambassadors of different nations, international charities and the media, in New York belied the stark reality in many poor countries. While the declaration and the MDGs were a clarion call and mobilised many governments into concerted action, a review of the achievements to date and projections for 2015 suggest some success and much failure. Most rich nations failed to meet the targets on promised aid. While progress has been made, much more needs to be done.

 

Government's claims

 

The Government of India claims that the country is on track to meet the MDG targets by 2015. It argues that the number of people living below the poverty line has reduced. It claims that child and maternal mortality rates are reducing at a pace commensurate with its plans. It maintains that many government-sponsored schemes have increased public resources in several key sectors. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has increased rural employment. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a national policy to universalise primary education, has increased enrolment in schools. The Reproductive and Child Health Programme II, the Integrated Child Development Services and the National Rural Health Mission have resulted in massive inputs in the health sector. It states HIV rates are low and that deaths due to tuberculosis and malaria show downward trends. It asserts that the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission and the Total Sanitation Campaign address crucial MDGs.

 

It is, however, difficult to endorse the government's confidence and optimism. Experts argue that the poverty reduction claims are the result of a sleight of hand, which employs debatable measurements and methods for assessment. The existing rates of malnutrition, affecting half of all children under 5, do not support the claims of hunger reduction.

 

While many agree with the figures for reduction in maternal mortality, they feel the target set is unachievable, as are those for reduction of child mortality and for universal primary education. Gender equality remains elusive. The emergence of an extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis and the high incidence of malaria in certain regions are worrying.

 

The impressive growth and the creation of wealth with economic liberalisation have not resulted in social development, what with stagnation in key social indicators, particularly among the disadvantaged. There has been an uneven expansion of social and economic opportunities with growing disparities across regions, castes and gender. While India's Gross Domestic Product argues for its middle-income nation status, it also hides massive poverty and much inequity. The challenge to convert India's commitments and resources into measurable results for all its citizens, especially those belonging to socially disadvantaged and marginalised communities, remains gigantic and unmet.

 

Illusory measurements

 

The Millennium Declaration, unlike many other documents, set out measurable aims instead of the usual vague platitudes of many international agreements. The MDGs focus on specific and measurable outcomes. However, employing proxy and surrogate variables to measure the country's success may not reflect actual progress. The focus on the massive inputs related to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) while discussing child and maternal mortality, for instance. Most NRHM documents describe in detail particulars of the increased funding, new infrastructure, additional health personnel and the many new initiatives. However, they are silent on their impact on the health of people. The Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), a conditional cash transfer scheme for safe motherhood, is operative and is part of the drive to increase institutional deliveries. The impressive number of women who have given birth to children in hospitals and the amounts utilised under the scheme measure its success. However, the system does not collect and collate data on the number of safe deliveries, the number of live births and measures of the health of mothers and babies. Data on the person who actually conducted the delivery, post-delivery complications, duration of stay at health centres and the status of the mother and child are not available. System failures related to transport, functioning of facilities, referral and emergency obstetric care are not rare but go undocumented.

 

While there is no doubt that the NRHM has made a positive impact on primary and secondary health systems, we need proof of improved functioning in addition to evidence of enhanced infrastructure and increased personnel. Specific measurements of outcomes will allow for course corrections and targeted inputs.

 

Similarly, while enrolment rates have improved, the question of retention of girls in primary education is yet to be established, posing a threat to meeting the targets for universal education. While the figures for hunger reduction look better, those for malnutrition in children suggest otherwise. The figures for poverty reduction are contested. Patriarchy is firmly established and shows little signs of change, especially in rural India, making gender equality and justice elusive. Many reports suggest that environmental sustainability of many development projects is not adequately evaluated.

 

While there are many gains, the question to be answered is: "Is India on track to meet the MDGs in 2015?" Its vast population, its diversity, the variability of services and the differing baselines across regions complicate the achievement of the MDGs. There is evidence that while some States are on track, many others lag behind and will lower the country's overall achievement. This demands a more detailed assessment of the impact of the many schemes introduced rather than the use of only input variables to predict MDG outputs.

 

Rhetoric-reality divide

 

India's vast geography and its diversity are major reasons for significant variations across regions. They mandate the need for separate targets, governance, a focus on public health and changes in social structures. The variability across regions mandates dedicated goals and specific targets tailored to regional baseline rates, for both specific regions and marginalised populations. Periodic assessments of specific outputs required to meet the MDGs are necessary rather than highlighting of new inputs. The many new schemes need to audit their actual, rather than their presumed, impact.

 

Any survey of regional data clearly documents that poor outcomes are in regions with poor governance. While the NRHM divides the country into high-focus and non-high focus States, the inputs to improve the situation are not directed at improving governance. The federal structure means that improving local governance is the responsibility of individual States. Many States have not fully exploited the increased funding and the newer schemes. Good governance is an effect multiplier and will have a much greater impact on the country's MDGs than just increases in finance, infrastructure and health personnel. Corruption is a deadlier disease which needs urgent attention than most of the medical conditions affecting the people.

 

The focus on improvement in health continues to employ perspectives of curative medicine rather than concentrate on public health approaches. Clean water, sanitation, nutrition, housing, education, employment and social determinants seem to receive a lower priority despite their known impact on the health of populations.

 

Feudal social structures continue to oppress millions of people. Health and economic indices of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes show much lower rates of health and greater poverty. Patriarchal society places much burden on girls and women, especially in rural India. Without changes in social structures, improvements in health and economic status will remain a distant dream for the many millions who live on the margins of a resurgent India.

 

The 10th anniversary assessment of the MDGs and its rhetoric left many wondering if they were just warm words, business as usual. Millions live in poverty, hunger is common, half the children under-five are malnourished, maternal mortality is unacceptably high, and a significant number of girls will not receive primary education. The sense of urgency, born of the moral conviction that extreme poverty is unacceptable in our inter-connected world, should not be lost. The time for action is now.

 

(Professor K.S. Jacob is on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS  ANYLYSIS

CHINA TO CUT EXPORTS OF RARE EARTH MINERALS

KEITH BRADSHER

 

The Chinese government plans a further reduction, of up to 30 per cent, next year in its quotas for exports of rare earth minerals, to try to conserve dwindling reserves of the materials, the official China Daily newspaper said on October 19.

 

Plans for smaller export quotas come just four days after American trade officials announced that they would investigate whether China is violating international trade rules with a wide range of policies to help its clean energy industries. One of the policies under investigation involves China's steady reductions in rare earth export quotas since 2005 and its imposition of steep taxes on these exports.

 

Applications

 

China mines 95 per cent of the world's rare earths. They are crucial for compact fluorescent bulbs, hybrid gasoline-electric cars, large wind turbines and other clean energy technologies, as well as for mobile phones and a wide range of military applications, like missiles.

 

Chao Ning, a Commerce Ministry official, told a conference in Beijing on October 16 that China had sizeable reserves of the lighter elements among the 17 rare earth elements, but only had 15 or 20 years' worth of reserves left of medium and heavy rare earths and needed to conserve those. Light rare earths are used in lower-tech applications like oil refining and glass manufacturing, while medium and heavy rare earths are used more in clean energy and military applications.

 

China Daily is owned and supervised by the Chinese government, and presents official views on a range of issues. Its article attributed the planned quota reduction to an unidentified Commerce Ministry official.

 

Bloomberg News quoted another commerce ministry official, Jiang Fan, who said at a conference in Xiamen that she was not aware of plans for a further reduction in rare earths.

 

Wang Caifeng, the secretary-general of the Chinese Rare Earths Industry Association, predicted at the conference that domestic demand for rare earths in China would soar to 130,000 tons in 2015, from 75,000 tons now, Bloomberg reported. The export quotas for this year total just 30,300 tons.

 

Commerce Ministry representatives in Beijing did not answer calls for comment.— © New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

GOOGLE TO BRING DEAD SEA SCROLLS ONLINE

 

Israel's Antiquities Authority is partnering with Google to bring the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls online. The project will grant free access to the 2,000-year-old text — considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of the last century — by uploading high-resolution images. The first photographs are slated to be online within months. The scrolls will be available in both original languages and in translation.

 

Antiquities official Pnina Shor said on October 19 that this will ensure the originals are preserved while broadening access to the priceless artefact, which includes fragments of the Hebrew Bible. Experts have complained that only a small number of scholars were allowed access to the scrolls found in caves near the Dead Sea in the 1940s. – AP

 

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THE HINDU

J.K. ROWLING WINS DANISH AWARD

 

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling has won the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Prize. She is the first recipient of the 5,00,000 kroner ($93,352) award, which was handed out on October 19 at a ceremony in Odense, Andersen's hometown.

 

The prize is given to a person who can be compared with Andersen, the Danish writer who was born in 1805 and wrote some 160 fairy tales and poems before his death in 1875. Rowling said the author of such classics as "The Little Mermaid" and the "The Ugly Duckling" had "created indestructible, eternal characters." Rowling's seven books have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide and translated as well. – AP

 

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THE HINDU

DIALOGUE FOR ME IS RECOGNITION OF THE SERIOUS: ROWAN WILLIAMS

THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY ON ISSUES THAT HAVE COME TO THE FORE.

P. JACOB


One of the most significant visits to India by a major religious leader in recent decades is the ongoing 16-day visit by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. In this extended interview, excerpts of which are being published in two parts in the print edition, the distinguished theologian and scholar discusses issues facing the Anglican Communion of Churches that he leads, the state of Anglican-Roman Catholic relations, engagement with Islam and Hinduism, issues that have struck him during the India visit, and himself. The hour-long interview was given to P. Jacob, Senior Associate Editor of The Hindu, at the CSI Centre in Chennai on October 18. Excerpts:

 

You became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003 at a particularly difficult time in relations among the different churches that comprise the Anglican Communion. There was even talk of the Communion being on the verge of fragmentation. Yet your attempts to keep all sides talking to one another have been notable. Could you tell us how it has been going, and what you see ahead of you?

 

I think that after the Lambeth Conference of 2008 many people felt that we found ways of talking to one another, and perhaps exercising some restraint and tact towards one another. And it was very significant that at the next meeting of the Anglican primates, which was in the early part of 2009, all major Churches of the Communion were represented.

 

Unfortunately, the situation does not remain there. The decision of the American Church to go forward, as it has, with the ordination of a lesbian bishop has, I think, set us back. At the moment I'm not certain how we will approach the next primates' meeting, but regrettably some of the progress that I believe we had made has not remained steady. Alongside that, and I think this is important, while the institutions of the Communion struggle, in many ways the mutual life of the Communion, the life of exchange and cooperation between different parts of our Anglican family, is quite strong and perhaps getting stronger. It's a paradox. We are working more closely together on issues of development than we did before. We have the emergence of an Anglican health network across the globe, bringing together various health care institutions. We have also had quite a successful programme on the standards and criteria for theological education across the Communion. So, a very mixed picture.

 

In your February 2010 address to the General Synod, you warned that infighting over women bishops and gay priests could split the Communion. You even conceded that, unless Anglicans find a way to live with their differences, the Church would change shape and become a multi-tier Communion of different levels – a schism in all but name. Which way are things heading on these two fronts?

 

Women bishops & gay priests

 

I think I'll be able to be clearer about that after the next primates' meeting. But at the moment I couldn't say I felt completely optimistic about that. I feel that we may yet have to face the possibility of deeper divisions. I don't at all like, or want to encourage, the idea of a multi-tier organisation. But that would, in my mind, be preferable to complete chaos and fragmentation. It's about agreeing what we could do together.

 

On both these fronts – the ordination of women priests and then Bishops, and also the ordination of gay and lesbian bishops?

 

I think that the importance of the ordination of women question is much greater in England than in most other parts of the Communion at the moment. Far more difficult for the Communion as a whole because of the deep theological and cultural issues involved is the question of gay clergy. I know because in the last two Lambeth Conferences women Bishops have been present. Nobody has stayed away because of women bishops. So it's not quite the same kind of issue.

 

May I point out that the first woman priest was ordained 21 years ago in this part of India.

 

I've met a number already in North and South India, yes. Which is why I say: as there are women clergy in Africa too, it's not that huge a question.

 

After years of debate and threatened schism in the Communion, the Church has taken a decisive and progressive step towards appointing women as bishops, with a final Synod vote due in 2012. How do you see the way forward?

 

I think it's well-known that in the Church of England there is a very significant minority of people who believe that the Church of England and the Anglican Churches generally should not take a large step like ordaining women bishops without more consultation with, or sensitivity to, the other great Churches – the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. That group does not wish to stop the process towards women bishops. I think they know there's a majority, it will happen. What they are concerned about is to find fair and secure provision for their point of view within the Church of England. That's been the most difficult question: not whether or not we have women bishops but what will be the provision made for the minority. Now this last summer the Synod declined to accept the suggestions made by the Archbishops, and I understand their reasons. But it's left us with quite a lot of work to try and do our best for that group as well as honouring the calling of women to the Episcopate.

 

Archbishop, you have often described a Bishop's role as one that involves holding together diversity. How far have you been able to do this on these two questions?

 

Well, to the extent that the Communion has not fractured beyond repair and the Church of England is still engaged in shared discussion of these things, I don't think I have yet failed completely! But time will tell.

 

Relations with Catholic Church

 

Your tenure has seen fraught relations with the Roman Catholic Church. It has seen the all-but-unilateral Apostolic Constitution that the Pope issued last year, creating a new Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church that was aimed at Anglicans who were uncomfortable with the ordination of women and gay clergy. What are your comments on this situation? There was the newspaper headline that spoke of the papal tanks on the lawns of Lambeth Palace.

 

Yes, I know. I said at that time that was a nonsensical version of the story. I was very taken aback that this large step was put before us without any real consultation. And it did seem to me that some bits of the Vatican didn't communicate with other bits. Overall it seemed to me a pastoral provision for certain people who couldn't accept where the Church of England was going, a pastoral provision which didn't in itself affect the relations between the two Churches, between mainstream Churches. But it caused some ripples because I think there was a widespread feeling that it would have been better to consult. There were questions that could have been asked and answered and dealt with together. And as this is now being implemented, we are trying to make sure that there is a joint group which will keep an eye on how it's going to happen. In England, the relations between the Church of England and Roman Catholic Bishops are very warm and very close. I think we are able to work together on this and not find it a difficulty.

 

 

Last year you touched on this question in an address given in Rome. Isn't it somewhat inexplicable that the

ordination of women by Anglican Churches became a deal-breaker in the Catholic-Anglican dialogue, in spite of the fact that the two religions have reached agreement on far more complex theological questions in the years since the Protestant Reformation?

 

Yes, what I was trying to say in Rome last year was that, actually, we had within the last 30 or 40 years achieved an extraordinary level of agreement about how we understood the ordained ministry and the sacraments. And I was still rather puzzled by the fact that this one question – who can be a priest? – suddenly emerged as the only one that mattered, as it were. Whereas, in fact, I think I said the glass is half-full, not half-empty. We have, in fact, dealt with a great deal of substance there and I suppose I really then wanted to remind both my own Church and our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters that we had established a common language for talking about priesthood and about the sacraments. And we shouldn't suppose that our disagreement about the status of women simply invalidated all of the rest of that!

 

What are your views on the roles of the Christian Church in a plural — in religious terms — context such as we have in India? You made a significant comment in a speech in Chennai on the need to "listen to the voices of other faiths," but without letting go of the Church's convictions, you said. What will such an approach involve?

 

For me it involves above all the willingness to build relationships through common study and sometimes through common silence. We can't pray publicly together, for many reasons. Prayer follows conviction. But we can sometimes keep silence together. We can certainly look together at the sacred texts of one or another tradition. We can watch how other people handle their sacred texts and their rituals and learn from that. And in that process we become able to recognise some kind of integrity and some kind of depth in one another. It doesn't mean I say, 'Oh well, you must be right.' But I can at least say, 'I know you're serious.' And that's dialogue for me – the recognition of the serious. And therefore if we find we can do things together after all in servicing, witnessing, peace-making, then it will come out of depths, not shallows.

 

In 2008, you visited the Balaji Temple in Tividale, West Midlands, on a goodwill mission to represent the friendship between Christianity and Hinduism. We learn that you agreed to be part of an Anglican-Hindu dialogue in Bangalore later this week. Have you been following up on this relationship?

 

Anglican-Hindu dialogue

 

To some extent, yes. For many reasons in the U.K., it's tended to be the Christian-Muslim dialogue that has filled the horizon. It's politically the more pressing in some ways. But I'm very conscious of the way in which a number of Hindus in the U.K. say, ' Nobody ever talks to us, everyone's interested in Muslims.' So of course we try to pursue a dialogue as best we can. I made two or three visits to Hindu centres and welcome the opportunity of hearing from well-placed Hindus during these visits. The dialogue with Hindus in this country has of course been going on for a long time. When I was first in India in 1981, I spent a great deal of time in the Jesuit library, Vidyajyoti in Delhi, reading up on some of the background of the dialogue as it had developed then.

 

While in India during the past few days, you have come across several issues of justice, marginalisation, even oppression within the Church being raised in different fora. The voices that have highlighted the so-called high caste-low caste issues, the Dalit question, have been quite striking. Are you going to continue to engage with these questions?

 

Oppression and justice

 

I hope so, yes – the questions that have already been presented in the U.K. from time to time. I suppose my main concern here is that India constitutionally does not recognise caste, except by its provision for scheduled communities. It certainly doesn't recognise any discrimination based on caste or any privilege based on caste. It's part of the great Indian political project, in a sense, of equal access to the law for everyone. And I would hope that the pursuit of that project ought not to be offensive to people's religious convictions. However, I know it is not as simple as that and I think the situation of some communities is a matter of real concern. I have heard a little bit, not only on this visit but from previous contacts, about the condition of manual scavengers, for example, in this part of India as well as elsewhere. That gives me great concern and I shall want to pursue some of these issues.

 

You were in New York on September 11, 2001, metres from Ground Zero. You were delivering a lecture there, and subsequently wrote the book, Writing in the Dust, offering reflections on the event. What are your views on the controversy on the erection of a mosque there?

 

In an ideal world, the erection of a mosque on the site would be a powerful, positive symbol of what Islam was at its best. In the real world, not everyone is going to see it that way. And I think I would be more encouraging of some real cooperation between the faiths around that site. To make some kind of holy space that everyone could recognise – Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others. Because suffering and death are not the preserve of any one community and the response, the godly response, is not the preserve of one community. I would love to see a real cooperation on that site.

 

You famously made a reference to Al-Qaeda, saying that terrorists "can have serious moral goals" and that "bombast about evil individuals doesn't help in understanding anything." May we have your views on terror and the "war" against it?

 

Yes, what I was saying on that occasion was that the appalling wickedness and violence of terrorist methods shouldn't blind us to the fact that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, terrorists are working for something which we might think was good, that is the real inclusion of an oppressed community. The methods are utterly indefensible, and as I say, they are evil. But if we simply say, ' all terrorists are individuals who are completely evil,' that means I have no responsibility to understand them, I have no responsibility of recognising in myself some of the things that just might push me towards violence or anything, and I don't think that helps us.

 

So the 'war on terror' phrase has always been to me a bit doubtful. Because a war is usually something, an event where we engage with a clear enemy, with a clear goal in view. We know when we've won. The 'war on terror' isn't like that. And the struggle against all the conditions that produce terrorism is greater than a war. It's a struggle against the material conditions that drive people to despair, it's a struggle against the mental and spiritual environment which, in more than one religious tradition, creates extremist positions and hatred about this. That's a struggle worth engaging with, it really is. Because, as I said, I think, last week, bad religion is not the preserve of any one tradition – but bad religion is best driven out by good religion.

 

You've argued that the partial adoption of Sharia in the U.K. is "unavoidable" as a method of arbitration in such affairs as marriage, and should not be resisted. Did your Sharia lecture have embedded in it a belief, and dismay, that religion has been driven out of public life into the private realm of individual choice?

 

The Sharia question

Yes, that was one of the concerns of the lecture – that a mature and healthy society ought to be capable of some degree of flexibility about the legal provisions it recognises in the community's make-up in society. Let me illustrate the point in a more specific way, though. After I'd given the lecture, a Muslim lawyer in the U.K. came up to me at the reception and said, 'The reason I agree with some of what you say is that there are already Sharia codes operating in Britain but they are uncontrolled, they're not accountable, they're often administered by people with very limited legal skills. I would like to see a real professional engagement between the state and the Muslim community to set standards for some areas where Sharia might operate.' And the comparison, in my mind, is with the way the state and religious bodies work together in education. If I as a religious person say, 'I will ask the state to cooperate in a religious school,' I'm saying 'I expect the state to hold me accountable to certain standards. I have to look very hard at my own practices and the syllabus and methods.' I think that's very good. The state agrees to cooperate but the state can quite rightly ask about the standards we set. Now, in the context of religious schools, I think that's a good development. There might be areas of the law – and I say might – where that could be done. We haven't really begun to have that argument properly. I think the reaction to the Sharia lecture slightly showed how hard it was to have that discussion but we have moved forward.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

NITISH SITS PRETTY AS BIHAR GOES TO POLLS

 

The Congress is on the lookout to regain some of its earlier composure in states from which it has been more or less blanked out in successive elections over the better part of 25 years. Its impressive performance in Uttar Pradesh in last year's Lok Sabha election has whetted the party's appetite and it is right now in the process of trying to carve out an independent, meaningful, space for itself in Bihar. Being held in six stages spread over a month, the first round of polling in the state is on Thursday, and the Congress has thrown everything it has got into the campaign. The party's big guns have been wheeled out — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and her son Rahul, an AICC general secretary, whose appearance as the charismatic young face of the party is no longer a secret. Whatever the ambitions of the Congress, it may do well to keep in mind that a parliamentary election and a state-level one differ in many respects. The significance of local factors is amplified at the hustings in an Assembly election, while larger all-India issues are highlighted in a Lok Sabha contest. In the Bihar context, it is hard to resist the feeling that the Congress campaign has overlooked state-level sensitivities and concerns, choosing to dwell mainly on the party's perception that it is the champion of an inclusive development agenda and of secularism. It is not unlikely that many in Bihar might go along with this view and yet not vote for the Congress as they would be driven by the dynamics of their immediate political and social environment.


Since both the Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal are seeking to challenge the JD(U)-BJP alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar, the challengers give the appearance of overdrawing the picture in an effort to show up the weaknesses of the ruling side. A comic example of this is the RJD chief promising free "motorcycles" to students to match the free "cycles" given out by the Nitish government to schoolchildren. A smart, jovial, retort by the CM killed that line of thought. It is remarkable, nevertheless, that this is about the only so-called substantive point that the RJD sought to make in its campaign to win back Bihar. A party that had ruled the state for 15 years should have been in a position to point out the shortcomings of the government in a manner that the electorate might find persuasive. Such an effort was not even made. As for the RJD's ally, Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, it has hardly been seen or heard of since electioneering commenced. The impression is left that the RJD-LJP alliance has no counter-narrative that might disconcert the ruling alliance. This has enabled the government side, whose sole public face is the CM himself, to breathe easy. It sat back and watched its so-called principal opponents kick the ball around in their own half of the field. As for the Congress, the main point that its top leaders sought to drive home is that the state government has not been able to utilise Central funds for welfare schemes. In Indian politics, this point is as old as the hills, as is its corollary — the complaint by state governments not run by the party in power at the Centre that it is being starved of resources by the Government of India as an act of political vendetta.


It is easy to see that Bihar's ruling alliance has had an easy ride on account of the inadequacies of the election campaign run by its opponents. The skewed approach of the challengers could conceivably make their task more difficult.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

EUROPEAN ROULETTE

K.C. SINGH

 

As the Commonwealth Games spectacle spirals from fiasco to euphoria and now an inquisition, the nation awaits one-day cricket and US President Barack H. Obama. Electronic media's "breaking news" leaves little space for strategic analysis or gravity. A case in point is Europe.


The writer was in Brussels for the second meeting of the India-Europe Forum, jointly sponsored by the Indian Council of World Affairs, the European Union International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), a think tank of the socialist democrats, on October 11-12.
The standard Indian post-Cold War mantra has been that a new stable world order must be multi-polar, with Europe as one pole. An unexceptional thought, as the European Union (EU) constitutes 27 countries, 500 million people and GDP totalling $16 trillion, exceeding even that of the US. However, EU has lacked cohesion in its foreign and security policies. The debate over the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (Nato) future after Soviet Union's collapse, the lack of unified purpose in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) European components in Afghanistan, with each nation's disparate terms of engagement and finally the slow progress in developing their own military reserve, called the Euro Corps, indicate strategic uncertainty. Nato, the bridge that links European security to the US, remains the bulwark of European defence even for out-of-area operations. For India the distinction is vital as India may join EU-led operations, say against Somali pirates, but would eschew involvement in anything that smells of Nato, which invokes the imagery of an alliance.
After eight years of negotiations, the Lisbon Treaty has come into force on December 1, 2009, ratified by all 27 members. The European Parliament, consisting of 736 members with each country sending numbers proportionate to their populations, is now co-equal with the European Council, constituted of all 27 heads of state. It is this reality that India has to recognise. The troubled history of India's relations with the European Parliament, overly intrusive on Kashmir and human rights issues, needs to be overcome as the role of the new Parliament stands enlarged. While the Free Trade Agreement between India and EU may be finalised before the India-EU summit next month, it would need to be approved by the EU Parliament. There are whispers that a sustainability proviso may be saddled onto it. Under that rubric can come issues ranging from energy use to labour practices etc. Till now India has been chary of forthrightly engaging the Members of European Parliament (MEPs). The preference has been to take the bilateral track with principal European nations, where realpolitick stumps ideology and diplomacy supplants politics.


Take the case of the Kashmir Centre in Brussels. Established in October 2003, under the tutelage of the International Council for Human Rights, it is a child of European human rights evangelism mating with Pakistani activism. While its stated purpose is to agitate for self-determination in Kashmir and generally promote respect for human rights, it is really an ill-disguised Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) front for India bashing. The effect of its jaundiced narrative was evident as even senior functionaries of the commission at the India-Europe Forum had an understanding of Kashmir that was both dated and one-sided.


Baroness Catherine Ashton's appointment as the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and the likely establishment of a European diplomatic service will lead to growing convergence of policies even on these issues. India's Europe policy is rooted in strong bilateral relations with the three biggest EU members, i.e. France, Germany and UK. On October 19, the British strategic defence review is expected, perhaps leading to a paring of the defence budget. Two weeks later French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be in the UK for the annual summit. It is being speculated that to avoid military shrinkage, collaboration and even burden-sharing may be inevitable. The Economist calls it Suez redux — recalling the Suez debacle in 1956, the last Franco-British joint operation, following which France became isolationist and Britain a junior US ally.
Someone at the forum analogised that EU and India were akin, despite disparities of economic development. Both were democratic, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and repositories of ancient culture, with the difference that India was already a political union. The European social model of combining growth with equity, regulation with innovation were ingested by India's founding fathers by way of Fabian socialism and the European workers' movement. Time is ripe for a reengagement with a more coalesced Europe through a robust engagement with its post-Lisbon treaty organs, particularly the European Parliament. The change requires a new mindset, which takes Europe, collectively, and its value system more seriously.


The silly practice of sending officers of the IAS as ambassadors to EU betrays an assessment of EU merely as a trading partner. The incumbent, though a career diplomat, was again posted there because of his experience in the finance ministry, albeit as the joint secretary dealing with the capital markets when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the finance minister. This is his first ambassadorial assignment.


Tony Blair in his memoir A Journey laments that euro-skeptics in UK, nursing a "post empire delusion", made Britain over dependent on the US, curtailing its strategic independence. The British destiny, surmises now the most pro-US of the recent British Prime Ministers, rests in an alliance with Europe for the nation to "exert influence and advance its interests". A vital lesson, perhaps, for the Indian Prime Minister on the eve of the US President's visit.

 

The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

JUSTICE, NOT CATHARSIS

SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

As the second phase of the Khmer Rouge trials began last month with the indictment of the four members — Noun Chea, leng Sary, leng Thirath and Khieu Samphan — for genocide and crimes against humanity, there is a growing feeling that the trials may not prove to be effective in bringing closure for the millions of Cambodians who suffered human rights violations under the Khmer Rouge.


In July 2010, the verdict in the trial of Duch, alias Kaing Guek Eav, who was the chief of the dreaded S-21 interrogation centre also known as the Tuol Sleng Prison and facing charges for overseeing the deaths of about 15,000 people in the late 1970s, left the Cambodian people and the international community pitted against each other in a debate on the quantum of punishment. Following the announcement of the verdict by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) that Duch was to be given a 30-year jail sentence and that he would be free to leave the prison after 18 years, the public reaction was one of disappointment. The court had taken into consideration the fact that Duch had already served 11 years in prison since 1999 while awaiting trial, and hence commuted his sentence to 18 years. Prosecutors are demanding life imprisonment.
The dichotomy between the interpretations of humanitarian justice and the angst of the Cambodian people are on two distinct parallels. One of the victims who has lived to see the trials stated that the Duch verdict made those who suffered the atrocities go through the ordeal twice — once as victims of the Khmer Rouge and a second time when the punishment was less than expected.


In the context of crimes against humanity and the Geneva Conventions which lay out a code of conduct with relation to war and barbarity, the Khmer Rouge trial is very significant. The degree of atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge was of such serious nature that a strict implementation of the convention must be applied. In the context of the Khmer Rouge trials this has become somewhat diluted as a result of the ambiguous role played by the international community during the Cold War years.


Another process that is coming under scrutiny is the fact that in the case of the Cambodian trials the system of a hybrid international judicial system has been adopted. The hybrid system includes both international and domestic jurists and laws.


Also, for the first trial of Duch, the court included civil parties as part of the hybrid judicial process. These consisted initially of both civil society groups and groups formed by members of victims and their families. However, out of the 87 civil parties that were formed, only 66 were recognised. The court felt that the other 21 groups did not qualify for consideration as civil parties. This announcement was made at the time of the Duch verdict and left several groups bewildered. Many felt that since in the context of the ECCC there is no trust fund to give monetary compensation to the aggrieved parties, there was no need to limit the number of civil parties. While their inclusion would in no way impact the trial process, it could have provided psychological closure to the victims and their families.


One of the stated objectives of the courts is to provide "collective and moral reparations". Not including these parties does not fulfil that mandate.


The trial of Noun Chea, popularly known as Brother No. 2, second to Pol Pot in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, is slated to commence early next year. Along with him will be three other key figures — leng Sary, his wife leng Thirath and Khieu Samphan. There is concern that their trial will lead to more divisiveness between the ruling government of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the United Nations because these men are the central figures of the Khmer Rouge and the current government is a breakaway faction of the Khmer Rouge. The revelations of these four could provide evidence leading to the ruling government.


A recent documentary, titled Enemies of the People (2009), by Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin, has interviews with Noun Chea who highlights the power struggles within the Khmer Rouge and alleges the complicity of the current ruling establishment of Cambodia in the genocidal crimes.


This may indeed be credible information given that the early years of the Khmer Rouge were incoherent in terms of establishing its leadership. Even immediately after the Khmer Rouge victory, the administration remained weak and control was diffused among many leaders.


It is believed that the leadership of the Khmer Rouge was divided into two factions — anti- and pro-Vietnamese — and in the struggle between these conflicting ideologies, both sides indulged in genocidal crimes against the Cambodian people. Establishing this fact could lead to a more complex scenario for the ECCC. The dilemma would then be over whether only the core group of the Khmer Rouge needs to be tried for genocide or if the net needs to be cast over a larger group of individuals who may have also had a hand in the killings.


The trial of Brother No. 2 and others may reveal if more leaders were involved.


Though only five members of the Khmer Rouge are being prosecuted, five other former Khmer Rouge members are also on the ECCC's agenda. However, their identities remain secret. The challenge for the ECCC will be to give a clear verdict in these cases and also bring others compliant in these crimes to book.


The four senior members, including Brother No. 2, were part of the core decision-making group which led the four-year-long darkest period in Cambodian history — from 1975 to 1979, an estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died from overwork, disease and malnutrition. While Duch may have appealed to the court for leniency stating that he was merely carrying out orders, the remaining four were the masterminds. The verdict in these four cases will highlight the seriousness of the trials. The collective psychology of an entire generation of victims will depend on what the courts are able to deliver.

 

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

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DNA

            REPORT

ANOTHER BOOK, ANOTHER SURRENDER

 

Mumbai University has sadly played true to form by quicklyremoving Rohinton Mistry's novel, Such a Long Journey, from its syllabus after Bal Thackeray's grandson thought it was less than respectful to his granddad. This instant capitulation to political pressure or community "sentiment", especially when it comes to freedom of expression, is practically par for the course. This is nothing short of unfortunate, but we have seen it before. Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, BR Ambedkar's Riddles of Rama and Krishna, James Laine's Shivaji and Taslima Nasrin's Lajjaare among the prominent books which have suffered in India, many of them in Maharashtra.

 

The controversy over Javier Moro's novel, The Red Saree, told through the story of Sonia Gandhi, or the film Indian Summer, about the relationship between Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru, all fall in the Mistry-Thackeray mould — the tendency where we have turned our politicians into sacred cows. A character in Mistry's novel is critical of Bal Thackeray. What is there to get so enraged about? Is Thackeray — or any public figure — above criticism? If the answer is ever "yes" then we have to question our claims of being a democracy.

 

Mistry's novel has been around for 20 years and has been taught in colleges for three. The objections made by a politician's relative squarely cannot be the criteria by which a literary work is selected or rejected by an educational institution. The vice-chancellor of the

 

university has only made it clear that he wants to keep his political patrons happy and is willing to sacrifice academia to that craving. But there is no need for civil society to buckle down. The bogey of law and order problems which will be used as justification has to be exposed for what it is – an excuse.

 

Mistry has suggested that young Aditya Thackeray should read Rabindranath Tagore's poem, "Where the mind is without fear". In fact, it seems that everyone from the chief minister down to the vice-chancellor or all Indian politicians and their sycophants ought to read it.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

GREEN CAUSE VERSUS GREENFIELD PROJECTS

 

India's green gladiators sure enjoy their moment in the sun when they shoot down big industry and infrastructure projects. A panel comprising retired forest officer Devendra Pandey, environmental researcher Urmila Pingle, and Madras high court lawyer

 

V Suresh, appointed by the ministry of environment and forests, gave the thumbs down to the Posco integrated steel plant in Orissa. They want the project to be scrapped in its present form.

 

There was a lone note of dissent. The head of the panel, former environment secretary Meena Gupta, disagreed with the majority, but not wholly. She too favoured additional conditionalities and compliance on the part of the South Korean steel giant before the project was allowed to go ahead. So, what is the major difference

 

between the three members and its head? It is over details, and details are indeed crucial.

 

The members made a clear observation that the environmental clearance process for the Posco project has been a farce. They said that Posco suppressed information, the Orissa government fabricated evidence and the ministry of environment and forests altered records to facilitate clearance. These are indeed serious allegations and indicative of the shortsightedness of both industry and its cheerleaders in government who want fast-paced development. By trying to circumvent the law, they have not done themselves any favour. They will have to learn to accept the green guidelines not under duress but in the long-term interests of all stakeholders. Industry will lose out, not just in terms of public goodwill, but in real economic terms, if it does not nurse the environment.

 

These are serious violations in the Posco project and it would not do to cover them up through general arguments about the need for ultra-mega projects like steel plants to pull the region and its people out of abysmal poverty. The either/or argument has to end.

 

We need both the steel plant and a good environment. Needless friction is being created by industry and government, on the one hand, and environmental zealots, on the other, that development and environment cannot go together. The green warriors believe they are battling on behalf of poor tribals, but one doubts if the tribals are happy to wallow in poverty in the name of environment.

 

There is a strong, realistic case for protecting the environment. What we need is a set of transparent green protocols. Ecological factors need to be assessed non-ideologically, and tradeoffs need to be clearly stated upfront.

 

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DNA

REPORT

FRENCH SIREN BRIGITTE BARDOT'S PET CAUSE

 

So Brigitte Bardot, the French siren who set cinema screens ablaze in the 1960s and 1970s, has not lost her ability to create headlines. The woman who infamously remarked some years ago that France was resounding to the muezzin's call for prayer and not with church bells, has declared her intention to contest the presidential elections in 2012.

 

Lifting the French economy from the doldrums isn't on top of her agenda — though she has no problems with that aim, too. Her pet cause is the issue of animal rights. She says that neither the political right nor the political left cares for animals and she, therefore, feels compelled to pick up the gauntlet. At 76, Bardot may not be the person she was at 24 or 36, but that does not in any way invalidate her genuine love and concern for animals. The issue might sound as cranky as some of the wilder green causes, but very soon it will become a major issue. The earth as we know it is incomplete without God's plenty — which would include the animal world. Bardot is making an important point, though she is unlikely ever to take up residence at the Elysee Palace as the country's president.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

YOU HAVE A PURPOSE, WORK ON FINDING IT

RAMESH MENON

 

We all need a purpose in life. And we all have one. It is just that it is lying dormant. You need to rake it up and reveal it to yourself. If we do not know what we want, we become floaters. Is it money? Is it happiness? Is it adventure? What inspires you? Was there a point in time when you felt that your life experienced meaning and direction? What was that feeling like?

 

These questions do not have easy answers. We need to really think of what makes us happy, fulfilled. Charles Kingsley once said, "We act as though comfort and luxury are the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about." Logically, these questions should be on the tip of our tongues. But we spend so little time with ourselves that we never think of this. One way to do it is to ask what our values are. If you are clear about this, it makes it easier to zero in on the purpose.

 

Another way is to write it down. Maybe, you will write and scratch if off and write again. Never mind. It shows you are thinking. Some may take hours to finish, but the process that they go through is a journey in self-discovery.

 

When you finally find what makes your heart flutter, pause. See why and how it makes you happy, excited or fulfilled. Also ask why you have not done it till now. What we need to focus on is our feelings and not goals. Often doing things for others or helping others get on to a new high in life is what makes us happy.

 

Get down to figuring it all out. It will light up the path in front of you in a way that getting to the purpose will be easier than you think.

 

The writer is a journalist and corporate trainer

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHY OBAMA'S CLAIMS AREN'T CUTTING ANY ICE

 

Barack Obama seems to think he's done a pretty terrific job as president, but maybe he hasn't trumpeted his accomplishments effectively enough. He told The Times' Peter Baker, "Given how much stuff was coming at us, we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top —that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular."

 

This assessment is debatable, but it won't be among the things that are front and centre in the minds of voters as the November elections approach. The problem for Obama and the Democrats is the widespread sense among anxiety-riddled Americans that the country is still in very bad shape and headed in the wrong direction. A Gallup poll found that 62% feel that economic conditions are deteriorating.

 

The president and his party may have racked up one legislative victory after another — on the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, the health care bill, and so forth — but ordinary Americans do not feel as if their lives or their prospects are improving. And they don't think it's a public relations problem.

 

Nearly 15 million are jobless and many who are working are worried that they (or a close relative) will soon become unemployed. The once solid foundation of home ownership has grown increasingly wobbly, with the number of foreclosures this year expected to surpass a million. And, the country is still at war.

 

The voter unrest that is manifesting itself in myriad ways reflects a real fear that not just family finances but the country itself is in a state of decline. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have come to grips with this fear, although the Republicans have done yeoman's work exploiting it.

 

Job creation was the most important issue. With his sky-high approval ratings and the economy hemorrhaging hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, a bold and creative employment initiative tied to long-term investments in infrastructure and green energy was the issue that Obama could — and should — have used to trump Republican obstructionism.

 

But Obama wanted his health care bill. He would also escalate the monumentally debilitating war in Afghanistan. Employment never seemed to be the top priority. What ordinary voters see is an economy that is not working for them and an increasingly dismal outlook for their children. From that perspective, the enormous budget deficits don't seem to be providing much of a tangible return. The problem for Obama is that logic does not always rule the electoral roost. Voters want the same thing they wanted in 2008: change.

 

However the elections turn out, the Obama administration needs to begin focusing much more intently on the economic plight of ordinary Americans. Nearly 44 million are living in poverty. One-third of all Hispanic children and more than one-third of black children are poor.

 

Job security, paid vacations, health insurance and a secure retirement are going the way of the typewriter. More than 11 million new jobs would have to be created just to get us back to where we were when the Great Recession began. No one sees that happening anytime soon.

 

Democrats are in trouble because they have not been aggressive enough in confronting this profound economic crisis.

 

— The writer is a columnist with the New York Times

 

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DNA

COLUMN

OBAMA & CO ARE PLANNING TO RUN AWAY FROM AFGHANISTAN

 

With Afghanistan facing a lot of uncertainty in the foreseeable future, it is imperative for India to begin thinking of how it should meet the contingencies arising in its immediate neighbourhood. Latest reports from Kabul tend to suggest that president Hamid Karzai's government has, in a way, begun talking to a section of the Taliban. Although these talks are at a preliminary stage, the idea is to promote "reconciliation" to facilitate the induction of what, in US president Barack Obama's language, are called "the good Taliban."

 

Clearly, the inspiration for talks with the Taliban comes from president Obama's plans to begin pulling out US troops from Afghanistan from next summer. President Obama has convened a meeting of his senior advisors in December in Washington to discuss not whether US troops should be pulled out or not, but simply to work out a timetable for his exit plans. Nato nations, which are fighting alongside the US, and are equally keen to get out of Afghanistan, are meeting in November to discuss similar ideas.

 

President Obama had made known his desire to pull out of Afghanistan soon after he moved into the White House. Domestic compulsions, the economic cost of fighting the war, continuing casualties and his keenness to contest for a second term have led him to favour a pullout. Opinion polls in Germany, France, the UK and other Nato countries also support a pullout.

 

Neither in Washington, nor in other Nato capitals, however, is serious thought being given to the implications of a pullout for Afghanistan, the region and the rest of the world. Even Henry Kissinger is reported to have remarked in a pithy comment that exit is being discussed rather than an exit strategy.

 

No one expects the US and Nato troops to go on fighting endlessly in the mountainous terrains of Afghanistan year after year, but leaving without achieving decisive results makes no sense.

 

The term "good Taliban" is an oxymoron. And if the current exercises in Kabul and Washington lead to the induction of such an entity into the Karzai government, it is unlikely to bring "sufficient stability" to Afghanistan as is being aimed at by the allies.

 

The move for a Karzai-plus-Taliban government may provide an excuse for the US and Nato troops to leave, but it may not turn out to be a lasting arrangement in Kabul. Once inside the government, the Taliban would like to capture absolute power, possibly cutting short even Karzai's tenure. Pakistan will have achieved its desired goal to have "strategic depth" by placing a convenient regime in Kabul.

 

The Taliban in power can again cause instability in Afghanistan, possibly a civil war between the Pakistan-backed Taliban government in Kabul, on the one hand, and the Uzbeks, the Tajiks and the Hazras, on the other. The world community should not forget the grim days of the Taliban regime of the 1990s which brought the US and Nato troops into the country.

 

A civil war in Afghanistan can in turn lead to regional instability - drawing in Afghanistan's neighbours – a situation president Obama and his Nato would surely like to avoid. Logically, a grimmer scenario may emerge, which will not bring comfort to even Pakistan, a state already facing acute problems with all sorts of jehadi groups functioning under different labels like the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul-Mujahideen and others.

 

What if the Taliban in Afghanistan join hands with the Pakistan Taliban and other jehadi groups and the al-Qaeda! After all, it is not that Pakistan wants to acquire a strategic depth in Afghanistan, it is the Taliban that have already acquired a strategic depth in Pakistan. This can create difficulties for Pakistan, which already is wrestling with multiple problems associated with the symptoms of a failed state.

 

There is a more serious danger inherent in the unfolding situation. What if the nuclear weapons now being guarded by the Pakistani army fall into the hands of the jehadi groups one day! It is a grim, almost nightmarish, scenario that should cause worry to the world and should never be allowed to happen.

 

Washington and the chanceries in Nato need to rework their plans to pull out of Afghanistan taking into account the consequences of what they are intending to do now because of domestic reasons.

 

Geopolitical compulsions would require them to think of a post-pullout dispensation for Afghanistan which should allow it to be on its own without leaving scope for outside interference by any other foreign power.

 

This kind of special dispensation can be discussed at an international conference of members of the UN Security Council, the European Union countries, Afghanistan and its neighbours, including Pakistan, Iran and India. International guarantees can be worked out at this conference ensuring that no outside power will play games, big or small, in Afghanistan. It has always suffered from such power games.

 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

HERITAGE OF AKHNOOR

 

Whoever has said "enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they are the big things" has been in touch with the reality. Small can indeed be big. We are reminded of these time-tested idioms because of a small celebration recently in Akhnoor tehsil on the banks of the mighty Chinab. A heritage walk from Ambaran to Jia Pota temple has once again brought into light the hidden treasure of Akhnoor. Indeed, an archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has made a significant contribution on the occasion. Dr Prakash Kumar has highlighted the historicity of Ambaran as well as the Akhnoor fort. He has reiterated what unfortunately still sounds like a voice crying in the wilderness. According to him, the site is one of the oldest Buddhist places in the world and one of the very few where a stupa has been excavated. It is a pity that Ambaran is slow in getting its due recognition. From time to time we have tried to highlight in these columns that it deserves better and closer attention of concerned authorities. It is believed to have been on the route of Buddhist monks and traders going from Patliputra (currently known as Patna in Bihar) to Taxila (in Pakistan these days). It is admitted that it must have been a large monastic complex about 1200 years ago. Some people have found similarity in Ambaran and Bodhgaya and Taxila, which in itself is a profound statement. The stupa referred to above is conceivably of the Kushan period made of fire-baked bricks. The likes of it have earlier been recovered from Sanghol in Haryana, Amravati and Nagarjunakonda in Karnataka. One must give credit to the ASI for doing a systematic job in bringing Ambaran out of its past. 


Apparently it needs to do a lot more. It is carrying out the exercise with its limited staff and resources. Mr Madan Lal Sharma, Lok Sabha member from Jammu who belongs to the vicinity, too has equipped himself with all the relevant documents. He is going around among the experts in the national capital and elsewhere drawing their attention towards Ambaran and Akhnoor. We have always maintained that Akhnoor is one of the rare places in our planes. Even in scorching summers it is swept by the winds of possibly the coldest river on the earth. It has history woven all around it beginning with how it may have acquired its name. One of its biggest tributes is that it is the only Harappan site in the State. It has been the launching pad of the ruling Dogra dynasty. 


The coronation of that brave soldier Gulab Singh as the Raja of Jammu was performed in Akhnoor. He went on to extend the frontiers of his state across the Pir Panjal and beyond the Himalayas to set up a distinctive empire and become its Maharaja. On the current reckoning the fort in Akhnoor pre-dates everything else in the area. Why should we not harness the town's overall potential to lure tourists from other states and countries? Some work is being done in the name of tourism development on the banks of the Chinab. This is to be welcomed but clearly it is not enough. We are required to be more focussed. 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

LEARN FROM LEH

 

There are quite a few lessons that the inhabitants of other districts of the State can learn from their counterparts in Leh. To begin with, it is the capacity to overcome the constraints imposed by weather and topography. The other is the knowledge of environment and social, cultural, religious and political developments. Thirdly, there is aptitude for struggle and suffering for one's rights. Last but not the least is the ability to maintain harmonious human relations by living in peace. Of course, its natural assets are grand and unique. It is not a small wonder that the enormous success of "3 idiots" has brought fame to Leh across the continents. As a result its image as the tourist destination No 1 has been further strengthened. That may be a different story. But it has been made possible in no less a measure by the image that its people carry. Each of these impressions is supported by facts. Young boys and girls of the district travel long distances for studies; it is only recently that they have got a degree college in their midst although it still does not have all the subjects. Their parents have to spend a hefty amount in the process. Perhaps it has more world heritages sites than any other district in the State. If this is not a sign of awakening then what it is? We shall return to this topic later. For the moment we carry on with our earlier theme. A political battle by its educated young persons has led to the evolution of a remarkable local governance apparatus called the Autonomous Hill Development Council (AHDC). They have proved that they have the requisite talent and qualifications to run their own affairs. They are aiming for a higher political goal. Except for a brief period, when they appeared to be wavering, they have not let their normalcy and tranquillity be disturbed by extraneous factors. 


It is necessary to be familiar with this background to understand why a record feat in Leh is now part of the Guinness Book of World Records. As many as 9319 people gathered for simultaneously doing the pitting and planting of 50033 willow saplings in 33 minutes 25 seconds beating the previous record of one hour. The autumn planting was done to coincide with the ongoing Commonwealth Games in Delhi. It was executed, among others by the Hemis monastery-Drupka lineage under the patronage of Gyalwang Drukpa Rinpoche in collaboration with the forest department. One and all will agree with the Rinpoche: "it is very important to take action to keep our environment clean. Planting of more number of trees will definitely help in preventing disaster and plantation will help in sinking carbon dioxide and other obnoxious gases and release the oxygen." It means a lot for Leh which as the highest desert is labelled as the "roof of the world." Mr Jigmet Takpa, who has played a big role for saving and promoting greenery and wild life in Leh, has been closely associated with the task. The moral of the story is that with grit and clarity of mind we can do anything. It is because its people possess these virtues Leh is recovering fast from the nature's wicked blow in August. We should follow their example.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAK PROXY WAR AGAINST INDIA

BY M K DHAR

 

The Pakistan Army under Chief Gen Kayani has hardened its position against India and given a go-by to the Indo-Pak dialogue process. This is clear from the increase in cease-fire violations along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and infiltration of terrorists and the anti-India venom spitted by Kayani's pet Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the United Nations General Assembly and at the last round of bilateral negotiations in Islamabad.


As former chief of the notorious Inter Services Intelligence, he has been directly responsible for mounting terrorist attacks against India with the help of the fundamentalist organisations nurtured by the Army and fomenting unrest in the Valley through its agent provocateurs. He seems as desperate as his predecessor Gen Musharraf was when he took over as Army Chief and provoked a conflict with India in Kargil sector that had led to an undeclared war between the two countries and heavy casualties. He wants to destabilise Kashmir, which opted for India and a secular-democratic way of life, by foul means without regard to the death of civilians in the ongoing conflict situation. This is proxy war by another means, or extension of the same involving, apart from infiltrating terrorists promoting internal civil unrest.


India has long believed, and the international community also now accepts, that Pakistan is the main sponsor of terror attacks in Kashmir and other parts of the country, and also in Afghanistan against US and NATO forces. Using blackmail tactics, Pakistan manages to secure more military weaponry and economic aid from the United States despite pursuing a "two-faced" policy. He went to the extent of blocking movement of supplies bound for NATO and US forces inside Afghanistan at the Torkham border (Khyber pass) temporarily in protest against the killing of three Pakistani soldiers in a US helicopter attacks inside Pakistan. It has, however, given consent to the US drones attacking Taliban leaders hidden inside Pakistan because Islamabad itself would not expose them nor hand them over to the American forces.


Pakistan Army has now taken control of the country's internal and external policies which are dictated to the shaky and dysfunctional civilian government run by Zardari-Kayani combine, which is fighting for its survival. With Washington's support Kayani forced the Zardari government to grant him an unprecedented three-year extension in service. He repudiated Zardari's policies of reconciliation with India and opted for confrontation instead and gives directions to the Foreign Minister Qureshi, who has prime ministerial ambitions, and has exposed himself as a person lacking character by exhibiting hostility to India all of a sudden and making attacks of a personal nature against the Indian External Affaifs Minister S. M. Krishna while he was in Islamabad. 
Kayani seems to have learnt nothing from the experience of Gen Musharraf, who began his term with an anti-India agenda, waged war in Kargil as part of a strategy to wrest control of Kashmir, but had to suffer a humiliating defeat and heavy casualties in the process. When his commando tactics failed, he settled for a peaceful dialogue process with India, which had made considerable progress before he was eased out. Gen Kayani has yet to learn his lesson and his war tactic is bound to fail. He already finds that there is no support for Pakistan's pleas in United Nations and to the United States which has no intention to play interlocutor between the two countries in Kashmir. 


Not that there was any doubt about Pakistan's sponsorship of international terrorism, more particularly against India, but Gen Musharraf, who now wants to become a politicians by floating a party, has confirmed that the Pakistan military sponsored terrorists to fight in Kashmir. He has unashamedly acknowledged that Pakistan formed "underground militant groups to fight India in Kashmir". When it was pointed out that it was Pakistan's security forces that had trained the terrorist outfits, he brazenly said this was done because the West was ignoring resolution of the Kashmir issue and the Pakistan Government wanted India to resolve this "core" issue. Further asked whether that gave Pakistan the right to train underground fighters, he said, "yes, it is the right of any country to promote its own interests", hence, obviously methods adopted did not matter. He also strongly praised the activities of Lashker-e-Tayyeba (a terrorist organisation) in defending the rights of Kashmiri Muslims, thus confessing that the major terror organisations operating in a out of Pakistan had Army sponsorship and were used to attack India.


Though Islamabad Government has repudiated all that Musharraf has said, it has not done so to President Obama and David Cameron who have said that Pakistan is the centre of terrorism and that Islamabad has been pursuing a policy of deceit towards that West. While it get arms and money from the US, it eggs on Taliban to kill US and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. New Delhi reacted by saying that Musharraf's confessions merely confirmed the veracity of what India had repeatedly been saying over the years. This is precisely why a firm commitment is being sought from Pakistan to disallow terror groups from crossing over and creating trouble in India. This is precisely why India has sought a firm commitment form Islamabad that it will not allow its territory under its control to be used for aiding and abetting of terrorist activity directed against India and for providing sanctuary to such terror groups. 


Actually, the commitment that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity against India was given by Gen. Musharraf in the Islamabad joint statement he had signed with former Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee. But he soon repudiated it by staging attacks on Parliament, Akshardham and other temples. Yet Vajpayee continued the structured dialogue process, having committed himself to it. The BJP sees a clear link between Gen Kayani's hostility to India and the incidents of stone-pelting and disturbance through which the Kashmir Valley has been passing during the last three months. The incidents were the result of Pakistan's search for a "low-cost high-impact strategy". Stone pelting was one instrumentality designed by the Inter services Intelligence and the Pakistan government to project the situation in the Kashmir Valley as one of spontaneous civil unrest and also paint India in an unfavourable light before the international community.

 

Pakistan is going to any length to play with the lives of innocent people of Kashmir, who opted for Indian democracy and secularism and rejected Pakistan, military dictatorships and fundamentalism.


Kayani's frustration could, therefore, manifest in escalated terrorist infiltration into the Valley and more sponsored demonstrations. India should be beware that Pakistan Army will not risk any stability in Kashmir, which also rules out progress on the bilateral engagement. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

APPOINTMENT OF INTERLOCUTORS

BY ANIRUDH PRAKASH

 

The Centre's announcement of a team of three interlocutors to listen to all shades of public opinion in Kashmir and report back to it has come as a bit of an anti-climax. The three are Dilip Padgaokar, a senior journalist, M. M. Ansari, Central Information Commission member, and Radha Kumar, an academic from Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. Their appointment was part of the eight-point package formulated after the recent visit of an all-party team to Kashmir. The idea was to widen the communication channels with civil society and get inputs from all sections of people. This, it was felt, would give the nation a better view of the reality in Kashmir and help the government make appropriate changes in its Kashmir policy.


But the composition of the team has disappointed many. There was expectation that the interlocutors would be well known persons with very high credentials. There is nothing wrong or negative about any of the three members who have been named. But the team has the appearance of an academic study group. It is likely that the government wanted it to be a low-profile team, though it has been seriously "entrusted with the responsibility of undertaking a sustained dialogue with the people of J&K to understand their problems and chart a course of the future''. A team of public intellectuals with an open mind and no negative baggage may be better than bureaucrats and persons identified with strong and extreme positions. One committee member has already made it clear that the team has a forward-looking agenda, unconstrained by the past.


But the team will be seriously handicapped by the absence of political representation in it. The situation in Kashmir has many aspects and dimensions, but it is primarily political and any engagement with it would not be complete if a political sensibility is not involved in it. Union home minister P. Chidambaram has said that the members have a political "persona" but their ability to understand politics is no substitute for the knowledge, experience and talents a politician can bring into play. The separatists have predictably rejected the team but this need not be a setback to its working. It might still be able to talk to them in the coming months. But, for the best results, it should have an intelligent, mature politician with the power of empathy as a member. 
The decision to appoint interlocutors for "a sustained" dialogue between New Delhi and Srinagar had generated some interest in the Valley, in that it could have been a step forward. The demand was for a political delegation as every sensible person in Jammu and Kashmir, and in Delhi for that matter, was clear that only political leaders could acquire the mandate to take the negotiations forward in a productive manner. So the expectation was that a team of political leaders would be appointed to begin the discussions, in which all shades of opinion including the separatists and the youth would be spoken to and consulted.


Instead a mouse emerged from behind the government roar of "we are going to do all that we can" and the country was told that three individuals had been entrusted with the highly complicated and demanding job.
For once the people of New Delhi and Srinagar are on the same page with their reactions as the dismay in the Valley was equalled, and perhaps surpassed, by the indignation and disbelief in the national capital. This has nothing to do with the personal capabilities of the three individuals, but everything to do with the government's reluctance to repose powers in political leaders lest the Home Minister lose control. After all no political leader of any consequence is going to accept Chidambaram as the last word on Kashmir.


This announcement has really served as a giant step backwards, adding to the disillusionment and cynicism engulfing Jammu and Kashmir. The reactions from the policemen, to the separatists, to the political leaders including many from the Congress party itself, to the ordinary citizen ranged from anger, to an expression of complete frustration and anger at being toyed with again. Now it is being made out that the journalist in the group is not the "head" of the team, and that there is room for a political leader.

But this is just absurd talk, and it is not going to work at all. No one in the Valley is willing to talk to this team that will probably drive in and out of Srinagar in a convoy of security forces, meet the Chief Minister, talk to a few persons the National Conference can arrange meetings with and return with little except their own views of what should be done in Jammu and Kashmir. The separatists have dismissed the team as a joke, and the people have lost interest and instead of looking at New Delhi have turned to look inwards again for the "next step" that could make their demand for azadi acquires more teeth.


Peaceful demonstrations have always upset the governments in Delhi, be these British before 1947 or others in Independent India.


For peaceful protests force negotiations that the political leaders in power are afraid of, while violence begets violence and the state, of course, has mightier guns.


At the same time the youth in Jammu and Kashmir seem to have realized and one can only hope that this remains the power of non-violence. The protests all across the Valley in this phase have worried the security agencies and the governments to a point where the young people were first branded as Lashkar e Tayaba, then as Hizbul and terrorists, until finally the truth as they say was out and the world realized that these were spontaneous protests by the youth. There is anger and frustration but this has to be channelised into peaceful protests, as nothing works more for the people protesting against governments, than non-violence. It increases the pressure on the governments, both domestically and internationally. JKLFs Yasin Malik is one who realized this a long time ago, and although he has spent days and years in jail, he has managed to resist the pressure from the state to become violent.


One knows it is easy to counsel especially when hope is literally, dying day by day in Jammu and Kashmir.
If there has to be a way forward, and if the demands and aspirations of the people of Kashmir have to be taken firmly on board, the first step will have to be in the form of senior political interlocutors armed with auhority and sensitivity.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

AILING ANIMAL SECTOR IN J&K

BY TAHIR KHATANA

 

For the last two annual budget sessions in Jammu and Kashmir assembly, the need to boost animal production was recognised for self reliance in milk, meat, poultry and eggs - to create jobs and self-employment opportunities for the youths to develop them as entrepreneurs. The Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir is blessed withabundant natural recourses as snow fed perennial flowing rivers, lakes and springs, vast highland pastures, temperate and subtropical forests for rearing domestic animal as a source of livelihood and to supplement animal food. But it is ironic that despite this natural bounty the state is a huge importer of milk, poultry, eggs and live sheep and goat from all over north India to cater the local need excluding that of the army and security forces. Government itself has admitted that the flight of capital to the tune of Rs. 2000 crores is taking place per annum. This is a huge amount and it can provide tremendous employment opportunities to the frustrated youths and their energies can better be utilized to chanalize their energies in right direction under the prevailing times of unrest and protests.


The present mass uprising has political aspirations of the people especially the rudderless stone pelting mobs of youths can be attributed to the trust deficit and governess deficit as well. The vital animal sector a major engine of growth of economy is at present in deep crises due to maladministration, corruption, delayed decisions on promotions and transfers, attachments and interference of medicine supplier's mafia in day to day functioning of the department. All over the world the animal sector including that of fisheries is administrated by a single entity the Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Department. But, in Jammu and Kashmir leaving apart Fisheries Department the mother Animal Husbandry Department is divided into two full independent Departments - Animal and Sheep Husbandry Departments; that too having independent Head of Departments, six in numbers for two separate provinces of Jammu and Kashmir. This extravaganza is going on since 1960 when Deptt of Sheep Husbandry was carved out of Animal Husbandry Department. This has turned to be counter productive for the sustainable development of animal and natural resources of Jammu and Kashmir. 


Over the decades the farmers have to move places for the breeding and treatment of their livestock form one dispensary to another in the same villages as the sheep and goat rearing communities are denied access to AH Dispensaries and vice versa. The fate of a nomadic Bakerwal/Gujar/ Chopan/Gaddi/Changalthangi farmer can be gauzed when livestock other than Sheep/Goat is turned back from a first aid camp of the state government. Government is incurring huge expenses in maintaining two separate departments right from the village level to the HODs. A Veterinarian is trained to treat and breed all type of domestic animal including the pets and wild animals. The existence of two different departments in animal sector has confined this expert human resource with limitations with their hands tied to treat particular animals within their jurisdiction.


The effects of climate change, denudation of forest, degradation of pastures and encroachment of natural migration routes of migratory Sheep and Goats have turned the Department of Sheep Husbandry as a paper tiger which is engaged in manipulations of Census figures of Sheep and Goat population - claiming there are 55 lac numbers of small ruminants in the state; if so, then the state which has a consumption of 20 lac sheep/goats annually need not to import any animal as per the data 45% of these animals are slaughtered every year but still their population grows 3-4% every year.


At present the department of Sheep Husbandry is maintaining about two dozen farms in the state which are on the verge of closure with alarming death rate and low quality of animal produced for distribution among farmer who reject them. The role of medicine, feed and fodder supplier mafia has crossed all the barriers as promotions and transfers of officers are open for bidding. At present about a score of higher posts of Joint Directors and Deputy Director are lying vacant and government is no mood to fill the same as the present incumbents are holding additional charges for huge commissions of purchase of medicines and equipments to be shared between HODs and in Ministry. Even a district level officer is holding many charges of the Block levels against the set norms of administration. 


The alienation of people of Jammu and Kashmir where 70% depend on agriculture and allied activities and a very high rate of unemployment has deep roots in the mismanagement of key sectors like that of animal sector which demands immediate reorganisation and single department of Animal Husbandry. All the vacancies of higher post must be filled up immediately in a transparent way under the new guidelines of new transfer policy. There must be a Director General of Purchases and Supplies of Medicines, Feed and Fodder to remove leakages and orders of purchases must be kept at the disposal at block levels.


Tremendous growth has been witnessed in growth on livestock and production of meat, milk and poultry all over the world. This sector is the back bone of economy of many developed countries like Australia, Denmark, Brazil, Canada, Holland etc having similar agro-climatic conditions as that of Jammu and Kashmir. The operation of two separate departments, the corruption in promotions especially in Sheep Husbandry department, attachments and premature transfers and attachments is the root cause of decay of animal sector in the economically backward state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is time for the coalition government headed by a upcoming young Chief Minister to rise and stem the rot. 


(The author is social activist)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TACKLING KHAPS

RAJASTHAN SHOWS THE WAY

 

KHAP panchayats have the blood of many innocent victims on their hands. They have exiled boys and girls who married in the same gotra or out of caste or religion. They have ordered the social boycott of the families of such lovers and have even ordered, aided and abetted their "honour killings". Yet they have never been reined in effectively because politicians see them as dependable vote banks. States like Haryana have even gone to the extent of condoning all that the khaps did and defending them as centuries-old groups which play a charitable role. In this bleak scenario, the lead taken by Rajasthan is worth emulating. It has become the first of the nine states to reply to the Supreme Court as to what measures it proposes to take to curb the khap menace. It has said in no uncertain terms that it won't tolerate any unwarranted diktats coming from khap panchayats.

 

The state government has directed every SHO to immediately register FIRs against the perpetrators and even detain them under the National Security Act of 1980. Not only that, its pathbreaking affidavit says that if the police receives information about the khap panchayat torturing a couple from sources other than official, top echelons of the district would be held responsible.

 

If a government really wants it, the menace of khaps can be easily curbed. It is all a question of displaying political will. But more than Rajasthan, it is states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi which have to show the necessary spine. After all, these account for nearly 96 per cent of the reported honour crimes in the country. Of the 121 honour killings in the past two years, as many as 48 took place in Uttar Pradesh and 41 in Haryana. It is high time they acknowledged that khap panchayats are extra-constitutional groupings which have no place in a civilised society and need to be hounded out ruthlessly.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE AL-QAIDA THREAT

TIME TO REVIEW ANTI-TERROR STRATEGY

 

THE world has been informed time and again that Al-Qaida's top leadership — Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri — is leading a comfortable and secure life in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Islamabad's denials notwithstanding. The latest report by the CNN, quoting a top NATO official based in Afghanistan, mentions that the two terrorist masterminds not only had the protection provided by the local tribal population but also Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency, the ISI. Yet the US-led multinational forces have not been able to catch hold of them, dead or alive. It is a very disconcerting development, indeed.

 

Interestingly, only recently President Barack Obama had warned Pakistan that all the aid it was getting from Washington DC would be stopped forthwith, besides other retributive steps like bombing of 150 terrorist training camps, in case there was an attack on the US from Pakistan-based terrorists. Obama admitted that "the cancer (of terrorism) is in Pakistan" and that the US had to ensure that it does not spread to Afghanistan, which Washington DC wanted to make safe for the American and other foreign forces to leave that country by next July in accordance with his declared plan.

 

Now the question is: if the US is aware of all these dangerous facts, why is it keeping quiet? Why is it not going in for a surgical solution to make the world, more so the US, free from the Al-Qaida threat? Or has the much-publicised war on terrorism been abandoned, if not lost? To add to the discomfiture of the US and the rest of the world, Al-Qaida has come out with a full-fledged magazine, published in Yemen, to promote its terrorist philosophy. The terrorist outfit has proved to be like an amoeba, which remains as active as ever despite the US-led drive involving billions of dollars. The most deadly terrorist organisation continues to spread its tentacles not only to the Af-Pak region or the Arabian peninsula but also to Europe and the United States of America, which the Al-Qaida publication describes as the "United Snakes of America". This is a very sad scenario, which calls for a review of the anti-terrorism strategy at the earliest.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SHIV SENA'S NEW STAR

HIS FIRST ACT INSPIRES LITTLE HOPE

 

SHIV Sena supremo Bal Thackeray's launch of his grandson Aditya into politics with speculation rife that the 20-year-old scion of the family will initially take over the party's youth wing, marks a calculated attempt to revive the sagging fortunes of the Maharashtra-based party. In the past few years, the Shiv Sena has lost considerable political ground, especially to senior Thackeray's nephew Raj's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. In the Maharashtra assembly polls held in 2009, MNS not only won 13 seats, it ensured the defeat of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in many more constituencies. The Shiv Sena suffered the ignominy of emerging fourth, behind the Congress, the NCP, and its alliance partner BJP. It had to cede the post of Leader of the Opposition in the assembly to the BJP. Bal Thackeray apparently feels now that his son Uddhav is unequal to the task of running the party effectively and that Aditya could be groomed to take over the reins in the not-too-distant future.

 

Significantly, Aditya Thackeray has been in the news for his protests against Rohinton Mistry's book Such A Long Journey, which has some anti-Sena remarks. Under Aditya's leadership the students' wing of the Sena had burnt copies of the novel last month and petitioned Mumbai University vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar to drop it from the second-year BA syllabus. Bowing to the demands, the university immediately withdrew the book from the syllabus and issued notices to all colleges regarding the same.

 

The sheepishness shown by the Vice-Chancellor is worthy of condemnation. The book, published in 1991, had been on the syllabus for three years without a murmur against it. Now, with the Shiv Sena flexing its muscles it has been withdrawn. Such spinelessness emboldens those who hold civil society to ransom. As for Aditya Thackeray, he needs to introspect on where he is heading. Instead of falling into the same old rut of agitational politics, he would do well to revitalize the party with the liberal thinking that education in one of Mumbai's best schools, Bombay Scottish, and reputed college St. Xavier's would have exposed him to.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

INDIA-US DEFENCE RELATIONS

A CLOSE LOOK AT THE EMERGING REALITIES

BY GEN V.P. MALIK (RETD)

 

DEFENCE and military relations are an important aspect of the Indo-US strategic dialogue. As these relations are sensitive to political and strategic shifts, they cannot be separated from the overall geopolitical realities. This is evident from the turbulent history of the Indo-US political relations during the past seven decades. Despite the fact that the relations are better than they have ever been in the past, these have not achieved results at the desired strategic level. Many of the current problems require urgent political intervention. US President Barack Obama's coming visit to India, therefore, has assumed great significance.

 

India's engagement with the US on defence cooperation started with the 1991 Kicklighter Proposals. There have been a number of initiatives since then, guided by the changes in the geostrategic realm. These are the Agreed Minutes on Defence for the Expansion of Defence Cooperation between the US and Indian Defence Departments and Service-to-Service Military Exchanges in 1995, the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership, and, finally, the "New Framework for the US-India Defence Relationship" signed in June 2005.

 

The New Framework for US-India Defence Relationship has established an institutionalised framework. With a Defence Policy Group and its four sub-groups — the Procurement and Production Group, the Joint Technical Group, the Military Cooperation Group and the Senior Technology Group — it covers the entire spectrum of defence cooperation. The agreement states that in pursuit of the shared vision of an expanded and deeper US-India strategic relationship, defence establishments of the two countries will do the following:

 

They will conduct joint and combined exercises and exchanges and collaborate in multinational operations when it is in their common interest. They will strengthen the capabilities of their militaries to promote security and defeat terrorism, respond quickly to disaster situations, and assist in building worldwide capacity to conduct successful peacekeeping operations. Steps will be taken to expand interaction with other nations in ways that promote regional and global peace and stability. India and the US will expand two-way defence trade. They will work to conclude defence transactions not solely as ends in themselves but also as a means to strengthen the two countries' security, reinforce their strategic partnership, achieve greater interaction between their armed forces, and build greater understanding between defence establishments.

 

The two countries will increase opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, co-production, and research and development in the context of defence trade and a framework for technology security safeguards.

 

Besides these, they will continue strategic-level discussions by senior representatives from the US Department of Defence and India's Ministry of Defence on international security issues of common interest.

 

The agreement has also laid out a road-map for joint training exercises and exchanges. Indian armed forces have participated in about 30 exercises so far. Service officers have also been attending expert exchanges and participating in joint seminars, conferences and observer programmes.

 

Indian exposure to the combined arms training at the US National Training Centre has been very useful. Such training contributes to further refinement of the Indian military's war doctrine, rapid force deployment, higher defence management, etc. Officers have also benefited from the US experience of fighting cyber terrorism and IED defeating mechanism in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Indian military, on the other hand, has invaluable operational experience in all types of terrain, dealing with sub-conventional wars, conflicts in ethnically diverse societies and international peacekeeping. These are essential aspects in the nature of current conflicts and come handy in conflict resolution.

 

The crux of the Indo-US cooperation is related to defence procurements, dual-use technologies, R&D and India's defence industrialisation. This is an important issue in view of our inability to set up a credible defence industry to meet the armed forces' requirements: an unbearable weakness in India's security infrastructure.

 

During the last few years, there has been some improvement in defence trade through the foreign military sales route, with its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is the procurement of the state-of-the-art equipment in government-to-government deals. One disadvantage is the US insistence on separate agreements for spares with original manufacturers which gives them a "single vendor" situation. After the delayed supply of spares for weapon-locating radars, doubts over US reliability continue to persist in India. Just when India is intending to purchase key military platforms like the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft and M777 ultra-light Howitzer, the latest problem is the US demand that unless India signs two technology safeguard agreements — the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMoA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA) — these platforms would have to be divested of cutting-edge electronics.

 

With neither side giving ground further negotiations have stalled. Also threatened is the transfer of crucial avionics, satellite navigation aids and secure communications equipment that power the already purchased P8I Poseidon maritime and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

 

According to the US, their law mandates that sensitive American electronics goods can only be transferred abroad after the recipient country signs the CISMoA and BECA. The CISMoA promotes tactical systems interoperability between the two armed forces and allows them to provide the communications security equipment to protect sensitive data during communications. The Indian government is reluctant to allow the fitting of such equipment on the platforms that India buys. The growing distance between New Delhi and Washington DC on the CISMoA is causing frustration on both sides. Last year, after extended negotiations, India reluctantly gave in to an End-User Monitoring Agreement but rejected US proposals for a Logistics Support Agreement and Cross-Servicing Agreement that would allow the US forces ready access to Indian logistics.

 

In the field of research and development, the dual use technology issue remains the litmus test by which healthy relations can be measured. Unless some regulations are waived by the US, high-tech cooperation does not appear possible.

 

We expected that the US defence industry will be able to transfer some latest technologies and help us establish the much-needed industrial complex. Such collaboration now appears to be a long way off. Off-the-shelf sale and purchase do not build long-term partnerships. However, it must be stated that the Americans are not the only one to blame for the lack of progress on defence manufacturing. The US companies find it hard to collaborate with India's DRDO ordnance factories and public sector undertakings due to bureaucratic stranglehold, decision-making delays, and work culture differences. They prefer to work with more efficient and profitable private sector. Despite several revisions of procurement procedures and off-setting policies, the Government of India has not been able to provide an even-playing field so far.

 

How does one see the current level of strategic partnership? It is clearly not a strategic alliance as many people tend to perceive. India cannot afford to compromise its strategic autonomy and let this partnership dilute strategic relations with other nations. It cannot allow the emergence of a situation when India is perceived as a hedge against China, or accept the US policy of ensuring peace between India and Pakistan through a "military balance". In the present world order, a nation of India's stature and potential has to play an independent role and cooperate or compete on issues with other nations, depending upon its national interests.

 

The Indo-US strategic partnership is still evolving. At present, it seems that political sensitivity, deep-seated distrust, bureaucratic and procedural hurdles and some short-sighted domestic policies in both countries are stalling this process.

 

]The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

NEVER GIVE IN

BY MAJOR-GEN R.S. MEHTA

 

THERE he was, standing in the fog and mist outside the Cecil Oberoi, in Shimla, in his trekking shoes, Capris, rucksack, Spiderman watch, smart shades that matched his bright cap and mackintosh.

 

All of five years, little Krish was fuming. "Dadu", he cried, a shadow crossing his innocent, handsome face. "You, had promised to take me for a real hike through a forest! This is just a walk in the rain!"

 

He was right. I had indeed promised him a real hike, but had reneged, seeing the overcast weather. I thought that the excitement of boarding the toy train at Shoghi, 12 km away, the tunnels and the dollops of icecream at the heritage Shimla railway station would distract him from trekking along slippery jungle trails, in the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

 

Things went swimmingly till we reached the Cecil, helped in part by the tunnels, the lovely, dark and deep pine and cedar woods, wafers and giggly co-passenger school girls cuddling him.

 

Returning to Shoghi, Krish worked his way through some juicy purple plums. Wagging his little finger at me, he reminded me that he had wanted a real jungle trek where leopards and bears abounded, whom he could befriend with scrumptious chocolates and sandwiches.

 

His Sanawarian Dadi was delighted with his passion. "He's taken after me", she enthused, recalling her sporting talent that had put her name on the prized Spartan Club board at school and national athletic glory later. "Don't let him down", she commanded.

 

The day before he was to return to Chandigarh, Krish, in his smart togs and I, with my walking stick, entered a jungle trail off the Shimla highway. Crossing the railway track, we trekked uphill to a distant farmhouse. Some friendly girls there made much of our determined adventurer till he indignantly reminded them of his single point mission — trekking.

 

Off we went through thick "jungle" to another hilltop. I watched with growing respect as the precocious tyke, his angelic face ruddy with exertion, slogged unaided, his rucksack loaded with goodies; His mental attitude, rare in one so young, was infectious.

 

Tired, grandpa and grandson sat like bosom pals on the hilltop overlooking Shoghi, with Krishjit opening his chocolates carefully (Mama says don't litter). "Dadu, if a leopard attacks us you handle him like Spiderman", he intoned, using wet wipes on his chocolate smeared face. Suitably reassured, he demanded that we climb yet another hill.

 

It was there that feisty Krish saw yellow flowers growing wild and ordered his "pal" to help him collect "one each for Mama, Papa, Dadi, Nani, Cheeku Masi", and, he added, patronisingly, "Dadu".

 

Being ex Army, I followed my Napoleon's commands implicitly.

 

"Dadijee! He yelled, as he bounded into her arms on trek completion." You said: Never Give In! That's what I did!"

 

Grabbing her cell, he called up his proud parents; then added Bow-Wow for Walter, his excited Alsatian. Indeed, son, you were strong; you never gave in.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ORGANIC AGRICULTURE AND ITS PROSPECTS

THE ADVANTAGES OF ORGANIC AGRICULTURE INCLUDE SUSTAINED SOIL PRODUCTIVITY, CONSERVATION OF NATURAL RESOURCES, INCREASED EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES, AVAILABILITY OF HEALTHY FOOD AND MAINTENANCE OF HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
CHARANJIT SINGH AULAKH

 

ORGANIC agriculture is the fastest growing sector in agriculture with an annual increase of about 20 per cent in sales of organic products in the last decade. The area under it in India is on the continuous rise and India has achieved the first position in the world organic cotton production.

 

Organic agriculture in India has been a tradition rather than a new concept. Even today, the farmers in several parts of India are doing organic agriculture but without any knowledge of the term organic.

 

The resurgence of organic agriculture is backed by increased health consciousness and concern for environment. The increased awareness of consumers about pesticide contamination of food products and environmental concerns like high nitrate content of underground waters due to excessive use of nitrogenous fertilisers have resulted in a joint movement by the health conscious consumers and environmental groups in favour of organic agriculture.

 

As organic products cannot be differentiated from the conventional products, so it is the system of farming, certified by an inspection and certification agency, that makes the products of a farm organic. The word organic in organic agriculture is a process claim rather than a product claim.

 

Organic agriculture relies on crop rotations, green manures, organic manures, biofertilisers, composts and biological pest management for crop production, excluding or strictly limiting the use of synthetic fertilisers, chemical pesticides, plant growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Enhancing soil health is the cornerstone of organic agriculture.

 

The advantages of organic agriculture include sustained soil productivity, conservation of natural resources, increased employment opportunities, availability of healthy food and maintenance of healthy environment. This is associated with the higher net income to the farmer due to reduced external input costs and availability of price premium on organic products.

 

Organic agriculture itself does not require any certification but the organic food market demands certified organic products. The importance of certification becomes more important where the consumer is likely to pay a premium on organic produce.

 

The organic certification is not limited to the production of crops only but it encompasses the whole chain of processing, packaging, labeling and transportation.

 

The organic production area at the farm should be clearly inspectable from the conventional production with natural barriers or buffers. The seed of the crop to be sown under certified production programme should be from the previous organic crop and in case of nonavailability of organic seed, the chemically untreated seed from conventional crop can be used. Genetically modified crops like Bt cotton are not permitted under organic programme.

 

All the agricultutral inputs have been classified as prohibited, restricted and permitted. The major prohibited inputs include synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, synthetic growth regulators, farmyard manure and poultry manure from commercial establishments and sewage and sludge effluent.

 

The major permitted inputs include farmyard manure, poultry manure and crop residues from the organic farm, green manure, pest management practices such as mechanical control devices, pheromone traps, soap containing plant fatty acids and potassium soap, pyrethrins, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) spray, granulose virus preparation, gelatin and hydrolysed protein.

 

The restricted inputs, like farmyard manure from conventional farms, in organic agriculture are those inputs that can be used in a restricted manner with the prior permission of the certification agency.

 

The reduction in crop yield during the initial years of conversion from conventional agriculture to organic agriculture may occur but after a few years the yields get stabilised and similar yields as that with conventional system can be achieved if organic manures are applied on a regular basis. So the conversion of whole farm to organic should be done in a period of 5 to 10 years starting with 10 per cent area of the farm.

 

The limitations in adoption of organic agriculture include the competitive uses of farmyard manure like cowdung cakes as fuel, limited adoption of green manure due to its extra cost on its raising and nonavailability of water during crop growth, inconsistent performance of biofertilisers is a rule than an exception, nonavailability of quality bio- pesticides for pest and disease management, costly and complex certification procedure and lack of market infrastructure for organic produce with a price premium.

 

Contract farming having legal binding with super markets and multinational companies is a viable option to take care of two basic constraints of organic agriculture i.e. marketing and supply of quality organic inputs.

 

The issue of food security of India is no doubt vital but simultaneously the farmers should get the advantage of emerging global market of organic food to improve their socioeconomic condition. The demand of non-food organic products in the international market can be tapped without compromising the national food security. The non-food products in demand are cotton, spices and fruits and vegetables.

 

The major component of national food security comes from the about 35 per cent intensive high input rice-wheat based cropping system area of the country which should not be the priority area for organic agriculture in these crops. In this area, only those crops can be considered for organic agriculture, which require high organic manures even under the conventional system like mentha, turmeric, potato, onion, chillies and garlic and the crops which require very less nutrition like basmati rice.

 

In Punjab, rice/ basmati rice-wheat, maize/soybean-wheat, maize- durum wheat-cowpea (fodder), maize-potato-

onion cropping systems and turmeic have been recommended for organic cultivation but the area under organic agriculture in Punjab has not increased noticeably due to the marketing problems and nonavailability of premium price.

 

The major prospects of organic farming in Punjab exist in organic cotton, basmti rice and kinnow, that also if contract organic farming is done. The possible areas of organic agriculture promotion in Punjab can be south-western districts of Punjab for organic cotton, the areas around Abohar and Hoshiarpur for kinnow and districts of Gurdaspur and Amritsar for basmati rice. The shift of these areas and crops under organic agriculture will have least effect on foodgrain production.

 

The diversification of area under rice in Punjab is a pre-requisite for conservation of soil health and underground water. The diversification of crops, adoption of conservation practices and prohibition of agrochemicals being the integral components of organic agriculture system will definitley contribute towards the conservation of our natural resources ie soil and water.

 

The writer is from the Department of Agronomy, PAU, Ludhiana

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PERSONAL HEALTH VERSUS PRIVATE WEALTH

SHALINI

 

HIMACHAL Pradesh is taking several steps towards developing its organic image. The State Government is supporting organic farming as one of the thrust areas. But is this encouraging healthy living or only encouraging private players and new untested technologies in the area? For the State and its people the challenge ahead is to make an organic movement in HP truly local, fair and green. That which ensures their health, the health of its local growers and traditional healers, as well as that of the planet.

 

This summer, Shimla hosted its first Organic Fair and Food Festival. It showcased Himachal's organic products, some farmer associations, and yet had stalls advertising private certifiers and company products. What really drew in the crowds, was an interesting array of local Himachali delicacies. The Kolth cutlets, Kinnauri Rajmah to Siddu Ghee, were reportedly made with organically produced ingredients. Most of us associate organic products as simply those that are chemical-free and without any toxic pesticide residues.

 

The real organic movement is the one that not only keeps the health of living beings but also ecological health, nurturing the diverse earth-friendly ways of farming. In the case of organic milk, it would mean that the animals have an organic diet and also have not been injected with synthetic hormones.

 

Likewise, in organic egg production the poultry is not only to be raised on organic feed, and fed with antibiotics only at the time of a disease, but also the birds are to have a cage-free environment with access to the natural environment rather than being locked in factory-like conditions.

 

This broader vision factors in not simply ecological concerns, but also social, ethical and political ones. With growing disparities we need socially sensitive food and farm systems for wealth redistribution amongst our farmers. The climate imperative too demands of us to relocalise our food systems so that we spend less energy resources on processing, packaging, storing, freezing and transporting food to people.

 

Supporting a local organic movement, thus helps support other causes. The Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) comprising grassroots organic farmers' emphasises organic principles for local consumption. Likewise, the Navdanya network in Uttarakhand, effectively links organics with ecological security and food sovereignty. The Dalit women millet growers in Andhra, in their style of organic farming seek to bring due visibility to women farmers in particular and farmers in general. The Nanak Kheti kisaans of Punjab are amongst the nameless crusaders that embrace organic agriculture as a way of life after suffering the aftermath of chemical-intensive farming.

 

Thereby, these organic movements make a conscious choice against potentially hazardous seed technologies like genetic modification (GM), keeping the focus instead on farmer's seeds and biodiverse local knowhow.

 

GM seeds and even GM breeds are being pushed as the predominant 'science' of our times. GM agriculture cannot co-exist with organics. Organic farming is meant to be natural farming. GM products are firstly not natural, they are artificial constructs prepared in laboratories and given an unnatural genetic structure that they otherwise normally would not have. GM seeds sown in the open pose potential risk of uncontrollable genetic alteration of the natural environment.

 

HP's State Department of Agriculture's own brochure on Organic Farming defines it as an agricultural production system "which avoids or largely excludes...GMOs".

 

Also, GM seeds still require the use of agrochemicals sold by the very same companies that market GM seeds. This locks local farmers into a seed-chemical dependency with inputs coming from the outside.

 

Moreover, as the President of the Ayurvedic Association of India explains, GM poses major issues for our environment and the Ayurvedic profession.

 

In Ayurveda around 14 varieties of herbs are used for medicinal preparation. Each one differs in its medicinal properties. Any intrusion in the basic (genetic) nature will alter the Rasa (taste), Guna (property), Veerya (potency), Vipaka (end taste) and Prabhava (synergetic property) of the drug.

 

So HP will need to address the growing risks to its organics. It will need to brace against possible GM contamination from neighbouring States like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where GM crops are either being grown or field tested. The choice to be made by the people in Himachal is - Organic FOR HP, or organics FROM Himachal with external inputs and headed for sale outside. The decision will be easy if the choice is for health. That will determine what brand of organics the government will support. Himachal needs to push a people's organics for the health of the State, not one that is private (and) limited.

 

The writer is a lawyer and works on trade, agriculture and biodiversity with a small global group called GRAIN. www.grain.org

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

LEAVE A R RAHMAN ALONE!

CAN'T WE JUST ACCEPT THAT THE MAESTRO KNOWS BETTER THAN MOST OF US?

 

It isn't really a major surprise that we, as a nation of armchair critics, would lash out against A R Rahman after his Oscar win. Failing to take that award in perspective — foolishly and redundantly yelling that he has made other, greater music in the past — we have been writing off his recent work, confident that he has peaked, is overrated, and we can gleefully tear down another hero we have ourselves deified. This doesn't come as a shocker at all considering, for example, the fact that a leading English daily jubilantly ran the headline 'Endulkar' a few years — and roughly 20 centuries — ago, pointing to the end of the road for even that superhuman so far beyond reproach. 

 

The Commonwealth Games Song was one that didn't appeal to several. Fair enough, but who is to dictate what is a perfect track? I don't know many who like Rahman's theme from the disastrous Blue soundtrack, but current Bollywood toast Amit Trivedi spent twenty minutes explaining to me just why it was sheer genius, and among his favourite tracks of the year. Conversely, there are those who hate even the sublime Rangeela theme. You can never please everyone, and no artist should attempt to pander thus. Going from the outraged reactions from people who went on and on about how much Rahman has charged for the song, it seems they expected Waka Waka and Jai Ho rolled into one. Clearly the expectations are becoming defiantly impossible; it seems we do not want to like Rahman anymore. 

 

The question of cost is a ridiculous one. Sure, Rahman charges more for a film than several leading men, but this is extremely well-deserved, since he is often the only performer holding his end up while a cinematic innings goes through collapse. His last unanimously acclaimed soundtrack came with Delhi 6, a film with fantastic songs but absolutely nothing else. Looking back at his best work, you'll see this is the norm — even with cinema being the most collaborative of creative arts, you see Rahman working despite mediocre scripts, actors, directors, doing his own thing with elan despite all odds, odds that shouldn't rightfully exist. 

 

Cinematically, the man has been tragically boxed in. The new, radical Indian cinema is looking elsewhere for its tunes: Anurag Kashyap brings in spectacular talents like Trivedi and Piyush Mishra, Vishal Bhardwaj does everything on his own, and Dibakar Banerjee discovers brilliant people like Sneha Khanwalkar. This leaves Rahman, that virtuoso artist, to deal mostly with the fatcats, the filmmakers loaded with dough — and little else. The lack of creative inspiration must be stultifying for a man of his calibre. Just try and imagine an artiste forced to seek the muse in films as vacuous as Ghajini, Sivaji, Yuvvraaj and Raavan. 

 

Which is why he must look abroad. Toward Danny Boyle and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Western shores where background score is treasured and composers work with different parameters. I do not say that they make better music, but the artist in Rahman has to hope that they present him with fresh challenges. It is why a Naseeruddin Shah goes and does bitroles with Sir Sean Connery, in the desperate hope that he can expand instead of shuttling between a Mohra and a Krrish, which is all our industry doles out. It is only now that Shah, like his contemporary Pankaj Kapoor, is thankfully being given something with enough meat to justify a bite. 

We must start giving Rahman something delicious to work with. Or else we'll just have to get used to applauding 127 Hours from afar.

 

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

EDITORIAL

ENVIRONMENTAL CHOICES

PROJECT REVIEWS SHOULD BE DONE JUDICIOUSLY

 

First it was Vedanta's bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri; then it was Sterlite's (a part of Vedanta) copper smelter at Tuticorin; now it is Posco's steel project in Orissa. All of them had got environmental clearances in the past, and all of them now face the axe. Some of them have run the gauntlet of environmental controversy for years. Now, the environment minister has ordered a review of 49 mining leases given in Maharashtra's Sindhudurg district. He is also known to have stopped some power station-linked coal mining projects that were cleared earlier, for the perfectly good reason that they violate tiger reserves or because they fall in "no-go" areas of thick jungle. For all one knows, more project reviews could be in the pipeline.

 

The story seems to involve variations of a common theme in all the cases: the mandatory environmental clearances were apparently given in the past without application of mind, or after perfunctory scrutiny, or by ignoring due process. Further, many of the projects would appear to have honoured only in the breach their commitments to mitigate unavoidable environmental damage. This is what the subsequent reviews now seem to have exposed. This creates a piquant situation. Companies have gone ahead and invested large sums of money in projects that are now endangered. To the extent that it was the government that was at fault in giving the initial clearances, there is a legitimate case for arguing that the initial clearances should stand, or the government should make good the loss suffered by the companies because of the government's review of its own position. Where it is the companies that are guilty of violating the conditions of clearance, of course, they have only themselves to blame.

 

The larger question is where this process will lead to. If reviews of environmental clearances were to be conducted wholesale, it could create mayhem. Politically, it would set the environment minister against many of his colleagues in the Council of Ministers (some of whom were in the environment ministry earlier), and against a great many businessmen whose lobbying power should not be underestimated. It would be easy in such a situation to take the view that the minister should back off, in the interest of practicality, and focus on prospective issues rather than reopen the history books. But that would be tantamount to arguing that the law should not be taken seriously, and that one should turn a blind eye to environmental violations even if one knows or suspects that they exist.

 

It would seem inevitable, then, that some trade-offs will have to be made. If the violations of the law are of a relatively minor nature, it would be as well to let things pass. Where they are so egregious that it would be unconscionable to ignore them, proper reviews should be followed up with appropriate executive action. Judiciousness would have to be applied to the decision-making, so as to strike a balance between the various objectives sought to be served.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CSR GOES 'GLOCAL'

COULD $50 MILLION BE BETTER SPENT AT HOME?

 

The Tata group has provoked some positive shock and awe with its $50 million (Rs 225 crore) donation to Harvard Business School (HBS), the biggest international gift in the 102-year-old institution's history. After the collective sense of shame in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, the news certainly generated a twinge of patriotic satisfaction: a respected Indian corporate brand has attracted worldwide attention for the right reasons. The spin-offs from this donation in building the Tata brand will, of course, be very real and long-term. An academic-cum-residential building on the HBS campus for executive education programmes, to be called Tata House, will ensure sustained brand recall, embedded within the best-known brand in the business education industry worldwide. In one stroke, this donation puts Tata on a par with global philanthropists such as Rockefeller, Buffet and Gates, even if they operate on a different scale. The donation also offers an excellent strategic fit with a group that is rapidly establishing itself globally. Anand Mahindra's $10 million donation to Harvard's Humanities Centre falls in the same category.

 

Although both donations provide intangible pay-offs, it is worth asking why India's largest corporate group chose to put its money in an overseas institution that is not noticeably short of funds. Obviously, this is Tata trust money and the trusts have the prerogative of spending their money wherever they think fit. All the same, it is difficult to avoid the thought that if they did have $50 million at their disposal, they could as well have spent it on education in the home country, which is in dire need of quality investment in education at every level. At Harvard, investment in an executive education infrastructure may yield some tangible benefits in terms of honing world-class executives, some of whom may find future employment in Indian and specifically Tata group companies. But $50 million could cover the annual running costs of several hundred good primary schools. If those primary schools provided subsidised education for the girl child, the spin-offs for India would be even greater.

 

 Of course, the Tata group hardly needs a lesson in philanthropic investment. Its investment of seed capital in institutes like the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Indian Institute of Science has gone a long way in promoting scientific research in the country. Generations of students at the Delhi School of Economics have conducted research in the Tata Library. Way before CSR became a fashionable label, the Tata group, like the Birlas and others, has been a major contributor to a range of quality educational and health institutions.

 

Meanwhile, it is to be welcomed that businessmen are indeed "giving back" to educational institutions. NRIs

like Vinod Gupta and Sailesh Mehta have put money into their alma maters, respectively IIT Kharagpur and IIT Mumbai, as has Nandan Nilekani. The Azim Premji Foundation, Sunil Mittal's Bharti Foundation and Shiv Nadar have all focused on education, to name a few prominent examples. Still, the Harvard donation stands out by redefining the boundaries of Indian corporate giving. And that may well have been the idea.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

COLUMN

INDIA IN THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL

IF WE WANT PERMANENT MEMBERSHIP OF UNSC, HERE IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO LAY ALL DOUBTS TO REST

SHYAM SARAN

 

For the many enthusiastic votaries of the ongoing Commonwealth Games (CWG), one compelling argument advanced was that India's ability to plan and execute, with visible success, a complex, large-scale and multinational event, would, among other benefits, burnish its credentials to eventually host the International Olympics. The Games commenced with an impressive inaugural event and were handled with commendable efficiency, but the chaos and veritable panic that preceded them, makes it difficult to believe that the Olympics could be trusted to India. At least, certainly not in the foreseeable future.

 

In a somewhat different context, India is set for another preview of its performance, this time its ability to deliver on its role as a major regional and global player on the international stage. India has been elected with an overwhelming majority to a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for a two-year term in 2011 and 2012, after a gap of 20 years. Its previous term was in 1990-92 and it had failed in its attempt to get re-elected in 1996.

 

 The situation today is vastly different and the role and the work of the Security Council has undergone a major transformation. Whereas during our earlier term, the Council met infrequently, usually to deal with crises or conflict situations, nowadays it meets virtually daily. The formal meetings are preceded by extensive informal consultations, which orchestrate agreed public outcomes. Furthermore, unlike during the Cold War years, there is now very close consultation and coordination among the five permanent members — the US, the UK, France, Russia and China. There are few issues on which they display open and public differences. This inevitably constrains the role of the non-permanent members.

 

There are today many more Security Council resolutions than at any time in the past. An annual average used to be less than 20 in the 1980s. Today that figure is more than 60.There is now a new and additional format in consensus presidential statements on a whole range of issues where formal resolutions may not be possible. Unknown earlier were the press statements that are now issued in the name of the Council. All these require intense and complex negotiations among its members.

 

The agenda of the Security Council has become much more elaborate and substantive. Peace-keeping operations, for example, which are under the Council's purview, currently has a budget that exceeds that of the United Nations itself. As an elected member, India will be part of the supervisory role exercised by the Council but will have to balance this against our status as a major and long-standing personnel-contributing nation to UN peace-keeping. The Council today deals with several thematic issues that go beyond the sphere of security as commonly understood. These include human rights, global health issues such as HIV/AIDS and more recently, climate change. Delegations represented in the Council Chamber must deploy wide-ranging expertise in diverse fields. A more complex set of diplomatic skills will be required of India's representatives.

 

In recent years, there has been an unprecedented expansion in the Security Council's organisational set-up. There are now several sanctions committees as well as working groups. There is, for example, an important working group on Africa. The issues that arise are technical and also have significant political implications. These require to be serviced on a continuing basis and will impose a heavy workload on our delegation to the UN as well as on the Ministry of External Affairs, which must provide back-up support.

 

During the course of our two-year term, India will assume the presidency of the Council, which is by monthly rotation. The office of Council president has now acquired a very high profile and is politically sensitive, particularly during those occasions when the Council has controversial items on its agenda. This is a role that India will have to handle with prudence but display leadership. That is what will be expected of us.

 

There are several difficult and thorny issues before the Council on which we will need to take well-considered positions. These include Afghanistan, Iran, Israel-Palestine, Nepal, Myanmar and nuclear non-proliferation. Later during our term, the election of the UN Secretary-General will also come up. We will not be able to remain in the shadows on these issues, nor will it be possible to avoid visibility no matter what positions we take. There is no scope for fence-sitting. There is no room for prevarication. Our positions will need to be the outcome of comprehensive analysis and will require careful, well-modulated articulation. Our aim should be not merely to avoid negative fallout on our relations with various countries but to see how we could leverage our Council membership to shape its debate and promote outcomes that are aligned to our interests. We will have to step up our engagement with key countries and seek coalitions wherever we can to advance our goals on different issues. It may be necessary to institutionalise our consultations with our partners in Basic (Brazil, South Africa, India and China), Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Ibsa (India, Brazil and South Africa) and Saarc (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to name a few, so that we have a range of options available to us in performing our role as a Council member. The Non-Aligned caucus will continue to be important as a developing countries' constituency. In the inevitable horse-trading that characterises international diplomacy, these are the levers that we will need to play the game productively.

 

A new and unfamiliar challenge will be the constant and intense media focus on our performance, both at home and abroad. The need to take positions that may diverge from our traditional approaches will require educating domestic public opinion. It will demand that we reach out, on a regular basis, to a wide circle of opinion-makers, national and international media, think tanks and academics to explain and justify our approach to different issues.

 

As is apparent, India's membership of the Security Council will confront us with a new and unfamiliar challenge. We should prepare our diplomacy so that we acquit ourselves with distinction. This will require strengthening our foreign office as it will our missions abroad, but most urgently our UN missions in New York, Geneva and Vienna. The world will be watching us and constantly scrutinising the role we play. If we wish our claim to permanent membership of the Security Council to be taken seriously, here is our opportunity to lay all doubts to rest.

 

The author is a former foreign secretary and currently senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE PUBLIC SECTOR ADVANTAGE

GOING STRICTLY BY THE RULEBOOK, WHAT COAL INDIA MGMT HAVE BEEN DOING IN THE LAST FEW DAYS WOULD HAVE RAISED THE EYEBROWS OF THE MARKETS REGULATOR

A K BHATTACHARYA

 

The stock market's excitement over the public issue of state-owned Coal India Limited is understandable. It is the biggest initial public offer aimed at garnering about Rs 15,000 crore for the country's largest coal mining company, accounting for over 80 per cent of the domestic market. Indeed, Coal India's current production and reserves make it the world's largest coal mining company. Its cost of producing coal is also the lowest in the world.

 

 The buzz about the initial public offer, however, has another reason. Coal India Chairman Partha Bhattacharyya has made several statements on the company's bright prospects and the new projects his company plans to undertake in the next few years. Even Coal Minister Shriprakash Jaiswal has not refrained from making rosy forecasts for Coal India in the last few days. Nothing unusual in what the Coal India chairman and his minister were doing, except that their statements coincided with the launch of Coal India's public issue.

 

Going strictly by the rulebook, what they have been doing in the last few days would have raised the eyebrows of the markets regulator. Of course, both the Coal India chairman and the minister may seek refuge in the alibi that they did not say anything that had not already been mentioned in the prospectus issued for raising money from the market. Technically they are right, but there is no denying that the tenor of those statements will always remain questionable.

 

No chief executive of a private-sector company will make any forecasts or promises concerning his company at around the time it is raising capital from the market through a public issue. Even if those forecasts were part of the prospectus, the company management would refrain from repeating them through an announcement, just to prevent the markets regulator from taking some punitive steps that might affect the smooth conclusion of the public issue. They may do many other things to prop up the issue, but will never lend their names to an announcement that paints a rosy picture of the company.

 

If the markets regulator has not yet sent an advisory note to Coal India on its chief executive's frequent announcements in the media, it is probably because it is a public sector enterprise. That is the public sector advantage in India. A public sector enterprise in this country still enjoys special privileges.

 

Remember the markets regulator's insistence on enforcing Clause 35 of the agreement for listing of companies with the stock exchanges! The amended clause insisted that non-promoters should hold a minimum of 25 per cent of a listed company's shares. For public sector companies, this was a difficult condition to meet. Many of them were listed, but had less than even 10 per cent of their stocks held by non-promoters.

 

Nobody complains about the public sector enterprises' failure to meet that condition any more. Even though Coal India will offload only 10 per cent of its stocks through its initial public offer, it will be well short of meeting the listing guidelines. No uncomfortable questions will be asked. That is another example of the public sector advantage in India. Then there was the Unit Trust of India, which got embroiled in a deep financial mess almost a decade ago. The government bailed it out. Once again, the Unit Trust of India benefited from the public sector advantage.

 

To be fair, there are public sector disadvantages also. Take for instance the state-controlled oil companies. In 2002, the government decided to give them the freedom to fix prices of petroleum products. That freedom, however, was only on paper. In practice, these companies would seek the petroleum ministry's clearance before effecting a change in the price of petroleum products. By 2004, they had lost whatever freedom they got in 2002. In the name of protecting the common man, the government decided it would not allow any increase in petroleum product prices even though the oil companies would incur huge losses as a result of the rise in international crude oil prices. The government would compensate their losses, but there would be delays and uncertainty. The situation has improved somewhat since June this year, but each one of these state-controlled oil companies will tell you how badly it suffers from being a public sector enterprise.

 

It is difficult to miss the larger point. Twenty years after the launch of economic reforms and several other economic liberalisation measures, India's public sector continues to operate under a special dispensation. There are some exceptions. However, most of them seem to enjoy the public sector advantage and a few like the oil companies suffer from the disadvantages of being state-controlled companies.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

VICARIOUS LIABILITY CATCH

COURTS PRESUME COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL DIRECTORS FOR A COMPANY'S WRONGS; IT IS FOR THE EXECUTIVES TO REBUT IT

M J ANTONY

 

This must be a bad season for company directors, if one goes by the judgments delivered in recent weeks by the Supreme Court and three major high courts in the country. They had to face criminal charges for the wrongs done by their subordinates, and their denial of vicarious liability has met with indifferent results. Some got away and others did not, depending on the facts of the case, luck or perhaps faith.

 

 The Supreme Court was stern in its view that the managing director and other directors should face prosecution in a drug adulteration case. "In our opinion," said the judgment in the criminal appeal, Dinesh B Patel vs State of Gujarat, "this was a case of manufacture of a drug for human consumption and, after being tested in laboratory, it was found to be defective since there was growth of fungus, which is a very serious matter related to public health". The appeals of the top executives raising technical arguments were dismissed because of the seriousness of the allegations.

 

In another case, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co vs Datar Switchgear Ltd, the chairman at the time when some forged documents were presented to an arbitrator by the company was absolved from prosecution and trial. The company will face the music on its own. Allowing the appeal of the power distributor, the Supreme Court stated: "It is a settled proposition of law that one cannot draw a presumption that a chairman of a company is responsible for all acts committed by or on behalf of the company. In the entire body of the complaint, there is no allegation that he had personally participated in the arbitration proceedings or was monitoring them in his capacity as the chairman of the board and it was at his instance the alleged interpolation was made in documents before the arbitrator." Earlier, the Bombay High Court had declined to quash the prosecution.

 

The Madras High Court last week quashed the complaint against the chairman of Indo Biotech Foods Ltd, which issued cheques to India Equipment Leasing Ltd that were dishonoured by the bank. The payee company issued notices to the company, but not to the chairman personally. However, it filed a criminal case against the company as well as the chairman for issuing the cheques. The payee company asserted that the chairman would be liable along with the company though the notice under the Negotiable Instruments Act was not sent specially to the chairman. The high court rejected this argument and stated: "In the absence of statutory notice addressed to the chairman individually the notice sent to the company will not amount to the individual notice to the chairman." The high court clarified that the company will continue to face prosecution under the Negotiable Instruments Act.

 

Most cases arise under this Act. In a large batch of cases, the Delhi High Court traversed the law and asked the directors to face trial and prove that they were not responsible for issuing cheques that bounced. In the case, Shree Raj Travels & Tours vs Destination of the World, the high court stated that the behaviour of the directors led to harassment of the payees, who had to spend time and money to get their money.

 

The court made certain caustic remarks about the directors' role: "It is a matter of common knowledge that when companies are floated and public issues are brought, big advertisements are issued giving big names as directors and promoters of the company. These names are those of successful chief executive officers or directors who have achieved success in other fields. Owing to these names at the very inception and formation of company, when there is no wealth or property of the company, the share of the company is sold at a premium promising big business and success. Once money is mopped up from the public, in all those cases in which the companies were created only for the purpose of mopping up hard-earned money of public or to befool them, it is found that those big names disappear. In almost every litigation, those directors who formed part of the core of the company and gave promises that the company would do roaring business quietly disappear from the scene or take the plea that they were not responsible for the business of the company. While the public stands cheated, the persons who had mopped up wealth and pocketed the public wealth are not prepared to take responsibility."

 

The general trend of the court judgments is that the directors must show to the court that they were not responsible for the alleged wrong. The burden is on them. This is because the public is not aware of the internal distribution of power and duties in the board of directors of large corporations. So the court presumes collective responsibility of all the directors

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SHOULD INDIA BID FOR THE OLYMPIC GAMES?

ONLY IF ITS ATHLETES CAN MEET OLYMPICS STANDARDS BUT HOSTING THE GAMES WILL BOOST COUNTRY'S TOURISM, INFRASTRUCTURE AND INCULCATE A SENSE OF PRIDE AND UNITY AMONG INDIANS

K P S GILL

 

President, Indian Hockey Federation

 

Olympics standards for sports are way higher than those for the Commonwealth Games. India's standards in sports are yet to match that level

 

India should not bid for the Olympic games just yet. Our athletes are not up to the standard required for a world-class sporting event like the Olympics. We only have shooters like Abhinav Bindra and Raghavendra Rathore. Heena Sidhu won a silver and Samaresh Jung a bronze. Having won the women's 10-metre air pistol pairs event, Sidhu won her second medal in the form of a silver when she scored 481.6 and finished behind Malaysia's Chin Bibiana NG Pei (481.9) in the singles 10-metre air pistol for women.

 

Then there is Saina Nehwal in badminton. Achanta Sharath Kamal and former national champion Subhajit Saha won a gold in men's doubles table tennis by overcoming Singapore's Gao Ning and Yang Zi 3-2. Paramjeet Samota, Mayengbam Suranjoy Singh and Manoj Kumar brought some cheer back in the Indian boxing camp, winning gold medals in their respective categories. But remember, Suranjoy Singh didn't have to move a muscle because his opponent pulled out of the 52-kg flyweight event final to hand Suranjoy his first Commonwealth Games gold. Kenyan Benson Njangiru pulled out of the event due to injury.

 

The main thing is that India doesn't have a strong athletics team and it will take a long time till the country reaches that stage. There is not a single athlete who can compete and win Olympics in India. Consider what we got by way of athletics. The Indian women's 4x400-metre relay team added a gold. The 1,600-metre relay squad of Manjeet Kaur, Sini Jose, Chidananda Ashwini and Mandeep Kaur crossed the line first in three minutes, 27.77 seconds to give India its 32nd gold medal at the Games. The Olympic record for this event in Beijing was three minutes, 18.55 seconds. And the men's and women's 4x100-metre relay teams, triple jumper Renjith Maheshwary and javelin thrower Kashinath Naik added only a bronze each.

 

If India wants to reach Olympic standards, serious work needs to be taken up. Even then, it will take the country 10 years to be in a position to organise these Games. China is a good example. For a number of years, China stepped out of the Olympics and when it re-entered, it did so with a bang. India should follow this example make its debut in organising the Olympics only when it is capable of delivering on the sports performance front.

 

When we organised the Asian Games, we were winners in almost each and every event. I don't think in the present situation I can say with confidence that we stand in a very good position in Asia.

 

As far as ending up in the second position in the Delhi Commonwealth Games goes, that is a lot of media hype. We should not revel too much in this achievement. Most of the foreign athletes did not attend the event in the first place. Take the men's 100-metre sprint, the premier event of any multi-sport Games. Look at the Commonwealth rankings — not the world rankings — for 2010 and you will find that, for one reason or another, the 11 top-ranked sprinters were all missing from the competition. In the women's version of this, only one of the top 10 runners made it to Delhi.

 

Had these athletes come, India would not have had the same medal tally. It would have been better if India had matched England's overall tally, which stood at 142 medals against India's 101. Last time, India had come fourth with 22 gold medals in a total of 50 while in 2002 the count was 69 with a gold tally of 30.

 

It is true that the Commonwealth Games have drawn plenty of flak for the corruption and delay in the work. However, that is not the core reason for India to stay away from bidding for the Olympics. It is always possible to find honest men who can take responsibility for organising the event in a transparent manner. The point is that the Olympics standards are way higher than those for the Commonwealth Games. Our standards in sports are yet to match that level. If we are serious, we should commit to developing a strong athletics contingent before going ahead with the bidding. As hosts, it would not look very good to see ourselves ending up last. As of now, however, we are a good ten years away from training our athletes to put up a great show at the Olympics.

 

As told to Ruchika Chitravanshi

Ayaz Memon

Sports journalist

 

The path to making a bid for the Olympics from here becomes much easier and infinitely less expensive — almost 70% of the infrastructure to host a mega-event of this magnitude is in place

 

It might seem imprudent in the extreme to make a pitch for India to bid for the Olympics even as several competent authorities, including the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, probe the alleged corruption in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games. But I'll brave the scorn of critics and cynics.

 

In my view, inquiring into the shenanigans related to the CWG and aspiring to host the Olympics are two entirely different issues: one has to do with probity in public life, the other is about aiming to make India a sporting nation. In themselves, these are vital matters and if both can work in conjunction, it is a win-win situation like none other.

 

Though the experience of creating infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games shows the need for proper audit and governance of public expenditure, the heady success of the Games per se — both in terms of public approval and medals won — reveals that India's quest for excellence in sports has got a fillip. From here to the Olympics is a logical extension, therefore, of this ambition.

 

I don't buy the argument of "spoilers" like Mani Shankar Aiyar that the Commonwealth Games were a waste of

resources that could have been put to better use in an underdeveloped country. That is puerile logic, half aimed at rivals within his own political party and the other half to please a constituency that believes India is — and must continue — in the medieval age, apologetic about every new aspect of progress.

 

There were undeniably gross errors of omission and commission leading up to the Commonwealth Games. But the wastage was the result of administrative greed and political apathy, not because this sporting event was unwarranted.

 

Instead, I would agree with Azim Premji's contention that had these Games been held in, say, Bihar, India could possibly have had another developed state. The development of Delhi, as the head honcho of Wipro has rightly pointed out, was not an imperative: the same money spent in a place that badly needs infrastructure et al would have killed two birds with one stone.

Be that as it may, the path to making a bid for the Olympics from here becomes that much easier and infinitely less expensive, although the venue might still have to be Delhi. Almost 70 per cent of the infrastructure to host a mega-event of this magnitude is complete. Assuming the several indoor and outdoor stadia won't suffer a catastrophic collapse in the next few years, the increase in cost would be incremental.

 

Of course bidding for the Olympics does not come cheap. For instance, despite Barack Obama lobbying and a budget of more than $100 million in the bidding process, Chicago lost out to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games. It is reasonable to expect an escalation of 50-60 per cent in "bidding money" for future Games.

 

This, plus the spend on the remaining infrastructure to host the Olympics, will add up to a whopping amount, yet not daunting enough if the economic growth and aspiration of a people can measure up, as India's current run seems to suggest.

 

Creating fresh infrastructure and amenities is a big stimulus to the economy. Apart from creating national assets for posterity, this can generate thousands of jobs in diverse sectors at a pace that is otherwise unlikely. Obviously there is the need to ensure that the infrastructure is put to proper use after the event and not left to rot, but this has become increasingly viable with public-private partnership and new-technology-enabled multi-purpose stadia.

 

Tourism is the other big gainer. For instance, after the Athens Olympics in 2004, overseas visitors to Greece increased by over 13 per cent the following year because of the awareness generated. During the Sydney Games in 2000, Australia had 1.6 million additional visitors who spent more than $4.7 billion.

 

Perhaps the most important benefit of hosting the Olympics is the sense of pride and unity that it can create in the country, a glimpse of which we had got even during the much-maligned Commonwealth Games.

 

In a sense, this becomes an announcement of a country as a major player on the global platform in areas far removed from just sport. India's time too has come, though I must build in the caveat that if we are as blase and self-seeking as during the CWG, this could just as easily boomerang.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DON'T STALL POSCO

KEEP THE BIG PICTURE IN MIND


ENVIRONMENTAL vetting of the long-delayed Posco steel plant in coastal Orissa needs to be constructive and forward-looking, and not be seen as an instrument to further delay and scuttle India's biggest FDI project in an industrially backward region. Reportedly, three of the four members of an expert panel set up by the environment ministry want all initial project clearances scrapped and declared null and void. Such retrospective action would surely be drastic, atavistic and wholly uncalled for. Instead of striving to right alleged past wrongs, the ministry needs to engage with the state government, Posco and other stakeholders, and oversee how environmental norms can be met and followed through in a time-bound manner. Reports say that the panel members want the Forest Rights Act duly implemented in the project area. Forest dwellers — as indeed other project affected — must certainly be adequately compensated and provided for, with proactivity and speed. But it makes no sense to simply stall work at the proposed 12 million tonnes per annum steel plant, as the environment ministry has ordered since August. It needs to reconsider its decision. 

 

It is nobody case that forest and environmental norms need to be glossed over to make way for Posco. However, with over 65% forest cover in the state — well above the national average — and the project site far away from the hinterland Fifth Schedule areas, the policy focus needs to be on fast-forwarding industrialisation and boosting economic growth. All over the world, higher incomes have led to better environmental protection, standards and greater sustainability. In parallel, we clearly do need compensatory afforestation. Note that the Posco project requires 4,004 acres of land; over 3,500 acres belong to the state government, of which just under 3,000 acres is forest land. The bottom line is the pressing need for pragmatism in implementing environmental policy and to keep the big picture in mind. Otherwise, the whole exercise — albeit well meaning — would be a throwback to the licence-permit raj, with its panoply of perverse incentives to throttle economic activity. It ould entail a huge national cost and, hence, is eminently avoidable

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DISQUIET ON PRICE FRONT

RBI'S INFLATION-FIGHTING CREDENTIALS SUSPECT


THEwar against inflation has to be fought on two fronts — on the price front and on the expectations front. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the war on both fronts. Data released by the government last Friday showed we have not fared too well on the first. And the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) latest household survey shows it has failed on the second as well. Inflation in September 2010 stood at 8.62%, higher than the 8.50% recorded for the previous month. True, there has been some moderation on inflation in manufactured products. But food inflation shows no sign of abating. On the contrary it was up — from 16.24 % for the week ended September 25 to 16.37% for the week ended October 2, 2010. This is bad news. Food constitutes a major chunk of the consumption basket of the poor and with close to 40% of the population below the poverty line, food inflation hurts more than inflation in manufactured products. Then, monetary policy cannot do much to rein in food inflation; rather success here is inextricably linked to better delivery and governance mechanisms, both of which are unlikely to improve overnight. Ironically, the Centre is sitting on large buffer stocks that could help mitigate the price rise. Yet, for reasons that remain a puzzle, the government is loath to use the stocks to bring down open market prices. 

 

On the expectations front, the outlook is even bleaker. Despite the RBI's talk of year-end inflation moderating to 5.5%, households reportedly expect inflation to shoot up to 12% by June 2011. They are clearly not willing to buy the central bank's boast that it will get inflation under control; nor do they seem to repose much faith in the RBI's ability to match action with words. This greatly complicates the RBI's job. Once the public loses faith in the RBI's ability to deliver on its promise, the bank will have to opt for increasingly stronger medicine (with all its adverse side-effects). If only the RBI had the reputation of the German central bank of which it was said, 'Not all Germans believe in God, but they all believe in the Bundesbank'!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE RECYCLING GAME

INDIANS STILL EXCEL AT IT

 

ONE thing we Indians need to teach the world is the infinite benefits of recycling. For a long time, the shortage economy brought out the thriftiness in every Indian, so we ended up hoarding everything from old packaging to old clothes. 'Waste not, want not' was less a mantra to save the planet than to save the family budget. Of course, the other avenue of recycling was in cinema, where plots and music could be imported with impunity, repackaged and regurgitated to a waiting market with scant regard for proper acknowledgement of 'inspiration'. Liberalisation — and to an extent, the spread of the concept of intellectual property rights (IPR) — put paid to the old way of life; the use-and-throw philosophy gained sway. And the scramble to pick up the leftovers from the Commonwealth Games shows that old habits do indeed die hard. A lawyer being caught while trying to flick flowerpots from the grounds of Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium is proof that primordial hunter-gatherer instincts still lurk in Indians in some form. If crores have been splurged on everything from hotair balloons to hothouse plants, only to be consigned to the rubbish heap of history — and the tender mercies of inquiry commissions — who can blame Delhiites for wanting a piece (or several) of the action? The CWG's cycling event kept Delhiites stuck at home; at least recycling tempts them out again. 

 

It is not clear how much of a dent a Rs 250 flower pot or a pilfered cycas palm or two could make in the vast and convoluted accounts and inventories of the Games, even if the CWG organising committee paid five times the market price for them in the first place. On the other hand, rather than let the poor plants wither in the streets and stadia for want of water or attention, it would be far more humane and eco-friendly to let them find good homes — all in the name of recycling. And that could even earn the Delhi government additional brownie points from the international green brigade.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

SMALL EXPECTATIONS

THE US STRATEGIC VISION THAT SAW INDIA AS A LONG-RANGE PARTNER OF UNRIVALLED IMPORTANCE HAS DIMINISHED WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA, SO WE SHOULDN'T EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM HIS VISIT, SAYS SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR


IT WOULD be unwise to expect too much from President Obama's coming visit to India. Indians were delighted when Obama became the first black President of the US. Yet, we are now obliged to be more sober. 

Indians instinctively tend to prefer US Democrats to Republicans. But Republican Presidents have generally been better for India than Democratic ones. Democratic Presidents have generally been far tougher on India with regard to nuclear issues and Kashmir, and far more protectionist in economic relations. 


President Clinton charmed many during his visit to India. But what did he actually do for India? Very little. On coming to power his "cap, roll back, eliminate" formula asked India to cap its nuclear arms, then roll them back, and eventually eliminate them, giving the Big Five a nuclear arms monopoly. He thwarted India from getting cryogenic technology from Russia for its missile programme. When India conducted nuclear tests in 1998, Clinton imposed economic sanctions. 

 

To Clinton's credit, he pressured Nawaz Sharif to withdraw Pakistani forces and end the Kargil War of 1999. But this was because he wanted to avert nuclear war, not because he was pro-India or anti-Pakistan. Indeed his foreign policy tended to equate India and Pakistan. He did no more than slap Pakistan on the wrist for aiding terrorism in Kashmir. He was willing to collaborate with the Taliban on building a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. 

 

Radical change came with the Presidency of George W. Bush and the cataclysmic events of 9/11. For the first time the US saw Islamic terrorism in the subcontinent as a threat not just to India but also to the US and the whole world. Pakistan was forced at gunpoint to collaborate with the US in Afghanistan, and reduce assistance to militants in Kashmir. 

 

Coincidentally, India's IT industry rose meteorically. Major powers, including China, stopped regarding India as a chaotic, poor country begging for aid, and instead acknowledged it as a rising economic power. Soon, Indian GDP accelerated to over 9%, and it became a global R&D hub and major exporter of brain-intensive manufactures (autos, pharmaceuticals). 

 

President Bush was quick to spot the strategic implications. He saw that India had the potential to become a major economic power, along with democratic values and a common interest with the US in combating Islamic terrorism. Further, he could see that China would within three decades become a mighty economic and military power, throwing its weight around in Asia. He visualised India as a strategic counter to China. And so he went for a radical transformation of India-US relations. 

 

He abandoned the decades-old US policy of hyphenating India and Pakistan in foreign affairs, and forcing India to sign the NPT. Instead, to the dismay of powerful lobbies in the US, he expended a huge amount of political capital—at a time of diminishing popularity—to pushing through exemption for India from US laws on non-proliferation, and persuading the Nuclear Suppliers Group to sell nuclear equipment to India even though it was not a signatory to NPT. This was justified by the Bush vision that India needed to be cultivated as a long-range strategic partner of unrivalled importance in the Asian region. 

HOWEVER, after the election of President Obama, that strategic vision has clearly been diminished in relevance. Obama has two urgent shortterm problems—restoring the flagging US economy and exiting from Afghanistan without losing face. The economic issue has entailed closer engagement with China, and the Afghan imbroglio has entailed compromises with Pakistan, Karzai and potentially even the Taliban. 

 

China and Pakistan loom far larger on Obama's radar screen than India. He has taken care to say periodically that he prizes good relations with New Delhi. But in his quest for economic recovery, he has bashed US corporations that outsource jobs to places like India, has forbidden companies getting government rescue funds from outsourcing, and has now enacted higher visa fees for visiting IT professionals which seem designed to hit Indian companies quite specifically. 

 

Earlier this year, a report of General McChrystal, US military commander in Afghanistan, stated that "increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter-measures". Formally, the US continues to support an Indian presence in Afghanistan. Yet it obviously regards Pakistan as a far more important player than India, and so tries to placate Pakistan despite the latter's well-known double-game. Indeed we have ominous signs that the US has reconciled itself to the inevitability of the Taliban coming back in some form, exactly as Pakistan wants. 

 

During his visit to India, Obama will doubtless say several encouraging things. He will hail India as a coming superpower, and say that it is a good idea for India to become a member of the UN Security Council. He will declare that Islamic terrorism must end in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He will hail India's democratic values. 

 

He will talk of easing some US export controls on dual-use technology and equipment. He will talk of increased cooperation in fields like energy, education agriculture and so on. This is fine as far as it goes, but cannot obscure the diminution of India on the US radar screen. It is not that Obama has abandoned the long-term strategic interest in India that Bush initiated. Rather, Obama is focusing on urgent short-term issues and not on the strategic long-term. 

 

This will not impact the booming Indo-US economic partnership. This has boomed for four decades thanks to corporate decisions, not government decisions. Besides, individual Indians have flocked to the US for studies and citizenship in huge numbers. They have won several Nobel Prizes, helped create Silicon Valley, and are now prominent in every political and economic field. 

 

Being driven by individuals and corporations, this aspect of the relationship will strengthen regardless of Obama's current concerns. It will stand both countries in good stead when, in due course, the relationship truly assumes strategic importance.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAC E - O F F

SHOULD RBI CHECK RUPEE'S RISE?

 

Indranil Sengupta 

Chief Economist, India DSP Merrill Lynch 

Does it have an option? 

 

WE EXPECT the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to intervene in the foreign exchange market to mop up surplus capital flows. This means that the RBI will buy dollars and inject rupee liquidity into the economy. This, of course, is different from imposing controls to turn capital flows away, which we do not expect. 
Why? Well, the RBI must generate more money to fund growth at reasonable interest rates. Its 100-basis-point hike in cash reserve ratio has pulled money growth down to a tight 15% level. This is clearly insufficient to fund loan demand growing at 20%. Won't this fuel inflation? Not really. Some monetary expansion is necessary for growth; it is only excessive money supply that is inflationary — the difference between eating and overeating. 

 

Second, the RBI needs to inject liquidity to fund government borrowing. Although the Centre and states plan to borrow around Rs 2,000 billion (net) in October-March 2011, it is difficult to see how banks and insurers can put in more than Rs 1,400 billion. This means that the RBI will have to plug the gap either by directly buying government bonds through open market purchase or indirectly by injecting rupees through forex intervention. 
    Third, the RBI needs to recoup the $35 billion of forex reserves sold during the 2008 credit crisis to arrest the deterioration in vulnerability indicators. Short-term external debt of one-year residual maturity has gone up to 42% of forex reserves from 26.5% in March 2008. 

 

Fourth, the RBI needs to shore up forex reserves to cover for the rising debt-to-equity ratio of external liabilities. The bond investment limit for foreign institutional investors has been hiked over five-fold to $30 billion. In a downturn, bond investors gain from falling interest rates unlike equity investors who lose badly in a stock market correction. 

 

Finally, the RBI will have to contain appreciation to protect exports when the G3 slows down. The Indian rupee's six-country real effective exchange rate, after all, has risen to 116.60 on September 9 that is far above usual 105-110 mid-cycle levels. Even with RBI's forex intervention, the rupee should trade strong with capital flows coming in.

 

 

Dharmakirti Joshi 

Chief Economist Crisil 

Problem is the speed of appreciation 

 

 THE country's rapid economic growth and rising interest differentials with the West, which continue to follow easy monetary policy, have attracted huge capital inflows in pursuit of higher returns. This has precipitated a sharp rupee appreciation, making exporters voice their concerns. Faced with a similar situation, some Asian central banks have actively intervened in the forex markets to protect the competitiveness of their currency, with South Korea and Indonesia resorting to selective capital controls to check short-term foreign inflows. 

Arising currency is not detrimental to everyone's interest. It benefits entities borrowing abroad as well as importers and consumers of imported goods. Exporters with high import intensity would not be affected much as the lower cost of imports offsets the negative impact of appreciating currency on exports. But exporters of price-sensitive items and those that source their raw materials locally are adversely impacted. 

 

In the last decade, the country's burgeoning economy has led to a general trend of rupee appreciation, and this scenario is likely to continue over the long run. Therefore, exporters will have to increasingly rely on productivity improvement and currency hedging to protect their competitiveness and margins. Right now, the problem is not so much the trend of currency appreciation but the speed. While gradual movements in the currency can be absorbed, any sharp swings in the rupee take the stakeholders by surprise, are disruptive and, hence, call for intervention. 

 

When the RBI intervenes, which in the current context means buying dollars, it increases money supply in the process. This is in conflict with the central bank's current stance of tightening monetary policy and, therefore, would necessitate sterilisation operations. 

 

The extent of sterilisation depends on the stock of securities available for intervention and entails a fiscal cost. In the last few years, the RBI's actions have been aimed at curbing potentially-disruptive swings, and not towards steering the currency in a given direction. Accordingly, if the foreign capital inflows continue unabated, the rupee will continue to appreciate, albeit at a slower rate due to RBI intervention.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

CAPITAL INFLOWS: DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

SONAL VARMA 

 

THE sharp recovery in net capital inflows has caught Indian policymakers by surprise. Total portfolio inflows rebounded to $7.1 billion in September, the highest monthly inflow. Even as net capital inflows inch close to their 2007-08 highs, our high current account deficit is likely to deter policymakers from imposing strict controls. Instead, there is room to let the rupee appreciate and begin unsterilised intervention. 

 

The current situation is similar to 2007 — the last time India received net capital inflows of this scale — but there are also differences. India's current account deficit was 1-1.5% of GDP in 2007, but is substantially higher, at 3.7% in Q2 2010. The rise in current account deficit has increased its absorptive capacity and, therefore, the threshold of net capital inflows that the economy can absorb. 

 

The widening current account deficit is a reflection of sub-trend global growth, which is keeping exports subdued, and high domestic growth amid supply constraints, which have buoyed imports. Monthly merchandise exports have plateaued at around $16.5- $17 billion per month since April and this could continue until developed economies recover. On the other hand, the resurgence in imports can be traced to higher oil imports and the strength in intermediate goods imports, reflecting higher production. Commodity imports have strengthened, even as capital goods imports remain subdued. 

 

Unless commodity prices or domestic demand plunges, imports should remain strong. This trend cannot, therefore, be seen as a one-off. Our estimates suggest that the current account deficit widened to $17.5 billion in Q3 2010, or 4.8% of GDP, the highest on record. If portfolio inflows had held at their average rate rather than the scorching pace seen, India would have recorded a deficit on the balance of payments in Q3. 

 

Despite the differences from 2007, there are similarities, too. Rising interest rate differentials and strong domestic growth have buoyed debt capital inflows such as shortterm trade credit, external commercial borrowing (ECB) and banking capital. Debt-creating inflows peaked at 5.9% of GDP in Q3 2007, collapsed in Q4 2008 and have rebounded to 4.3% of GDP in Q2 2010. If global interest rates remain low for a prolonged period of time, as is likely, this trend could get reinforced in the coming quarters. For instance, ECBs are still below their 2007 peak and a surge in the investment cycle will propel borrowings even further. 

 

Higher debt inflows have led to external debt rising by $20.8 billion in H1 2010, with 56% of this due to short-term debt. However, this poses no threat to financial stability as external debt stood at 19% of GDP in FY10, short-term debt at 20% of total debt and the ratio of forex reserves to total debt at a comfortable 100%. Given the current account deficit overhang and the risk of capital flows reversing, it seems unlikely that India will impose capital controls. Instead, there is a hierarchy in the likely policy actions if the current trend of strong net capital inflow continues. 

 

First, the RBI may drag its feet on intervention due to high inflation and current account deficit. As such, there is some scope for the rupee to appreciate even if the RBI steps in to intervene. Second, domestic liquidity will remain tight in the second half of FY11, leaving enough room for the RBI to conduct unsterilised intervention. In fact, it would expand reserve money and aid in meeting the RBI's 17% M3 money supply projection. 
    Third, once intervention reaches a scale where it threatens to push liquidity back into positive territory, the RBI may sterilise inflows. Fourth, increasing provisioning needs on bank exposure to the capital market and residential and commercial real estate loans are likely. However, the current asset price inflation is not being driven by high credit growth. 

Fifth, policymakers can discourage debt capital inflows by reducing interest paid on non-resident and foreign currency deposits. Historically, restrictions were imposed on the type and amount of ECB, although the current pace of ECB inflows is not large enough to necessitate such actions. Lastly, the RBI can encourage capital outflows by liberalising overseas investment limits for MFs, residents, companies and increasing prepayment limits for ECBs. These measures, however, are unlikely to make a material difference, given the brighter domestic prospects. 

 

Policy intervention has to be stable and the use of controls should be prudent. Therefore, while countries have started embracing capital controls, policymakers may not impose capital controls that could backfire. 

 

The rising tide of flows has an impact on conducting monetary policy. Rupee appreciation has led to an automatic tightening of monetary conditions. And, interest rate differentials will become an active consideration in policy setting. With policy rates now close to normal, further widening of interest rate differentials will attract higher debt inflows and could lean the RBI in favour of keeping rates on hold. 

 

(The author is vice president and India     Economist at Nomura Financial     Advisory and Securities (India) P Ltd)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

EXITS AND ENTRIES

VITHALC NADKARNI 


IMAGES of Durga are being taken out in raucous procession for visarjan or immersion. There's mournful music; the ritual is meant to remind you of samsara and its cycles of creation inevitably followed by dissolution. Dwell on it to realise how stunning it is: the Goddess is going away… but only temporarily. She will return during the next cycle of Navaratri followed by Dusshera or Vijayadashami. 

 

We are told that the ceremony of visarjan symbolises the supremacy of spirit over body; a reminder of the transience of material possessions and the need to detach ourselves from them. 

 

The Bhagavad Gita characterises this cyclic process with the metaphor of shedding and wearing of clothes: as a man discarding worn-out garments takes on fresh ones, likewise the embodied spirit casts off wornout bodies to enter others that are new, says the Lord. (Vasansi Jirnani yatha vihaya/ navani grihanati naroparani/ Tatha sharirani vihaya jirana, nayanati sanyati navani dehi.) 

 

And the cycle goes on and on. But it takes strength to transpose this realisation into what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called "a sublime and happy astonishment". We crave for permanence and constancy. Yet in the flux-filled cosmos we are only granted a temporary citizenship of the world. 

 

Even though we try our best to hide from the truth of our vulnerability, deep down we know. "The refusal of (this) reality is, ultimately, an impossible job," write the husband-andwife team of therapists Richard and Bonney Gulino Schaub in The End of Fear. "The evidence (against permanence) is everywhere. In whatever direction you turn, what you see are living beings in front of you — plant, animal, human — that are here now but will pass away, and this includes what you see when you look in the mirror. There is no being that you will ever see or meet that is exempt from this (law of transformation)." 

 

The mediaeval mystical poet Kabir captured this insight into a haunting verse: Wise one, this is the country of the dead (Sadhon, yeh murdon ka desh). "The saints have died; as have messengers of God and living yogis" (Peer mare pygambar mari hai; mari hain zinda jogi), Kabir says. "The king has died and his kingdom as have doctors and patients." 

 

Nor is it just living things: everything that comes into existence, the sun, moon and planets, is destined to go out; might as well rejoice than grieve.

 

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THE SATESMAN

EDIT

SQUEALS REVEAL

HOW DEEP RUNS THE CWG ROT

 

IMPLICATIONS of the old saying about what happens when "thieves fall out" would appear to underlie the Congress' imposing a gag order on Sheila Dikshit and Suresh Kalmadi. It was not merely to avoid embarrassment to the party, but a calculated damage-containment exercise. For when reacting to Sheila's allegations against the CWG organising committee Kalmadi had announced he would be no dumb fall guy. The importance of the persons trading charges cannot be minimised: former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has stated it was that duo which blocked appointing a Special Organising Committee, as had been done for the infinitely better managed Asiad-82. The chief minister has been "clever" in taking credit for the Village-salvaging clean-up (the lieutenant-governor is among those who contend she made false claims), else her government would find itself in as unfavourable light as the OC. The logic of the gag was that any more squealing would deflect attention away from the inquiries underway. As for those probes, the several agencies involved appear to be working overtime on the media front, possibly under instructions to create a public impression that "none would be spared". That "zeal" actually raises queries on the role to be played by the Shunglu panel the Prime Minister announced so quickly but of which ~ other members, terms of reference etc ~ little has been heard thereafter. Parallel probes have ever created confusion, is there some method in the madness? The "extension" granted to the OC is projected as retaining its members for the probes, but what about the standard practice of suspending those being investigated lest they suppress evidence, falsify documents etc.? Isn't this basic?


What the squeals have aroused are suspicions of the probes being limited to corruption and routine administrative irregularities. No signs are yet available of the politicians coming under the scanner. Was the Group of Ministers derelict in allowing the delays/mismanagment to assume such shameful dimensions? After all Jaipal Reddy's trivialising the collapse of the pedestrian-overbridge was almost as shocking as Lalit Bhanot's theory on hygiene standards. And finally, can the Prime Minister escape scrutiny? He heads the government, he ignored the alarm bells that rang for a whole year. Will any "official" inquiry take on the political bungling? No: yet this is not to endorse the BJP demand for a joint parliamentary committee. What about entrusting the examination of such issues to an eminent ~ and empowered ~ citizens' group? Names like Fali Nariman, BG Verghese, Gopal Gandhi, E Sreedharan and Gen "Paddy"… do come to mind.

 

FAMILY POWER 

SONS, GRANDSONS AND OLD GHOSTS

THE most plausible connection between Bal Thackeray launching his grandson Aditya into politics with fanfare and Lalu Prasad performing a similar ritual for his son Tejaswi is that both young men would be working to lift the declining stocks of their respective parties. Some inspiration, however remote, may have been derived from the impact that Rahul Gandhi has had on his tours round the country. But what the Shiv Sena and RJD supremos would perhaps refuse to acknowledge is that the Congress general secretary carries the charisma of being not just a youth leader trying to revive the aura of a 126-year-old party but acts as a spokesman of a government that is firmly entrenched at the Centre. Proof of this was to be found in the Prime Minister echoing charges on under-utilisation of central funds that Mr Gandhi had levelled against the Nitish Kumar government a few days earlier. At the same time, Pranab Mukherjee may have mirrored public perception that the Gandhi family scion is in line for bigger responsibilities. On the other hand, Thackeray and Lalu can at best claim family power in restricted areas ~ that too after contending with disillusionment that has hit both parties. 
The Shiv Sena hasn't helped its cause by reverting to the fanaticism that caused a television programme with two Pakistani guests to be suspended for a few days. It remains to be seen whether the newly anointed leader of the Yuva Sena will follow tradition to endorse the vandalism that has erupted every time the party has a point to prove even against individuals like Shah Rukh Khan. The grandson faces the additional challenge of surviving factionalism within the family and disenchantment outside, which together have trampled the Sena's chances in recent elections. It will be a miracle if he can rise above the setbacks. The same is true of Lalu's son, now compelled to take time off from cricketing interests to help his father in the poll campaign. A fresh face alone can't exorcise ghosts of the past that account for the RJD's distress. A turnaround in the election could add another chapter to political dynasties. However, another debacle could give him the sensible option of scoring runs on Bihar's cricket fields. 


CURTAINS 
CULTURAL OPPRESSION IN MYANMAR 

POLITICAL repression has been reinforced with the cultural. A week that witnessed the Peace Nobel being awarded to China's icon of democratic dissidence was also marked by the muzzling of the performing arts in Myanmar. In the run-up to the shambolic elections on 7 November, the junta has banned all stage performances that it deems critical of the establishment, ever more  intent on perpetuating its authority. People's theatre may have been anathema in Myanmar for the past two decades. But even a mild measure of the freedom of expression, let alone dissent, is now set to be stifled three weeks before the elections.  Security has been touted as the reason for the cultural clampdown in the traditional season of festivals and plays. The contrived cover-up will not delude the world. The nub of the matter is that anti-establishment stage performances, even comedians, are banned lest they influence the voter. The resultant cultural oppression can be no less stifling than the political. Even mild dissent is unacceptable; witness the predicament of Zarganar, one of the country's leading comedians and famous for his barbs against the junta. He was jailed in 2008 for 35 years for his comments to BBC on the government's disastrous handling of Cyclone Nargis. As the junta plays the electoral cop and now the cultural commissar, its sense of desperation gets more acute. And with it the deceptive exercise towards a renewal of democracy. The clamp on dissent, criticism and pun through theatre and comedies will scarcely be able to obfuscate reality. With independent observers barred from the elections and with the contestants duty-bound to follow the junta's rules of engagement, the military has entrenched itself further even before the first vote has been cast. Politically as much as culturally, Myanmar's bankruptcy must be total. Curtains on the stage, curtains on the faintest hope of democracy.

 

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THE SATESMAN

COLUMN

THE HUNGER INDEX

MALNOURISHMENT DESPITE ABUNDANT FOODGRAIN

BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

THE country's foodgrain stock is 60 million tons which is nearly three times the required buffer. We have storage capacity for only 52 million tons. About seven million tons are rotting in the open. At least six million tons have already become unfit for human consumption. The surplus is likely to increase further in the coming months. The monsoon crop has been satisfactory. Heavy rains have led to recharge of groundwater and the winter crop is also likely to be normal.


Surprisingly, India continues to languish in the Global Hunger Index despite availability of surplus foodgrain. The index is prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute. India was ranked 65th last year. It has slipped to 67th in the 2010 index. Not that the extent of hunger has increased; there has been some improvement on that score. We had secured 31.7 points in 1990. This has declined to 24.1 points in 2010. But while the scale of improvement has been better in other countries, our rank is sliding. The laggard athlete runs forward but is yet said to be 'behind' in the race. Similarly, we are moving ahead in reducing the level of hunger but are falling 'behind' other countries.


The Supreme Court has suggested that the surplus grain may be distributed free to the poor instead of letting them rot in the open. Yet it is doubtful whether this will lead to better nourishment. Haryana is among the more prosperous states in terms of agriculture. However, its "hunger status" is said to be "alarming". Punjab and Tamil Nadu are not far behind though they are not facing a shortage of grain.


Central to the problem is the lack of a balanced diet. Grains are provided to the poor BPL card-holders at a considerably subsidized rate. However, they don't have the means to buy oil, pulses and vegetables. The resultant imbalance in the diet may be the reason why these states rank high in the hunger index. The distribution of  more grain is unlikely to improve the nutritional requirement of the poor since enough of this commodity is available.
The second factor behind the country's low rank in the hunger index appears to be the culture of consumerism. The family uses the available money to buy television sets instead of nourishing vegetables. The free distribution of grain is not feasible from the administrative point of view either.  As in the public distribution system, the risk of a huge leakage is substantial.


The problem of malnourishment is inherent in the model of economic development.  As the policy gets to be implemented, the poor man is first deprived of his job and made destitute. Manufacture of goods by automatic machines is encouraged. Then the destitute is provided with free or subsidized grain through the government machinery. The homemaker is not able to provide a balanced diet because the family can't afford oil, pulses and vegetables. The government had provided a huge subsidy on urea till a few years ago.  Soil productivity declined on account of over-application of nitrogen and a deficit of potash and phosphates. Similarly, the excessive intake of grain is leading to an unbalanced diet, even  malnutrition. The current development model also encourages the purchase of  electronic gadgets ~ the symbols of prosperity. The family spends the limited cash that is available on such purchases instead of balanced nutrition. The leakages that take place in distribution are also inherent in the development model. The solution is to dismantle the welfare state and provide direct cash support to all citizens. An advertisement policy, that encourages healthy lifestyles, should be devised. The government must export the surplus grain and distribute the profit obtained. The price of wheat in the global markets is Rs 17 per kg. It is procured at Rs 12 per kg. It is better to export the surplus and give Rs 17 in cash to the poor instead of giving them grain valued at Rs 12.

Domestic prices  may rise due to exports. This should not be regarded as a negative phenomenon. The farmers' income will increase and benefit scores of  people. Increased prices will lead to higher production and help secure food security. Agricultural workers will get a share of the higher prices through higher wages, and this will help reduce malnourishment. The negative impact of higher grain prices will be felt by the urban consumers. We should not sacrifice the food security and welfare of our millions of rural people for appeasing this already well-off segment of the population.


The Minimum Support Price policy is said to be responsible for the surplus stocks. The government is committed to buy all the grain offered for purchase at a pre-determined price. Farmers prefer to grow grain because they are assured of this minimum price. The result is excess production of grain and a shortfall in the production of oil, pulses and vegetables. While these facts are true, it doesn't follow that the support price policy is undesirable.


Till the eighties, we were dependent on food imports. Today we are in a position to export because farmers have increased production on the basis of the support price  policy. Millions of farmers have benefited. The government must procure yet more foodgrain and, if necessary, export them even at a loss.  This is being done by the developed countries in order to maintain domestic production of food. We need to increase both production and exports. Another strategy to manage the surplus is to include other minor crops such as mustard, groundnut, soyabean and pulses in the Minimum Support Price policy. This will lead to diversification of the crop pattern and make oils and protein available to our people.


The World Bank has suggested that countries like India should not impose a ban on the export of foodgrain as a matter of policy. Free trade in grain will be beneficial for importers as well as exporters. This is in keeping with this writer's suggestion to export surplus stocks. But there is a critical difference. 


The World Bank suggests that exports should be allowed even in times of domestic shortage, if international prices are high. This can be harmful for the sovereignty of the country. Remember that the former US President, Jimmy Carter, had imposed a ban on the export of grain to Russia as a pressure tactic for quitting Afghanistan. We will unnecessarily push ourselves to a similar  situation. We should confine exports to surplus stocks.  
 
(The writer is former Professor of Economics, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.)

 

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THE SATESMAN

A HEAVY PRICE TO PAY FOR THIS WAR

 

The past few weeks have seen the emergence of global currency chaos, which is a new threat to prospects for economic recovery. In fact the situation is being depicted by the media and even by some political leaders as a "currency war" between countries.


The general idea being conveyed by this term is that some major countries are taking measures to lower the value of their currency to gain trade advantage. If the value of a country's currency is lower, the prices of its exports are cheaper when purchased by other countries, and thus the demand for the exports will go up.
On the other hand, prices of imports will become higher in the country, discouraging local people from buying the imports. The end result is that the country will get higher exports and lower imports, boosting local production and improving the balance of trade.


The problem is that other countries which suffer from this action may "retaliate" by also lowering the value of their currencies, or by blocking the cheaper imports through higher tariffs or outright bans. Thus, a situation of "competitive devaluation" may arise, as it did in the 1930s, which can contribute to a contraction of world trade and a recession.


The present situation is quite complex and involves at least three inter-related issues. First, the United States is accusing China of keeping the yuan at an artificially low level, which it claims is causing its huge trade deficit with China. A US Congress Bill is asking for extra tariffs to be placed on Chinese products. China claims such a measure would be against WTO's rules, and that a sudden sharp appreciation of the yuan would be disastrous for its export industries, nor would it solve the problem of the US trade deficit.


Japan, whose yen has appreciated sharply against the dollar, intervened on the currency market on 15 September by selling two trillion yen in order to drive its value down. Last week, Japan criticised South Korea for taking the same intervention measure to curb the appreciation of the won.


Second, there are clear signs that the US is preparing to lower the value of its dollar, through a new round of "quantitative easing", in which the Federal Reserve will spend probably hundreds of billions of dollars to buy up government bonds and other debts. This will increase liquidity in the market, which would reduce long-term interest rates and thus contribute to a recovery.


But this would also have two other effects. It would weaken the US dollar further (thus opening the US to the accusation that it is also engaging in competitive depreciation). And the new liquidity would also add to a surge in capital flowing out from the US (where returns to investment are very low) to developing countries. In the past, such surges of "hot money" would have been welcomed by the recipient countries.


But many developing countries have now learnt, through the hard way, that sudden and large capital inflows can lead to serious problems:


(i) The capital inflow will lead to excess money in the country receiving it, raising the pressure on consumer prices, while fuelling "asset bubbles" or sharp rises in the prices of houses, other property and the stock market. These bubbles will sooner or later burst, causing a lot of damage.


(ii) The large inflow of foreign funds will build up pressures for the recipient country's currency to rise against other currencies significantly. Either the financial authorities would have to intervene by buying up the excess foreign funds (which is known as "sterilisation") and thus build up foreign reserves, or allow the currency to appreciate and this would have an adverse effect on the country's exports.


Experience, including of the Asian crisis of 1997-99, shows that the sudden capital inflows can also turn into equally sudden capital outflows when global conditions change. This causes economic disorder, including sharp currency depreciation, loan servicing problems and balance of payments difficulties. At the International Monetary Fund annual meeting in Washington recently, there was a conflict of views between the US which accused China of deliberately suppressing the value of its yuan and not allowing it to appreciate more, and China which accused the US of planning quantitative easing and increasing liquidity to deliberately devalue its currency.


Meanwhile, even serious Western analysts and newspapers have recognised the threat posed to developing countries by large inflows of capital coming from the developed countries in search of higher yield. In an editorial entitled "The Next Bubble", the International Herald Tribune warns that Wall Street is snapping up assets of emerging economies. Noting the problems caused by huge inflows of capital, the editorial asks developing counties to pay close attention and to consider capital controls to slow inflows.


The third recent development is that some developing countries have introduced capital controls to slow down the huge inflows of foreign capital. The Institute of International Finance estimates that a massive US$825 billion will flow to developing countries this year, an increase of 42 per cent over last year.


Brazil has doubled the tax on foreigners buying local bonds while Thailand recently imposed a 15 per cent withholding tax on interest and capital gains earned by foreign investors on Thai bonds and South Korea has warned of new limits on forwards, while banks are asked not to lend in foreign currency.


There are fears that if the currency chaos or currency war is not solved soon, the world will face a threat of trade protectionism either in the old form of an extra tariff, or a new form of competitive currency depreciation.
Moreover, the quantitative easing that the US is now planning may exacerbate the speculative flow of funds in search of profits, and this can be destabilising to the recipient countries and the global economy.


the star/ann

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THE SATESMAN

TAKE COMFORT FROM PLANTS

SUDHA PALIT 

 

An anonymous writer (obviously a man) said: "If you want to be happy for a few hours, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a few years, get a wife. But if you want to be happy forever, take up gardening." 
For most city dwellers, the pursuit of such a hobby must perforce be confined to the pot plants on their balconies or small terraces. It is only in rural or suburban areas that one can give free rein to one's love of gardening. But even some city dwellers are now giving up their jobs in stuffy offices and venturing out into the wide open spaces to build an alternative lifestyle there. More and more such cases are coming to light, as one can see from the newspapers. 


Men who have MBA degrees and are holding good jobs in management or advertising are being lured to the green open spaces which beckon them. Such people are investing part of their savings, taking loans, and getting into partnerships with like-minded people to set up farms. Starting in a small way, to test the ground (figuratively speaking), they find that the stifling feeling that was getting them down in the congested cities is giving place to a new sense of freedom from their office-bound jobs. 


Of course, not all office workers want to break free from their secure jobs to venture out into the wide unknown. Those who do so must have an inborn love of nature. And so must their wives. These couples are aware that the monetary returns that they will get from their new venture will be modest compared with their earlier earnings. Nevertheless, their lives will be enriched in another sense. The air they breathe will be healthier than the polluted sample which is all that is available in crowded cities, and the breakneck pace of life will also become a thing of the past. But they are willing to forego monetary gains for these less tangible benefits. 
I am living in a town which still has plenty of open spaces. I have a friend here who has opted for such a lifestyle. She and her husband had bought a lovely cottage from an Englishman who had lived here but wanted to return to England after independence. For many years the property had been lying unsold as no one was interested in buying it. Then, my friend and her husband bought it for a very modest price. Soon after the property was acquired my friend's husband passed away, but she chose to keep living here. She has close relatives in Delhi and she visits them from time to time, but she is happily settled here and does not want to move elsewhere. 


Attached to my friend's cottage are several acres of land which she has put to good use. She has a dozen cows of good breed, and from the milk that they provide she makes paneer (cottage cheese) which she sells. She also has bee-hives and anyone who wants pure honey can buy it from her farm. From the lemon grass that grows profusely on her land, she extracts the oil which is made into a mosquito repellent cream. She sells cut flowers to the local hotels, and has even gone in for vanilla cultivation. A visit to her beautiful estate acts like a tonic to the nerves. 


But apart from the health benefits that one derives from living among nature, there is another positive aspect of gardening that is directly related to the planting of seeds or saplings. Anyone who indulges in gardening, even in a very small way, looks forward to the results of his efforts. If a seed is planted, the grower looks forward to seeing the new shoot appear. If it is a flowering plant, the enthusiast waits to see the first bud, and then the opening of the bud as it blossoms into a flower. There is always something to look forward to. 
But there is a beneficial psychological angle also to this active contact with nature. This is the feeling of continuity that it gives us. When we feel saddened by the death of our close relatives and friends, we can take comfort from the plants around us which keep growing, no matter what happens. A spell of drought might spell ruin to them, but not for long. Just one shower of rain and they will begin to throw out their green shoots again. If a tree is hacked down for any reason, before long little springs will begin to emerge and will soon grow into branches. And so it is with all the blessings of nature ~ unlike human lives, they seem to be everlasting.

 

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THE SATESMAN

SUFI WOMEN SAINTS AND THE TALIBAN

NILEEN PUTATUNDA 


Reynold A Nicholson of Cambridge wrote in The Mystics of Islam: "Sufism, the religious philosophy of Islam, is described in the oldest extant definition as 'the apprehension of divine realities,' and Mohammedan mystics are fond of calling themselves Ahl al-Haqq, 'the followers of the Real'. (Al-Haqq is the term generally used by Sufis when they refer to God.)" According to Dr Imtiaz Ahmad, Director, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Sufism represents the liberal and assimilative stream of Islam as distinct from the orthodox views of the theologians. While the latter emphasise the exoteric or "outer'' meaning of the teachings embodied in the Shariat, liberal Sufis believe in the tariqat, the esoteric or "inner'' contents of the teachings of Islam. The two are not mutually exclusive, but they differ on certain scores and this gives Sufism its distinct character. 
The name "Sufi'' owes its origin to the Arabic word suf, meaning wool. Around the early eighth century, Islamic preachers in Khurasan, Central Asia, are known to have moved from place to place preaching the message of love for and devotion to God, brotherhood of all human beings, and humanitarian service without distinctions of faith and creed. Since they normally used woollen garments to protect themselves from the cold, these preachers came to be known as Sufis. With the passage of time, the word came to be applied to all preachers and saints who believed in the esoteric teachings of Islam. 


The late Margaret Smith, one of the first women to work in the field of Islamics, wrote in her book Rabi'a The Mystic and Her Fellow Saints in Islam, "In the history of Islam, the woman saint made her appearance at a very early period, and in the evolution of the cult of saints by Muslims, the dignity of sainthood was conferred on women as much as on men. As far as rank among the 'friends of God' was concerned, there was complete equality between the sexes. It was the development of mysticism (Sufism) within Islam, which gave women their great opportunity to attain the rank of sainthood." 


The position attained by women Sufis is attested by the fact that Sufis themselves give to a woman the first place among the earliest Muhammadan mystics and have chosen her to be the representative of the first development of mysticism in Islam. This was the saintly Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya (717-801 AD), who first expressed the relationship with the Divine in a language that has come to be recognised as specifically Sufic by referring to God as the Beloved. Though she experienced many difficulties in her early years, her aim was to melt her being in God. 


Another early saint was Rabi'a bint Ismail of Syria whose husband was a well-known ascetic and a servant of Abu Sulayman, another ascetic. The relations between Rabi'a of Syria and her husband remained platonic. She was noted for her prayers and fasts. She used to spend the whole night in prayer, and wore herself out with ascetic practices. She was famed for her attainment of the mystic states (ahwal). An ascetic who was famed chiefly for her godly sorrow was Sha'wana. She used to say that "the eyes which are prevented from beholding the Beloved, and yet are desirous of looking upon Him, cannot be fit (for that Vision) without weeping". 


Another great saint was Nafisa, great-granddaughter of Hasan, son of the Khalifa Ali. She was so versed in religious knowledge that even her great contemporary, the Imam al-Shafi'i, used to come and listen to her discourses and enter into discussions with her. Many miracles were attributed to her. 


At a later period, one finds an interesting figure among the women saints of Islam, an Indian princess who lived in the 17th century. This was Fatima, best known as Jahan Ara, the favourite daughter of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his empress Mumtaz Mahal. Her brother was Dara Shikoh (who wrote a biography of the saints, called the Ship of the Saints). He became a novice in the Sufi way under the spiritual direction of the famous teacher and saint, Mulla Shah; and impressed by her brother's account of him, the princess also desired to be admitted as a novice. She wrote an account of her initiation in a work entitled Risala-i sahibiyya. Mulla Shah had a great affection for all his pupils, but he felt a special attachment to the princess and even said that her degree of mystic knowledge was so great that she would be worthy to act on his behalf as his deputy. 
Women saints shared the worship bestowed on Muslim saints after their death. To them prayers were offered directly while tombs and shrines erected to their memory were the object of pilgrimages. It is noteworthy that the Sufi writers honour Our Lady Mariam, the Mother of Jesus and acknowledge that she reached perfection. Can you imagine the sorrow of the Sufi women saints when the Taliban blew up the shrine of a 17th century Sufi poet, Rahman Baba, on 5 March 2009, in Peshawar? Rahman Baba is considered the most widely read poet in Pashto-speaking regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The shrine drew thousands of followers, particularly at gatherings where his mystical love poetry was sung. The Taliban had warned that they would blow up the shrine if women continued to visit it and pay their respects. 


On 1 July 2010, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Data Darbar shrine in Lahore which holds the remains of a Persian Sufi saint, Abul Hassan Ali Hajvery. At least 50 people died and 200 were hurt in the blasts. The attack was the biggest on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan since militant attacks began in 2001. In October 2007, terrorists set off bombs at the mausoleum of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti at Ajmer Sharif, one of South Asia's most revered shrines. Two people were killed and 17 injured in the bombing. In May 2005, the Lashkar-e-Taiba allegedly carried out an arson attack that gutted the 14th century shrine of Saint Zainuddin Wali at Ashmuqam. The following month, a Lashkar operative was alleged to have attempted to assassinate the north Kashmir-based mystic, Ahad B'ab Sopore. Sufi women saints may be singing from realms unknown: "O Taliban, how long will you stay foolish? 


The writer is the author of a book of spiritual poetry titled To My Rabi'a

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NITISH SITS PRETTY AS BIHAR GOES TO POLLS

 

The Congress is on the lookout to regain some of its earlier composure in states from which it has been more or less blanked out in successive elections over the better part of 25 years. Its impressive performance in Uttar Pradesh in last year's Lok Sabha election has whetted the party's appetite and it is right now in the process of trying to carve out an independent, meaningful, space for itself in Bihar. Being held in six stages spread over a month, the first round of polling in the state is on Thursday, and the Congress has thrown everything it has got into the campaign. The party's big guns have been wheeled out — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and her son Rahul, an AICC general secretary, whose appearance as the charismatic young face of the party is no longer a secret. Whatever the ambitions of the Congress, it may do well to keep in mind that a parliamentary election and a state-level one differ in many respects. The significance of local factors is amplified at the hustings in an Assembly election, while larger all-India issues are highlighted in a Lok Sabha contest. In the Bihar context, it is hard to resist the feeling that the Congress campaign has overlooked state-level sensitivities and concerns, choosing to dwell mainly on the party's perception that it is the champion of an inclusive development agenda and of secularism. It is not unlikely that many in Bihar might go along with this view and yet not vote for the Congress as they would be driven by the dynamics of their immediate political and social environment. Since both the Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal are seeking to challenge the JD(U)-BJP alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar, the challengers give the appearance of overdrawing the picture in an effort to show up the weaknesses of the ruling side. A comic example of this is the RJD chief promising free "motorcycles" to students to match the free "cycles" given out by the Nitish government to schoolchildren. A smart, jovial, retort by the CM killed that line of thought. It is remarkable, nevertheless, that this is about the only so-called substantive point that the RJD sought to make in its campaign to win back Bihar. A party that had ruled the state for 15 years should have been in a position to point out the shortcomings of the government in a manner that the electorate might find persuasive. Such an effort was not even made. As for the RJD's ally, Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party, it has hardly been seen or heard of since electioneering commenced. The impression is left that the RJD-LJP alliance has no counter-narrative that might disconcert the ruling alliance. This has enabled the government side, whose sole public face is the CM himself, to breathe easy. It sat back and watched its so-called principal opponents kick the ball around in their own half of the field.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EUROPEAN ROULETTE

BY K.C. SINGH

 

As the Commonwealth Games spectacle spirals from fiasco to euphoria and now an inquisition, the nation awaits one-day cricket and US President Barack H. Obama. Electronic media's "breaking news" leaves little space for strategic analysis or gravity. A case in point is Europe.

 

The writer was in Brussels for the second meeting of the India-Europe Forum, jointly sponsored by the Indian Council of World Affairs, the European Union International Institute of Strategic Studies and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), a think tank of the socialist democrats, on October 11-12.

 

The standard Indian post-Cold War mantra has been that a new stable world order must be multi-polar, with Europe as one pole. An unexceptional thought, as the European Union (EU) constitutes 27 countries, 500 million people and GDP totalling $16 trillion, exceeding even that of the US. However, EU has lacked cohesion in its foreign and security policies. The debate over the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (Nato) future after Soviet Union's collapse, the lack of unified purpose in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) European components in Afghanistan, with each nation's disparate terms of engagement and finally the slow progress in developing their own military reserve, called the Euro Corps, indicate strategic uncertainty. Nato, the bridge that links European security to the US, remains the bulwark of European defence even for out-of-area operations. For India the distinction is vital as India may join EU-led operations, say against Somali pirates, but would eschew involvement in anything that smells of Nato, which invokes the imagery of an alliance.

 

After eight years of negotiations, the Lisbon Treaty has come into force on December 1, 2009, ratified by all 27 members. The European Parliament, consisting of 736 members with each country sending numbers proportionate to their populations, is now co-equal with the European Council, constituted of all 27 heads of state. It is this reality that India has to recognise. The troubled history of India's relations with the European Parliament, overly intrusive on Kashmir and human rights issues, needs to be overcome as the role of the new Parliament stands enlarged. While the Free Trade Agreement between India and EU may be finalised before the India-EU summit next month, it would need to be approved by the EU Parliament. There are whispers that a sustainability proviso may be saddled onto it. Under that rubric can come issues ranging from energy use to labour practices etc. Till now India has been chary of forthrightly engaging the Members of European Parliament (MEPs). The preference has been to take the bilateral track with principal European nations, where realpolitick stumps ideology and diplomacy supplants politics.

 

Take the case of the Kashmir Centre in Brussels. Established in October 2003, under the tutelage of the International Council for Human Rights, it is a child of European human rights evangelism mating with Pakistani activism. While its stated purpose is to agitate for self-determination in Kashmir and generally promote respect for human rights, it is really an ill-disguised Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) front for India bashing. The effect of its jaundiced narrative was evident as even senior functionaries of the commission at the India-Europe Forum had an understanding of Kashmir that was both dated and one-sided.

 

Baroness Catherine Ashton's appointment as the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and the likely establishment of a European diplomatic service will lead to growing convergence of policies even on these issues. India's Europe policy is rooted in strong bilateral relations with the three biggest EU members, i.e. France, Germany and UK. On October 19, the British strategic defence review is expected, perhaps leading to a paring of the defence budget. Two weeks later French President Nicolas Sarkozy will be in the UK for the annual summit. It is being speculated that to avoid military shrinkage, collaboration and even burden-sharing may be inevitable. The Economist calls it Suez redux — recalling the Suez debacle in 1956, the last Franco-British joint operation, following which France became isolationist and Britain a junior US ally.

 

Someone at the forum analogised that EU and India were akin, despite disparities of economic development. Both were democratic, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and repositories of ancient culture, with the difference that India was already a political union. The European social model of combining growth with equity, regulation with innovation were ingested by India's founding fathers by way of Fabian socialism and the European workers' movement. Time is ripe for a reengagement with a more coalesced Europe through a robust engagement with its post-Lisbon treaty organs, particularly the European Parliament. The change requires a new mindset, which takes Europe, collectively, and its value system more seriously.

 

The silly practice of sending officers of the IAS as ambassadors to EU betrays an assessment of EU merely as a trading partner. The incumbent, though a career diplomat, was again posted there because of his experience in the finance ministry, albeit as the joint secretary dealing with the capital markets when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the finance minister. This is his first ambassadorial assignment.

 

Tony Blair in his memoir A Journey laments that euro-skeptics in UK, nursing a "post empire delusion", made Britain over dependent on the US, curtailing its strategic independence. The British destiny, surmises now the most pro-US of the recent British Prime Ministers, rests in an alliance with Europe for the nation to "exert influence and advance its interests". A vital lesson, perhaps, for the Indian Prime Minister on the eve of the US President's visit.

 

The author is a former secretary in theexternal affairs ministry

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MONEY DON'T BUY YOU LOVE, OR VOTES

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Over the past few months, there's been a torrent of commentary about political donations and campaign spending. This lavish coverage is based on the premise that campaign spending has an important influence on elections.

 

I can see why media consultants would believe money is vitally important: the more money there is the more they make. I can see why partisans would want to believe money is important: they tend to blame their party's defeats on the nefarious spending of the other side. But I can't see why the rest of us should believe this. The evidence to support it is so slight.

 

Let's start with the current data. The vast majority of campaign spending is done by candidates and political parties. Over the past year, the Democrats, most of whom are incumbents, have been raising and spending far more than the Republicans.

 

According to the Centre for Responsive Politics, Democrats in the most competitive House races have raised an average of 47 per cent more than Republicans. They have spent 66 per cent more, and have about 53 per cent more in their war chests. According to the Wesleyan Media Project, between September 1 and October 7, Democrats running for the House and the Senate spent $1.50 on advertising for every $1 spent by Republicans.

 

Despite this financial advantage, Democrats have been sinking in the polls. I suppose they could argue that the conditions could be even worse if they didn't have the money edge, but this is a weak case. It's more plausible to argue that the ad buys just didn't make that much difference.

 

After all, money wasn't that important when Phil Gramm and John Connally ran for the President. In those and many other cases, huge fund-raising prowess yielded nothing. Money wasn't that important in 2006 when Republican incumbents outraised Democrats by $100 million and still lost. Money wasn't that important in the 2010 Alaska primary when Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski despite being outspent 10 to 1. It wasn't that important in the 2010 Delaware primary when Mike Castle, who raised $1.5 million, was beaten by Christine O'Donnell, who had raised $230,000.

 

The most alarmed coverage concerns the skyrocketing spending of independent groups. It is true that Republicans have an edge when it comes to outside expenditures. This year, for example, the United States Chamber of Commerce is spending $22 million for Republicans, while the Service Employees International Union is spending about $14 million for Democrats.

 

But independent spending is about only a 10th of spending by candidates and parties. Democrats have a healthy fear of Karl Rove, born out of experience, but there is no way the $13 million he influences through the group American Crossroads is going to reshape an election in which the two parties are spending something like $1.4 billion collectively.

 

Moreover, there's no real evidence that independent expenditure is any more effective than candidate expenditure. Year after year, independent money follows passion but doesn't ignite it. In 2008, Democrats had a huge independent advantage; now the Republicans do.

 

The main effect of this money is to make the rubble bounce. Let's say you live in Colorado. Conservative-leaning groups have spent $6.6 million attacking Michael Bennet, the Democratic candidate for US Senate, according to OpenSecrets.org, a non-profit site that monitors spending in politics. Liberal-leaning groups have spent $6.9 million attacking his Republican opponent, Ken Buck. Over all, there have been 5,358 pro-Democratic ads and 4,928 pro-Republican ones in their race, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

 

This isn't persuasive; it's mind-numbing. No wonder voters tune it all out. Amid this onslaught, there is no way a slightly richer ad campaign is going to make much difference.

 

Political scientists have tried to measure the effectiveness of campaign spending using a variety of methodologies. There is no consensus in the field. One large group of studies finds that spending by incumbents makes no difference whatsoever, but spending by challengers helps them get established. Another group finds that neither incumbent nor challenger spending makes a difference. Another group finds that both kinds of spending have some impact.

 

But there's no evidence to suggest that campaign spending has the outsize role that the candidates, the consultants and the political press often imagine.

 

So why is there so much money in politics? Well, every consultant has an incentive to tell every client to raise more money. The donors give money because it makes them feel as if they are doing good and because they get to hang out at exclusive parties. The candidates are horribly insecure and grasp at any straw that gives them a sense of advantage.

 

In the end, however, money is a talisman. It makes people feel good because they think it has magical properties. It probably helps in local legislative races where name recognition is low. It probably helps challengers get established. But these days, federal races are oversaturated. Every federal candidate in a close race has plenty of money and the marginal utility of each new dollar is zero.

 

In this day and age, money is almost never the difference between victory and defeat. It's just the primitive mythology of the political class.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HEZBOLLAH'S PROGRESS

BY CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

 

Writing from southern Lebanon in the mid-to-late 1970s, during the continuing war of attrition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and at a time when the country's downtrodden Shia minority was just beginning to get itself organised, I noticed the presence of an almost unremarked token force of Iranian troops. They had been dispatched by the Shah of Iran, who (as we tend to forget) was ever-mindful of his title Shadow of God and of his anointed role as protector of the Shias. Commenting more presciently than I knew, I said that these soldiers would probably be needed back home before too long to safeguard the peacock throne.

 

At that time, it would have been entirely impossible to picture any Iranian head of state visiting multicultural Lebanon as a plenipotentiary and being feted all the way — even to within yelling distance of the Israeli border. Yet last week Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad managed this feat almost without effort. A man who has managed to escape serious inconvenience for his illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons and who has pitilessly repressed and cheated his own people can appear on neutral soil as the patron of the Party of God because his regime shares that party's pitiless attitude towards the state of Israel and its biting contempt for all the Arab and Muslim "moderates" who would even consider a compromise with it.

 

For an even more dramatic measure of the progress of Hezbollah and its patrons, recall the events of a few years ago. In February 2005, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was blown to shreds in broad daylight, his murder capping a series of assassinations of politicians and journalists who had been critical of the Syrian presence in their country. So immense was the democratic popular revulsion against this criminality that Damascus was compelled to withdraw its occupying forces, and an international tribunal was convened to investigate the complicity of the Syrian Baathists, and by implication their holy Hezbollah proxy, and in turn that proxy's other supporter in Tehran. Aided, in my opinion, by the momentum created by the fall of Saddam Hussein, and encouraged even by French support for the relevant UN resolutions, the local prestige of the United States became very high.

 

Now mark the sequel. The leaders of all other parties and factions in Lebanon, from Christian to Druze, cringe with fear when the name of Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is mentioned. The once-vaunted tribunal, long stalled, has been pre-empted by highly credible threats of violence if its belated findings turn out to be awkward for Syria or Hezbollah. The son of the murdered Hariri, like the son of the previously murdered Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt, has been forced to "make nice" in the most degrading fashion with the capo Bashar Assad, whose family almost certainly slew the heads of theirs. And the Party of God possesses two vetoes, one over the outcome of any Lebanese election it does not win and another on the timing of the next war with Israel to be launched from Lebanese territory.

 

What brought about this stark reversal? The first cause is Israel's crass intervention in Lebanon in 2006, responding to a clever Hezbollah provocation (a raid and a kidnap of Israeli soldiers) that was almost certainly designed to produce the response that it did. The second cause is the palpable loss of interest in Lebanon on the part of the United States. The March 14 coalition — named for the date of the triumphant intercommunal rally against Syria that followed Hariri's assassination — is splintering back into sectarianism and impotence. And what prudent Lebanese citizen, with Syria so nearby, Iran acting like a pre-nuclear regional superpower, and a humiliated Washington squandering all its effort on the predictable and pathetic failure of the Israel-Palestine "peace process", would not begin to adjust to the rugged new reality?

 

A depressingly excellent book on the contours of that new reality is provided by Thanassis Cambanis. A Privilege To Die: Inside Hezbollah's Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel lays out the near-brilliant way in which Hezbollah manages to be both the party of the downtrodden and the puppet of two of the area's most retrograde dictatorships. Visiting Beirut not long after Hezbollah had been exposed as an accomplice to Syria and as the party that had brought Israel's devastating reprisals upon the innocent, I was impressed, despite myself, by the discipline and enthusiasm of one of Nasrallah's rallies in the south of the city.

 

Cambanis shows how the trick is pulled. With what you might call its "soft" power, the Party of God rebuilds the shattered slums, provides welfare and education, and recruits the children into its version of a Boy Scout movement, this time dedicated to martyrdom and revenge. With its "hard" power, it provides constant reminders of what can happen to anyone who looks askance at its achievements. Its savvy use of media provides a continual menu of thrilling racial and religious hatred against the Jews. And its front-line status on Israel's northern frontier allows it to insult all "moderate" regimes as poltroons and castrati unwilling to sacrifice to restore Arab and Muslim honour. Many Sunni Arabs hate and detest Hezbollah, but none fail to fear and thus to respect it, which Nasrallah correctly regards as the main thing.

 

In Greek legend there was a fighter named Antaeus who drew strength from the earth even when he was flung down. It took Hercules to work out his vulnerability as a wrestler. Hezbollah loves death, thrives on defeat and disaster, and is rapidly moving from being a state within a state to becoming the master of what was once the most cosmopolitan and democratic country in West Asia. Meanwhile, a former superpower — no Hercules — is permitting itself to be made a hostage and laughingstock by a squalid factional fight within the Israeli right-wing involving the time and scale of petty land theft by zealots and fanatics. Only a few years from now, this, too, will seem hard to believe, as well as shameful and unpardonable.

 

- Christopher Hitchens, an internationally acclaimed author, journalist, political commentator and literary
critic, recently wrote Hitch-22

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LEARN TO BE TRULY HAPPY

BY SADHGURU

 

First we need to know that the basis of our misery is that we have established ourselves in untruth. We are deeply identified with that which we are not. Somewhere along the way we have gotten identified with things around us. We have gotten identified with our body and mind. That is the source of suffering.

 

Whatever you have known till now, all your experiences, are only limited to your five sense organs. Whatever you have known either of the world or yourself has come to you only by seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. If these five senses go to sleep, you will neither know the world nor yourself. But they feel everything only in comparison. So this is not a genuine experience.

 

All yogic practices are fundamentally aimed at giving you an experience beyond the five-sense perceptions. This is not in terms of physical reality; it is in a totally different dimension. That dimension, whether you call it God, or call it Self, it does not matter. Whatever your idea of God is, it is simply coming from the limited experience of who you are right now. It is not coming from any true experience. The only thing that you can experience is that which is within you. And that which is within you, you have never really looked at in real depth.

 

The whole experience of transcending your limitations must happen within you. If you want to transcend, it can happen — but only if you are truly willing. Otherwise, no power on earth or in heaven can move you.

 

Spirituality is simply the process of dis-identifying with what we are not, to shed the layers of conditioning so that we know what we are not. When that is completed, we arrive at something that cannot be discounted. This discovery will be the recognition of divinity, and we will see that there is no reason for misery in the world.

 

The whole process of yoga is to make your interiority absolutely in your control. It is a possibility to move from a state of external enslavement to inner completeness, which is the state of unboundedness. If your inner nature is unbounded, your life is also unbounded. You can either sit with your eyes closed or you can perform different actions — both ways, your life can be complete.

 

]When a man has reached this state within himself, where his actions are only to the extent required for outer life situations, then he is a complete person. If within you, your inner nature has attained fulfillment regardless of the external situation, we can say that you have become unbounded. This is a state of true happiness.

 

]— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, and internationally-renowned speaker, Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at www.ishafoundation.org [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

JUSTICE, NOT CATHARSIS

BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

As the second phase of the Khmer Rouge trials began last month with the indictment of the four members — Noun Chea, leng Sary, leng Thirath and Khieu Samphan — for genocide and crimes against humanity, there is a growing feeling that the trials may not prove to be effective in bringing closure for the millions of Cambodians who suffered human rights violations under the Khmer Rouge.


In July 2010, the verdict in the trial of Duch, alias Kaing Guek Eav, who was the chief of the dreaded S-21 interrogation centre also known as the Tuol Sleng Prison and facing charges for overseeing the deaths of about 15,000 people in the late 1970s, left the Cambodian people and the international community pitted against each other in a debate on the quantum of punishment. Following the announcement of the verdict by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) that Duch was to be given a 30-year jail sentence and that he would be free to leave the prison after 18 years, the public reaction was one of disappointment. The court had taken into consideration the fact that Duch had already served 11 years in prison since 1999 while awaiting trial, and hence commuted his sentence to 18 years. Prosecutors are demanding life imprisonment.
The dichotomy between the interpretations of humanitarian justice and the angst of the Cambodian people are on two distinct parallels. One of the victims who has lived to see the trials stated that the Duch verdict made those who suffered the atrocities go through the ordeal twice — once as victims of the Khmer Rouge and a second time when the punishment was less than expected.


In the context of crimes against humanity and the Geneva Conventions which lay out a code of conduct with relation to war and barbarity, the Khmer Rouge trial is very significant. The degree of atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge was of such serious nature that a strict implementation of the convention must be applied. In the context of the Khmer Rouge trials this has become somewhat diluted as a result of the ambiguous role played by the international community during the Cold War years.


Another process that is coming under scrutiny is the fact that in the case of the Cambodian trials the system of a hybrid international judicial system has been adopted. The hybrid system includes both international and domestic jurists and laws.


Also, for the first trial of Duch, the court included civil parties as part of the hybrid judicial process. These consisted initially of both civil society groups and groups formed by members of victims and their families. However, out of the 87 civil parties that were formed, only 66 were recognised. The court felt that the other 21 groups did not qualify for consideration as civil parties. This announcement was made at the time of the Duch verdict and left several groups bewildered. Many felt that since in the context of the ECCC there is no trust fund to give monetary compensation to the aggrieved parties, there was no need to limit the number of civil parties. While their inclusion would in no way impact the trial process, it could have provided psychological closure to the victims and their families.


One of the stated objectives of the courts is to provide "collective and moral reparations". Not including these parties does not fulfil that mandate.


The trial of Noun Chea, popularly known as Brother No. 2, second to Pol Pot in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, is slated to commence early next year. Along with him will be three other key figures — leng Sary, his wife leng Thirath and Khieu Samphan. There is concern that their trial will lead to more divisiveness between the ruling government of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the United Nations because these men are the central figures of the Khmer Rouge and the current government is a breakaway faction of the Khmer Rouge. The revelations of these four could provide evidence leading to the ruling government.


A recent documentary, titled Enemies of the People (2009), by Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin, has interviews with Noun Chea who highlights the power struggles within the Khmer Rouge and alleges the complicity of the current ruling establishment of Cambodia in the genocidal crimes.


This may indeed be credible information given that the early years of the Khmer Rouge were incoherent in terms of establishing its leadership. Even immediately after the Khmer Rouge victory, the administration remained weak and control was diffused among many leaders.


It is believed that the leadership of the Khmer Rouge was divided into two factions — anti- and pro-Vietnamese — and in the struggle between these conflicting ideologies, both sides indulged in genocidal crimes against the Cambodian people. Establishing this fact could lead to a more complex scenario for the ECCC. The dilemma would then be over whether only the core group of the Khmer Rouge needs to be tried for genocide or if the net needs to be cast over a larger group of individuals who may have also had a hand in the killings.


The trial of Brother No. 2 and others may reveal if more leaders were involved.


Though only five members of the Khmer Rouge are being prosecuted, five other former Khmer Rouge members are also on the ECCC's agenda. However, their identities remain secret. The challenge for the ECCC will be to give a clear verdict in these cases and also bring others compliant in these crimes to book.


The four senior members, including Brother No. 2, were part of the core decision-making group which led the four-year-long darkest period in Cambodian history — from 1975 to 1979, an estimated 1.7 million people were executed or died from overwork, disease and malnutrition. While Duch may have appealed to the court for leniency stating that he was merely carrying out orders, the remaining four were the masterminds. The verdict in these four cases will highlight the seriousness of the trials. The collective psychology of an entire generation of victims will depend on what the courts are able to deliver.

 

- Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

 

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

EDITORIAL

PUNISH THE GUILTY

'THOSE INVOLVED IN THE SCAM SHOULD BE KEPT AWAY.'

 

The high-level committee appointed by the prime minister to probe the charges of corruption, inefficiency and inadequacy related to the conduct of the Commonwealth Games has started its work. Former Comptroller and Auditor-General V K Shunglu is holding the investigation and the report is likely to be ready within three months. Though the country can well be proud of the performance of its sportspersons in the Games, the bad preparations in the run-up to the Games and the mismanagement had brought much embarrassment and shame to the country.  Much of the muck was swept under the carpet in the last few days but it was a very narrow escape. There is an attempt now to whitewash the sordid record of the organisers by citing the 'success' of the Games. But this success was in spite of them,  rather than because of them and the dazzle of medals should not blind us to the dark side of the entire matter.


Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi has in true political style upped the ante by going on the offensive against Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. These diversionary tactics should be taken for just what they are. An entire phalanx of politicians and officials are involved in the sorry affair and none of them should be allowed to go scot free. Investigations by the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are also going on. When the investigations are on, the men and women whose conduct will be under the lens should not be allowed to hold their positions. 


Kalmadi, Union ministers S S Gill, Jaipal Reddy, Sheila Dikshit, the Delhi Lt-governor and senior government officials all have varying levels of responsibility and culpability, and fairness demands that they be kept away from their positions during the duration of the inquiry. 


The inquiry is a test case of the government's willingness and ability to act against corruption and much other wrong-doing that attended the Games. The prime minister has promised that action would be taken but experience says such enquiries do not finally lead anywhere and the guilty often get away. Investigations are sometimes subverted, the reports are late and when they come out the issue would have been forgotten, and even when people are indicted they manage to escape with the help of their political or money power or through connections. This should not happen with the present inquiry.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A GOOD AUGURY

'THE ISSUE WILL GIVE MORE DEPTH TO THE MARKET.'

 

The initial public offering of Coal India Ltd, which is now open for subscription, is important not only for government finances but also for the stock markets. It is the biggest ever public offering in the country and seeks to raise over Rs 15,000 crore from the market by selling 10 per cent of government stake in the company. There are some questions about the price, but these may not be serious in view of the strength of the company and its future prospects. When the markets are in good shape, with increasing appetite among foreign institutions for quality Indian stocks, there is not much doubt about the success of the mega issue. The issue will also give some more depth to the market, and will impart more stability to the indices.


Coal India is the world's biggest coal company. It is a behemoth of a monopoly and  enjoys high profits. Coal has an important role in the country's  power sector and with rising economic growth, its role will be increasingly critical. Coal India is well placed to take advantage of that opportunity. It also has to contend with negatives, like the poor quality of a good part of its coal reserves, inability to realise the best price due to constraints imposed by government policies and infrastructure problems. There are also problems related to the public sector culture. It is not easy to manage a company which has a workforce of over four lakh even after some downsizing. The possibility of greater professionalism in the running of the company and the need for greater accountability following the public issue can help the company to do much better than in the past. It has much national value, which will hopefully be enhanced in the coming years.


The issue is important for the government's disinvestment programme too. Last year the government had exceeded its disinvestment target by a wide margin and this year also it is set to achieve the target of Rs 40,000 crore. There is still some resistance in many quarters to the idea of disinvestment. But the fact that it is possible in a big company like Coal India may be sign that the idea is facing less resistance than in the past and is even gaining more acceptability. That is a good augury.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

FLAUNTING RICHES

BY SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY


The most we can accuse India's super rich is of not investing enough in schools, vocational training, hospitals, etc.

 

Given its Brahmins and Dalits, India has always been a land of contrasts. It has also always epitomised the concentration of wealth. But no one salivated earlier over how rich the rich were or how they spent their money, as they are doing now over Mukesh Ambani's new mansion. The public and private domains were strictly separate.

The overlapping of the two has not only exposed the rich to pitiless scrutiny but also distracted attention from the government's neglected responsibilities. India lags behind many sub-Saharan countries in almost all the indices of modernity not because of the Ambanis, Mittals, Mallyas and Modis, but because of our political and administrative establishments.


The real charge of crass vulgarity that can be levelled at the rich is not levelled because almost all Indians who can afford it indulge in ostentatious display. West Bengal's Durga Puja is an example of tasteless competitive showmanship.

The spotlight is on the rich because we live now in a more open society. Universal suffrage fosters the illusion of participative decision-making. Tub-thumping politicians whip up populist sentiment and talk resoundingly of equality. Apart from pandering to mass sentiment, it distracts attention from their own misdemeanours and extravagances — marble monuments, for instance. With the media forever on the lookout for titillating titbits, it's news when Ambani buys a Rs 642-crore luxury jet as a birthday present for his wife.


The information revolution places a premium on immediacy. The past is another country. Those who gloat over the number of Indians in the Forbes list of billionaires forget that time was when India occupied the Number 1 global slot: His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar was reckoned the world's richest man. Few asked how he had accumulated his wealth or questioned how he spent it.


The justification for inquisitiveness is something called social consciousness and responsibility. The argument is that the rich owe a debt to the poor and that extremes of wealth and riches are intolerable. Conspicuous consumption is condemned for the same reason.


But whatever lofty moral arguments might be invoked, the real underlying reason for condemning lavish displays of spending is fear: the rich must for their own sake take care not to provoke the envy and enmity of the poor who are always the majority. The French and Russian Revolutions are history's warnings against unbridled and careless extravagance.


These are western notions and, significantly, most of the knowledge about the rich that excites India's media comes from the West. A society in which the caste system is firmly entrenched does not recoil in horror when an import ban is temporarily suspended to benefit one polyester tycoon.


Social consciousness

But the West finds such manipulation outrageous for western society has evolved notions of social consciousness and responsibility. Western governments have achieved an egalitarian ethic and devised a social welfare net. The western media, therefore, goes to town on what it considers immoral spending like the jewel-studded 18-carat gold faucets on Sir Bernard Docker's 860-tonne yacht, Shemara, in the 50s. Now the stories are about rich Indians and India's media picks them up.


That is how Indians know that the most expensive home in Britain is the £117-million Kensington townhouse that Lakshmi Mittal (who spent £34 million on his daughter's five-day wedding at the Palace of Versailles built by King Louis XIV of France) bought for his son. Another Indian tycoon, Bhupendra Kumar Modi, paid nearly £10 million for one of Singapore's most expensive penthouse flats in Marina Bay.


Vijay Mallya, who spent £1.1 million last year on buying five relics of Mahatma Gandhi, reputedly has 26 residences around the world. Reports say the new home he is planning in Bangalore will soar to 30 storeys against Ambani's 27.


Such details tell us a great deal about the quality of the people who make money but that doesn't mean they can be blamed for Mumbai's slums or our shameful public services. The most we can accuse them of is not investing enough in schools, vocational training, hospitals and recreational facilities. Instead, they prefer to store their wealth abroad. Some salt it away in concealed accounts. Ratan Tata prefers to acquire automobile and steel corporations in Britain and Singapore and reportedly donate $50 million to Harvard.


The solution does not lie in redistributing the wealth already created but in encouraging others to generate more wealth while also spending more on amenities like potable water, sanitation, housing and hygiene that western societies take for granted.


India's self-image today is that of a superpower but a country does not become one only because a few people are filthy rich. Similarly, it's equally facile to suppose that India isn't a superpower because 800 million Indians survive on around Rs 70 a day. The British working class lived in abysmal squalor when Britannia ruled the waves.

The solution lies in unleashing the collective creativity of the Indian people and enabling them to be partners in the present great experiment. One key to that empowerment would be effective free and compulsory primary education throughout the country.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

METALLIC POISON IN FOOD WE CONSUME

BY Y P GUPTA


In India, caustic soda and chlorine have been causing high levels of mercury poisoning.

 

The presence of toxic levels of lead and cadmium in Chinese metallic toys is most shocking as they are hazardous to children's health. The toys have been widely used throughout the world, including India. Children have a tendency to chew and swallow, thereby prone to lead and cadmium poisoning. The high amount of these metals in the blood of children can lead to impaired intellectual and physical growth.


Over two million such Chinese toys, including Barbie dolls, coloured with paint laced with lead have been recalled by the US-based companies. UN environmental health experts have called for a global ban on lead-based paint in major countries — including India, China and Malaysia. Many paints in India have 30 times higher lead than permissible under UN regulations.


Certain foodstuffs and drinking water contain high levels of metallic poison (arsenic, mercury, nickel, lead, cadmium, etc) which accumulate in body tissues and cause a variety of ailments. Green leafy vegetables contain high amount of lead, chromium, arsenic, mercury and nickel. Turmeric samples contained arsenic, cadmium and lead. Irrigation by sewage water and industrial effluents is responsible for accumulation of heavy metals in vegetables. Untreated industrial waste water makes 80 per cent groundwater unpotable as it contains toxic levels of mercury, arsenic, etc.


Utensils and containers

The presence of metallic contaminants in utensils and food containers has been a subject of controversy. The canning industry has been taking extra precaution to devise containers so that the food is not contaminated and is safe for human consumption. Non-refrigerated food is often transported in general containers with timber floors. The absorbent nature of timber stimulates the microbial conversion of chlorophenols to chloroanisoles. Therefore, extreme care is required in using general purpose containers for transporting foodstuffs and packaging materials.


The presence of dangerously high concentration of metallic poison in drinking water has been a severe health hazard for millions of Indians. The problem of arsenic poisoning is a global threat to health affecting more than 137 million people and is widespread in many countries. Over one million people spread in eight districts in West Bengal have been victims of arsenic poisoning through potable water.


Arsenic contamination in groundwater is gradually increasing in many districts of other states like Assam, UP and Jharkhand. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences has reported that the arsenic level in Yamuna river is much higher than the permissible limit.

 

Arsenic accumulation causes serious health risks. Arsenic is a carcinogen. It produces ill-effects like skin, bladder and lung cancer, liver and spleen enlargement, loss of appetite and a discoloured pigmentation on the skin. There is a need to educate people that treatment of water with alum and bleaching powder is the cheapest method to remove arsenic.


Mercury is listed as a hazardous chemical. There is a growing concern, in the USA over mercury contamination in fish. Inhalation of its vapours causes a number of diseases like gastro-intestinal disorders, abdominal pain, dermatitis, respiratory problems, miscarriage and infertility.

In India, caustic soda and chlorine producing units have been causing high levels of mercury poisoning. The Centre for Science and Environment has reported that around 60-70 tonnes of mercury is released into the atmosphere every year. Its pollution in the Thane-Belapur industrial area in Maharashtra has been posing a serious threat. It is reported that the Sediment in the Ulhas river contained high levels of mercury and arsenic and is a potential source for disaster.

 

Lead contamination of food has been on the increase due to pollution from industry and automobiles. Besides metallic toys being source of lead poisoning, other articles commonly used include lead pencils, house and furniture paint, batteries, water pipes, sealing cement (safeda), etc. Organic lead emitted from cars, on inhalation, gets easily absorbed in brain, liver, kidney and blood, which becomes acumulative poison leading to brain damage, muscular paralysis, convulsions and even death.


The risk from metallic contaminants is thus widespread, and adequate precautions are required for survival. Consumers should be educated against the toxic threat from metallic contaminants. The government should develop a regulatory mechanism for food safety to maintain quality levels as stipulated in the international standards. There is also a need for a campaign against industries releasing untreated and toxic effluents.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

SNEAKING SNAKES

BY K RAMANATHAN


Why such a brouhaha when a tiny one was found welcoming the guests?

 

It is not unusual to spot snakes in Indian villages and we all know well that the foreigners identify India with snakes and the now extinct snake charmers. Then, why such a brouhaha when a tiny and 'sportive' one was found welcoming the guests in the Commonwealth Games village? We urbanise the village by building modern townships and still play the game of naming it a 'village' with no regard for its natives. Didn't D H Lawrence treat a snake as a guest and feel honoured when it came to quench its thirst from the pit in his house? He didn't kill it fearing curse from God as it happened with the Ancient Mariner (of his poem, 'Snake').


In the village where I live we frequently come across cobras. Every time my neighbour returns home after a brief visit to another city, the first thing he asks me is: "how many did you see and how often" referring to the menace of these reptiles. And every other day we watch TV programmes about a variety of snakes and their behaviour.

I have heard about lizards getting inside the personal computers. Recently I saw the photo of snake Shyam rescuing a python from Infosys, Mysore campus. Last year I read about a cobra being found around a computer in Wipro's Hyderabad office, three years back one tiny snake accidentally entered into my friend's PC and got electrocuted. Poor fellow, unable to swallow the mouse, reached the website looking for 'spider' and tragically lost his life! On another occasion when this friend of mine returned home after a trip from abroad, he noticed the discarded skin of a snake inside his washing machine. Did it know that someone would wash its 'chattai' in the machine? Are they becoming tech savvy?


In and around Mangalore, which is called the Parasurama kshetra, I heard that the locals, to whichever faith they belong to, never kill the snakes. And as we worship the statues of cobras in temples and feed the cobras with milk and pray on naga panchami days, early this year devotees in a Siva temple, Tamil Nadu, watched with reverence a cobra entering the sanctum-sanctorum, resting on the deity, a siva lingam, praying the lingam and without disturbing any one. This was widely reported in the media.


Pious, sportive and tech savvy, like us the snakes too are in every field.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

NO CONTRADICTION BETWEEN 'JEWISH' AND 'DEMOCRATIC'

CITIZENSHIP ENTAILS NOT ONLY BENEFITS BUT A WILLINGNESS TO UNDERTAKE OBLIGATIONS AND RESPONSIBILITIES.

 

Talkbacks (1)

Last week's cabinet decision to require non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship via naturalization to take an oath of loyalty to a "Jewish and democratic" state has aroused a great deal of controversy. In response to some constructive criticism, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has now called to amend the law so that those eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return would also have to take the oath.


Netanyahu's move was designed in part to reassure those ineligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, particularly Arabs, that they will not be expected to take on any extraordinary burdens of conscience.

In truth, it is unclear what precisely is so burdensome about acknowledging a principle already anchored in the Balfour Declaration, the UN partition plan, Israel's Declaration of Independence, as well as the 1992 Basic Law: Human Freedom and Dignity and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation. Nevertheless, it is only fair that all who request Israeli citizenship, whether eligible under the Law of Return or not, be obligated to undergo an identical acceptance process.


Some critics, such as MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al), have said that demanding an oath of loyalty to a Jewish and democratic state is not only burdensome but is also downright racist. Thousands gathered on Saturday in Tel Aviv with a similar sentiment, and chanted "no to fascism, yes to democracy."


Adopting such an extreme position prevents constructive dialogue.


THERE IS no inherent contradiction between the terms "Jewish" and "democratic." Israel's "Jewishness" is by virtue of the fact that the majority of people living here are Jews who share a common religion, culture, history and national identity, including nearly two millennia of Jewish yearning to return to their land. They also share the lesson of the Holocaust, the tragic consequence, in part, of Jews' lack of sovereignty.


Like other peoples, including the Palestinians, Jews have the right to self-determination in their own sovereign state, where they can formulate their own policies, produce their own unique culture and protect themselves.

But Israel is also democratic in the sense that minorities' rights, such as freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion and even the right to political representation in the Knesset, are carefully protected.


Admittedly, more must be done to provide Arab Israelis with equal opportunities and access to state resources. Doing so would strengthen, not detract from, Israel's Jewish character. Pursuing peaceful relations with non-Jews is a central Jewish value.


MORE PERTINENT criticism of the loyalty oath bill has focused on its timing and the way it has been presented.

The proposal comes against the backdrop of legislation such as the Nakba Law, which denies state funding to organizations that mark Israel's Independence Day as a nakba (catastrophe) and a failed bill by Yisrael Beitenu that would have forced every citizen of Israel to take an oath of loyalty and perform military or national service.

Though it is an amendment to immigration policy, the loyalty oath is perceived by many in the Arab Israeli population as an attempt, as Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison put it, "to exclude all Arabs from symbolic membership in Israeli's political community."


Nonetheless, as Gavison also pointed out, avoiding the use of the term "Jewish and democratic" when it is relevant, such as when an individual applies for Israeli citizenship, might create the false impression that the State of Israel's leaders do not view these fundamental characteristics as important.


What is plainly mandated here, as the presumably protracted process of legislating the oath plays out, is an intensified dialogue with Arab Israeli leaders, to endeavor – through both words and deeds – to assure the Arab population that a Jewish and democratic state will protect their individual rights.


Arab Israelis, meanwhile, should be encouraged to make more efforts to integrate into Israeli society.

Performing national service is one central way.


Citizenship, after all, entails not only benefits but a willingness to undertake obligations and responsibilities.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

EDITORIAL

A CONFERENCE OF OPPORTUNITY

BY STAS MISEZHNIKOV  

 

The OECD's choice of Israel to host this event is a vote of confidence in our strength as a global economic force.

 

How can thousands of jobs be created in the tourism sector to help overcome the challenges imposed by the global economic crisis? How do early signs of climate change impact on international tourist trends and opportunities? How do global security challenges on land, sea and air affect the free flow of tourists across open borders? All these questions and more will be at the center of discussion for this week's historic conference of the Tourism Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


Earlier this year, we witnessed our historic entry into this prestigious body of international leaders.

 

With our name added to the list of nation-states represented in the OECD, membership serves as an all-important recognition of the leading stance we have come to play in regional and global economic development.

The choice of Israel as the site for this important conference should be a source of pride for the country's residents and indeed all Israelis and friends of Israel around the globe. As the home to some of the world's most revered tourist sites and a place where history and modernity combine as in few other locales, we know our country is truly unique – and we take great satisfaction in being able to share this special status with our fellow members of the OECD.


By exposing this remarkable land to leaders of the travel industry, tourism executives and delegates from around the world, we are confident that this week's events will enable us to share our national pride in our country, which is well suited to become a global leader in tourism.


While this is certainly an ambitious goal, it is one we firmly believe to be in the realm of possibility within the foreseeable future. In the first 10 months of 2010 alone, we have recorded over 2.5 million foreign tourists, a very impressive 27 percent increase over the year prior; and these numbers are consistently on the rise.


Through a combination of governmental and private investment in a variety of travel-related initiatives all over the country, we are steadily developing the necessary infrastructure to even more significantly increase the number of tourists we welcome each year.


WE FURTHER know that the OECD's choice of Israel to host this conference acts as a vote of confidence in our strength as a global economic force and a nation with a great deal to contribute to our partner OECD nations.

Yet, beyond the obvious historic nature of this conference for the government and people of Israel, it is at its heart a working conference dedicated to new trends in the tourist industry. We are confident that here too we have a great deal to offer.


Throughout our modern existence, Israel has proven that tourism is a key means of encouraging dialogue with other nations, generating domestic growth and highlighting our nation's remarkable history. With our entry into the OECD, we are that much better positioned to share those experiences and lessons with our partner nations.

We further appreciate that the modern world presents the travel industry with a unique set of challenges to ensure that we are an environmentally responsible industry. As a member of the OECD, we believe that this is a commitment that we will now be that much better positioned to uphold.


As an industry that sees the transporting of hundreds of millions of people around the globe each year, principally by air travel, we know that tourism ministries must play a part in designing innovative and lasting solutions to address humanity's impact on climate change. We are very proud that local researchers and companies are playing a role in designing specific innovations in this all important realm, as will be highlighted in the conference.


While the people of Israel are able to take great satisfaction and national pride in our accomplishments in the fields of hi-tech, academia, biotechnology and numerous other areas where we are leaders, we know all too well that the world rarely associates us with these aspects of our existence.


As an OECD member, I firmly believe that we must therefore embrace this chance to highlight these positives. And in so doing we will enable our friends, and even our adversaries, to better appreciate the value that is represented by the Jewish state and allow us to make a lasting impact on the global tourism industry.

The writer is minister of tourism. The Ministry of Tourism is the official host of the OECD Tourism Committee's 86th meeting being held in Jerusalem from October 20-22.

 

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THE JERUSALEM  POST

OPED

THE LION'S DEN: ISRAEL AND CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS

BY DANIEL PIPES  

 

This much is clear after almost 2 years of Democratic control: Democrats support Israel and its government far less than do Republicans.

 

Talkbacks (3)

How should American voters concerned with Israel's welfare and security vote in the US congressional elections on November 2? This much is clear after almost two years of Democratic control over the executive and legislative branches of government: Democrats consistently support Israel and its government far less than do Republicans.


LEAVING BARACK Obama aside for now (he's not on the ballot), let's focus on Congress and on voters.

 

(Sorry in advance about the many numbers.) Congress: The pattern of weak Democratic support began just a week after Inauguration Day 2009, right after the Israel-Hamas war, when 60 House Democrats (including such left-wingers as Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters) and not a single Republican wrote the secretary of state to "respectfully request that the State Department release emergency funds to [the anti-Israel organization] UNRWA for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance" in Gaza.


In the same spirit, 54 House Democrats and not a single Republican signed a letter to Obama a year later, in January 2010, asking him to "advocate for immediate improvements for Gaza in the following areas" and then listed 10 ways to help Hamas.


In dramatic contrast, 78 House Republicans wrote a "Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu" letter a few months later to express their "steadfast support" for him and Israel. The signatories were not just Republicans but members of the House Republican Study Committee, a conservative caucus.


So, count 54 Democrats for Hamas and 78 Republicans for Israel.


In the aftermath of the March 2010 crisis when Joe Biden went to Jerusalem, 333 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to the secretary of state reaffirming the US-Israel alliance. The 102 members who did not sign included 94 Democrats (including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) and eight Republicans, a 12-to-1 ratio. Seventy-six senators signed a similar letter; the 24 who did not sign included 20 Democrats and four Republicans, a 5-to-1 ratio.


Voters: Public opinion explains these differences on Capitol Hill.


An April 2009 poll by Zogby International asked about US policy: Ten percent of Obama voters and 60% of voters for Republican John McCain wanted the president to support Israel. Get tough with Israel? Eighty percent of Obama voters said yes and 73% of McCain voters said no. Conversely, 67% of Obama voters said yes and 79% of McCain voters said no to Washington engaging with Hamas. And 61% of Obama voters endorsed a Palestinian "right of return," while only 21% of McCain voters concurred.


Almost a year later, the same pollster asked American adults how best to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict and found "a strong divide" on this question. Seventy-three percent of Democrats wanted the president to end the historic bond with Israel but treat Arabs and Israelis alike; only 24% of Republicans endorsed this shift.
A survey this month asked if a likely voter is "more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate whom you perceive as pro-Israel." Thirty-nine percent of Democrats and 69% of Republicans prefer the pro-Israel candidate. Turned around, 33% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans would be less likely to support a candidate because he is pro-Israel.


Democrats are somewhat evenly split on Israel, but Republicans favor it by a 5-to-1 ratio.


A consensus exists that the two parties are growing further apart over time. Pro-Israel, conservative Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe finds that "the old political consensus that brought Republicans and Democrats together in support of the Middle East's only flourishing democracy is breaking down."


Anti-Israel, left-wing James Zogby of the Arab American Institute agrees, writing that "traditional US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not have bipartisan backing."


Thanks to changes in the Democratic party, Israel has become a partisan issue in American politics, an unwelcome development for it.


In late March, during a nadir of USIsrael relations, Janine Zacharia wrote in The Washington Post that some Israelis expect their prime minister to "search for ways to buy time until the midterm US elections in hopes that Obama would lose support and that more pro-Israel Republicans would be elected."


That an Israeli leader is thought to stall for fewer congressional Democrats confirms the changes outlined here. It also provides guidance for voters.


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

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

JUSTICE MINISTER: I'LL QUIT IF LOYALTY OATH APPLIES ONLY TO NON-JEWS

ONLY 56 OF 120 MKS SAY THEY SUPPORT THE BILL REQUIRING ALL CITIZENS TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO ISRAEL AS A JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC STATE.

BY JONATHAN LIS

 

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has reportedly said he will not remain in the cabinet if a bill requiring naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state does not pass.

 

But a head count by Haaretz reveals that currently, there is no Knesset majority for the bill: Only 56 of the 120 MKs support it. Its passage will thus depend on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to strong-arm MKs who currently oppose it into switching their vote.

 

Neeman made his reported comment at a closed meeting with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein and coalition chairman Zeev Elkin to discuss the exact wording of the bill, following Netanyahu's decision on Monday that the pledge should be required of all new citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, as Neeman had wanted. This is a change from last week's cabinet decision that would have required the oath only of non-Jewish naturalized citizens.

 

Edelstein and Elkin, both immigrants from the former Soviet Union, told Neeman at the meeting that they won't support the bill in its new form, as it discriminates between Jews born in Israel and Jews who immigrate under the Law of Return. That would undermine the point of the Law of Return, which was to treat any Jew who moves here as the equal of someone born here, they argued.

 

Neeman spent most of Tuesday in feverish negotiations to find a wording that would enjoy the broadest possible support in the cabinet. In particular, he wants to find wording that Michael Eitan, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor - the three Likud party ministers who voted against the bill last week - can support.

 

But the Labor Party has already announced that it will oppose the revised bill, as has United Torah Judaism and the entire opposition, including the right-wing National Union. That leaves the coalition without enough votes to pass it.

 

]Moreover, it is not yet clear that even Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu will support the revised version. Neither party has yet enunciated its position, but both parties' leaders - Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, respectively - voted against Neeman's proposal to require the oath of Jews and non-Jews alike when he first raised it at last week's cabinet meeting.

 

The revised version is likely to be particularly problematic for Shas, which, like UTJ, is an ultra-Orthodox party. UTJ MK Moshe Gafni told Haaretz on Monday that he opposes the bill, in part because of the religious objection to Jews swearing any kind of oath. That reason would presumably apply to Shas as well.

 

As for Yisrael Beiteinu, it is the party that initially proposed and pushed the bill. But a sizable proportion of its voters are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and it may therefore be sensitive to the claim made by Edelstein and Elkin that the new version discriminates against immigrants.

Meanwhile, in response to the loyalty oath and other bills sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu that allegedly discriminate against Israeli Arabs, a conference against "racist legislative initiatives" was held at the Knesset yesterday, with dozens of academics, social activists and MKs in attendance. The conference was organized by MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima ) and Dov Khenin (Hadash ), among others.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

DELUDED AND DECEIVED, TEL AVIVIANS REJOICED

BY GIDEON LEVY

 

At the typically Israeli restaurant Lemon Grass, near Rabin Square, a shockingly noisy group of American-Jewish teenage boys sat and sang "Hineh Ma Tov U'ma Na'im," banging their fists on the tables. It was early evening, but the masses were already swarming to the square.

 

It was also a holiday for the wretched: peddlers of ephemera - two glo-bracelets for five shekels, twinkle-light jubilee glasses - and the miserable bottle collectors. Everyone made a bundle, as they say.

 

Mina Tomei, another typically Israeli restaurant, was crowded. At Lehem Erez there was a long line for skewers of grilled meat that spewed smoke over the street.

 

Was Tel Aviv burning? The hawkers of the silly string that replaced the plastic hammers of our childhood also made a killing that night. Why is pestering thy neighbor a sign of independence and joy? That's something we should ask ourselves sometime.

 

At the square there were more people than at all the handful of demonstrations held there in recent years. The latest thing: wrapping oneself in an Israeli flag, like at the March of the Living, like at Maccabi games. "Donation for food," one panhandler wrote on his cardboard sign, in vain. On the former National Insurance Institute building a sign proclaims: "For Sale, Duplex Penthouses."

 

At precisely 10:30 P.M. the big show kicked off, "Lighting the Skies." Several merry young Braslav Hasidim were also pretty lit, dancing as usual not far from there. One of them, Ben Tzahala, seven years' repentant, tried to sell me "In the Peace Garden - A Guide to Domestic Peace, for Men Only."

 

The square darkened, and the sound-and-light show began. There's nothing like fireworks and laser beams to delude and deceive: the fireworks that light everything up, then fade and disappear seconds later, and the laser - that colorful and elusive beam that creates a spectacular illusion - is itself illusive. The laser and fireworks were, how fitting, the stars of the night at the square.

 

My neighbor Ruthie returned home satisfied: The circles of dancers reminded her of when independence was declared. Ruthie also found that "we have young people and we have a future." Great, Ruthie, but what on earth are we to do about the adults and the present?

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

JUSTICE MINISTER: I'LL QUIT IF LOYALTY OATH APPLIES ONLY TO NON-JEWS

ONLY 56 OF 120 MKS SAY THEY SUPPORT THE BILL REQUIRING ALL CITIZENS TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO ISRAEL AS A JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC STATE.

BY JONATHAN LIS

 

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman has reportedly said he will not remain in the cabinet if a bill requiring naturalized citizens to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state does not pass.

 

But a head count by Haaretz reveals that currently, there is no Knesset majority for the bill: Only 56 of the 120 MKs support it. Its passage will thus depend on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to strong-arm MKs who currently oppose it into switching their vote.

 

Neeman made his reported comment at a closed meeting with Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein and coalition chairman Zeev Elkin to discuss the exact wording of the bill, following Netanyahu's decision on Monday that the pledge should be required of all new citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, as Neeman had wanted. This is a change from last week's cabinet decision that would have required the oath only of non-Jewish naturalized citizens.

 

Edelstein and Elkin, both immigrants from the former Soviet Union, told Neeman at the meeting that they won't support the bill in its new form, as it discriminates between Jews born in Israel and Jews who immigrate under the Law of Return. That would undermine the point of the Law of Return, which was to treat any Jew who moves here as the equal of someone born here, they argued.

 

Neeman spent most of Tuesday in feverish negotiations to find a wording that would enjoy the broadest possible support in the cabinet. In particular, he wants to find wording that Michael Eitan, Benny Begin and Dan Meridor - the three Likud party ministers who voted against the bill last week - can support.

 

But the Labor Party has already announced that it will oppose the revised bill, as has United Torah Judaism and the entire opposition, including the right-wing National Union. That leaves the coalition without enough votes to pass it.

 

Moreover, it is not yet clear that even Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu will support the revised version. Neither party

has yet enunciated its position, but both parties' leaders - Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, respectively - voted against Neeman's proposal to require the oath of Jews and non-Jews alike when he first raised it at last week's cabinet meeting.

 

The revised version is likely to be particularly problematic for Shas, which, like UTJ, is an ultra-Orthodox party. UTJ MK Moshe Gafni told Haaretz on Monday that he opposes the bill, in part because of the religious objection to Jews swearing any kind of oath. That reason would presumably apply to Shas as well.

 

As for Yisrael Beiteinu, it is the party that initially proposed and pushed the bill. But a sizable proportion of its voters are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and it may therefore be sensitive to the claim made by Edelstein and Elkin that the new version discriminates against immigrants.

 

Meanwhile, in response to the loyalty oath and other bills sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu that allegedly discriminate against Israeli Arabs, a conference against "racist legislative initiatives" was held at the Knesset yesterday, with dozens of academics, social activists and MKs in attendance. The conference was organized by MKs Shlomo Molla (Kadima ) and Dov Khenin (Hadash ), among others.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

IRAQ'S STALEMATE

 

Seven long months after parliamentary elections, Iraqis still don't have a government. Yet Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was on another international road trip Monday — this one to Tehran, where he was soliciting the mullahs' support for his bid to maintain power in Baghdad.

 

Mr. Maliki also was just in Syria and Jordan and is expected to visit Egypt and Turkey. Reuters reported that he is offering Arab states investment deals if they nudge his rival, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, toward accepting Mr. Maliki's leadership. Mr. Allawi, whose Sunni-backed, secular-Shiite coalition called Iraqiya bested Mr. Maliki's Shiite State of Law bloc by two seats in the election, has also been on the road trawling for support.

 

Iraq needs good relations with its neighbors. But more than anything it needs a legitimate government able to address its many deep problems. Rather than trading unseemly favors with other countries, Mr. Maliki should be working full time with Mr. Allawi and other leaders to break the political impasse at home. Mr. Allawi needs to be open to compromise.

 

Meanwhile, almost nothing is happening in Iraq. Reforms that could resolve disputes over oil revenues, power sharing and the future of Kirkuk — claimed by Arabs and Kurds — are on hold. While this drags on, resentment is growing, particularly among Sunnis, who fear that they will be shut out of political power.

 

We were chilled by a report in The Times on Sunday that in recent months hundreds (or more) former Sunni fighters who came in from the cold — members of the so-called Awakening Councils — have quit the local defense forces or been dismissed and appear to have rejoined Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

 

The Sunnis ran the country under Saddam Hussein, and the Shiites were badly persecuted. Iraq's post-Saddam governments have all been Shiite-dominated (the Sunnis made things worse by boycotting the 2006 elections) and far more interested in payback than inclusion. The result was several very bloody years of civil war.

 

The Sunnis supported Mr. Allawi this time and appear to be grimly reconciled to the new order. The danger of sliding backward cannot be dismissed.

 

The White House insists that there is no major shift back to the Al Qaeda camp. Other American officials say Iraq recently increased benefits for Awakening fighters and has integrated more of them into government. But Pentagon figures show that as of July, only 41,000 of 94,000 Awakening fighters have gotten promised jobs.

 

Mr. Maliki's courtship of Shiite-majority Iran has helped win him the support of the pro-Iran group led by Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric. But he doesn't yet have enough votes to form a government and Mr. Allawi is refusing to join a Maliki-led coalition. Both men need to work a lot harder to cut a deal.

 

Above all, the new government must not replicate the old one: Shiite-dominated with token Sunni representation. That is a recipe for continued instability — or worse. Iraq urgently needs a new government that is not mortgaged to Iran but reflects the election results with Mr. Maliki, Mr. Allawi and the Kurds playing major roles.

 

The Kurds, who could be the kingmakers here, must hold back on endorsing Mr. Maliki and use their clout to press for a broadly representative government.

 

The Kurds' efforts to convene a meeting of all major blocs to forge a national unity government is a productive step. Washington needs to press all sides, a lot harder, to make a deal.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEBATABLE CANDIDATES

 

O.K., we admit we took guilty pleasure on Monday night watching the seven candidates for governor of New York together on one stage. It was like being stuck between stations in the subway with particularly odd passengers. There were mutterings, loud outbursts and wacky antics.

 

What there was not was a debate. The 12 minutes or so allotted to each candidate for one of the most powerful state jobs in the country deprived voters of information about how the real contenders would move New York forward. But the election is rapidly approaching, and there might not be a real debate, so we went digging through the looniness to see what we could learn.

 

The main conclusions: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat, did a good job of looking like a governor, but he is still not telling voters enough. And the Republican, Carl Paladino, was more like the fringe candidates around him than a serious person applying for a very serious job. He just wasn't as funny.

 

Mr. Cuomo, who is running far ahead in the polls and has been keeping an extremely low profile, revealed only the tiniest tidbits. He was sticking to his plan to quietly watch Mr. Paladino talk himself into oblivion.

 

Mr. Cuomo reaffirmed that he "strongly" supports same-sex marriage, a relief to hear after his near silence when a law allowing those marriages was on the floor of the Legislature in Albany this year and actually stood a chance of passage — if only for a moment.

 

His education reform ideas were intriguing. He told a high school student that he admires the Obama administration for "incentivizing performance" as part of the Race to the Top program. And he said he wanted to encourage charter schools, experimentation and competition among schools, rather than financing the status quo.

 

Such talk explains why Mr. Cuomo has been at odds with teachers' unions, but we want more detail. And when he claims he is against raising taxes, we want to know exactly how Mr. Cuomo is going to pay for his programs and balance a budget in a state that is facing a deficit of more than $8 billion next year.

 

As for Mr. Paladino, after all his fuming about baseball bats and taking journalists out, he looked merely confused, like when he had to have a simple question about whether he supports same-sex marriage repeated to him. (The whining by his adviser, Roger Stone, on Tuesday that the rules did not allow direct yes or no questions just made Mr. Paladino look even sillier.)

 

At one point, he talked about Medicare, a federal program, instead of Medicaid, a state program. If this was a test, he failed State Politics 101.

 

The clear loser on Monday night was the voter. Mr. Paladino was responsible for this farce because he insisted on including every candidate. Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Paladino owe voters a real debate before citizens have to go to the polls on Nov. 2. There are several open invitations for a one-on-one exchange. There is no excuse to decline.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NAGOYA HAS TO DO BETTER

 

In 1992, delegates from 193 countries, meeting in Rio de Janeiro, agreed to a treaty intended to protect biodiversity. The world has since fallen far short of those commitments. As those countries meet in Nagoya, Japan, this week and next, they need to acknowledge what went wrong and come up with better strategies.

 

All indicators show that poor countries are using natural resources at a faster rate than they were in 1992 and rich countries are leaving a larger ecological footprint. The result is putting intolerable pressure on the variety of life on the planet. According to recent estimates, a fifth of plant and mammal species are threatened with extinction in the near future, and the numbers for corals and amphibians are worse. Since 1992, an area of rainforest the size of California has been lost.

 

In 2002, most of the treaty's signers announced a set of goals to achieve a "significant reduction" of biodiversity loss by 2010, including protecting 10 percent of their national habitats and making substantial financial commitments to conservation. Those have not been met, according to a review by the World Wildlife Fund.

 

Among the even more ambitious commitments being weighed in Nagoya are protecting 20 percent of national habitats by 2020 and reaching a state of zero net deforestation. Without real follow-through, they will never happen. This conference needs to lay the groundwork for a system to identify threatened regions and species and rigorously monitor the progress, or lack of progress, toward the treaty's goals by each of the signatories.

 

Wealthy countries also need to make firm pledges to help poorer members toward sustainable development that protects and makes equitable use of the vast potential of remaining forests and coastal and marine areas. They must also provide financial support to tide those countries over. Years of international conferences on climate change have yielded little more than promises to help poor nations save their forests. Deforestation rates in many countries remain alarmingly high.

 

The United States, which signed the convention in 1993, is the only one of 193 signatories that has failed to ratify it. (It was defeated in the Senate in 1994 largely by a coalition of property-rights advocates.) That means that we are observers at Nagoya, not participants in decision-making or planning. That is an embarrassment.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THEIR DEBT IS PAID

 

More than five million Americans could be barred from voting in November because of unjust and archaic state laws that disenfranchise former offenders, even when they have gone on to live crime-free lives.

 

Many states are finally revisiting these laws. According to an encouraging new study by the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, reforms carried out during the last decade in nearly two dozen states have led to 800,000 people getting back their voting rights. More needs to be done.

 

State lawmakers and civil rights groups began to pay attention in the late 1990s when studies showed that millions of convicted felons — a disproportionate of them racial minorities — had been deprived of the vote, often for life. Some states also denied voting rights to people on probation or, even more incredibly, because they had been unable to pay outstanding fines.

 

The restoration movement gathered momentum after the 2000 election debacle in Florida, where thousands of people mistakenly listed as felons were purged from the rolls or turned away at the polls. Since then, several states — including Maryland, Delaware, Nebraska and New Mexico — repealed or amended lifetime voting bans for convicted felons. Others — including Florida, New York and Alabama — streamlined the process that ex-offenders most go through to get back their rights.

 

Democracy is strengthened when as many citizens as possible have the right to vote. Fully integrating ex-offenders back into society is also the best way to encourage their lasting rehabilitation. It is past time for all states to restore individual voting rights automatically to ex-offenders who have served their time.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MAKING IGNORANCE CHIC

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

HOLLYWOOD

Casanova's rule for seduction was to tell a beautiful woman she was intelligent and an intelligent woman she was beautiful.

 

The false choice between intellectualism and sexuality in women has persisted through the ages. There was no more poignant victim of it than Marilyn Monroe.

 

She was smart enough to become the most famous Dumb Blonde in history. Photographers loved to get her to pose in tight shorts, a silk robe or a swimsuit with a come-hither look and a weighty book — a history of Goya or James Joyce's "Ulysses" or Heinrich Heine's poems. A high-brow bunny picture, a variation on the sexy librarian trope. Men who were nervous about her erotic intensity could feel superior by making fun of her intellectually.

 

Marilyn was not completely in on the joke. Scarred by her schizophrenic mother and dislocated upbringing, she was happy to have the classics put in her hand. What's more, she read some of them, from Proust to Dostoyevsky to Freud to Carl Sandburg's six-volume biography of Lincoln (given to her by husband Arthur Miller), collecting a library of 400 books.

 

Miller once called Marilyn "a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes."

 

"Fragments," a new book of her poems, letters and musings, some written in her childlike hand with misspellings in leather books and others on stationery from the Waldorf-Astoria and the Beverly Hills Hotel, is affecting. The world's most coveted woman, a picture of luminescence, was lonely and dark. Thinking herself happily married, she was crushed to discover an open journal in which Miller had written that she disappointed him and embarrassed him in front of his intellectual peers.

 

"I guess I have always been deeply terrified to really be someone's wife since I know from life one cannot love another, ever, really."

 

Her friend Saul Bellow wrote in a letter that Marilyn "conducts herself like a philosopher." He observed: "She was connected with a very powerful current but she couldn't disconnect herself from it," adding: "She had a kind of curious incandescence under the skin."

 

The sad sex symbol is still a candle in the wind. There's a hit novel in Britain narrated by the Maltese terrier Frank Sinatra gave her, which she named "Maf," for Mafia, and three movies in the works about her. Naomi Watts is planning to star in a biopic based on the novel, "Blonde," by Joyce Carol Oates; Michelle Williams is shooting "My Week With Marilyn," and another movie is planned based on an account by Lionel Grandison, a former deputy Los Angeles coroner who claims he was forced to change the star's death certificate to read suicide instead of murder.

 

At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, the Dumb Blonde of '50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable.

 

You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well.

 

At least you're not one of those "spineless" elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who can't feel anything. It's news to Christine O'Donnell that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. It's news to Joe Miller, whose guards handcuffed a journalist, and to Carl Paladino, who threatened The New York Post's Fred Dicker, that the First Amendment exists, even in Tea Party Land. Michele Bachmann calls Smoot-Hawley Hoot-Smalley.

 

Sharron Angle sank to new lows of obliviousness when she told a classroom of Hispanic kids in Las Vegas: "Some of you look a little more Asian to me."

 

As Palin tweeted in July about her own special language adding examples from W. and Obama: " 'Refudiate,' 'misunderestimate,' 'wee-wee'd up.' English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!"

 

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won't find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O'Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

 

In Marilyn's America, there were aspirations. The studios tackled literary novels rather than one-liners like "He's Just Not That Into You" and navel-gazing drivel like "Eat Pray Love." Walt Disney's "Fantasia" paired cartoon characters with famous composers. Even Bugs Bunny did Wagner.

 

But in Sarah's America, we've refudiated all that.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

JUST KNOCK IT OFF

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Some of Israel's worst critics are fond of saying that Israel behaves like America's spoiled child. I've always found that analogy excessive. Say what you want about Israel's obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map. And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return. Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia. Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah's punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.

 

And here's another stubborn fact: Israel today really is behaving like a spoiled child.

 

Please spare me the nonsense that President Obama is anti-Israel. At a time when the president has made it one of his top priorities to build a global coalition to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon, he took the very logical view that if he could advance the peace process in the Middle East it would give him much greater leverage to get the Europeans and U.N. behind tougher sanctions on Iran. At the same time, Obama believed — what a majority of Israelis believe — that Israel can't remain a Jewish democracy in the long run if it continues to control 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

 

On top of it all, while pressing Israel to stop expanding settlements for as little as 60 days, Obama ordered his vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James E. "Hoss" Cartwright of the Marines, to lead a U.S. team to work with Israel's military on an unprecedented package of security assistance to enable Israel to maintain its "qualitative edge" over its neighbors. And, for all this, Obama is decried as anti-Israel. What utter nonsense.

 

Given what Obama has done, and is trying to do, it is hardly an act of hostility for him to ask Israel to continue its now-expired 10-month partial moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank in order to take away any excuse from the Palestinians to avoid peace talks. Israel's prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, has been either resisting this request or demanding a payoff from the U.S. for a brief continuation of the freeze. He is wrong on two counts.

 

First — I know this is a crazy, radical idea — when America asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security but would actually enhance it, there is only one right answer: "Yes." It is a measure of how spoiled Israel has become that after billions and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and 300,000 settlers already ensconced in the West Bank, Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze — the only purpose of which is to help the United States help Israel reach a secure peace with the Palestinians. Just one time you would like Israel to say, "You know, Mr. President, we're dubious that a continued settlement freeze will have an impact. But you think it will, so, let's test it. This one's for you."

 

Yes, I know, Netanyahu says that if he did that then the far right-wingers in his cabinet would walk out. He knows he can't make peace with some of the lunatics in his cabinet, but he tells the U.S. that he only wants to blow up his cabinet once — for a deal. But we will never get to that stage if he doesn't blow it up now and construct a centrist coalition that can negotiate a deal.

 

Second, I have no idea whether the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has the will and the guts to make peace with Israel. In fact, when you go back and look at what Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu's predecessor, offered Abbas — a real two-state compromise, including a deal on Jerusalem — and you think that Abbas spurned that offer, and you think that Netanyahu already gave Abbas a 10-month settlement freeze and Abbas only entered serious talks in the ninth month, you have to wonder how committed he is.

 

But the fact is that the team of Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have built a government that is the best the Palestinians have ever had, and, more importantly, a Palestinian security apparatus that the Israeli military respects and is acting as a real partner. Given this, Israel has an overwhelming interest to really test — that is all we can ask — whether this Palestinian leadership is ready for a fair and mutually secure two-state solution.

 

That test is something the U.S. should not have to beg or bribe Israel to generate. This moment is not about Obama. He's doing his job. It is about whether the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are up to theirs. Abbas is weak and acts weaker. Netanyahu is strong and acts weak. It is time for both to step it up. And it is time for all the outsiders who spoil them to find another hobby.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

GET TOUGH ON PAKISTAN

BY ZALMAY KHALILZAD

 

Washington

WHEN I visited Kabul a few weeks ago, President Hamid Karzai told me that the United States has yet to offer a credible strategy for how to resolve a critical issue: Pakistan's role in the war in Afghanistan.

 

In the region and in the wider war against terrorism, Pakistan has long played a vital positive part — and a troublingly negative one. WithPakistani civilian and military leaders meeting with Obama administration officials this week in Washington — and with the news that Afghan leaders are holding direct talks with Taliban leaders to end the war — cutting through this Gordian knot has become more urgent and more difficult than ever before.

 

Pakistan has done, and continues to do, a great deal of good: many of the supply lines and much of the logistical support for NATO forces in Afghanistan run through Pakistan. Drones striking terrorists and militants in the tribal areas do so with the Pakistani government's blessing and rely on Pakistani bases. And Pakistani security services have worked with the Central Intelligence Agency to capture hundreds of Qaeda operatives.

 

At the same time, Pakistan gives not only sanctuary but also support to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani terrorist network. This has hampered our military efforts; contributed to American, coalition and Afghan deaths; and helped sour relations between Kabul and Washington.

 

What's more, Pakistani military leaders believe that our current surge will be the last push before we begin a face-saving troop drawdown next July. They are confident that if they continue to frustrate our military and political strategy — even actively impede reconciliation between Kabul and Taliban groups willing to make peace — pro-Pakistani forces will have the upper hand in Afghanistan after the United States departs.

 

When dealing with Pakistan, the Obama administration, like the George W. Bush administration, has pursued two lines of action. First, it has tried building up Afghan security forces, providing military assistance and supporting the Afghan economy and state institutions, all in hopes of hardening the country against Pakistan-backed insurgents.

 

Second, the U.S. has tried to soften Pakistan's support of extremist militants through enhanced engagement as well as humanitarian, economic and military assistance; indeed, Congress last year approved a five-year, $7.5 billion package of nonmilitary aid, and among the options being discussed by American and Pakistani officials this week is a security pact that would mean billions of dollars more. But such efforts have led to only the most incremental shifts in Pakistan's policy.

 

To induce quicker and more significant changes, Washington must offer Islamabad a stark choice between positive incentives and negative consequences.

 

The United States should demand that Pakistan shut down all sanctuaries and military support programs for insurgents or else we will carry out operations against those insurgent havens, with or without Pakistani consent. Arguments that such pressure would cause Pakistan to disintegrate are overstated. Pakistan's institutions, particularly the country's security organs, are sufficiently strong to preclude such an outcome.

 

Nonetheless, this aggressive approach would require the United States to think through a series of likely Pakistani responses. To deal with an interruption of our supply lines to Afghanistan, for example, we must stockpile supplies and start bringing in more materiél through the northern supply routes and via air.

 

At the same time, we should present clear, significant incentives. In exchange for demonstrable Pakistani cooperation, the United States should offer to mediate disputes between Pakistan and Afghanistan; help establish a trade corridor from Pakistan into Central Asia; and ensure that Pakistan's adversaries do not use Afghanistan's territory to support insurgents in Pakistani Baluchistan.

 

More fundamentally, the United States needs to demonstrate that, even after our troops depart Afghanistan, we are resolved to stay engaged in the region. To that end, the United States should provide long-term assistance to Pakistan focused on developing not only its security apparatus, but also its civil society, economy and democratic institutions.

 

Finally, the United States should facilitate a major diplomatic effort focused on stabilizing South Asia. This must involve efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan. Based on my recent discussions with Pakistani officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari, I believe the civilian leadership would welcome such a move.

 

Without inducing a change in Pakistan's posture, the United States will have to choose between fighting a longer and bloodier war in Afghanistan than is necessary, at the cost of many young American lives and many billions of dollars, or accepting a major setback in Afghanistan and in the surrounding region. Both are undesirable options.

 

Instead, the Obama administration should be forcing Pakistan to make some choices — between supporting the United States or supporting extremists.

 

Zalmay Khalilzad, a counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the president of a consulting firm, was the ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON MARIJUANA: IF CALIFORNIA GOES TO POT, REST OF U.S. GETS DRAGGED IN

 

Supporters of legalizing marijuana make interesting arguments about respecting adults' personal liberty, choking off a major source of drug cartel profits, and saving law enforcement resources for higher priorities.

 

Interesting, but not enough, in our view, to offset the even more compelling reasons why voters in trend-setting California would be wise to reject legalization when they go to the polls Nov. 2.

 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a law making possession of up to an ounce of marijuana equal to a traffic ticket, but if Proposition 19 passed — and polls suggest it has a decent chance — California would go even further. It would be legal for adults to possess, smoke and grow pot for recreational purposes.

 

What's the harm? More than you might suspect.

 

One key problem is that California, or any other state, can't fully "legalize" marijuana. It would still be an illegal substance under federal law, and Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he'd make it a priority to arrest and prosecute violators. Not individual users, most likely, but people who tried to grow or sell it in large quantities.

 

Nor would the impact of legalization be confined to the Golden State. A RAND Corp. study suggests that legalizing California crops would slash the cost of pot from some $300-$400 an ounce to as little as a tenth of that, potentially flooding the rest of the nation with cheap supplies and driving up use.

 

Even some Californians sympathetic to the idea of legalization worry that Prop 19 is a flawed vehicle. It would empower the state's hundreds of city and county governments to set their own regulations for growing, selling, using and taxing marijuana. That, as most of the state's leading newspapers have pointed out in editorials opposing the ballot measure, is a recipe for regulatory chaos.

 

More worrisome than tangled bureaucracy, though, are concerns about what legalizing another intoxicant besides alcohol could do to public safety and health.

 

Anti-pot crusaders dating to the days of Reefer Madness wrecked their credibility by insisting marijuana was as pernicious as heroin and other far more dangerous drugs. It's not, but it's not harmless, either. Growers have managed to make stronger strains over the years, and some are powerful enough to induce a blissful sort of catatonia, at least temporarily.

 

You wouldn't want someone in that state or even a milder one coming toward you on the road, and while it would still be illegal to drive under the influence, that would almost certainly happen more often under legalization. Marijuana smokers are three times more likely than sober drivers to crash.

 

Our deepest concern is what would happen to children. Supporters of legalization underestimate how easy it would be for kids to sneak pot at home if their parents began using it more frequently and openly, and the legalizers fail to reckon with the danger of sending children the message that pot is no big deal. Marijuana is less addictive than harder drugs, but the addiction rate jumps as high as 17% for kids who begin using at an early age, and early use can sharply set back a child's mental development.

 

There continues to be a legitimate role for medicinal marijuana, which can ease pain and suffering in some seriously ill people and is legal in California and 13 other states. In California, though, getting a doctor's permission to buy legal pot is so easy that it has become a back door for broad legalization, which risks creating a backlash against the drug's compassionate use.

 

Eventually, there might be a national movement toward legalizing marijuana, but the key word is "national." Legalization is a decision that should be made by the entire country, not just one state, and only after carefully weighing all the very real downsides.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON MARIJUANA: 'PROHIBITION IS A DISASTER'

BY JOSEPH MCNAMARA AND STEPHEN DOWNING

 

Proposition 19 presents California voters with a simple choice: Continue a policy that has failed completely, causes massive harm and can never work — or say yes to a common-sense approach that destroys a $14 billion black market run by violent thugs and replaces it with a legal, controlled market, all while eliminating enforcement costs and bringing in new tax revenue.

 

As former big-city police officials, we're saying yes to the rational approach that regulates marijuana like alcohol and cigarettes.

 

After decades of marijuana prohibition, with millions of arrests and billions of dollars spent, the results are in. Prohibition is a disaster.

 

Anyone in California who wants marijuana can get marijuana. Massive law enforcement efforts have only made cartels rich, and black market violence hurts innocent people and their children caught in the crossfire between criminals. Teenagers get marijuana more easily than beer, because drug dealers don't ask for proof of age.

 

Because marijuana (other than legal medical marijuana) is illegal, it can't be taxed. Neighborhoods want police to fulfill their primary duty of protecting life and property, but officers are distracted by futile marijuana enforcement. Opponents of Prop 19, however, ask people to vote for more of what has not worked in the past and cannot work in the future.

 

Opponents of Prop 19 can't deny that marijuana prohibition is a disaster, so they try to discredit legalization by claiming that it would allow people to drive under the influence, that it is invalid since federal law will still be in force, and that it would increase use.

 

In our view, these are all untrue. For example, the U.S. already has the highest rate of marijuana use in the world, despite having some of the harshest penalties. Our rate is twice that of The Netherlands, where retail marijuana sales have been allowed for decades.

 

Opponents by now should realize that voters won't buy their fear-based claims much longer. The polls show Prop 19 ahead, with a real shot at passing. A broad coalition endorses Prop 19, including the state's largest labor union, the state NAACP, Latino leaders and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition — a 35,000-member group made up of police, prosecutors, judges, prison officials and others.

 

The latter are the people asked to enforce prohibition. They're saying it won't work, and so will (we hope) a majority of California's voters.

 

Joseph McNamara is a former San Jose chief of police; Stephen Downing is a former Los Angeles deputy chief of police.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

IN U.S. POLITICS, ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL

BY ROSS K. BAKER

 

Back in April, when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the measure enabling law enforcement officers in the state to ask criminal suspects to produce documentation of their immigration status, I immediately recalled those World War II movies when refugees from Germany cowering in a train compartment are confronted by Nazi officers who bark at them, "Papiere bitte" (papers, please). But when I thought a bit more about it, I got to wondering about how I would look on the law if I were a resident of Arizona or Texas and on the front line of illegal immigration. It's very easy to judge people from a distance, yet that very inability to put yourself in the other person's situation has contributed to making the American political terrain so toxic.

 

When a Big Mac or a Starbucks cappuccino in New York tastes the same as its counterpart in Texas, it's easy to conclude that regional differences have been smoothed out by the leveling hand of American commercialism. Accordingly, it's hard for many people to recognize that Minnesota and Louisiana are very different places. This reality was not easy for people to accept when, for example, after the first OPEC oil embargo in 1973, the nation faced the likelihood that gasoline might have to be allocated state by state. People in the Northeast grumbled at the prospect that Westerners could get larger allocations because of the greater distances between points. So while we prize empathy in personal relationships, we seem reluctant to bring it into the public square with us.

 

This disconnect is reinforced by the long-observed practice of Americans to sort themselves out. People gravitate to, or hunker down, in places where there are lots of others just like them. A fellow political scientist, professor Bruce Oppenheimer at Vanderbilt University, claims a high rate of success in guessing the political allegiance of college seniors by asking them where they are headed after graduation.

 

San Francisco vs. Houston

 

The people who say their destination is San Francisco are invariably Democrats; those who are packing for Houston are probably Republicans. So while the red-blue divide is not nearly so neat as some people believe, neither is President Obama's hopeful image of the country as an undifferentiated purple.

 

The problem for American politics is not the clusters themselves, but the tendency of people to assume that their own gripes and preferences are shared by all — and a too great tendency to question the motives and integrity of those with whom we disagree without inquiring as to why they disagree and whether that contrary opinion might have some merit.

 

A person who is deeply concerned about what he fears is a metastatic federal government and a loss of personal freedom as a result of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is certainly entitled to climb on the Tea Party bandwagon. Opposition to an excessively strong central government is as old as the Republic. But it would be ungenerous of that person to deny that the number of uninsured Americans has grown and that people who are neither illegal immigrants nor parasitic slackers are suffering from chronic untreated diseases because they lack health insurance. Traditionally, we would at least differentiate between the deserving and undeserving poor. Those distinctions have been eliminated by modern communications that are perfect vehicles for unmediated anger at those with whom we differ.

 

Generations ago, many angry letters were written but never sent. Today, the adrenalin rush of keystroke courage has people firing off intemperate, even abusive, e-mails to perfect strangers. Simple disagreement has become a mark of infamy. The commendable principle of live and let live not only becomes us as a nation but is also the very basis for our federal system.

 

So if Nevada wants to have legalized prostitution, it should be no business of Oklahoma's. If California voters have endorsed a law to curb greenhouse emissions, why should a couple of Kansas billionaires plunk down a million dollars to support a referendum that blocks the implementation of the law? And yes, if the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approves the building of an Islamic cultural center and mosque in a city with a sizeable Muslim population, why shouldn't its decision be respected by people in Florida?

 

Regional differences

 

It is proper that basic constitutional rights be uniform across the country, and it is ultimately up to the courts to determine what those rights are and how they should be protected.

 

Nonetheless, the application of what the judges rule to be basic liberties might need to be applied with an awareness of important regional differences. Same-sex marriage is legal in places such as Massachusettsand Iowa but will not gain easy acceptance in Kansas or Utah. We have, for example, already live with a patchwork of abortion laws.

 

America is not a one-size-fits-all country, and we need to broaden our understanding of the term "diversity' to embrace not only racial and ethnic differences but also differences in philosophy and the real circumstances in which people live. The most ominous forms of political correctness can be applied with equal coerciveness by extreme conservatives as well as the usual suspects on the liberal side.

 

Ross K. Baker is a political science professor at Rutgers University and is writing a book titled Profiles in Cover.He also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

IN OUR SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD, IS EMPATHY DYING?

BY BREE BARTON

 

A few weeks ago, my best friend was robbed in a posh Washington, D.C., neighborhood. As she stepped out of her car, a tall young man asked for directions to Connecticut Avenue and then pulled out a knife. "I don't want to hurt you," he said. "Just give me your purse." Because he was holding a switchblade to her stomach, she obliged.

 

What came next was unexpected. "Is there anything in here you need?" he asked. "How about your cellphone?"

 

Startled by the offer, my friend retrieved her phone. Before she could edit herself, she had made another request.

 

"For the love of God, I'm a writer," she said. "Please let me keep my computer."

 

"OK," he said. "Take it."

 

The mugger disappeared with the remaining contents of her purse — laptop charger, lip gloss, 10 bucks in cash. My friend stood cradling her Droid and MacBook, feeling a sense of gratitude that would later enrage her.

 

I was on my computer helping her cancel credit cards when a Google news flash caught my eye. On Sept. 19, a freshman at Rutgers allegedly used his webcam to secretly tape his roommate's private encounter with another man and broadcast it on the Internet. When the roommate, Tyler Clementi, discovered he had been surreptitiously recorded, he changed his Facebook status to: "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry." On Sept. 22, Clementi jumped.

 

Two isolated incidents, right? Not in my book. We live in a world where muggers are conscientious enough to allow victims to keep their most prized technological gadgets, and where privileged 18-year-olds don't understand that secretly recording a sex act and broadcasting it virally is a gross invasion of privacy — one that ultimately led to a young man's death.

 

Welcome to life in 2010. We've never been more connected to the people around us. We've never been more disconnected, either.

 

The past several years have yielded countless articles on the short- and long-term effects of today's technologies. Clifford Nass, a communications professor at Stanford, told The New York Times that our heavy dependence on technology diminishes empathy by limiting how much people truly engage with one another. "The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other," he says. "It shows how much you care." For Nass, technology represents a fragmentation that does not reflect favorably on our evolution as human beings.

 

In a spring 2010 study at the University of Maryland, 200 unnamed students were asked to refrain from using electronic media for 24 hours. The results of the experiment were revealing. One student reported feeling "alone and secluded from my life. Although I go to a school with thousands of students, the fact that I was not able to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable."

 

But posting a Tweet or updating a Facebook status isn't real engagement. It's narcissism masquerading as connection. The anonymity of the Internet drives a wedge between our true self and our virtual persona, enabling us to disassociate from the consequences our actions have on others.

 

I sincerely doubt that Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers freshman being charged with invasion of privacy, ever intended for Clementi to kill himself. My guess is that he wasn't really thinking about it. Judging by Ravi's snarky Tweet on Sept. 19, he probably thought posting a live feed of his roommate's sex life was a clever way to get some laughs. Who knew cyber-harassment could wreak real-life devastation?

 

As for the man who mugged my friend, perhaps it was empathy that prevented him from taking her laptop and cellphone. But if that's how empathy has evolved in the 21st century, I think it's safe to say we're facing a serious disconnect.

 

Bree Barton is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

THE FDA UNDER SIEGE

 

The recall Monday of more than 125,000 bottles of Tylenol is another reminder that U.S. drug and food safety controls remain inadequate. That's been the case for years. Despite a growing number of incidents that put public health at risk, there's been little progress in expanding the Food and Drug Administration's enforcement power or in strengthening the nation's food and drug-safety regulations. That doesn't make sense. If controls and enforcement aren't improved, the threat to Americans' health and safety will continue to increase.

 

While the Monday recall of 50-count bottles of eight-hour Tylenol caplets because of a musty or moldy order is relatively small, it is part of an alarming growth pattern. Earlier this year, the McNeil Consumer Healthcare unit of Johnson & Johnson, producers of the Tylenol pulled from shelves on Monday, recalled more than 150 million units of Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl and Zyrtec for adults, children and infants. Clearly, the problem of tainted drugs and foodstuffs is not a new one.

 

The Tylenol recall isn't the only current reminder about the state of food and drug safety in the country. On Monday, the FDA reported that it would allow Hillandale Farms, one of the two Iowa producers linked to more than 1,600 reported cases of salmonella illnesses and the recall of more than 500 million eggs earlier this year, to resume shipping product to stores. The FDA noted that it had passed recent inspections and had adequately dealt with the problems that prompted the massive recall.

 

The same is not true of Wright County Eggs, the other Iowa facility involved in the egg recall. It obviously has failed to meet current standards. Indeed, an FDA letter to the Wright County Egg owner said that if the farms do not take "prompt and aggressive actions" to eliminate salmonella from his farms, the FDA might shut down his company. Whether the threat is taken seriously remains to be seen. Similar warnings earlier in the year failed to prompt remedial action.

 

Drugs and eggs aren't the only items that have posed threats to consumer safety in recent years. Beef, chicken, peanuts, peppers, cantaloupe, tomatoes and spinach have all been implicated in widespread illnesses and a number of deaths. Improvements in the current system clearly re needed.

 

Some progress is being made. The FDA is working on several fronts to increase its efficiency and efficacy. It has a blueprint for modernization that should help it keep abreast of the evolving science behind the newest drugs, medical devices and foods. Those are steps in the right direction, but they are not enough to overcome the political and financial roadblocks that continue to beset the FDA.

 

Congress has failed to fully fund FDA budget requests for years. Discussions about increased funding and enhanced enforcement powers for the FDA have become political hostages. The remedy, of course, is agreement that protecting public health from tainted food and drugs is far more important than scoring partisan political points. Until that occurs public concern about the safety of the nation's medicines and food supply will remain.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

GOING TO COLLEGE AND PROUD OF IT

 

There are, to be sure, problems with public schools here. Some are the outgrowth of legitimate differences about general policy. Some have to do with the academic performance, test scores and conduct of students. There also are issues related to the performance of administrators and teachers. Other problems are directly related to politics. What's lost in all the discussion and debate about real and alleged problems in public schools is the fact that there is a tremendous amount of positive activity taking place in the system here. There's highly visible evidence around the county to support that claim.

 

A rotating series of billboards featuring 17 Hamilton County high school graduates from the class of 2010— one from each local high school — holding a diploma and wearing a shirt proclaiming the college they now attend will remain on view through the end of the year. They are more than a salute to the ability of each of the students pictured. They are testament to the broader success that all the high schools here have in preparing so many students for college.

 

"We just want to make the community aware of how many of our students are going to college," Public Education Foundation President Dan Challener said Monday. The PEF, the school system and local Bi-Lo grocery stores are underwriting the billboard campaign. The effort is supplemented by additional information about colleges and the college experience on the foundation's website and on a Facebook page,

 

This isn't the first time billboards have been used to tout the academic success of students and their high schools. Last year, 11 of the advertisements were used. Positive feedback then prompted an expansion of the campaign this year. The additional exposure is a good idea.

 

Those who travel on Broad Street, I-24 at the ridge cut, Bailey Avenue, Signal Mountain Road or traverse the intersections of Highway 153 and Shallowford Road, Signal Mountain Road or Highway 153 and Highway 27 North between now and the end of the year should see one of the billboards with an image of a smiling student and the names of their high school and their college. The billboards should engender a smile and a nod in recognition of a job well done.

 

The 17 students featured on the advertisements aren't the only individual success stories in the class of 2010 in public schools here. There are, thank goodness, countless others. Those featured on the billboards simply are representative of the large numbers of unsung students here who attend public schools, who do what is asked and expected of them and who graduate and then go on to college. The billboards are a welcome reminder that there is much worth celebrating in public schools here — even as the necessary and sometimes difficult discussion and debate about their future continues.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

MY' SHARE OF NATIONAL DEBT?

 

We all know we have to pay taxes to the federal government. Most of us believe taxes are too high. But what we are paying in taxes is far less than what we are letting our federal government spend.

 

As a result, we have a huge national debt of $13.6 trillion!

 

How can we really understand such a figure? It doesn't seem to bother President Barack Obama and a majority of the members of Congress that we are having to pay massive interest on that debt, while it is growing bigger.

 

Our national debt began with the American Revolution, when early Americans had to borrow $75 million to win our independence.

 

President George Washington, in his Farewell Address, urged that we use debt "sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace."

 

Well, we haven't followed Washington's advice very well, have we?

 

Today, Obama and a majority of the members of Congress are presiding over our $13.6 trillion national debt — and are adding to it tremendously and irresponsibly each year!

 

What would each of us have to pay to eliminate the national debt?

 

It would it take more than $43,000 from each of us!

 

All individuals do not pay taxes, however. Children don't, for instance. Family incomes are taxed as a unit for one tax return. So what would it take "per taxpayer" to eliminate the national debt?

 

That shocking figure to eliminate the debt is $122,172!

 

We're not even trying to reduce the debt, however. But is it responsible to keep adding to our debt?

 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt said disarmingly, "We only owe it to ourselves." But that's not true today.

 

Did you know that we — the government of the United States of America — owe Communist China $868.4 billion?

 

We owe Japan almost as much, $836.6 billion.

 

Should American citizens — and our U.S. officials — be "comfortable" owing so much to foreigners, and "to ourselves," having to pay so much interest on it?

 

Unfortunately, we are not about to reduce our national debt. But shouldn't we at least begin to think about not increasing it?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER BAD ECONOMIC SIGN

 

It's no secret to anyone that our beloved United States is in a serious economic recession. Things could get worse before they get better. That's because we long have been doing too many of the "wrong" things economically, defying good free enterprise principles, productivity and common sense.

 

Currently it is reported that usually world-champion producer America is experiencing a decline in output of products for the first time since June 2009, which wasn't a record productive time either.

 

Why is output down? It's because demand is down. Why is demand down? Because our economy has cooled, with unemployment at 9.6 percent, and consumers are cautious about buying, not knowing "what's next."

 

Economics is a challenging "science." But it is no "mystery." Just look back over history and you can clearly see what factors have produced "good times" and what mistakes we have made that have produced "recession," or even "depression."

 

There are many things in life, in the world, and in economics that we can't control. But there are many things we can control — such as excessive spending.

 

Some of the economic bad news these days is obviously a result of our doing — throughout the world, nationally and personally — too many of the things that cause troubles and not enough of the things that experience and common sense indicate make us better off.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IS SARAH PALIN JUST TEASING, OR ... ?

 

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the first woman elected governor of Alaska, has become quite a well-known personality, not only in her state but throughout our country.

 

After all, she became the Republican candidate for vice president on the ticket with presidential candidate Sen. John McCain.

 

But now does she have something else in mind politically?

 

She, and many others, recall the TV parodies of her pointing out that part of Russia is visible from Alaska.

 

In a widely reported recent speech, she teasingly played on her parodied earlier comment by saying, "We can see 2012 from our house."

 

Was she just joking — or was that a hint that she is seriously considering a run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012? Who knows?

 

After all, an "unknown" came to be elected president in 2008. President Barack Obama surely is going to be the Democrats' presidential nominee in 2012. But it is quite evident that no Republican has yet gained prominence as the leading Republican candidate for president in 2012.

 

Is Sarah just having fun, or is she testing the reaction to her "joke" with 2012 presidential aspirations?

 

Is it comedy or potential tragedy that our presidential race in 2012 could be Obama vs. Palin?

 

After all, we unfortunately have had several presidential contests in our history in which no candidate was really qualified.

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

NO LIMIT TO EVIL, BUT SOME AVERTED

 

We long have been sadly aware that there is no limit to the evil that some insist on committing in our world.

 

But still we wonder, as four men were convicted in New York this week for having plotted last year to use missiles and bombs to shoot down military aircraft and blow up New York City synagogues.

 

How were the evil deeds thwarted? In an FBI "sting," a paid informant pretended to be "in" on the plot, reported the preparations and nipped the perpetrators before they could carry out their plan. Sentences up to life in prison will be set March 24 for the plotters.

 

We live in a dangerous world, in which constant alert is needed.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

CRYSTAL 'BROKEN'

 

Millions of Americans, and others throughout the world, are familiar with the Crystal Cathedral that Dr. Robert Schuller made famous in California.

 

The church itself has been thronged with visitors, and weekly TV broadcasts have been enjoyed by millions worldwide.

 

But depending upon free will giving for its very expensive programs, the Crystal Cathedral sadly has had to file for bankruptcy. The organization reportedly is struggling under a debt of more than $43 million.

 

"Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end," says Sheila Schuller Coleman, the senior pastor.

 

"Everybody is hurting today," she said. "We are no exception."

 

We hope "tough times" will be brief, in many respects, for everyone.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS - STRAIGHT: KILIÇDAROĞLU ON A 'BROAD FIELD'

 

It is not our place to advise the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, on internal party strategy. We won't presume to do so. But we do believe that a bit of context and commentary is in order following our lead story yesterday, which examined the internal divisions faced by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

 

For one, the CHP, like all Turkish political parties, has little in the way of internal party democracy. By and large, all are fiefdoms overseen by long-ruling lords. The CHP was this way for years under Deniz Baykal. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is certainly the same. An illustration of this enduring dynamic was witnessed over the weekend when 84-year-old Necmettin Erbakan, the doyen of Turkey's Islamist politics, managed to climb back atop the acronymless Saadet, or Felicity Party.

 

So it is important to keep in mind that the clearly democratically minded Kılıçdaroğlu has not a tiger, but a dinosaur by the tail. To analogize to Mikhail Gorbachev's rise through the politburo to the top of the late Soviet Union is a stretch. But it is the best historical analogy we can summon. Another might be U.S. President Barack Obama's seizure of party machinery from his rival Hilary Clinton in his country' most recent presidential primary.

 

In short, Kılıçdaroğlu has his hands full.

 

Our second point is that the issue apparently tying the CHP in knots is that of wearing a headscarf at university. As we reported yesterday, there are broadly two "camps" surrounding Kılıçdaroğlu. One is his tight-knit group of supporters lead by Gürsel Tekin. The other is the more rigidly traditional (i.e., anti-headscarf) camp led by long-serving lieutenant Önder Sav.

 

Last week's declaration by a CHP deputy chairman that the party would boycott a presidential reception allowing headscarves (including the first lady's) illustrated the dynamic. Kılıçdaroğlu was not party to the announcement, he later renounced it and he is expected to be at the reception: Kılıçdaroğlu 1 – Sav 0.

 

But our further point is that the headscarf issue is, in the words of columnist Nuray Mert, a "narrow field" issue. Yes, there are plausible risks in enabling the spread of religious symbolism. But we think these risks are minor in comparison to the neglect of "broad field" issues that is the result of the endless and petty bickering over choice of dress by adult students in universities.

 

The headscarf issue sucks oxygen from the life of Turkish politics. It occupies too much of everyone's time, including that of the news media. And there are so many critical issues, from enlivening European Union accession to rescuing talks to reconcile the island of Cyprus with itself, to defeating terrorism and resolving the legitimate demands of Turkey's Kurds.

 

Kılıçdaroğlu is clearly, if awkwardly, trying to engage on the "broad field." In this, he has our support.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

A DIFFICULT TASK FOR THE COUNTRY!

NURAY MERT

 

The election of judges to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, is on one side and the reception crisis is on the other! There is a government understanding, on one side, trying to control the judiciary against the judiciary's rigid attitude on the status quo. On the other, not among the judiciary's insistence over the headscarf ban in "broad fields," there is a main opposition party considering boycotting the Oct. 29 Republic Day reception, which is outside those fields, just because the hostess and some female guests will wear the headscarf.

 

As such bigotry in favor of laicism continues, "democracy" faces a real danger. That's the summary of what's going on in the country today.

 

I believe the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, should go through a mentality change. However I believe, to the opposite of many, that this is not only a problem of the party administration. For I think I grew up in that circle and know that the party grassroots needs a change of mentality. I don't agree with those who say, "There is no headscarf issue in society, but among politicians." Part of society is quite stubborn in resisting the headscarf. And it is not realistic to have expectations that the party administration can easily convince the grassroots. Unless this is achieved, strife will continue.

 

This is not an issue to be pushed aside simply and say, "Don't we have other problems aside from the headscarf issue?" An answer to the one asking this question could be, "If the headscarf issue is not important, then don't bother to think of it, stop bickering and pay attention to the other important issues in the country." Are we not right if we say so?

 

The price of not finding a ground for consensus is that conservatives focus more on "absolute power." Is it really difficult to see? There is no point to respond and say: "Oh my! Then it means you believe that the government is right to seek absolute power if there is an unsolvable problem." It doesn't make a difference if I believe or don't believe the government. That's what's going on!

 

What should we experience or go through in order to make people who see laicism as a danger for some reason believe that democracy cannot exist without laicism and vice versa?

 

The price of resisting headscarf freedom will be the loss of all freedoms. An increase in the number of women wearing headscarf will cause impatience towards females covering themselves and that will make the conservative government stronger. We have started to pay big prices for that. And without a doubt, we will continue to pay.

 

On the other hand, if the government is sincere, then it should stay away from instigations to increase power and from using the situation as an election gimmick. Otherwise, although it gains strength, the ruling party will govern a society departing from peace. A fact that the government seems to forget is that power is not the solution for everything. If it were, the government wouldn't be where it is today. Therefore, I suggest that they adopt a more prudent attitude and style of communications against such narrow-mindedness towards the headscarf.

* Nuray Mert is a columnist of daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared on Tuesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE UNITED STATES: COUP PATRON AND TERROR SPONSOR

BURAK BEKDİL

 

"Our civilization is based on an understanding that focuses on being constructive, not destructive, attaches importance to ethical values and aesthetics as well as welfare and regards justice above everything."

 

The quote belongs to a Turkish minister. We could, therefore, safely assume that a "Turkish" minister speaking of "our civilization" must have been referring to the Turkish civilization: always constructive, attaching importance to ethics, aesthetics and welfare and regarding justice above everything. Reading that portrayal I felt an unbearable urge to leave Turkey and seek refuge in the minister's Turkey.

 

All the same, when Industry Minister Nihat Ergün spoke of "our civilization" he was more probably referring to a broader civilization which, among others, also includes Turkey: Muslim societies. Mr. Ergün portrayed "that" society as a justification for an argument he had made in a previous line:

 

"Muslim societies would never produce nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction."

 

The idea must be a follow-up from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's earlier claims that "Muslims would never commit genocide," and that "Muslims would never resort to terror." Summing it all up, Muslims are human beings who would never commit genocide, resort to terror or build weapons of mass destruction and who have created a civilization that is always constructive, that attaches importance to ethics, aesthetics and welfare and regards justice above everything. I am not sure if that portrayal better fits Saudi Arabia or Iran or Libya or Yemen or Pakistan – or Turkey.

 

Speaking of Pakistan… Would the careful reader please inform this columnist about when Pakistan possibly changed its official religion? Since "Muslims societies would never produce nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction" and an esteemed Turkish minister could not be lying (Muslims don't lie), Pakistan must have become the first apostate state of modern times.

 

Speaking of Pakistan, again, Mr. Erdoğan's "exclusive chat on Oct. 15 with a Pakistani correspondent in the presence of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani" is worth noting. Mr. Erdoğan said that the United States was supporting some common enemies of Pakistan and Turkey and the time had come to unmask them and act together.

 

Disappointingly, the prime minister did not "unmask them" although the time had come to do so. Hmmm… "Some common enemies of Pakistan and Turkey…" I can only think of one such common enemy, and if Mr. Erdoğan meant that country he will be the first Turkish prime minister to label it as an "enemy." Too bad, if Turkey is still having enemies in its vicinity, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's zero-problems in our region doctrine will have to face major difficulties – unless, of course, a friendly country in our region wipes that enemy from our region.

 

In the same colorful chat with the correspondent, Mr. Erdoğan also said, "Both Pakistan and Turkey suffered from military dictators who were always supported by the United States." I am confused. Why did Mr. Erdoğan's chief advisor, a few years earlier, ask U.S. administration officials "to use this man [Mr. Erdoğan] and not to put him to drain?" Why did Mr. Erdoğan ask to be "used" by coup patrons who support some of Turkey's (and Pakistan's) enemies?

 

In Islamabad, Mr. Erdoğan was also quoted as saying that "Washington is not ready to condemn the state terrorism of Israel against Turkey which means that the U.S. is supporting an international terrorist."

 

It's bizarre that Mr. Erdoğan allies with supporters of Turkey's enemies who also sponsor international terrorists and back military dictators. How many times must he have reiterated Turkey's staunch alliance with the United States?

 

But there is consistency here. After all, Mr. Erdoğan believes that the EU heavyweights also sponsor/tolerate/safeguard the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. So, being a candidate member of a union whose leading members sponsor terrorists is reasonable when your major NATO ally also supports your enemies, military dictators and international terrorist.

 

Still, I suspect someone must be lying. On Monday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the U.S. remained committed to its alliance with Turkey and that "we share fundamental interests in the region, and our goals remain the same: a respect for sovereignty and rule of law, economic growth and development and enduring stability and security."

 

A bizarre alliance indeed. One ally accuses the other of backing dictators, its enemies and international terrorists, and the other speaks of shared fundamental interests and "the credibility of our alliance." With alliances like that, who would need misalliances?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

REVENGE OF TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY

ORHAN GAFARLI

 

Istanbul has always been a center of world politics, with important incidents in world history taking place in the city. Political steps, at times, changed the axis of the history in Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottomans who ruled the world for centuries. Istanbul recently hosted the Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries. A new Ottoman wind will blow in the near future once a council of cooperation for Turkic speaking countries is established.

 

It was banned in the past to claim the Ottoman Empire's heritage. We were considering if Turkey is not the successor of the empire, then who is? But, it is needless to have such thoughts today. With the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government we are in charge of a new Ottoman foreign policy. The central-right government is conducting the policy. Turkey today claims its near past through multi-dimensional foreign policy. Thinking or calculating a better alternative than being the successor of the Ottoman foreign policy in the 21st century is impossible. Experts were not wrong to term the new Turkish foreign policy "Neo-Ottoman policy." With the dispersion of the Soviets in the 1990s, Turkey needed a new policy in foreign relations. This new policy concept should serve to increase the country's geopolitical influence in Central Asia, the Caspian Region, and the southern Caucasus.

 

In the last days of summer Istanbul hosted the Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries at the presidential-level. Formation of a Council of Cooperation among Turkic speaking nations has been decided and the President of Turkey Abdullah Gül announced that the office of secretary general will be located in Istanbul, with the institution working to strengthen relations among participants. And former Turkish Ambassador to Russia Halil Akıncı was announced to be the secretary general of the Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries. Before analyzing contributory impact of this organization over Turkey I want to have your attention to another document signed in the summit.

 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Azeri President İlham Aliyev struck a deal on Sept. 15 in Istanbul to set-up a strategic cooperation high council between the two countries as part of the 10th Summit of Turkic Speaking Countries. A competition cycle started among the world powers to claim the South Caucasus following the Soviet collapse is, therefore, ended in favor of Turkey after 20 years. This is a victory of orchestrating a rational foreign policy. The Russian hegemony has ended in the South Caucasus. Turkey has regained its power to affect on the region after the Ottomans fall and opened the door to the Caspian Sea. At the same time, Turkey as Azerbaijan's strategic partner has had a say in the critical Upper Karabakh conflict, which is the number one problem of the region. Let's keep in mind that such strategic partnership is also beneficial for Azerbaijan, too. Azeris are now assured that Ankara will support official stance of Baku in the border conflict between Turkey and Armenia. On the other hand, such cooperation with the potential of expanding military issues will in the near future show us its merits. With this agreement, Turkey has reclaimed 80 percent of its influence over the South Caucasus. And that is being confirmed by the former Armenian President and today's opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian's interesting statement which the current administration couldn't have the courage to utter. According to Ter-Petrosian, a new reality has emerged in the region. That is a critical process to solve the Karabakh problem with the help of Russia-Azerbaijan-Turkey trio. The Minsk Group of the OSCE will remain in presence to ease Western reaction. I think, Ter-Petrosian wanted to confess the fact that Turkey becomes influential again in the region.

 

With the new documents signed for the formation of a Cooperation Council among Turkic speaking countries, Turkey is, at the same time, starts a new initiative towards the Central Asian countries. Participants of the summit Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan are also big guns of Central Asia. Therefore, if we shed a light on relations of the Central Asian countries with Russia and China in the near past, we will understand better the importance of recent developments. A gap had occurred in the Central Asia with the Soviet dispersion in the 1990s. Super powers of the world (China, Russia and the United States) wanted to benefit it and looked for competition. On the other hand, Iran was trying to increase its own influence in the region.

 

In the 1990s Russia established the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, in order to regain control, but was not satisfied, so signed a Collective Security Agreement to increase its military impact as well.

 

Central Asian countries are also important for China. Since the Middle East is critical for the U.S. plans, China wanted to decrease American influence and increase of its own. Therefore, China signed energy agreements with these countries and undertook the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines. In order to remove more of the Western control, China sided with Russia and established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in July of 2001. They aimed to get closer with Central Asian states and strengthen economic ties. Apparently, the organization is considered as a strong alternative against the U.S. neoconservative policy back then.

 

For this reason, as neoconservatives stepped down in the U.S. the Shanghai Organization brought activities into

low gear.

 

In this case, Turkey reclaims power in the ever changing world as the Ottoman wind blows in Central Asia again.

 

From now on Turkey will have to develop a strategy within the Asian diplomatic basin although it is in deeper relations with Europe if continental and global balances are considered. Unless such an obligation is transformed into a long-term perspective, it is difficult to come up with a strategy and put it into practice in Central Asia, a center for activities of big powers playing key roles in balances in Asia. Central Asia is a key to Turkey's creation of an in-depth Asian strategy. Balanced and long-term relations to be established between a large scale Eurasian strategy and Middle East foreign policy will become infrastructure for Turkey to have global impacts.

 

Development of relations between new Muslim Turkic states in Central Asia and Turkey makes the formation of a new geopolitical landscape important. National, cultural and religious similarities among Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Central Asian countries bring strong historic bonds to the fore. Turkey has already left Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan behind in terms of both economic development and of democracy. Russia and China, as being leaders of the Shanghai Organization and the CIS, suffered in democratic elections and had human rights issues. If a country playing for leadership of an organization is having difficulties in the issued of human rights and democracy, it is questioned whether or not to have democratic values. The powerful controls others. So, a country as the pioneer of such organization will not comply with the demands of its less developed allies. In these organizations, the leading country acts like a totalitarian towards its allies.

 

The formation of the Organization of Turkic Speaking Countries and its future perspective will strengthen Turkey's role in the region and, in a way, will turn the country into a super power in Central Asia and the Caucasus and Caspian regions. Though such a perspective is expected in the near future, it will mostly come at Turkey's discretion.

 

Orhan Gafarlı is the Azerbaijan representative of the Caucasus Strategic Research Center, or Kafkassam.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

EYES QUICKLY TURN TO TURKEY

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

The French International Relations Institute proved the change in the world with a conference in the city of Marrakech, Morocco.

 

The old order has vanished. Old days in which the United States and Europe used to say "don't think about it too much, do as we say" have passed.

 

A new order is being searched for. A new type of policy is being pursued. Balances are changing in almost every subject. Old colonies try to set their own rules. The rich and poor switch places. People argue about who is stronger and who will be the superpower in the future.

 

Turkey seeking its own place

 

A new order is formed and Turkey is seeking its own place within this new order.

 

Chinese Foreign Deputy Minister Fu Wing, Kemal Derviş, former Indian Ambassador to Ankara and former Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Kanwal Sibal, President Clinton's Advisor to Treasury Stuart Eizenstat and Russian Fyodor Lukyanov were on the panel on which I was the moderator.

 

Derviş touched on a very vital point while talking about Turkey and pointed out that those who talk about a shift in axis are mistaken.

 

I heard the same words from almost all experts present at the conference: "Turkey in order to approach the Islamic world puts its religion more at forefront than it used to. We understand that but the question asked is about where this will stop. If you examine the Malaysian model you'll understand what we mean."

 

In my speeches I said that Prime Minister Erdoğan has no intention to turn Turkey into an Islamic Republic but I cannot guess how far the aspect of religion will go. And no one can.

 

Turkey is perceived as "an ascending power" in the region. Old Turkey does not exist anymore. It is followed with interest and prominence. But it is not known where this will lead or what is intended.

 

Turkey needs to make itself understood

 

I listened to what was spoken in the corridors of the conference, followed what other countries argued about and read what was written in international media. I might easily say that Turkey has a problem when it comes to making itself clear in its new approach.

 

 

Is there a shift in axis? If so, what does that mean? If not, where do the differences in political attitudes stir from? The time has come to answer these questions.

 

The prime minister and minister for foreign affairs are very sensitive about the issue of shift in axis. Whenever the subject comes up they become upset. If I were them, I'd ask the head of IFRI Thierry de Monbrial and Kemal Derviş to organize a big conference in which they'd bring important politicians and media giants together who direct the international public. For, if they can unite their power it would turn out to be a great job.

 

It would be of greater benefit if the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration was able to talk about what it is they are trying to do rather than becoming upset every time.

 

A message to Özcan: Tomato genes cannot be altered

 

A part of the conference was devoted to food health and safety.

 

Experts in this subject came together from the international arena. Some experts were famous in the field of biochemistry, some in the field of food. I could mention some names if need be: Philippe Chalmin (Paris Dauphine University), William Reilly (head of Climate Works Foundation), Christian Brechot (vice president of Merieux Institute for Scientific Research), Chris Viehbacher (head of Sanofi Aventis).

 

Let me tell you why I mentioned this subject.

 

President of the Higher Education Board, or YÖK, Professor Özcan said in one of his speeches that some are able to play with the genes of tomatoes they export to other countries thus spreading deadly diseases in any country they like. Without mentioning names he pointed to the United States and Israel.

 

And in one of my articles I criticized him for valuing such conspiracy theories, not for his claim. But at the same time there was a question raised in my mind regarding the possibility of his claim. Özcan confused my mind.

 

While I had the opportunity I asked each of the experts about this issue one by one:

 

"Is it possible to play with tomato genes and thus spread a deadly disease?"

 

I should say that I regret doing so afterward.

 

They usually smiled and asked, "What country are you from?"

 

After telling them that I was a Turk they responded, "Did this conspiracy theory reach your country as well?"

 

It turned out that this gossip has been in circulation for some time. But no one knew how it came into existence. What's weird is that it is known that it is impossible to play with genes in this way. I felt obligated to get the following message of this expert across to the head of YÖK, "There is gossip about each food product in this respect. But no one knows how it is done. Please don't believe such nonsense." I thought this way he'd not repeat the same conspiracy theory anywhere else and confuse other minds.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

COULD YOU BE MY ULEMA?

ÖZGÜR MUMCU

 

We are accustomed to hear from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that consultations with the ulema (The body of Mullahs – Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law) regarding the headscarf issue are necessary. Erdoğan is satisfied with the thesis of religious scholars that wearing the headscarf is obligatory for Islamic women. Therefore, he asks for the removal of the headscarf ban based on the judgments of the ulema.

 

Erdoğan elaborated the idea in 2005 as follows: "The right to speak on the subject rests with the ulema. You ask the ulema of every religion, be it Jewish, Muslim or Christian, if this is really a religious obligation. If it is, then you have to obey."

 

Five years later he came up with a solid suggestion. Mr. Prime Minister, remembering the almighty Religious Affairs Department of the Republic of Turkey, cornered the main opposition in the headscarf issue. "Let's include the Religious Affairs Department in the study," he said.

 

Erdoğan's statements are so problematic they cannot be slurred as a "deliria of laics Jacobins." Using religious obligations, not human rights, to insist on the removal of the headscarf ban means adding an ethereal dimension to the order of law. And that, obviously, is not a method to improve rights and freedoms. In other words, the headscarf ban should be lifted for not Islamic judgments, but for being a requirement of human rights.

 

Bold Sikhs

 

Now, I have to give an example from India because Erdoğan keeps saying, "Don't come to me with examples from Iran or Pakistan."

 

A group of students in the province of Amritsar, India, were not allowed into the university. So, they resorted to High Courts in Punjab and Haryana. Though there was a quota for Sikhs in the university they were attending, the administration did not allow some students, saying they were not Sikhs.

 

The students were members of a Sikh sect whose members shave their heads rather than wear turbans and considered their religious obligation to have been satisfied.

 

Since the high courts were unable to settle the matter, they decided to ask to "Sikh ulemas." The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, similar to Turkey's Religious Affairs Department, examined the case and reached a decision after lengthy theological debates. The committee ruled that shaving the head has no place in the Sikh religion therefore the students also faced the double risk to their education and religious life.

 

Theological and political debates over hair in the Sikh community continue. But the Sikh students suffered in the end because they were denied the right to education and excommunicated from the Sikh religion.

 

Thus Spake Ulema

 

Applying religious rules in the interpretation of law leads to the violation of human rights.

 

Adults should have freedom of dress. That's fine. However, this should be exercised because students are adults, not because this is a command of God.

If the headscarf ban is lifted by a court decision that reads, "Wearing the headscarf is an Islamic obligation for women," or if the removal is based on an ulema ruling through a legal regulation, the devotion of women who do not cover themselves will be open to discussion as a result of an executive or legislative decision.

 

And relevant discussions will not give anyone more freedom.

 

Özgür Mumcu is a columnist at daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TENSE US-PAKISTAN TIES ECLIPSE REAL GOALS IN AFGHANISTAN

NAVEED AHMAD

 

U.S.-Pakistan relations remain tense despite Islamabad's decision to resume vital supplies for coalition troops in Afghanistan following a helicopter incursion claiming the lives of three soldiers and injuring an equal number. While Washington gave an apology for the "mistaken" raid, the campaign of Unmanned Arial Vehicles, UAVs, inside the tribal areas continues despite a widespread public outcry in Pakistan.

 

Islamabad has yet to condemn drone incursions and unlawful killings. Meanwhile, militants are increasingly attacking soft targets and NATO supply caravans traveling from the coastal areas to the Torkham border crossing.

 

Faced with the worst floods in the United Nations' history, Pakistan has an estimated 22 million people affected by the disaster with half of them in dire need of food, health and shelter. Alongside its discreet trigger-happy mission, Washington has committed $150 million for flood relief.

 

On average, the Pentagon operated UAVs claim eight lives in each raid. A compilation of figures, from newspaper reports based on leaked information either by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan or their Pakistani counterparts, shows that drone attacks have killed 162 persons since the flooding started.

 

Another study suggests that missile strikes from some 158 drones killed over 700 persons till Sept. 30 with only 13 being identified as alleged militants. The rest is termed as "collateral" damage.

 

Washington defends the attacks as being mandated for six miles into the Pakistani tribal areas. Conflicting claims suggest that an understanding was reached with the then military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, to ignore the drone incursions. The maze complicates as numerous Google Earth images, showing latitude and longitude, imply drones are not violating Pakistani airspace as they are being launched from within the country to hit the alleged militants.

 

Washington has repeatedly asked Islamabad to go after the al-Qaeda network more aggressively along the Afghan border where the Pakistani military has suffered the highest number of casualties.

 

Washington-based Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, CIVIC, in its latest report documents that militant groups, Pakistani military operation and U.S. drone attacks from Afghanistan have claimed an estimated 2,300 civilians inside the Pakistani tribal area along Afghan border. CIVIC states "no governmental or military mechanism that systematically and publicly investigates or collects data on civilian casualties and deaths, injuries, and property losses are greatly compounded by widespread poverty and displacement."

 

The report claims that civilians interviewed "acknowledge the relative accuracy of U.S. drone strikes but criticize them for causing civilian casualties and question the program's long-term effectiveness against militants; most opposed the strikes and demanded an end to the practice." The civilians caught in the armed conflict hold warring parties responsible for their losses and expect compensation from both the Pakistani and U.S. governments.

 

In the absence of economic activity and worsening law and order situation, displacement has been a natural path to survival. Moreover, business activities face fatal blows due to the Pakistani military's back-to-back operations. Pakistan has promised to launch another military operation in North Waziristan based on U.S. demand, while insisting on resumption of a political process, amid decreasing support for its action due to unabated drone attacks.

 

Each drone attack inside the Pakistani territory manifests United States' distrust of the Pakistani security forces while ignoring implications of such short-term measures have had on the overall scenario. Though neither Pakistan nor the United States officially release the death toll from drone strikes or the names of victims, each headline with vague reference to death toll never goes unregistered amongst the public.

 

Execution of such attacks on the basis of poor intelligence has created the impression that each missile strike claims more innocent tribesmen than alleged Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives. The situation arising out of helicopter incursions in Pakistan should be taken as an opportunity to review rules of the game at this critical juncture of the conflict.

 

Any misadventure on the part of U.S.-led NATO troops can spoil the gains achieved over the past 9-year long campaign. While the United States' taxpayer wants an end to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, flood-ravaged Pakistan needs a stable economy with improved law and order situation.

 

 

Now the United States would not only have to isolate Afghan Taliban from their Pakistani comrades by halting drone attacks and initiating talks, Pakistan must also review its strategy and tactics both while evolving a feasible political process. Pakistan's biggest challenge is to strike a balance in its relationship with the United States vis-à-vis growing public hatred following the ongoing spate of almost daily border violations through UAVs.

 

* Naveed Ahmad is an investigative journalist and academic with focus on regional politics, security and energy issues. He is a senior correspondent for ISN Security Watch and also reports for UAE-based Gulf News.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LETTER TO THE EDITOR - ON TURKEY AND ISRAEL

 

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you, in the hope that my comment will be published. To me, the sign of a truly free and democratic country is, when that country is open to accepting criticism from others about it, and not stubbornly/righteously adhering to its view of its "flawless" self; a country which welcomes and encourages independent thinking rather than a herd mentality...

 

I would like to address Turkey's recent policy of detachment from and sharp criticism of Israel as an opportunity

I would very much appreciate knowing what Turkey would do or how it would react if Israel criticized it for its killing campaigns against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, (which it most certainly considers as: "terrorism" and defines its necessary lethal action against them as "a national security necessity")? What would then be the "great difference" between what Israel and what Turkey is considering a national security threat?

 

I am sure that Turkey would NOT like Israel (or any other country) to define for it what its national security threats are and how to respond! The big picture looks the same between the two countries – just the details slightly vary! Even though I do NOT condone violence and killing, Israel's situation may seem to require tighter control measures over goods flowing into Gaza (even in international waters around it..!), Can't you think of the parallels of what lengths Turkey would be willing to go to prevent the PKK from firing rockets against its civilian population???

 

Also, in theory, what makes Turkey's claims to northern Cyprus any different than Israel's Jewish historical claims to Judea and Samaria…?

 

One last question:

 

What do you think gives Turkey the moral right to criticize others (rather than admit to its past mistakes, apologize for them and do some healing around it when it comes to the massacre of its Armenian population (a thing it cannot even seem to bring itself to admit to...)?

 

I hope that beyond a natural reaction of self-defense, immediate rejection, automatic denial and an abundance of "explanations" (i.e. excuses!), Turkey would realize that, like Israel, it has quite some self-reckoning and soul-searching to do – quite a few issues into which it needs to take a serious, earnest and honest look into-no matter how uncomfortable or painful it is! The same applies to each of those countries' respective counterparts, of course. But, rather than looking at the outside, at "the other" – the correct (conscientious, mature and responsible) way is to start with oneself – which is the only one which one can control/change!

I wish Turkey, Israel and the entire world peace, much more love and stability!

 

Abe Lammer

USA

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NO SURPRISE AT ALL

YUSUF KANLI

 

Was it a surprise that the list of candidates alleged to have been prepared by the Justice Ministry achieved a landslide in the weekend's first-ever elections for the Judges and Prosecutors High Board, or HSYK, the structure and composition of which was just amended with the Sept. 12 referendum?

 

Was it a coincidence that all the appointed, selected and elected new members of the Constitutional Court, the structure, composition and duties of which was just "upgraded" with the constitutional amendment package voted on Sept. 12, were considered to be pro-government personalities? Or is it a coincidence that with the addition of the new members the pre-Sept. 12 balances were all revamped and in both the HSYK and the Constitutional Court the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government now has a clear majority?

 

I will not join the chorus of critics who came up with claims that in the HSYK elections the judges and prosecutors of this country allowed themselves to be manipulated by the ministry, or by the ruling AKP government. Is it possible to accept that the judges and prosecutors of this country can be so easily manipulated by the government, the justice minister or Justice Ministry bureaucracy? If that claim is correct, then how are we going to trust those around 10,600 judges and prosecutors who voted in that election; how can we believe that in making crucial court verdicts they decided in accordance with laws and the constitution with their independent conscience?

 

True, the Turkish judiciary has always been problematic. There have been rampant claims that judiciary was understaffed and underequipped. Top judges and prosecutors of the country have kept on stressing that they have been grossly underpaid and indeed often "caught in between their purses and conscience." Such a remark, of course, was nothing less than a confession of bribery in the judiciary. It takes years for a simple petty criminal case to be resolved at our courts. At the Court of Appeals there are dossiers waiting for more than a decade, and people arrested within the framework of those dossiers are in jail, awaiting a verdict. There has always been some corruption and favoritism complaints. From the so-called Ergenekon thrillers and legal case to the just-started KCK, the alleged urban political organization of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist gang case, there have been cases difficult to believe they were not politically orchestrated by the government. Yet, writers who dare to write from time to time on such claims or themselves complain of favoritism in courts face lofty fines and penalties on the grounds of defaming Turkish justice. If indeed in the HSYK elections judges and prosecutors allowed themselves being manipulated by the government, the justice minister or Justice Ministry bureaucracy, how can we trust Turkish justice at all?

 

If it can, the Justice Ministry must bring urgent clarification to all such claims. A simple "No such thing ever happened" or "The Justice Ministry has not prepared a list for the HSYK elections" explanation cannot suffice. How did it happen that in an election in which candidates were prohibited from engaging in campaigning activities other than posting their short resumes on the Website of the electoral board a list that was allegedly prepared by the ministry was distributed and all the names on that list were elected?

 

Particularly if the AKP government has been problematic all through the past eight years with the top judicial bodies, including the HSYK, and including this writer, many people in this country opposed the constitutional amendments – which indeed included many positive and a handful of problematic articles – on grounds that the government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were after domesticating the judiciary, increasing government's influence on the judiciary, should the government not at least in this first-ever election be more sensitive to take all required moves to avoid such speculations? Why, for God's sake, did not a single judge or prosecutor supported by the YARSAV or Democrat Judiciary groups manage to get elected while the alleged list of the ministry – which included names of four top bureaucrats – was elected en masse?

 

The result was no surprise to this writer and should not be considered as a surprise by anyone because it was exactly for this reason that the AKP government legislated and took to referendum – together with some sugar-coated articles – those two articles of the constitutional amendment package revamping the structure, composition and duties of the HSYK and the Constitutional Court.

 

It's no surprise at all… More on "enhanced democracy" will be offered to the spectators in this theater soon…

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WE HAVE TO DIFFER

 

 At the outset of his address to the nation, the prime minister drew our attention to the challenge history has posed us: that of 'achieving stability'. But the speech proved to be yet another demonstration of how unequal he is to the task. This is not the occasion to comment on the 'achievements' by his government that he enumerated, except that the media and others gave this government credit when and where it was due. Much of that credit was eroded by this government's inability to follow its own words with deeds. But the attempt to paint the executive order of March 2009 as an act of astounding bravery that annoyed the gods insults our intelligence. The government did everything (and the list is long and shameful) it could to make the infamy of November 3 a permanent blot on the face of our body politic. Only days before the PM had to say yes to the demand of the nation's collective conscience, his Master the President had stated that he would fix the lawyers and the judges and that the judges should now resign themselves to their fate. Their restoration was no feather added to the PM's crown but humiliation and defeat writ large on his face – and larger on the face of Mr Zardari. The lesson to learn was that the government should not play dirty on issues whose outcome may determine whether we achieve stability or go under. It was not learnt and the game got dirtier. The PM's unconvincing prelude to his admonishment of the judiciary would have been somewhat interesting if he had named those who had threatened him with Article 6 of the Constitution over the use of that "audacious" executive order. But to our disappointment this part of his speech made no sense. We suggest he leave the art of not making sense to the Maestro, his and our president, whom he cannot surpass in this field.


Mr Gilani said that he being the prime minister had been insulted by the judiciary which, on a 'lie' spread by the media, sought a statement from him about his government's position on the executive order. He also enlightened us on the stature and status of the president and the prime minister who, he said, were not persons but "mansab" and their words – written or spoken – must be trusted. We feel overwhelmed by the PM's exalted, and deeply platonic, understanding of himself and the president. But unfortunately we do not live in a world inhabited by Plato's universals and do not much like the sight of our politicians dissolving themselves into 'concepts' when efforts are made to hold them accountable. Mr Gilani should ask himself why no one believes either him or the president, and what this lack of credibility means for the government. He, as the chief executive, must understand that respect needs to be won. It does not necessarily attach itself to august offices all on its own. The constant reassurances extended to the judiciary followed by a failure to abide by orders is one reason for the failure of government denials of any move afoot to dislodge the judiciary. In not trusting the president, people are inspired by the president himself who has an infinite capacity to dishonour his own words. It is real 'persons' and their character that lend credibility to the offices they occupy. What is true for Mr Zardari is truer for Mr Gilani. The country being a parliamentary democracy, and particularly after the 18th Amendment, people had hoped that now they would see a prime minister they deserved. What they have seen instead is subservience to the whims of the presidency: a prime minster who threatens when the president needs a threat made, who pledges as the president pleases and goes back upon his pledges as the president pulls the strings. 
Mr Gilani's amazing offer for talks with the judiciary to sort out matters shows how much is wrong with his understanding of his own office, of the present crisis and of the role he could and should play in it. He seems not to realise that the Dogar Court, with which deals could be struck and business done, is no more there and what he should do is see to it that the courts and the orders passed by them are shown due respect. Towards the end of his speech, the PM made a point about a "meaningless struggle for survival" that was doing nobody any good. The speech couldn't get more ironic than that; it was as if he was talking to the president and not to the nation. If only the PM could say that to Mr Zardari instead of often reducing himself to a puppet doing its master's bidding.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KILLING FIELDS

 For decades Karachi has lived with the ugliness of death. It now faces a still more volatile situation. In a new orgy of violence, 37 people have died. The MQM, accusing the PPP government of insufficient action to calm matters has threatened to pull out of the coalition, Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad's resignation has been turned down by the president and all this has come as the MQM swept to victory in the by-poll for a Sindh Assembly seat from Orangi Town. The fact that the coalition government could collapse in Sindh of course adds to the dangers stalking Karachi. Many fear more trouble lies ahead, with rival parties exchanging angry words. For people in the city the omens are not good. They have already lived for months with a situation in which reports of bodies being found, of people being gunned down on an ethnic basis, surface virtually every day. There is no indication of when this spree might end. Many of those who die are poor, innocent people with no political affiliation but an interest only in bringing bread to their tables. These people have become fodder for forces which pursue a ruthless agenda of their own, and seek to gain leverage through their actions.
We see no real progress in ending the killings except one hollow promise after another -- the latest being Interior Minister Rehman Malik's vow that those responsible for orchestrating target-killings in the city will be brought before the media and punished, regardless of their party affiliation. A code of conduct signed earlier this year between the major parties in the city had brought some hope. It has more or less fizzled out. The latest developments add to the tension and the uncertainty. Both the centre and the Sindh government have so far failed to do much to remedy the situation. They have looked helpless and ineffectual. This has only added to the burdens upon the backs of people who desperately want peace so that they can get on with their life without death hovering above them .

 

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I.THE NEWS

THE MIRAGE OF TALKS WITH THE TALIBAN

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

 

 Talks with the Taliban for an end to the Afghan conflict are now a big story. Thirsty for information and constrained by lack of access to credible and well-informed sources, the media is reporting anything concerning this issue, even if no real talks have taken place yet.


The launching of the high-sounding High Council for Peace by beleaguered Afghan president Hamid Karzai this month raised the stakes is the latest, and apparently the most serious, effort to persuade the Taliban to negotiate an end to the nine-year war. The Taliban, however, have given no indication that they would give up the fight in return for an unspecified share in power. 


The name of Gulbadin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami is lumped together with the Taliban when the armed opposition to the Karzai administration and the Nato forces in Afghanistan is mentioned. But Hezb-e-Islami has never refused talks and held negotiations with the government in Kabul early this year. Besides, certain factions of Hekmatyar's splintered party are already part of the Afghan government. Hekmatyar is an important Afghan politician, but he doesn't have many fighters and, therefore, is unable to play a major role. 


The membership of the High Council for Peace has already reached an unwieldy 70, even though it was initially supposed to have 50 members. Names have been added to the list on demands for representation to all groups that are part of the Karzai government or support the existing political dispensation installed and protected by the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani's nomination as its head generated some controversy as some members of the council opposed his candidature. Another former Afghan president, Prof Sebghatullah Mojaddedi, was also reported to be keen on taking up the job. He is already chairman of the Meshrano Jirga, or the Senate, but the National Reconciliation Commission that he headed for some years failed to do much in terms of reconciling with the Taliban. His failure could be one reason why he wasn't made the head of the new reconciliation body.


The choice of Prof Rabbani as head of the High Council for Peace was apparently promoted as, being a Tajik. he was expected to protect the interests of the ethnic minorities in case of reconciliation with the Taliban, who mostly belong to the majority Pakhtun ethnic group. Some of the representatives of the non-Pakhtun ethnic groups, particularly the Tajiks, have been opposing reconciliation with the Taliban and warning that any agreement to give them a share in the government would be a victory for Al-Qaeda and a return to Taliban times. These groups, however, have benefited politically and materially by labelling all Taliban as Al-Qaeda members and keeping Pakhtuns under-represented in Afghanistan's political institutions and security forces. Denial of their rights Pakhtuns would keep Afghanistan destabilised and provide ready recruits to the Taliban.
Negotiations with the Taliban is a very complex issue. Due to the risk of getting tracked down, the Taliban's political and military leadership cannot meet and maintain contacts on a regular basis and firm up policies. Reports of factions within the Taliban movement, the killing and capture of some of its senior figures and the persistent efforts of Kabul, Washington and other world capitals to trigger defections from its ranks and buy off commanders make timely formulation of their stance on issues difficult for Mulla Mohammad Omar and his lieutenants. In fact, the Nato military commanders are trying to exploit this situation by offering separate deals to Taliban field commanders and encouraging them to negotiate with the Afghan government directly, instead of placing their trust in Mulla Omar and his political and military shuras (councils). 


Though the Taliban commanders are fiercely loyal to the shuras and Mulla Omar, who they are mostly unable to meet in person, it seems they are even more inflexible on the question of negotiating with the Afghan government. The mind of the Taliban commanders could be judged from the statement by Commander Syed Rahmani, who operates in Kandahar province and is fairly senior in the Taliban military command. He recently said that Taliban commanders, instead of talking to Rabbani, would want to execute him the way the Taliban executed the last Afghan communist president Dr Najibullah when they captured Kabul on Sept 27, 1996. 
He argued that Dr Najibullah was a traitor for his siding with the Russian occupying forces and Rabbani, Karzai and others had also committed treason by similarly aligning with the Americans and other occupiers. Rahmani said he was amused to hear that some Taliban commanders had agreed to peace talks, and challenged the Karzai government and the US military authorities to name them so that their claim becomes believable. He said the Taliban were fighting for Islam and the liberation of their homeland from foreign occupying forces and these causes were higher than making money or seeking some position in the government. Going a step further, he said the US and its allies would have to pay war reparations for the death and destruction they have caused in Afghanistan over the past nine years.


Military commanders are hawkish in their views as their business is war and they have to keep predicting victory to keep the morale of their fighters high. Like Syed Rahmani, US and Nato military commander in Afghanistan, Gen David Petraeus also wants to look strong in dealing with the enemy. He doesn't want to talk to the Taliban but is claiming to be supporting the Afghan government's peace process by facilitating talks between President Karzai's representatives and Taliban officials. 


Speaking a few days ago in London, he said his forces had agreed to give safe passage to at least one Taliban commander to travel to Kabul for peace talks. He didn't provide the Taliban commander's name despite the challenge from the Taliban. The Afghan government also didn't confirm Gen Petraeus's claim. Rather, President Karzai has been saying that no formal talks with the Taliban have been held until now. It is really all in the air, and no preparations have been made to make the talks happen. It is unlikely that a Taliban delegation would suddenly turn up in Kabul and start peace talks with President Karzai or his nominees after having dubbed him as a puppet of the US all these years. 


Bizarre claims have been made in this context by the media in reporting about the non-existent talks. There was a report by a US media organisation that 15 Taliban representatives had held talks with Afghan government officials in Kabul. Another report said top Taliban commander Sirajuddin Haqqani was flown to Kabul by the Pakistan's army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the ISI head Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha in their plane for their meeting with Karzai. There was a lot of media hype following a dinner last year in Saudi Arabia attended by former Taliban officials and Afghan government functionaries along with Muslim dignitaries from other countries, and it was reported that this was part of a Saudi peace initiative in Afghanistan. In reality, they were all guests of the Saudi government, which invites such dignitaries every year to perform Umra or Haj. 
The fact remains that the US and Nato are still thinking in terms of weakening the Taliban through military operations to such an extent that they start begging for peace talks. Creating splits in Taliban ranks through offer of talks and inducements of money and government jobs are part of this strategy. However, the Taliban have proved resilient against such offers and are keeping their movement largely intact under Mulla Omar. There can be no peace talks until all sides to the Afghan conflict agree to negotiate on the basis of their existing strengths in the battlefield, instead of trying to weaken the other side in the hope of a better bargain.


The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TEN ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

 Pakistan's economy has never been in such a bad shape for decades. In my earlier article (October 5, 2010), I identified ten economic blunders. In this article, I offer ten economic solutions to salvage the economy. 
First, the government must bring the economy to the centre-stage. The chief executive of the country must exhibit the commitment to reform and pursue sound economic policies. He must devote quality time to economic issues. Unfortunately, his current economic team is weak and needs to be strengthened. He must take briefings on economic issues on a weekly basis and meet leaders from the private sector every two months to revive their confidence. 


Second, financial discipline is the sine qua non in achieving macroeconomic stability, and hence crucial for sustained economic growth and poverty-reduction. Pakistan needs to improve its financial position by making sharp fiscal adjustments either by mobilising more resources or by rationalising and prioritising expenditure or a combination of both. Given the current fiscal position, Pakistan needs action at both the revenue and the expenditure sides. 


At the revenue side, broadening of tax-bases and reforms in tax administration are key to resource mobilisation. Implementation of the reformed GST is critical and must be levied at the earliest. The success of the current IMF Programme depends on the implementation of this tax; failure to do so will create serious difficulties for Pakistan. Improvement in withholding tax-regime and imposition of agricultural income-tax are other important sources of revenues. There exists a wide gap between the tax collected by withholding agents and those deposited in the FBR account. Agricultural income remaining outside the income-tax regime is against the principle of equity and fairness. 


At the expenditure side, we must reduce the size of the state cabinet to 20-22 ministers, avoid unnecessary travel abroad, eliminate or reduce untargeted subsidy and prioritise development spending with emphasis on education, higher education, health and physical infrastructure. 


Thirdly, we must make every effort to bring the budget-deficit down to less than three per cent of the GDP in the next three years from the current level of 6.3 per cent. The government has already targeted the budget-deficit at 4 per cent in 2010-11; let it be 3.5 per cent in 2011-12, three per cent in 2012-13 and less than three per cent in 2013-14. 


Fourth, the new NFC Award has been termed as one of the blunders of the government as it has sowed the seeds of perpetual macroeconomic instability. While giving this Award, the federal government ignored its own growing financial needs on account of the war on terror and rising interest payments. Lack of capacity in provinces for prudent spending was also ignored. We can either postpone its implementation for the next three years (until we achieve fiscal consolidation) or link the transfer of resources with expenditure assignment to provinces. 


Fifth, the Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs) are bleeding, and draining national resources, destabilising the budget and adding to the national debt. Can a resource-starved country like Pakistan afford to pay Rs 245 billion from the budget to keep these rotten institutions floating? Is restructuring of PSEs a solution? Will the new board and new CEO transform the loss-causing institutions into profitable ones? The answer is no. The only solution is the privatising these institutions without wasting time and money; even if they are sold for a rupee each. 

Sixth, circular debt has emerged as a drag on fiscal consolidation. Its resolution is a real challenge. But one thing is clear! By simply raising power tariff we can never resolve the issue of circular debt. The more we raise the power tariff the more evasion of bills will take place. What we need is an energy audit of WAPDA and IPPs. Their power plants are fuel-guzzlers and as such are highly inefficient. WAPDA must withdraw the facility of free electricity to their employees forthwith as billions of rupees are lost from WAPDA's account. WAPDA's finance department is antiquated and needs a massive strengthening through the induction of professionals. 


Seventh, criminal increase in the support-price of wheat has been one of the principal reasons for the persistence of higher double-digit inflation. The government must freeze the support-price at the current level for the next two years. Growers' lobby is already actively seeking to further enhance wheat price. This move would be disastrous for the poor and fixed income groups. 


Eighth, Pakistan will be negotiating with the IMF in November/December for another three year programme. The size of the programme should not be more than 100 per cent of the quota as its debt situation has already reached an unsustainable level. Pakistan must avoid the blunder it made in November 2008 by seeking $11.3 billion from the IMF. 


Ninth, no finance minister, anywhere in the world, can afford to keep himself aloof from the private sector and the print and electronic media. Not communicating with them is not a good policy. No finance minister can afford to remain out of the country for a long period on a regular basis. He must stay in the country and lead the team from the front. 


Tenth, economic governance has fallen victim to the ongoing political confrontation. The country cannot afford such an extreme polarisation any more. Aid that goes through the current environment will not work. Instead, it will contribute to debt and will weaken future growth prospects. The sooner we resolve the current polarisation, the better it is for national security. 


The writer is director general and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nbs.edu.pk

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

WHAT STRATEGIC DIALOGUE?

TAYYAB SIDDIQUI

 

 Intensive discussions and high-level meetings are taking place in preparation for the forthcoming meeting of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington scheduled to begin on Friday. It will be the third round of the dialogue. The last was held in Islamabad in July.


The idea of the Strategic Dialogue is to promote the "strategic partnership" outlined in 2006 during President Bush's Islamabad visit. It started off on a high note. The joint statement issued by Presidents Musharraf and Bush underscored the determination of the two leaders "to strengthen the foundation for a strong, stable and enduring relationship." The statement identified a large spectrum of issues related to bilateral ties, ranging from economic ties, trade and investment, to a "robust defence relationship that advances shared security goals". 
The Strategic Dialogue was to be chaired by top officials of the Pakistani foreign ministry and the US State Department, the foreign secretary in Pakistan's case, but was raised to ministerial level in October 2009 during Hillary Clinton's visit to Pakistan. The Pakistani foreign minister and the US secretary of state were "to meet regularly to review issues of mutual interest" and to "undertake steps in areas of economic growth and prosperity, energy, peace and security, social-sector development, science and technology, democracy and non-proliferation". Despite these lofty goals and the ambitious agenda, there has hardly been any movement towards the fulfilment of any of these objectives. 


To ensure a significant expansion of bilateral ties, including mutual trade and investment, a "key step" was conclusion of a Bilateral Investment Treaty. Negotiations have since continued but the BIT has yet to see the light of day.


Decisions were taken "to explore ways to meet Pakistan's growing energy needs and strengthen its energy security" and develop public-private collaboration. Considering Pakistan's severe energy crisis, nothing correspondingly serious or urgent has been done, except for a pledge of $125 million announced by Secretary Clinton in 2009.


The amount is meant to be utilised to upgrade the thermal power stations at Guddu, Jamshoro and Muzaffargarh. The progress, if any, is only on paper. Meanwhile, the US has openly opposed Pakistan's agreement with Iran for a gas-pipeline project to meet its critical energy requirements.


Pakistan's request for a civilian nuclear deal similar to the one the US has signed with India has been rejected, in view of Pakistan's "track record" in the nuclear field. There is little hope of any softening in the US attitude over this point.


Foreign Minister Qureshi is reported to have raised this issue before his interlocutors du